Book Review: unWorking

The concept of busting out of expectations and making intentional choices with our eyes wide open often means we are living outside the box. We have busted our children out of the traditional education assembly line. I have forged my own professional path around a parenting priority and my passions. We are now ready for the next chapter in our family’s lifestyle design.

For inspiration and practical research I first read the 4 Hour Work Week. Most of the details didn’t resonate with me (It’s simple (sarcasm) – just invent a million dollar product, live off the endless profits, and spend your life traveling around the world alone following your personal pursuits), however the principle of not wasting away your life in misery in the pursuit of golden years that may never come was a profound eye opener.

I wanted to read more but from a family-centered perspective that wasn’t based on striking gold. Enter unWorking by Clark Vandeventer.

The book reads more like an autobiography, which can serve as the spine for a very inspirational story, but it read more as self-gratuitous than altruistic. We get it – you were the man. You can stop dropping names and status symbols now. Even his lows (which are valuable to include) read more like a Herculean hero story. The whole thing really does have an air of condescension like a one percenter trying to convince his buddies to intentionally come down and slum it.

Lots of repetition, lots of repetition, lots of repetition. Was that annoying? Then you will be annoyed reading this book. If you ditched all of the repeated content (which really doesn’t serve a purpose), the whole book would be a third shorter. I never want to read the words Reagan Ranch again as long as I live.

What he did manage to do is to show his readers (he is clearly writing to the fancy friends from his former life) a different path then they may have known existed. He is happier now. His life is family centered. He travels the world. He is free to do what he enjoys on a daily basis. He is getting by financially by the skin of his teeth, but it does work. You just have to consider letting go of what you thought you were reaching so hard for, because it is hollow – a great lesson.

One thing that I do appreciate is that he presents a financial model for living the unworking lifestyle that he calls patchwork income. He likens it to diversifying your portfolio (for those of us who have to manage all our wealth (sarcasm again)). A little of this. A little of that. A website here. Some consulting there. Lots of credit card processing in the middle. He also paints a clear picture that is honest (thank you for that) of how that actually plays out for him, his wife, their children, and their lives.

Of course I am happy to see him espouse their unschooling/homeschooling/hackschooling/travelschooling approach to raising their children, however briefly it is discussed. It falls consistently in line with the moral of the story and I’m grateful it was included.

He also adds a perspective that I rarely if ever see or read about: a harmonious marriage. I would say the word I hear most often attached to marriage is “hard.” It’s refreshing to hear someone else speak about their life partnership as nurturing, fun, and easy.

All said and done, it’s not exactly the life I want, but he acknowledges that and encourages everyone to figure out what their ideal life would look like and do that (and he provides cute little action steps to help you in that process).

My favorite thing he discusses is a concept I speak and write about often which is integration versus compartmentalization. He has balance without separation. I cannot emphasize the importance of this enough to living a fulfilling life and it is a consistent thread throughout the book.

In the end, it’s a book that I think is really good for a conversation we need to be having. It’s absolutely insane that almost everyone still chugs away as a cog in the machine only to get to the end, look back, and realize it wasn’t worth it. So I am grateful Clark wrote the book and provides one more role model for the rest of the us to peek into life outside the machine.

Inside joke for readers: I suddenly have a strong urge to move to Lake Tahoe. 🙂

Do you have any good recommendations for a lifestyle design book?

[This post contains links to products I find useful. These are affiliate links, which means if you make a purchase on Amazon using the links, I receive a small fee and you help to keep this blog running. Thank you for the support!]

5 thoughts on “Book Review: unWorking

  1. I don’t think it’s fair to say that everyone who “chugs away as a cog in the machine” regrets it. It’s a balance of being present for your family and providing for them. Not everyone has the same priorities. I am a cog. I could quit and do something else. But I like the life that the machine provides me. I don’t regret it. And I don’t regret the experiences my daughter has.

  2. Thanks for reading my book, and thanks for the review. I enjoyed reading this review. Not exactly positive, not exactly negative. I had a good laugh with your comment about the Reagan Ranch. Honestly, I never want to hear those words again. Ooops. I just said Reagan Ranch. Ooos. Did it again. Come visit us in Lake Tahoe.

    Also, I love TF and I love 4 Hour Workweek. I agree with you on its limitations though. I think it’s easy to write off TF. “Sure, Tim. You went to Princeton… made a million dollars…. If I went to Princeton and made a million dollars, I think I could figure out how to outsource my work so that I could only work 4 hours a week.”

    People could also say of my Herculean struggles, “Sure, Clark… you were able to build your life by design because you had family you could live with. I don’t have an in-laws garage to live in…”

    You can always find an excuse for why things aren’t how you want them to be. If you “really” want to make a change, though, you stop making excuses and play the hand you’ve been dealt the best that you can. (Sorry, did that sound condescending?).

    I really did appreciate the review. Well put. And happy to have found your blog.

    1. Hello Clark. I’m glad you can appreciate a review that is not all fluff. Thanks for writing it and for letting us in. As I said it IS a very valuable voice added to an important conversation. The more role models and paths of happiness (as opposed to society’s definition of success) we see to walk, the better. Thanks for stopping by!

    2. I really appreciate this review. I read Clark’s book as I now prepare to leave the 9 to 5 grind. I love the patchwork income approach and the focus on choice. I don’t see the mentions to the Reagan Ranch as condescending. I see it as a lighthouse for those who are tied by the gold handcuffs, which is my case. Great salary, better benefits, flexible hours and I am absolutely miserable. It is hard to walk away from those “comforts” though. And I don’t even live a lavish lifestyle… I have no debt. I have been saving for a while… but I still feel insecure and go through the mental anguish even though I hate every minute at my job… thank you so much guys for paving the way

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