Escape from Cubicle Nation – Pamela Slim

Chronicle and summary of Escape from Cubicle Nation

By reading this summary, you will discover how to find the courage to leave your job as an employee and take the step towards the world of entrepreneurship.

You will also learn:

  • how to get rid of the irrational fears that prevent you from leaving your job;
  • to learn the right reflexes before starting your business;
  • the importance of networking;
  • how to build a brand that works;
  • how to implement your business plan and keep your finances healthy.

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Whether you are an employee, an executive in a small business or a large group, you are struggling to make ends meet or, on the contrary, you have a rather comfortable position with a good salary and benefits. In either case, you feel bad, miserable and frustrated and want to leave your job to start your own business. This is the concrete path to success.

Some irrational fears prevent you from taking the plunge and giving up your life as an employee.

Are you woken up at three o’clock in the morning, anxious about quitting your job to start your business? What makes you so nervous that your heart is racing? It can’t be finding the concept on which your business is going to be based (that’s a work in progress), nor how to use the Internet to your advantage to gain visibility (that’s also a work in progress), nor even the graphic charter to use for your website. No, the only fear that prevents you from taking the plunge is this one: ending up on the street or in a camper van with Pekingese by a river.

This fear is ancestral: it originates in the reptilian brain. It is the alarm signal of our wild ego, a means of survival in the face of imminent danger. This signal engenders two feelings: the feeling of lack and the feeling of being attacked. They translate into: “I don’t have enough money,” “I feel like it’s going to end badly,” or “something terrible is about to happen.”

In the days of our prehistoric ancestors, this made sense; they lived in a hostile environment and had few means of defence. Whereas today, human beings, snugly in bed, fantasize about possible disasters or consequences that have no direct implications: this is counterproductive and even ridiculous.

The author gives the example of one of his clients, anguished at the idea of losing everything overnight and not being able to find work again. He asks him if he has ever found himself in this kind of situation: “Yes, when I was fired from my old job”. When asked what happened next, he says, “I found another job in a very short period of time, with much better pay”.

In order to nip these irrational fears in the bud, it is important to identify them with the right words, to describe what you feel when you think about them and the images that run through your head. The simplest way is to make a table with four columns (see example below).

Your beliefsYour Unconscious
What you need to
deny those beliefs…
Where to go to find
what you’re looking for?
I have little to lose everything,
my home, my family,
to end up ruined if
I stray from
my comfort zone.
I don’t know how
to attract
new clients,
so I’m unable
to grow the
capital invested.
leading the
dance in
the market
I want to enter?
Searching for
information on
this market place
online or in
asking questions
to my family
or professional entourage, etc.

You’re also anxious about giving up some of the benefits of your life as an employee, starting with your title. This is all the more difficult when you are at the top of the hierarchy, vice-president of development, or otherwise. Furthermore, how do you explain to your family and friends that a six-figure salary at a multinational company doesn’t make your heart beat, unlike investing in a faux-finish painting business that you’re passionate about?

Giving up your routine is not easy either; the morning latte, the sports session during lunch break, picking up the kids from school, going out on weekends and going to different leisure activities, all this is bound to be overwhelming in the life of an entrepreneur.

Likewise, the idea of losing recognition from your management and colleagues after many years of honing your skills makes you anxious. It’s like going back years to when you were a trainee and had everything to learn. Most people find this feeling of inexperience hard to bear and few see it as an advantage.

These fears prevent you from moving forward, so learn to untangle the true from the false. “I’m afraid of failing and not being able to sell my product”; this will be the case if you don’t do the necessary upstream work before launching your business, i.e.: an in-depth, detailed market study; identifying the competition; developing a marketing line that is convincing and innovative with respect to the competition; etc. If this process is followed to the letter from the outset, you will realize that most of your fears are irrational.

It is important to make a friend out of your stress; great entrepreneurs also know this type of anxiety: they have simply learned to be at one with it.

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Finally, be judicious in your choice of professional relationships; you need people who are critical and prudent with regard to your business as much as you need people who will teach you to take risks intelligently.

