How to Be Unremarkably Average
Follow These Simple Tips for a Risk-Free Life:
Accept what people tell you at face value. Surround yourself with people who think like you. Don’t stand out. Stay close to home. Get a normal job. Do things the way everyone else does, because there has to be a method to the madness.
Go to college because someone said you should get a degree, not because you want to learn anything. Take four years to finish, or maybe even five. No one’s counting. Take out student loans to “invest in yourself.” Follow the plan in your course catalog even if you hate some of the classes. Believe your advisor when she says you have to do things a certain way. Jump through hoops. Check off boxes.
Use your credit card as your primary means of spending. Get the largest mortgage you can qualify for. Fill it with plasma TVs and expensive furniture. Buy a big, new car and complain about the cost of gas. Spend all you earn, or maybe even more than you earn. The government will help you if there’s a recession. Spend money on things you don’t want but will help you impress others.
Give token amounts of money to charity. Change the channel when a charity appeal comes on. Believe the 3,000 marketing messages that the average person in the U.S. and Canada receives every day. You need things you’ve never heard of before because they will help you feel better about yourself. You deserve to buy luxury products because you’ve earned the right through your hard work.
Go overseas once or twice in your life, to somewhere safe like England. Tell everyone what a great cross-cultural experience it was to visit London. (“They talk so differently over there!”) Wherever you go, make absolutely sure that you will be safe and comfortable. McDonald’s is now in 119 countries, so you can always find something good to eat.
If you want to be brave, go to somewhere like Mexico. Never travel unaccompanied to any place “really foreign.” Don’t try to speak any language other than English. If people don’t understand you, speak louder. Africa is for safaris and Asia is for cities with big shopping malls. Don’t drink the water!
Work at a job you don’t like for the majority of your professional life. Sit at a desk 40 hours a week for an average of 10 hours of productive work. One day, the corner cubicle will be all yours. Until then, get really good at Minesweeper. Read every article on CNN.com every day. Attend useless meetings. Take the credit when things go right. Put the blame on someone else when things go wrong. Never take responsibility for anything. When you fail at something, resolve to never try again.
Form alliances of convenience to survive office conflict. When you are forced to mediate a disagreement, make your judgment on the basis of personality instead of principle. To advance in management, don’t confront anyone and only give positive reviews. Instead of trying to fix big problems, focus on unproductive work that everyone notices. In times of crisis, wonder out loud what someone will do. Polish the deck chairs on the Titanic.
Don’t question authority; it’s there for a good reason. Believe in and actively defend “the way things used to be” even if your memory is hazy about when that actually was. Feel threatened by new ideas. Never be the voice of dissent. Support your country’s foreign policy when it is popular and reject it when it is unpopular. Don’t wonder about someone’s motivations for pursuing one choice over another.
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry about being average, because no one will ever question you about it. Average is the status quo. Politicians pander to the average out of political necessity. When they try to promote their own unconventional ideas, they quickly learn how risky it is to be truly different. If you go through life following this advice, you’ll find yourself in good company with virtually everyone who lives an unremarkably average life.
What more could you want?
This is fantastic — I’ve linked you — awesome!
Thanks! I appreciate the kind words and the link.
I heard about your website through GRS. I’ve spent the past couple hours reading the archives. Everything has been great and I subscribed to the RSS feed. I look forward to reading. Good luck!
Thank you for this. I’m a college student who just switched out of a major I hated to one that I love (engineering to English – quite the future pay cut). This is exactly what I needed to read to reaffirm that I am making the right choice to live more unconventionally than my mom (an engineer) did. I’m working through your archives and I can already tell yours is going to be one of my favorite blogs.
I found your blog thanks to Cal Newport, whose blog I’ve been reading religiously since last summer. I love his unconventional thinkers series because it focuses on defeating mediocrity (same with his Zen Valedictorian series). I’m perusing your archives as we speak, and I look forward to your e-book coming out this week. Keep up the great work! I can’t wait to keep reading.
Hi Chris! I just landed on the site from some link and ended up at an amazing place. I’m still reading, but whatever I’ve read is amazing!
