Book Review
Title: "Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills"
Author: Marianne Cantwell
Publisher: Kogan Page, 2013; 280 pages; $19.95

I believe that one of the most important cultural trends taking place this very moment is the movement toward lifestyle composition. Increasing numbers of Americans, inspired by possibilities surfaced by books like "The 4-Hour Workweek" and blogs like the Art of Non-Conformity, are trading in traditional approaches to careers (or looking for new approaches after being laid off or downsized) and creating businesses doing work they love and are great at, which they can operate without punching a clock.

Book Review
Title: "Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills"
Author: Marianne Cantwell
Publisher: Kogan Page, 2013; 280 pages; $19.95

I believe that one of the most important cultural trends taking place this very moment is the movement toward lifestyle composition. Increasing numbers of Americans, inspired by possibilities surfaced by books like "The 4-Hour Workweek" and blogs like the Art of Non-Conformity, are trading in traditional approaches to careers (or looking for new approaches after being laid off or downsized) and creating businesses doing work they love and are great at, which they can operate without punching a clock.

In fact, many of these people are creating businesses they can run from any place they should happen to want to travel; others are using the exercise of lifestyle composition to create the freedom to stay home more with their children or work more some months or years, and less others.

This is not fantasy — I’ve seen this phenomenon up close and personal, and am seeing ever-increasing numbers of friends and colleagues move into this way of life, some by choice, some because their industries, job prospects and family obligations were crying out for a life redesign. Now, British life coach Marianne Cantwell has created a guidebook for those who want to live lives and have careers of their own design:

Cantwell acknowledges that many people are trapped in careers they actually hate by holding onto false assumptions and myths about what it takes to move into what she calls a "free range life." Here are just a few of the myths Cantwell systematically busts in this book full of inspiration and education about how to create a business and lifestyle outside of a "career cage": "Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9-5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills."

1. If you don’t have a place of business or a job, you’re unemployed. Cantwell argues persuasively throughout "Free Range Human" that there is a "third way" of making a living that requires neither a job nor a business that depends on an expensive office, storefront or equipment. The third way that Cantwell proposes is what she calls operating a "free range" business, which she defines as one with:

  • "no funding or debt needed."
  • "start now for £100" (~$200).
  • "no expensive premises needed to get started."
  • "based on your personality, your passions, and the life you want."
  • "playful, flexible, and able to change as you do."

The rest of the book is essentially Cantwell’s primer on precisely how to use today’s technologies to channel one’s own personal and professional talents into a "free range" business.

2. The safe job myth. This is the myth that if you have bills to pay, you must have a job to pay them. Cantwell argues that in this day and age, we should all know full well that jobs are not safe; she advises that anyone who thinks they have job security look at their employment contract and read the notice period — and even goes so far as to declare the belief in job security and jobs, period, are "stupid in this economy."

Cantwell points out that all of the "free range humans" featured throughout the book and the thousands or millions who aren’t also had bills to pay — they just figured out how to start their small businesses while they had their jobs, or figured out how to pay the bills with income from their small businesses from day one.

This myth is pervasive, and seems to be largely a failure of imagination — it’s an excuse held onto by people who just can’t imagine they could truly move from what Cantwell calls their "career cage" into self-employment at work they love. Cantwell shatters this myth and throughout the book speaks directly to those who think the "free range" life is for anyone but them, with loads of highly relatable examples and exercises to shatter the beliefs that are keeping readers from even looking outside of their career cages.

3. The one-thing myth. "I need to choose one thing to do for the rest of my life and I can’t start until I find that perfect job title." Cantwell point blank declares that the idea of picking one precise job function and expecting to do it, happily, for the rest of your life is "bonkers." She explains that believing this myth gets people stuck in the phase of "deciding" what they really want out of life, before they ever get out of the gate to their "free range" lives, because they are "looking at all the options out there and putting a lot of pressure on one of them being perfect."

Instead, Cantwell suggests, "free range" humans can create a business that allows them to do many of the things they love via a bespoke career model (a business custom-tailored to your strengths and preferences), a portfolio career model (a business in which you get paid to do many different things), or an evolving career model (a business in which you use the same tools to create new businesses over time, to suit your evolution as a person).

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