The art of non conformity by chris guillebeau book summary and pdf

The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau [Book Summary & PDF]

The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau is a great read about how to set your own rules and get a little bit more out of life. Guillebeau emphasises that too many of us ‘settle' for the lives we lead, we need to set our own rules and start living a life that you are passionate and excited about. Guillebeau discusses ideas that can help you on your journey to create a life that may be ‘unconventional' but allows you to reclaim control!




Who is this summary for?

The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau is a great read for anyone! It’s all about how to set your own rules and get a little bit more out of life. Guillebeau emphasises that too many of us ‘settle' for the lives we lead, we need to set our own rules and start living a life that you are passionate and excited about. Guillebeau discusses ideas that can help you on your journey to create a life that may be ‘unconventional' but allows you to reclaim control.

About the author

Chris Guillebeau is extremely well traveled, in fact, he ticked off every country in the world (193) before is 25th Birthday. The Art of Non-Conformity was his first book and quickly became a New Your Times Bestseller. Guillebeau is not only an author, he is also a podcaster (The Side Hustle School), a speaker and the host of the World Domination Summit that occurs yearly in Portland Oregon. Guillebeau’s popular blog focuses on personal development, entrepreneurship, and travel. He approaches these topics with what he calls ‘non-conformity’, or “the refusal to accept established customs, attitudes or ideas.”

In this summary

For this summary we’ll follow the same format as Guillebeau’s book, he’s broken it down into three parts. Part 1 is The Remarkable Life, focusing on challenging the norms and ways we are expected to live. Part 2 is called Reclaiming Work where Guillebeau discusses taking action, schooling vs. the internet and your own personal finances. Finally, we’ll summarise Part 3: The Power of Convergence and the idea of eliminating the unnecessary and the quest for abundance.



“It’s your own life, so why not set your own rules?”Click To Tweet

Guillebeau is passionate about the idea of not following the status quo, he truly encourages everyone to pave their own paths in life. He emphasises that challenging common fears and insecurities is going to be essential in the journey to building your most remarkable life. Guillebeau has a few common concepts that he wants everyone to remember:

  • Money has no value on its own.
  • Choosing between yourself and others is the wrong choice.
  • It’s not always going to be practical to change the world.
  • Your life right now is important, and you can make plans for the future and still live your best life right now.
  • Life is short.

The ‘good enough’ pattern

Guillebeau describes those that settle for a ‘good enough’ life consistently are essentially just sleepwalking through their lives. He explains that although a ‘sleepwalker’ doesn’t take any risks, they are met with little or no rewards.

”No one will ever fault sleepwalkers for their choice. There’s just one big problem: for those of us who long for a life of adventure, the life of sleepwalking sucks.”

Guillebeau explains that those who choose to live life differently, have a sense of freedom. Everyone has heard the phrase explaining that asking for forgiveness is always easier than asking for permission. And Guillebeau points out that although this is true, there’s actually not a lot you really need to ask permission or forgiveness for. You are freer than you realise.

Guillebeau’s key point here is that if you choose the sleepwalking life, your life is destined to be average. The alternative life, however, can be one of discovery, adventure, thrill, and joy.

An unconventional life

Everyone has aspirations and dreams, they are totally 100% owned by you. Guillebeau explains that you should never feel a need to explain your dreams to anyone, you are entitled to wish for whatever you want. And often, knowing what you want is half the battle, if you actually already know, you’re doing well!

If you are unsure about what you really want to get out of your life, Guillebeau encourages you to take some time to figure this out. It’s an essential component in living the life of non-conformity. Here are a few tips:

  • Grab a pen and paper, write down your idea of a perfect day, a perfect world. Be as detailed as possible.
  • Set some goals, look 1 year into the future, 5 years and also set lifetime goals. Create your own bucket-list and Guillebeau encourages you to be as radical as possible.
  • Remember to set some time aside to be spontaneous, not everything needs to be planned and often the best things happen when you least expect it.

If you really don’t know what to do, Guillebeau recommends spending some time helping or assisting others. Giving back is likely to give you a sense of purpose, and you can truly make a difference in other peoples lives.

