The Art of Non-Conformity: Key Takeaways

This book, by Chris Guillebeau, is for everyone who has ever wondered “There is more to life than this” or anyone who wants to squeeze the best from this short life.

On that note, I’ve mentioned my short summary of the key takeaways from this book. There’s a lot more to learn from this book and I recommend it on everyone’s bookshelf.

1. Money’s Value (Or Lack Thereof)

1.1. Money has no value by itself. The value comes as a result of exchanging the money for something of value.
1.2. Keeping this in mind, the pursuit of money-for-money’s sake becomes senseless. Just like working-for-work’s sake makes no sense. (as explained in The Four Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris)
1.3. A certain amount of money can create happiness, and some more money and create some more happiness, but beyond a certain basic level, there is NO CONNECTION between money and happiness or satisfaction.
1.4. Money is a tool and a not a pursuit in itself.

2. Saving as an Excuse for ‘Life Avoidance’

2.1. Sacrificing now for future is helpful to some extend, beyond which it can sometimes become an excuse for avoiding life now.
2.2. It’s good to save but not for retirement. Life doesn’t begin at 65 and Death is Real.
2.3. Save but do it without compromising on things that make you happy now.

3. Finding your Life Meaning

3.1. By itself, life has no meaning. There is no fixed dream or goal set aside by a supreme power for each one of us. You will have to make your own meaning for life.
3.2. Our formal education systems don’t teach us this and our “adults” haven’t figured out what they really want for themselves so the place to look for this is inwards.
3.3. One way to find your meaning is to do this exercise: Write down your ideal day, the perfect day, from the time you wake up till you sleep. And then start making all your days look more and more like your perfect day. It’s as simple as that. You can start today. You must start today. Your days are counted and limited.

* As long as you don’t cause harm to others, don’t think you’re being selfish to pursue your life meaning and goals. They belong to you.

4. Principles of Unconventional Living (Or Living More Deliberately)

4.1. There is always more than one way to accomplish something.
4.2. When you’re uncertain about taking a leap, take the leap.
4.3. You can have unlimited dreams and goals, but not unlimited priorities.
4.4. Just start with getting a few things in order – The growth stages are exponential from there.

5. How to Invite Change

5.1. The core requirement to do anything different and better in life is to accept, and invite, and embrace change.
5.2. To allow change, you need to defeat the fear of the unknown.
5.3. This can be done by either thinking about increasing pain of the current situation you’re in or by thinking about reducing the pain of the new situation you desire.

* A Stoic Note: Just thinking about increasing and decreasing the pain is enough. Your brain will make you feel based on what you think. It’s all about how you perceive what happens to you and not what actually happens to you.

6. Ignore the ‘Department of No’ (The Gatekeepers)

6.1. Ignore the nay-sayers, people who want to turn down or stop your unconventional ways. These could be neighbours, friends, family, lawyers, Human Resources, and other members of the society.
6.2. To challenge authority, use the underdog strategy over direct confrontation.
6.3. Remember it is easier to ask for forgiveness than to ask for permission.

7. The Case for Self-Employment

7.1. To establish full independence, self-employed is usually the best way to cut the cord.
7.2. If the business is based online, this can further cut any loose physical dependancies.
7.3. The other option could be to be the Rockstar at your work and define your own job terms.

8. You don’t need the University

8.1. Skills like memorising things, making yourself look good, making your way through exams are important college skills but these can also be barriers to creating something of timeless value.
8.2. If your main goal is to learn and not to get certified or become a professor, you don’t need university.

* Chris also has an amazing One-Year, Self-Director, Alternative Graduate Experience that you can learn about in the book and follow to get the equivalent of a graduate program without paying for it.

9. Build your small army

9.1. To do something great, you will need supporters who will spread your work and take your legacy forward.
9.2. This set of people “your small army” will be prospects, followers, fans, allies, and extended network of friends.
9.3. They will help you spread the word, connect with others, provide support, and grow your business.
9.4. Don’t let these people down, add value to their lives, keep them happy.

10. Frugality & Spending

10.1. Exchange money frequently for experiences (and occasionally for things) that you truly value.
10.2. Avoid all debts so all your earning go into spending and saving – and not paying for your rented life.
10.3. Frugality is about making mindful choices about spending on what you value – and avoid spending on what you don’t value as much.

“I’d like to live as a poor man, with lots of money” – Pablo Picasso

11. Financial Independence Over Retirement

11.1. Retirement doesn’t make sense as it contributed mostly to life avoidance.
11.2. Choose to be financially independent but not to retire.
11.3. Financial Independence can be wealth based (save enough to live the rest of your life off it) or income based (create enough independent or passive income sources to obtain enough without relying on an employer)

12. Eliminating the Unnecessary

12.1. Eliminate distractions as they will come in the way of an unconventional life. This includes social media, chats and messenger, marketing emails, busywork or shallow work, social norms and beliefs, etc.
12.2. Make a to-stop-doing list to eliminate distraction-full habits and routines from your life. Give up phone, TV, meetings, or anything else which is not productive for your life.
12.3. Do a life experiment to live with a limited number of things. You can start with 100 things and reduce it as much as you can.

Following the above 12 pointers will help you do both of these together.

Get ‘The Art of Non-Conformity’ for many more pointers by Chris to help you Set your own rules, Live the life you want, and Change the world.

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