Rise of the Cubicle Farmer

By AJ Leon, the CEO and Creative Director of The LaC Project. He is a writer, blogger, and speaker.

Three years ago today, I was sitting in a corner office of a 40 story building in Midtown Manhattan. I was over looking Fifth Avenue.  Making a ridiculous six figure wage.  My year end bonus was more than some people’s salary.  I was at the top.  I played the game to win.  And I hated myself for it.

Like many people I worked in a cubicle farm culture.  A work environment that does not value humanity.  That does not trust its workers.  That views everything and everyone as expendable.  As replaceable.  I’ve come to learn that not every corporate environment is like this.  But many are.  And if you work in one, you know it.And even though I had risen to the top fairly quickly.  I knew that I was simply the 21st century equivalent of a feudal lord, selling myself to the king for a big paycheck.  I hated who I was.  I hated where I was.Every Wednesday, there was a common scene.  I walk in the elevator, and somebody blurts out “it’s Wednesday, only two more days!”.  Every. Single. Wednesday.  We were all just cubicle farmers.  And we were all just living for the weekend.Then one day.  Three years ago.  I realized that I had come to that place.  The place that all cubicle farmers come to know.  Where you either accept that this is indeed your life and hunker down until retirement.  Or you walk.I freaked out.  Started having panic attacks.  I knew that if I didn’t leave at that moment, I would forever be haunted by the glory of a life that could have been.My heart was racing.  I walked into my boss’s office.  Recited some soliloquy about the lifeless culture we had all acquiesced to.  And I walked out.  Took the elevator 40 floors down.  And on a crisp, blue sky New York City day, I raised my arms in triumph, fists clenched in the air, in the middle of a busy Fifth Avenue intersection … I was free.

Fast forward three years …

I now run my own creative new marketing shopin the East Village.  We have no Headquarters.  We have a completely distributed workforce.  We use some awesome web applications to run a unique and fun and robust business with virtually no overhead.  We are nomadic and operate our business from anywhere.  We’ve worked on client projects in three continents.  We’ve workshifted in over 30 countries.  And we have had the opportunity to work on several social justice educational projects in Sudan, Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania.To this day, I get emails and take meetings every week from people that feel exactly the way I did.  Who just want to hear my story.  To feel inspired.  To know that evacuation is possible.It’s my third anniversary since rising up from the cubicle farm culture.  And I still remember the empty feeling I had.  The feeling of hopelessness.  The feeling that I was living some other dudes’ life.  No one should ever have that feeling.So, today I’m launching a new project Rise of The Cubicle Farmer

I’m taking the LaC circuson a 45 day Road Trip, traveling all over the United States and Canada.We’re meeting with hundreds of people in dozens of cities, talking with entrepreneurs in coffee shops, small business people in co-working spaces, founders of business web applications, authors and academics to hear how they are using technology to create innovative businesses and empowering work environments.  To find out how they how they leveraged technology to run their projects and live their lives on their own terms.We’re going to blog our entire journey,  record and upload all our interviews in near real time, and capture as many stories of triumph as possible.I’m doing this because I know right now there is someone sitting at their desk, mining the Blogosphere to find some story of some person who rose up.  Because that’s what I used to do.  Hoping beyond all hope, that it will be them soon.  Hoping that their entire life won’t be spent living for the weekend.  Hoping that someday, somehow they won’t feel like they are living someone else’s life.

If that sounds like you. Please know that this project is dedicated to you.  To provide you with more than just a little inspiration. I want to show you how other people just like you are doing it, have done it.  Whether as entrepreneurs or as employees of companies that actually empower the new breed of worker.

And most importantly, I want to show you that you can do it too.

I hope you’ll join me on this journey.

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