This week’s Marketplace of Ideas, just up today, is a conversation with Chris Guillebeau, the dude who writes the blog The Art of Non-Conformity (which is now the book The Art of Non-Conformity). He’s the best kind of guest: a creator whose work fascinates me and is pretty much exactly what I need at the moment. He’s all about encouraging you to scrap pre-made life templates and do your own thang, but he exudes absolutely none of that sketchy cellphone-salesman vibe I tend to get from the bottom eight-ninths of the “lifestyle design” internet crowd.
A big part of what I drew from his book is that, while it’s all well and good to aspire to the life well lived, you could use at least a semi-clear idea of what that might be to you. A surprising number of people, no matter how often or intensely they fantasize, seem wrong-footed when confronted with the question of what, if all the constraints of time and money were lifted, they would actually do. I leapt straight to my wrong foot, anyway, when I asked myself that. I seem to recall Chris writing something in his book about how few people would really be satisfied by buying yachts or sipping poolside margaritas all day. I know I wouldn’t; I suppose I know it so well that I’ve never even bothered imaging those things.
There’s a bit in The Art of Non-Conformity about imagining your ideal day. It’s a decent hack — oh yes, I’ve signed onto that term — to figure out the broad directions in which to engineer your very existence, a scale not easy to force your mind straight into. I tried writing my own ideal-day qualities down, and they’re equally interpretable as ideal-life qualities, given that the day is in some sense life’s microcosm:
- Creating media (be it writing, sound, image, film, video, radio, etc.)
- Being in a place that I’m not in the majority of the time (and the swifter among you realize the implication: I wouldn’t be in any one place a majority of the time)
- Exercising in some form (running, cycling, yoga, climbing, what have you, though I haven’t climbed in quite some time and my bike’s front wheel is doing this weird thing where it pushes its brakes back and forth)
- Communicating with neato people (in whatever form it takes, and preferably in more than one language, meaning the fire under my drive to attain bare-bones competence in more than one language needs all the wood it can get)
- Working on several projects that are chronologically discrete (i.e., they don’t stretch out open-endedly and indefinitely toward the grave)
- Learning in some previously unexplored subject area, sub-subject, or sub-sub-subject-area (by reading, visiting, eating, listening, talking, Googling — hell, any method’s fair game)
- Engaging in one or more ongoing “life experiments,” which Chris writes about in his book but which Boing Boing founder Mark Frauenfelder and I will discuss in next week’s MOI, so more on these later (suffice to say that they’re about placing certain unusual conditions on your own life and seeing what happens — he moved to the South Pacific, for instance)