“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, housing them can be a problem. Even a small collection takes up space and needs to be organized and stored.

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 1990?

Your library will serve your needs best when it’s made up of books you truly love. Begin by pruning your collection.

Before you give away books you no longer want, check with family members and friends to see if anyone wants to adopt your castoffs. Box up unwanted titles and sell them to a used bookdealer or donate them to a literacy project or thrift store.

° Organize the books you want to keep.  Group books together by subject and alphabetize them by author within each section.

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. Your trips to the bookstore will be more fruitful if you have particular titles in mind to investigate. 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.

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.

Of course, there are online sources as well. Thriftbooks is a new favorite of mine.

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.

° Make a hobby of acquiring a special collection.  Cookbook libraries are especially popular, but you can have the fun of collecting anything that pleases you. 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.

Having the great books on hand will make them accessible to your children.  It will also invite you to reread them. 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.  When a friend introduced me to British writer Barbara Pym, I decided to sample one of her stories. I was so enchanted by it that I couldn’t stop until I had read every single book she’d written.

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.

Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borge once mused, “I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.”

Fortunately, you don’t have to wait until you get there to experience the pleasure a library can bring.  Best of all, you  can spend everyday surrounded by the books that you love and cherish most.


Another great idea featured in USA Today: Little Libraries Sprouting Up On Lawns.




















It’s one of the more delightful bonuses of the entrepreneurial life that we not only can earn money as we travel, we also can be far more selective about our travels than those wornout corporate types whom we see dragging themselves through airports.

In Karen Rauch Carter’s Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life she tells how she used feng shui to add energy to her entrepreneurial travels: “In my single, more worldly days, I found a way to travel internationally three years in a row—with very little money.

“I  wanted to spend some time in Hawaii. Since I am a landscape architect, I decided to put some of my energy toward getting a license to practice there. That little bit of energy went a long way.

“I eventually flew over to take the licensing exam. At the testing location, I met an architect from California (also taking the test) who had a hotel project that needed a landscape architect. He said, ‘If you pass the test, give me a call’.

“Long story short—I got the job and had to go to Hawaii on business five times. Each time I was able to extend the trip a few days so I could tour the islands.”

Feng shui and creative thinking can give your travel dreams a big boost, of course. So can giving up the thought that you must always pay in order to go places.

“I used to believe that you needed money to travel,” says writer Gregg Levoy. “But one of the great astonishments of my life has been the discovery that you don’t need money to travel. You need enough credentials to convince others to pay for your travel.”

If you are being paid to see the world, it’s equally important that the work you are being paid to do is richly satisfying in and of itself.

Too many people have put up with toxic jobs for the occasional travel benefits. If working for the airlines or joining the military is your grandest dream, by all means go for it. If not, you’re making a bad trade.

Whether you’re doing research for a book you intend to write or buying jewelry to sell on eBay, your travels will take on a grander dimension if they’re an intrinsic part of a bigger goal. Here are some other tips for getting your travel bug fed:

* Build confidence at home.  You could plop down in Venezuela and offer your services as a Web designer for companies wanting an English Web site.

It makes more sense to figure out your marketing strategy and delivery system before you go by actually starting such a business in your own backyard.

While you may find unexpected opportunities in a distant place, at least part of your plan should include operating from your experience and confidence.

* Become really good at what you do. Your mastery will be as good as a passport for taking you places.

If you are a freelance anything  (well, almost anything) adding a portable profit center to your enterprises should be fairly easy.

Your clients don’t all have to live in close proximity so why not find some in an exotic locale? If you do, don’t be surprised if the fact that you’ve come from afar adds to your mystique and leads to even more clients.

* Develop your ability to spot opportunity.  You don’t have to act on every great idea you get, but you do have to open your mind to the fact that opportunities are everywhere.

Challenge yourself to find problems that need solving or needs that are unmet. If you are constantly on the alert, you will find opportunities that cry out for your attention. Get in the habit of thinking up ways you could take advantage of neglected ideas.

Once you begin to see for yourself how many possibilities exist, you will know beyond all doubt that you can find money-making opportunities no matter where you are.

If you’re willing to do the work to profit from them, you’re on your way to becoming an intrepid traveler with a well-fed (and grateful) travel bug.


This month we’ve been exploring habitats and the importance of putting yourself in your natural habitat as often as possible. Not all habitats are physical, however.

In fact, my personal definition of inspiration is “a place to come from.” When we decide to live our lives from an inspired place, we tend to get busy looking for ways to do just that.

For me, of course, self-employment is my starting point, my place of origin.