The principles

Guillebeau has outlined his key principles to living an unconventional life:

  • Remember that there’s always rarely ever only one answer or one way of doing something.
  • Abundance over scarcity.
  • Take the leap of faith, don’t hesitate.
  • You don’t need to be intelligent, just determined
  • There is no cap on dreams and goals. Have as many as you like. But, your priorities are limited.
  • Growth can be exponential when things are in order.
  • You need to first understand what you want in your life, then you can take on the world.
  • Take your goals and dreams seriously, you’ll probably be able to achieve them quicker if you don.
  • Remember to look beyond yourself and make a difference in other peoples lives.
  • Not everyone is going to understand your goals or your actions. Don’t let that stop you.

Fears and insecurities

”Fear begins with an undefined worry, a voice in the back of your head that says you’re not good enough, you won’t succeed with anything big or significant, and you might as well give up and stop trying to stand out.”

This fear of the unknown is an easy trap to fall into, and Guillebeau explains that you need to break the cycle, it’s only holding you back. He explains that there are two ways to tackle your fears. You either increase the pain of the situation you are currently facing, or you decrease the fear surrounding your desired situation.

In order to do this, you first need to acknowledge exactly what it is you are afraid of. And then Guillebeau explains you need to sift your mindset to one of no-regrets. Worst-case scenarios do happen and you need to accept this as an option. By doing this you’ll be more prepared and your fear will have more perspective. Guillebeau encourages you to tell people what your planning before you do it, this way, you’re committed and have some accountability, there’s less chance of you backing out. The final step you need to take is as Guillebeau puts it, to ‘smash through the wall of fear’. Now that you are educated on your fear and the potential outcomes, and you have created accountability, there should be nothing stopping you. Make the decision to proceed and take the leap of faith.

When authority holds you back

‘Higher powers’ or ‘authoritative figures’ are everywhere. However, Guillebeau explains that their expectations are just that, expectations. And that they certainly don’t always have your best interests at heart, so why do we pay so much attention to authority or ‘gatekeepers’?

”Gatekeepers are a person or group with a vested interest in limiting the choices of other people. They are an obstacle that must be overcome to achieve unconventional success.”

Guillebeau explains that if you are ready for change and you want to make the most out of your life, you’re bound to have to challenge authority and challenge the gatekeepers. This is where Guillebeau suggests you take on the underdog strategy. While gatekeepers try to limit your choices to only a or b. The underdog strategy is designed to look for alternatives and options beyond the choices offered to them.


In order to live a life of non-conformity, you need to change the way you approach your time, where and how you spend most of your productive time. Guillebeau reminds us of our own abilities, we don’t need to rely entirely on an employer or a job. You are entirely responsible for and capable of making the money you need. If you can adjust your thinking from relying on your employer for your paycheck to focusing on your own competence. Back yourself and your ability to fend for yourself.

Guillebeau explains that the majority of people who want a life of non-conformity are looking for ways to be entirely independent, to be self-employed in one way or another. It’s seen as the key to challenging authority and freedom. But remember, not everyone has to be self-employed, it’s possible to lead the life you want and still have a regular job. Instead, you can try and negotiate a few factors within your job that may improve your life. Ask your boss about working remotely as an option, this could give you the freedom to travel to different cities or even countries and still remain employed. Another strategy Guillebeau suggests is boss-hunting rather than job-hunting. Shift your perspective when you are looking for a job and consider what the boss themselves is offering, it’s not only about if they want you to work for them, but consider if YOU want to work with THEM.


When you finish school, the expectation is that you’ll go to some kind of university, college or graduate school right? And The assumption is that it’s best to get a formal education over pursuing an independent career? Well, as previously discussed, you don’t always have to do what is expected of you. And Guillebeau points out that in many cases, independent learning and an independent career is a better option. He explains that just because you pursue formal education, does not mean you are necessarily going to learn everything you need to know about pursuing and preparing for a career. Obviously, if you want to be a doctor or a lawyer, then formal education is required. But, there are a lot of jobs where independent learning and experience will outshine any kind of formal education.

