You don’t have to wait a moment longer to quit your job and start enjoying your life. From investment bankers and marketers, to academics and lawyers, learn how to leave the Monday morning dread behind and find freedom and fulfilment.
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What kind of life should we aim to lead? It’s a question that philosophers have been trying to answer for thousands of years. And yet, after all the great leaps forward made by human endeavor, it sometimes feels as if we’ve gone backwards, as opposed to forwards.
We spend more time at work and less time with our families. We work harder, not smarter. Work creeps out of the office and into our social lives, homes and weekends. And after all this progress, how many of us are honestly leading a life we can be proud of?
Bronnie Ware, an Australian nurse who cared for patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives, recorded the regrets of those on their deathbed in her book The Top Five Regrets of the Dying. The most cited regret of her patients - they wished they’d had the courage to live a life true to themselves, not the life others expected of them.
And that’s what this book is about. It’s about giving you the courage to start living the life you really want, rather than do what is necessarily expected of you. It’s about showing you the multitude of options that lie beyond those currently under your nose. And about the actions you can take today to start exploring those options.
Every person in this book acted on that nagging feeling that there was something else out there for them. And they were right. There is. Whether it’s creating a business you can run from anywhere or reinventing yourself as a romantic fiction writer, there’s another version of you - one that doesn’t suffer from the Monday morning dread.
In fact there are many. This book also shows the diversity of options out there. You don’t have to search for one purposeful career, there isn’t only one path. We’re already seeing the rise of portfolio careers. You can have multiple projects and have multiple income streams. You don’t have to pick just one forever. Every time you launch, you learn. Every time you launch, you get better.
And this is the way the world of working is going: remote, adaptable, flexible and responsive. We’re witnessing the decline of a job for life. The world of work is changing, new jobs are being created, old ones are being automated and made redundant. We are in a constant state of flux. You may worry your job will be stolen by a robot, but you shouldn’t: this era heralds an opportunity to create a life that interests you and plays to your strengths.
In many ways, this is the opposite to the corporate mindset, which teaches us to specialize. It incentivizes us to master one thing and climb the ladder. This approach generated efficient outcomes for companies historically, but it is becoming less well-suited to the world we live in.
Moreover, people are increasingly reluctant to accept a job that doesn’t allow them to be authentic and true to themselves: there are many expressions to your talents and skills that will go unfulfilled under the old model. By taking control of the work you do, you are taking control of your life. And your happiness.
And my friends, happiness can’t be hacked. People like to work. We know that. Retirement isn’t necessarily the secret to happiness. In fact, a record high number of retirees are saying they’re “not at all satisfied” with retirement. So there’s no point looking forward to being pensioned off at the expense of how you feel right now. Which is just as well, because most of us won’t be retiring any time soon. For most of us, work will be an inevitable part of our lives for many more decades to come. So let’s make work something that allows us to live as we choose to live and be the friends, partners and parents we want to be. Let’s find work we enjoy.
I collapsed onto the floor. At that moment I was literally face-to-face with one of Moscow’s gaudiest hotel carpets, which is saying something. My body (and the expensive outfit I’d carefully put together that morning) was doubled up into a pathetic pile. I started to sob. And I couldn’t stop.
This was Russia in 2013. And I was in the middle of a meltdown that would change the course of my life forever. In a short space of time, I’d climbed up the corporate ladder and was making six figures. I’d bought a house, a new car and I was traveling thousands of miles a year for my flashy job. I was meant to be happy. So why wasn’t I?
My life had become one gruelling business trip, punctuated by occasional periods at home. I was doing sales and marketing for a global company and I didn’t really believe in what I was selling. I spent my weeks on the international conference circuit drinking lukewarm coffee and having the same conversations.
When will I get to the point where I feel like I’ve arrived? When will I feel good about the work I do? I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing. But I felt like there was nowhere to go. And then it hit me:
Lydia, you are going to die. Will you feel good about how you spent your days when you’re lying on your deathbed?
A long buried exchange with a 45-year old Australian woman during a previous backpacking trip returned.
“What are you doing here?” I’d asked her.
