Zoe’s about to turn 6 and I’ve been wondering if she’s old enough for me to tell her about the way cameras used to work. This child of the digital age isn’t going to believe me when I tell her about film, the long wait between the time we shot a picture and actually got to see what we’d done.

I was thinking about this pending conversation on a flight to visit Zoe recently and, as if they’d read my mind, the March issue of Southwest Airline’s Spirit magazine had a fun trip down memory lane with an article called  Last Tech

There are no horse and buggies in this piece, but they recalled things like typewriters, pay phones, gas station attendants, answering machines and boomboxes—all from the not so distant past.

It was another reminder that we are living in a time when change is so constant that it often leaves us breathless. What’s so striking is how different people deal with this rapid evolution in very disparate ways.

One man I know simply ignores it while opportunities zoom past him. He reminds me of Edward Arlington Robinson’s poem, Miniver Cheevy. Remember it from high school?

Here’s a verse:

Miniver cursed the commonplace

And eyed a khaki suit with loathing;

He missed the medieval grace

Of iron clothing.

It isn’t just characters from poems and real life individuals who seem to have one foot in each century. The latest issue of Time magazine showed up with a cover story titled  JOBS: Where They Are

That may not sound unusual given the state of employment, but consider this. Two weeks earlier this same magazine’s cover story was 10 Ideas for the Next 10 Years. My favorite article from that gaze into the years ahead  was the one that declared, “the future of work looks a lot like unemployment.” 

The author talks about the changing world of work and says the future will tend to be homebased, fueled by a new spirit of individualism that also embraces self-sufficiency. Sounds like the Joyfully Jobless are about to become trendy.

Of course, our institutions are often the last to notice changing times. College students today are increasingly reporting that they intend to run their own businesses, but are ignoring college business courses which still seem  designed to prepare students for corporate jobs. 

These kids are on to something, but  I’m not so sure about their elders—especially those who are trying to build a business with tools and attitudes from the previous century. It’s a handicap we don’t need, but we may have to confront our own resistance first.

After all, the highest calling of the Joyfully Jobless life is to use imagination and innovation to create a near future that is somehow better than the recent past. While that doesn’t mean jumping on every bandwagon that comes along, it does require keeping up. 

There are modern trailblazers all around us and they are showing us new possibilities for living and working in the 21st century. Gather and synthesize ideas from these creative thinkers.

Follow them on Twitter. Read their books. Connect with them in seminars. Make peace with technology.

Or adopt (sans drugs) a motto from the sixties that finally makes sense: Tune In. Turn On. Drop Out.

That may be the best description of how to create the business of your dreams in our not-always-so-brave new world.

After the death of Colorado Free University founder John Hand, his sister Helen stepped in determined to continue the program he had founded twenty-five years earlier. When I was there last weekend, I picked up their latest catalog and was intrigued by Helen’s essay. She wrote:

John Hand based the school on the principle that communities have within them the resources to solve their own problems. For every person with a problem or need, there is someone with a solution or an answer. CFU is the place where those people meet.

What Helen points out is that CFU is a business which created a habitat with a special purpose. She goes on to say, “Clearly, unemployment is a huge problem today. Being stuck in jobs that are not gratifying is also a problem for many people.

CFU’s Un-Job Fair is an opportunity for people with those issues to meet with real-world entrepreneurs who have ideas and solutions.”

While it could be argued that even the most ordinary of enterprises may involve designing a habitat to house it, (i.e. restaurants, gift shops, car dealerships), there are numerous unconventional businesses that don’t fit the old bricks-and-mortar model.

These businesses often come into being to serve a neglected or overlooked niche. Consider, for example, Sober Cruises.

As anyone who has tackled alcohol addiction learns, travel poses some special challenges since partying is closely associated with vacationing for many people. For the recovering alcoholic, determined not to relapse, travel may seem a thing of the past.

Enter Sober Cruises, a company offering travel experiences for those wanting to travel without jeopardizing their hard won sobriety. They’re not the only such company. One of the oldest companies in the business, Sober Vacations International, takes over an entire Club Med resort once a year.

