“The will to prepare to win is more important than the will to win,” says Robert G. Allen. “Preparing usually means doing those kinds of things that failures don’t like to do. It means studying and learning. It means reading books, going to seminars. It means not being afraid to corner experts and ask foolish questions.”

When I first discovered the world of self-help books, I knew I was preparing to win. For the first time in my life, I was encountering advice and ideas that I knew could make a significant difference.

I was determined to be a model student. However, I quickly discovered that personal growth and new directions are accompanied by a fair amount of backsliding—no matter how committed the student.

When I opened my first business offering personal growth seminars for women, I realized that more than a single workshop was needed. I wasn’t planning to create an on-going series, however.

How could I keep the learning going?

Although I had never considered writing, I got the idea to publish a newsletter. My reasoning was that a newsletter would have some advantages over a book: it would arrive at regular intervals, could contain current resources, and it could combine information with inspiration.

I had absolutely no idea how to produce such a thing, but a long conversation with Brian at my local print shop convinced me that it was possible to turn myself into a small time publisher.

So I began writing The Successful Woman newsletter (which later became Winning Ways). I notified my friends, who kindly sent in orders. I offered it to my seminar participants. I began to get all sorts of publicity.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how much I would enjoy creating those mailings.

Picking a theme, doing research, interviewing people doing interesting things, offering ideas for creative self-employment kept me digging deeper to find useful things to share. The most valuable discoveries are then condensed into a resource that can be read quickly and used for future reference.

Behind the information, the intention was always to encourage and support. It still makes me smile when a subscriber writes to say, “Winning Ways arrived just when I needed it most.”

What many of us fail to realize is that what we need most (in any sort of new undertaking) is reinforcement. Often that involves repetition and revisiting concepts that we’ve heard before.

That’s exactly what a newsletter does best.

As Winning Ways begins its twenty-fifth year of publication, I am as convinced as ever that an old-fashioned, print newsletter is a valuable addition to our Joyfully Jobless toolkit.

Happily, I have many readers who feel the same way. Here’s a tiny sampling from a few of them:

I am reading your newest issue right now. I absolutely must renew every year as I LOVE reading them.  I save every issue in a file after I have read it and have gone back and re-read them. Great stuff! ~ Micheal, Ohio

I get a lot of publications, but Winning Ways is the only one I read cover to cover as soon as it arrives. ~ Jack, Georgia

Your last Winning Ways was topnotch! The Smart Investing article is a gentle reminder for me to put my money where it matters. For years that felt selfish. Now it feels smart!  ~ Maureen, Colorado

Thanks for filling my mailbox with such inspiration. ~ Jen, New York

Thank you for your wise and inspiring words. Please keep sharing your passion for living life to the fullest. ~ Paul, Canada

I subscribe to many newletters which pertain to self employment, self publishing, mail order, marketing and so forth and have been doing so since the early 1970’s.  I rarely renew past five years because of the drop off in quality and rehashed material.

I have renewed Winning Ways for a number of years now because your newsletter, much like your book Making a Living Without a Job, is excellent material which I constantly refer to. ~ Tom, NJ

If you’d like to join these satisfied subscribers, I’d love to have you along. Just click on this link and follow instructions.

And if your order is received before the 4th of July, I’ll give you a 20 % discount at checkout. You’ll pay only $29 for a year of 6 issues plus I’ll send you the current issue as a bonus. (Sign up as a new subscriber at $36, but you’ll only be charged for the discounted rate.)

After all, it might show up in your mailbox just when you need it most.




Jan Dean and I became friends because of our mutual love of books. That love of reading and our joint passion for everything English kept our friendship going for over a decade.

When I did seminars in Dallas, Jan and I always planned time together — time that usually involved at least one bookstore visit.

Like many avid readers, Jan found a way to share her love with others. She is the author of The Gardener’s Reading Guide, which lists hundreds of books on all aspects of gardening.

Her passion for cozy mysteries led her to start a specialized newsletter called Murder Most Cozy, which shared news about this genre. During the time she published that newsletter, Jan led tours to England designed especially for other cozy lovers.

The Cozy Crimes & Cream Teas Tours were created so lovers of cozy mysteries could experience the picturesque English villages where many cozies are set. There were also special events with cozy authors and numerous bookshop stops.

