Personalization Changes Everything: the Art of the Nonconformist

Chris with Tigers

I would love if this became a meme to support the community Chris Guillebeau has helped surface and connect with his book The Art of Non Conformity (Amazon affiliate link). I was thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce Chris briefly last night at stop 3 of his 4-month North American Unconventional Book Tour.

He is the only author I know of who got three mentions in Seth Godin's blog. The first time I learned about his work was here, the second time was here, and the third time here. Want to know the secret? Chris is walking the talk. This is not the reason why I'm writing this post, though.

Jonathan Fields set the tone with a really good post about the zillion-sum mystery tour. He wrote such a post about collaboration and building a tribe that it inspired me to take the baton even as we just talked about setting your own rules.

In Jonathan's words, the zillion sum game is about setting up a quest designed to lift every boat. Every boat, not just the pretty ones, the popular ones, the party ones. Thank you for that, Jonathan, it was a breath of fresh air. Imagine what it would be if that were the case.


I was thinking about that as I came across this post by Matt Cutts about Google Instant. In the post, Matt says something really interesting and pertinent to this conversation.

When I was in grad school, I had a professor who mentioned that peoples’
information need often change over the course of a search session.
Google Instant makes that process even easier: people can dig into a
topic and find out new areas to explore with very little work.

Had it not been for technology, I would have not found and met Chris. The same is true for many others. What is remarkable about his work is that by following it, by learning the art of the nonconformist — at least in thought before action — each of us personalizes this search and adapts it to our own circumstances.

Yet, as we run this search in our human database, we feel the need to share the results in words. He has indeed helped bring us together and connect. We need to follow up with action. Dr. Pattie Thomas said is best in her review on Amazon:

Guillebeau is correct. It is radical and it will be met with resistance.

At community college I meet adult students of all ages who often are
in school as an effort to change their lives. Unlike university
settings, many of these students have already experienced some of their
life and have already experienced disappointments. They have children.
They have jobs. They struggle.

And as a sociology professor I have more bad news. I have to tell
them that it is not the truth that education and a degree are magic
entry into the middle class. I have to tell them that they are competing
with other workers who have head starts on them because of social class
structures and that the data connecting "a good education" with "a good
paying job" is spurious because young people from middle and
upper-middle class families with economic and social connections already
in place get educations and degrees too, and then rely upon their
parent's business connections to find the good paying job. In other
words, the conventional life that Guillebeau so eloquently describes is
often an illusion, available only to the few and the game is rigged in
favor of that few.

But I remind them that there is good news in sociology as well. The
good news is that the world in which we live is of our own making
collectively. Most of what we perceive to be set in stone is merely the
sum total of decisions made by individuals who are accepting scripts
about life that can be questioned. In the questioning there is power.
There is power to resist, power to drop out, power to change, power to
be something different. The answers do lie in the unconventional and the

Thank you, Chris for helping us see how personalization changes everything. And it's by walking the talk.

[image courtesy of Chris with tigers]

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0 responses to “Personalization Changes Everything: the Art of the Nonconformist”

  1. Thank you for this nicely summarized taste of the “nonconformist” ideology. It was a pleasure to meet both you and Chris last night and I remain highly inspired. Walking the talk is not easy, especially when we are blazing new trails, but for some it is the only way. We can change the world!

  2. Hi Valeria!
    I was at Chris’s signing last night in Philly and it was a pleasure to find out about you and hear you speak as well.
    I agree that this could become a powerful meme.
    The note I jotted down last night said:
    The zillion sum game requires us to find out individual perspective so that we’re a powerful network instead of a community of competitors.
    I think this is what the new entrepreneurship movement is doing so well – and I’m proud to be a part of it!
    Thanks for doing what you do!

  3. @Gwyn – it was very nice to meet you briefly. Keep envisioning and blazing a new trail.
    @Tara – well done on the note. And we need more leaders, not followers. Thank you for coming out.
    @Chris – good stories, and good conversation. Hope the rest of the tour goes well.

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