One of the purposes of my business is to inspire people in beautiful places. Should you be attendiing the upcoming Inspired Livelihood seminar in Sedona, AZ, you’ll be entering a habitat with the specific purpose of doing just that. 

Looking for ideas? Keep asking yourself, “Who’s got a problem I know how to solve?”

Begin answering that and you’ll discover endless possibilities for adding a habitat where people with a problem can connect with a solution.

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If you’re in the Denver area, check out the new CFU catalog which announces our upcoming special event, The Un-Job Fair happening on May 1. (You can also find information at www.freeu.com by going to the Special Events page.) It will be a day of exploration and information on becoming your own boss. Would love to see you there.

My flight to London had barely lifted off when my seatmate and I began to chat.

I soon learned that the handsome man seated next to me was a former art teacher who reinvented his life and is now a full-time painter. Since English landscapes are his specialty, he was a frequent flyer to England.

His reinvention had included moving from the Twin Cities of Minnesota to a small town south of there. “I just love it, “ he said. “It’s so quiet. I go to my studio and paint to my heart’s content.”

Not long after, I found myself seated next to another small town enthusiast on a flight to Dallas. This man was a former pilot who had just become a flight training instructor.

But he was most excited about the little bed and breakfast inn he and his wife owned in a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. It was their second such venture and he regaled me with stories about his life as an innkeeper.

The dream of living and working a bit off the beaten path is no longer out of the question. Long neglected by a mobile population that rushed to cities seeking their fortune, small towns are being rediscovered and reinvented by a new wave of entrepreneurial spirits.

While small town living isn’t for everyone, relocating to smaller places is becoming increasingly popular. The entrepreneurial revolution is partially responsible. Thanks to technology, it’s now possible to do all sorts of work in the most remote locations.

Even those of us who choose to remain within large cities are becoming more like villagers, carving out our personal small space within larger city limits. More walking and talking to each other are the visible characteristics of these big city villagers.

So is reclaiming neglected property and neighborhoods. Obviously, more of us are taking action to transform existing places into good human habitats.

If you’re dreaming about becoming an entrepreneurial villager, decide if you want to create a local business that serves your community or if you want to serve a clientele unlimited by geography. Either kind of business is possible in the new world of cottage industries.

Since today’s cottage is apt to be an electronic one, small towns are becoming home to an endless array of enterprises that would have been unthinkable even a decade ago.

If small town living appeals to you, make your own opportunities in a place that you love. As Jack Lessigner advises, “Build something, help something, save something. The possibilities are endless.”

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Becky McCray’s Small Biz Survival Web site is loaded with tips and information for entrepreneurial villagers.

In 1883 Claude Monet moved his family to Giverny. It remained his home for forty-three years until his death. This place became a daily source of inspiration for his life and his painting.

No detail was too insignificant for Monet. Besides overseeing the planning and installation of the gardens, he was equally involved in creating a beautiful home for his family, insisting that meals be a regular source of pleasure along with the visual delights of the indoor and outdoor spaces.

Not only did Monet’s talent grow in this beautiful environment, he also became a skillful entrepreneur marketing his work with the same imagination which he applied to his painting and his personal life.

Would Monet have become such a successful artist without GIverny? We can only guess at the answer.

One thing is certain, however: he became a more prolific painter after finding inspiration right outside of his door.

It isn’t just artists, of course, who are fueled by that mysterious force called inspiration. It’s a power that’s available to anyone willing to allow it to flourish in their life. It arrives when we create a welcoming environment for it.

Do you know what inspires you? What music? What books? What people leave you feeling happier and more confident? What movies make your spirits soar? Wise words? A favorite spot? Gardens? Babies? Needlework? 

Do you consciously create an environment that inspires you?

You can’t be inspired living on the spiritual equivalent of Big Macs. Inspiration requires grander material than that.

Inspiration isn’t vaccination, after all. We don’t get it once and expect it to last.
Like Monet, we need to set up our lives in such a way that inspiration is a daily event.

