On the back cover of Tools of Titans, there’s a list of some of the folks Tim Ferris includes. All of them seem to have qualified because of big numbers. 
   
Reading that list brought to mind something that still puzzles me.
   
For some time now, I’ve wondered if I’m the only one who winces at the frequent admonition to Go Big or Go Home. That sounds more threatening than inspiring to me. Why, I muse, would folks smart enough to abandon a huge soulless working environment want to replicate that? 
   
And why, oh why, is millionaire status still flaunted as the pinnacle of success? Or home ownership the epito-me of the American Dream? 
   
It all seems so, well, Twentieth Century. 
   
That hasn’t slowed down the current crop of  snake oil salesmen and women who imply that if we aren’t earning six figures, we’re losers. Of course, they’ll eagerly enroll you in a program that will move you from lump of coal to diamond so you can join the Cool Kids Club and flaunt your six-figure income. (Or maybe just help snake oil sellers increase their wealth.) 
   
Fortunately, not everyone has bought into this in-sanity. I came across a blog post, by an anonymous author, that began, “Every time I go to a seminar on business and marketing they talk about growing my business BIGGER. The truth is, I don’t want my business bigger. I don’t want to scale it or leverage it or expand it. I want to deepen it.”
   
When I read this post, which goes on to describe the author’s personal vision for her business and life, it sounded familiarly like my own.
   
The real issue, it seems to me, is not whether goals of bigness are right or wrong. The more important consideration is this: are you measuring success using some-one else’s yardstick?
   
It’s incredibly easy to do. Systems of measurement have been imposed on us since we came home with our first report card.

Growing up, there may have been no discussions about finding our own vision of what success included. A predictable life was the most we could aspire to achieve.
   
Here’s the thing. If we don’t decide for ourselves what defines success, we can’t possibly know if what we accomplished meets that definition. 
   
Deciding what we don’t want is just as important as deciding what we want to embrace. Happily, this an be an on-going process as our vision or priorities change.
   
Author Tama Kieves wrote, “Infinite patience brings immediate results, says A Course in Miracles. Today, I practice patience. I practice knowing that when some-thing moves slowly, it is deep, lasting and developing generously. I don’t want a knock off. I want a masterpiece.”
   
“Developing generously” sounds like a worthy pursuit to me. I do not have the same reaction when some-one demands, “monetize it.”
   
This isn’t just a matter of semantics, however. If we have followed a path that was suggested by others, one that kept us from hearing our own voice, and we’re afraid to question that, we never figure out what genuine success looks and feels like to us. Money may not be the most important way to measure things.
   
But if we’re bold enough to keep going, following our own hunches, noticing opportunities and acting on them, being brave enough to fail, we soon discover that every day becomes a treasure hunt of its own filled with new ideas, new possibilities. 
   
Of course, we’ll still see bigness flaunted as the pinnacle of achievement. I’d prefer joy and peace as guidelines. Roots and wings. Gratitude and generosity. Curiosity and discovery.  Adventure. Intangibles have a higher priority with me.
  
What about you? How do you measure success? Your list will be different than mine, of course. 
  
Make sure it’s filled with things that truly matter to you. It’s your yardstick, after all.

When I drive the 40 miles or so to Ventura, much of the trip takes me through an agricultural area. There are vineyards and fields bursting with a variety of fruits and vegetables.

The road is also lined with produce stands run by farm families. It’s a lovely contrast to the big city environment of Los Angels.

One October trip was especially memorable. In the springtime, this drive reminds me of Ireland because the craggy hills are so lush and green. Right now they’re festooned in shades of beige and brown, but it’s still a pleasant drive.

The road goes through an […] Continue Reading…

During the days when I taught high school English, I would never have assigned a book that I hadn’t read myself.  That carried over into my self-employment journey where I vowed to only recommend things I’d found worthwhile

That showed up in other ways as well. I decided to treat my business as a laboratory where I would experiment, test ideas, pay close attention to what worked—and what didn’t. I vowed to never teach what I hadn’t learned myself.

What I didn’t know back at the beginning was that the learning would never end. My curiosity never went on vacation.

There have […] Continue Reading…

Trendspotters agree that the market for unique and customized items is having a resurgence as more and more of us are learning to cherish the work of human hands.
Not all artisans are taking advantage of the opportunities, however.
Several years ago, I met a man who was a masterful carpenter who loved restoring old houses, flawlessly repairing woodwork and cabinetry.  At that time, he had abandoned his craft believing that no market existed for his services.
He had bought the myth of the starving artist and was living proof.
Happily, that myth is becoming outmoded as artisans are carving out […] Continue Reading…

Every business has times that are less busy than others. You can use this time to fret and worry that your entrepreneurial life has come to an end—or you can view it as a gift of time to do some of those things you’ve been telling yourself you’ll do when you have time.

It just makes sense, it seems to me, to spend this time wisely and well.

Here are a few possibilities.

° Review and revise your support system. Is it time to hire a virtual assistant? Find a new tax accountant? Get expert advice?

Unless you’re will to settle for the […] Continue Reading…

 
Blessed are the curious for they
shall have adventures.
Lovell Drachman
Small, Sassy & Successful
Time Out to Build a Better, not Just Bigger, Business
Got an idea but you don’t know where to take it?
Think your business is ready to move to the next step?
Are you sitting on the next big thing?
Have an idea that’s suffering from neglect?
If you said “yes” to any of those questions, it’s time to roundup your good idea, take them to a roomful of creative thinkers, and see where they want to go next.
Barbara Winter here. I’ve been fretting lately about a frustration I’ve seen in folks on […] Continue Reading…

Coco Chanel, who said a lot of smart things, once observed, “There are people who have money and people who are rich.” It’s not hard to figure out which is which.

The people whom I think of as rich are those who have a practical prosperity consciousness. My sister Margaret is such a person. I have long admired her ability to use whatever resources she has to the max.

When we were in a pottery shop in Sienna, Italy, Margaret was captivated by a beautiful plate. We left the shop to contemplate making such a hefty purchase and as she considered […] Continue Reading…

During my brief stint as an employment counselor, I spent all day every day talking to people about jobs. It wasn’t usually a cheerful conversation.

Not only did most of these folks arrive at the Employment Service in a state of frustration, they seldom had any idea about what kind of job they wanted. “I’ll take anything,” is the career plan of the desperate.

Like so many of us, these folks considered work a necessary evil. In this perspective, a job was the price you paid to get the money you needed to buy the stuff you wanted. And it lasted […] Continue Reading…

When I was digging around in my office this morning, I came across an old scrapbook that I hadn’t viewed in years. It was filled with memories of places I’d been and people I’d spent time with about twenty years ago.

One of my favorite discoveries was a letter I’d written to the editor of Minnesota Monthly magazine. I’ll let it speak for itself. I wrote:

As a one-person business and self-employment advocate, I was delighted to see the cover story on “Making It Small” in your July issue. Like the people spotlighted in your article, I am ferociously devoted to […] Continue Reading…

In Living Out Loud,  Keri Smith’s a fun book of creative exercises, she writes, “In recent years lifestyle stores have become the rage selling products related to all aspects of living, eating, decorating, bathing, sleeping and dressing.

“If you were to open your own lifestyle store, what would you sell?”

Here’s how I answered that question.

The first thing you notice when you walk up the stone path to the sprawling English cottage that houses Cottage Industry is that the front yard is a luscious garden where flowers and vegetables grow side by side.

Pass under the rose-covered archway and you’ll enter a […] Continue Reading…