To live unconventionally

Imagine a conversation with your doctor that goes like this:

“What do you do for work?” the doctor asked me at the beginning of the interview.
“Well, I’m trying to start my own social movement.”
(There was a long pause, but he didn’t ask anything else about that. Instead, he looked at the next item on the list.)
“Do you take any medications?”
“Not usually, but when I need to, I buy them in Africa.”
(Another pause.)
“Do you exercise regularly?”
“Yes, I just ran a marathon on a cruise ship last week!”

Such a person should surely be interesting.

That’s how I first read about Chris Guillebeau (via Cal Newport).

So when Chris mentioned on his blog that he has a manifesto coming up soon, I was eagerly waiting. He calls it a “A Brief Guide to World Domination: How to Live a Remarkable Life in a Conventional World”.

Well, surely, there have been many people who have made tall claims over the years, why this should be any different? Because this guy walks the talk. What else can you say about someone who has visited 83 countries so far and he’s only 30 years of age. His goal is to visit the remaining 115 countries by April 7, 2013. How’s that for a goal?

What I liked about the manifesto is that it reminds me of a rule that I’ve been following off late: “Enough fundas, Back to fundamentals.” The manifesto does not tell you anything earth-shattering but makes you think about the simple basics of your life.

If you choose the path of being “just like everybody else”, then you’re already set because that is what majority of the world does.

If you choose the path of “non-conformity”, then be prepared to face all the problems but at the end of it all, you’ll get to live the life that you want (assuming that’s what you want).

If you want to truly go for BHA goals (Big Hairy Audacious Goals), then you need to take care of yourself and contribute to others as well. The latter is not simply charity, but there are several ways. After all, the greatest joy a passionate programmer or artist can get is when he/she sees someone using/admiring what they created and they are getting benefitted from it. And so on.

All this reminds me of this quote by John Davis:

You all laugh at me because I’m different, I laugh at you because you’re all the same.

That’s what I say to myself when people stare at me in the mornings when I’m running with a fuel belt around my waist. Hey, it may look funny, but I need that water while I’m running so that I don’t end up dehydrating (which is bad, speaking from experience). So I may look unconventional, but I need that water, and that’s how I want to do running.

So what else have I done unconventionally?

Chris says that “The only things you’ll need to give up are assumptions, expectations, and the comfort zone that holds you back from greatness.” I certainly have given up on assumptions and expectations. The comfort zone is still something that holds me back. I first shook this off by taking the plunge to quit my job without even knowing what’s going to happen next. In fact, it’s been more than a couple of months since then and I still don’t know where I’ll be a few months from now. But I have some ideas, some things I’m working on.

Not to say that the past two months has been easy. I’ve been to hell and back. I was looking for a period of self-discovery and boy, did I get it. I learned some things about myself:

  • My first biggest fear is that I have no skills.
  • My second biggest fear is not failure, it’s boredom and lack of motivation.

That’s it. Nothing else scares me or bothers me. Not even the fear of not getting a job tomorrow.

Getting out of that comfort zone led me to understand this about myself and now I’m actively working to prove to myself that I can overcome these fears. Hell, even writing this here where anyone can read it is a commitment to myself that yes, I am indeed working on overcoming them.

One thing keeps me going is another principle that at the end of my life, on my death bed, I should reflect back and say to my family and myself: “No Regrets”. Hard words to live up to.

Will I be successful at what I do? Will things work out? Am I just fooling myself? I really don’t know. Perhaps, the answer to that is in Steve Pavlina’s words:

So what? Who cares? If I get up on stage and bomb, it just isn’t that big a deal. I gave myself permission to fail. But I wouldn’t give myself permission not to try.
Steve Pavlina

Both parts of what Steve Pavlina says are so inspiring. For one, how many people will really care if I flop? Most people may want to know about it just so that they can laugh about it or ridicule the person. Second, about this fear of failure… I’ve become convinced that it doesn’t matter whether you fail or not. You never know until you try, right? As I mentioned, I’m more afraid of not trying hard enough.

What matters is if you enjoyed the journey, and hopefully, gone after those BHA goals and achieved some of them.

In the end, ask yourself this question posed by Chris:

If you had two minutes with anyone in the world who has the power to influence the rest of your life, what would you say to them? “Hi, my name is and I’m going to ____.”

What would you say?

If you don’t know your answer, I would highly recommend that you download the manifesto, take a printout, set aside an hour far away from humanity and internet, and read it.

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Jamie Larson