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Why Do You Do This Every Day?

For a long time I kept this image on my desktop so I’d see it whenever I opened my computer. It’s a good question to ask when you’re evaluating your career, your life, your whatever. Otherwise you could wind up like everyone else, and if you’re reading The Art of Non-Conformity, I’ll assume you don’t…

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How Much Money Do You Really Need?

Here’s a good question: how much money is enough? What do we need to have in order to meet our needs and help us be happy? As I completed my Annual Review recently, I finalized a choice I had been pondering for a while. The choice was whether I should continue scrambling to earn a good living as an entrepreneur while writing on the side, or to go “all in” with the project I believed in more – writing full-time.

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How to Get from Here to There

how-to-get-from-here-to-there
Image by TaberAndrew

As per the usual protocol, today’s essay is about travel -- but it’s also about choices, because your choices will take you where you want to go.

Last week I asked about Your One Place. This site attracts a lot of diverse people, including some who don’t travel much at all. But my theory was that even the non-travelers have somewhere in the world they’d like to see before they die.

I think I was on to something. Here are some of the answers readers shared:

Matthew: Island hopping on a sailboat Daniel: The moon (or Ladakh in northern India) Dwight: Bicycle tour of North America for a year Coral: Macchu Pichu, Peru Reese: Tuscany Mike: England, Tuscany and Sitges (Spain) Justin: Tuva Tee: Any of the northern fjords of Iceland Kazari: Kenya PizzaDream: Greece on a Mediterranean cruise Kiri: somewhere in Asia, maybe southern China Jen: South America, or maybe the Trans Siberian Railroad Frugal Bachelor, Graham, and JKG: Antarctica The Wyman: Australia Jessica: Vegas Jody: The moon Kat: Patagonia Kristian: Turkey Michael: Japan NewWorldYankee: Mauritius and France Katherine: Lake Victoria Gretchen: Ireland Alan: Nepal Mogs: Socotra, Yemen Linnea: Florence, Italy Robyn: Egypt, and after that, Pompeii and Herculaneum Chris N.: Alaska Crystal: Buddhist statue tour of Asia Danny: Iceland Guiness: Bhutan

Others sent emails: Chile, train from Moscow to Beijing, “somewhere in Africa,” Lithuania, more votes for Alaska, etc.

My take: all good ideas. Nice job, everyone. I am not one to hold anyone back from heading off somewhere, and I heartily endorse anyone going out of their comfort zone at any time. Here’s wishing you good luck with the $2 savings funds and bon voyage.

BUT… before we all pack up, I have to rain on the parade a little. Sorry about this, but it will be worth it in the end. The thing is, I learned a long time ago that everyone has a dream, but most people never take action on it.

This is true with travel, work, life – pretty much anything. Everyone has a long list of things they’d like to do or places they’d like to go, but for most of them, the list remains a list.

What’s wrong with dreaming? Nothing, at least by itself. If all you want to do is dream, then dream away.

If there’s a problem, it’s that many of us want more than the dream. We actually want to go to the one place on our list. Accomplishing this, or any goal, is not usually that difficult, but it won’t happen by itself.

At some point you’ll have to make some choices. The choice of giving up $2 a day doesn’t seem that much, but sooner or later, you’ll probably want the money for something else. You’ll get busy, like everyone does, and time will go by.

sign-confusionThe Dream and the Realization

I started a limited consulting service recently. I only do two sessions a week, and I don’t schedule anyone who I don’t think is a good fit. This decision comes from my own healthy paranoia that I want to make sure I can really provide good value to someone who pays me.

As I was talking with Sike the other day (just like “Mike”, but with an ‘s’) I realized that my motivation for doing this was to help people avoid getting stuck between the dream and the realization. Sike is a very motivated young guy (just 23 years old) who is worried about doing what everyone expects him to do next year when he finishes college. His parents have one idea about his future and he has a completely different one. It sounds like he’ll be just fine.

