I just finished reading my copy of Pamela Slim’s Escape from Cubicle Nation, and I’m excited to share my review with you!
Wow, Pam Slim has really got her work cut out for her. How do you get everything you need to know about quitting your corporate job and starting your own business into one book? You can’t, of course. Luckily, that is not what Escape from Cubicle Nation attempts to do.
What it does do is provide a wonderful overview of everything you need to know. Pam doesn’t delve deep into every area of entrepreneurship (I admit to feeling intimidated when she rattled off the list “sales, costs, expenses, taxes, interest, profitability, assets, liabilities, capital…” without explaining them) but it’s okay, because she does give you signposts for where to learn more about the pieces you’re not comfortable with.
Let’s jump right in to the page-by-page comments. Here are my thoughts on each of the pages I dog-eared while reading.
p.17 It’s not the life we were meant for
Pam peppers the book with excellent and inspiring quotations. I loved this one, from Paul Graham, in “You Aren’t Meant to Have a Boss“:
“I was in Africa last year and saw a lot of animals in the wild that I’d only seen in zoos before. It was remarkable how different they seemed. Particularly lions. Lions in the wild seem about ten times more alive. They’re like different animals. I suspect that working for oneself feels better to humans in much the same way that living in the wild must feel better to a wide-ranging predator like a lion. Life in a zoo is easier, but it isn’t the life we were designed for.”
This speaks to me on a deep heart and soul level. Not just corporate jobs, or jobs in general, but a lot of things about the world today.
Hey! I know who Becky is! That’s not just any Becky, that’s my friend Becky. (:
p.77 What to do when you flip out and go into a downward spiral of doom
- Immediately call someone you trust and ask for encouragement. (In a later chapter she talks about how to make friends with awesome people so that you can have someone trustworthy to call.)
- Get physically out of the situation. Changing your environment can help break you out of the cycle.
- Pull out a folder of things that remind you of your worth.
This is so cool! Kyeli and I were talking about this just last week. We created a “motivation” folder full of people telling us how much they liked our book, how much we’ve helped them in their relationships, and all sorts of other things. We’re planning on putting some of it on our wall, but having a folder for it is another excellent idea.
p.83 Choosing between a crack pipe and wheatgrass juice
Pam’s “crack pipe” story spoke to me deeply. Kyeli and I were in the middle of intense discussions about reworking our entire business, and we were both very scared. After reading Pam’s story, it’s crystal clear. We were afraid of the crack pipe!
Wait, I just realized that this won’t make any sense to anyone who doesn’t already know what I’m talking about. The “crack pipe” is Pam’s metaphor for a fast-paced, high-test, stereotypically “successful” business life. It’s the temptation of fame and gold stars. Pam writes, “I realized I was meant to be at home writing blog posts, changing diapers, and slowly chipping away at my dream business. I told the client no, tossed the crack pipe in the trash, and took a big swig of wheatgrass juice.”
p.84 Depleted vs. spent
Yes! This puts words to something I’ve been trying to put my finger on for years. Sometimes I feel exhausted but good, and sometimes I feel exhausted and bad. Pam explains it perfectly as the difference between depleted and spent.
Depleted is when you exhaust yourself by doing things you don’t really want to do. Spent is when you exhaust yourself by doing things you do really want to do. It’s how you feel after a really good workout that you enjoyed, or after a really intense conversation that ended up at a happy conclusion. Now that I have words for these two different states, I feel like I understand them much better. Thanks, Pam. (:
p.99 Yay, the E-Myth!
I’m so glad Pam mentioned the E-Myth. The E-Myth (the Entrepreneurial Myth) is that if you’re starting your own business so you can do more technical work, or do it your own way, then you’re setting yourself up to fail. If you don’t enjoy the business aspect of business, then you won’t enjoy owning your own business, because there is a lot of business in business.
p.101 quoting Jonathan Fields, Awake at the Wheel
“Find something you’re madly passionate about, surround yourself with people you love to be around, work your buns off and make a ton of money… as a byproduct of the fact that you’re having the time of your life and contributing value to the world along the way!”
YEAH! *jumps up and down*
p.154 Do You Really Need a Big House in the City?
OMG! We could move somewhere else, maybe even somewhere we could be legally married, and save TONS of money! For some reason I never seriously considered this option. But it’s a super important thing to think about, at the very least as a backup plan.
