The Art of Non-Conformity by Chris Guillebeau
Hmmm. This book could have been fantastic. Sadly, it was closer to mediocre. There is a lot of good information in it, and I am taking the message to heart. But it was not presented well, and so I can’t really recommend it to others. The author does have a website, however, which might be better (I haven’t checked it out yet).
The book takes quite a while to get going. The entire first chapter felt like filler. I think much of the information could have been shared in two or three pages, not 19.
In that intro, the author attempt to protect his ideas from criticism by saying that he abides by four principles, and if you don’t, that’s fine, but then this book is not for you. Those principles are:
1. You must be open to new ideas
2. You must be dissatisfied with the status quo
3. You must be willing to take personal responsibility
4. You must be willing to work hard
I am absolutely on board with 1, 2 and 4 as they are. And I’m on board with what I hope is the concept behind number 3. However. I find, based purely on my own experience, that “personal responsibility” is often the code privileged people use to blame other people for not doing what they do. I think the concept of taking control makes sense – I’m not a fatalist, and I don’t think people are just stuck wherever they are – but I’m also not so naïve as to think that a white dude living in the U.S.A. might have a bit of an easier time taking ‘personal responsibility’ than others.
But let’s move past that. As I said in the beginning, there is a lot of good stuff in here, but the way it is presented isn’t the best. Also, the author fills the book with anecdotes to illustrate his points (good) and little relevant quotes (also usually good). However, you might recall if you read my review of “Start with Why,” I’m quite aware of the gender and race of the examples authors choose to use. In this book, there were by my count 88 quotes and anecdotes; 73 were men and 13 were women. And most were white. It’s hard to view someone as a harbinger of non-conformity when so much of what he finds inspirational comes from such a homogenous group.
Is that entirely fair? Probably not. Especially because, as I’ve said a couple of times, there is a lot in here that is useful. It’s just not a good book.