Obviously, Jan found a wonderful niche in the vast world of books.

If you’re a bookworm, perhaps you, too, can find a way to combine your love of books with a nifty profit center. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Read for a living. There are numerous ways to turn reading time into bottom line. For instance, many newspapers use freelancers to read and review new books.

Film producers and some publishers use the services of reader’s advisers to comb through piles of manuscripts and make recommendations about those that seem feasible for production.

Kathy Baxter is a professional librarian who found several outlets for sharing her expertise. For years, Kathy was a popular speaker on the subject of books and kids delivering book talks to librarians, teachers, parents and schoolchildren..

After Kathy submitted an article about her approach to giving booktalks to Library Journal, the industry publication, her visibility as an expert expanded even more. Not only did the magazine like her article enough to publish it, they asked her to do a regular column.

Kathy is the author of a book called Gotcha! Getting Kids Excited About Books. She was also a founder of the Maud Hart Lovelace Society, a national organization that brings together lovers of the Betsy-Tacy books.

Sell books. Next to opening a restaurant, running a dear little bookstore seems to be the most popular business fantasy around. As every booklover knows, independent bookselling has become a most unstable occupation. (Of course, if you have your heart set on it and financial backing, by all means ignore this warning.)

Even in this age of superstores and Amazon, specialty booksellers with a bit of imagination can carve out a place for themselves.

Collette Morgan opened a children’s bookstore called Wild Rumpus in Minneapolis with the intention of making her store “something a corporate mind would never dream up and that a large company could never sustain.” Her bookstore sells children a good time along with books and is thriving despite competition from the chains.

Because the world of books is so huge, the key to success for a small business is to become a specialist.

For many years, Jan Longone operated a successful mail order bookstore devoted to culinary subjects, tracking down books from around the world. Without ever advertising, Jan’s Wine and Food Library, located in Ann Arbor, Michigan, built a devoted clientele, that included the late Julia Child and the M.F.K. Fisher.

“This business suits me perfectly,” she says. “We’re surrounded by good books, good food, travel and we’ve made friends around the world.”

Travel, cooking, scholarly, architectural and mystery specialty shops have flourished in many places; a mail order and/or Internet counterpart could offer specialty opportunities.

Antiquarian and other book specialists also market through book fairs and other book-related events, as well as conventions, special meetings and conferences.

If you market childrearing books, for instance, setting up shop at parenting conferences is a logical way to build your business. And, of course, selling books is a natural add-on profit center for many kinds of businesses.

While booksellers may not become fabulously wealthy, most agree that one of the great bonuses in selling books is that it brings them in contact with others who share their passion — making business the pleasure it should be.


My granddaughter Zoe is zooming through the Harry Potter series. While that’s quite an achievement for a first grader, she’s not trying to set a record. She’s loving the stories and, I suspect, loving that she can read these complicated tales on her own.

While Zoe’s reading skills expand, so does her self-esteem. I’m guessing she’ll also discover that reading good books spoils you in the best possible way: your standards go up and you become more discriminating.

Musician Todd Rundgren said, “You are never any better than the influences you have.” Once you realize that, you become wiser, I think, about whom you listen to—including the authors you read.

What you’re currently reading is, of course, determined by where you are in your journey. As E.M. Forster pointed out, “I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet got ourselves.”

To make the most of the time we spend with books, we need to ask ourselves, “What do I need right now?” Sometimes the answer may be that we need a push or a reminder to challenge our fears and doubts.

At other times, the answer may be that we need information about how to organize a housesitting business and market it.

Many newly self-employed spend all their time gathering information while ignoring the equally important role of inspiration which helps us grow in other ways.

If successful self-employment is a high priority for you, your reading diet needs to strike a balance between books that are informational and those that are inspirational.

Here are some of my favorite titles in both categories. They’re just a sampler, of course, but each of them makes a fine addition to a Joyfully Jobless library.


The War of Art by Steven Pressfield is, quite simply, the best explanation of how resistance keeps us from living the life of our dreams—and what we can do about it.

This Time I Dance by Tama Kieves guides the reader through the process of finding right livelihood while challenging old assumptions about the role of work in our lives.

