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How Nonconformity Leads to Success: An Interview with Chris Guillebeau


Chris Guillebeau is living proof that nonconformity leads to success. He’s a rising star among lifestyle bloggers.

In just over nine months, he’s achieved the holy grail of blogging by making his blog his primary source of income. He now also writes for the Huffington Post blog and The Oregonian newspaper.

In true non-conformist style, Chris recently released all of his secrets to success in blogging for free in a manifesto called 279 Days to Overnight Success.

There’s good reason for Chris’ success. He’s a inspirational writer and has an interesting story to tell. Instead of jumping into a comfortable job like most 20-somethings, Chris decided to move to West Africa to help improve access to healthcare and clean water in the world’s poorest places. That experience inspired him to start his own social movement, called The Art of Nonconformity.

He now leads an exciting life as a problogger and world traveler. Chris is currently on a “crusade against convention” as he calls it, while also traveling to every country in the world before he turns 35. You can follow his travels or join his social movement at The Art of Nonconformity.

I recently asked Chris to answer some questions that might help you make your lifestyle dreams come true.

Corbett: You write about nonconformity and unconventional strategies for work, life and travel. Why did you decide to focus on nonconformity?

Chris: Mostly because it’s the only thing I’m really an expert on. I’ve been fortunate to have a lot of interesting experiences in life, but I never felt I loved one thing more than the others. There are much more successful entrepreneurs than me, there are better travel writers, and there are certainly better productivity practitioners. What I’ve done, for better or worse, is find a way to integrate my beliefs about unconventional living into almost everything I do.

Can someone live a conventional life and be successful?

Yes, certainly – and what matters most is your own definition of success. I’m not really out to change anyone’s mind about something. (That is a very difficult thing to do.) I am mostly interested in connecting with people who are interested in unconventional living, but either feel stuck in traditional work or feel marginalized by peers when they try to change.

I’ve heard you compare the cost of traveling around the world to the cost of buying a new SUV. What would you say to people who don’t think they have the money to take a year off and see the world?

I’d ask what was most important to them. Whatever is most important to you will end up getting funded even if other things fall by the wayside. I don’t necessarily think that everyone should travel, but I do think everyone should think about what they really enjoy and find a way to make that happen.

You’ve mentioned that you have been self employed for life. What advice do you have for those people who dream of being self employed, but don’t know where to start?

Yes, and I also like to say that my own lifetime self-employment has rarely been strategic. Instead, I’ve done whatever I could do to make a living without working for someone else. The details of that have changed several times over the past 10 years – right now I’m a full-time writer – but I chose to start with freedom being my highest personal value and then constructing a life around that.

My advice to people who don’t know how to make the leap is to start small, but start immediately. You can sell stuff that’s lying around your house on eBay and get paid in three days. You can write an ebook in a month and have an asset that lasts a long time (if not forever). You can read all kinds of free information online – no need to buy anything – about many different, small projects you can start with little or no preparation. Then, to get strategic and build a real business (if that’s your goal), read Escape from Cubicle Nation, think seriously about what you’re good at, and slowly start building up from there.

I read you’re working on a course about creating a location independent business with Lea and Jonathan Woodward from Location Independent. Can you share a few details about the course and any tips about creating a such a business?

Sure. Over the long-term (hopefully the next 6 months, but it may require more time), I’m creating a complete home-study course called Remote Lifestyle Kit. The idea is to provide an incredibly detailed road map for people who want to escape the corporate life, or otherwise build a project that can be operated from anywhere.

However, people ask me for this kind of resource every day, so while I’m in the development process, I’m happy to direct them to Lea and Jonathan’s great work. Lea and Jonathan (and I) share a similar worldview about small businesses that can be operated from anywhere. Some of our tactics and specific life experiences are different, naturally, but since the philosophy is the same, I’m happy to endorse it.

Do you have any other thoughts to share about living an extraordinary life?

Many people fail to embrace the life they really want because they are afraid. They are afraid of failing, afraid of succeeding, and generally afriad of change itself. I like this quote from Po Bronson: “The opposite of fear is not courage; it’s mental illness.” We’re all afraid. The goal is not to become fearless but to find a way to overcome the fear.

Thank you for the opportunity to share my views with your readers.

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