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Cubicle Dwellers Unite! Read “Escape from Cubicle Nation”

September 21, 2009

UPDATE: APRIL 7, 2011
Since writing this writing 18 months ago I’ve escaped from cubicle hell. I left government after three decades in December 2010 and totally love working from home in my newly converted office.

I’ve been a cubicle dweller for close to 30 years – and now planning my escape. We’re all familiar with Scott Adams’ Dilbert cartoon, which while funny are also very close to the truth. After all, Adams has had an ample never-ending supply of material sent to him by cubicle slaves over many years.

One of my favorite cartoons is a scene of Dilbert peering over the top of his cubicle at his new neighbor. “So,” he says, “what are you in for?”

Or another gem is where after a huge layoff at his company most of the cubicles are vacant. Dilbert explains to a colleague that the new incoming tenants are noneother than prisoners from overcrowded prisons – may as well make use of the empty space.

These examples cut close to home for me.

As a blogger, I’ve been busy learning the how-tos and building a network. One person I came across is Pamela Slim who runs the blog Escape from Cubicle Nation and who recently released her new book by the same name. I’ve enjoyed reading Pam’s blog but her book is dynamite. It’s well written and in a very human, non-analytical way.

I’ve worked in the learning and leadership fields for 20 years and I have a lot of respect for someone who can spark reflection and inquiry – critical processes if you’re serious about reinventing yourself. Pam delivers on this. Indeed, one measure of a superior book for me is the number of margin notes and underlining I’ve made. Sorry Pam, but your book got quite a working over by my mechanical pencil!

Her section on ‘Opening up the Opportunities’ is excellent, in which she lays out a six-step framework. Step Three involves thawing out your soul, which really resonated with me. While I use the analogy of people having their souls sucked out of them from working in repressive bureaucracies, Pam’s description nails what people experience. And her expression of people finding themselves in the state of the ‘living dead’ and needing to ‘…shake up your numb soul’ is painfully true.

The section ‘The Reality of Entrepreneurship’ is brutally frank but hugely informative – and for me enlightening. Her approach to making the transition to entrepreneur and the many things to consider is much different from other books and articles I’ve read, but much more rounded and realistic. For example, Pam’s section on business planning is extremely practical and realistic. I’ve been putting off delving into writing a business plan because of the intimidating templates and instructions that are marketed in cyber space. Is an 80 page biz plan really necessary? Well, Pam has an alternate way of how to approach this. Thank you for this, Pam!

She gives wonderful advice on creating and maintaining a marketing system, drawing on the experiences of prominent business people and bloggers. For example, she provides numerous excellent tips in her “Keys to Building a Killer Brand.”

In section “Make the Money Work,” Pam gives very practical advice and tips on preparing for a new business venture. Her lead-in story about her own recent stress in balancing her blogging and book venture while raising children and her husband’s contracting business in the midst of a nasty recession provides a very human reality check. Her subsequent advice should be heeded.

When I read an excellent book like Pamela Slim’s one vital aspect I’m seeking is does it stimulate the reader to empower himself or herself to take charge of their life? It’s easy to dispense advice, as thousands of authors do each year. It’s quite another to provide information, synthesized knowledge from one’s life experiences, and diverse perspectives to create the context for self-empowerment.

I always remember the words of two authors: Harrison Owen, who said: “If I empower you, you are still within my power;” and Angeles Arrien: “Be open to outcome, not attached to it.” My view is that Pam is much more aligned with a personal leadership approach to entrepreneurship than the many others out there selling their wares.

For those of you like me who wish to escape from cubicle farms and create something new, reading Escape from Cubicle Nation will certainly put you on the right path.

I invite you, the reader, to contribute your thoughts and experiences about cubicle dwelling and especially how you practice your own sense of leadership.


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