There were so many stories about the Joyfully Jobless this week that limiting it to five seems just wrong. Since that’s the May theme, I’m sticking to it.

My local paper had a story on  Sunday about Jani Mae Den Herder, a photographer who is a model of how to build a strong business. I thought it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen about doing it step by step. You’ll also notice multiple profit centers were involved in this story called Passion for Pictures Makes Entrpreneurial Photographer Tick and Click.

Mason Hipp of The Ultimate Freelancer has an insightful article called 12 Practical Ways to Become More Creative.

For years I’ve noticed that when people get honest about the work that they love they often end up far away from a desk. One of the most forwarded stories this week at the NY Times was The Case for Working With Your Hands. It’s a long article, but worth the time it takes to read it. 

Besides being a popular travel writer, Rick Steves is also one of my favorite entrepreneurs. The current issue of Time magazine has a terrific piece about him and why his advice is particularly appropriate to the current times. 

Speaking of travelers, housesitting has long been a favorite of nomads and other restless types. Here’s an article from Lea Woodward’s Location Independant blog that is loaded with advice on how to do just that.  How To Live Rent-Free While Becoming Location Independent

If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. ~ Barry Lopez

Zingerman’s Delicatessen opened in Ann Arbor, MI in 1982. Not only has the original business been a great success, they’ve added additional profit centers including ZingTrain, which conducts seminars based on things they’ve learned in creating a successful business. Here’s what they have to say about how to deal with complaints.

We’ve been teaching Zingerman’s 5 Steps to Effectively Handling Complaints for about 20 years now, and it’s a recipe that works—both for us and for the many other organizations that have adopted (or adapted) it for their own use. Just in case you haven’t memorized our recipe, I’ll recap it here:

  • Acknowledge the complaint. When people complain, more than anything else, they want to be heard. If they know we’re listening, their stress level goes down—and so does ours.
  • Sincerely apologize. We don’t need to know exactly what happened in order to apologize. If someone is complaining, we know that they didn’t have the great experience that we wanted them to have, so we apologize. Because regardless of what happened, we are truly sorry that they are dissatisfied. This is not the place for excuses, jokes or explanations. Just genuine remorse.
  • Make it right. Research shows that customer satisfaction and loyalty are significantly higher when a complaint can be resolved on the first contact. So at Zingerman’s we authorize our staff to do whatever it takes to make things right for the customer. Usually the employee knows what needs to be done, and we want them to take action. If they need to ask for help, that’s OK—but we request that they become the customer’s advocate and explain the situation to the supervisor or manager, so that the customer doesn’t have to repeat his story over and over.
  • Say thanks. As the research shows, at least half of the time people don’t complain—and don’t give us the chance to resolve the problem. So we do really appreciate those who let us know what’s going on and have faith that we’ll take care of them.
  • Write it up. It’s easy to react emotionally to complaints and be tempted to change products, systems or processes in reaction to the most vocal complainers. But when we document complaints in a way that allows us to collect some objective data, we often get a different picture of where to focus organizational time and resources. Although we want our customers to let us know when there’s a problem, we also want to fix recurring problems—and eliminate the mistakes that are leading to complaints. Zingerman’s form for documenting complaints is called a Code Red. We’ve been using a paper version for years and are in the process of phasing in an electronic option as well.

 I would like to suggest that there has never been a better time to make sure that we—and everyone we work with—are doing a great job of handling complaints. Complaints about our service and our products, of course, but also complaints about the unfairness of life—losing jobs, increased financial pressures, the energy that’s being channeled into just getting by.

We say that Zingerman’s Recipe for Handling Complaints works for complaints of any kind. So I’ve been thinking about using it in the context of customers, friends and colleagues who complain about life’s hardships and realizing that none of us—or our staff—are immune from those hardships ourselves. So the chance that we’ll react negatively to someone unloading on us—that we’ll find ourselves in that “this isn’t fair” frame of mind—is higher than it might have been a year ago. Which is all the more reason to actively review, teach and use these 5 Steps!

