Well, okay, a former car thief, but still.
Okay, the car thief part is a bit inflated, though Chris did indeed steal a car at age 15, a tidbit I learned in a Question the Rules (affiliate link) interview. What he’s done in the intervening years, though, is a lot more interesting than this sensationalist factoid.
And truth be told, I have a lot of heroes, both the long-dead kind (Joan of Arc, Queen Elizabeth I, Sojourner Truth, to name a few) and the contemporary kind (Gloria Steinem and Jill Robinson spring to mind).
But Chris occupies a special place in my pantheon of heroes for a few simple reasons:
(Mundane, but true, and the only reason that has nothing to do with Chris. Timing may not be everything, but it’s a big thing.)
When I first discovered Chris and his blog, The Art of Nonconformity, my life was at a turning point. I’d tolerated “pretty good, but not what I really, really want” for years, but a series of personal crises had gotten me to a place of desperation. I was finally ready to make a change, but I had no idea how.
Right at that moment, this guy appeared on my radar who was actually living what he really, really wanted. Not settling for what the world told him he could get, but dreaming big, and really going after his dreams.
And making a living at it, to boot!
Chris showed that maybe what I really, really wanted was possible after all. I was primed to listen and learn.
2) He’s a beacon for the rest of us
Chris isn’t just living the life he wants; he’s also leading the way for all of us who want to live the lives we want. His writing, his impressive line of Unconventional Guides (affiliate link) – all are crafted to help people with big dreams to make them reality.
Chris first shows you that it can be done, and then helps you do it.
3) He makes his own rules
From stealing a car (okay, probably not something to try at home), to dropping out of high school yet still graduating with two bachelor’s degrees in two years, to volunteering in Africa for four years, to creating several profitable online businesses, to setting a goal of visiting every country on the planet by the time he turns 35 (at the time of this writing, he’s at 149/192), to creating a massive following and thriving business through generosity, to self-funding a 63-city book tour, Chris has never done things by the book.
4) He goes after big goals
Did I mention his goal of visiting every country in the world by his 35th birthday? And writing a book? Then there’s the World Domination Summit he’s in the middle of organizing, to bring like-minded nonconformists together in one place for a few days.
Oh, and I think changing the world counts as a pretty big goal.
5) He models generosity
It’s all very well to create the life you really, really want and step on people along the way. Or to make a fortune from exploiting people. Chris is just the opposite.
Not only is he generous with his time (he gave me a fantastic Thriving Artists Project interview), his energy (did I mention 4 years of volunteer work in Africa?), and his information (unlike some people I know, Chris is not tight-fisted here), but he’s generous with his money as well.
The Unconventional Guides affiliate program (yep, that’s an affiliate link), which has paid me back and then some for all of the courses I’ve purchased from him, has a 51% commission – the most generous I’ve seen.
But that’s not all: Chris is donating 20% of all royalties from the sale of The Art of Nonconformity to the AONC partner project with Charity: Water for at least 12 months following publication. And for each reader he meets who purchases the book during the Unconventional Book Tour or World Domination Summit events, he will donate an additional 80% of his royalties, for a total of 100%.
Is this guy cool, or what?
6) He’s a model of running a profitable business ethically, and with customer service that cannot be beat
So this one is kind of embarrassing (for me, not for Chris).
Months back, I wrote a review of the $100 Business Forum, an online course that Chris ran with Pam Slim. The course was top-notch, but I found the Ning platform they were using frustrating. I was writing my review late at night, when I was tired and cranky, and, well, I clicked “publish” when I would have been a lot better off sleeping on it and reading it again with the objectivity that a good night’s sleep can bring.
When you’re tired and cranky, sometimes you don’t realize how much it infects everything you write…
The next morning I woke up to a personal email from Chris, and a complete refund for my course tuition.
Needless to say, I felt awful, and I immediately purged the gratuitous crankiness from the review.
(I also made a mental note to never publish a review when I’m tired and cranky.)
And Chris instantaneously became my Customer Service Hero, because I realized that with that $100, he had bought himself a customer for life. And isn’t that what all of us business people want?
7) He doesn’t let fear stop him
On page 59 of The Art of Nonconformity, Chris shares a few of his fears:
- I’m only on chapter 3. Will I ever finish writing this book?
- What if it sucks? What if I get bad reviews? (Or worse, what if no one pays attention?)
- I’m afraid of the forces of mediocrity and lethargy. I’m afraid of becoming too comfortable or getting lazy.
- When I travel, I’m afraid of trying to speak another language.
- Sometimes I feel paralyzed. People say they want to travel with me, and I think, “Oh no–then they would figure out that it’s not always that exciting.”
- I’m afraid that people will think I’m faking it.
- I’m scared of getting older and missing out on something I should have already done. (In the words of John Mayer, “I’m only good at being young.”)
Did you see the one about being afraid of trying to speak another language? Yet Chris has been to 149 countries (and counting).
In short, Chris is my hero because he inspires me, and helps me believe that I can set big goals and achieve them too.
Would you like to be inspired? Do you want to set your own rules, live the life you want, and change the world? (And help out a great cause at the same time.) If you’ve ever thought, “There must be more to life than this,” The Art of Nonconformity is for you. It’s an easy read, but the kind of book you’ll want to go back to again and again.
In the words of Tyler Tervooren from Advanced Riskology, it’s How To Change The World for $10.08.
You can’t get better than that!
PS – I also recommend catching up with Chris in person on his Unconventional Book Tour. If you make it to the San Francisco stop, I’ll see you there!