Tell me, is it OK by you if i forward something like the ‘simple tips’ mentioned above to my friends by email. of course i would mention that you wrote them. If required I’ll add the link to your site too. I’ll do this only if you grant permission. I don’t intend to violate any of your rights!
Hey guys, thanks! Cal’s blog is a great resource for college students:
Sure, please share anything I write. A link back to the site or original article would be appreciated.
Sadly, unremarkably-average is usually the norm. So, you’ve just outlined the ‘mode’ of life for ‘normal’ human-being… 🙂
Wow! I’m hooked. I work the 40 hour job but am a true musician/artist at heart. This is really inspiring. Thank you for sharing your gifts and your experiences with us; and all with such wonderful humor. I will be working my way through every link and archive.
Estoy encantada de haber encontrado tu pagina web–referida por George Ambler.
Buena suerte con tu proyecto! Si vas a España, toma una copa de vino y come unas tapas–para dominar el mundo necesitas energia! LOL
This post alone is going to be required reading for anyone who ever tells me “but I HAVE to XX!” As a coach I find people are relatively happy but they know something is missing. What’s missing is their ability/choice to be different from the status quo.
It reminds me of a quote by Ayn Rand who stated (and I’m paraphrasing) “The mainstream is not a stream at all, but rather a stagnant swamp.”
Thanks for this!
Thank you, Chris. You’re a true inspiration, and I have shared your “Guide to World Domination” with many people.
All the best,
Denise Zdunczyk (Ann Arbor, MI)
Well, someone needs to be unremarkably average so someone else can be unconventional.
Ha ha, I love it! I started consciously moving away from the mainstream 15 years ago. I consider myself pretty unconventional but I know I have a long way to go to be “remarkable”. 🙂 I will keep reading your web site and documents. Very inspirational stuff. Thanks Chris.
Quite right! I spent the first half of my life trying to be the good daughter, good student, good worker. I still aspire to be those things but in my own way not in the way expected. I have changed my life around and am now working for myself in a job I enjoy and writing (which I love).
Your blog is wonderful, Chris. Good for you to live the life you want. We all start out with dreams, but get bogged down by life. Live the way you want as long as you treat others well.
You are a dangerous man!
Keep writing I love it.
I wanted to say “Thank You Chirs!”
A friend who lives a pretty remarkable life herself, introduced me to your blog and I am hooked!!!! After 30+ years of being afraid to do the “wrong” thing and achieving “pretty average” status. I never knew where I wanted to go and was too afraid to really ask and answer.
Reading your blog is like dusting off an old Atlas where you can just make out the side roads. I am finally excited to start finding my road and heading down it.
I am also sharing this site with my army!
Keep blogging! You are great!
Wow…when you put it *that* way!
A very succinct assessment of the very things that have been wearing me down lately…all the trappings of a “success” that I really don’t really enjoy.
Time to pare down and figure out what’s important in life.
Found you accidentally but am being so inspired! I’ve had a pretty ordinary life but before I turned 71, I traveled around the world, taught English in Viet Nam but didn’t get to enough countries. With my 20-30 years of active life left, I want to help change the world!
Thank you Chris for this! It took me a while to, but today i finally Printed your manifesto and took the time to read it! Hopefully i can make it in what i want to do. Il be sure to let you know!
Man, you nailed my life on the head; sans the most expensive mortgage I can get. I want to get out of this status quo, I hate it. I’ve been to more then 2 countries, but everyone I’ve traveled to is in that safe region. I know one language, but when I goto another country I always try to learn more then the basics (basic syntax and grammatical structure, so that I can learn while listening). I am planning to start a business but can never find the time too, I am a programmer, and I no longer question authority I just gripe about it quietly to myself. And this is why your site is appealing to me more and more.
On a different note I just turned 22 a month ago, so I have time to change it, but I need to act to do so more then dream of it.
