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In This Issue

As you read this issue, think about these insightful words from Twyla Tharp:

Every act of creation is also an act of destruction or abandonment. Something has to be cast aside to make way for the new.

Fountain in Rome Several months ago my sister Margaret and I were talking and she asked me a question I've heard before. "So what do you tell someone who has a bad idea?" I responded truthfully by saying that in all my years of talking to people about their entrepreneurial ideas I'd only heard one bad one. "What I've discovered is that people have great ideas. What they lack is the confidence to act on them. Sadly, most of us have never been shown how to bring ideas to life."

Because ideas are intangible, it's easy to treat them as invisible. The moment we dismiss an idea, or think it silly or stupid or impractical, it's headed straight for the Idea Landfill. So how can you tell a good idea from a bad one? Here are some signs.

A good idea is a persistent nag. When Gail Overstreet registered for Follow Through Camp, she said she was coming because of an idea that wouldn't let go of her. The owner of a new startup confessed that he'd been carrying his idea around for 10 years. Like a noisy toddler, good ideas refuse to be ignored.

A good idea makes life better. Whether it solves a problem, makes us laugh, makes a task easier or adds beauty to our surroundings, good and great ideas are all about improving the quality of life, both for the person who conceives the idea and those who are the recipients.

A good idea travels well. Some ideas, of course, are location specific, but a great idea can be put to work in Istanbul or Iowa.

A good idea needs a champion. Ideas may come through us, but they need us to make them real. That means we must be willing to nurture, protect, defend, expand and share our ideas with others.

A good idea is magnetic. Once we begin to take action, resources, support and additional ideas seem to show up as if by magic. This only happens once we start moving ahead, no matter how small the steps.

A good idea is only the starting point. There's an evolutionary aspect to ideas so when a new idea arrives, it's quite embryonic. It's up to us to start building momentum.

That's exactly what's going to happen in a few weeks at Follow Through Camp. For two action-packed days, everyone will be focusing on taking an idea to the next level, expanding it and making it shine. There's still time to join us for this Idea Hothouse, but you need to do it now since there are only three spaces available.

Follow Through Camp

After the sudden deaths of his parents in 1999, University of Oklahoma employee Jim Miller was devastated. To help ease his grief, he began working at a local retirement community and writing a question-and-answer column for seniors in his hometown of Norman.

At first he did it for fun and to help the retirement community get a little free publicity, but the deeper he delved, the more he realized that easy to understand information pertaining to senior issues was hard to come by. Miller was convinced that there was a market for his Savvy Senior column. When finding a syndicate to distribute his column failed, he decided to self-syndicate, contacting small newspapers throughout the country. Thousands of letters and follow-up telephone calls brought in hundreds of buyers at $3 to $5 each.

Miller is quick to point out that his column is informational, not an advice column and his flooded e-mailbox demonstrates that he was right in thinking his readers would like getting their information from a friendly source as opposed to a faceless entity. Miller's idea has continued to grow. Not only is his column appearing in more and more newspapers every week, his Web site is loaded with more great information. His first book, also called The Savvy Senior, was published by Hyperion and he now makes regular appearances on The Today Show sharing new products designed for the senior market and offering tips.

So what did Jim Miller do right? And how can we follow his example? There are several obvious and a few not-so-obvious aspects to his success story.

He identified a problem-saw something was missing-and set about solving it. Many great ideas come about in just this way. Most people who find something missing simply sigh and say, "Why doesn't somebody do something about this?" The entrepreneur recognizes a void as something that needs to be filled.

* Began with intellectual capital, not big financing. Miller created his business by generating cash flow with a minimal financial investment.

He was willing to do the groundwork. Locating and contacting thousands of small papers was a grueling, time-consuming task, but Miller embraced the chore because he was convinced that his idea was a good one.

He was not intimidated by his youth, his lack of credentials or existing organizations that served his market. In other words, he focused on his vision, not his obstacles.

* He kept building his expertise. Research is a big part of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. Miller didn't start out being an expert on the fine points of Social Security or Medicare, but he has proved that he's a willing learner and thorough researcher.

* Added his personal touch. Miller answers all e-mail questions himself and gets his column ideas from the mail that comes in. His audience is an on-going source of ideas.

* He took advantage of opportunities to grow. Collecting his columns into a book was a natural progression; getting a gig on a popular morning television show required a willingness to stretch.

So what did Jim Miller do right? Just about everything, it appears. We can all learn alot by applying this same process of analysis to successful enterprises and see what winners have to teach us.

Savvy Senior

April has been Fellow Travelers month at Buon Viaggio blog. Stop by and meet some of the creative folks who inhabit Joyfully Jobless Land.

Buon Viaggio

Buona fortuna,


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