Soloing - Reaching Life's Everest
Random House Business Books pounds 7.99
Asking me to review a book is rather like asking Sir Richard Branson to wear a suit and tie. Asking me to review this book is like asking Branson why he never wears suits and derides those who do, and then asking him to write a 12-step 'how-to' guide to self actualisation through 'cardiganology'.
Now before you, Harriet Rubin and Random House Business get too worried, let me say that this book grew on me and I found in it aspects I could identify with and, importantly, gain comfort from. I'm embarrassed to say that the process of reviewing this book made me reflect on my own attitude to work and life, and to admit that for once there could be a business book that might actually have been written for me. Frightening.
So what is it about? In sum-mary, it focuses on the growing trend in the US, and to a lesser extent Europe, of people 'going it alone', either forced or self-induced. By reinventing themselves and utilising the power of freedom, 'soloists' can achieve a greatness unthought of by their old corporate selves. This greatness comes with the added benefit of a brighter, more invigorated you that is at one with the new priorities in your life, including work. As 'CEO of yourself' you will need self-belief, guidance and reference points in the new, and initially daunting, world of freedom. Rubin is both guide and guru.
Drawing from her own experience as a high-powered New York-based founder and editor of Doubleday's Currency magazine who made the leap, Rubin takes the reader on her journey. This trip involves stops at the following: regaining your sense of identity; independence; self-sufficiency - income; and self-fulfilment and growth.
Rubin infills her views and experiences with a broad and slightly anecdotal catalogue of bons mots from the great and the successful. Winston Churchill barely has room on the bench alongside the likes of George Bernard Shaw, Michael Jordan, Mahatma Gandhi, Jim Henson, FDR, Andy Grove and Ernest Hemingway. The author is clearly motivated, revelling in the new freedom and sense of achievement she has from going it alone. She wants to share with the reader who can in turn learn from the experience. This reversal of roles helps to avoid the slightly patronising tone of other business books that overtly focus on the author's ego as if some will rub off on the reader.
Undoubtedly, this book will prove popular with the growing number who are turning their back on the corporate world and predicting the end of the job as we used to know it - actually, as the Charles Lindbergh of Biotech, I've never personally known it. The onset of the knowledge revolution and the empowerment of the individual are certainly standing accepted corporate management practices on their head. Hear, hear, say I. That's soloing, says Rubin.
In a game where it may appear that rule number one is 'there are no rules', this book gives a useful blend of practical advice and encouragement for a vision of the future that could await the new you. It is bold and it paints a broad canvas using a mixture of techniques that at times drags on, but it is worthwhile persevering though the business-speak and corroboration from the guys on the bench. For those of you who read the title and were worried - given that Rubin's previous bestseller was The Princessa: Machiavelli for Women - this might be about women doing it by themselves, let me say that, to the author's credit, it is refreshingly quiet on the issue of gender.
It is a good, thought-provoking book, summed up by Michael Jordan's response to the statement 'There's no 'I' in 'team'', 'That's right, but there is an 'I' in 'win''. For those of you who wish to surf before you buy, try Rubin's business web site www.ivillage.com/TheSoloist.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll just take Branson's suit back to Moss Bros.