Columbus Circle is not a place either one of us likes to go. The subway station is a jumbled maze and usually way overcrowded. Beyond the subway, the area in general is a crowd magnet. In general the only thing that gets us there is if we’re seeing something at the Jazz at Lincoln Center venue that’s part of the Time Warner Center. Last night, however, I did make the trek to see Chris Guillebeau launch his book tour for The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World at the flagship Borders store.

Will is the one who discovered Chris a couple months ago via his Art of Non-Conformity blog. Since then we’ve both taken his ideas to heart as a way to help craft our lives (you can read more about this with Will’s blog post and my post). We’ve both been looking forward to the book to read more of Chris’ wisdom and I’m glad I got to hear him speak last night. One of the things he talked about was how he’s worked to hone is message into an agenda that could be easily passed on. It’s four points and they make total sense.

  1. We don’t ask “why” enough.
    As a kid we all have the discussion with our parents about bridge jumping–“If everyone jumped off a bridge would you do it too?” Well of course not. But as adults we often all jump off the same bridge because what’s expected–go to a good school, get a good job, get married, etc. Chris starts his day by looking at the same message on his laptop’s screen “Why am I doing this?” The idea being that if you can’t give an answer that is satisfying to you, then there is probably something wrong. After all, how many of us ask “why am I doing this job?” only to have the answer be “because I have to” rather than “because I like it and it’s important to me”?
  2. Efficiency is over-rated.
    Sometimes the things we have a deep desire to do aren’t the most efficient things to do. Chris used the example of his goal to visit all the countries in the world. There is a lot of non-effciency in that with the countless hours spent trying to get visas and plan the travel and ending up in a lot of the same places multiple times as he tries to get from one place to another. The lack of efficiency doesn’t matter though because the goal is important to him and that’s really all that matters.
  3. Understanding that everyone is connected.
    This is something I think a lot of people miss. Everything we do impacts other people and we should be doing things that make a positive impact on the people we share the planet with. Imagine how great the world could be if everyone operated this way.
  4. What is your legacy.
    Most people think of legacy in terms of what money or material things they are leaving for their family.  This is larger than that–what mark are you going to make on the world? I don’t know about you, but I’d like to leave something amazing behind. I don’t know what that is yet, but I am working to figure it out. One of the things that’s central to Chris’ manifesto is looking for what it is that you can do to improve the world that no one else can. I was glad to hear that even Chris is still working on exactly what he’s doing to improve the world (even though he’s done a lot already).

It was great to hear Chris lay all this out, as well as to hear what the people in the crowd had to say too as they are all figuring out how they are going to live as a non-conformist. I met Chris briefly afterwards too to get a copy of the book signed. I don’t think I’ve ever been so dumbfounded in meeting an author before. I usually manage to say something besides “great to meet you,” but with Chris the words just weren’t flowing out last night. Was I too busy thinking over what I’d heard? Was I a little bit in awe of the guy who I find pretty inspirational right now? Was my brain already headed to sleep since it was pushing 9:00?

Oh well, I’m still glad I was there and that I’ve got the book. The big question now is who is reading it first–me or Will?

The Unconventional Book Tour is just starting out and there are 62 more stops to go. Chris is making at least one stop in every state and Canadian province. Check out the schedule and if he’s in your neighborhood, go see him.