“I’ve sold everything to travel the world,” she replied.
(Hippy, I thought)
“I had a top marketing job, but I was burning out and decided it wasn’t worth it. So I sold everything and retired,” she explained.
I’d thought she was crazy. This was precisely the kind of job I saw myself working toward. I’d studied marketing at university and I was focused on bagging myself a top marketing role.
Why would you walk away from an amazing job? People just don’t do that, I’d thought.
Only now could I see where she was coming from. This woman wasn’t some crazy hippy. She had it all figured out. She was on a desert island doing as she pleased and here I was exhausted, jaded lying miserable and alone in Russia.
I headed back to Canada. And I did what most people would do in that situation: I hired a therapist, who concluded there was nothing wrong with me.
There was nothing wrong with me. But there was something quite clearly wrong with my life: my job. It was exhausting, soulless and creatively stifling.
If you’re like most people, you’ll spend over 90,000 hours in paid employment over your lifetime. And if you’re like most people, you probably won’t enjoy all that much of it. We live in an era of career dissatisfaction. According to an annual survey released by the Conference Board research group, more than half of Americans find their job unsatisfactory. And from my own conversations with countless corporate escapees, many employees simply do not aspire to their boss’s job.
Since my nadir in the Russian hotel, I’ve been on an amazing journey. I quit my job, I launched two businesses and I moved to the tropical island of Bali. And I credit going away as a key part of my transformation. Long touted by writers and artists, Bali, has become a gathering place for people looking for something different. It’s since become home for a thriving freelancer and startup community. And I’d bet it has more changemakers per square mile than anywhere outside Silicon Valley.
Being in the right place is important. My time in Bali has taught me that community is everything. After quitting my job in Canada, I’d felt like the lone weirdo. The only one who couldn’t hack it. In Bali, I’d found a whole collective noun of smart, educated people who’d done said fuck it to their conventional jobs. And done their own thing.
Over time, that community increasingly became a virtual one. I started a Facebook group and started writing for my blog. I drew more and more followers, not just from Bali, but from around the world. From Wall Street bankers to teachers - they traded war stories and shared their tales of hellish bosses, soul destroying jobs and resignation letters.
As time wore on Screw The Cubicle became a movement, like a global support group of people from all different walks of life saying yes you can do this. Mothers, fathers, thirty-somethings, twenty-somethings, divorcees, corporates, and disillusioned bureaucrats.
Thousands of people have already joined this movement and started on their own path. And I’ve picked some of the most inspiring examples for this book. There are many paths out of the traditional nine to five. From mothers who started their businesses from their garages with just $500, to public sector workers who reinvented themselves as entrepreneurs, there’s a path out there for you.
In fact, it’s the people featured in the case studies in this book who are the real stars. They were just like you. They were the people who were showing up to work every day for years and dreaming of something better. They are the ones who eventually listened to their instincts, took the leap and quit the jobs that were making them feel shitty.
Together they have achieved so much personally and professionally. Some have pulled themselves back from financial ruin. Many have reinvented themselves, launched businesses from nothing and some have created global movements. Many have found freedom, fulfilment and a sense of purpose from their work. And most claim to be in love with what they do.
This book is not about outsourcing your job to an assistant in the Philippines so you can play golf all day, nor is it about having a multi million dollar tech startup. It’s about real people, doing real work, that matters to them. It’s about people who’ve found the sweet spot that plays to their strengths and helps people who need helping. It’s about solving problems in the world that need solving. And it’s about doing work with impact. Work that makes you feel good (and pays the bills). Yes, this isn’t some crazy pipe dream. It can happen to anyone. It might just happen to you.
Four years ago I was on a business trip to Russia. I’d climbed the corporate ladder, I was making six figures: I had the car, the house in the Canadian suburbs and by most people’s reckoning I was successful. But I was miserable, tired, overworked and disconnected from the work I was doing. So I did what most people would do in that situation: I hired a therapist, who concluded there was nothing wrong with me.
