Survey Results: What I Learned from 250 of You in 34 Countries

Survey Results - from 34 Countries!

Yesterday I met with a friend of mine who is going to live in the Sudan for at least the next year. She’ll be in Khartoum (the capital) half of the time, and in Darfur or South Sudan the other half.

A real-life aid worker! I used to be one of those, before I moved back to the land of lattes and 9-to-5ers. Those were the days, right?

Talking with someone who’s leaving the U.S. for Darfur (and is actually excited about it) was a good reminder of one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther King, Jr:

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’”

Whenever I find myself getting away from that persistent and urgent question, something always happens that reminds me of it again. Hearing from many of you through the survey last week was another good reminder. It caused me to realize, yet again, that I have a good thing going over here and I need to be extremely devoted to keep on improving it.

I’ll tell you more about that, but first, here’s how I did the survey.

I stopped the survey at the first 250 responses, because 250 is a good sample size and turned out to be quite diverse geographically. If you missed out, don’t worry – I’ll do another one after we get the site redesign up and running. Also, you can always write me or post a comment on any post.

Also, a note on surveys — if you have any kind of business web site or even just a personal blog of your own, I highly recommend doing your own survey to learn more about why people come to your site, what they like best, and what you can improve on. I use SurveyMonkey for this – they have a free version, but the $19.95 monthly version provides many more options. Barring that, you could also do a manual version and sort the feedback yourself in Excel.

Who You All Are

OK, on to the information. In addition to the largest group of readers from the U.S. and Canada, I heard from people in all of these countries:

New Zealand, Germany, U.K., Netherlands, Russia, India, Belgium, Austria, France, Slovakia, South Africa, China, Bulgaria, Bahamas, Romania, Mexico, Australia, Denmark, Tunisia, Kenya, Argentina, Finland, Croatia, Liberia, Israel, Lithuania, Spain, Sudan, and Poland

Most of those responses came through in the first few hours. I knew from the site statistics that you guys are from all over the place, but it’s a different feeling altogether to hear from you.

I’m so glad you all are reading – thanks so much for being so cool.

On the survey, I asked a few open-ended questions and a couple of general, introductory questions:

What do you do during the week?

  • 62% Work for Someone Else
  • 32% Work for Myself
  • 17% Go to School
  • 8% Retired / Unemployed / Professional Surfer

I gave people an “other” field here, and got a range of responses. Several people said they currently work for someone else but were “working on changing that.” Someone just said, “Be awesome” – I liked that. Others are authors, programmers, stay-at-home parents, and an assortment of people who do more than one thing.

What do you enjoy the most about the site?

  • Personal Development and Lifestyle Design: 58%
  • International Travel: 22%
  • Entrepreneurship and Small Business: 20%

A number of you (at least 30) said that you like all three and did not want to choose between them. Sorry about that! Forcing the choice in the survey helps me to see the trends, but I don’t have any plans to change the general topics. Several people noted that they were originally interested in travel or entrepreneurship, but like how I incorporate those topics into personal development. Thanks – I do my best.

I have tried from the beginning to stake out a general marketplace of ideas without being highly-specialized. This was not necessarily a strategic decision, by the way – it was more just a reflection of who I am and what I wanted to write about. I am absolutely terrible at working on anything I’m not motivated by, so that’s why I write about unconventional living through several different activities.

A Few Highlights

Here are a few quotes from the survey:

Keep up the ‘tough love’ writing, don’t go easy on us! I need a good kick in the pants most of the time!

Me too. That’s why I do it – for all of us who care enough to push beyond mediocrity.

I think more could be done on the topic of aiming big. Achievable is all good and well, but the best growth comes when you seek for something you fear may be impossible.

Well said. Thank you.

More interviews / case studies / specific details of how people are living unconventionally, following the recommendations in your ebook, etc.

Yes, we are reviving the profiles series soon and will be featuring more people.

As much as I love your long, thought-through essays, I’d love to see more short posts as well.

This is a tricky one. I like the way this person put it, because a number of people took one side or the other (“I’m glad you write longer, more thoughtful posts” vs. “The posts are too long.”) I’m thinking about finding a way to do a mixture of the two without compromising the style I’m getting comfortable with.

More step by step advice would be great. I love action steps!


Maybe more real world tips on running your own business


Specific outlines of how you plan out so many trips at once

A big request was for more detailed planning resources, especially for international travel and solopreneur world domination. Thanks for asking. It seems some of you guys like knowing all the details about how I do what I do, so this is part of the plan.

Lastly, I enjoyed this request:

Free beer! Just kidding.

Well, if only you hadn’t said you were kidding…


Please note: at least 200 out of 250 responses said something very interesting or helpful. If I haven’t mentioned it here, please know that I have read (and re-read) all your comments. In fact, I didn’t ask for email addresses in the survey, but I wished I could have written most of you back personally. If you’d like, feel free to write me on the contact form to say hello or ask a question.

Survey NotebookImprovements and the Road Ahead

More and more, I feel a sense of responsibility to continue moving onwards and upwards with this project. When I started nearly 10 months ago, I thought that I’d write mostly about my travel adventures and the goal of visiting every country. I’m still committed to that goal and am looking forward to making more progress in 2009, but the focus has definitely shifted to something much bigger.

This is due in large part because of you and your input, and for that I’m grateful. I have learned a great deal along the way, from successes and setbacks alike. If I haven’t always gotten it right, stick with me. There will be more learning and personal ass-kicking involved along the way.