After talking with Sike, I went out to have drinks with Dave and Breanne, AONC readers and new friends who happen to live in my Seattle neighborhood. They talked about their own choices and how their perspective had shifted over the past year. Dave was on track to be a CFO in corporate America when they decided to quit their jobs and travel through Latin America for six months. Coming back to the States recently for an indefinite time, Breanne said they felt conflicted over returning to “the American dream” after having learned so much more about the world.

I told them the same thing I told Sike: it’s probably a good sign that you’re concerned about that. When you feel no tension over living an unremarkably average life, that’s when you should worry.

As I said, turning your dream into a goal is not necessarily difficult, but you will need to make some hard choices at some point.

Back to Your Place

If you played along and selected a place (it’s not too late), you’re going to need to make an effort to keep it in your mind over the next three years or however long it takes you to get there. Your goal doesn’t need to be constantly in focus, but it needs to at least be in your peripheral vision.

By the way, you don’t owe it to me or anyone else to do this. You do, however, owe it to yourself.

OK?

Many will dream. A few will go.

Which group are you in?

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Unconventional Guides:

Working for Yourself: Creating Personal Freedom
Discount Airfare: Surviving Stress and Maximizing Fun

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What to Do When It’s Not Working Out

complacency-not-working-out
Image by SladeGibbs

From countless encounters with failure, I can tell you that not everything works out the way you hope it will. If you keep trying, you’ll get where you want to go in the end, but there will undoubtedly be many stops along the way where you encounter a dead-end.

First, how do you know when it’s not working out?

Here are a few signs:

  • You approach the project with neither excitement nor dread. You just don’t care.

  • If it's a group project, discussions and planning become circular. People say the same things they said last time, and the time before that. There is plenty of conflict, but little resolution.

  • You feed off crisis. The crisis drowns out everything else. When you have no crisis, you invent one or just wait for another to arrive.

  • Most importantly, NOTHING EVER CHANGES. This kind of thing doesn’t usually get better on its own.

That’s pretty much how you know it’s not working out. So what do you do? The good news is that your options are limited. Specifically, you have only three:

1) Do Nothing
2) Quit
3) Change Something Major

Option #1: Do Nothing

Doing nothing is the most common response when confronting apathy. You suck it up and live with it. You keep going through the motions, dutifully showing up without actually doing much. You attend the meetings, wondering more about what kind of cookies will be waiting on the table than what will be on the agenda.

The agenda? Speaking of that, there may be a written one somewhere, but there is no driving force. Remember, it doesn’t usually get better on its own.

Effectively, you stop all pretense of caring what happens. When I worked in Africa, we used to call this “checking out.” Someone would be coming to the end of a long time in a difficult job, for example, and they had lost their motivation. They had “checked out.”

“Can we ask Steve to do this?”

“He’s checked out.”

“Oh.”

Time to move on to the next guy, because when someone checks out, it’s hard to get them back. If you're the one who has checked out, see the next two options.

Option #2: Quit

When you quit, you walk away as quickly as possible, consequences be damned. You’re in the wrong job, on the wrong team, working on the wrong project, pursuing the wrong goal. Or maybe you’re what’s wrong – but either way, you can quit.

If you start to feel guilty about it, or if someone questions you, you can give the age-old response: “Lots of other people are doing this too.” This response seemingly justifies any behavior, from smoking to discrimination or whatever.

But sometimes, option #2 may be your only choice, if for no other reason than to retain your sanity. When it comes down to that, I think hanging on to sanity is worth whatever guilt you feel for quitting. And if you were the problem to begin with, well, maybe things will be better for everyone else after you leave. You never know.

Option #3: Change Something Big

If you can’t stand the status quo and don’t want to give up, this leaves only one option: something must change. It has to be something significant; even outsiders should be able to look and say, hey, this is different.

Change is the lifeblood of innovation and the salvation of complacency, but beware: no one really likes change, and that’s why it can hard to introduce something that is significantly different after apathy has set in.

It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, however.

What can you change? Ideas include:

  • The reason why you do this thing to begin with

  • The way in which the goal is measured

  • The group leader (if this is an independent project, see Option #2)

  • The format of the meetings

  • The responsibilities of everyone who is involved
Apathy is easy to diagnose but hard to treat, so there is no guarantee that Option #3 will work. For guarantees, do something easier.

