Chris and the Nonconformist, Zillion-Sum Mystery Tour

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Last night, I had the great pleasure of helping my friend, Chris Guillebeau, launch his new book, The Art of Nonconformity with a standing-room only event in NYC.

It was the first stop in a more than 60 location, 4-month North American Unconventional Book Tour.

For those who don’t know Chris, he shot to internet stardom about a year ago when, after a relatively short time blogging about his 5 year quest to visit every country and live unconventionally, he released a giant manifesto called 279 Days to Overnight Success.

In that manifesto, he shared the detailed steps that allowed him to build not only an unconventional life, but a real living as a blogger in an astonishingly short period of time.

It was so genuine, transparent and giving, uber-blogger, Seth Godin, gave it a shout out on his blog and the document soon exploded virally.

Since then, Chris has continued to methodically grow a substantial tribe at and an even bigger business through the vehicle of his Unconventional Guides.

What he’s done is not only unconventional, it’s downright mind-boggling.

But, that’s not what this post is about…

Yesterday, with the publication of The Art of Nonconformity, Chris made the jump from unconventional lifestyle guy, entrepreneur and blogger to author. And, just like he did with the blogosphere, he made quite an impact.

The book exploded to #8 and boasts 25 glowing reviews on amazon in less than 24 hours.

And, I can understand why. Because, it’s a book that rattles your soul more than a just a bit, wakes you up to the possibility of approaching your life and living in an unconventional way, then gives you a process and tools to take action on your agenda. If you’re remotely unsatisfied with how things are going with your life or career, it’s like manna from I-Don’t-Wanna-Be-Just-Like-Everyone-Else heaven.

But, still, that’s not what this post is about…

At Chris’ launch event at Borders in NYC last night, I was given the honor of introducing him. And, as part of that honor, I was forced to think deeply about what it really is about Chris that draws everyone in to him.

Is it his message?

Maybe, there are a lot of square people trying to fit themselves into round holes these days and Chris is out there saying cut your own square hole, dammit.

But, that’s just a piece of it.

Is it that he’s living a life and building a business that so many others dream of living and building?

That he’s figured out how to make serious jack being different than everyone else and traveling the world?

That’s another piece, but still not it.

In the middle of my exploration, I jumped on the phone with creative genius, John T. Unger, another guy who makes a serious six-figure living bouncing between UI design, programming, writing poetry and building these incredible giant fire pit sculptures out of recycled steel for collectors. We were talking about his creative process and toward the end of the conversation, he brought up something he called…

The Zillion Sum Game.

It’s a fascinating concept. We’re all familiar with a zero-sum game. That’s a game where if one person wins, another person has to lose. You can’t have all participants win. The zillion sum game, explained John, is a game where not only does every player win, but as many people as humanly possible who aren’t even playing the game win.

It’s about setting up a quest designed to lift every boat.

That’s how John tries to live his life and choose his projects. And, no sooner did he finish explaining the concept when I realized, that’s also the missing piece of my intro for Chris.

Because what Chris has always done, the thing I believe has fueled his ascent to the top of the blogosphere and now to a tremendous book launch, is structure nearly every project he creates as a zillion-sum game. Not just because he knows it’s great for business, but because he genuinely wants to see everyone around him thrive on a level that equals or exceeds his own success.

So, while his book was soaring to #8 on amazon, he sent me a text to let me know…not that his book was kicking ass, but that my last book, which had been bundled with his as the “buy this with that” book on amazon, had taken a big jump in sales.

He was ecstatic about the possibility that his success was in some way trickling out to benefit me.

That’s the magic behind Chris, behind John and behind so many other “artists” who not only create because that’s what they’re compelled to do, but structure their creative processes in a way that creates the greatest opportunity for the greatest benefit to the greatest number of people.

They create zillion sum games.

And, that my friends, is what this post is really all about.

I wonder what might happen to your life if you stopped looking at the world as you against them.

If you stopped looking at everyone else as competition and saw people as potential collaborators, people with whom to join efforts. People to work with, to delight, to exalt, to co-create with not in the quest to agree upon how best to carve up the existing pieces of someone else’s pie, but to build a newer, bigger, better pie together.

Ponder that…oh, and while you’re pondering, go buy Chris’ book.

It’s really that good!

And, check out John’s steel fire pit sculptures, too. They are insanely cool.

Oh and, maybe, just maybe…

Start thinking more about how you can create experiences where everyone wins.


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41 responses

41 responses to “Chris and the Nonconformist, Zillion-Sum Mystery Tour”

  1. Jonathan, it is a such a pleasure to read your posts. They are inspiring, thoughtful and informative. Your honesty and sincerity always shine through.

    I will be meeting Chris this Friday in Wilmington, DE as he continues his Unconventional Book Tour.

    When I get to NY one day I hope I have the pleasure of meeting you, too.


    PS Thanks for introducing John to your readers.

  2. Love the post, Jonathan, and especially the last part about collaboration! More and more people are moving in that direction and people like Chris and you are doing great things in that regard.