Last week, Steve Nobel from Alternatives St. James’s London and I had a lively chat about Self-employment as Your Next Career. Hope you’ll spend a few minutes listening to what we talked about.

Here’s the link on the joys of self-employment: http://shar.es/gfX5h

On Sunday afternoon, three-and-a-half-year-old Zachy and I were out in the backyard searching for bugs. All of a sudden he looked at me and said in his most serious voice, “This is Earth. Earth is our planet.”

I nodded solemnly. “We have to take care of it, don’t we?”  He nodded solemnly, too. We spent a little time talking about what that meant and things we could do, but I wondered what kind of a planet we are leaving for Zachy to take care of.

This is not a new concern of mine.

The most passionate environmentalist  I’ve ever known was Chris Utterback. To her, all offenses were equally serious whether it was defiling a public space with graffiti or chopping down a rain forest.

She cared deeply for the earth and couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t feel the same sense of responsibility.

One day we were driving through the quiet Connecticut countryside where she lived and came across a pile of trash heaped on the roadside. She slammed on her brakes and we jumped out of the car, picked up the litter, bagged it and put it in the back of her station wagon.

As we got back in, I sighed and said, “Planetkeeping is a full-time job.”

Chris looked at me as if I’d said the most  brilliant thing and without saying so, we both volunteered to be Planetkeepers.

Planetkeeping isn’t just a full-time job; it’s a demanding one that requires vigilance and a willingness to do more than our share simply because it’s the moral choice.

Planetkeeping is motivated by a sense of responsibility to nature and other people whether we know them or not. It goes far beyond environmental causes.

It assumes that we’ll take care of whatever is ours to care for no matter how difficult or challenging that may be. Planetkeepers refuse to be influenced by the indifference and apathy of others.

Like courtesy, Planetkeeping is learned behavior. It becomes habitual behavior to those who have determined that they will, indeed, do what they can to leave things better than they found them.

It’s a practice that is worth a closer look. Imagine, for a moment, how quickly things would change if everyone went through their days actively working to improve everything they touch.

What would happen to road rage? To rudeness? To the environment? To self-esteem? To greed? To our communities? To litter? To hunger?

It may be a long time before the majority of world citizens take up the cause to make things better, but that shouldn’t stop us from raising our own standards now.

How can we as small  businessowners improve everything we touch? As family and community members?

Perhaps it starts simply with a willingness followed by a commitment to put such lofty thoughts at the heart of our activities and relationships.

Planetkeeping also demands that we stop withholding our own gifts and talents and put them to work in the service of making the world a better, happier nurturing place.

How to take up the challenge?

As Paulo Coelho reminds us in his marvelous book, The Alchemist, “The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve upon the present, what comes later will also be better.”

Zachy will thank us all.

Fans of Prairie Home Companion know that they’ll be catching up with the wandering Dusty and Lefty on the weekly skit called Lives of the Cowboys. Since Dusty is a rough-and-tumble cowboy and Lefty is his sensitive sidekick, the somewhat unlikely pals are often at odds about how to handle tricky situations they encounter out on the trail.

Dusty and Lefty aren’t the only ones who need pals, of course. Even the most independent self-bossers discover that an entrepreneurial friend or two can be a valuable asset—in more ways than one.

When I started my first business, I made some attempts at connecting with other businessowners. I attended a workshop sponsored by SCORE, checked out my local Chamber of Commerce. Neither felt like a fit for me and I gave up my search for entrepreneurial buddies.

What a mistake that was. In my determination to be independent, I made things far more difficult for myself than necessary.

I can pinpoint the moment when my business went from frustrating to flourishing. That moment occurred when Chris Utterback and I became friends.

Chris and I  became sounding boards, idea-generators and co-conspirators as our friendship grew. Even though we both left Colorado shortly after we me, we were diligent about connecting frequently.

Quite simply, we need to have entrepreneurial friends if we’re putting ourselves in the Innovative Minority. Finding kindred spirits is an on-g0ing part of the Joyfully Jobless Journey.

When the homebased business movement began to grow, numerous attempts to create both local and national organizations began to pop up, but most of them disappeared rather quickly.

It appeared that folks who’d left corporate life were not interested in hooking up with another large organization. This new breed of entrepreneur was not about to conduct business as usual.

However, the need to connect with other self-employed people didn’t disappear, it did, however, seem to take a different form as entrepreneurs built friendships that were fewer, but richer.

Author Jess Lair once wrote, “All of us need four or five people who’s faces light up when we walk in the room.” That sounds like a description of the new Joyfully Jobless mini-tribes.

