My Take-Aways From The Book Free Agent Nation

By Mike Maddaloni on Thursday, April 17, 2008 at 04:00 AM with 1 comments

It’s always nice to be part of something larger. When it comes to being an entrepreneur or owning a small business, by working for yourself – or simply working by yourself – it may not seem that is the case. However if you are, you are part of what is becoming more of a movement, an increasing number of people forming a collective pf people, a nation some may say.

And a nation is what author Daniel Pink calls it, a Free Agent Nation, and this is the title of his book, with the subtitle “How America’s New Independent Workers Are Transforming the Way We Live.” It doesn’t matter what you do, it is more how you do it, whether you are a cabinet installer or Internet consultant or any other occupation.

The reasons are many for people striking out on their own. Some lose their jobs, others can’t take working for someone else anymore, and others simply want to do something different. These voluntary and involuntary catalysts are as a result changing how we define the words “job” and “work.” Pink’s book chronicles these stories. He starts with his own transformation and journals a year of travels across the US interviewing those who have followed in his footsteps.

Throughout the book he circles back to the “Organization Man,” a term coming from a book written in the 1950’s about the typical company employee. The Organizational Man is the antithesis of the resident of Free Agent Nation. It also represents how corporate culture hasn’t changed to keep up with different ways of working as well as the needs of those doing the work.

My greatest takeaway from Free Agent Nation is the concept of working for yourself is something that still needs to be taught to people. As I read the book I could hear the “a-ha’s” as the subtext of those Pink was interviewing, when they realized they could succeed on their own. I realized this myself only within the last half decade when I decided to strike out on my own and start Dunkirk Systems, LLC, a decision I am still proud of. Though some colleges teach entrepreneurship, how many such courses are taught in high school?

Another takeaway is one I experienced myself, is that much in the world is not set to accommodate entrepreneurs. Take the tax code in the US as a prime example, where individuals working on their own are taxed more than if they were working for a company. Many local governments have zoning laws geared towards large corporations in large buildings that don’t work well for a person working out of a room over the garage. And to this day I know people who have had to get a job in order to get a loan or mortgage, only to go back on their own once they sign on the dotted line.

A final takeaway is about how Free Agents gather and interact through FAN Clubs, or Free Agent Nation Clubs. These clubs can be anywhere from formal to informal, charging dues to simply showing up at a coffee shop. They may have been around for decades, or only had a short life. I have personally been involved in some in the past, and continuously seek out quality gatherings all the time, as it is the way I learn and participate in the conversation with my fellow FANs.

Free Agent Nation was published in 2001, but despite its age and a few dated references it is extremely relevant today. I recommend it to anyone considering going on their own or who has recently gone on their own and is contemplating going back to a job, going back to being an Organization Man or Woman. Daniel Pink has written several books on the working world, and is still a free agent today.

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