###

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Unconventional Guides:

Working for Yourself: Creating Personal Freedom
Discount Airfare: Surviving Stress and Maximizing Fun

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Trust and Authority: A Marketing Lesson

Trust and Authority: Shop Yourself Happy
Image by Estherase

As promised, here is the analysis and full results from the latest product launch. But first, a few notes on trust and authority – the good kind, not the kind you should fight against.

Having established that all purchases are highly emotional, and that buyers conduct an elaborate, internal analysis about price and value whenever they choose to purchase something, let’s talk know about trust.

We experience a certain combination of fear and trust whenever we buy something. The fear is that we will have wasted our money; the trust is the expectation that we haven’t. We look for immediate validation. Is the first song on the record good? Does the first article in the magazine hold my attention beyond the title?

If trust is confirmed, good. If not, we get worried. That’s why it’s important, whenever you sell something, to work hard at establishing and keeping the trust of your customers. Validation can come in many forms (and it’s good to mix it up a little), but the more, the better.

“Working for Yourself” Case Study

Two weeks ago, I launched my second information product, the Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself. I completed this one after a month of writing, including an all-night session in Sri Lanka, and a few days of recording audio after I had returned to Seattle.

It was no exaggeration to say that I was hesitant to create a product that had to do with making money. It’s not that I think there’s anything wrong with making money – we all need money, and I prefer earning it on my own instead of working for someone else. Aside from robbing banks, those are the only two options (and I suppose that bank robbers are technically self-employed).

I was hesitant because I knew that when you sell something even remotely related to finance and employment, certain people get twitchy on you. They think you are up to something suspicious, even if you have an established reputation you probably wouldn't want to squander.

By the way, most rational people don’t do this, only those who were suspicious or skeptical to begin with. The rational prospects look at the offer, consider the qualifiers and “reasons why,” and then make their decision based on the value consideration. If yes, they buy; if no, they don't -- but they don't usually think less of you for it.

It’s Kind of Like Saying Who You Vote For

This week I received my early voting packet for Washington State, and I was proud to cast my vote for Barack Obama. In 12 years of being an eligible U.S. voter, this is the only time I can remember being genuinely excited about electing a candidate. There are a lot of good reasons to vote for change, but for me one of the most important is that this election has the chance to restore America's standing in the rest of the world.

If you don’t like Obama, do I worry that you’ll be turned off by my saying who I voted for? Not really. I have friends who support John McCain, and I don’t suddenly think their opinions are invalid just because they have reached a different conclusion than I have. I read blogs that are somewhat critical of both mainstream candidates, and as long as they don’t hit me over the head with too much rhetoric, I don’t mind.

It’s only the people who decide that you are a bad person or somehow naïve for expressing an opinion who will get upset.

I don’t care much for intolerance anyway, so if someone stops reading because I say I like Obama, then I think they’d probably be offended at something else sooner or later.

In the end, I decided that the same kind of principle holds true for creating a product about finance and self-employment. A few people get mad because it’s “not what you are supposed to do,” and a lot of other people will happily support you. Others decide it’s not right for them, but that’s OK – because they still care about other things you’re doing. I'll show you all three groups in the analysis here.

When I launched the first guide on Discount Airfare, I was careful to explain my controversial (apparently) opinion that artists should be allowed to make money. I did that to preempt the complaints about selling a product, lest I be unfairly accused of "selling out."

This time I took the qualification process even more seriously, clearly explaining several good reasons to not buy my product at the beginning of the launch process. I did this because I wanted only the customers who I knew would be thrilled and find the product very useful to them.

The Launch Day

I always get up early when launching a new product. In this case, I set the launch time for 7am PST, and I usually need at least 45 minutes to review everything before the actual launch.

I used to launch products and web sites at 8am EST, which meant that after I moved to Seattle I’d need to be up around 4:30 a.m. to accomodate this preference – but I decided that 10am EST would be just fine for this one.

Test… test… test.

There are always a few surprises when you sell something new. No matter how many times you test things, something will always go wrong for someone. The order link won’t work, the thank-you message won’t go out, the site will go down – count on it. This is why it’s good to stay close to the phone and email during any launch.

