Jon wants us to learn from the mistakes he and others have made along the way: debt he acquired for the wrong reasons, feeling a sense of ownership of businesses he did not own, and back-burnering dreams for too long.
by Rachel Meyers
Jon Reed notes: As “Free From Corporate America” gets closer to publication, it’s a great time to share some of the late-arriving material. I’m pleased to have the chance to share this book foreword from Rachel Meyers, my co-author from Resumes from Hell. This is not an easy book to sum up – Rachel put forth a stellar effort to capture the key themes of the book and her experience as a reader. What follows is the foreword as it is now, in its near-final state. Keep in mind that Rachel is referring to a final draft of the book that is about five rewrites beyond the versions you can read on this site. But even the raw versions of the chapters I’ve already posted should give you a good idea of the themes Rachel is referring to.
If you want to be told “do what you love and the money will follow,” put this book down immediately. Building a life that integrates passion and financial intelligence requires unflinching honesty, tough choices, and a creative approach to your career. Dogged belief in a simplistic motto won’t get you there. What follows is “Free from Corporate America,” Jon Reed’s tactical guide to moving beyond dependence on the corporate world. One way to think of this book is as a life preserver for 9-to-5ers in peril.
So why are 9-to-5ers in peril? Because as Jon and others have noted, “the corporate contract is broken.” The new reality of the American worker is that pension funds are shaky, jobs are being outsourced overseas, and “the company” no longer has our best interests in mind. We are all “free agents,” and it’s time we start behaving accordingly.
Conventional wisdom is that we’re too busy working to achieve financial freedom and pursue our dreams. But if you’re beholden to a paycheck, every last ounce of time and energy will be spent trying to please your boss, make ends meet, or both. Days will turn into months, months will turn into years, and you’ll turn into a different person than you wanted to be.
Many people accept that tradeoff because they assume that retirement will afford them the opportunity to pursue their interests, whether it’s write a novel, travel to exotic places, or learn to speak Spanish. But what if you haven’t saved enough to retire comfortably? What if you aren’t healthy when you get there? And what are we supposed to feel passionately about in the meantime?
“Free from Corporate America” is about integrating the pursuit of dreams into your current life. Jon provides an actual game plan for re-inventing our careers and pursuing our passions now.
Acutely aware of the shortcomings of the scrimping and saving mentality, Jon provides a tactical plan for (1) building an economic foundation comprised of your own assets, and (2) integrating dream-chasing into your daily life. The subtitle of this book sums it up: it’s all about success on your own terms.
To get us there, Jon will introduce a number of fresh concepts:
- The redefinition of the word “asset” to include creative projects that could lead to income streams, and to exclude “false assets,” such as homes that we are emotionally attached to and cars that offer more pleasure than value.
- “Stealing time” from your day-to-day life to ensure that you are building your own assets, and not just assets for your employer and debts for your creditors.
- Jon’s “Law of Accumulation” that cuts both ways: what you focus on is what you will become. Spend a few hours each week on your own asset, and you’ve got something that could lead to financial self-sufficiency; spend a few hours each weekend pulling weeds, and you’ve become a de facto crabgrass aficionado.
- The “feedback loop” that will gauge marketplace demand for your asset, and ultimately mitigate risk.
- Getting in touch with your inner salesperson, whether or not you think you’ve got one or need one.
- “Personal branding” that puts your career ahead of your employer.
- “Barriers to entry” that are both obstacles to our dreams, and tools we can use to keep the competition at bay once we’ve entered a marketplace.
- Getting through “lag time,” that stomach-churning, doubt-filled period between creating an asset and reaping its rewards.
- How to borrow “balance sheets” and other financial statements primarily used by businesses, and use them to take your own financial snapshot, assess the viability of assets you’ve created, and benchmark your progress over the years.
Jon learned these concepts the hard way. He wrote this book in response to all the bad ideas he accumulated over the years, much of which came from institutions that were supposedly charged with “educating” him. This, too, is something most of us can relate to: family “advice” that backfired, degrees that proved either irrelevant or inadequate, and employers that reaped the benefit of our work ethic but had a pink slip waiting for us.