A Whole New Mind by Daniel H. Pink is subtitled Why Right Brainers Will Rule the Future. A guidebook to your creative self.

The Creative License by Danny Gregory will help you reconnect with your creative spirit.

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers is the classic on tackling the big obstacles to making it on your own.

The Hungry Spirit by Charles Handy looks at the spiritual side of work and shows why it matters.

The Art of Possibility by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander is a book I reread regularly. Brilliant insights on living from a place of possibility.


Growing a Business by Paul Hawken is an old favorite about creating a business that’s an extension of who you are and the things you care about.

Selling the Invisible by Harry Beckwith takes the mystery out of marketing services.

Small is the New Big by Seth Godin is a collection of the author’s blog columns covering a wide range of subjects on how to create a remarkable business.

Rework by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson. Two smart young entrepreneurs share what they’ve learned.

The Difference by Jean Chatzky explores the thinking and behavior that makes for creating prosperity.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell deserves to be in every self-bosser’s library. It’s a clear explanation of how an idea goes from obscurity to visibility.

Many of these titles plus several other favorites are included on the Bookshelf page of my Joyfully Jobless site. You can also order those you’d like to add to your library over there, too. Pay a visit.

How many a man has dated a new era in his life from the reading of a book. ~ Henry David Thoreau


While I don’t have any hard evidence, I suspect that many authors have a box like the one in my office labeled Fan Mail. I truly appreciate my readers who have taken the time to let me know that they liked/learned/appreciated something I wrote.

Some fan letters are so unique that I memorize them. One of my favorites came from a reader in Houston who said, “I went to the bookstore to purchase a book on resume writing, but your book made such a commotion on the shelf that it wouldn’t let me leave without buying it.”

I’ve amused my self from time to time imagining Making a Living Without a Job dancing around in a bookstore singing, “Buy me, buy me.”

And, of course, I’ve had my own experiences being snapped to attention by a book that refused to be ignored.

One such encounter happened several years ago when I was browsing in a small bookstore in Minneapolis that specialized in spirituality and personal growth titles. I went into the store with nothing in particular in mind.

A few minutes later, I spied a book by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer called Creating Money. I picked it up and read the cover notes and scanned the chapter titles. I put it back on the shelf with the reminder that I already owned several metaphysical books on prosperity thinking.

A day or two later, I was in a larger chain bookstore still browsing for a new book to purchase. As I looked over the selection in the personal growth section, I noticed that Borders was also selling Creating Money.

I continued to resist.

A quiet weekend was coming and I still had no book to share it with. I decided to check out the offerings at my neighborhood Barnes & Noble. I don’t recall the section that I was visiting, but as I looked across the shelf in front of me, there sat Creating Money at eye level.

It was misplaced, as if someone had changed their mind and plunked it down as they were leaving the store. I recall thinking, “All right, all right, I’ll buy you.”

Frankly, I wasn’t expecting much from the book. I’d read plenty of others on the subject and was quite happy with the changes I’d made in my relationship with money.

On Saturday afternoon, I sat down and began reading Creating Money. I couldn’t stop. I read it in one long sitting interrupted only by my need to sleep. I resumed reading on Sunday morning and finished the entire book in the early afternoon.

Surprisingly, it was not just a rehash of all the other books I’d read on building a prosperity consciousness. I felt my mind expanding in some new, healthier ways.

What happened next may have been coincidental—or a powerful demonstration about paying attention when good things come our way. At any rate, on Monday morning I had a large, unexpected windfall.

Of course, I was excited. I called a friend to tell her the good news and then promptly ran out and bought a copy of Creating Money and sent it to her.

Almost immediately, another windfall arrived. I gave another copy away and the same thing happened. Opportunities were coming from places I didn’t even know existed.

Maybe this is my new occupation, I mused. Perhaps I could just sit on a street corner handing out copies of the book and keep collecting windfalls.

I stopped myself from testing that idea, but I’ve never ignored another book that catches my attention.

“Wealth is not a matter of intelligence; it’s a matter of inspiration,” said Jim Rohn.

Frequently, that necessary trigger to inspiration is residing in a book that’s trying to get our attention. How do you answer?


Here’s a terrific article for all of you bibliophiles. Will the home library survive the surge of the e-book?