There was nothing wrong with me. But there was something wrong with my life: my job. It was exhausting, soulless and creatively stifling. If you’re like most people, you’ll spend over 90,000 hours in paid employment over your lifetime. And if you’re like most people, you probably won’t enjoy all that much of it. We live in an era of career dissatisfaction. According to an annual survey released by the Conference Board research group, more than half of Americans find their job unsatisfactory. And from my own conversations with countless corporate escapees, many employees simply do not aspire to their boss’s job.
So why do we stay put? We get stuck because we feel like there is no alternative. Many of us are trapped on a Monday to Friday 9-to-7 treadmill of showing up for work, getting paid, paying bills, mortgages and laying the groundwork for a retirement that’s a very long way off. I was doing everything I was supposed to be doing. But it wasn’t making me happy.
Not long after my breakdown, I quit. Since then, I’ve been on an incredible journey. I’ve set up two businesses of my own. I’ve studied what makes work so important to us and how we can find work that engages us (and pays us). I’ve transitioned from employee to consultant to entrepreneur and helped many others do the same.
When I had my meltdown, I had no one to turn to. It felt like there was no way out. Which is why I’m writing this book: to show you the world there are many varied routes to leaving a nine to five job and finding work that you love to do. You don’t have to have a multimillion dollar startup idea or have $100k saved in the bank. You can start making progress towards building a life you enjoy. Now. Right now. Whether money’s tight, you’ve got kids, or you’ve never worked for yourself - there’s a path out there for you.
We live in an age with more information and more ways to work than ever before. More of us are (and can) work for ourselves. There’s been an unparalleled growth in flexible working practices. And many of us are able to work in a way that allows us to combine work and adventure.
We can design careers and businesses that allow us to indulge our love of travel, or even our hobbies, for example. And we don’t need any special equipment, knowledge or expensive kit to get started. In this book, I’ll be sharing 25 different escape routes told by 25 ordinary people who’ve built sustainable businesses (and lifestyles) that allow them to feel good about the work they do every day.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 - Overworked and under-fulfilled
Chapter 2 - Routes to freedom
Chapter 3 - Settling on something to sell right now
Chapter 4 - Finding your niche
Chapter 5 - Beta test your way to success
Chapter 6 - Taking time out: sabbaticals
Chapter 7 - Launching abroad
Chapter 8 - From employee to entrepreneur
Chapter 9 - Freelance your way around the world
Chapter 10 - Travel with a business and a family
Chapter 11 -Side hustle your way to freedom
Chapter 12 - Make your old job pay
Chapter 13 - How to find supportive communities
Additional Case Studies:
- Turn your side hustle into a one million dollar business (Brandon Pearce, Music Teacher's Helper)
- The benefits of living differently for a while (Ben Keene, Founder TribeWanted)
- The role of the transition business (Joel Bergeron, Founder of The Future is Creative)
- No money? No problem (Adrienne Dorison, Business Coach)
- There’s always a way (Anne Perry, Founder of Business Heroine)
- A lifestyle that suits you and your family (Maire Shanahan, Founder of Bumblebee Enterprises)
- Make your old job pay (Chrissie Lam, Founder of The Supply Change)
- How to quickly turn your idea into a reality (Ben Katzaman, Founder of Wanderer Bracelets)
- Make money while you sleep (Mona Motwani, Founder of Nidra Goods)
- A sabbatical in paradise (Michelle Tan, Founder, The Hula Hoop Institute)
From Wall Street bankers to teachers and lawyers, Screw The Cubicle attracts a broad church, attracting both male and female audiences in equal measure. Screw the Cubicle primarily attracts interest from the US, Canada, the UK, Australia and Germany.
Many of the people drawn to the message behind Screw The Cubicle are at least five years into their jobs. Most are well-educated and feel they have something to offer the world. Something more than their job allows them to express.
This book is for anyone who has ever wondered if there was another way or anyone who has ever dreamed of expressing themselves in a different way. There are over a billion people in the developed world. Many of them are engaged in office jobs. Many are climbing the ladder and wondering when all their work will pay off. Over half of Americans are currently dissatisfied at work - and unless more corporate jobs are reimagined for the 21st century - many of them are destined never to be.
