Escape from Cubicle Nation

Last Friday, I attended a workshop put on by Pamela Slim, who writes about entrepreneurship at Escape from Cubicle Nation. Before this meeting, I didn't know much about Slim or her message, but her work came highly recommended from my friend, Chris Guillebeau. “Pam is the real deal,” he told me. “Her book is what a lot other books have tried to be.”

Based on this recommendation, I drove to hear Slim speak. I was impressed. Chris is right: She's the real deal. I was so impressed, in fact, that I spent the weekend reading her book, which is also called Escape from Cubicle Nation.

Opening Up to Opportunities

Escape from Cubicle Nation starts at the beginning of the entrepreneurial journey: deciding what to do with your life. Slim spends several chapters discussing how to get in touch with what's important to you. At times, this almost seems touchy-feely. Almost.

Even if you currently have no intentions to quit your job, Slim's advice can help you protect yourself from future layoffs. She recommends:

  • Developing a wide social network
  • Investing in personal development
  • Pursuing a small business on the side

Slim advocates a philosophy of “life first, business second”. By becoming clear about what you want from life, what your ideal life contains, you can craft an entrepreneurial vision that helps you to pursue this goal.

Slim says that it's important to choose work you're passionate about. She cites the “sweet spot” described by Jim Collins, which is the place these three sets of skills overlap:

  • What people will pay you to do
  • That for which you have great passion
  • That which you are “genetically encoded” to do

In my case, that seems to be blogging. For you, it's going to be something else. It may take time to find that “something else”, but when you do, you'll be ready to create a business plan.

The Reality of Entrepreneurship

“Hating your job intensely is not a business plan,” Slim writes in the book's introduction.

Although I think it is a tremendous idea to work for yourself and live a life of happiness and financial success, I don't believe that is possible to become an overnight sensation with a few magic techniques or systems.

Slim doesn't candy coat things. While she encourages readers to pursue their dreams, she admits that the path is often difficult. She also offers “a few horror stories for good measure”, real-life examples of how things can go wrong. She wants her readers to escape from corporate environments, but she wants them to have realistic expectations.

Escape from Cubicle Nation also covers topics like:

  • Drafting a business plan
  • Building and using a social network
  • Lifestyle design
  • Developing a personal brand

There are a lot of buzzwords in that list, but Slim handles each topic thoughtfully, with examples that readers can relate to. (Rachael Ray, for example, is a perfect example of personal branding.)

Make the Money Work

“Nothing will cause you more pain than ignoring the financial side of your business,” Slim writes. “Not horrible sales calls, crashed laptops, surly employees, or even bad press. When the financial side of your business is not working, life is miserable.”

To begin, however, your personal finances must be in order. Slim offers solid advice (the sort you're used to seeing on Get Rich Slowly), and encourages readers to have realistic expectations about their financial situations. (This section even excerpts an underrated GRS post about facing and fighting financial trolls.)

There's also a chapter on benefits for the self-employed, including health insurance.

Making the Leap

It's one thing to draw up a business plan and to embrace the idea of entrepreneurship, but it's another thing to actually make the leap. It can be scary to quit a safe job to pursue the unknown. In the final section of her book, Slim offers advice for smoothing the transition.

First, she tells readers to expect resistance from the people they know. “You are crazy if you think you can convince all your friends and family that starting a business is a good idea,” Slim writes. She provides techniques for handling common questions, and she stresses the importance of open communication with your spouse or partner.

Finally, Slim provides some pointers for getting organized — and deciding when it's time to leave your job, to escape from cubicle nation.

Conclusion

I thought Slim's workshop last Friday was great, and not just because of her content. I was impressed with the dynamic people in attendance. The flood of tips, ideas, and experiences was inspirational.

But Escape from Cubicle Nation — the book — is even better. Some people might be put off by how often she quotes from other sources. Not me. I love it. I like that she synthesizes advice from a variety of books and blogs to give the readers the best information possible. I wish more authors did this.

If you think Escape from Cubicle Nation might be useful for you but aren't quite sure, you can give Pam Slim's ideas a test drive at her blog. (Slim has also made the first chapter of the book available via PDF.) Based on the number of Get Rich Slowly readers at the workshop last Friday, it seems that many of you are looking to escape your corporate jobs to pursue your passions. That's awesome.

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the weakonomist
the weakonomist
11 years ago

I’m not a fan of workshops like this. The advice is sound however most people leave them with more optimism than they really should have. Most people don’t “learn” how to be entrepreneurs they just have that drive in them. How many successful business owners got started with workshops?

I know this sounds pessimistic, but just consider it skeptical. There isn’t really much to disagree with here, I just don’t think this system of motivation is helpful.