“When I have a house of my own,” said a character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, “I shall be quite miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

While many of us can’t imagine living without books, storing them can be a problem. Even a small collection takes up space.

Whether you’re a young bookowner just starting to build a collection or a seasoned reader with a haphazard library, you can gain even greater pleasure from the books you own if you think of them as your personal library collection and treat them as such.

If you’re ready to turn a pile of books into an orderly and beloved library, here are some guidelines for organizing your collection and building it into something really special.

Take an inventory of the books you currently own. Do you really want to keep that old college biology book? The forgotten bestseller from 1980? Your library will serve your needs best when it’s made up of books you truly love.

Begin by pruning your collection. Check with family members and friends to see if anyone wants to adopt your outcasts.  Box up unwanted titles and sell them to a used bookdealer or donate them to a literacy project.

Organize the books you want to keep. What categories do you find?  Group books together by subject and alphabetize them by author within each section. Subdivide larger sections.

If, for instance, you love fiction, organize your novels into American, English and World Fiction divisions for greater ease in locating.  As your library grows, new acquisitions fit naturally and neatly into existing departments.

While family members may have their personal books housed in their bedrooms, ask them to share favorites with everyone. The bookshelves in your home should reflect the reading tastes of the people who live there, not just the adult readers.

My daughter has introduced me to wonderful books throughout her life that I would have missed without her recommendation. Sharing a passion for reading should not be just an adult-to-child activity.  Sample books that your kids love, too.

Keep book notes. When a friend suggests a book or you read a review or see an author interviewed on television, jot down the title and any other special information about the book  you want to remember.

Your trips to the bookstore will be more fruitful if you have particular titles in mind to investigate.  These lists also come in handy at gift-giving time when a friend or family member asks for suggestions for the perfect gift.

Track down alternative sources of books. Many bookstores rely heavily on new titles, but don’t stock books that were on the scene a year or so ago.

Library sales, secondhand bookstores, out-of-print search firms and garage sales are all places where you might uncover a treasure. It takes time to browse through a pile of used books, but there’s great delight to be had when you discover a title you’ve been hunting.

Many booklovers build visits to great bookstores into their travels, too. If you’re traveling to another part of the country or abroad, investigate the local book scene.

Build a special collection. Your friends and family can share in the hunt for new additions.

Of course, a specialized collection acquired over the years can become valuable and be sold or donated to a favorite college or library—or passed on as an heirloom.

Don’t forget the classics. Those wonderful stories that have thrilled readers for generations deserve a spot in your library, too.

Writer Jim Rohn says, “Some people read so little that they have rickets of the mind. Don’t just feed your mind the easy stuff. You can’t live on mental candy.”

Meeting Silas Marner as an adult isn’t at all like meeting him in junior high school.  “When you reread a classic,” says Clifton Fadiman, “you do not see more in the book than you did before; you see more in you than was there before.”

Design a personal reading project. Whether it’s a favorite author or a theme or a new subject that interests you, give yourself the gift of a personally created reading project, one that spans several months or, even, years. It will enrich both you and your library.

Building your own library can offer a lifetime of joy and satisfaction that can’t be found any other way. And, best of all, you  can spend everyday surrounded by the books that you love and cherish most.


Psychologist Eda LaShan says that middle-age occurs when you realize that you won’t live long enough to read all the books you want to read. According to LeShan’s definition, some of us were born middle-aged.

Finding the time to read isn’t just a problem of our busy, modern world, however. Back in the 14th Century, Italian poet Francesco Petrarca faced the same dilemma and solved his conflict this way: “Whether I am being shaved, or having my hair cut, whether I am riding on horseback or taking my meals, I either read myself or get someone to read to me.”

Doubling up on activities is, of course, one way of squeezing in more reading time. Here are some other ideas from voracious readers.

Carry a Good Book

Having a book with you at all times is a good idea. Paperbacks have made it easy to tuck a current favorite into your purse or briefcase and use unexpected free moments to read a chapter or two. Electronic book readers are increasingly popular portable reading devices.

Some readers finish a number of books every year in those odd moments waiting for the dentist or a lunch companion. Accessibility is the key.

