Book Review: Free Agent Nation by Daniel H. Pink

I finally finished the second book from my book list. I know, I know… I always claim to be such a great reader, so why did it take four weeks to finish? Well, I should point out that I did read seven other books at the same time. 🙂

But back to this one….

My first thought is that this book is both timely and untimely. See, it was first published, I believe, around 2000. It makes many bold projections for the rise of the self-employed worker and their future status, and, looking on it from ten years down the road, it’s utterly remarkable how completely accurate (and off-base in some cases) Pink was.

First, I strongly agree with Pink’s analysis of what makes a free agent tick: the need for independence, the need for self-control and self-destiny, the deeply personal desire to have responsibility for yourself. It was something that rang quite true with me, and I found myself looking at Courtney often saying, “I need to stop reading this book, or I’m going to quit my job. ”

I also found Pink’s analysis of the history of employment fascinating. In particular, he pulled much of his analysis from an old book, Organization Man, that described the work environment of post-WWII. His analysis shows how we have moved from that corporate environment, permanence in employment, Father Company will protect us to a more I-have-to-watch-out-for-me environment. In the past, it was expected that you would work for a company your entire life and find, on the end, a pension waiting for you. No more, though there are still some who believe that. By the way, did you know that the current expected time on a job has dropped to only 2.3 years? Think about the implications of that sometime, and if you can’t grasp that, well, there are entire chapters in Pink’s book dedicated to showing how this is wildly dangerous for corporate America and wildly beneficial for the self-employed.

Another area of the book that was wildly intriguing to me was Pink’s views on the political side of free agent politics. He pointed out that more so than any other demographic, free agents trend toward being politically independent. Remember, of course, that this was ten years ago. Pink pointed out that the independent nature politically allowed free agents to behave in unique ways politically, mostly in that they were bound to their conscious and not their party. Personally, I would not be surprised to hear that today, the Libertarian party has begun to make serious inroads into this demographic. Of the host of Libertarians I know, almost all of them are either self-employed are dream passionately of one day reaching that point (myself included). I’ll also point out that Pink believes that most free agents will eventually home school, another stat that I personally gravitate towards and know several others who do as well.

Beyond this, Pink also talked in detail about health care, retirement, taxes, social constructs, and so on that, while interesting and important, are much better read in his words than here.

For negatives, some of the material is dated. Like I said… timely and untimely. I laughed at a few of his projections that, so far, have proven inaccurate. At the same time, some of his other projections are almost Nostradamus-ish in their outright accuracy.

Wit, humor, flow, style, grace… all words I’d use to describe Pink and this book. It’s certainly no longer the be all, end all of self-employment, but it still provides a wonderful insight to the moods, attitudes, philosophies, hopes, fears, troubles, and lives of Free Agent America. If the concept of being self-employed is attractive to you, I’d put it on your list. If it’s not, he might convince you otherwise.

3 out of 4 stars only because some of the information is no longer wholly applicable. Personally, if he does a second edition, it will go back on my reading list.

Next up: Think and Grow Rich, by Napoleon Hill.

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