The other day, I was going through some papers and came across a question I’d written down. It said, “Why settle for false security when you can have the real thing?”

Apparently, I’m not the only one challenging the conventional notion about what constitutes security.

When I saw this piece from Christine Kane, I thought it was the perfect way to end Got Options? month here at Buon Viaggio. Obviously, she has given much thought to what constitutes genuine security.


One of the scariest things I ever did was quit my first (and only) “real” job so I could begin my own brand of creative work in the world.

I became – gasp! – self-employed.

I was warned of the risks. I was told I’d lose my benefits and security. I was told it’s “hard out there” working for yourself.

The assumption so many people base one of their biggest life choices on is that working for yourself is risky.  After 16 years of making a living on my own terms – I believe the exact opposite!

So, here are seven new perspectives on the well-worn idea of “Job Security.” (My reasons why NOT to have a job.)

1. Having a job is risky.

When you have a job, someone can take away your income in two words: “You’re fired.”  This is happening more and more as companies crumble in the face of global changes.

If you ask me, there’s nothing secure about that.

In your own business, when a client or customer moves on – then guess what?  You get to say, “Next!”

2. No Bonus Pay for Messing Up.

When you mess up at your job, you get punished, maybe even a pay-cut. Then you have to run around “making nice” to the people who might lay you off or promote someone else who’s younger and “hungry.” (Hungry for what? More time at the office?)

When one of my clients faces challenges in her business, I remind her to be excited. She’s getting paid to learn!  Every mistake teaches her more about how to succeed.

Instead of getting an MBA – she’s getting a TBF. (Trial by Fire!)  TBF’s yield a high ROI!

3. Your Ceiling isn’t Adjustable When you Have a Job.

Often, I show clients multiple places they can generate income in their business within the next few months.  Their eyes light up as they realize that the possibilities are endless.  They stop thinking in terms of “hours for dollars,” and start thinking of passive income.  (Hey, why not get paid while you sleep?)

In a job, you can’t adjust your income based on the value you provide. Instead you have to ask for a raise.  Not fun.

4. Pantyhose.

As I write this, I’m working.

I’m wearing a Tarheels baseball cap, a t-shirt, and jeans. I’ve got my feet propped up on the deck railing as birds sing at the feeder.

When I had a job, there was a dress code. And rules about what you could have on your desk. There was limited time for lunch, and no time for creativity.  And don’t even get me started on pantyhose!

5. Your money doesn’t go as far.

Did you know that employee income is the most heavily taxed income in the U.S.?   As an employee, almost half your salary will go to taxes.  You get to spend what’s left on living expenses.

One of my first self-employed discoveries was that my money went MUCH further – because I could invest in myself with pre-tax income.  Any good accountant will help you make your dollars expand in your own business.

6. Focusing on your Weaknesses.

Have you ever heard of a “360?”

That’s when your co-workers and supervisors (and anyone else who wants to chip in) analyze your job performance. You learn all about your weaknesses – and you get a review outlining the ways you need to work on them. Often, people leave these “360” reviews in tears.

In the world of the solo-preneur, we don’t mess with our weaknesses. The motto is Strengthen your Strengths. Hire your Weaknesses. In other words, as you become aware of your weaknesses, you don’t waste your precious energy fixing them.

7. Negative Environment.

Many office environments don’t encourage creative thinking or positive focus. Instead, there’s lots of negativity among employees who feel powerless.

In your own business, you set the tone, and you choose who enters your environment. You become personally responsible for every aspect of your life.

This is often more uncomfortable than sitting back and blaming “The Man,” but it will absolutely free you.


Christine Kane is the Mentor to People Who are Changing the World. She helps women and men Uplevel their lives, their businesses and their success. Her weekly Uplevel You eZine goes out to over 20,000 subscribers. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at


See Christine’s blog at



When I first moved to Minnesota, I joked  that there was a church on every corner. That’s a bit of an exaggeration, of course, but it seems that most major thoroughfares are dotted with them.

For several years, there was a church that I passed almost every day. Like most churches, it had a message board out in front; unlike most churches, this message board actually contained messages. Even more unusual, the messages were changed a couple of times every week so there was always a new one to check out.