New entrepreneurs are often stumped about how to connect with other creative self-bossers since years spent in the job force has kept them away from those who are self-employed. Then there’s the uncertainty, the fear that a successful entrepreneur won’t want to be bothered hanging out with a newcomer.

When I hear such concerns, I point out that our entrepreneurial circle needs to include people at all stages of growth.

What matters most is that our relationships, include what Stewart Emery calls “a balance of contribution.” That’s a slightly more elegant description of what is commonly referred to as a win-win.

Building those relationships, reaching out, connecting, takes time, of course, but most importantly, it takes a willingness. Remind yourself that your life will be richer for these new friends.

Or remind yourself of this observation from C.S. Lewis: “Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand by 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. If you are close to it, the spray will wet you; if you are not, you will remain dry.”

If you need some suggestions for hunting down the self-employed, check out my article, A Field Guide to Genus Entrepreneurus. It’s a helpful list of the natural habitats of these elusive creatures.



When I took a sabbatical a few years ago,  I set off for Europe with no itinerary, but plenty of notebooks and eyes wide open. Anything and everything that caught my fancy was recorded and composted.

Long term travel isn’t the only option, of course. Taking regular jaunts to inspire yourself is good for your creative spirit. Even a day trip can yield results if you are open to it happening.

Here are a few of my favorite ways to recharge and refresh my entrepreneurial self.

° Visit a legendary business. Long before I set foot in Rejuvenation, a lighting, salvage and home furnishings store in Portland, I was a fan. I’d been getting their catalogs and loved their storytelling as much as their merchandise.

Seeing the business in person did not disappoint.

Another happy visit took place on a trip to Minneapolis when Alice Barry suggested we pay a call on Wild Rumpus, the imaginative children’s bookstore. Somehow I had never managed to get there when I lived in the area.

These kinds of places don’t always show up in guidebooks, but savvy entrepreneurs who are willing to scout them out, often find ideas and inspiration that they can synthesize in their own operations.

° Browse at a flea market. Whether or not you’re shopping for anything in particular, a couple of hours chatting with entrepreneurial sellers can be a fine way to invest some weekend time.

If a seller isn’t busy, ask about their business. Why did they choose the merchandise they sell? Where do they find things they market?

For some sellers, it’s a little sideline, while others travel the country marketing antique, art or clothing. Most sellers are also social beings and love to share their stories.

° Make a pilgrimage. The moment that I heard that the deYoung Museum in San Francisco was hosting the largest display of Dale Chihuly’s work ever gathered in one place, I knew I had to go. I have been tracking down his work in cities I’ve visited for the past several years, but never attended such an abundant exhibit.

I have, however, flown across the country and across the ocean with the intention of attending a special exhibit of the works of artists I love or to hear a performer or author I admire.

It’s always special to visit an exhibit or attend a concert or seminar that only exists for a brief time. Making the effort to admire creativity enriches and enhances your life.

° Visit an entrepreneurial city or town. When my friend Chris Utterback was alive, I always looked forward to my visits to her in Connecticut where one of our regular amusements was to visit our favorite shopkeepers in neighboring villages.

Like flea market sellers, shopkeepers who specialize in selling things that they love are frequently eager to talk about their passions.

Large cities, too, often have neighborhoods where locals run quirky little businesses. Scout them out.

° Be a tourist in your own hometown. During my days living in Santa Barbara, I always enjoyed visits from out of town friends with whom I could share this lovely spot.

After one of these visits where I played tour guide, I realized that I wasn’t taking advantage of interesting things in my own backyard.

Every so often, get off your beaten path and go see something a visitor wouldn’t dream of missing if they came to your part of the world.

° Go on a treasure hunt. If you’re a collector, you already know the fun of treasure hunting, but if you aren’t so inclined, invent a project and see where it leads you.

Find the best taco or creme brulee within fifty miles of home. Or see if you can discover the most eccentric business in your area.

Entrepreneurial excursions can inspire and inform, of course, but the best part of taking such a trip is the possibility of encountering someone who is genuinely doing what they love.

As Danny Gregory reminds us, “When you are in the deep end of the creative pool surrounded by others full of energy and ideas and examples, you learn to swim a lot better.”


Bonus Excursion: In Seth Godin’s LINCHPIN he writes eloquently about the importance of creative thinking. “Art isn’t only a painting,” he points out. “Art is anything that’s creative, passionate and personal.” Like being Joyfully Jobless. And the upcoming Idea Safari can help you spread your art. There’s still time to join the exploration. http://tinyurl.com/3w9yxq3

Three months after my best friend Chris Utterback lost her battle with breast cancer, I moved out of my suburban Minneapolis apartment, disposed of about a third of my belongings, put the rest in storage, and set off on an eight month sabbatical.