This time I got up at 5:30 a.m., ran through all the logistics, placed a test order, and so on. A few minutes before 7:00, I made my coffee and uploaded the order page to the site.

The Response

Some of you said you liked how I was willing to share real sales figures in a recent update. I’ll do the same thing here.

My initial goal was to sell at least 100 copies of this product in the first week. Within 24 hours, almost exactly 100 copies had sold, helping me reach the goal six days early. Yay!

More copies have continued to sell every day since then, and a number of people have asked about setting up a consulting session – something I didn’t really like to do before, but now I’m considering as a limited commitment for people who have already started their very small businesses.

The total conversion rate from the first week of regular readers was about 3.4%.

Since 1% is a general marketing baseline and I deliberately tried to disqualify people from buying the guide if it wasn’t a good fit for them, I thought that 3.4% was great. If anything, I want to be sure that I don’t focus too much on this side business while I continue to work on the more important goals of getting my book contract (more on that in a moment) and building our community here.

After all, even though I sold about $4,000 in the first 24 hours, the figure of 100 buyers represents only a small subset of readers. I have to keep the focus on the reason why people come here to begin with: to hear about unconventional strategies for life, work, and travel.

You guys are why I am doing it, whether you buy something or not… although naturally, I greatly appreciate the support and endorsement of your investment.

Good News / Bad News

The bad news was that, like last time, I heard from a few people who were upset about something that seems fairly irrational to me. Without fail, these comments come in from people who have never bought anything, and in fact have never communicated with me before.

I’m going to quote from one of these emails below for your consideration:

You preach about everyone being the master of their own destiny, but expect everyone to buy your [expletive] ebook on making money. This was a good blog until you blatantly tried to rip us off. How could you possibly try to [expletive] tell me what to do?

At first I thought this guy had meant to send this message to someone else. Expect everyone to buy? Blatantly try to rip you off? Tell you what to do?

I’m at a complete loss as to how anyone could get these ideas. I actually told people why they shouldn’t buy the guide, offered a more comprehensive guarantee than any I’ve ever heard of, and said that the primary goal of the guide is to help people create their own freedom to do what they want. Ironic, isn’t it?

There’s not much I can do in these cases except say, “I wish you the best” and move on – never argue with a crazy person, my mom likes to say -- but it does make me a little sad to hear how misguided someone can be.

Anyway, I know that the vast majority of people don’t think that way. Such is life with any kind of marketing in the blogosphere, even the no-hype kind. I posted the email here not because I’m upset, but so you can see that there will always be critics out to write you off whenever you do something of interest.

The lesson for me in this case is to avoid being distracted by random, negative messages like that. Before the end of the first afternoon two weeks ago, I had 60 new customers who were excited about the new product. I should have been thinking about those 60, and then the additional 40, and then everyone else who is happy -- not one negative message that I don't feel is valid.

Here is a sampling of the feedback from new guide owners:

First of all, congratulations. You've put together a great guide. It's helpful, realistic and down-to-earth, and I think it's one of the best ebooks I've read in a while. Very well done, and I hope it gets picked up widely!

Every bit as good as I'd expected, so many congratulations on putting together such a fantastic resource. I know a lot of people will benefit from it, including me. I've been in business for more than twenty years, and my view is that it's loaded with invaluable tips and top ideas which I'll be putting into practice myself.

I especially enjoyed the strategies for starting a microbusiness - especially the parts where it's broken down into pros, cons, and next steps. Including actionable items that I could get started on NOW is extremely helpful, especially for getting me to get off my butt.

I have about 50 reviews like those so far, both from the new guide and the first one. I’ve also asked people to send in suggestions for what could be improved in a future version or an email series I’m doing for the buyers. The feedback I’ve received thus far from many of you has been excellent. We’ve already issued some new material on the basis of those comments, and more will be on the way.

What’s Next

I have three more Unconventional Guides outlined, but at least two of them won't be written until early 2009. For now I want to continue promoting the current guide and working with the affiliates who are selling it around the internet. I’ll probably do a short post on the unconventional affiliate program in the next couple of weeks, but for now if you’re interested, just check out that link and let me know.