I’m 39 and I’ve still to get a ‘proper’ job! I work untill I have enough money, then loaf ’till it runs out 🙂 La Dolce Vita! I totally agree with you: Don’t let others define you, be self-actualized…
WOW…i’m proud to say that, at just 18 I can safely say i’m not average, while most of my friends and family are…
I’d love to make a movement like yours.
I think it is good to follow, but also to lead.
As of now I fluently speak 3 languages, have lived in two different countries, (and in 20 days i’m going for my third) For the past 4 years all my activities involve helping my society and even the world. Next semester I will be working at an international NGO. Everyone keeps telling I should go to college because of my age, instead of volunteering a semester…hey..i do plan on studying, I just dont plan on missing a single oportunity in life.
Thanks for your articles!
greetings from mexico…(“the place for the brave” haha)
I loved this one – this is why I feel so out of place at work!! Everyone there is like this, and unfortunately, it is wearing me down – though the article made me laugh with its truths. I’m only there as I’m waiting out the next 6 months so I can get my 6 months paid long service leave, otherwise I would quit now!! Currently use my 30 non-productive hours each week to research/develop a book I’m writing, visit sites like this one, and generally use work time to plan my non-conventional life after work! There is more to life than average, and its not that hard!! Small steps, bigger steps = change. Bring it on!!
I can’t remember how I came across your site.
Through another blog, I presume. I’ve just been sitting here too long to remember.
Currently, I’m printing the world domination guide, because I need to annotate and digest it. Next, it’s on to some dominating.
Subscribed on RSS, too.
I love it.
Just found this site and I love it. Do you know I even had to start a new list category (“Just Plain Cool”) to link here? I’ll come back often. Good luck on your travels and keep writing!
LOL…these are great! I am printing this article to put on a mirror or front of the refrigerator…to remind myself that I do a lot of these things, and that these things are not helping me become remarkable!
oooo, ouch. thank you sir, may i have another?
a good assessment of what’s wrong with my life right now and why it fits like a bad suit.
This was linked by one of my FB friends. This is a very funny POV and true POV of things. Just the kinda thing that people should know if they wanna live their lives captive to OTHER’S fears and insecurities.
You give me courage to be remarkable 🙂 Thanks
haha, “plasma TV’s & expensive furniture”, too true. Looks like the American Dream is also the Australian Dream. Great Post, everyone should have to read this at least once and wake-up.
I spent two hours reading your blog. And now I just have to comment. I’ll share my average life story, because i have a need to do that, so forgive me. I made poor choices so i ended up studying what i don’t like, what i said i’d never do, economics and management, while painting and philosophy are things i’m passionate about, things i’m good at (and now are just hobbys). i’m studying at a fancy college, have a nice apartmant in the center of my city, have nice clothes, loads of stuff. have a dog i always wanted, money, great family, boyfriend (everything one would wish for?). but, i’m not happy, i’m not satisfied and that makes me feel guilty. i have a secure future, but i doesn’t look too bright to me.
i’m craving for challenge. An intellectual one, any kind of challenge.
my dream is to attend art school in wienna, i started working on my goal/dream and haven’t even told anyone about it.
but i still have to make up my mind.
thank you for inspiration & thought-provoking writing
So so true! Living a remarkable life is what it´s all about for me and cannot think about living life in any other way. Great to read your story and being reminded! Wish everyone would read this article and be motivated to get moving!
Barbara, I hear you.
I worked most of my life till my mid 30’s as an accountant – then dumped it all and went to Uni and read English and Philosophy – plus I had a year in Vienna at Uni there.
The experience has changed my life – for the better.
Wow! While I was reading this article I was shaking with chills. sometimes, you need to work and do things because you need the money or other thing. But, more important is always to keep on mind that there is another reality and we are pretty far beyond this materialistic and non-spiritual world. Good writing!
Wow. A slap on my face. Since I discovered your blog roughly a week ago, I must have read 2 or 3 dozens of your excellent articles without sharing my comments (I prefer to listen rather than give my 2 cents). However, this post scared me because I do some of these things but I don’t consider myself average.
Have I been average all this time and pretended to be special/different without being aware of this?
