The Art of Non-conformity

By Javier Munoz
Posted on: September 6, 2010
2 comments so far (is that a lot?)

Chris Guillebeau is an inspiring kind of guy. He is the author of the Art of Non-conformity blog and of the book by the same title.

The Art of Non-conformity is more than just a blog or a book, it is a movement that calls for you to discover and realize your full potential and live life under your own terms. I have supported all his projects since they are fully aligned with the values we hold at Just Action. I wish for him much success with this and all his future endeavors! Now, I hope you enjoy this fantastic interview with Chris Guillebeau.

The Art of Non-conformityCould you first introduce Just Action players to the Art of Non-conformity?

[Chris:] Sure. AONC is a blog, a book, a business, and a community. I write for a small army of remarkable people all over the world. The project began as an attempt to chronicle my personal journey to every country in the world (currently at 151 countries, 41 to go) — but it ended up growing much beyond that.

Is living the Art of Non-Conformity important beyond personal satisfaction? Could it become a core value for successful societies of the future?

[Chris:] I certainly hope it goes beyond personal satisfaction. Or to put it another way, a core part of the movement is the belief that personal satisfaction is found largely in our interaction with others and the ultimate contribution that we make to the world. I also believe that we can pursue our own personal dreams and big goals, and being independent or “selfish” in that way isn’t a hindrance but rather complimentary to the first part.

How has your “reason why” expanded since you published your famous online manifesto “A Brief Guide to World Domination”? If it has?

[Chris:] I think the worldview outlined in that manifesto is still largely the same, but the vision has definitely grown quite a lot. I didn’t predict that the project would become as well-known as it has, so that has required some good adjustments in terms of being more clear about intentions and the agenda. At each step along the way, the readers have helped me make AONC much better than it would be with just me.

What are the only credentials necessary for anyone pursuing an unconventional life?

[Chris:] I don’t think there are any necessary credentials. In some cases, credentials can be helpful or advantageous—but almost never necessary.

I hold that even “conventional people” that are 9:00 to 5:00 employees, for example, will have to develop and express their own unique “unconventional bug” to thrive personally and collectively. How can anyone be unconventional even in a conventional context? Is that possible?

[Chris:] I agree with your contention. And I’d say that non-conformity is first and foremost about being clear on motivations and intention. Frankly, a lot of people don’t have clear goals or even a clear picture of what they really want to experience in life. This tends to lead to unhappiness or at least discontent, especially when what we say we believe and what we actually do are in conflict.

So whether someone is in a conventional job or otherwise, I think the most important thing is to start asking why. Why do we do the things we do? What’s the point? What are we working towards? Once we start asking those kinds of questions and begin making small changes, the context we do it in is almost irrelevant.

If you had to start all over again building a successful blog what would you do differently?

[Chris:] I probably wouldn’t have put the main website on, since no one can spell my name. But I can’t do anything about that now, and Seth Godin told me once “Don’t worry about things you can’t control.” So I don’t worry too much.

You have stuff about travel, about your personal objective to visit every country, about business, world domination, all in a wrapper of Non-Conformity… Could you explain what your ultimate agenda is moving forward? Is your upcoming book going to reaffirm your mission and direction?

[Chris:] Very good question. One of the things that is a constant tension is the need as a leader to provide a vision and agenda while also not trying to be a guru or present all the answers. So let me say first that everything with AONC has been a work in progress, and continues to be. But with the first part of the answer in mind, the mission is to help people live unconventional, remarkable lives.

That’s the vision. The strategies to enact the vision are varied, from the writing I do on the site and elsewhere, the side business, the upcoming World Domination Summit (next June in Portland, Oregon), and so on. But ultimately I’d like to see more people embracing change and making personal decisions to puruse big dreams and improve the world for the rest of us.

The coherence, substance and clarity of your messages are sourced from a deeper wisdom that you have, but have not expressed explicitly – rather, it is implicit in your writing. If I were to make a prediction, you will slowly move from teaching skills mostly to focusing on spreading the philosophy and its broader meaning. Is that sort of evolution in the horizon for you?

[Chris:] Time will tell. But it’s certainly true that as the project has grown, I’ve been thinking a lot about the bigger picture and what the fundamental message is. Questions like these help a lot, though I don’t always know what a good soundbite answer is right away.

What would be your most out-the-box thought about your future aspirations?

[Chris:] I have no idea! But I like this quote from Rosalia de Castro:

“I see my path, but I don’t know where it leads. Not knowing where I’m going is what inspires me to travel it.”

I’m really having a lot of fun traveling the world and learning from people. I hope to continue that in some form for a long time, wherever the path leads.

2 Responses to “The Art of Non-conformity”

  1. Chris Guillebeau Says:

    Hey Javier! Thanks so much for including me in your great interview series. I’ll look forward to seeing you at the NYC launch event.

    Yours in World Domination,


  2. Marie Says:

    Another great source of inpiration for many people. I am looking forward to reading the book. Once again thank you Javier for such great interview. Blessings

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