In 2009, I traveled about half as much as I had in previous years. Part of that was due to the fact that a number of adult ed programs where I’d taught had disappeared. Part of it was my desire to be a homebody for a while.

Nevertheless, that didn’t mean I hibernated. I kept showing up in new ways and in new places. I became a regular contributor to Vibrant Nation and regularly sent things to EzineArticles. I launched Follow Through Camp. I got serious about this blog. Most significantly, I became a raving fan of Twitter where I found kindred spirits and fabulous resources. Even as I stayed home, my world expanded. 

I also was repeatedly alarmed by all the followers on Twitter and friends on Facebook who never bothered to show up after setting up their account. The majority of them never posted a word. I kept wondering what they were waiting for. 

Woody Allen’s observation about just showing up is one of the most repeated quotes on success. And, yet, there are more people NOT showing up than there are those jumping in, meeting people, trading ideas, getting inspired.

Sometimes showing up is an act of integrity. Several years ago when Karyn Ruth White was launching her speaking business, she booked a class at Discover U in Seattle. Shortly before she was to fly there from Denver, she got a call from the program director saying that only six people had signed up so Karyn was free to cancel, if she wanted.

Although this meant she’d be losing money, Karyn’s response was, “If there are six people who want to know about using humor as a stress management tool, I’ll be there.”

As it happened, one of those six students loved Karyn’s class so much that she went back to her employer, Microsoft, and convinced them to book the seminar in-house. Of course, Karyn had no way of knowing that this was going to happen, but it was a powerful reminder of the importance of showing up when you said you would.

Another argument I hear about not showing up comes from folks just getting started who think they haven’t got much to contribute. Or perhaps they’re busy comparing themselves to more accomplished folks (who’ve been at it longer). 

So when should you show up? After you’re a huge success? Sorry. It doesn’t work that way.

Here’s what the late Jim Rohn thought about that attitude: “A guy says, ‘Oh, if I had a big organization, then I’d really pour it on. But I just have a few and I don’t know where they’re at.’ If you just have a few distributors, that’s the time to sharpen your skills of communication and pour it on. When there are just a few, give it all you’ve got.”

Obviously, Rohn was addressing folks in direct sales, but his wisdom applies to novices as well as pros: Interacting is how we sharpen our skills. Doesn’t it follow that the more you show up, the sharper you’ll get?

If you only make one change in the coming year, I’d suggest that you make Showing Up your new hobby. Keep looking for ways to do just that and you’re bound to amaze and astonish yourself—while sharing your unique perspectives and gifts with the world. 

Why wouldn’t you?


Wonder if spending time on Twitter is a waste of time? Read what author Tyler Cowen has to say about that in his piece from Fast Company magazine. 

In 1990, I made my first trip to Boston to teach at a now-defunct learning center. I had spent several days with my friend Chris in Connecticut and then took the bus to Boston, arriving early in the evening.

 When I got off the bus, it was sleeting. I began walking to the YWCA, the cheapest place I could find to to stay. The streets were getting slippery, I was carrying heavy luggage, and my glasses kept sleeting over. There were few people around and the ones I asked for directions couldn’t help me. I must have walked in circles for an hour until I finally located the Y. I was in tears when I checked in.

 My relief was short-lived as soon as I saw my miniscule room which resembled (I imagine) a convent cell. The bathroom was a larger shower/toilet facility down the hall. I spent the weekend wondering if I had taken leave of my senses.

 A dozen years later, I recalled this experience as I flew to Boston again. The Boston Center for Adult Education, where I was teaching this time, had reserved a room for me at the Westin.  When I entered my room on the twentieth floor  I discovered it was the most gorgeous hotel room I’d ever stayed in. It was dark when I arrived this time too, but now I had a view of the city lights which was breathtaking. Spending the evening in all that splendor was a sensual pleasure.

In the morning I got up and walked to the window to open the drapes. I pulled them back and laughed out loud when I noticed a sign not two blocks away that said YWCA.

 I don’t know how you measure progress, but I know that moving from the Y to the Westin looks like progress to me. I also know that if I hadn’t been willing to put up with the Y in my early days, I wouldn’t have made it to the Westin.

