This Week’s Word Is “Living.”
These are uncertain times. I hope that wherever you are reading this, you and your loved ones are safe and self-isolation isn’t driving you too crazy. My planned review book for this week is Make a Living Living, a book about how to follow your dreams and make a living out of it.
On the one hand, with so much uncertainty (literally) in the air, it might be a terrible time to launch into a flight of fancy project. On the other, you may have lots of time on your hands, so why not let your imagination run riot and work out what you really want to do with your life?
What is Make a Living Living?
This sort of book will not be to everyone’s taste. I’m not entirely sure it’s to mine. It sounds like a new-age hipster manifesto about throwing off the shackles of white-collar oppression and becoming an alpaca farmer. And, to an extent, it is. If you were in any doubt about this, there’s a guy with a massive beard throwing a pot on the back cover.
This book probably isn’t the sort of thing a risk-averse, middle-aged, parent of three usually reads, but I picked it up because, despite being risk-averse, I am something of a dreamer. In my 40s, I’ve found something I love doing – YouTube videos, of all things.
Whilst it’s every nine-year-old man’s dream to be YouTuber, I would love to get our set up to the point where it made a significant contribution to the household income. We’re having moderate success on Patreon (success that far exceeded my wildest expectations) and I want to build on it. Perhaps there would be some useful nuggets in Make a Living Living?
Once you’ve got passed the poorly designed cover – it appears to read, “Make a Be Successful Living Doing What Living You Love,” which is clearly gibberish – you’re into a slim book that interviews 30 “creatives” about how they got to where they are now.
Lots of these people, as you might expect, do artisanal hipster type things. There’s nobody here who left their shelf-stacking job to set up their own bicycle repair shop on a random British High Street. Having said that, despite being a multi-talented and largely avant-garde group of people, they’re united by their desire to work hard to fulfill their goals and by the realization that their journey required a lot of learning along the way.
Each case study follows the same basic form, each getting 4 pages. One page has the name of the person and tag-line about their project, a large motivational quote, and an introductory paragraph. On the opposite page, there is an arty photograph of the person, showcasing their idyllic lifestyle. The other two pages consist of more photographs and three or four columns of text about the creative endeavor in question. Each case study also offers 3 tips from its subject about how to make your dreams a reality.
Interspersed throughout the book are several exercises to help the creative juices flow and launch you on the way to realizing your goals. These include mind maps, writing an elevator pitch, and the importance of self-evaluation.
Why Read Make a Living Living?
I’d be amazed if anybody found everything in this book useful. I suspect there’s a target age for Make a Living Living, and it’s not 46. The book’s ideal reader needs to be less cynical and jaded than me too. Nevertheless, there are some nuggets of information here, and a style of approach that will be useful to absorb if you’re hoping to move away from more traditional ways of earning your money.
The aftermath of Covid-19 is going to see changes to traditional working set-ups. I think the business landscape is going to be inexorably altered by this ongoing crisis. For those brave enough to take a leap of faith, there are going to be opportunities to do something different. This book harvests the energy of those who have already done it and helps bring some perspective for those who don’t know where to start.
The lesson of hard-work is important and the book iterates it over and over again. I think there is a perception that these things are walked into, that they’re a case of being in the right place at the right time, and everything fell into place. There is undoubtedly an element of that. I’m sure there are far more failed enterprises than the successful ones mentioned here, but one thing that shines through in the book is the importance of work ethic, a desire to learn, and the acceptance of failure.
The book does have what, here in the UK, I’d call a “middle class” bias; by their nature, these types of creative endeavors tend to come from a position of privilege. This is by no means exclusively the case, but the manner in which they’re presented in this book does nothing to dispel this feeling. No more is this evident in the final exercise which suggests you take road trips in New Zealand, go on a retreat in Bhutan or Japan, discover nature in Guatemala or color in Peru. There are other suggestions too, and it does mention that you may find what you need closer to home, but the book does rather have the feel of a gap year about it. These are unfortunate suggestions thanks to the current world situation. Of course, that is not the book’s fault.
Whether Make a Living Living is the book for you is going to come down to personal taste. It’s more of an inspirational, aspirational book than one filled with practical advice. Having said that, the 3 tips given in each study, are great for firing off trains of thought to help you prepare for your big leap. If you’re thinking of taking that jump into the unknown, I don’t think Make a Living Living is going to be essential for your success, but it may well keep you in the air. At the very least it’s well worth checking out from your local library. Assuming you can get there.
Will it help improve my YouTube Channel? Possibly. There are a few observations about doing exactly what you want, as that should bring you the most joy. I’m going to try this and see what happens. It’s a long shot, but it might just work.
If you enjoyed this review, check out my other Word Wednesday posts, here.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book for review.