The Art of Non-Conformity teaches you how to play life by your own rules by giving you practical glimpses into the world of self-employment, a new approach to travel, to-do list minimalism and conscious spending habits.
Originally Chris’s first venture into the world of books, this is the last one on here after The $100 Startup and The Happiness of Pursuit.
Living a life of conformity, often coined by working 40 very un-funky hours a week with only 10 hours of productive time, drifting through life without any major life goals, spending our money mindlessly and eventually, getting depressed with the meaninglessness of it all, is just not an option for Chris.
He wants you to shatter the shackles of conformity, break the rules and set your own. This book is meant to teach you just that. It covers psychological issues like fear, purpose and confidence, entrepreneurial advice to fund your dreams in a meaningful way and even practical spending tips to help you save money.
Here are the 3 most non-conform lessons I could find:
Your own competence is the best job security you can have.
Most gatekeepers just give you the illusion of freedom, so challenge them to really get what you want.
Produce work that will outlive you and make the world a better place.
Ready to learn the art of non-conformity? Let’s shatter some limiting beliefs!
Lesson 1: Your own competence is the best job security you can have.
How do you define job security? Chances are, the environment in which you’ve grown up has taught you that “sticking to a job with a regular paycheck” is the way to play it safe.
But actually, that means you’re putting your entire career in someone else’s hands, who, at will, can take away your only source of income. Wouldn’t you say that that’s quite risky?
Instead, why not entrust the person who cares most about your well-being with your career – and who’s more concerned about that than you yourself? Start to develop a sense of security by trusting in your own skills and abilities. Imagine you were 100% convinced that you could go out and make $1,000 in a week, no matter what happened. How’s that for making you feel secure?
Two examples Chris mentions how you can build this are:
Becoming an entrepreneur or small business owner. Showing yourself you can run a blog and make $2,000/month from it and do work enjoy will sure boost your confidence.
Setting your own rules at work, for example by visiting art exhibitions in your lunch break or moving to a lower-paying job on purpose with more opportunities to develop.
Lesson 2: Gatekeepers make you feel like you’re free, but to see what’s really possible you have to challenge them.
Imagine you’re being promoted. That’s great, right? Well, maybe not.
Your new boss will tell you about your responsibilities, duties, and the choices you can make, for example about hiring people or how to spend your budget. By giving you a bunch of options, gatekeepers make you think you’re completely free to choose, but you’re really limited to what choices they give you.
The stuff that really matters, for example from where you can work, when and how often you have to be in the office, whether you have to attend meetings or not and how you can make sure you get to pick up your son from school every day, is often left out. In order to see what’s really possible, you have to challenge the rules those gatekeepers set for you.
For example, Tim DeChristopher was fed up with the way the Bureau of Land Management auctioned big chunks of land so unfairly that only big oil companies could ever buy them. Instead of subscribing to the idea of having to pay a $1.7 million entry fee, he just signed up and ended up outbidding everyone else. Once the state found the sale to be invalid, because Tim didn’t have the money, the decision to sell the land was revoked and the land is now protected.
There will always be gatekeepers and limits, but you can always give challenging them a shot by changing the rules of the game.
Lesson 3: Aim to make the world a better place by producing work that’ll live longer than you do.
If you play your cards right, you might live to be 100 years old. That’s a lot of time, but still not forever. Wouldn’t it be cool to know that your work will still impact people long after you’re gone?
Chances are, a life that’s built around you and you alone won’t really make you happy in the long run. That’s where what Chris calls “legacy work” comes in. It’s what happens when you use your unique skills to help others in a way, which would’ve been impossible without your contribution, and leaves a lasting impact.
For example, I know not everyone has the money to buy many books, or even get a Blinkist subscription, or the time to read 30 minutes every day, or understand complex writing. But since I can and have access to these resources, I can transform them into something short and light that you can read for free every day and thus hopefully help you improve your life in a way that lasts.
Pro tip: Once you know what your legacy work can be about, set a metric to measure your progress with it, for example 1,000 words a day, 1 hour of work on your charity, or, as for me, publishing a blog post every day.
My personal take-aways
What makes this book great is that anyone can learn something from it. For some it’s personal finance, for others tips on starting a business or overcoming a big mental hurdle. The book really extends the concept of non-conformity to your entire life, which also helps the message sink in properly.
Great guy, great book!