Some of the messages were attention-getters like the one that said, “Satan loves a dusty Bible.”

Others were funny. My favorite one said, “Trouble sleeping? Try a sermon.”

Mostly they were lovely philosophical reminders to be kind and to make a contribution to making the world a better place.

One day I called the church and said, “In case no one has told you this, I want you to know how much your message board is appreciated by those of us driving by.”

The secretary said they’d gotten many positive comments on it, then added that the senior pastor went out at 5:30 in the morning to change the board. “Please thank him for me,” I said.

Several months later, I passed by the church again and saw a gathering in the yard. A fancy new message board had just been installed.

It had a burgundy and charcoal frame and was lighted from within. It was pretty spiffy, but I noticed that the message simply listed the times of their services.

What’s the point of posting the times of their services, I wondered. Those hours never change and surely their members already know when services are held.

If the point of posting them was for the convenience of non-members who might want to join them, I’m not sure there’s any obvious reason to pick this church over any other.

That’s the way it’s stayed. I hardly even noticed it after that.

I’ve tried to imagine what happened here. Maybe the senior pastor retired and nobody else wanted to do it. Maybe not enough people let them know that they liked the effort.

Or perhaps, and I hope I’m wrong here, the church forgot that it’s really in the inspiration business. Most likely, somebody decided it was too much bother to keep the messages up and in making that decision lost an enormous opportunity to contribute some random good.

This church isn’t the only example of losing sight of an opportunity to inspire. I once read an article entitled, “That Angry Flier Just Might Be Your Flight Attendant.”

The article pointed out that all the difficulties experienced by the airline industry are taking a toll on their employees. The sentence that really grabbed me  said, “Even before all the industry’s woes, attendants complained that their pay was too low for ‘friendly’ service.”

I was so astonished by that I must have read it over three times.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos once told an interviewer, “It’s not our customer’s job to lie awake nights figuring out how we can serve them better. We have to take responsibility for improving.” Maybe he should talk to the airlines.

If you want to make this coming year the best one you’ve ever had, take the challenge now to find ways to use your business as a tool to inspire.

Whether you’re repairing small engines, teaching yoga or designing websites, you’ll find there’s no shortage of opportunities to encourage other people—if you are so inclined. Inspire them by your joy, inspire them by your commitment, inspire them by caring about their success.

As Alfred A. Montapert said, “There is something better than putting money into your pocket and that is putting beauty and love and service into your life.”

Those are options that inspire.


Life often seems like an endless series of decisions to be made. Chai latte or decaf Americano? Take a walk or sit at the computer? Plant roses or zinnias? Start a business now or wait until you get fired?

Given the fact that we are called upon to make decision after decision everyday, it would seem reasonable to assume that most of us would have given thought to how we make decisions. We’d have our own decision-making tools that we could employ when needed.

If we  lack such tools, too many decisions are simply based on habit. (Chai latte yesterday, chai latte today, chai latte tomorrow.) That’s not the road to living a creative and inspired life.

Self-doubt—simply not trusting ourselves—is behind much of the indecision we encounter. The sheer abundance of options can make it even more difficult, but living decisively is necessary if we’re to have the richest experience possible.

It may also contribute to our health. According to George Crane, “It is uncertainty or indecision that wears people down and promotes peptic ulcers, high blood pressure and nervous breakdowns.”

Since the decisions we make determine the kind of life that we have, how can we improve our ability to make wise decisions? It may be easier than you think.

My starting point is based on this observation from Stewart Emery: “Nothing in the universe is neutral. It either costs or it contributes.”

That bit of wisdom has simplified decision-making for me ever since I heard it.

However, it’s fairly useless without a sense of priority. You need to be clear about what matters most to you and be determined to set up your life to support that.

If being physically healthy is a high priority, every food choice either costs or it contributes. If finishing your book in the next 90 days is a priority, every time choice you make either costs or it contributes.

It all comes down to bringing your activities and actions into alignment with your personal goals.

