Bryan Caplan says he is a non-conformist who has succeeded in a conformist world. He is clearly very smart, but he has used his intelligence to help understand the world around him and sort the wheat from the chaff in many social and work situations. His advice for non-conformists applies equally (or in spades even) to conformists.
I highly recommend the entire piece, but here are a few of his points that I really liked:
1. Don't be an absolutist non-conformist. Conforming in small ways often gives you the opportunity to non-conform in big ways. Being deferential to your boss, for example, opens up a world of possibilities.
2. Don't proselytize the conformists. Most of them will leave you alone if you leave them alone. Monitor your behavior: Are you trying to change them more often than they try to change you? Then stop. Saving time is much more helpful than making enemies.
5. A non-conformist attitude toward education is dangerous because academic status is painfully linear and cumulative. To go to college, you must finish high school; to finish high school, you have to finish all the 12th-grade requirements; to finish the 12th-grade requirements, you have to finish all the 11th-grade requirements; and so on.
9. Most bureaucrats are deeply conformist, but bureaucratic (lack of) incentives are great for non-conformists. Think job security.
12. When faced with demands for conformity, silently ask, "What will happen to me if I refuse?" Train yourself to ponder subtle and indirect repercussions, but learn to dismiss most such ponderings as paranoia. Modern societies are huge, anonymous, and forgetful.
14. Spend the first year of any job convincing your employer he was right to hire you, and he'll spend your remaining years on the job convincing you not to leave. This advice is almost equally useful for conformists, by the way.
But allof his points are really good advice for everyone.