MJ
MJ
11 years ago

I’ve found books like this to be motivational, along with reading about other people’s successes online, including Get Rich Slowly. Even if the other people are in different niche’s, it is still motivating when you are in a rut to read about this. I haven’t picked up the book yet, but have several others that are related. I intend to create a software product of some type and sell online as a side business at first. I appreciate more practical how-to types of books like “Micro-ISV: From Vision to Reality” by Bob Walsh, a how-to for creating and selling a… Read more »

TosaJen
TosaJen
11 years ago

I’m on the waitlist for this book at the library. I’m intrigued by her

I disagree somewhat that previous posters that entrepreneurs are purely born.

I don’t like selling and tend to be risk-averse, so have not started many small businesses. However, I am leaning more toward entrepreneurship as I’ve acquired marketable skills and experience I am confident in and comfortable selling. Also, being in a secure financial position makes entrepreneurship less risky for us. Not to mention the fact that corporate jobs aren’t exactly safe, either. 😉

Wise Money Matters
Wise Money Matters
11 years ago

I should definitely pick this book up. I’ve been looking at starting a new business in the near future and have been working on getting my business plan together. This sounds like it would give some good advice for me.

Studenomics
Studenomics
11 years ago

I agree with the weakonomist in the sense that I’m usually concerned with the negative tone that some of these people have towards a job. I mean some of the articles/books I have read on entrepreneurship completely insult the fact of having a steady job. I’m just curious, what is the authors overall tone in terms of working a job vs an entrepreneurial endeavor.

Tyler@FrugallyGreen
11 years ago

It can be stressed enough the importance of picking something that is actually important to you. I think a lot of people go into entrepreneurship thinking that ANYTHING will be better than their old job and they can be successful if they just pick something and go for it. Not the case; especially if you’re running a one-man or woman show. In order to make it, you’re going to find yourself doing all kinds of admin stuff that you thought you were getting away from. Unless it is in support of something you truly care about, you’ll easily burn yourself… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

Studenomics (#5) wrote: I’m just curious, what is the authors overall tone in terms of working a job vs an entrepreneurial endeavor. I thought that Slim — and everyone else at the seminar — was actually pretty open-minded. Despite the provocative title, he’s not saying that everyone should become an entrepreneur. I felt that in many ways she was saying “do what works for you”. That is, if you’re happy with your job, then stick with it. Not everyone has a desire to own a business. I’d say that Slim’s attitude toward traditional jobs is “cautious”. She’d probably say that… Read more »

DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad
DDFD at DivorcedDadFrugalDad
11 years ago

Hating your job is definitely not a business plan– a passion for your idea is a business plan. Finally, a business plan is your flight plan for success . . .

Charley
Charley
11 years ago

This is the third time that I have heard about Slim in recent weeks, and so I should take that as a sign…yes I know, I’m a little slow, it takes me three times to catch on to anything. Mired in cubicle hell (not trying to be ungrateful for my job) myself I’ve recently found my passion for writing (both songwriting and blogging). I found that out by doing Steve Pavlina’s exercise for finding your true passion. In any event, per the first commenter, I would add that some folks do find their passion and then sort of fall into… Read more »

Brad
Brad
11 years ago

I appreciate you posting this review.

This book is on my list of books to read and, after reading the summary, I’m happy to report it is still on the list.

I am not in a position to strongly consider going into business for myself, but it helps to know what goes into making such a big decision, and this book seems to answer some of the questions I have.

Chett
Chett
11 years ago

J.D., I think an interesting “Ask the Readers” topic in the near future would be working for someone else vs. being self employed. I was talking with a good friend last week who is self employed. I told him I envied his entrepreneurial spirit and the ability to “go it alone.” He told me he envied my work as a teacher and the set hours and guaranteed pay check and insurance. (I told him there was nothing “set” about the hours, so I guess we both misunderstood each others work.) So many people dream of working for themselves and only… Read more »

Cammy@TippyToeDiet
11 years ago

Hands down one of the best business books I’ve read in a long time, with balanced doses of optimism and realism. Its release date was the same date my Fortune 100 company eliminated my position, which I took to be a sign from someone somewhere that I should make a run for the border. 🙂

Laid Off Dan
Laid Off Dan
11 years ago

Cubicle life sucks. There’s no arguing with that. I did it for 5 years in the Air Force. Then I had a corporate job that had me traveling 60% of the time and working overtime and at home until 7 or 8 pm. When I gave that much only to be laid off after I was put on short-term disability, of course I thought about working to make money for myself instead of for a company that could care less about me. However, not everyone can be an entrepreneur. Even if they have all the skills to start a business,… Read more »

Gina
Gina
11 years ago

I’ve taken an intensive, 12-week group workshop with Pam and she’s DEFINATELY the real deal. She’s passionate about what she’s doing, and before she was doing this she was charging full steam ahead in a fabulous organizational development career working with major corporations. She didn’t just swoop out of nowhere. I’m a big Pam Slim fan. She rocks. And for the critics, Pam does not espouse blindly following the “get rich quick” mentality. She more than anything wants to see you managing yourself as your own personal brand. Whether you choose to go into entrepreneurship or whether you want to… Read more »

MoneyFunk
MoneyFunk
11 years ago

Thanks for finding the real deal! I need inspiration to get my arse off this cubicle chair and into my own business. It’s been a dream of mine to be an entreprenuer for some time.

