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  • Personal Branding Interview: Chris Guillebeau

    Today, I spoke to Chris Guillebeau, who is the author of Art of Non-Conformity (Perigree) and his blog by the same name. He’s writes for CNN, BusinessWeek, The Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and the Oregonian newspaper. In this interview, Chris talks about some convential beliefs that aren’t true, his opinion on living life on your own terms, entrepreneurship, and more.

    What are some conventional beliefs that annoy you?

    Probably the biggest thing is something that we’re all guilty of doing from time to time: failing to ask “why.” The why question is powerful and underused. Why are we doing this? Why do we do this every day? What’s the point?

    On a more practical level, some conventional beliefs that I think are misguided include the idea that we have to go to college or university in order to succeed in life, that debt is a good thing because it allows us to own more, and the idea that our work is such a monotonous or undesirable activity that we have to create a way to “balance” it with things we really enjoy. My thought is, if we don’t like the work we do, the answer isn’t less work — it’s finding a way to do better work.

    Do you really think that everyone can live life on their own terms? Why or why not?

    “Everyone” is a pretty broad group. Refugees in Darfur aren’t able to live life on their own terms. Slavery still exists in many countries around the world. So, no, I don’t think we can say that everyone can make their own choices every day, design their ideal life, and so on.

    But to bring it closer: I think that most of the people who read this interview can certainly make changes to bring their lives more in alignment with what makes them feel fulfilled as a person. What a privilege! What an honor. And what a responsibility.

    Are some people just born entrepreneurs while everyone else should stick to a regular job?

    I’m not sure anyone is a born entrepreneur. I certainly wasn’t; my motivation in the early years of self-employment was mostly to avoid working the dreaded day job. It was only a few years later that I begin to understand how entrepreneurship could be a force for good, and an important way to change the world. The more important point is to find security in your own competence, whether you work for someone else or are out on your own. Ultimately, we are all “self-employed” that way, as opposed to finding security in a certain position or company.

    How are you able to travel the world every year?

    Two things: first of all, I’ve chosen to make travel a major life priority. I don’t own a car and ride my bike around my home city of Portland, but I do spend a lot of money on international trips. And second, after ten years of active traveling, I’ve become fluent in what I call “travel hacking” — seeing the world on a budget. My average flight cost is about $400 now, including plenty of long-haul flights to Johannesburg, Hong Kong, Istanbul, etc. Frequent Flyer miles and Round-the-World plane tickets help quite a bit.

    If you don’t think people should believe in conformity, what should they believe in?

    The most important part of my message is to think for yourself instead of accepting what other people say. So it’s a guru-free philosophy, and therefore accommodating of most religious and political belief structures. The only thing I try to avoid are value judgments, intolerance, and so on. I believe in living life to the fullest extent possible. Life should be an adventure, focused both on a) things we enjoy, personal challenges, quests, etc. and b) things that bring joy and meaning to those around us.


    Chris Guillebeau is the author of Art of Non-Conformity (Perigree) and his blog by the same name. He’s a writer, world traveler, entrepreneur, and lifelong learner. His mission is to help people live unconventional lives, make their own choices, and change the world. He’s writes for CNN, BusinessWeek, The Huffington Post, Psychology Today, and the Oregonian newspaper. He’s also a member of the LifeRemix network. Chris has been featured in The New York Times, MSNBC, and in other mainstream media outlets. He’s traveled to more than 100 countries at the age of 35 years old, and has been self-employed his entire life.

    Dan Schawbel is the Managing Partner of Millennial Branding, a Gen Y research and consulting firm. He is the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of Promote Yourself: The New Rules For Career Success (St. Martin’s Press) and the #1 international bestselling book, Me 2.0: 4 Steps to Building Your Future (Kaplan Publishing), which combined have been translated into 15 languages.

    Posted in Book Reviews, Career Development, People, Personal Branding
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