I had decided that the purpose of my journey was Creative Renewal. That was about all I knew.

“What will you do when you get back?” alarmed acquaintances would ask. I’d shrug and answer, “I’m going with questions, not with answers.”

One thing I did know is that I was open to change. I would abandon my business, move to a new city (or country) if that’s what I discovered along the way.

My adventure began with a family reunion in Italy. After that, I was on my own.

I had no itinerary and for the first time in my life found myself getting up in the morning and asking myself, “Where do you want to go today?”

Even after weeks of exploring, I still had no clarity about where I would land once my travels were over.

Eventually, I headed to Greece to spend a week with my archeologist sister Nancy. When I arrived, I discovered that Athens was under a heavy cloud of smog which made breathing difficult so I spent my days alone in Nancy’s apartment.

One day I found a stack of Smithsonian magazines and decided to amuse myself with them. Little did I know that an answer I was seeking was awaiting me.

The article that caught my eye was about mobile home parks that were also intentional communities. Some were designed for senior living, others were even more specific, such as the one in Malibu for retired members of the Screen Writers Guild.

The author had interviewed all sorts of people about why they’d chosen this lifestyle. In one instance she said, “For them, a home is not a status symbol. It’s a rest stop between adventures.”

A rest stop between adventures.

The moment I read those words, I knew that was the definition of home that I’d been seeking. I also realized that where that home was located was less important than how it was created to nurture me when I was there.

After all, when we run a business from the spot we call home, it takes on a different dimension than it would if home was merely a place to sleep and store our belongings.

Several years ago writer Michael Shapiro came up with an idea for a book that would  interview travel writers about their lives and careers, but Shapiro decided to conduct his interviews in the writers’ homes.The result is a wonderful collection of stories called A Sense of Place. 

Rick Steves, Frances Mayes, Pico Iyer, Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux thirteen other writers share their inspirations, why they’ve chosen to live where they do, and lessons learned on the road. Their personal visions are as unique as they are, but they each seem to have chosen a hometown that supports their visions and restores them for future travels.

My own definition of home has evolved a bit since I first encountered that description that inspired me. Perhaps it’s because I work from home that I want it to be more than a rest stop between adventures.

Home, for me, also needs to be a place that inspires adventures—whether I’m traveling or not. In many ways, creating such a place is more difficult than being inspired in a strange land.

After I had moved into my latest home, my daughter stopped by to see the progress. I was delighted when she said, “You’ve lived in such different places, but they’re always so you!”

If the place you call home isn’t a kitchen for your mind, how can you change that? And if it is such a place, how did you accomplish that?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you want some inspiration, visit the home office gallery gathered by Judy Heminsley.  You’ll see wonderful environments that bear no resemblance to a cubicle.

Even as a kid, I always knew I wanted to live in different places, not just visit them. I’m not sure where this notion came from since I certainly hadn’t traveled far from my small town in Minnesota.

Eventually, I put down roots in Sun Prairie, WI (where I found the courage to start my first business), Santa Barbara, CA (a gorgeous place that wasn’t a good fit for me), Boulder, CO (another gorgeous misfit), Minneapolis, MN (a hothouse for my dreams), Las Vegas, NV (it was time to shake up my life) and, now, Valencia, CA.

The diversity of these hometowns confirmed my suspicions that the place we call home can make a profound impact on our lives.

When I began traveling around the country teaching my seminars, I was fascinated by the regional differences I found. We don’t just dress differently, attitudes are heavily influenced by the area we inhabit.

It wasn’t until I read Stewart Emery’s Actualizations that I understood how our environment influences us. Here’s his marvelous metaphor:

 If you were a willow tree living by a riverside, the environmental conditions of your existence would support your evolution toward becoming a self-actualized willow tree. Your relationship with the environment would result in you developing all the qualities one would expect to see in a self-actualized willow tree. 

If, on the other hand, you were a willow tree and you were planted in the desert, the chances of your making it as a self-actualized willow tree would be virtually nil. The environmental conditions of your existence simply wouldn’t allow it.

On a very fundamental level, what is true for the willow tree is true for you and me. If we are in an environment that supports our evolution toward self-actualization, then it will happen, and if we are not, then it won’t happen.

However, you and I have some qualities that the willow tree does not possess. The willow tree does not possess qualities that allow it to select its environment. 