Some decisions require gathering information in advance, of course. Wise leaders in all walks of life have sounding boards, people whose opinions they trust. The trick for us, whether we’re the leader of the free world or not, is to exercise wisdom in choosing the voices we listen to.

Often that means getting advice from strangers, not from those nearest and dearest to us. Then thoughtfully weighing that advice while keeping in mind your ideal outcome, can make the process smoother.

The more familiar you are with your own intuitive voice, the easier it will be to rely on it when it’s time to make a decision—especially a big important one.

Even if that’s not your usual method of deciding, here’s an exercise that can be helpful providing you pay attention while you’re doing it.

How can you tell if you really want to do something? Toss a coin. Literally. It works—not because it settles the question for you, but, as the Danish poet and mathematician Piet Hein said, “While the coin is in the air, you suddenly know what you’re hoping for.”

Success, prosperity, all the good things in life only come to us after we’ve decided to let them in. Minute by minute and hour by hour, decide in favor of your dreams.


On the day that my daughter left for college, she tucked a card in my dresser drawer that said, “Thanks for being such a great mother, a great friend, a great teacher and student.”

I’d like to think that the most important thing I taught Jennie was to keep being a student. And she has.

Just before New Year’s Day a few year back, she called to tell me about a trip she’d made to the bookstore where she’d found several treasures. “My project this year is to learn lots of new things,” she announced.

One of her purchases had been a desk calendar of scientific questions since she felt her knowledge was lacking in that area. As she constantly reminds me, doing things that appear out of character can be a powerful catalyst for learning.

Her bookstore visit opened the way for a discussion of our individual visions for the new year. After discussing a few specific goals, I said, “And my theme for the year is Stretch. To make sure that I don’t forget that’s what my life is about right now, I’ve taken up daily yoga practice as a literal reminder.”

“That’s a good one,” she agreed.

Since we’re coming to the end of the year, Jennie and I have been talking about the things we plan to explore when 2012 rolls around. She’s planning to revisit things she’s loved in the past.

I’m still narrowing down my theme for the year, but know it will be one that feeds my curiosity.

“Seems to me if I were the Maker of the Universe,” mused advertising whiz Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, “the people who would vex me the most would be the ones who went unseeing and unwanting through this fascinating world.”

They’re the ones who vex me most, too. On the other hand, the ones who inspire me most are those who keep stretching themselves day in and day out.

Ask such a person, “What’s new?” and they always have a fascinating answer.

Staying curious is not only something that’s available to anyone, it doesn’t cost a dime. Where it leads, depends on how willing we are to give up limited thinking and follow the callings that are unique to each of us.

In the coming new year, discover the truth of Gregg Levoy’s tantalizing promise: “When people begin to follow their calls, they way opens up, even after they’ve kept the gods drumming their fingers for decades, pacing around the front hall while they take forever in the boudoir getting ready.

“Opportunities wash up on shore; people take an interest; out of the corner of your eye, you spy synchronicities; the right book or the right person crosses your path. Sometimes even money follows. Perhaps it’s nothing more mysterious than the universe supporting growth and life loving itself.”

Nice vision, isn’t it?

If we allow ourselves to become complacent—or, even worse, cynical—we destroy any possibility of having such a rich and adventurous life. We block our stretch.

So pick a theme. Plan some fascinating projects. Listen and follow your calls. Use it or lose it.

If you don’t there’s much to be lost. “A life devoted to trifles,” warned Hannah More, “not only takes away the inclination, but the capacity, for higher pursuits.”


Five years ago, Marilyn decided to leave her soul-squashing job and start a business that would share her love of animals. Today she’s still dragging herself to that same job and her entrepreneurial enthusiasm is weak from neglect.

When questioned about her business plans, she replies, “Oh, I decided in this economy it was better to hang on to what I had. Besides I hate to give up my benefits and I really need the money from my job so I can remodel my family room.”

What Marilyn—and so many others— demonstrate is that whenever we ignore our dreams we rationalize it by creating a villain. It’s never our fault, for goodness sake. Someone or something outside us is standing in our way.

That thinking leads us to look for the villain which is often disguised as an excuse.