    I’ll be sure to get the book in my next Amazon order. Thanks, dude!


  3. robyn says:

    you got this right on about Chris – i know from personal experience that he’s this sort of guy, always trying to build up others around him, and it’s an inspiring thing to watch!

    i’m excited for his trip to Omaha, so we can blow him away with our hospitality and cupcakes, but i’m most excited to see him do so well for himself, because i know in the process he is changing the lives of countless numbers of people as well!

  4. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jonathan Fields, remarkablogger, Grant Griffiths, soultravelers3, Adam Baker and others. Adam Baker said: Is there a human on the internet better than @jonathanfields at showcasing the awesomeness of others? Exhibit A –> […]

  5. Hugh says:

    Awesome post, Jonathan. I can feel your insanely high energy as you’re writing this. I’ve been following Chris for about a year now and he’s remarkable. I’m going to meet him tonight in Mendham, NJ and I was actually one of the lucky winners of his free book giveaway so I’m psyched to dive into it.

    I also love your perspective on the world – live in collaboration, not me against them.

  6. Rockin’ true Jonathan. Think about it … from an early age in school, we’re taught not to collaborate in school – to do our own work. We’re taught that unless we are working on a designated group project that we’re cheating if we work together. What kind of mindset does that put us in? Its ALL about creating a bigger pie – even if its for people that don’t even know it yet.

  7. Sean Ogle says:

    So often we hear about people talking about the zero-sum game, or at least it was all over my undergraduate curriculum. To hear someone take a decidedly different, and more positive position is really cool to see, and it makes total sense.

    As for Chris, the book is AWESOME, and Chris deserves all the press he is getting. Pretty incredible to see him so high on Amazon. Thanks for the post!

  8. Keely Hoffman says:

    This post has gotten me extra psyched for tomorrow’s Unconventional Book Tour stop in Philadelphia, where I shall be making the roughly 4 hours trek to attend. Somehow I’ve managed to be living a minimum of 4 hours from every “close” tour stop. So it’s not just heading out for an awesome event, it’s also a mini road trip. So excited.

  9. What a great post! I have to quote Adam ( as I RT’d earlier):

    “Is there a human on the internet better than @jonathanfields at showcasing the awesomeness of others? ”

    We all deserve to live in a win/win world! Gratitude to you, Chris and all the others who support that.

  10. What a great post! I have to quote Adam ( as I RT’d earlier):

    “Is there a human on the internet better than @jonathanfields at showcasing the awesomeness of others? ”

    We all deserve to live in a win/win world! Gratitude to you, Chris and all the others who support that.

    Jumping for joy in Barcelona that both books are doing so fantastic!

  11. Dude, thanks so much for your kind support. I wouldn’t have asked anyone else to intro me last night.

    Speaking of that, do you have any plans for the next 97 days? I might need some more help…

  12. Milo says:

    Extremely inspiring, thanks Jonathan! This will definitely be my first purchase once I get my hands on the new Kindle (if I can wait that long!)

    Great to see Career Renegade bundled with it too – a lot of people have referenced the 4 Hour Work Week when discussing Chris’s book but for me it was CR that has had the biggest impact on my life in the last few years, and I’m guessing they are more closely aligned..

  13. Leisa LaDell says:

    Jonathan – What a great post. Thanks for your thoughtful insight into the essence of Chris’ success. We can all learn from him and you. Best, Leisa

  14. Hi Jonathan,

    Competitive thought is a curse. In truth, there is no competition since we are all connected.

    Each creative act can benefit the whole if you believe this to be the case. It’s obvious that Chris has realized this.

    Thanks for sharing your insight.

    Ryan Biddulph

  15. Joel says:

    I’ve been thinking about this concept a lot lately Jonathan. I love the name you’ve given it “the zillion sum game.” Awesome

  16. Mia says:

    This is fantabulous!! I need to check his tour dates to see if and when he is coming to DC – we could use a lot of what he is offering here as there seems to be this idea (maybe it is in the water?) is that the only way to achieve anything is if one loses and another wins – or one party wins so the other must lose.
    Great post Jonathan!!

  17. Evan says:

    One of the things I like most about the blogosphere is that it is collegial and collaborative.

  18. I love that name, Zillion Sum Game. I’ll have to add that to the markerboard above my desk so that I can keep in mind to continually be seeking to expand the pie.

  19. John says:

    The Zillion Sum Game. Love it! It sounds a lot like what my mentors’ mindset: “Approach with the giving hand, and create win-win situations” Thanks for spreading the word about Chris.

  20. Gwyn says:

    Thanks for the great post
    I am so excited about meeting Chris tonight on the Philly stop of the tour. You nailed it with the zillion sum game. I found Chris last year when I was just starting to embrace the notion that I could reinvent myself and my life at middle age. He has remained a major inspiration as I have created my baby PHOTo.WORKS and am ready to share with the world. I am all about the “if you build it (and give some of it away) they will come” philosophy, which is at the root of my Free Art Friday project. I am proud to have my copy of Chris’ book to take with me this evening, and plan at this time next year to easily afford one of those awesome fire pit sculptures. I have been ogling them for a while now.