”It can be quicker, cheaper, and easier to become your own expert.”Click To Tweet

A couple of considerations you need to take when deciding on an education path. Consider what you want to do when you finish, do you actually need a degree? Whatever you do, don’t use further study as a method of putting off life and the real world any longer than necessary. Don’t sign up simply because you don’t know what else to do. University and college aren’t the only options, there are other ways to learn what you need to do. Investigate other courses that may help you get where you want.

Get your own small army

Guillebeau explains that no matter where you’re headed, you’re going to need some kind of help. Whether it be fans and supporters, loyal customers or supportive partners. There are virtually no goals that you can carry out totally on an individual level. These helpful people are what Guillebeau refers to as your small army. Guillebeau explains that if you treat them right, it’s likely that they will stick around and help you pursue one goal after another.

In order to recruit your own small army, you need to give people a good reason to want to help you. Be warm and welcoming, and explain how they will benefit. It’s also important to remember that your army may need both training and rewards. Guillebeau explains that both motivation and rewards are essential in an effective small army. And finally, remember to ask them for help. It may be a small task like spreading the word or getting them to help you reach the right people. But don’t be afraid to ask, they are there to help.


Guillebeau stresses the importance of having a handle on your own finances and your priorities. Don’t let anyone else manage your finances, they are personal and your responsibility. Guillebeau explains that your values should correlate you how you manage your money. And investing in yourself is often more beneficial than simply buying things. Consider yourself an investment.

As we have previously discussed, one of the key parts of living a life of non-conformity is knowing exactly what you want and how you will get there. Money is often a consideration in our dreams, but Guillebeau points out that your goals are often a lot closer than you think, money doesn’t have to be the thing that holds you back. He wants us to remember that of course, money is related to happiness, but they aren’t entirely dependent on each other.

The most important part of unconventional life planning is to be clear on what you want. If you don’t know what you really want, how will you know how to get it? Regardless of how much money you have, is that we often discover that the life we want is in closer reach than we initially thought.




Convergence refers to the act of two (or more) things moving towards union or uniformity. They become similar or together, consider three separate rivers meeting and becoming one. Guillebeau talks about convergence in the context of life and work, trying to figure out where they can meet and become one.

Exclusion and abundance

Guillebeau discusses a quest for abundance. When considering abundance, it’s easy to picture a large quantity of something valuable, but Guillebeau refers to an abundant life, living the best life you can and having only a few key priorities that rule your life. In order to live this life, you need to examine what obligation you have, which are necessary and which ones should be eliminated.

  • You need to eliminate the unnecessary first. If you want to live a life of non-conformity you have to get rid of the everyday distractions. Eliminate the marketing messages, busywork, obligations and responsibilities that bring you no joy and the expectations held about work. When considering what to eliminate, Guillebeau recommends you ask your self why you are doing something, and consider what would happen if you didn’t do it.
  • So while you go about eliminating the unnecessary, you’re left with the question about what should stay. Do the legacy work but don’t do the busy work. You need to consider what you enjoy, what you think is fun, what work offers a deliverable, and in times of real doubt, follow your gut. If your instinct is to say no, then say no. If you want to say yes, then say yes!


Every one of us has a wish-list of places we’d love to visit, but more often than not it feels more like a pipe dream. So we keep dreaming and never make any plans. But Guillebeau explains that if you can save just $2 a day, you could go anywhere you want within 2 years.

When you picture working in another country, it’s often an image of sitting at the beach with your laptop on your knees and a margarita in your hand. Although Guillebeau points out that this isn’t usually how it works, he truly believes that despite the difficulties, traveling while working is totally worthwhile.

”As with most things in life, if you choose to get serious about travel, you can find alternative ways to accomplish almost any specific goal. “Travel hacking” helps to reduce costs and allow for more interesting experiences than conventional travel planning does.”

The way you want to travel is totally individual to you, your version of fun and adventure might differ from other peoples, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. Like all dreams and aspirations, pursue them without the need to explain or justify yourself.