In other words, a will tree that finds itself planted in the desert cannot hail a passing yellow cab and ask the driver to take it to the riverside.

You and I, on the other hand, can.

This month we’re going to explore Habitats. Thanks to technology, we have tools for creating the perfect place for ourselves that has nothing to do with geography.

If you feel that you are far removed from your perfect place, you may not need a moving van to get you there. If you feel that a move is in order, we’ll look at some preliminaries that can make it the richest possible experience.

As Stewart Emery reminds us, “You and I have within us the creative intelligence to recognize the conditions that support our growth and we have the wherewithal to place ourselves in such an environment.”

We can plant ourselves where we will bloom.

One of the first acknowledgements I saw of the home business movement was a magazine ad showing a sweet little house in the suburbs. The headline read, “To the neighbors, it’s 324 Oak Street. To the Olsens, it’s World Headquarters.”

I’ve been working from home long before it became fashionable. It didn’t take long to realize that living and working in the same space posed some organizational challenges. 

I tried to convince myself that the creative process is messy, but that didn’t make me enjoy the clutter any more. Over time I found a system that made sense for me, but keeping it up is an on-going challenge.

Albert Einstein once pointed out that everything should be made as simple as possible—but no simpler. I remind myself of that as frequently as necessary.

Since a business can become complicated and cumbersome in the blink of an eye, here are a few ways to keep things tidy.

° Make simplicity a goal. It’s not enough to say you want to simplify your business. Identify specific measurable results that will indicate that you have made your systems, marketing, accounting, etc. as simple as possible.

° Work on one profit center at a time. Give a single project your full attention by keeping papers or items related to other projects out of sight. When it’s time to move on to the next project, stash things related to the last project in a file or closet or drawer.

° Avoid confusion. “Clutter and messy work areas cause confusion and irritability,” observes Alexandra Stoddard. “Give your mind a spa and take some time out to rearrange your office. Block off a few hours on your calendar and use the time to putter. Edit out the unnecessary.”

° Identify spendthrift behavior and eliminate it. New gadgets and technologies can be seductive, but refuse to purchase anything for your business unless it makes a positive contribution.

° Keep projects separate. If you manage several profit centers, color code the work in each of them for ease in locating and filing.

° Hire a professional organizer to help you develop the best system for you. Make certain you understand how to maintain it as easily as possible.

° Clean out your computer and cabinet files at regular intervals. Make a note on your calendar every 60 or 90 days to tidy up so things don’t accumulate.

° Designate space. My grandmother’s favorite saying was, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” As I’ve discovered, uncluttering is as much about creating places as it is about throwing away.

 ° Identify your nemesis and make a special effort to deal with that. Going after the biggest problem—and solving it—often makes solving lesser problems a snap.

For years I’ve been saying that my fantasy trip would be a very long  train ride—perhaps across Canada—with a stack of books I’d been meaning to read. 

I was musing about that a while ago and decided to take it to the next level. Since another longtime desire has been to ride the Orient Express, I got thinking about that and who I would want to have on the train with me. 

I went to the Orient Express Web site and chose the Venice-Prague-Paris route. Now, I just had to fill up the train.              

My list was quite long, but here are some of people I’d want along:

My family—because they’re great travel companions despite our different interests; Zoe and Zachary would liven things up, of course

Anne Lamott— because she’s a rare combination of wise and funny

Jon Stewart—because I owe my sanity to him

Bill Bryson—because he’s a brilliant storyteller who makes me laugh out loud

Richard Branson—because an entrepreneur whose motto is “Fun is Fundamental” belongs on this trip

Whoever writes the copy for the Innocent Drinks Web site—because they’re wacky

Elizabeth Gilbert—because she might be ready for another trip and she speaks Italian

Guy Laliberte—because I suspect the founder of Cirque du Soleil is a genius

Billy Collins—because he turns stories into poems that I love

Rick Steves—because he could fill us in on what we’re seeing

Philip Pullman—because he’s one of the best storytellers alive

Bill Strickland—a man who understands how telling his story has contributed to his success

I realized as I was making out my list of fellow passengers that every one of them was selected because I wanted to hear their stories. You’ll also notice that there are no politicians or overexposed celebrities on the list. 

In fact, even though many of the passengers are quite well known, they each have a bit of mystique about them. Imagine what five days on board with this group would be like.

If you were filling up a train or a yacht or a retreat center, who would you most love to have along? Make out your list and then don’t be surprised if you find yourself in their presence someday.

After all, genuine admiration is wonderfully magnetic.