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Book Review: Escape from Cubicle Nation by Pamela Slim

by Mel Starrs on May 11, 2009

in Book Review

A few years ago, just before I started this blog and around the time I started my MBA, I followed an eclectic bunch of folks on RSS. At the time there were not that many green blogs and even fewer construction industry ones, and the proportion of UK blogs was much lower. So my RSS feed consisted mostly of marketing, entrepreneur, venture capital and tech blogs from the US. In amongst them was an intriguing proposition called Escape from Cubicle Nation.

Pam‘s blog does exactly what it says on the tin. And now she has written a book, summarising the best posts and comments and condensing the advice into a highly readable tome.  Through the magic of Twitter, she requested reviewers to read and write reviews, so I offered to give a UK perspective. Happily, Pam was willing to ship the book over to me and over the last week or so I devoured it.

As you can probably tell already, I enjoyed Escape from Cubicle Nation. It is a lifestyle choice book, aimed squarely at those who are considering a career switch, from something safe and corporate, to something more scary, but ultimately fulfilling. Initially, I was worried that it might be a little too touchy feely, Oprah style. Whilst it’s most definitely not a “butch, get rich quick, stomp the competition and watch them weep” kind of book, it’s not at all prissy and condescending either. Neither is it a step by step “nuts and bolts” book, with spreadsheets and cash flow projections, although she offers plenty of advice as to where to find such resources. The book concentrates on the mental preparation involved in becoming an entrepreneur for the first time. It would also serve as a timely resource for those who find themselves at a career crossroads not of their own choosing, through redundancy.

Pam’s prose is chatty and funny, with healthy doses of reality thrown in. My favourite phrase from the book by far was:

hating your job intensely is not a business plan

From a UK perspective, the advice stands up to scrutiny. Obviously, as the book is aimed at an international market, specific technical financial advice would not be appropriate. Too often I read a book from the US and they are peppered with references to Roth IRA’s and 401k’s. Pam has the good sense to corral all this into chapter 13, which is specifically about addressing benefits (health insurance etc). Very easy to skip over, but at the same time it acts as a mental jog to check out your own situation.

The takeaway lessons from the book from me were the importance of building up a network of support before you make any leap and also the need to check the finances and if necessary plan to keep that ‘cubicle’ job in the short term to finance your dreams.

Why should you buy the book rather than just read the blog? I have a well established fondness for books and there’s something about being able to flag up pages and flick through a hard copy that online just can’t yet compete with. The book is 300 odd pages, whilst Pam’s archives (which I recommend, but for new readers may be daunting due to the sheer volume) has over 42 months of content.

Escape from Cubicle Nation does not release in the UK until 9 July 2009, so I’m truly grateful to Pam for letting me get my mits on it so early. I would heartily recommend it to anyone who is toying with the idea of starting their own business but has been put off by the image of the blood thirsty “personalities” which are portrayed as entrepreneurs in the UK media (such as Dragons Den and the Apprentice).