Business coaches are less well known about in European markets, yet I attract a large number of online visitors from Germany and the UK. Given the number of visitors I attract from Germany, a translation could yield significant additional sales.
Lydia is the Founder of Screw The Cubicle, a movement to inspire people to break free from the shackles of conventional work.
From building businesses to forging freelance careers, she’s already helped hundreds of people create better versions of their life and become better versions of themselves.
Now based in Bali, Indonesia, Lydia’s been published in Forbes, The Huffington Post, been featured in Elle Canada and The Telegraph newspaper.
Since 2014, I have established a strong, niche, online presence. I’ve grown a loyal army of fans from around the world who read my email updates, download my materials and engage with me via social media channels. Like my YouTube channel, my website draws the lion’s share of users from US, Canada, UK and Australia.
1 - Facebook Page
The Screw The Cubicle Facebook Page has 1,750 fans. I also started a group called the Unconventionalists last year which has around 1,800 members and high levels of engagement. Group members share their stories and ask questions in a supportive online environment and membership has doubled in the last year despite the fact there’s been no advertising.
2 - YouTube Channel
I launched my YouTube Channel in 2015. It already has 50,000 views from the US, Canada, the UK, Germany and Australia, among others. The biggest audience is the US which accounts for 35% of traffic, the UK which accounts for 9.5% and Canada which accounts for just under 7%.
3 - Email List
I have an email list of over 2,500 who have actively signed up. Many have taken part in my courses and programs and many read my newsletters and updates. I use software that tracks the content my readers are most interested in so I know which messages I need to create in order to resonate with them.
4 - Twitter
I have 3,600 followers on Twitter from all over the world.
5 - Press
I’ve been featured in Forbes, Elle Canada and The Telegraph in the UK and I’m a regular contributor at The Huffington Post. My articles have been shared by the likes of Tim Ferriss.
6 - Speaking engagements
I am a frequent speaker at international events, including Hubud in Bali, named one of the world’s top 10 coworking spaces by Forbes, London-based Escape the City (which has a mailing list of over 250,000) and The Wedge, an organization based out of one of Singapore’s foremost coworking spaces.
Screw The Cubicle is not a get rich quick book. Nor is it about outsourcing your entire job to virtual assistants in the Philippines so you can lie on a beach. Nor is it necessarily about having a startup. It’s a blueprint for finding your own path to freedom and fulfilment, whether that be freelancing, entrepreneurship or social enterprise - or something else entirely. From inspiration to practical ‘how to’, Screw The Cubicle will provide a mix of ideas and prompts to action, so readers can start making the life they want. Today.
1- “$100 Startup”, New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, ‘Unconventional Strategies for Life, Work, and Travel features of 50 case studies’. Chris Guillebeau features many business owners who started their business for $100 or less. In nearly all cases, people with no special skills discovered aspects of their personal passions that could be monetized, and were able to restructure their lives in ways that gave them greater freedom and fulfillment. Critics argued that the case studies were too general with not enough practical information. Suffered from too many case studies so writer was unable to go into sufficient depth.
2- “The Four Hour WorkWeek”, New York Times bestselling book by Tim Ferris, spent more than four years on The New York Times Bestseller List, has been translated into 35 languages and has sold more than 1,350,000 copies worldwide. With its “Live More, Work Less” message, The Four Hour WorkWeek was a revelation for thousands of people. But it misses a crucial piece and that’s that people enjoy work and get fulfilment from it. Ferriss’ anecdotes and observations, which are written largely through the eyes as a single white Ivy League-educated male are not relatable for most people.
3 - "Screw Work Let’s Play" by John Williams is a ‘how to’ book with instructions on how to do what you love and get paid for it. The book argues that you can get rich by having fun and outlines how you can beat the doubts and internal blocks that hold you back. Some people think it focuses too narrowly on the ‘play’ aspect
4 - “The Suitcase Entrepreneur”. Natalie Sisson’s Amazon bestselling book, tells you how you can build a freedom business you can run from anywhere in the world. The author tends to focus on the tools and technology you need to run a business from your laptop. From fiction writers, to e-commerce entrepreneurs, Screw The Cubicle has a broader range of occupations, stories and business models.