This chapter is chock full of concrete ideas for how to reduce your expenses without changing your money mindset to “scarcity” instead of “abundance”.
p.188 Don’t badmouth your competitors
Earlier on the very day I read this chapter, Kyeli and I were talking about the exact same thing. We saw a billboard that we interpreted as a passive-aggressive swipe at the company’s competitors, and launched into a tirade about what bad marketing it is to badmouth your competitors.
p.200 Juan, the Gang Member Coach
I love this bit. It made me laugh out loud when I read it the first time, and I’m laughing again as I write about it. Pam talks about unlearning corporate jargon-speak, because it will completely alienate real-world customers. She suggests envisioning giving your speech (or reading your web copy) to a gang member, because a gang member won’t put up with any bullshit or wishy-washy words. Here’s a quote from the book:
Joe, VP of Alliance Partnerships: “And as you can see from my deck, by creating a strategic partnership that focuses on key enablers of the new paradigm, we can leverage out-of-the-box thinking and deliver an integrated solution to our end-users.”
Juan, the Gang Member Coach: “Joe, what the f**k are you talking about?”
p.210 Perfectionists are Losers
It’s easy to plan, wait, and prepare until everything is perfect. But in the real world, it works much better to get something out there, anything, then tweak and improve it based on feedback from your customers. As Seth Godin says, “Fire. Aim. Aim. Aim.” In fact, my friend Erica said the exact same thing recently.
p.250 Dealing with critical comments
Pam once received a comment that said,
“I would love [this site] if only the privileged would acknowledge how lucky and privileged they are and how their ‘advice’ applies to only other privileged kids.”
Pam writes, “I tried to carry on a conversation with the commenter, but nothing I could say would satisfy him — in his mind I was a rich jerk and nothing could change that.”
Wow. Once I received a comment exactly like that one. It really tore me up at the time, but I think Pam is right; the best solution is to ignore it and move on.
p.253 How to Shop for Benefits
Awesome chapter, Pam. This is something I’ve been putting off, and now we have a place to start. Thanks!
p.275 Different communication styles
Cool! Pam talks about different commmunication styles, a topic near and dear to our hearts. (: In this context, she’s talking about how to explain your business to skeptical friends and family. I give Pam’s communication advice a gold star. (:
p.279 Some relationships will not survive your transition from employee to entrepreneur.
Pam shares advice on to make this difficult process less painful, and ways to tell whether it’s the right decision. This particular issue has been a rocky one for me. Lots of my non-entrepreneur friends don’t get it, and their skepticism drains my passion and enthusiasm for our business. I’ve started being more selective about who I talk about our business with, and that’s been helping, although now the problem is that I have so few people to talk about our business with that I’m often bursting at the seams with excitement!
p.281 More good communication advice
Pam talks about how to bring up the “I want to quit my cushy corporate job and start my own business” conversation with your spouse. She talks about:
- choosing a low-stress moment
- choosing a calm and non-distracting environment
- really listening to your spouse’s concerns
- making a plan to continue the conversation
- not via phone or email
and several other tidbits of good communication advice. Another gold star!
Here’s my own two cents of communication advice to piggyback on Pam’s:
- not when either of you is hungry or sleepy
- use “I” statements
- one or both of you might want to check in with each other, especially if things get tense.
pp.310-317 OMG, these checklists are ridiculously useful.
OMG, these checklists are ridiculously useful. Even though we’ve already started our business, it looks like there are some important steps we skipped. I want to say more here but I’d end up saying “OMG, these checklists are ridiculously useful” over and over again.
p.319 Now comes the first part where I actually cry. (I’m not counting tears welling up. I lost count of those.)
“Will I be a better, smarter, more compassionate human being for having attempted this, regardless of the outcome?”
p.320 The grand finale, where I bawl my eyes out.
Slow down and read this bit out loud. It’s very powerful.
“Now you are here, peering over the edge.
This is it.
No amount of data, checklists, spreadsheets, focus groups, analysis, or information is going to tell you if it is the right time to quit your job.
It is a leap of faith. You can choose to take it or not.
If you choose to leap, congratulations. Welcome to the other side. I have been waiting for you.
If you choose to stay, I support you. When you are ready, I will still be here.”
Holy shit, Pam. What an amazing book.
If you’re reading this, and you wonder what it might be like to quit your job and start your own business, or if you’re a recent entrepreneur and you want to feel more of the fire that inspired you to choose this path, then I highly recommend this book.
Here’s a link. Escape from Cubicle Nation