The Art Of Non-Conformity Summary

One Paragraph Summary The Art Of Non-Conformity shows you how to leave your unfulfilling life behind by overcoming your fear, fighting the gatekeepers, and recruiting an army of raving followers.

The Art Of Non-Conformity Summary

The Art Of Non-Conformity—Set your own rules, live the life you want and change the world
A book by Chris Guillebeau

Chris Guillebeau’s book will help you to break out of an unfulfilled life, by helping you to find your calling. You will also find why relying on your competence instead of a 9-5 job will be better for your security and happiness. The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World is a great inspirational book. I read it back in 2011, but it can’t be more relevant today.

These are the things I learned by reading the Blinks / Book:

  • To change, you have to overcome your fear
  • You have to fight the gatekeepers
  • Create immense value to recruit an army of followers

This post is based on the Blinks I listened to while walking to work. I learn from Blinkist's content each and every day. So if you enjoy this post, you will like their content even more.

Key Ideas

To get out of the rut and life which does not fulfill you, you first want to get conscious about what you want from life. If you do not know where you want to go, it is hard to get there.

The danger is that, if you do not answer the question What do I want from life?, other people will answer it for you. Then the chances that you will follow the herd is immense.

We all know people who made the choice to take on a mortgage and are now in the position that they have to a job they do not like just to be able to pay their debt. This kind of lifestyle is a way which will hold you back from reaching your true potential.

Pay close attention to your feelings and thoughts. If you ask yourself questions like Is this it?, you need to get clear about what you want from life.

On an incidental remark: A book which might also help you to answer this question is Drive by Daniel Pink.

One of the most powerful forces which hold us back to escape our unfulfilling lives is fear.

When we really get serious about our insecurities, we usually find that three specific fears emerge: the fear of failure, the fear of success, and the fear of change.

If you want to go after your goals, you will have to bring a lot of change into your life. But we fear change.

The first step to change your life is to find your fears and acknowledge them. When you are aware of your fear, you will find a way to fight and conquer it.

One way to overcome the fear which is holding you back from bringing positive change into your life is to prepare yourself for the worst case. So ask yourself What’s the worst thing that can happen?. The chances are good that you will find out that the worst case scenario is not as bad as you imagined it to be.

Think about how you would feel when you would have done what you feared so much. It probably would feel great. It would be a significant achievement for you. You also can consider to give yourself a reward as soon as you have overcome a thing you feared.

Most people want to have security in their life. Therefore, they usually find it attractive to work for somebody else and receive their monthly, regular pay.

But this feeling of security is a false sense of security. Think about it. Who cares more about your safety? You employer or you? Become self-reliant and trust your competence.

Guillebeau tells the story of a woman who worked as a newscaster. Then one day her employer decided that he does not need her service anymore. So she was forced to become an entrepreneur. She started a Yoga business and was able to earn a monthly income of $2,000 only a few months after she was set free.

Now she has reached greater job security because she can rely on her abilities.

Set your own rules.

Our society is full of gatekeepers who try to hold us back from living a fulfilled life. Often it is in their interest to hold us back and limit our options.

But gatekeepers can be fought. Guillebeau tells a great story about a young activist who just did that. He fought some big oil companies and won.

As we have learned, the first thing you need to know is where you want to go. Find your calling. And once you have it you need to find help to get there. You need an army of followers who will assist you in reaching your goals.

Recruiting an army of supporters is what charities and musicians do. You need to find fans and raving customers who make sure you have a reliable income.

How do you get followers who will help you? Smooth, you help them first. Think about it; you will happily help people who did lend you a hand in the past. So ask yourself: what can I do for others?

Make sure you help others in an inspiring way.

What are your core values? If you know your values, it will be much easier for you to align those values with your other habits.

Do you love to travel more than anything else? Then make sure you spend your money on your next journey and not on that cool BMW.

