If you’ve ever thought, “There must be more to life than this,” The Art of Non-Conformity is for you.
In the battle between hope and fear, hope usually wins out in the end
After working in West Africa for four years as a volunteer aid worker, I returned to the United States to attend graduate school in the fall of 2006. The official story is that I completed a two-year master’s degree in International Studies at the University of Washington. The real story is is that I spent $32,000 to learn about motivations.
The important point is that about halfway through checking off a list of required courses for graduate school, I realized that roughly 80 percent of the assignments I worked on had little or no value. The projects were simply ‘busywork’ designed to keep students working on something so that the system could sustain itself.
I also noticed that this type of work was not conducted solely by students–One professor who was wise to these strategies used the technical term ‘bullshit’ to describe this kind of work. Bullshit is work that is done merely to complete requirements, make you look good, or otherwise fill up the hours of the day.
Just as faking it can be an effective way to get through higher education, mediocrity is the standard by which much work is judged once you get out of school.
I’d like to keep the bullshit and the mediocrity to a minimum. In the 20 percent of the time that composed the rest of my graduate school experience, I learned an important lesson: ‘Always look carefully for someone’s motivation and agenda.
Sometimes the agenda is stated; other times, it’s hidden–but there’s always an agenda. If you haven’t learned this lesson before, congratulations, you are now $32,000 richer from having skipped graduate school.
Most people who have fundamentally changed the world have done so through the use of all of these principles
1. You must be open to new ideas
[bluebox] I don’t understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I’m frightened of the old ones. JOHN CAGE[/bluebox]
I don’t care if you are liberal or conservative, religious or agnostic, rich or poor, or any other category we are often grouped into by people who like to argue. You must be open to new ideas.
This does not mean you accept new ideas blindly–but rather, that you carefully consider something before dismissing it. Along with the new ideas, you’ll need to question some of the old ideas you probably still have. The goal is to focus on what is relevant and apply those key ideas to your life.
2. You must be disatisfied with the status quo
You must have a desire to go above and beyond what you see around you. The status quo has its defenders and its passive majority who accept things the way they are.
11 Ways to be unremarkably average:
- Accept what people tell you at face value.
- Don’t question authority.
- Go to college because you’re supposed to, not because you want to learn something.
- Go overseas once or twice in your life, to somewhere safe like England.
- Don’t try to learn another language; everyone else will eventually learn English.
- Thinking about starting your own business, but never do it.
- Think about writing a book, but never do it.
- Get the largest motgage you qualify for and spend 30 years paying for it.
- Sit at a desk 40 hours a week for an average of 10 hours of productive work.
- Don’t stand out or draw attention to yourself.
- Jump through hoops. Check off boxes.
Just as few people will critize you from jumping off the bridge when everyone else is doing it, this kind of life insulates you from challenge and risk. It’s also a life of quite desperation that leaves you with a nagging question in the back of your brain: ‘Is this all there is? Did I miss something somewhere?’
3. You must be willing to take personal responsability
You must take responsability for what happens in your future, good or bad. Our past may be somewhat responsible for defining who we are at present, but it does not need to define our future.
Regardless of where you fall in that spectrum, from here on out, win or lose, you must be willing to take responsability for yourself.
4. You must be willing to work hard
Many people believe that the key to an improved lifestyle is less work. I think it’s better work. I believe that most of us want to work hard, but we want to do the kind of work that energizes us and makes a positive impact on others.