Putting everything in order in his life and in his head before starting in order to awaken the tiger in himself.

The author is convinced that every person on earth is born with a creative force that only asks to express itself and to blossom, which he calls “inner tiger” or “life path”. It is this energy that pushes us to create and to push our limits ever further.

Having a job in a company and a routine life help to keep this tiger in chains. Start by being honest with yourself on this point: “It’s true, I haven’t been happy in my job for a long time”; “I need to free myself and do something that makes me want to get up in the morning”. Also, be attentive to the signals your body sends you: tense muscles, anxiety, digestion problems, sleep disorders are all signs that betray your lack of enthusiasm for this life as an office worker.

Practices such as yoga or meditation will allow you to regain contact with your true self. They will teach you to listen to your intuition and to follow it in order to make better choices. Likewise, stop substances that are harmful to your body, such as alcohol or tobacco. You will be invaded by a new vitality by breaking the habit of taking a drink just to calm your stress.

Reboot your motivation by taking painting or photography classes, take a walk in the forest, dare to start a conversation with a stranger on the street, get out of your comfort zone; you will regain the energy to get your business up and running.

Take responsibility for the way your life has turned out; if you are in a frustrating situation, in a frustrating job, it is not the fault of others, it is your own. However, nothing is lost, you can change your life, your feelings, just tell yourself: “I have made these choices so far, but it doesn’t work anymore. I decide to change now”.

If you feel ready to start your business, start by completely reviewing your organizational system to have time to get down to the guiding idea that will drive your future business. You can already glean time by not having to attend meetings that don’t interest you in your work. All you have to do is find a good argument to present to your line manager. Likewise, if you are volunteering, give up your time temporarily so that you can devote it to developing your project. Once your business is up and running, you can start to get involved in associations again.

Reduce your hours spent watching television. Its hypnotic effect can quickly turn an hour into four hours watching programs that are not always relevant.

Momentarily reduce your children’s outdoor activities. This will allow you to work on your business plan, but also to do manual activities with your children at home.

Revise your way of thinking; you are starting a business, don’t be arrogant. It is true that you have acquired skills and know-how throughout your life. However, you are in uncharted territory when it comes to entrepreneurship; be humble and curious as a beginner can be, because arrogance can be detrimental to you. You will need the advice of those who have succeeded.

The network is the foundation of a company…

How can one hope to grow a business by working alone? As human beings, we live in relationship with each other, sharing a personal and common history, as a tribe, so to speak, your tribe.

When starting your business, it is sometimes difficult to create these kinds of relationships. You may feel uncomfortable integrating friends or colleagues, most of whom are employees, into your business. You may wonder who to trust, how to ask for help. However, it is essential to create a reliable network over the long term.

New things can be frightening, so the calm and sound advice of a few connoisseurs allows you to approach problems calmly and find solutions quickly. It also saves you time when you ask yourself questions: the answer may lie within your network. It gives you access to resources that you would not have found without it. The network is the gateway to the “gratin”. Think of the six degrees of separation: you know a person, who himself is connected to other people, and so on…

Today, having a website is an indispensable means of spreading your know-how and gaining exponential visibility. That’s where social networks come in: you can talk about your site on Twitter, Facebook, etc.

Find yourself a mentor, introduce yourself as much as possible when you are invited to parties or other events. You need to find a way to stay connected: offer a coffee or lunch to better discuss your mutual interests. Once the conversation is underway, ask for advice on your project; if you feel that the person across the street is reluctant to respond, don’t insist and thank them anyway. You will know you have found your mentor when you see reciprocity in the exchanges, encouragement, chemistry, gratitude and mutual respect.

The secret to creating your brand: having a clear course of action

The best way to highlight the elements that will characterize your sign is to dig deeper into the reasons for your initiative. Once you have established what you want to do, how you want to do it and the type of business that goes with it, only then will you be able to stand out from the competition.