Plus I need a good book to read. Great post. 🙂

Pamela Slim
Pamela Slim
11 years ago

Thanks so much for the thoughtful review JD! It was great meeting you in person after being a fan of your work for so long. And thanks everyone for your comments. Here are my thoughts on the threads so far: -I created the workshop for a number of purposes, the primary being the opportunity to talk with my blog and book readers in person. I have been writing about entrepreneurship for 4 years, and know that certain concepts are better experienced in dialogue rather than the one-dimensional format of a blog. My second intent is to stimulate the connection between… Read more »

getagrip
getagrip
11 years ago

Two points most people forget: 1. Even if your business is successful, most don’t make you rich, they typically earn you a reasonable living wage especially if you take into account the hours you put in. If 8 of 10 startups fail I’ll bet a very small percentage of the remain 2 of 10 make much more salary wise than the folks earned when they were working full time (probably less if you consider the hours put in). Hence, you really need to want to do what you choose to do. 2. Whether you’re looking at a running your own… Read more »

AD
AD
11 years ago

@Studenomics: If you’re happy with a day job, why would you bother with a book titled Escape from Cubicle Nation?? I bought the book a few weeks ago, and I’m slowly working through it after going through it the first time. There are a lot of quotes, which bothered me a bit at first, but it’s all very relevant so in the end I don’t mind it so much. I think there is a lot of tactical advice in the book, and it falls in line with where I’m at right now. I need to find something that makes me… Read more »

reallysparkle
reallysparkle
11 years ago

This book sounds really good. I’ve added it to my Amazon wishlist 🙂

Peter
Peter
11 years ago

I’m 2/3 through Escape with Post-It flags highlighting one idea or other every dozen pages or so. Sure, the book has the aspirational, but it’s tempered with some very good practical advice. I most appreciate Ms. Slim’s honest time table (years) to jettison the cube. Perhaps that’s what puts her above the rest – her genuine, street-level point of view. Sure, get excited, but (to paraphrase Ms. Slim) hating your day job is not a business plan. She’s going to be in Seattle July 10. I’m waffling. I’d love to interact, but is that simply my impulse and ego impersonating… Read more »

Marko Saric
Marko Saric
11 years ago

It’s a very inspirational story and book. And I really like the business plan of working on your passion as a small business on the side, testing it for a while, seeing the potential, seeing it grow and then taking that last step…

And we are lucky we live in the internet days where everyone can do something if they really want to. Start a blog, showcase your skills, connect with people interested in your skills via Twitter etc and slowly it starts building towards being a full-time job / income…

E
E
11 years ago

😀 I love to read posts like this, even though (or maybe because) I’m NOT one of those cut out for entrepreneurship. However I appreciate the pros and cons of working for someone else as well. I agree that no matter what you do, continuing education and improvement is essential; if you have your own business it keeps you relevant, and if you work for someone else it can protect you from layoffs and also make you more re-hireable when you DO get laid off. I have what I consider to be a secure job with set hours and very… Read more »

Rob Bennett
Rob Bennett
11 years ago

Corporate life is changing. It’s not as secure as it used to be. And over time my guess is that it will not be paying as well either. So people really need to learn more about how to make the transition from corporate life to self-employment. I think it might be true that in the past entrepreneurs were born and not made. But it may be that we are going to need to work to change that in coming days.