In response to the more personal information that it seems people enjoy the most of all, I’m also going to stretch myself a bit in this area.

For example…

  • I’ll tell you exactly how my new small business is doing, including actual revenue and expense figures
  • When I travel, I’ll tell you exactly how I do it (specific itineraries and tips), where I stay, and how much money it costs
  • My next non-commercial manifesto will be called 279 Days to Overnight Success, and it will detail how bloggers and other solopreneurs can create a new, full-time career in social media in less than one year
  • I’ve earned 140,000 Frequent Flyer Miles in the past few weeks through an interesting experiment, and I’ll show you how this worked and how you can do something similar
  • So far I have at least 75 invitations to visit readers whenever I stop by their cities. I would love to do more of this, and we may try to plan group meetups if there’s enough interest

Last but certainly not least, after the site redesign is done (see below), I want to find a way to make a few experiments more interactive. It will be fairly low-tech – I still write with a pen and notebook most of the time, after all – but the goal is to provide more accountability for everyone who says they are going to travel somewhere, start their own business, or do something entirely different.

Disclaimer: This is a Work in Progress

In short, creating the content for this site and everything related to it is going to be my most important priority for 2009. I am really excited and think about it for several hours a day.

At the same time, however, I want to be very careful not to promise too much. One of the things I heard from several people, especially those who have been reading for a while or who have purchased an Unconventional Guide, is that I underpromise and overdeliver.

That is exactly what I want to hear. I am well aware that trust is hard to gain but easy to lose – and I prefer to keep it.

There is no shortage of ideas for how to take this to the next level – podcasts, more photos, more videos, and so on. These (and others) are all good requests, but I want to make sure whatever I do is going to help those of you who spend your time following the journey. I also have to make sure I can keep up with whatever I start, and if I stop doing something, of course, I’d better have a good reason for it. Otherwise, you have long-standing permission to kick my ass.

Site Redesign

As mentioned, we are almost ready to set up the new site design. Someone asked, “Why change the design? It’s nice, subtle, and works well enough.” Yes, it is nice and subtle – and that is what’s wrong. In the survey, someone else gave the answer better than I could put it myself:

Forgive me if I sound crazy. You write about a robust and vibrant life. The layout of your site seems dull. Just doesn’t seem to reflect who you appear to be.

You’re not crazy — you are correct, and that is the crux of the problem we’re addressing. Stay tuned. I know there are many designers and web gurus out there who read this site. Once we upload the new structure, I’ll be looking for your input and critiques.


Thanks (again) to everyone who took the survey last week. 34 countries! Wow. I’m amazed, and incredibly humbled. Thanks as well to everyone (many more than the 250) who takes the time to read the Art of Nonconformity every week. I have a lot of work to do for all of you.

The next part of the work will come on Friday, when I’ll tell you all about Round-the-World plane tickets – how I use them to travel to 20+ countries a year, how you can buy your own, how to optimize the itineraries, what to watch out for, and so on.

See you then!


Globe Image by Bumblebee

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  • Parth says:

    Wow, thanks for sharing your poll results with us. This is actually the first time here, and it looks like a very diverse community.

  • tory says:

    “I’ve earned 140,000 Frequent Flyer Miles in the past few weeks through an interesting experiment, and I’ll show you how this worked and how you can do something similar”

    Did this involve pudding?

  • Chris says:


    You’re welcome – yes, it is quite diverse.


    No, no pudding was involved… but that is very funny. Unfortunately, I missed the pudding arbitrage opportunity during the height of its availability.

    (For those who don’t know, a while back this guy accumulated 1.2 million FF miles by buying a lot of pudding. Read the story for more info.)

  • Parag Shah says:

    Hi Chris,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us through your blog. I enjoy reading all your posts, but the ones on lifestyle design and solo-preneurship are the ones I enjoy the most.

    I too run a one-person company. Have been doing it since 2000, and absolutely love it. Though I wish I could get to travel and see as many places as you have 🙂


  • The Wyman says:

    Thanks for the pudding story. You should have been so lucky.

    I appreciate all the hot links in your articles so we can quickly get more details during our read.

    Looking forward to Fri. post on round-the-world tickets.

    Thanks again for sharing your business income. Refreshing after all the hype the gurus give.

    279 Days to Overnight Success sounds very interesting. I am just getting started in blogging adventures.

    Are any people out there from Las Vegas? It would be fun to start a mastermind or think tank group to brainstorm unconventional ways to take over the world and make it safer and happier. I have lots of ideas and am starting an organization to do just that.

  • Jay Frawley says:

    Thanks for the info on the survey. I was wondering how you did the surveys. You should never assume you are making everyone happy. You will never know if you do not ask. Thanks for thinking about us fellow bloggers. 34 countries is nuts- you should be very proud of your work.

  • Mo says:

    This blog is fantastic. People who sometimes feel they are alone in their quest for freedom/independence i.e. poll says it all; 62% Work for Someone Else.This world needs more entrepreneurs to create jobs.

    Traveling opened up my eyes (oh and a broken heart helps as well). For me, its all about lifestyle. People don’t really want to ‘work’ their whole lives.There’s so much to see and do. Our time here is so short.I figure,we might as well enjoy it.

    This community can grow further.We can start our own business network and collaborate,mentor etc with each other.I think it would be great for people to travel and give their take on the places you have visited.

    Anyway,I digress.Friday morning,30degrees celsius outside,clear blue skies; that’s how I want to feel when working (for myself).That ahhh feeling.

    Merry Christmas people

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