Although the Joyfully Jobless Journey is unique to everyone who takes it, hearing the stories of others who have followed their entrepreneurial promptings can be inspiring and instructive. Here are five very different stories which are each worth a visit.

Winner Takes All by Christina Binkley is a well-written account of how modern Las Vegas was shaped by three very different entrepreneurial thinkers. You need not aspire to run a hospitality empire in order to enjoy this often dramatic true tale. Terrific storytelling because the story’s so good. Hyperion, 2009.

Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson shares lessons learned by this adventurous entrepreneur. Branson recalls both his hits and his misses and what he’s learned from both. Might save you making a few mistakes of your own if you pay attention to his advice. New York: Virgin Books, 2008.

Hershey by Michael D’Antonio is the fascinating story of Milton Hershey of chocolate fame who was also an ahead-of-his-time social entrepreneur. You’ll never look at a Hershey Kiss the same way again. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland is a story I can read again and again. Genuinely inspiring example of how a positive vision impacts positively. Strickland has changed thousands of lives through his innovative training programs. Here’s an entrepreneur who also understands why art matters. New York: Broadway, 2007.

Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus is the wildly inspiring story of the birth of micro-lending and the lives that were changed by helping  the poor create their own enterprises. Yunus’ story dramatically illustrates that when you begin by doing what you can, opportunities to do much more begin to unfold. New York: Public Affairs, 2003.

I dare say, all successful entrepreneurs have loved the story of their business. Because that’s what true entrepreneurs do: They tell stories that come to life in the form of their business. ~ Michael E. Gerber

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 more possibilities.

* Finish things. Okay, not everyone has unfinished projects gathering dust, but chances are there’s an article you started writing or a home improvement project that got bogged down and abandoned because it didn’t seem urgent.  Imagine if all these loose ends were tied up before you plunge back into your business. It would feel great, wouldn’t it? 

* Take a mini-sabbatical. Got a stack of books you’ve been wanting to read? Been meaning to visit a historic site in a nearby state?  Need to refresh your creative spirit? Plan some purposeful time away.

Borrow a friend’s cottage. Rent a motorhome. Don’t check your messages. A change of scenery may be just what you need to recharge your batteries and come up with some fresh insights. 

* Invest sweat equity in a longterm project. Been putting something off because it will require lots of hours to get to completion? This could be the time to start putting in those hours to get it launched.  Since most of us flourish when working on new projects, getting started has the added bonus of re-energizing other more familiar things. 

* Host an Idea Night potluck. Invite four or five other positive self-bossers to share food and ideas with each other. Make sure that everyone gets equal time and that all ideas get a hearing. Idea Parties are more successful if you lay down the ground rule that arguing or discounting ideas is strictly forbidden. Guests go home with an inventory of potential  ideas which they can evaluate later.

* Expand your visibility. Write a press release. Have a new photo taken. Start an ezine. Get yourself interviewed on a local radio show. Revamp your Web site. All this seed planting takes time and is easy to overlook when you’re busy. Why not do it now and see what doors might open? 

We think much more about the use of money, which is renewable, than we do about the use of time, which is irreplaceable. ~ Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber

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 willing to settle for the first person that comes along (and we all have had times when we’ve done that and regretted it later), this is a perfect opportunity to clarify what you need from various service providers and make certain that you’re getting it. If you are ready to add to your support team, start interviewing potential sources of support.

* Simplify, simplify.  Been meaning to clean out your closets and pass things along to a charity shop? Get your office in shipshape? These are time-consuming tasks that aren’t very glamourous, but the psychic rewards are huge. 

Get out some trash bags, put on some upbeat music and have at it. Get rid of the junk in the junk drawer. Weed your library. Up-date your filing system. Clean out your e-mailbox. It’s as liberating as losing twenty pounds.

* Up your wellness. Use this extra time to walk or workout. Get a massage or facial. Read up on nutrition. Experiment with new healthier foods that take time to prepare. Start meditating again. Plan a stress reduction program. Work these things into your schedule now and you’re more apt to keep up with them when your busier times return.