My number-one, most important work priority right now is finishing the latest version of my "real book" proposal (it’s up to 40 pages; who knew such a thing had to be so long?) and getting the process for the publisher shopping fully underway.

Next spring, I want to take the business side of things further and do a series of webinars for those who are interested. The webinars will be like the guides, only in multiple sessions and highly interactive. Anyway, more on that later – as mentioned, the proposal completion and book shopping are the most important projects for me at the moment. Onwards and upwards.

Lessons Learned

Miraculously, I don’t think I made any huge mistakes with this product launch. I’m certainly open to constructive feedback, and I realize there are things I could have done to increase the sales further, but overall I’m happy with the results.

Here’s a couple of technical points, for those interested in the details:

  • I haven’t quite made up my mind yet about using different domains for the different products. For now, the Discount Airfare guide and the Working for Yourself guide still “live” directly on this site, although I also have a simple structure set up on UnconventionalGuides.com. I should probably decide what I’m doing with the navigation before launching the next product

  • Someone asked why I am using e-junkie and PayPal to facilitate the payments when I say in the guide that having your own merchant account is a better solution. Good question. The short answer is that I don’t want to comingle my bank accounts (at least, as little as possible) and we are coming to the end of the 2008 tax year. I didn’t really start this project to make money, but if it continues to do so, then I’ll probably incorporate a more complete payment processor in the beginning of 2009.

(If those two statements don’t mean much to you, don’t worry, you’re not missing out on anything terribly important.)

The Best Lesson

When people trust you, they know you are going to put out good work. Some of them are actually willing to pay for it.

I’m tremendously grateful for that trust. Thanks so much.

And for everyone who does not want a very small business, as promised, I am not “selling out” (whatever that means). As you can see from recent posts, I will continue to write about lifestyle design, world domination, unconventional travel, and whatever else I come up with that you guys enjoy.

### RSS Feed | Email Updates | A Brief Guide To World Domination | Unconventional Guides: Working for Yourself: Creating Personal Freedom Discount Airfare: Surviving Stress and Maximizing Fun Did you enjoy this article? Please pass it on to others at StumbleUpon, or share your own thoughts in the comments section.

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The Link between Security and Complacency

security and complacency?
Image by PhotoGraham

Here’s a theory: the more secure we are, the less productive we become. The less risk and uncertainty we have in our lives, the more likely we are to amble along, getting by just fine but never really doing anything worth talking about.

Think about the sophomore album from bands that finally got their big record deal after years of struggling along. The first album is awesome; the second, mediocre.

Think about the reputations of professors at the last university you attended. If they were untenured (but on a tenure track), chance are they were more productive than tenured professors who had already obtained permanent job security.

You can probably think of other examples – bureaucrats, for example, who have safe but boring jobs.

Yes, there are exceptions to all of these. Some bands put out great sophomore albums, and some tenured professors become more prolific in their academic security. These exceptions, however, stand out because they are so unusual.

To simplify: complete security equals at least partial complacency.

I write this because we are living in uncertain times, at least financially speaking. Unless you have been living under the proverbial bridge, you’re probably aware that the U.S. economy hasn’t been performing as expected lately.

Where are our 15% a year gains? How come mortgages keep falling? And why are stocks still going down even though oil prices are also declining?

Someone else will have to answer those questions in more technical terms than I. Last week, I heard someone on Twitter say, “My 401k has become a 201k.” Ha ha. Except we’re not laughing, because as of right now, a great deal of wealth has disappeared into thin air.

As for me, I haven’t logged in to my Vanguard account since March or April. It kind of sucks, but what can you do? If you sell your retirement fund now, you’ve locked in your 30% loss. Better to stick it out, I say, and focus on what you can control.

If you were 100% secure, according to the theory of security and complacency, you’d become nonchalant about your most important work.

Complacency means you aren’t hungry. You don’t get out of bed in the morning excited about the day ahead. You don’t go the extra mile, and you settle for “good enough,” because you correctly suspect that most people won’t notice the difference.

