On July 15, 1993, I woke up feeling excited and apprehensive. The cause of this emotional turmoil had been years in the making. It was publication day for Making a Living Without a Job.

I had spent much of the previous year writing and rewriting and writing some more. But the story truly began decades earlier when I set out on my own rather lonely journey in self-employment.

My experience was very much like Paul Hawken’s who said, “When I started the natural food business in Boston, my business knowledge was scant. I did the best I could and began reading everything I could lay my hands on.

“I subscribed to The Wall Street Journal. It confused me. I read the major business magazines. Their Fortune 500 world seemed irrelevant.

“I sneaked into classes at the Harvard Business School. Their case studies were lunar in their usefulness to my enterprise.

“The more I searched, the more confused I became. The more exposure I gained to the official world of business, the more I began to doubt that I was in business at all. “I seemed to be doing something entirely different.

“I get that same feeling today when I read most of the standard business literature believe that most people in new businesses, and some in not-so-new businesses, have the same problem.

“They don’t feel connected to the conventional wisdom…as if a small business is just a flake chipped off the larger corporate world.”

Like Hawken, I figured it out for myself and created the kind of enterprise that felt like a perfect fit. After years of happily working on my own, something quite unexpected happened.

When I was a newcomer in Minneapolis, I kept meeting people who seemed both fascinated and envious of my Joyfully Jobless life. One day it dawned on me that I might be able to help them if I shared my experiences.

Fortunately, the local independent adult ed program, Open U, agreed to run my class which I thought was a temporary project, too radical to be popular.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. I had found my genuine right livelihood.

Making a Living Without a Job not only became a regular offering of Open U, it attracted curious learners from around the US and, eventually, Canada and Britain.

Almost from the start, people inquired if I’d written a book. I knew that eventually there would be one, but was not interested in writing it until I had evidence from the field (i.e. seminar attendees) that my ideas worked for others.

When it felt like the time had arrived to work on a book, I decided that it should happen in an unorthodox way. Instead of approaching publishers, I got the crazy idea that I wanted a publisher to find me.

To my delight and amazement, that’s exactly what happened when not one, but three, publishers contacted me. After sorting through the offers, I decided Bantam’s was the best fit for me.

So here I am twenty-one years later with an anniversary to celebrate. Making a Living Without a Job has been in print the entire time, with an updated version appearing in 2009.

No one is more surprised by that than me.

As I now point out to seminar participants, we aren’t always the wisest judge of what our best ideas might be. We’ve got to take them to the marketplace and see what happens.

Or as the writer Anais Nin once advised, “Throw your dreams into space like a kite and you do not know what it will bring back. A new life, a new friend, a new love.”

9 Responses to “A Short Story About a Long Success”

  1. Kathy Magrino

    Congratulations, Barbara, and thank you for all the inspiration over the past two decades!!! I first read your book in 1994 and I’ve been “following” you — and cheering for you — ever since!

  2. Jan

    A well-deserved congratulations to you Barbara!

    I have treasured the original version of your book for 20 years. It has travelled many miles with me. It is dog-eared, underlined and written in. I have the newer version, but it is the original I treasure most. You got me thinking in a different way. I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. And for that, I am truly grateful!

  3. Tim Grover

    Congrats Barbara! You’ll be happy to know I lent my 2nd copy (not the one you autographed for me!) to one of my son’s friends. Thank you for the inspiration you share with us all!

  4. Margaret Nowling

    I am so glad things have turned out the way they have for you, Barbara. Without MALWOAJ it never would have occurred to me that I could do other than work for somebody else. Thank you for your seminars. Thank you for your wisdom. Keep at it!

  5. Renee

    Congratulations on your 21st anniversary as an entrepreneur!

  6. Barbara Winter

    Thank you all for your kind comments. I seem to have confused several people, however. I’ve been an entrepreneur for longer than 21 years. That’s simply the age of the book version of Making a Living Without a Job.

  7. Bethany Freebury

    I Just Finished Reading Your Original Copy Of “Making A Living Without A Job”. I Am 23 Years Old And Have Been Inspired And Encouraged Whilst Reading. Thank You.

  8. Barbara Winter

    Oh, Bethany, you were a toddler when I wrote that! The updated version includes crazy things like the internet and current resource list.

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