  21. Tim says:

    I would agree that we need to get rid of the me vs. them mentality and the need to “win.” More than competing with others, we are competing against ourselves. This means we can beat that time we ran last week, write a better blog post than we did yesterday, be a better father this week. Thank you for sharing your observations…I’m looking forward to seeing Chris in Chicago.

  22. Is it just me, or does anybody else feel the similarities between credit market a few years ago and blogging market nowadays?…

  23. Susan says:

    Thanks for this 🙂 I am so ready for a breakthrough in this area! Truly, I so want to get out of the mindset of playing small, the “all about me” perspective. It’s inspiring to see you guys up your game and include others in your world of success. Rock it.

  24. I write about questions the assumptions of “career” as well and have been trying to figure out this guys name for a while – thanks for the primer on Chris.
    James St. James

  25. Evan says:

    It’s not just you Irina. I hope that for those of us who provide value, the shakeout will mean that it is those who don’t provide value will go under.

  26. Natalie says:

    I’ve often pondered what it is about Chris that makes him so godamn likeable, quotable and genuine.
    It’s by far and away his humility, accessability and desire to make you feel like you’re the best thing ever. That’s a special quality.

    I feel honoured to have had two awesome meet ups one on one to discuss life.
    JF I look forward to actually talking to you in person at Blog World.

    With Chris’s praise for your awesomeness and from our interactions I feel it will be another honour to ‘hang out and change the world’


  27. […] Fields set the tone with a really good post about the zillion-sum mystery tour. He wrote such a post about collaboration and building a tribe that it inspired me to take the […]

  28. […] Fields set the tone with a really good post about the zillion-sum mystery tour. He wrote such a post about collaboration and building a tribe that it inspired me to take the […]

  29. Satu says:

    What has impessed me the most about Chris is that he appears to be extremely disciplined and organized. Otherwise he couldn’t have accomplished everything he has accomplished already. 🙂

    I checked Unger’s artwork too. Very COOL.

  30. Tom Bentley says:

    Jonathan, thanks. 279 Days was such a sturdy, stimulating work, and The Art of Nonconformity is surely going to dance merrily on its shoulders. I’m getting my own coins from the sum of zillions; I wrote this Nonconformity Poem for a little contest to win Chris’s book from copies he’d given to his compatriots at Freak Revolution (

    • I brought non-conformity to the dance, because she had two left feet (and beautiful mismatched shoes).
    • I brought non-conformity to meet my mother, because her breath smells of apple pie, chipotle pepper and rhinestones, and my mother likes complex smells.
    • I brought non-conformity to work, because when she punched the clock, she literally punched it, and it turned into Dali’s Persistence of Memory.
    • I brought non-conformity to the mall, because she didn’t want any stuff (though she did look longingly at the iPad).
    • I brought non-conformity to meet my old friends, because hell, they’re my old friends, and they’ve seen weirder shit.
    • I brought non-conformity into my head, and man, that place is peculiar, but once she sat on the ceiling and stretched out all eight legs, she was comfy.

    My book is on its way—thanks Chris! And after I’m finished, I’ll send it to the next soul waiting for his/her share of the zillions.

    • Love your poem Tom!

      My copy of The Art of Non-Conformity came yesterday and I am halfway through it. I keep Chris’ manifesto on my desktop for when I need a shot of inspiration.

    • Rex says:

      Nice work, Tom. Now I’ll have to get a copy and bring non-conformity with me to all those places so I can see what happens.

  31. Dave Ursillo says:


    Thanks for this beautiful post. For me as a young writer and aspiring author (who an agent once told me was “like Chris Guillebeau, but a few years behind”) this story was really a moving one.

    Thank you for the inspiration and the motivation, keep up the great work.

    Love and peace,

  32. Katie Marsh says:

    You know what I see this post about? We are all mirrors, reflecting back our own brilliance, as well as our own weakness, mirrors that show up to show us something about ourselves. I think you just met a perfect mirror of yourself, and I actually put your speech and website in my blog, unaware of how to do that whole “pingback” thing. I’m a newbie 🙂
    Your words empowered me, so I wanted to empower them.
    I was unsure if that was appropriate, if I needed to ask for permission, but this shows you have a win win attitude and I thank you for that.

  33. […] they can gain sophistication and the market can mature.  Plus, I’d rather live in a “zillion sum” […]

  34. […] Fields describes the zillion-sum solution far better than I just did. In his article the Zillion-Sum Mystery Tour, Jonathan writes… “The zillion sum game, explained [John T. Unger], is a game where not […]

  35. […] there’s a little known third option, one artisanal firebowl sculptor, John T. Unger calls the Zillion Sum Game, where nobody wins unless everybody wins.What do you guys think?Have you experienced any or all of […]

  36. […] ones you don’t even know exist yet?Artisanal firebowl sculptor, John Unger, calls this the Zillion Sum Game. What if you worked with equal fervor to bring the experience of maximum joy to everyone you came in […]

  37. […] I love the idea of zillion-sum. […]