Since finding an excuse is not a creative exercise, most excuses aren’t too original. Knowing that, syndicated columnist Dale Dauten put together the Excuse-O-Matic which can be a handy tool.

Just find your age and under it you’ll find the corresponding excuse not to take a risk.

Under 30—too young

Need to get established/planning marriage/ kids/house

No experience/no credit/no capital

30 to 40—too busy

Have spouse/children/mortgage

Too much credit/need to save for college tuition

40 to 55—too stretched

Kids in college

Need to pay down debt/save for retirement

Over 55—too tired

Not up on latest technologies

Too late to risk capital

Concerned about losing retirement benefits

Deceased—too dead

The final and best excuse

Now I’m not a mathematician, but I can see that if you add up these excuses all you’re left with are excuses.

If you want to amaze and dazzle yourself,  give up, once and for all, anything that sounds like an excuse.

Giving up all excuses is not enough, however. In the part of your brain where you’ve stored reasons and excuses, start building an Option Bank.

An Option Bank, just like the place where you store money, is a repository of good ideas, dreams and goals. Like an ordinary bank, the more you put in, the more you can draw out.

The best way to get started at this is to convince yourself that there is never just a single option available. Never. If you begin with that premise, your creative spirit will be free to go to work.

A word of warning: this is not the same as the frequently used expression, “I’m keeping my options open,” which usually means, “I have no idea what I want and am waiting for something to happen to tell me.”

What I’m talking about is a proactive listing of any and every possibility that occurs to you.

Another key to building your Option Bank comes from Harry Browne in his book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World. “As you view any situation in which you have a goal,” Browne writes, “there are basically two types of alternatives available to you. I call them direct and indirect.

“A direct alternative is one that requires only direct action by yourself to get a desired result. An indirect alternative requires that you act to make someone else do what is necessary to achieve your objective.”

On a blank sheet of paper, draw a line down the center. At the top of the page, write a goal that you have in the form of an affirmation. Over the left hand column write Excuses and over the right hand column write Options.

Think of your excuses as debits and your options as deposits. Now write your lists. If you can’t simply ignore your excuses, what direct alternative can you take to eliminate or change them?

When you repeat this exercise regularly, you’ll discover that your Option List will grow while your Excuses List will shrivel.

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage,” Anais Nin wisely observed.

Keep building your own Option Bank and you’ll discover that life not only shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage, but also in proportion to one’s options.


Marlena De Blasi was settling nicely into her new home and  business in St. Louis. Besides being a food writer and wine consultant, Marlena was the chef in her own restaurant.

That all changed on a trip to Venice where she attracted the attention of a banker named Fernando who was certain she was the woman of his dreams. Although he spoke almost no English, he made his intentions known and within months Marlena had uprooted herself to join him.

She recounts this improbable love story in her delightful book, A Thousand Days in Venice. The subtitle could be Love is Bigger Than Culture Shock.

Once they have survived Italian bureaucracy and a reluctant priest who isn’t sure he wants to marry them, the couple begins their new life together.

One day Fernando announces that he’s tired of working at the bank where he’s been employed for 26 years and wants to work with Marlena. Apparently, our resourceful and adventurous heroine didn’t just awaken love, but also Fernando’s sleeping entrepreneurial spirit.

The account of their new venture is recorded in her second book, A Thousand Days in Tuscany.

In many ways, Marlena De Blasi is a classic entrepreneur with a willingness to try new things and create new income sources. In fact, one of her mantras is “always a beginner.”

As a result, her businesses are kept fresh and vital by the introduction of new profit centers.

Multiple profit centers, as I’ve been saying for years, are the key to growing a business. Every time you add a new product or service, you’re creating another profit center.

Although the idea of multiple profit centers is highly appealing to those who think that business is just about making money, the concept is equally interesting to Renaissance souls who have numerous ideas and interests.

As James Dickey pointed out, “There are so many selves in everybody and to explore and exploit just one is wrong, dead wrong, for the creative process.”

Whatever the motivation, mastering Multiple Profit Center creation is essential to running an inspired business.