Eliminate Something Else

What habitual time-users fill your days? Cutting out just one television program or adjusting your schedule ever so slightly could open up reading time.

Take a look and you might surprise yourself.

Listen to Audio Books

Authors and actors narrate both fiction and nonfiction titles. These are great for listening during drive time, while doing housework or walking with your iPod.

Audible.com is a popular source with over 85,000 titles available for download.

Travel by Public Transportation

My idea of paradise is a long train trip with a stack of books. If it’s possible to take a bus or subway, rather than drive yourself, you can get lots of reading done.

Wear Headphones

Just don’t turn them on. If your reading time takes place in a noisy restaurant or airplane, don a headset. It will block some outside noises and deter others from chatting with you—if you’d rather read.

Don’t Finish Books That You Don’t Enjoy

Sounds obvious to me, but many folks think there’s something wrong with stopping midway through a book. Nonsense. Get on to another that brings more pleasure.

And be discriminating. I’m amazed at the number of people I see on airplanes reading books that were hastily purchased at an airport shop. I always travel with a book that I’ve started and know will be a delightful companion on my flights.

Learn To Skim

Time expert Alan Lakein suggests, “When you pick up a book, start by reading the headlines on the book jacket. Then glance through the book quickly, looking for something of interest to you….Your job in reading a book is to find the key ideas and understand their application to your situation. The preface and table of contents, as well as summaries that are sometimes found at the beginning and end of a book, will help you do this quickly.”

Skimming isn’t a substitute for reading an entire book, of course, but it’s a way to reinforce the most valuable ideas that you want to remember.

Have A Daily Reading Time

Tune into your own speical body clock and discover the times when you feel less energetic, less creative. Take advantage of these times to schedule your reading.

Even reading for 15 minutes every day will yield big results over time. The critical thing is to make it a part of every day, like brushing your teeth.

It’s still true that the person who can read and doesn’t has no advantage over the person who can’t read.

Philosopher Jim Rohn points out that by reading two books every week, you’ll have acquired the knowledge of over one thousand books in the next ten years.

“Do you think,” he asks, ”that acquiring the knowledge inside a thousand books will influence the many dimensions of your life?  Missing skills, missing knowledge, missing insight, missing values, missing lifestyle are all a result of not reading books.  Remember, the book unread is the one that can’t help you. You can’t read too many books, but you can read too few.”


During a time when I was wondering if I’d ever figure out what to do with my life, it was a book that lit the way. One evening years ago, I read a short newspaper article about two women who had started their own business using their natural talents and imagination to create a successful enterprise.

The next day, I went to the bookstore and found their only copy of Supergirls: The Autobiography of an Outrageous Business by Claudia Jessup and Genie Chipps. Their story became my handbook.

Although I ultimately started a very different business from the one they’d created, I gleaned so many lessons from their story.

They started on a shoestring. So did I.

They got lots of free publicity. Me too.

They evolved into a very different business over time. That’s what happened to me.

I still wonder if I would have found my entrepreneurial spirit without that book to point me in the right direction.

What I know for sure is that books have made a continuous contribution to my growth and development as a person and as an entrepreneur.

Of course, I am not alone in discovering the impact of reading on the Joyfully Jobless life.

Tim Sanders is a consultant and former Chief Solutions Officer at Yahoo’s in-house think tank. In his book Love is the Killer App, he speaks passionately about the importance of books. Here’s what he has to say:

Here’s another 80/20 rule: Spend 80 percent of your time on books and 20 percent on articles and newspapers. And by books, I don’t mean just any book. I mean hardcovers. A paperback is made to be read. A hardcover is made to be studied. There’s a huge difference.

True, hardcovers are more expensive. But I’m talking about your career. If you can afford to party, or to buy new techno-gadgets, or to eat in fancy restaurants, you can afford a few hardcover books. The books you read today will fuel your earning power tomorrow.

Simply put, hardcover books are the bomb. They are fun to hold. They become personal the first time you mark them up, the first time you bend back the binding. There’s something exciting about writing down the ideas that interest you. Soon your book becomes more than just pages between covers. It becomes your ticket to success.

The ability to transfer knowledge is a huge advantage for anyone struggling to succeed in the new economy. It’s an easy skill to learn, it’s simple to facilitate, and there are more good books than you will ever be able to use, which means that the resources are unlimited. In fact, it’s so easy that there’s no reason why you shouldn’t start now.

