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.
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.