A New Paradigm of Work and Life
by Wendy Priesnitz
the 1970s and 80s, my family led an educational revolution; our children
learned at home, instead of at school, and without the trappings,
expectations, competition, lack of respect and trust, and coercion that is
part of school. I call this "life learning" but some people call it
"unschooling" or variations on those words.(You can learn
more about it here.) There is a similar term for
the way I have chosen to make my living; it's called "unjobbing."
Unjobbing can be thought of either as the process of
leaving a job you don't like in order to work independently, or the actual state of
living and working that results from leaving a job.
But it is more than that. In the same way that life
learning is about more than education, this so-called "unjobbing" is about
more than work. It is about aligning all aspects of your life, including
work, with your personal values. Ideally, it means living without the competition,
outwardly-imposed structure, lack of respect, expectations, greed, and so on
that characterize many conventional workplaces.
For many people, one of the biggest unjobbing
transitions involves removing the credentials from behind your name and
disentangling your identity from the job you have. And because it includes
the philosophy of living simply and consciously, it usually means working
less than full-time, and devoting the rest of the time to family and home,
community service and volunteering, travel, or leisure. (Working less is
another challenge for many...you don't need to jump from one treadmill to
another!) What I'm talking about here is following your passion and using
your talents to make enough money for your and your family's needs
without having a job, rather than trying to be a millionaire entrepreneur.
In this lifestyle, revenue might come from
self-employment, possibly as a consultant providing services under contract
to businesses or individuals. Unjobbing might involve occasional freelance
work. It might look like a micro-sized business selling a product. Or public
speaking, writing, film-making, blogging, crafts, art, market gardening,
inventing green technologies, or doing odd jobs around the neighborhood. Or
it might involve managing previously acquired assets. Most likely, it will
involve a variety of activities in a strategic patchwork of income-generation. Many
unjobbers do work similar to what they were doing when they worked in a paid
job; others use the opportunity to follow an entirely different, and more
fulfilling, path...one by which they never thought they could make a living.
I chose the entrepreneurial unjobbing lifestyle for a number of reasons.
In the beginning, it allowed my husband and I to work flexibly at home
and allow our daughters to learn without attending school. I also liked that
it provided them
with a role model of self-reliance and what is now called social
entrepreneurship. No less importantly, it has allowed me to use my talents as a writer and editor, and
it fits my short attention span. Working for myself means that I don't
have to compromise my ethics and principles, and that I can integrate work
and fun. And it allows me to work for change in the way we educate, work,
and live, to move toward a non-hierarchical, egalitarian, cooperative,
convivial, peaceful society. I believe that it is almost impossible to
change our organizations and institutions from within because those on the
inside have vested interests that outsiders, like unjobbers, don't have; so,
I work on the outside.
Some of the change that I envision is already
happening in the workplace as a result of current world economic
circumstances. I see it as a positive part of a sustainable living solution
to the current climate and environmental crisis. For some
perspective on this, check out the work of authors like Juliet Schor (Plenitude),
Richard Florida (The Great Reset), Seth Godin (Linchpin),
Daniel Pink (Drive), Shannon Hayes (Radical Homemakers),
and Chris Guillebeau (The Art of Non-Conformity). There are also
books and blogs about unjobbing specifically.
Please don't confuse what I have described here with
an increasingly common type of work that is sometimes known as the "gig
economy." Whereas I'm interested in an intentional way of life that includes
a variety of entrepreneurial endeavors, most people become involved in the
gig economy because it's the only way they can earn money in a difficult and
changing economy. The gig economy
tends to be urban in nature, is precarious, involves part-time contract work and temporary
positions without benefits that normally go along with paid employment, and usually revolves around the Internet in one way or
another. It allows companies to cut labor costs and therefore save money,
providing cheaper services. Think Uber, Airbnb, or the seeming endless number of food
delivery apps. Colleges and universities are also increasingly hiring
lower-paid adjunct and part-time professors on an insecure basis, as opposed to tenured ones.
Of course, as wonderful as it is to "unjob," and
therefore follow your
passion, enjoy a flexible time schedule, work from home, be your own boss,
and try to change the world, unjobbing does require a bit of organization,
some planning, and doing some things you might not love to do. (For me, that
is bookkeeping.) It is also handy to have a calm and risk-tolerant
perspective on life, and a relatively laid back personality. And, despite
what the work-at-home, get-rich-quick ads say, you will need to sell...if
not a product or a service, then your own talents and abilities. So
knowledge about your subject, as well as some confidence in yourself and
your chosen direction, is also important.
you to learn as much as you can about the basics of starting and running a
small or micro business; that knowledge will allow you to concentrate on having fun (and
making some money) without having a job.
Wendy Priesnitz is the owner and founding editor of
Natural Life Magazine, and a writer with over 45 years of experience. She
has also taught and mentored home-based, women micro business owners.