Legacy work

”What do you really want to get out of life?” and “What can you offer the world that no one else can?” Whatever your answers to those questions are, you can likely find the beginnings of your quest to live a full life and make the world a better place for others.

Guillebeau explains that most people don’t really think about leaving a legacy until they reach the end of their lives or the end of a significant point in their lives. But he explains, why what? If you can get a head start and get involved in legacy early on, then you’re only going to have a bigger impact and leave a better legacy behind. Guillebeau explains that legacy work usually means you have to build or create something new, you have to be creative and innovative. Legacy work is not about simply responding to an existing concept, you have to look outside the box.

When considering some legacy work, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your vision and how will the world be different because of the project?
  • Who will benefit from the project?
  • How are you going to do the work? What are your methods and medium?
  • What are the results likely to look like?
  • How will you measure success?

”Good work is useful, productive work. There’s nothing wrong with it, but the problem is that we have too much good work. Great work, or Legacy work on the other hand, is revolutionary. Great work leads to innovation. While most good work is comforting, great work is simultaneously comforting and discomforting because it pushes us to go further.”


”Be daring, be different. In choosing to live a remarkable life, failure is a real possibility, but regrets are completely optional. If one plan doesn’t work out, you can try something else—but if you never try, you’ll go to your grave with your song still in you.”

The key message the Guillebeau has tried to get across in his book is that you are an independent individual and you can live your life exactly how you like. It’s time to ignore any expectations and judgments, follow your dreams and stop playing it safe. You don’t want to be another sleepwalker settling for a mediocre life.

”Taking the road less traveled is a good start, but you can also build your own road.”Click To Tweet




Key Takeaways

  • Don’t just sleepwalk through life, settling for the status quo.
  • Instead, challenge the expectations and authority, live a life of discovery and adventure.
  • Understand how you want to live your life.
  • Discover exactly what it is that you want to do.
  • Don’t let your fears hold you back, acknowledge them and face them.
  • Rely on your small army to help you, and don’t be afraid to reach out when you need them.
  • University or college isn’t the only route for learning. Not every career requires a degree.
  • You don’t have to be self-employed to live a life of non-conformity. Consider your options within your job such as remote working.
  • Understand your own finances, and remember that money and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive.
  • Travel when you can, don’t just dream about where you’d like to go.
  • Begin legacy work sooner rather than later.
  • Take your goals and dreams seriously, you’ll probably be able to achieve them quicker if you don.
  • Not everyone is going to understand your goals or your actions. Don’t let that stop you.

Further Reading

By the same author, The $100 Startup has two key themes: freedom and value. Freedom is what we're all looking for, and value is the way to achieve it. Guillebeau discusses different lessons on the road to beginning your own startup. With a focus on small ‘micro businesses,' this book has plenty of tips and advice for every step of the journey.

Remote: Office Not Required by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson is an examination of the emerging trend of remote working. They discuss the benefits of working remotely for both the employer and employee while examining common excuses. Remote offers plenty of advice on how to get your company started on having remote employees and also advice on how to manage your work if you are a remote employee. A great all-around guide to the new way to work!

The 4-Hour Work Week teaches techniques to increase your time and financial freedom giving you more lifestyle options. By automating a passive income and liberating yourself from unproductive tasks you can live the lifestyle of the ‘new rich' – one defined by having, doing and being what you want. Even for those people who have no interest in starting their own business, the principles in The 4-Hour Work Week can be applied to almost any situation or any environment you find yourself in.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action Steps

  • Follow Guillebeaus guidelines for figuring out how you want to spend your life:
    • Grab a pen and paper, write down your idea of a perfect day, a perfect world. Be as detailed as possible.
      • Set some goals, look 1 year into the future, 5 years and also set lifetime goals. Create your own bucket-list and Guillebeau encourages you to be as radical as possible.
      • Remember to set some time aside to be spontaneous, not everything needs to be planned and often the best things happen when you least expect it.
  • Stop worrying about what other people think, don’t worry about authorities and the expectations placed on you. It’s OK to do your own thing.
  • Take a stocktake of your life and your obligations. Eliminate the unnecessary and make more room for the things that benefit you and the way you want to live your life.

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.