Rob

TosaJen
TosaJen
11 years ago

I wanted to add a point that DH and I are facing now: at a certain age (47 and 41) and level of experience, ageism is real, senior corporate jobs (executive or technical) are few and insecure, and we want the life lessons to be learned by running our own show. We find ourselves slowly striking out on our own to establish a few more income streams — freelancing/contracting and income properties. Likely, at least one of us will remain employees somewhere until the medical insurance mess is sorted out (hopefully before we’re 65!). By the way, we both work… Read more »

Caitlin
Caitlin
11 years ago

I agree with Chett, it would be a really fascinating Ask The Readers discussion to talk about having a job vs being an entrepreneur! I’m also glad to hear that Slim doesn’t seem to be anti-job. Every time I real an article like this I wonder if I’m really that unusual because I love my job. I’m a molecular biologist, and it’s just not something I could do on my own (at least, not without several million dollars to get set up before I could even do a single hour of fun “work”). I mean, sure, if someone dropped out… Read more »

Tyler Karaszewski
Tyler Karaszewski
11 years ago

Depending on your interests, “that for which you have great passion” may very well be *impossible* to do on your own. You can not design computer processors on your own, or operate a restaurant, or do cancer research, or play professional sports. A great many types of business require a team to operate, and only one of those people gets to be CEO (or the equivalent). Every single person writing about this seems to overlook this fact, because every single person writing about this wanted to be a writer, and writing is one of the things that you *can* do… Read more »

J.D.
J.D.
11 years ago

@Tyler (#26) Do you really think this is true? Have you read any of these books? Do you feel this is true at Get Rich Slowly? I feel like I and many other writers actively seek examples outside our own experience, outside of writing. At GRS, for example, I’ve shared entrepreneurship tips from people who have done children’s entertainment, opened cheese shops, written computer software, and more. None of these are big corporations, it’s true, but I’m not convinced that *anyone* sets out for an ambitious goal (electric car, to use your example) believing they can do it on their… Read more »

InvestEveryMonth.com
InvestEveryMonth.com
11 years ago

I remember hearing that 9 out of 10 new businesses don’t make it. I wonder if there is any truth to that stat or is it an entrepreneurial myth?

I wonder if that stat is different now that people can start businesses online with very little cost and potential high returns? Of course, starting a business online isn’t easy either, but at least the initial investment is much lower.

Laid Off Dan
Laid Off Dan
11 years ago

@J.D. (#27) Amen. Not all entrepreneurs are one-man shows. Most companies take teams. Some start-ups are even teams-partnerships and multiple owner LLCs from the get-go. My grandfather took over a small business over 50 years ago (owner retired.) My grandfather retired decades later and handed the reigns to my uncles. The business had 5-7 employees up until about two years ago, when it expanded its product line and increased its payroll to over 25 people. I worked there for a few months 3 years ago and felt more like a business owner than employee, and all I did was package… Read more »

Jermaine Holmes
Jermaine Holmes
11 years ago

I do plan on reading the book, but I’ve been a blog readers and enjoy her blog posts. Some people can be entrepreneurs, some can’t. Some people make it big, some make it half-way, some just fail. Some people can’t be entrepreneurs. However, everyone can be a part-time entrepreneur. If someone hates their corporate job but feels iffy being an entrepreneur, maybe they should do a side business that involves something they love–a way to distract yourself from corporate life. Honestly anyone can become a part-time entrepreneur.

Alex
Alex
11 years ago

This looks like a great way to keep myself out of Cubicle Nation as well. Thanks for the heads up.

Ryan
Ryan
11 years ago

This is an interesting book and definitely helpful for those thinking about becoming an entrepreneur.

However, starting up a business is definitely not for everyone. Along with needing a very broad set of skills, an entrepreneur really has to be quite thick-skinned to deal with all of the ups and downs.

And, I believe it is possible to have as much satisfaction working for a company as it is to start one. There are a lot of companies out there that endorse the entrepreneurial spirit of their employees through product development.

Chett
Chett
11 years ago

Welcome back Tyler. Actually I read about an individual that made a run at starting his own business in designing electric cars in Po Bronson’s book, What Should I Do With My Life. For anyone out there who has ever asked this question, this is a GREAT book, where Bronson interviewed over 900 people (wrote about 30 of them) where each person tells about their journey in discovering themselves, and the adventure in finding what they should be doing in life. It’s not all roses, some are still searching, but it was interesting to see so many people struggling to… Read more »

Katrina
Katrina
11 years ago

I will read this one even though I’m already self-employed. I think it’s important to note the recent Money Magazine issue cited more than 44 million people are freelance/contractors/self-employed. And by the end of the year, this number will grow to 40% of the American workforce classified as such. It’s a mistake to not plan for some shape or form of entrepreneurship. At the very least, it keeps you on your toes at your day job. When you lose a client as a self-employed person, you loose a percentage of your income. When you lose your one job, you loose… Read more »

Dallon
Dallon
11 years ago

I’m in the middle of a different book now, then Escape is my next book.

Pam Slim has not done her podcasts for several months, but I would recommend them highly. Search “Escape from Cubicle Nation” on iTunes, and you’ll find her podcasts. From her blogs and podcasts, I see her as a very honest straight shooter when it comes to career planning. Her blog is REALLY good – full of unique insights and different ideas.

As someone who is testing the waters with a side job, I’m looking forward to reading the book.

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