If you run your business on the assumption that it is a vehicle for innovation and fresh thinking, profit centers  seem to bubble up naturally from your creativity. When these different profit centers involve a variety of activities, synergy is generated.

For instance, running a restaurant, being the chef and writing about food all come out of a passion for gastronomy, but each has its own requirements and activities.

As you build your collection of profit centers, you’ll find that some are going to be bigger than others, some the mainstays of your business, and some will be periodic. Since entrepreneurs adore new ideas, this keeps their imagination in high gear.

Charles Handy is another advocate of developing multiple profit centers. “Think of it this way,” he advises. “You will have a portfolio of work like an architect has or your stock portfolio. No prudent investor puts all his savings into one stock and no sensible business goes after only one customer.”

Multiple profit centers are the antidote to putting all your eggs in one basket.

No matter whether you call them passions, projects or profit centers, they’re not just the building blocks of your business: they’re the life blood.

Creating a business that engages you physically, intellectually and spiritually is a richly satisfying—and highly individual—undertaking.

And when one idea has served its time, there’s a new one ready to take its place.


When I moved into my new home last December, I was determined to find the most colorful Welcome Mat available. Not only did I want my visitors to know I was happy to see them, I wanted to remind myself that I was entering a place where good things happened.

There may have been another factor motivating my insistence that I get it right; my downstairs neighbors have a mat in front of their door that growls Go Away. Since I pass by it every time I come home, I felt obligated to counterbalance that grumpy message.

When it comes to your clients, customers and potential clients and customers what’s your sign? Are you putting out the Welcome Mat—or hanging a Do Not Disturb warning?

You don’t have to look very hard to see that every business invites you in—or warns you not to bother them.

I  learned about the Do Not Disturb sign from years of flying with Northwest Airlines. Apathy and indifference seemed to pervade the corporate culture.

As the planes got grubbier and dirtier, the crews got crankier. Questions were often treated as an irritation and passengers were an unfortunate interruption.

There wasn’t much smiling going on during the million miles I logged with them.

Now that I am not limited to NWA (merged with Delta) as a carrier, I avoid them at all costs. In fact, I’ve not touched my frequent flyer miles with them despite the fact that I could have a free trip to Europe if I was feeling the need for more abuse.

On the other hand, my trips these days are mostly on Southwest Airlines and I find myself anticipating these trips since I never know what friendliness may be in store.

Is the flight attendant heading to Las Vegas auditioning as a standup comedian? Will the passengers be invited to sing  Happy Birthday to a fellow traveler? Will I manage to read all the interesting articles in their in-flight magazine before we land?

You don’t need to operate an airline to recognize the importance of sending a message that welcomes.

Of course, there are times when the Do Not Disturb sign comes in handy—especially if you live with other people who don’t understand that you have a business to build, but in every part of your business where you’re connecting with other people, keep the Welcome Mat out.

Here are a few easy ways to do just that:

° Answer all telephone calls with friendly expectation. Yes, it might be a telemarketer on the other end, but unless you’re a really gifted psychic, don’t risk it by sounding grumpy.

Your voice message needs to be upbeat as well. (Skip the trite, “your message is important to us” stuff, however.)

° Get into the conversation on social media sites. If you’ve got gas or you’re bored, keep it to yourself.

Use social media to praise, share, ask questions, interact. That’s not difficult stuff, but it does take conscious effort to do so.

Keep in mind, too, that this is about connecting with other people. No matter how adorable your kitten is, use your own photograph since you’re the one we’re responding to.

° Don’t make busyness an excuse for rudeness. Dazzle people with your fabulous and thoughtful good manners. If you really want to astonish people, send them a hand written thank you note or express your gratitude publicly.

Keep asking yourself if you’ve got your Welcome Mat out. It’s one of the best business building tools you’ve got.

As Anita Roddick reminded us, “You will never fail as a result of any investment you make in humanizing your business.”


We’re coming to the time of year for reflection and resolutions, but once a year doesn’t seem nearly often enough to me. Too many of us reach this annual ritual reflecting and resolving the same old stuff.