 So what discomfort have you been avoiding that’s keeping you from realizing a new dream? The enemy of success isn’t failure, after all. The enemy of success is comfort which keeps us tethered to a bearable, but not soul-thrilling life.

With the brand new decade ahead, this is the perfect time to commit to taking on a new assignment—one that takes you higher and farther. Are you willing?

Where I come from, there were repeated  cautions advising us not to entertain dreams in order to avoid disappointment. Nobody pointed out that avoiding the pursuit of dreams led to the ultimate disappointment.

Happily, I came across some other points of view on the subject. Whom should we listen to?

Those who lose dreaming are lost. ~ Australian Aboriginal Proverb

 You are never given a dream without also being given the power to make it come true. ~ Richard Bach

 Dreams come a size too big so that we can grow into them. ~ Josie Bisset

 The mightiest works have been accomplished by those who have kept their ability to dream great dreams. ~ Walter Bowie

 The world needs dreamers and the world needs doers. But above all, the world needs dreamers who do. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

 A disgruntled dreamer is a risky mentor. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

 Dreams take you beyond what you think you can do in life. ~ Vikram Chatwal

 The universe is a big dream machine, churning out dreams and transforming them into reality. Our own dreams are inextricably woven into the overall scheme of things.~ Deepak Chopra  

 Too often we decide to follow a path that is not really our own, one that others have set for us. We forget that whichever way we go the price is always the same: in both cases we will pass through both difficult and happy moments. But when we are living our dreams, the difficulties that we encounter make sense. ~ Paulo Coehlo

 Dreaming is a muscle, you need to exercise it. Just like any other muscle in your body, when you don’t use it, it atrophies.~ Daena Giardella 

 Do not surround yourself with people who do not have dreams.~ Nikki Giovanni 

 If you pay attention to your dreams, they will begin to speak to you. ~ Natalie Goldberg

 I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past. ~ Thomas Jefferson

 Not to dream more boldly may turn out to be, in view of present realities, simply irresponsible. ~ George Leonard


One of my favorite things about the holiday season is hearing from people who have been busily making the world a better place. This past week, has been filled with all sorts of reconnections with people I don’t hear from on a regular basis.


There was a newsy Christmas card from Marty Marsh sharing his adventures as an RVing entrepreneur. A hand written letter came from a woman I’ve never met thanking me for telling her about Make the Impossible Possible. Besides the cards and letters, there were several fascinating telephone conversations with fellow entrepreneurs. 


Although I thought I already had plenty of holiday spirit, these encounters added to my cheerfulness.


On Saturday, I had a fun Skype chat with Maureen Thomson. I hadn’t talked to her since she moved from Denver to the Oregon coast. Not only did she fill me in on how much she was loving her new home, but her wedding ceremonies business, Lyssabeth’s, is booming too. 


It was thrilling to hear about the growth of Maureen’s business, of course, but since I’ve been tracking her progress for a long time, it wasn’t a huge surprise. 


The surprise came a few hours later when I got an e-mail from Mark Anthony, a fellow I’d encountered years ago in Minnesota. Mark and I had met briefly when he invited me to keynote at a home business conference he organized. After that, we’d kept in touch sporadically, but not regularly. I knew that he had moved to Las Vegas, but we hadn’t really been in touch here. 


So, of course, I was curious to hear what he had on his mind. He contacted me to tell me that he’d written a blog post called An Open Letter to Barbara Winter. Of course, that got my attention and I promptly checked it out. I urge you to do the same. Mark’s story contains a startling confession…and a reminder that if we’re growing a business the learning never ends.



Several days ago, I recorded a podcast with One of the questions I was asked was about how we go about finding the essence of our livelihood. Here’s part of what I said:


You know, that was also a huge learning for me: learning the difference between essence and form. Essence really starts by becoming aware of when you feel the most creative and the most powerful and the most inspired, and what are the situations that lead you to feel that way. Finding the essence often is about looking for the intangible quality.