Buy a book. Carry it with you. Its power is so great that you will feel as though you were carrying plutonium in a briefcase.

Jim Rohn was a popular speaker who frequently encouraged his audiences to take up reading if they want to succeed. “Miss a meal, if you must,” Rohn said, “but don’t miss a book.”

Rohn’s fans are also familiar with Mr. Shoaff, the man who mentored Rohn and taught him the valuable lessons that became the basis of Rohn’s philosophy. Mr. Shoaff instilled in the young Rohn a love of reading and eloquently inspired him to spend time with books.

I’m not sure I’ve ever heard it put any better than this: “Mr. Shoaff  taught me that life puts some of the more valuable things on the high shelf so that you can’t get to them until you qualify.

“If you want the things on the high shelf, you must stand on the books you read. With every book you read, you get to stand a little higher.”


Organizing guru Peter Walsh says, “You can’t have more books than you have bookshelves.” I totally agree with him—in theory. Let’s just say I won’t be inviting him over for tea anytime soon.

Every room in my house except the bathrooms have bookshelves and, still, there are piles of books on the floor of my office, living room and bedroom. I’ve made a serious attempt to weed my collection, but find that most of the books I’m willing to pass along are unsolicited review copies or something I ordered without doing proper research.  The rest refuse to budge.

I look at the English literature textbooks I taught from decades ago and would no more throw them away than I would my daughter’s baby pictures.  Libraries built over time tell stories of their own about where we’ve been and who we were. If we’re doing it right, our libraries also speak about the person we are becoming.

As if to reassure me that holding on to old favorites is a good thing, I recently took two books off the shelf that I hadn’t opened in ages. One of those was Jerry Gilles’ Moneylove .

As I browsed through the pages, I had a strong urge to reread the book that had opened my mind to a more prosperous way of thinking and behaving.  That book has been in my library for about thirty years and has accompanied me on several moves around the country.

Clifton Fadiman, booklover extraordinare, once said, “When you reread a classic and find more in it, it’s not because there’s more in the book. It’s because there’s more in you.”

As I reacquainted myself with Moneylove, I realized that it wasn’t Gilles’ words and ideas that had changed, but I certainly wasn’t the same person I had been when I first encountered the book.

The other old friend that I spent time with was a woman named Faith Addis. I’m not sure if I got her books here or on a visit to London.  At any rate, I do recall that my Aunt Marge had heard about Addis’ book Year of the Cornflake and was so amused by the title that she urged me to track it down.

As I was heading out on a trip, I scanned my bookshelves looking for something to read on my flights. I had wanted to take a novel, but none of my fiction collection seemed right.

Then I spied the Addis books on my business shelf and rather reluctantly grabbed Taking the Biscuit, the final installment of her Down to Earth series.

It turned out to be a perfect choice. I was struck on this reading by something that I hadn’t recognized before: although I’ve read numerous business biographies, I can’t recall any that made me laugh like Addis does.

The series begins after Faith and Brian Addis,  who were bored to tears running a florist shop in London, decided to sell their house and move to the Devon countryside where they embarked on a number of entrepreneurial ventures.

At the time of Taking the Biscuit, Faith had built a booming business as a mobile dog groomer. That might not sound like much of an adventure, but in the hands of this skillful storyteller (and observer of human behavior), it’s fascinating.

This book also includes tales of their start-up project turning several glasshouses into a nursery. Faith also has visions of becoming a worm tycoon.

As I shared these adventures, I kept thinking that more people would jump on the entrepreneurial bandwagon if they only knew how much fun people like the Addis couple were having.

Although I had contemplated pruning these books, I decided they were keepers.

So I’m going to continue my attempts to reduce my book collection ever so slightly,  but it could take years as I rediscover old friends I’d forgotten and decide to spend time with them again.

To justify doing so, I’ll stop listening to Peter Walsh and instead remember Anna Quindlen’s  observation: “I would be most happy if my children grew up to be the kind of people whose idea of decorating is to add more bookshelves.”


Shortly before I began teaching high school English, the International Paper Company began an advertising campaign with the theme Send Me a Man Who Reads.(Yes, it was back in more sexist times.)

