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On Your Own: A Guide to Working Happily, Productively & Successfully from Home
Soloing: Realizing Your Life's Ambition
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The Young Entrepreneur's Edge: Using Your Ambition, Independence, and Youth to Launch a Successful Business


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Growing Your Business Online: Small-Business Strategies for Working the World Wide Web
Making Money in Cyberspace


     book review

Soloing: Realizing Your Life's Ambition
By Harriet Rubin

Reviewed by Robert Morris

If your wage-slave job not only leaves you unfulfilled, but drives you nuts too, it might be time to read Harriet Rubin's new book, Soloing (HarperBusiness). But be forewarned -- it might inspire you to quit the job and set up shop for yourself.

To become a soloist, Rubin writes, is to gain "the knowledge one needs to cross over into a world where work and freedom are one and the same thing." She cites several different examples of those who have done so. One is Peter Drucker, "a lone worker who refused for years to let... Claremont College start a business school in his honor because of his fear of becoming a person who has to take meetings." For Drucker, having to take more meetings would not only tax his time, but waste it.

Soloing has two main parts: "Invent Yourself" (which could be called "Re-Invent Yourself") and "The Business of Being Yourself." Although Rubin asserts that "[t]his book is about a journey of the spirit... a guide to the joy of freedom and its cost," Soloing is also practical in its approach to the difficult challenges of escaping from corporate employment and becoming self-employed. (Rubin passes on two of Drucker's observations here: It takes three years to break even financially as a soloist; and to learn anything, you have to be prepared to teach it.) In Soloing, Rubin helps others to understand both the pleasures and perils of soloing.

Soloing will be of greatest benefit to corporate professionals who seek greater independence than their jobs allow, and to people who already work for themselves, but need strategies for increasing their income and finding greater personal satisfaction in their work. People of both types eventually realize that they need help with the difficult process of self-examination. They find themselves asking, "Is this all there is?" Recent college graduates who might otherwise step directly into corporate life would also do well to read Soloing. Rubin tells us what they should beware of, and gives the "early-warning signs" of becoming trapped in a situation that threatens to diminish their sense of identity, their independence, and their income. Soloing tells all.

Ultimately, however, Rubin places greater emphasis on fulfilling one's human potential, on the importance of fulfilling one's intellectual, emotional, and spiritual capabilities through one's work, than on the nitty-gritty of doing it. As often as not, this can't be done from within an organization, which is why so many people become IPs. They refuse to haul stones for another pharaoh.

The solo life isn't for the faint-of-heart or for the inept. Many people simply don't want to examine their lives. Perhaps they're content. Or perhaps their willpower has melted under the severe pressure of keeping a job and earning a living. To her credit, Rubin doesn't view such people with contempt. She accepts their choices even as she explains that they're not the choices she would make or recommend.

Some will read Soloing and say "No thanks." Others will be inspired to go solo -- and then fail. Still others will make a successful transition from full-time employee to fully self-employed. The proper approach to Rubin's book is to read it with an open mind. Use the framework and content for a rigorous and comprehensive self-examination. Consider what you really want and what you're determined to live for, not what you're merely willing to endure.

It is noteworthy that Rubin includes a number of acknowledgments at the conclusion of Soloing. For as many IPs already know, soloing doesn't mean doing everything entirely alone. On the contrary, even the most self-directed soloist needs the support and encouragement of others. My own experience suggests that IPs tend to associate with other IPs -- through professional associations, for example. People need people. Praise independence, but admit that you're interdependent. And remember this: The title of Charles Lindbergh's account of his 33-hour solo flight to Paris is We.

Return to Books main page | Buy this book

January 11, 2000
Edited by Eric Gershon
Production by Keith Gendel

We'd love to hear your comments about this article!

Based in Dallas, Robert Morris is an independent management consultant who specializes in accelerated executive development and organizational growth. His formal education includes graduate study at Yale (MA in comparative literature), Northwestern, U.C.L.A., and Chicago universities. He has served in several senior-level corporate positions. You can reach him at rmmorris@airmail.net

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