As we identify those kinds of things that really enhance what we’re doing, all of sudden, the possibility starts to explode because it goes way beyond just a single way of making that happen. And we realize, for instance, that the essence of what I love to do is help other people. Or the essence of what I love to do is inspire other people. Or the essence of what I love to do is teach other people. And then we can start asking ourselves the question, “How many different arenas can I create for doing that?”


As if to confirm my thoughts, a mailing arrived today from Rick Steves who is best known as a travel expert. However, I once read that when he’s asked to fill in his occupation his answer always is “teacher.” So here’s a bit of his story:


I’ve always taught what I’ve loved. 


I spent my high school years as a piano teacher. I was well known among parents in my community for taking kids with tear-stained cheeks to my piano bench, starting them out with boogies and pop songs…and eventually getting them turned on to Bach and Beethoven. 


Eventually, I had my own piano studio with a recital hall. In 1980, while I was teaching a piano lesson, a truck dropped off 2,500 copies of my first guidebook — Europe Through the Back Door. During that year’s Christmas recital, parents sat on boxes of travel guidebooks while their kids banged out carols, boogies, and Bach. 


By the following Christmas, I’d let my piano students go. People were still sitting on boxes of books, but now that recital hall was a travel lecture hall filled with eager students preparing for their European adventures. 


From that point on, I would be teaching European culture off the keyboard…to otherwise smart people who assumed Toscanini was a pasta and Botticelli was an intestinal problem. 


For twenty-five years I led our tours while apprenticing hand-picked tour guides. Before long, they would apprentice another “generation.” We carry on that personal-passion-for-teaching tradition to this day.


Do you know the essence of your ideal livelihood? If not, that’s your next assignment. It’s so much easier once you know.


Marnie loves the symphony, but with a business in its infancy season tickets are a bit out of reach. That didn’t stop her from enjoying the full spectrum of concerts last year, however. She became an usher at Symphony Hall and heard every note. In addition, she was paid a tiny amount of money for her services so she was following a favorite rule of the entrepreneur’s unwritten code: find ways to get paid to do what you want to do. 


Thinking this way is new to Marnie. She says, “Before I had my own business, I just assumed  I could only do things that I had the money for. Now I look for ways to make things happen in the most creative possible way. Sometimes that involves no money at all.”


There’s a silly scene in Wayne’s World which finds Wayne and Garth lying on the hood of their car at the end of an airport runway reveling in the wake caused by planes taking off. Mike Myers says this scene was inspired by a favorite pastime in his family called No Money Fun. The idea was to come up with entertaining activities that didn’t cost a cent. When I heard Myers tell the story, I thought, “No wonder he’s so creative.” No Money Fun is a terrific way to activate the imagination and it comes with the built-in reward of all that free fun.


There are two ways to bring more No Money Fun into your life. You can take advantage of all the free things around you such as strolling through a beautiful public garden or museum. The other option is to use alternative currencies. No, I’m not suggesting you take up counterfeiting. I am, however, challenging you to become as creative as possible about finding alternative routes to have and do more of what you want.


There are a few cautions in doing this. I’m not talking about becoming a certified cheapskate. In fact, you’ll notice that the wealthy are masterful at using alternative currencies in place of cash. Cheapskates, on the other hand, pride themselves on deprivation. The other caution is that you only use alternative currencies to acquire things you actually want or need.


So how can you cultivate alternative currencies? Begin by refusing to ever, ever use lack of money as an excuse. You can only master this if you understand that this is a practical exercise in creative thinking and living. Start looking for options—and open yourself to offbeat ideas.


Let’s say you want to live in a gorgeous home. Most people think that their options include buying or renting. Don’t tell that to Joe. When he was in his early twenties, he found himself drawn to the ocean and wanted to live as close to it as possible. He got the idea to offer his services as a yacht sitter and almost immediately found himself living in luxury. 


Or perhaps more travel is on your Dream List. Jan is a bookworm who published a newsletter for cozy mystery lovers. Next to books, her other great passion is England. For several years, she organized and led Cozy Crimes, Cream Teas and Books, Books, Books tours to the UK creating a free trip for herself and a delightful experience for other mystery lovers.


