The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau

art of non-conformity

The subtitle of this book is “set your own rules, live the life you want and change the world.” So, you may be surprised to learn that such a all-encompassing subject is covered in just 227 pages. Guillebeau has never really had a “proper” job, he has worked quite a few jobs that sound pretty terrible, volunteered in Africa for four years, and then become an entrepreneur. He spends quite a lot of time convincing the reader about the advantages of becoming an entrepreneur, talking about his own travels and shooting down any paltry excuses he has heard as to why this lifestyle cannot be lived.

I agree with Guillebeau on many things. He raises excellent points about the value of money and how much of it you might really need. He makes several short and snappy lists to focus your thinking on your goal and how to get it. He grumbles about how much time many people spend on “busywork” or filling in the time they must be at their desks with pointless tasks. He does not place a huge value on college. He puts focus on experiences rather than things.

Personally, I gave up a very cushy job with a high salary and excellent prospects to move to another country and bum around a bit, spending very little money, running a small and fulfilling business and generally waiting around to see what life will throw at me next. I like my life. My bible in this lovely comfortable lifestyle has been Tim Ferriss’
The Four Hour Work Week which I found quite a lot more useful than this one. He covers a lot of the same stuff but with lots more practical advice and a lot less showing off about how many countries he has visited.

He points out that “by itself, money has no value,” well-put and completely true. I disagree with him on savings and security, there is no way I would have given up my job if I did not have some investments to make me feel safe. But then, not everyone is lucky enough to have been in my position before they have the realisation that sitting in an office, moving numbers around on a computer, with many people whom you would not choose to spend time with, is an insane way to spend such a large portion of your life.

I read this as a sort of refresher on the philosophy in general, looking for a few new ideas, and to generally re-focus. It has done this for me, and I was able to skirt over quite a bit of it, because I have already got there on my own. I find the tone a little patronising, with the assumption that the reader has never had any of these ideas themselves, let alone has acted on any of it. I think he is right on many issues, though, and if you have ever wondered if there’s a little more to life than the nine-to-five then I recommend that you give this a read and then go away and have a very long think.

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2 Responses to The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau

  1. I am glad to see that I wasn’t the only person who found Guillebeau’s book egotistical and patronizing. I haven’t yet read “The Four Hour Work Week,” but after reading your review I will have to check it out.

    • Claire Ady says:

      ah, Tim Ferriss, a more mature and helpful but equally adventurous and impressive chap. Instead of just stating a vague idea that we should all be entrepreneurs, Ferriss gives a few practical ideas about how we can make that happen. Now, he’s a bloke I’d like to go to the pub with, this Guillebeau fella; not so much.

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