This is sad, but common. I’ve let it happen to me many times.

I’m not sure why some people are able to succeed without any uncertainty. All I know is, I am not one of those people. I’m best as an untenured underdog. I’m best when the risk of failure is high and success is far from certain.

Give Me Neither Poverty Nor Riches

Because security can be such a demotivator, the opposite is true as well: a healthy amount of insecurity helps us Get Stuff Done. For example, I told you when I started writing here that I would post three times a week: Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

You know what? I’m scared of missing a day, because I know if it happens, it will become a lot easier to miss another day sometime. I’ll discover that the world doesn’t end and no one is really that mad or anything. But then, I’ll get complacent. And that, I am absolutely certain, is NOT a good thing for me at all.

Steven Pressfield writes about this in The War of Art, the best little book (it really is little) I’ve ever read about the need for scheduling your creative work. Thus, I keep the schedule. I haven’t missed a day yet, even though there are a couple of times I’ve finished something at 11:45 p.m.

A Short Unconventional Guide Update

I’ll post up the promised analysis of the Unconventional Guide to Working for Yourself launch on Wednesday, but in short, it’s gone very well. A lot more people than I expected have purchased the guide, and in the beta-test for the new affiliate program (invitation-only for now), several affiliates are also having good results around the internet.

I talked to another blogger on the phone a couple of days before the launch, and I said that I hoped it sold well “but not too well.” He thought that was odd and had never heard someone say something like that before.

I realized he was right: it is odd. It’s just what works for me, and I don’t necessarily recommend you follow this model.

All I can say is that I want to keep the focus on the main group of readers, not just the small subset who choose to buy something from me. Anyway, I’ll give you all the details on Wednesday.

For now, bring on the uncertainty! The work will be better because of it.

Stay eager. Stay tough. Get up and fight. Nothing is guaranteed.

What else is there?

###

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Unconventional Guides:

Working for Yourself: Creating Personal Freedom
Discount Airfare: Surviving Stress and Maximizing Fun

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How to Fight Authority (and Win)

resist-authority-example
Image from Copenhagen, Denmark by ilmungo
“I fight authority; authority always wins.” –John Mellencamp

Citizens, consumers, and rebels of all kinds have been fighting authority for as long as history has been recorded. Sometimes they lose, as John Mellencamp sang in a great rock song, but other times, the underdog manages to unseat the strong and mighty.

I should say from the beginning that I don’t necessarily think all authority is bad. I’m in favor of gentle government regulation, general law and order, and checks and balances that prevent abuse of power by anyone. For this, you need authority. Anarchy is not a useful system of governance anywhere.

But sometimes, authority is dangerous and outright harmful. In these cases, it should be resisted in full force. Other times, authority may not be that bad, but it is used to prevent you from doing something that would be good for you without being harmful to anyone else.

In many of these cases, it’s worth it to stand up to authority… but you need a strategy.

From authority wielded by college administrators to world dictators, here’s how you fight it.

First, count the cost.

Be convinced you’re in the right before taking action. Fighting authority can be a long and lonely road, so take the time to make sure you believe in your campaign enough to sacrifice for it. (Yes, there will usually be sacrifice, and we’ll come back to that in a minute.)

Second, count the rewards.

Because the cost can be great, you have to decide if it’s worth it to you to challenge deep-seated authority. What will happen if you win? How will your world – and hopefully more than just your own world – be different?

In the Civil Rights Movement, for example, the reward of equality was clearly worth fighting for, but it was only fully achieved for a future generation – the children and grandchildren of the movement’s participants. Regardless, the participants believed in their cause so much that they were willing to suffer for something that would not be fully realized right away.

Other challenges to authority may not have the same level of rewards as an entire social movement, but there will always be a relationship between cost and rewards. Since you can only fight so many battles at a time you might as well pick something important.

Then, decide on Direct vs. Indirect confrontation.

One decision you’ll have to make when fighting authority is whether to do it directly or indirectly. The indirect way will usually be easier. You may be able to get what you want by simply going around the authority and finding your own way.