But what worry me the most is that in the latter stages of my “legacy work”, I plan to be an elected politician to change the world. With what you said:
“Politicians pander to the average out of political necessity. When they try to promote their own unconventional ideas, they quickly learn how risky it is to be truly different.”
Can I be one of THEM but swim against the current and remain myself in order to change what needs to be change? Am I fooling myself and that I need to be like 99% of the politicians in order to be able to change the beast from within?
I’m so glad I found this site your philosophy is amazingly refreshing and witty! In a sea of drones where it is “easier” to become part of the herd you’ve managed to give voice to independent thinkers who value authenticity. Good luck on your travels!
Thank you for publishing this article. I am feeling very restless at the moment and I am unremarkably average in almost every way that your article describes (although I am learning a language!).
I feel the need to have an adventure, break out of my boring little life and boring routine, to do something more with my life….surely there must more to life than a boring job which I struggle to care less about, a degree which will land me a ‘good job’ (but bores me witless).
For me, this article hits the nail right on the head because I’ve been sitting here thinking ‘there’s got to be more to life than this!’
Great job, dude!
Greetings from safe and average Germany, we have more than 1,300 McDonald’s restaurants here, too. Fortunately we failed at world domination several decades ago.
I could not believe when I visited this site, it was having similar thoughts that I have in the sticky corner of my mind,,,…
For readers: “Non-conformity should never be confused with non-acceptance or arrogance. It can be viewed in the lines of lateral thinking and the ability to ask why.”
Awesome. Right here, in 2010, two years later, this applies and is a great help. Thanks
I made the mistake of going to university because other people said that I should! However it’s pretty lucky I’m doing at least one course I like, and it’s helped me achieved a dream I’ve had for a while!
That’s sounding very similar to what I’ve been experiencing.
I’ve also been strangling my soul in an office while yearning to travel and learn languages. That’s all changing now though – I’m travelling next month then off on another adventure next year!
It’s great to know I’m not alone in my thinking. It disturbs me how most people blindly follow mainstream media and conventional wisdom. Somewhere along our history humans became mindless robots who act accordingly to “the social norm”. I believe this kind of mindless thinking has lead us to the downward spiral society now faces. Great blog and I’m glad I found your site!
The great wide internet is starting to have an effect. People of like mind are finding each other. This is without enabling technologies that are on the horizon but not yet here. These are the early days.
“What Technology Wants” and “Where Good Ideas Come From” are two books in the same class as Jerod Diamond’s “Guns Germs and Steel” and “Collapse all of which can straighten out your thinking and understand what is coming and why people like yourselves are in the forefront.
I’m sure you all know about TED.COM and have delved into their series of mind expanding perspectives. I have a new app on my iPhone called Word Lens, look that one up.
New word for the week is ‘bricolage’ – remember it in your travels. In “Where Good Ideas Come From” it translates to an incubator made from car parts which can be sustained by 3rd world technologies vs the $40K developed world model.
Whoa!!! Thank you to Sales Trainer/Motivator Lisa Robbin Young for introducing me to Chris Guillebeau! I always knew that I “stood out” but now I understand exactly WHY I do and why certain folks-green eyed monsters-don’t like it! Wooo hooo!!!
Hey Chris – I found your site via your guest post on Get Rich Slowly, and found this link through your guide to world domination. I’m glad you have a post on this, because I wanted to re-post what you had in your guide, and this will be a lot easier! I know of a lot of people that need this information. Getting rid of assumptions about what we “need” to be and do is definitely a great thing to accomplish. Thank you for being so inspirational.
Hi! I am from france, and what you said is totaly true, all the people next to me think so so so normal life, I find everyone so bored, and want to do something not common, new, bigger….I will use your blog to motivate me to change my boring life.
Awesome! I read The Art of Non Conformity some time ago…seems like years! Totally changed the way I look at the world and inspired me to change my life. Keep up the fantastic work Chris…thank you.
I needed this reminder today. Life is way too short to live average.
Today is a great day to live abundantly, daringly and profoundly as only you can live it. Thanks Chris!
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