Let’s close out this year by eliminating, once and for all, the dithering that keeps us from boldly moving ahead in our lives.

And let’s start with a favorite mantra of the cowering: “I don’t know how.” Instead of seeing this as an invitation to learning, it becomes a convenient hiding place (and a crowded one at that).

There’s an exercise I created a few years ago after reading that when his flight seatmate asked author Robert Fulgham what he did, Fulgham suggested that they spend the flight lying to each other, describing some fantasy occupation that they had only imagined. That produced one of the liveliest trips of Fulgham’s life.

Although I’ve never tried it on a plane, I thought it would work in a seminar. People are put in pairs and instructed to take turns answering the question, “What do you do?” with a fabricated story.

The listener asks questions about how they chose this occupation, what they love most about it, etc. The only rule is that participants have to pick something they’ve never seriously considered.

Suddenly the room explodes as faux symphony conductors, espionage agents, innkeepers and horse trainers start sharing their stories. People are smiling and laughing as they weave their fictional tales.

They also startle themselves as they discover they know more about “how” than they realized. The dangerous, actual lie, then, is, “I don’t know how.”

If you’re tempted to use this worn out excuse, stop and notice that you have the world’s largest  How-to Emporium at your fingertips—the Internet. Add on libraries, bookstores and living examples and “I don’t know how,” appears to mean, “I don’t want to be bothered.”

Moving from wishing to willing involves a few other changes as well. In fact, one of the most critical steps is often overlooked: making room for what you want.

Writer Truman Capote  said, “I  believe more in scissors than I do in the pencil.” That applies to all sorts of creative endeavors in life.

Metaphysical teachers talk about creating a vacuum  by clearing out what you don’t want and trusting that it will be replaced with something better.

Letting go ahead of the evidence is terrifying to many people who seem to have forgotten a basic teaching from high school physics about two objects not occupying the same space at the same time.

That’s not just true for rocks, of course. We like to tell ourselves that we can’t let go until we have our replacement lined up, but that’s wishy-washy thinking that can keep us from moving ahead.

Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann seemed to be speaking for many of us when she said, “I had a life with options, but frequently lived as if I had none. The sad result is that the woman I’ve become is not the woman I could have been.”

Here’s a question worth pondering as we head to the new year: What am I willing to do to make a difference in my life and the lives of others? What  new options am I going to exercise? What is the best way to make room for that?

Once you know the answers, remember that wishing won’t get you there.

Are you willing?


It’s a new month so there’s a new theme here at Buon Viaggio. For the next four weeks, we’ll explore a question that I ponder regularly: got options?

Of course, it’s a bit of a trick question since options aren’t something we get; options are more often something that we recognize.

It’s a lesson I learned long ago.

At a particularly difficult time in my life, I was sharing my frustration with a friend. She listened attentively to my story and then quietly said, “Barbara, you always have options.”

I was too miserable to grasp what she said in that  moment of my despair. Later, as I was making decisions, changing directions, and setting new goals, I’d remember those wise words and get busy exploring the options available to me.

It’s a practice that has served me well—and I’m not alone in that discovery.

Several months ago, CBS Sunday Morning did a piece about comedian/actor Chris Rock who was appearing in a Broadway play that was about to open. The interviewer commented on the diversity of Rock’s career and his financial success as a performer.

Rock sat up a little straighter and said, “Being rich is not about having lots of money. Being rich is about having lots of options.”

By that definition, which I believe is totally accurate, the world is full of rich people who have no idea. As writer Brenda Uleland said in her marvelous If You Want to Write, “It seems to me like this: if you have a million dollars in the bank and you don’t know it’s there, it doesn’t do you any good.”

Seems to me like this, if you have unlimited options and don’t know it, it doesn’t do you any good.

So this month, we’ll look at practical ways to uncover all that buried treasure. It may take a bit of digging, but I predict you’re going to love what you discover.

In the meantime, consider this bit of advice from Mike Dooley: “Both having money and not having money make fantastic adventures possible that would not otherwise be possible. Same for having, and not having, anything else.”

Opens the options window wider, doesn’t it?