Those ads became regulars on the bulletin boards in my classroom. The gist of the campaign, which ran for several years, was that readers made better employees.

Of course, readers make better entrepreneurs as well. That’s no big surprise to those of us who wandered into entrepreneurship thanks to our devotion to lifelong learning.

Nevertheless, there are plenty of struggling businessowners who don’t seem to realize that books are their friends—and business mentors. Equally shocking is the fact that many small business bloggers and book authors do not acknowledge the writing of others.

I once knew a frustrated entrepreneur who dismissed reading as a frivolous waste of time. Evenings on the road were more apt to be spent in the hotel bar than curled up with a book that could have inspired or informed him.

Instead he labored to figure everything out himself. He was making his journey far more difficult than it needed to be.

As Mark Twain once pointed out, “The person who can read and doesn’t has no advantage over the person who can’t read.”

Why does regular reading matter so much to building a business? Here are some of the gifts.

Catch the spirit “Stuff yourself full of stories,” advises Ray Bradbury. “I’ve never had a dry spell in my life because I feed myself well.”

He was talking to writers, of course, but the same thing holds true for entrepreneurs. Many inspiring stories have been written by and about those who have gone from employee to entrepreneur.

Such stories not only inspire for telling the tale of overcoming challenges; they also are vivid records of entrepreneurial thinking in action.

By the way, fictional entrepreneurs can also help readers build an entrepreneurial mindset.

Keep curiosity alive “What I already know is enough,” is not the mantra of the successful. Passion begets passion, of course, but keeping passion alive is closely tied to staying curious.

Whether it’s human behavior or building an online presence that catches your fancy, books can keep you stretching.

Acquire wisdom Nobody has to tell you that we are living in changing times. Those who ignore the changes, operate at a huge disadvantage. It may be more serious, however, than just being handicapped.

As Jim Trelease points out, “People who have stopped reading base their future decisions on what they used to know. If you don’t read much, you really don’t know much. You’re dangerous.”

By all means, don’t confine your reading to quick Internet searches.

Leisurely reading, thoughtful reading, challenging reading can connect you with innovative thinkers and eloquent storytellers. For a few dollars, they can move into your World Headquarters and help you build a better business—providing you spend time with them and put their good ideas to work.

As Jim Rohn so aptly reminded us, “The only thing worse than not reading a book in the last ninety days is not reading a book in the last ninety days and thinking it doesn’t matter.”


Tomorrow I head out for the Un-Job Fair in Denver. Usually the day before such a trip is spent getting ready to travel.

My wardrobe has been chosen, the notes for my opening speech, Why Aren’t We All Self-employed?, and my afternoon workshop, Building a Winning Portfolio, are packed. My boarding pass is printed.

That was the easy part.

Since this trip involves nearly ten hours in airports and on planes, a great deal of thought went into picking the perfect travel companion.

For me, having a nicer flight begins with bringing along a book I’ve been dying to read. After all, I seldom have ten hours of nearly uninterrupted time to hang out with a great story so I do not take the selection of my travel reading lightly.

I also do not leave this decision to chance hoping to grab something acceptable at the airport shop—unless I’m in the mood to cuddle up with Vanity Fair. Like many trips, this one includes a novel that I’ve recently rediscovered.

An early mentor of mine used to remind me that the biggest influences in our lives are the people we meet and the books that we read. I’ve kept that in mind ever since I first heard it. I am not about to spend my time with the mental equivalent of airport food.

Bringing along the right book not only enhances my flying time, it also helps ensure that I’ll arrive at my destination in a happier state of mind.

This month we’ll be exploring the connection between reading and the Joyfully Jobless life. I’ll be sharing some of my favorite reads and reminding you that it’s important to read for inspiration as well as information.

If you’re already an enthusiastic reader, your To Read List may grow longer.

If reading isn’t part of your business plan, I’ll do my best to convince you that your life and your enterprises will be richer if you take it up. It’s not just an airplane journey that gets better with the right book companion.

As the oh-so-entrepreneurial Walt Disney once said, “There is more treasure in books than in all the pirates’ loot on Treasure Island…and best of all, you can enjoy these riches every day of your life.”