* Volunteer. Pass your gift of time along to someone else by helping out. If you live in a major metro area in the US and are needing ideas, go to which lists a wide variety of projects in search of help. Why not volunteer at your kids’ school or at a local foodbank or shelter? You could even instigate a project of your own and get your friends involved.

* Learn something new. Build some brain cells with a class or seminar. Add to your computer skills, start learning a new language, take up salsa dancing. Use this time to saturate yourself in a new subject that catches your fancy. 

To be continued…

We think much more about the use of money, which is renewable, than we do about the use of time, which is irreplaceable. ~ Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber

1. The other day I heard a local gardener talking on Nevada Public Radio. He got my attention when he said, “I want the gardens that I tend to develop deep root systems. People think that you need water for that, but you actually need air.”  I see so many entrepreneurs–especially new ones–who overwhelm themselves with information (which can paralyze) and totally neglect the inspiration aspect of running a business. Air trumps water if you want to grow a business with deep roots.

Know what inspires you and breathe it in often.

2. Adult education programs have suffered from lack of attendance in the years since information became available with the click of a mouse. Google’s a godsend in many instances, but getting information from a computer screen is nothing like being in a room with other people who bring their own insights and ideas to the discussion. 

I was so conscious of this during Follow Through Camp last week. If I had simply offered the handouts as a PDF the accelerated learning (and planning) that happened in that room would never have occurred.

3. A long trip with a kindred spirit can be full of idea sparks. I flew into Denver and then hitched a ride with Jami Yanoski to Dodge City. It was a six hour ride down, five hours back. Even though I didn’t know Jami before the drive, we chatted away like long lost buddies. Not only did I hear some great stories, I also got a terrific book recommendation or two and all sorts of insights.

4. Ordinary people make excellent change agents. In Blessed Unrest, Paul Hawken talks about efforts to save the planet and points out that the environmental movement hasn’t been led by political leaders, but by folks from around the world who have taken action on their own. As a result, he says, we may be bringing about what may one day be judged the single most profound transformation of human society.

Every single person at Follow Through Camp was determined to make the world a better place. Passionate change agents are a force to reckon with; being in a room with them for two days was profoundly inspiring.

5. More time doesn’t make for better decisions. As Seth Godin points out, “More information may help. More time without information just creates anxiety, not insight.” Decide, act, move on.

Much of the conventional wisdom about self-employment actually qualifies as Urban Myths (and we know how those can circulate). Sadly, many people who think about becoming Joyfully Jobless are stopped from doing so because of these commonly held, but unfounded, beliefs. Let’s take a look at five biggies.

Only extroverts can be entrepreneurs. A recent study found that almost all kindergartners exhibited entrepreneurial traits. By the fourth grade, however, innovative thinking was on the decline. Being an introvert or extrovert isn’t nearly as important as caring about people and wanting to solve problems.

You need the security of a job. What a Twentieth Century concept. Even as jobs are disappearing all over the place, people still cling to that outmoded  notion about security. Successful self-bossers know that you can only have as much security as you produce for yourself. Or as Helen Keller pointed out, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do children as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. “

Starting a business is risky. So is driving, eating and sex. It’s a matter of how you do it. In fact, self-bossers who have done their homework, visualized their business and are committed to laying a strong foundation don’t  consider what they’re doing to be risky. Preparation makes a huge difference, of course, as does a willingness to ask for help, experimentation, and flexibility.

You need a lot of money to start a business. Another outmoded belief. While it’s true that some businesses require heavy capitalization, that’s not the only option. More and more modern entrepreneurs are mastering the art of the shoestring start-up, learning to generate cashflow and build slow and strong.

Most small businesses fail in the first five years. Even the Small Business Administration likes to tout failure rates, but these statistics are skewed and based on heavily capitalized, conventional undertakings. The success rate for lean enterprises is actually high.