When I first met Jon Reed eleven years ago, he was a rising star in the dot-com boom. He had built a lucrative niche in the world of SAP as a career counselor and market analyst. He was well on his way to an early retirement, when he would finally begin the process of fulfilling his dreams. Like many of us who were riding high in the dotcom glory days, there were a few bumps in the road ahead for Jon – not the least of which would be the realization that postponing his creative life came at a high personal cost.
After the dot-com bust, Jon found himself self-employed, but facing similar challenges. This time, he was beholden to his clients instead of an employer. It was an improvement, but something was still missing. What he lacked was a methodology for achieving financial autonomy that integrated his passions into his daily life. Thus began Jon’s journey into asset creation. For him, this included real estate, screenplays, and books, though he analyzed many other asset development paths as well.
Those of you who follow Robert Kiyosaki and his “Rich Dad, Poor Dad” books will recall that Kiyosaki touches on similar themes, in terms of creating income-generating assets, and the need to shift from an employee’s mentality to an owner’s mentality. Kiyosaki addresses his readers from atop the mountain of professional and financial success.
“Free from Corporate America” comes from Jon’s significantly different perspective, halfway up an altogether different kind of mountain. It’s a climb that has exacted a cost, but has also afforded Jon the opportunity to analyze paths of ascension and identify the secrets of those who succeeded and those who failed in their attempts.
Jon wants us to learn from the mistakes he and others have made along the way: debt he acquired for the wrong reasons, feeling a sense of ownership of businesses he did not own, and back-burnering dreams for too long – dreams that contained important clues about a way forward that combined passion and marketability.
Jon took a different route for a reason: he wanted to chart out another kind of success, one that would allow us to define our own terms of engagement with the corporate world. Jon also wanted to see if the narrow definition of “assets” some books endorse could be expanded to include a more creative view of the kinds of assets you can cultivate and the kind of life you can construct around those assets.
After all, what is the use of becoming rich if you never feel any freer? And what is the point of accumulating wealth if doing so requires you to sign over your time, your values, and in some cases, your physical health in exchange for too many years in a cube?
The result is “Free from Corporate America.” Yes, integrating your dreams into your daily life is an ambitious task, but Jon has a plan. This does not necessarily mean quitting your day job and starting your own business. The “Free from Corporate America” methodology is about developing a new mindset about your relationship to work, time, and your dreams, and wresting your fate from the Enrons (and future Enrons) of the world. And it’s also about having a shoulder to lean on when the going gets tough.
This is one of those rare books on success where the author openly acknowledges his own defects and flaws. It comes as a bit of shock, perhaps, that Jon does not minimize the adversity we will face and the odds we may (or may not) overcome. Jon doesn’t romanticize our chances, but he gives us something better than happy talk: a strategy that is strong enough for life as it really is.
“Free from Corporate America” is an entertaining read, but not necessarily a comfortable one. It may even make you squirm. There will be a direct correlation between how much you are squirming and how much work you need to do. You’ll know you have already mastered a concept when you breeze through a chapter. You’ll know you have room for improvement when you trip on a sentence, re-read, and feel a little shaken. Jon’s goal is not to scare us into quitting our day jobs and selling our stamp collections, but he does want to inspire us into action.
This is a book for people like me who lie awake at night, dwelling on our financial future and dreams postponed, which is to say, 99% of the people I know. Whether you are an artist, an executive, or a stay-at-home mother, there is a “Free from Corporate America” concept you can integrate into your life today.
Co-Author, Resumes from Hell
Want to buy Free From Corporate America or see reviews of the final published version from readers like yourself? The printed book is now available on Amazon.com with product reviews.
You can also get a discounted version of the final book in eBook (PDF) format, or you can pick up a copy on the Kindle. The published version of the book is significantly enhanced from the web version available on this site.