When considering creating innovative ways to get more of what you want, it’s essential that you design mutually beneficial arrangements. For instance, Joe didn’t just get a great place to live, he provided security for the yacht owner. 


There’s an even bigger benefit in all of this, one with long-term rewards. Mastering No Money Fun is first and foremost an exercise in learning that there’s never just one way of accomplishing things. It can banish uninspired thinking and open up a new world of creative possibility. Best of all, you’ll be living your life from a position of abundance and imagination. What business wouldn’t be better with that kind of thinking running it?      


Like many people, I have a lengthy pre-holiday To Do List plus all the normal things that fill my days. Today I was planning to pick up some packages that have been languishing at my post office, but when I stood in the long, long line for ten minutes without any movement, I abandoned that project. 

Next on the list was to write a new blog post about another way to Close the Gap. After reading Seth Godin’s blog post, however, I abandoned my idea and now urge you to get your very own free copy of his brilliant ebook What Matters Now. This may be the best gift any entrepreneur could get this year. And it’s loaded with wise words from wise people. Pay attention, and you’ll find even more ways to close the gap for yourself.

Oh, and then pass it on.


Even before Paul McCartney’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard was released, critics were glowing using words like adventurous, melodic and emotionally complicated to describe it. That hasn’t been the case with the 19 other albums he’s done since the Beatles broke up 35 years ago. McCartney acknowledges that his body of work has been uneven. 


”Since the Beatles, I’ve approached making records every which way,” he says. “A lot of times it’s a real casual thing. Do a few tracks a day, have a bit of fun. Normally I kind of say, ‘I’d like to make a good album.’ This time there was motivation, determination. ‘I’m going to make a good album. I’m going to, and that’s that.” 


To accomplish this, he hired producer Nigel Godrich, who refused to let him stay in his comfort zone. It took two years to put the album together, partly because McCartney plays most of the instruments himself. 


The critics aren’t the only ones happy about the results. At the start of a new round of concerts, McCartney says, “It’s be great not to be out there with a crap album, singing songs I don’t care much about.” Sounds like Sir Paul has rediscovered the power of commitment.


Excellent results are never accidental. Without commitment, our creative powers are scattered and our ability to attract support and resources dries up. Of course, it’s possible, as millions of people demonstrate, to go through life getting by without ever committing deeply to anything much at all. 


In their insightful book, Money Drunk, Money Sober, Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan call money (and money difficulties) the last addiction. They identify five kinds of money dysfunction, including one they call the Maintenance Money Drunk. This is a person who grows increasingly  bitter or numb from the inability to pursue or even identify their dreams.


They write, “One of the telltale symptoms of the Maintenance Money Drunk is the phrase ‘I’m going to,’ heard over and over again without action toward the goal. We often say that the greatest gift of solvency is learning how to turn a wish into a goal. And action is the difference between someone who is really going to do something and someone who is just wishing.” 


It’s exhausting to be a Maintenance Money Drunk and it’s exhausting to be around one. Commitment is the catalyst that propels us to take action—and break the cycle of apathy that keeps us stuck.When McCartney said, “I’m going to,” he got busy writing songs. 


There’s a foolproof test for commitment that goes beyond any verbal claims of commitment: look at your calendar and your checkbook. Are you spending your time and money in ways that back up what you’re truly committed to? It’s only when you bring your spending into alignment with your dreams that good things begin to happen.  


Commitment gives us direction, but it doesn’t guarantee ease. As Paulo Coehlo so eloquently reminds us, “Too often we decide to follow a path that is not really our own, one that others have set for us. We forget that whichever way we go, the price is the same: in both cases we will pass through both difficult and happy moments. But when we are living our dream, the difficulties that we encounter make sense.”

 It is often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.




I am not the only one who loves  Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.; classical music stations report that listener surveys always list them as a top favorite. Did you know that this perennial favorite began life as a huge failure? The Concertos were written as an audition for a commission Bach hoped to get with the city of Brandenburg, Germany. Amazingly, he lost the competition. No one seems to remember who the winner was.


