I have always been a fan of Chris Guillebeau’s ideas. He is one inspiring globe traveller who shares his philosophy of life and tries to wake people up from sleepwalking. He published this book after his successful blog and it is an easy and provocative read for most people. Below would be some highlights and summary of the book.
The problem with conformity
He mentioned that most of us behave like the five monkeys in a cage – it is a story of a sadistic monkey hater who caged five monkeys. “Enough food and water is available at the bottom of the cage, saving them from starvation while forcing them to lead a boring life of staring through the glass every day. The food at the bottom is bad, but sufficient. At the top of the cage, however, a large stalk of bananas alluringly waits. Conveniently, a ladder to the top has been provided by the sadist. After getting over the shock of being caged, one of the monkeys scales the ladder and reaches for a banana. All of a sudden a fire hose appears from nowhere. The monkey at the top of the ladder is soaked with cold water, but not only him – all of the other monkeys are soaked as well, in an exercise of group punishment for the sins of one freedom-loving monkey. Over the next few days the experience repeats itself several times. One monkey makes a run for the bananas, the whole troop of monkeys gets soaked, and pretty soon the group starts beating up any monkey brave enough to scale the ladder. The bananas are still at the top, but just out of reach. The monkeys reluctantly accept the fate of living a life without bananas. Then one day the experiment changes. The sadist takes one monkey out of the cage and replaces him with another one. Not knowing the consequence of being doused with cold water, the new monkey immediately begins to scale the ladder in pursuit of a banana, the rest of the monkeys pull her down before she reaches the top, and the troop settles in again. The next day another monkey is replaced, and then another, and the process repeats itself: the new monkey lunges for the bananas, gets pulled down, and adapts. After five days, no monkey from the original troop remains, and no monkey has ever been soaked with cold water – but every monkey knows they are not supposed to climb the ladder. One of the monkeys finally asks, “Hey, why can’t we eat bananas?” The others shrug their shoulders and say, “We’re not sure – we just know we can’t.”
This just shows that we are conform to conventions and rules. After a while, we don’t even challenge the status quo and just take it as it is. A society without change, without leaders, would stall progress and eventually decline.
Be creative and unconventional with solutions
“Gatekeepers are especially effective at telling you which choices you have, thus giving you the illusion of freedom while simultaneously blocking access to what really matters. It’s like asking, “Would you like a or b?” – without letting you know that c, d, and e are also valid choices.”
“When the underdog deploys an unconventional strategy, the underdog is actually favored to win.”
Do not bother to go for graduate school. Chris went to graduate school after his volunteering work in Africa. He found that academia was about focusing on pleasing people than doing good work. He believes that 80% of of the tasks and projects he completed for his degree has no lasting value. If you require specialist knowledge like doctors, then it makes sense to go to school. But if it is for pure learning, Chris believes you can be better off going on your own. To hep you, Chris has devise a one-year, self-directed, alternative graduate school experience that have 14 modules (click to enlarge):
Money has value only when you exchange it for something
“Money has no value – the value is produced only when we exchange money for other things. The reason why this is important is because many people don'[t know how much money they really need to do the things they want. They often wildly overestimate or underestimate how much money they need to exchange for their desired life.”
“You might as well understand exactly how much you need, how much you’d like to have, and what you’ll do with it when you get it.”
“The amount of income someone needs to be happy is highly personal and varies by geographical area, but studies have consistently shown that there is a relatively low limit beyond which happiness and income are not directly related.”
Frugality is not about squeezing pennies and strict budgeting, but it is the conscious effort to rationalize expenses.
“To go from $1,000 a month to $5,000, it’s not usually five times as hard. For some reason no one completely understands, it’s usually only about twice as hard. In other words, if you can find a way to make $1,000 a month on your own, you can usually find a way to make $5,000.”
We should remove unnecessary things from our lives and fill them up with things that we enjoy to do. Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi said, “The best moments in our lives are not the passive, receptive, relaxing times… the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”
The power of converging your passion with helping others
The goal is to find as much convergence as possible between these values (do what you want and still make the world a better place for everyone) = world domination
Joseph Campbell said, “People say that what we’re seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. What we seek is an experience of being alive.”
“Most of us don’t really want to retire to spending every day on the beach or keeping the servants busy in a European castle. Instead, we want a meaningful life filled with the right kind of work and plenty of time to do other things we enjoy.”
“Instead of waiting, the time to begin thinking about legacy is well before you come to the end of any particular role or life in general. By the time you come to the end, you don’t have the chance to change anything that happened long ago. That’s why I think it’s better to begin thinking about your legacy right now, regardless of how old you are or what season of life you’re in.”
Acknowledge fear and overcome it
“We have big dreams and ideas, but we also have big fears. The quest to overcome fear is lifelong, and almost no one is truly fearless. Instead of pretending it doesn’t exist, you have to be willing to smash through the brick wall of fear. You won’t be the first to do it, and what you find on the other side might surprise you.”
“You’ll regret the things you didn’t do much more than anything you did, so you might as well try new things.”
“All things being equal, we generally resist change until the pain of making a switch becomes less than the pain of remaining in our current situation.”
“Asking yourself, “What’s the absolute worst thing that could happen?” if something goes wrong can be very empowering.”
“The people I talk with now who tell me they “wish” they could do something but feel unable have usually made a number of choices that prevent them from doing what they wish. They have chosen to prioritize other things above their stated desire.”
We should stopped reminiscing about a particular success or experience in the past. If you have been talking about the same thing for 30 years, what other achievements do you have after that incident? We should not stop and rest on our laurels. We need to maximise everyday in our life to do meaningful thing – to do what we want and help others.