The blogosphere has grown to astronomical size already, but somehow, there still appears to be pervasive sameness to it. (Anybody know where I can learn to make money online?) There are millions of blogs in thousands of niches, and in each, certain authorities rise to the surface. Most of these “A-listers” are just especially good at something a lot of people are doing: marketing, getting fit, discussing tech stuff. Nothing wrong with that. But some people are clearly drumming their own tune, and it’s refreshing to see people who are doing something that is so distinguished, they have no competition.
Here are three fascinating characters working on three extraordinary projects. Enjoy.
You know what’s awesome? When cashiers open new checkout lanes at the grocery store. And when you pull up at a red light and the guy in front of you nudges up a bit so you can make a right turn. And popping bubble wrap.
Those three glorious events are #953, #986 and #840 in Toronto blogger Neil Pasricha’s list of 1000 Awesome Things. He is currently counting down, at a rate of one per workday, one thousand things that are unquestionably awesome. Who couldn’t appreciate:
Getting a trucker to blow their horn.
Arriving at your destination just as a great song ends on the radio.
The smell of gasoline (you know you love it.)
What is extraordinary is how unarguably awesome his choices are. They are quite specific, and rarely are these delicious experiences ever acknowledged aloud. I mean, who hasn’t secretly enjoyed scraping all the lint out of an overflowing lint trap? But have you ever heard anyone mention it? Well, Neil is mentioning it. And it’s about time.
I don’t know who can visit this site and not smile, and that is extraordinary to me.
Now, I won’t try and read some kind of grand global message into this — as I’m prone to doing — because this project really is about how awesome it is to watch The Price is Right when you’re home sick, or to build a stack of pancakes that looks just like the front of the box. It seems obvious though, that the exploding popularity of 1000 Awesome Things proves that these inconsequential little details are worth honoring, to so many of us. Popular media has always been dominated by the dramatic and grandiose, but I don’t see how Terminator 4 or the conclusion of Lost could possibly be as awesome as pushing those little buttons on the soft drink cup lid, or remembering what movie that guy is from.
Not unlike Seinfeld, Pasricha is paying homage to supposedly unimportant things, and people are flocking to it in droves, because there is concrete meaning there for so many of us. Everybody’s life seems to be full of these same tiny, nondescript miracles, and that’s just awesome.
Now there are goals and there are goals. And Chris Guillebeau clearly has a goal, and he’s declared it to the world. Chris intends to visit every single nation on the planet. Surely the work of a lifetime.
But Chris isn’t giving himself a lifetime do to this. He’s chosen a firm deadline of April 7, 2013. At the time of this writing, he’s got 107 down, 90 to go. Among his fans, there is little doubt that he’ll do it, he’s just too determined and travel-savvy.
Most travel-interested people toil for forty-nine or fifty weeks of the year so that they can spend the other two or three exploring another country. And that’s if they don’t spend those precious weeks off building a deck or redoing the bathroom.
He’s not a dot-com tycoon or a trust-fund baby; he manages this copius amount of travel on a relatively modest annual income. And he makes no secret of how he does it. He is a keen student (and teacher) of a new science called lifestyle design, eschewing the traditional model of cubicle conformity and getting paid for what he wants to do anyway. His site, The Art of Nonconformity, is a mecca for travelers and those unsatisfied with conventional, dollars-for-hours working life.
Described by himself and his fans as a “Travel Ninja,” he can show you how to get transoceanic flights for the price of a cheap dishwasher, and where to stay in Haiti. He is committed to debunking the myths that self-employment is unfeasible, that travel is expensive and exclusive, and that your life has to meet the expectations of others.
And the best part? He wants to help you, and be your friend. Follow him on Twitter, he’ll actually talk to you. He wants to wake people up from the doldrums of convention and normalcy, and get them spending their days doing what they actually want to do.
If you’re interested in throwing off the shackles of conformity, start with his free boon to humanity, A Brief Guide to World Domination.
On his About page, he sums up his philosophy succinctly:
1. You don’t have to live your life the way other people expect you to.
2. If you don’t decide for yourself what you want to get out of life, someone else will probably end up deciding for you.
3. There is usually more than one way to accomplish something.
4. You can do good things for yourself and help other people at the same time.
It’s not an exaggeration to say he is indeed changing the world, and helping others to discover that they can too. Take a look at what he’s doing. If you’re not inspired, check yourself for a pulse.
And then there’s Cedric. You probably haven’t heard of him. He’s not cross-crossing the globe, or being interviewed by the Toronto Globe and Mail. He is not famous, he has no book deal, and he makes lots of typos and uses capital letters where they don’t belong. But he is extraordinary.
See, Cedric has a problem, and he’s chosen an unconventional solution.
I’ll let him explain in his own words:
For many years now I have found decision making extremely difficult. I agonise over what to have for lunch, what colour shirt to wear, even what train to get in the morning. Now these are the trivial things, Imagine how difficult it is for me when it comes to the General Election, booking a holiday or buying a car. Life for me is truly miserable due to the endless choices I have to make. I remember as a child, life was great. Mum used to choose what I had for lunch, what I would wear and what time I went to bed.
Now it’s time to get that happiness I experienced at childhood back. It’s time for all of you to be my mum! I want you to decide my life!
True to the tradition of George Costanza, (and pretty much the exact opposite of Chris Guillebeau) he suspects he could be a happier person if the rest of the world would just kindly tell him what to do. That’s right, when he can’t decide on what to do, he lets you make the call. He cannot bear to be responsible for the hazards of wearing the wrong shoes, or cheering for the wrong football team, so he sends it out to a public vote.
Even his internet moniker, ‘Cedric’ — he’s remaining incognito, for obvious reasons — was produced by his loyal handful of deciders. I admit I was personally involved in instructing him to get a tattoo, though I didn’t tell him which design to get. Of course, others did.
Part of his charm is the casual haplessness with which it all unfolds, and the hilarious way he writes about it. Things never work out the way he expects. He even had a server crash (he thinks his computer got swine flu) that erased some of his posts, and put his site out of commission for a while. The decision of which hosting company to use was made, unfortunately, back when he was at the helm, thus strengthening his faith in everyone else’s superior judgment.
If you’ve ever wanted some free, unaccountable power over the course of another persons life, Cedric is letting you have your way with him. I can only imagine what kind of abomination the will of the people will create. But I’m glued to my seat.
Photo by Pasotraspaso