If you want to succeed as an entrepreneur, be committed to taking advice from informed sources. In starting a business, that means learning from those who have successfully done so…not the fearmongers and dreambashers.

Innovation is what you get when you get up from behind your desk and go and see where ideas and people lead you. ~ Richard Branson

Some of the treasures I found this week will require a bit of your time, but they are all a good investment.

How could I resist sharing Chris Elliott’s Top Five Travel Fears? If you’re into metaphors, think about their equivalent in taking the Joyfully Jobless Journey. 

This  video has been making the rounds this week and it deserves to be seen. I first heard about it from Peter Shankman who said, “Imagine if HARO didn’t exist, because I wasn’t an entrepreneur, and I didn’t take risks. Because I didn’t have the idea, or the courage to start it. Imagine a world where no one did. Don’t let that happen. What’s your idea?” Watch this video, then pass it on.

Sometimes we need a reminder of things that we know, but are overlookiing. Steve Strauss’ Small Business Advice From Mom  does just that.  

Intimated by Twitter? Given up trying to figure it out or why it would be a good thing for you and your business? You’re not alone in your frustration. Those who love it (like me) have gone through the Four Stages of a Typical Twitter User. Take a look and maybe you’ll be inspired to give it another shot.  

Finally, this excursion takes a little longer (20 minutes more or less), but it’s so worth it. Hear what Seth Godin has to say about The Power of Tribes.  

To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest.  If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change.  Only then will you know what the sea is all about. ~ Sterling Hayden

Successful writers are, of course, also entrepreneurs. Shaping words and ideas and sending them out into the world is their way of honoring their calling. Here are five insights that apply equally to any personal endeavor.

Consider every path carefully testing it in whichever way you feel necessary, then ask yourself, but only yourself, one question: ‘Does this path have a heart?’ The path that has heart will uplift you, ease your burden and bring you joy. The path with no heart will make you stumble, it will break your spirit, and finally cause you to look upon your life with anger and bitterness. ~ Carlos Castenada

It has taken me three decades to unlearn the impulse to be practical.  Just imagine what you might have accomplished if only you’d been encouraged to honor your creative reveries as spiritual gifts. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

You can only be truly accomplished at something you love. Don’t make money the goal. Instead pursue the things you love doing, and do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you. All the other tangible rewards will come as a result. ~ Maya Angelou

Don’t get stuck with where you have not succeeded. Go on to something else. You don’t know what will unfold. None of us has as much time as we think. ~ Natalie Goldberg

Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, peace eternal life, you must get close to, or even into   the thing that has them….They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.  If you are close to it, the spray will wet you ; if you are not, you will remain dry. ~ CS Lewis

There’s a character in Nick Hornby’s delightful novel High Fidelity who constantly challenges his friends to create on-the-spot Top Five Lists. “Name your top five Dustin Hoffman movies,” he demands. The story is peppered with Top Five Lists covering all sorts of pop culture topics. It’s not a bad exercise. 

When I began experimenting with ideas about setting goals, I started breaking down my year-long aims into 90-Day Projects. Again, the number five seemed to be operating. For instance, one of my writing goals was to sell five magazine articles every 90 days. It was an easy number to work with and I repeatedly used it in setting goals.

You, of course, may have a different favorite number that repeats itself in your life. Use whatever number you like to help you focus. Start by incorporating it into your lifetime goal list. Here are some idea-starters:

* Travel to five continents

* Create five strong and dependable profit centers

* Have five books published

* Meet five people I deeply admire

* Have five great outfits in my closet at all times

* Have five causes I support financially

* Eat five fruits and vegetables every day

* Become fluent in five languages

* Have five people with whom I collaborate every year

* Discover five pastimes that I’m passionate about

* Have five entrepreneurial friends with whom I meet on a regular basis

* Coach five proteges

You’ll notice that this list includes the whimsical as well as the serious. Start your own list and then pick one or two items to start working on. Your life will be richer if you do.

Life is full and overflowing with the new. But it is necessary to empty out the old to make room for the new to enter. ~ Eileen Caddy