You have to be judicious in your choice of business: trends come and go. However, don’t be reluctant to invest in a project that allows you to express your talents and interests. Your enthusiasm will be perceived by future clients and will snowball. Thus, financial leverage should not be your only criterion of choice: this technique does not work over time.

Don’t hesitate to update your knowledge. Whatever field you choose, knowledge is constantly evolving. Therefore, follow training courses and master classes that will allow you to expand your network, stay alert, available and able to solve problems in a completely innovative way. Then, you must always keep this question in mind: “What can really help my client?”.

Take the example of a business consultant, half of whose clients already come with a clear idea of how to solve their problems. After a brief discussion, if she realizes that the solution is not the right one, she thanks them and suggests another way; this is better than sticking to a path that, as you know, is doomed in advance. Likewise, never force yourself to work with a client that you do not “feel”; if there is no feeling, he is not a client for you.

Regularly take stock of the competition. By keeping up to date with its latest developments, you force yourself to surpass yourself and come up with new ideas, and you don’t need to look for its flaws to try to sink it. Learn from it, it’s a healthier way.

You must be able to seduce your clients. You must not force them to buy, but seduce them subtly to the point that they will not be able to resist their desire to buy your product. For example, when entering an Apple store to buy an iPod, the customer finds himself in a calm and relaxed atmosphere, but also simple and uncluttered in its lines and colors.

A young man walks up to you and asks simple questions: what do I use it for? How much music and film to download? Which colour? He then directs you to models that suit you perfectly; the salesman has understood your need while remaining calm and sure of himself.

His way of presenting the different products is simply attractive and makes you want to buy more than you came looking for. Similarly, when you sell a product, don’t hesitate to use humour, a common practice on blogs. That’s what people like: free speech, open communication, jokes.

Another essential issue to seduce the customer: take care of your design and your graphic charter. Pay attention to the colours you use, be consistent in the way you use them, and if this is not your strong point, make your network work in order to find a talented graphic designer and infographist.

For example, a client is looking for a photographer for his wedding. He wants to find someone who can capture the essence of that moment forever. He searches the Internet and chooses Sergio Photographer. Why choose Sergio Photographer? This one is especially for the bride and groom; he likes to capture the emotions during these events and does it with talent.

Moreover, he has a style all his own, his way of working resembles photojournalism: he captures the movements, actions and facial expressions with incredible artistic strength. Thus, he creates added value to his services. In addition to his work as a photographer, he creates beautiful wedding photo books, which allows him to make a reputation in this branch and adds value to his art.

The importance of monitoring your finances

If you think being self-employed is going to protect you from money problems forever, it’s not. The best service you can give yourself before starting your business is to understand your position regarding money, your beliefs. This will allow you to rectify sometimes unhealthy behaviours related to money. You will avoid putting yourself in dangerous situations for your business.

To do this, you can use a spreadsheet or accounting software to enter the following information:

  • your overall sources of income;
  • how regular and predictable they are;
  • any loans you may have taken from friends or relatives.

You can also record expenses, savings, investments and debts. It does not matter which tool you use. What is important is to clearly categorize your sources of income or debt so that you can see at a glance how much money you have spent and earned.

You can then define a strategy and then automate it. In the beginning, you’ll have other things to do with your time than spend hours on accounting software.

Business plan

Whatever you do to take care of your business plan, it is impossible to ever predict the future and know whether a product will be a success or not. If it fails but you’ve managed to save some cash, so much the better. If it doesn’t, there is always a solution. You have all the keys to give the best of yourself and create a profitable business that appeals to as many people as possible: just take care of the skeleton of your business plan. You have all the chances on your side to make an impression thanks to your creativity and intelligence of mind.

What to remember from reading this summary:

  • there are irrational fears that prevent you from taking the plunge and giving up your life as an employee;
  • put everything in order in your life and in your head before you start, in order to awaken the tiger in you;
  • the network is the basis of a business;
  • the secret to creating your trademark: have a clear course of action;
  • the importance of keeping an eye on your finances.

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