I was fortunate enough to meet up with Marianne Cantwell recently and pick her brain a little.
Disillusioned with corporate life she quit her job with the knowledge she never wanted to commute to a cubicle again. From there she created her own, bespoke career, where she does lots of stuff she loves rather than choosing just one thing forever.
Marianne’s book is an amazing read, sharing some of this journey and her insights along the way. My own copy of the book has many highlighted passages and pages. With this is mind, it was a real pleasure to sit down with her and get some of her time.
1) Hi Marianne, thanks for joining us. Why don’t you tell the readers a little about who Marianne is and where in the world is home for you?
Sure. I previously had what seemed on the outside to be a ‘good career’ in media, and city consultancy, yet I was secretly miserable – quietly thinking, isn’t there more to life than living for the weekends?
After going through multiple career changes, I realised that I kept making ‘half’ a leap to a Free Range life, without an office or a boss, but was too ‘chicken’ to make the full change to get there. Never quite figuring out a) what I wanted to do and b) how to actually make it work.
I read up on every life change idea out there. I started experimenting and found out what it was that made for a really-right Free Range Life for me.
In all this, I figured out that actually I COULD create a bespoke career, where I do lots of stuff I love rather than choosing one thing. So I stopped thinking about it, and started doing it.
In terms of where is home. I love to travel, so I chose to use this flexibility to live anywhere. So, in the last few years I have lived and worked from the beaches of Bali to the cafes of London and the hills of Tuscany.
“I figured out that actually I COULD create a bespoke career, where I do lots of stuff I love”
2) Questioning conventional wisdom is a strong theme through your writing. What have been some of the main challenges you have faced since trying to live, what some would perceive, a less conventional life? Have you felt resistance from others around you?
People like to pigeon hole how you can live your life. Lifestyle choices and how we want to live our lives are actually extremely personal choices though for the individual. Defining our own path ahead.
When I started working in this area not many other bloggers seemed to be talking about these themes, especially in the UK. However, there is now a much bigger movement and I’d say to anyone starting out or blogging/coaching in this space to watch out for the term ‘unconventional’ developing its own set of rules about what is and is not ok.
All this is about is thinking in a smart and honest way about creating a life and free range career for you and those around you – if that involves something like owning a house, or having a part time job or living in one place, that’s brilliant, you don’t have to live out of a backpack to live life on your terms and I’m very passionate about not putting a label on what is and is not ok – that’s the opposite of free range thinking!
In terms of resistance at the time, I found some friends back then didn’t really get what I wanted to do, and that’s fairly normal for people making a change of any sort. You become a different person through your experiences and aspirations so this sometimes leads to a disconnect with people who know you in one light. Some will be just wanting to understand what you are doing but some will be made uncomfortable by you making a change because if you are shaking things up it can cast doubt on their story of “well people like us don’t do things like that”.
Once you lift the lid on being honest with yourself it opens a door on who you actually are and that will also open the way to having people in your life 2 years from now that right now you don’t even know! Be open to these opportunities, and if you are new to what you are doing remember that those in your life who don’t get what you are doing today may well be the ones who want to know all about it down the line.
3) If you had to do it all over again would you do anything different?
I quit my last-ever job in the crash of 2008 (yes, I quit without a redundancy package!). Since that time I started a few different ventures, free range humans coming out of those of these, later got a book deal and wrote a book that I’m really happy is out there as it seems to have struck an even bigger chord than I imagined.
In terms of what I might do differently:
– I would let go of things earlier. Nothing bad happened and this created space in my life for new things. My advice to others would be to challenge yourself constantly.
“I would let go of things earlier. Nothing bad happened and this created space in my life for new things”
In terms of what I would do again:
– I am very proud of the products and books that I created at the time – the fact that I documented how I felt at a particular time means I can revisit that and also build on the foundations of the product to make it into something even bigger and better
– Enthusiasm is huge momentum early on so although I made my mistakes, as everyone does, I think it’s important to get caught up in all that positive energy and enjoy the starting
4) Is there anything that you miss from your previous non-Free Range life? Are there any cons to living this type of life?
Occasionally I miss an office so that there is a structured work space. This is totally unexpected and the irony, from someone that writes about freedom, is not lost on me.
I’m not saying I would (or could) ever go back to working in an office full-time but I do occasionally think about the designated work space it represents as being a positive. It allows the individual to switch off and on from work. There is a clearer line in the sand about work and play so even a small space in your home is a smart idea.
5) What have been some of the major benefits of the changes you have made over the past few years? How have the changes impacted your view of the world?
Some of the main benefits have been:
– Having an idea and being able to work on making that happen
– Testing new ideas out and remaining creative
– Meeting and learning from other free rangers that I meet around the world and via my blog
6) What frustrations and challenges do you see other people battling in your dealings with them most often?
I see many people that can see solutions to other people’s problems rather than their own. I think this is one reason why regular self-inventory on an ongoing basis is so important for us all.
7) Are there two or three things you can suggest readers take away and implement today to improve the quality of their own lives and/or work in some way? Perhaps they are also interested in a ‘Free Range’ path.
– Be real with who you are. Do regular self-inventory, find out what drives you, are your choices aligned with who you are and who you want to be?
– Honour your own time – Respect your own time, learn to say no, spend time with people who honour their time and they will also honour yours
– Look for the reason “why” rather than the reason “why not” – this is the most important factor common to people who succeed as their own boss doing what they love, and I dedicated a whole chapter to this in my book!
8) Any books or resources you would recommend for readers to support that journey?
ReWork – for a summary of attitude to starting and growing without spending a fortune or waiting for 10 years
Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs – to bust the idea that you HAVE to do everything alone
Making A Living Without A Job (Barbara Winter) – this one is for people who are new to business and works well alongside my book.
Be A Free Range Human (OBVIOUSLY!)
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