book review: Be A Free Range Human

psst. Hey you. Want to know a secret?free range human

Don’t tell anyone, but the world has changed in the past few years. Massively. Technology has made us all interconnected, made location irrelevant, and costs almost nothing.

This thing called the Internet connects us all email, social media, Skype, and online commerce. Computers, tablets, and smart phones hook us to it 24/7. Work is more about processing information than making widgets so we can live anywhere and work everywhere. It’s amazing!

What’s that? You knew that already? Everyone knows that? Really, then why do we still organize our work and structure businesses as though carbon paper is the latest innovation? Why do we keep the way we do work stuck in the forgotten past? What if much of what we’ve been told about career and business success is now irrelevant (or even wrong)?

If we really got how much the world has changed, we’d realize the dream of just a few years ago is now a distinct possibility: Freedom! No office, no schedule. Working from bookstores, coffee shops, and tropical beaches. Your office – your entire business – packed into a laptop bag; all you need is an outlet and a Wifi connection. Live anywhere, work everywhere. That’s the dream, right?

Timothy Ferriss popularized the idea with his book The 4-Hour Workweek and Marianne Cantwell now gives us a practical how-to guide with Be a Free Range Human: Escape the 9 to 5, Create a Life You Love and Still Pay the Bills.

Let me say this up front: even if you’re not looking to drop out of the corporate world, there’s still quite a bit of great information here. Many of the skills that let you be an independent consultant, contractor, or solopreneur translate well to any career. Even if you are not wanting to leave your current role, Marianne underscores how much work has changed so quickly, and how career-savvy employees can take advantages of those changes.

When we consider how different the world is, we realize we can do business differently. Networking and relationships replace advertising, credibility replaces business cards and letterhead, and an internet connection replaces expensive office space. Location has become irrelevant for many jobs and businesses. Results count for more than prestige and purchased impressiveness. Why spend money on the trappings of a “business” when you can simply bypass all that and provide value?

The author shares what she has learned both in her own transition and in coaching and helping other make the leap to the free range life. Refreshingly, it’s not a call to quit today and figure it out tomorrow. Rather, she advocates a much lower risk approach of doing small experiments and starting off with as little expense and overhead as possible. She advocates playing and experimenting and testing, starting small and finding what will scale to a larger business and what you’ll actually enjoy doing. The book has plenty of examples and case studies, exercises to help you think it all through, and links to additional information.

The author clearly takes to heart the idea of standing out and being true to self as a competitive advantage. Not a new message, but well delivered. She reminds us that being all things to all people is a tried and tested formula for grey mediocrity. Standing apart creates people who don’t understand us and don’t like us AND creates excitement and loyalty for those who do appreciate it. It’s not being average at everything for everyone, it’s being great at a few things for a specific audience. The “beige army” (as she calls them) strongly wants you to join them in mediocrity. They hate to see anyone stand out, be different, or succeed uniquely (remember Puttnam’s Law?). They want you to fit in and be average and do things the way they think everybody does things.  They will bully and push and complain and criticize, but aligning yourself with them only ensures conformity, not success. She highlights how there’s little point in reducing your strengths to appease them – they weren’t going to buy from you anyway. Far better to cultivate a small group of diehard customers that love you than pandering to a large group of potential customers that don’t hate you.

Without giving it all away, here are some topics to look forward to:

  • A great section on networking that works. She never refers to her approach as networking because it’s not done as an add-on or a separate activity, rather it’s done authentically as a natural course of the day. How to grow your business without advertising.
  • Creating status and credibility without the overhead of unnecessary business trappings such as nice offices, business cards, brochures, etc.
  • The four (plus one) free range business types.
  • How to test your idea in a week to see if it will work.
  • Why you don’t need a business plan.
  • Why it’s a business-killing idea to try to make everyone your customer. The paradox is you will actually reach more customers by concentrating on fewer customers.
  • The do’s and don’t’s of getting press.
  • Communicating like a human, not a business drone.

A few quick gems from the author:

  • If you can’t see the woods for the trees, the answer isn’t to add more trees.
  • … don’t use the fact that you’re not world class in two hours as an excuse not to keep going.
  • For every person who laughs at you when you are at your brightest, someone else loves you for exactly the same reason.
  • The middle of the road is the most dangerous place to be (that’s where you get run over by fast-moving traffic).
  • Be the person who does it differently; be the example you’re looking for.

That should have you covered. Again, whether you’re looking to set up shop from the world’s beaches or just want to bolster your career, there is a lot of great information offered up. Practical, straightforward, easy to read. Good stuff and worth a read.

Live anywhere, work anywhere. What thinks you?





In the spirit of transparency: a while back, the publisher asked me if I’d like them to send me their catalog to see if there were any books I’d like to read and review. [YES! Now, please!] This was one of the books that caught my eye so they kindly shipped me a copy.



One comment

  1. This reminds me of this book:

    “Finally, a book recognizing that the needs of today’s knowledge workers are far from a women-only issue. Mass Career Customization provides an incisive analysis of what’s really happening on the talent front and a comprehensive approach of what to do about it.” —Shelly Lazarus, Chairman & CEO, Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide


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