Bach is not the only creative soul, of course, whose work met with rejection before success came along. Writer John Grisham sent his first novel to sixteen agents before one of them agreed to take him as a client. That agent submitted A Time to Kill to twenty-six publishers before one bought it, bringing out a meager 5,000 copies. Since that humble—and humbling— beginning, Grisham has topped the bestseller charts with every book he’s written and has millions of copies of his books in print around the world.


While history is full of stories of early defeat that turned into astonishing success later on, there is no record of all the good ideas that got put away in a drawer after encountering a first rejection.


I once had a student who had created a nifty product that she was certain would be snapped up by a huge travel company to give away as a gift to their clients. When they turned her down, she was furious. Her basement is filled with unsold inventory which she has never tried to market in other ways. She remains stuck in her early—and only—rejection. Her timid retreat is not unusual.


Sadly, this woman made the classic error of deciding in advance that acceptance could only come in one way. That’s a formula that is doomed. If the prospective client or lover or friend turns us down, we may lose sight of the fact that our true goal was to make a sale or have a romance or build a new relationship. We forget that our goal (and our self) is just fine. We simply made the mistake of picking a dancing partner that didn’t want to dance.


I once heard a sales trainer declare, “You gotta learn to love rejection!” I think he overstated his case. Few of us are so hardy that we can love being turned down. There’s a big difference between those who accept rejection as part of the success process and those who avoid it at all costs. Despite all the evidence that rejection is a universal theme in every success story, fear of rejection seems to be a powerful deterrent for many who will do almost anything to avoid the discomfort of being rejected. As it turns out, life’s grandest prizes are rejecting them.


The next time that fear of rejection stops you from tackling a dreaded task, remind yourself that the anticipation of rejection is almost always worse than the reality of it. All of us have known those agonizing times spent before we proposed marriage, made a sales presentation or gave a talk. Yet on those occasions when our worst fears were realized, the experience wasn’t nearly as horrible as imagining it had been.


While I still don’t love rejection, I have a clearer perspective on it since encountering some profound advice from writer Barbara Kingsolver. Although it’s aimed at writers, it’s equally appropriate to anyone going after a dream. Kingsolver says, “Don’t consider your returned manuscript rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it, ‘To the editor who can appreciate my work,’ and it simply came back stamped, ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”


You might want to memorize that.


In Make the Impossible Possible, Bill Strickland shares his key to success. He writes, 


“What my experiences prove to me is that the more clearly and convincingly you are able to tell your story, the better your chance of attracting the people who can best help you move your story forward, and in whose own stories you can play a productive part.


“In retrospect, I realize that all the important connections I made in my life, all the great partners and mentors I’ve gathered and all the opportunities they have made possible, have come as a result of sharing my story with others who are interested in being a part of that story.


“My story has many versions—one is about clay, one is about orchids, one is about jazz, one is about the center I built out of a dream, and another is about my dream of building similar centers around the world. But underneath all of them lies a simpler, deeper story with a more fundamental message: This is what I stand for; this is who I am.”


When you read something like Strickland’s words, what do you think? 


That’s interesting?

So what?

What’s my story?

Am I overlooking a useful key to my own success?


The ability to synthesize good ideas and better ways of doing things is a characteristic shared by successful people in all walks of life. This isn’t the same as copying or imitating, of course. According to the Wikipedia definition, the noun synthesis refers to the combining of two or more entities to form something new. The corresponding verb, to synthesize (or synthesize), means to make or form a synthesis.


What do you think would happen to your business if you actively looked for great ideas and thoughtfully began to synthesize them into your enterprise? What if you did it every day for a month? What if it became a habit?


Of course, you know the answers. 


I’m going to challenge you to start your own Project Synthesis by sharing this terrific article from Gretchen Rubin, the author of the forthcoming book The Happiness Project. Rubin’s  10 Reasons Why Using Twitter Will Boost Your Happiness  appeared last week at the Huffington Post. I’ve been thinking about it ever since I first read it. 


Try it out and see what happens. I dare you.