Do you suffer from too little time for the activities you value most? Make sure you only do things which are necessary or valuable to you. How? Ask yourself these two questions:

  • Why should I do this?
  • What will happen if I don’t?

There is great advice on protecting your time ruthlessly in the book summary of The ONE Thing.

Guillebeau recommends doing legacy work, work that outlives you and helps others.

This way you can bring positive change to others. Creating value for others also aligns well with recruiting your army of followers. Furthermore, it will give you satisfaction and fulfillment.

How can you make sure you focus on legacy work? You can perfect your craft for example. If you are a writer, this could be to write a thousand words each day.

Another good idea might be to spend 50% of your time on writing and 50% on other things.

Make sure your work brings a positive contribution for a long time.

One advice Chris Guillebeau gives, which I find particular valuable, is making a to-stop-doing list.

Make a list of activities you spend time on which does not help others or which does not bring you any fulfillment. Getting rid of unfulfilling activities will give you extra time and adds to your happiness.

My First Learning: To change, you have to overcome your fear

I’d rather regret something I did than wish I had done something but sat it out due to fear.

We have many fears. Somewhere I read that humans only have two innate fears: fear of falling and fear of loud noise. All others fears are learned by us over time.

My wife had fear of flying. She worked hard on overcoming her fear and one day she succeeded. We flew several times to Spain and Italy. She still does not like to fly, but she did not allow her fear to rule her life.

We all have fears. We need to become aware of those concerns first. Then we are able to rid ourselves from those limiting fears.

For a long time, I thought that the fear of success, so many authors write about, is not real. How can one fear success? Success is a thing we all strive for, right?

One day, a friend of mine asked me to help him create a website. His goal was to make his photography hobby a business. I said sure. We set the site up and launched it. I told him he needed to be patient because nobody would find his place on the internet. It takes time before Google will rank your site, I said to him.

But, I was wrong, just after two or three weeks his photos got featured by National Geographic.

National Geographic!

People asked him if he could do photography courses. He got recommended by fellow photographers who had not seen him before but only knew his photos from Twitter. In short, my friend had success.

But then he stopped working on his side business and returned to his 9-5 job he hated.

At that moment, I learned that fear of success was a real thing.

Guillebeau is right; there is fear of failure, fear of success, and fear of change. And most of us are ruled by those concerns.

My Second Learning: Fight the gatekeepers

  Gatekeepers are everywhere. People who tell us what we are allowed and not allowed to do. Often we believe those people and even do not question the rules which are laid upon us.

I think awareness is key. We need to look out for gatekeepers and then ask how we can beat them.

In his book, Guillebeau tells some encouraging stories how to outsmart gatekeepers.

My Third Learning: Recruiting an army of followers

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more, and become more, you are a leader. — John Q. Adams

The author recommends to recruit an army of followers. It’s a catchy phrase. I prefer create a following of raving fans. Whatever, the message is the same. You need other humans who support you to become successful with your craft and business.

The advice Guillebeau gives us is simple. Simple, but not easy to do. Create immense value for others and they will want to give back. I firmly believe in this concept. Contributing value is what I am trying to do on CuteMachine as well.


How can one live a fulfilled, great life? Chris Guillebeau’s book will help you to at least find a good start. The author offers great tips and encourages us to leave the trampled path. I read the book some years ago, and I liked it a lot. The Blinks are great too. Go, check it out and change the world, at least yours :)


  • Create immense value for others
  • Spend your money on the one thing you love most
  • Find security in your own competence
  • Outsmart gatekeepers
  • Hone your skills
  • Create legacy work

The Art Of Non-Conformity Summary—related resources

  Learn more about Chris Guillebeau on his website. He has written several other books. Side Hustle and The 100 Dollar Startup are only two of them.

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Posted on CuteMachine in business and inspiration.

Jo's Profile ImageWritten by Jo who lives and works in Frankfurt building digital doodah. Stalk him on Twitter.

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