Direct confrontation is another beast altogether. Fighting authority one-on-one can lead to bloodshed – or at least hours on hold with customer service – but sometimes, there’s no other way.

To help you make the decision, first answer these two questions:

#1: “Is there another way to do this?”

When you’re confronted with authority that tries to prevent you from achieving your goals, think about whether there is any other way you can do what you need to do.

For example, there is usually another way to graduate from college, another way to earn a living, another way to get the airline to waive the baggage fee, another way to get a visa to Pakistan, or almost anything else.

Again, count the cost and count the rewards. If the traditional path isn’t that difficult, save your authority-fighting for something more important.

#2: “Can I simply ignore the authority standing in my way?”

Direct confrontation can be dangerous, because authority does not like to be challenged. Sometimes you can simply ignore authority and go through the back door.

In most of the African countries I lived in from 2002-2006, the government was relatively weak. Most citizens paid no taxes and lived nearly all their life outside the realm of the law. Disputes were resolved personally or by small, informal authority figures such as tribal elders.

If the citizens in most of these countries were to directly confront the government, the government would put up a fierce fight to put them down. No expense would be spared, and the fight would be brutal since no one likes to give up their power. But if the citizens were to just live their lives without challenging authority, the dictators (often benevolent, sometimes not) who ran the country would look the other way when the people chose to ignore many of the laws.

(In this system, citizens receive few benefits from the state, such as law and order, legal protection, and recognized home ownership, so it’s not necessarily a good way to live – but that’s another story.)

Next Stop, Sacrifice

A fundamental principle of lifestyle design is that you can usually have anything you want if you’re willing to work for it, but you can’t have everything. Tradeoffs must be made, and if you’re fighting authority, you may lose time, status, sleep, money, or worse. The bigger the challenge, the higher the risk of great sacrifice. Consider yourself warned.

***

Successful Challenges to Authority

Let’s look at two examples of successful (but quite different) challenges to authority: the American Revolution, and the rise of online resistance to the mega-corporation.

Benjamin Franklin - the American Revolution
Image by wallyg
The Pursuit of Happiness
“I have no fear that the result of our experiment will be that men may be trusted to govern themselves without a master.” –Thomas Jefferson


The American Revolution was remarkable in that it changed the norms of government for most of the Western world. Until America declared independence from the British Monarchy, most people took it for granted that a king would always be around to tell them what to do.

Just a few years later, the French Revolution followed the American one. In a short time, two of the world’s most powerful monarchies were dismantled or permanently weakened. Every world democracy, especially those who have overthrown monarchies or dictators to install a system of self-governance, owes a debt to the instigators and sustainers of the American Revolution.

Later, the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) followed the path of these revolutions by exposing the great conflict in American society: that even though “all men were created equal,” until the CRM, some were more equal than others.

***

consumerist-fight-authorityShoppers Bite Back

Challenges to authority need not be governmental in nature. Consider the popular site The Consumerist. This is a great example of how the internet and adoption of social media has helped underdogs (consumers) fight authority (corporations).

For a long time, consumers who had somehow been cheated by corporations had few places to turn to for assistance. Sure, advocates like Ralph Nader helped us get seat belts and deal with major injustice, and perhaps the local news station’s investigative reporter could help once in a while, but for the most part, consumers were left to suffer the perceived injustice on their own.

Not so now. When a company like Best Buy screws someone over (judging from the site, it appears that Best Buy is a frequent target), the Consumerist posts up all the details. Thousands of people read it within minutes… and so does the company, because they are finally beginning to understand the destructive power of negative P.R.

In contrast to their preferred methods of communication, corporations have been forced to respond to many consumer complaints posted on the site. They do not always give in, but accountability has been introduced to the marketplace because of sites like the Consumerist.

Wrap-Up

I’ll have more to say about authority later, because this is a big topic… but for now, what do you think? What are some other examples of authority being successfully (or unsuccessfully) challenged?

###

P.S. A quick note to everyone in Canada who is reading today -- Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope you guys are enjoying your holiday. There is no need to fight authority up there at the moment, unless someone tries to take your pumpkin pie.

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