We must be brave enough to surround ourselves with those things, thoughts and people that lift us up. And we need to do it over and over again. 

People wo go beyond the ordinary have all made the commitment to bringing as much inspiration as possible into their lives. So can you.

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If you’d like to know more about inspiration and, especially, what others find inspiring, pay a visit to the Get Inspired Project where you can listen to interviews with dozens of people who share their thoughts on the subject.

And if you’re serious about integrating the power of inspiration into your business, join us for Inspired Livelihood in Sedona, AZ on April 15 & 16.

Alyson Stanfield, author of I’d Rather Be In The Studio and Art Biz Blog, is also a proponent of creative retreats. Hop over to her blog where she share her thoughts on the subject. 

Don’t be surprised if Alyson’s article has you thinking about a creative retreat of your own.

Although there are all sorts of reasons for taking time away, creative renewal is one of the most popular.Whether you can swing a few months or a few days, running away with your Muse from time to time can be a great investment.

Here are a few suggestions that get high marks from Muses.

Cottages at Hedgebrook is a retreat center for women writers on Whidbey Island in Puget Sound. Hedgebrook offers a peaceful setting for writers, published or not. 

Resident writers stay for one week to three months in individual fairy tale cottages, are given room and board with the only requirement being that they spend the time being the best writers they can be.

Artists Residency Program of the Woodstock Guild offers summer residencies to craftspeople, writers, musicians, dancers and film, video and visual artists. Applications are closed for 2010, but if you wish to investigate, you might get a jump on 2011. 

Your Own Billionaire’s Retreat. For years, Bill Gates has taken himself away for a week-long reading retreat. You don’t have to be a billionaire to do the same. 

You know that stack of books you never quite get around to exploring? All you need is a quiet place and the intention of finishing the best books in your pile.

A reading respite is also a great idea that you can adopt before you have the time and money for a longer sabbatical. 

Bellagio Center is a retreat nestled in the Italian Alps where the Rockefeller Foundation welcomes scientists, policy makers and scholars from around the world who are working on significant projects to solve global problems.

The center, a 17th century building surrounded by 50 acres of parks and gardens, offers free room and board to those who are chosen. 

Change the Scenery. Take yourself away to a cabin in the mountains or a lake cottage or ocean bungalow. The key here is to give yourself as big a change of scenery as possible.

If you live in Denver, for instance, consider time away on the prairies of Kansas rather than a familiar Rocky Mountain retreat.

Or rent a motorhome and park it in a lovely setting. This is also ideal if you’re doing research on a subject like the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright which is scattered throughout the country.

Don’t wait until you can spare a big chunk of time. Making creative excursions a regular activity will enrich your life and fan your creative spirit. Even a day or two can be as refreshing as a spa visit.

Have you taken your Muse on a getaway? If so, I’d love to know where you went and what rewards came of it.

 

 

A few months ago, NPR reported that traffic is a mess in Buenos Aires thanks to on-going protests that are clogging the streets. The cause of this civil unrest is a declining economy and various types of businesses are organizing to speak out, including nightclub owners who are unhappy about the law forcing them to shut their doors at 5:30 AM.

 

While the protests are causing a lot of commotion, they’re also inflicting a great deal of harm as shoppers are unable to get to stores due to the flood of people in the streets. Consequently, many businesses that were doing just fine are now struggling because of the protests.

 

What’s happening in Buenos Aires goes on everyday on a much smaller scale. Quite simply, actions are out of alignment with goals. 

 

Here’s a case in point. I’m not sure how I began following Peter (not his real name) on Twitter, but I thought I’d like to hear what he had to say about his specialty, building confidence. As time went on, I noticed that Peter had little to say about confidence and a great deal to report on his drinking escapades.

 

This guy sounds like he’s in trouble, I thought, so I sent him an e-mail expressing my concern. I gently pointed out that nobody was going to listen to what he had to say about building confidence if all he wrote about was how much alcohol he consumed. 

 

Peter didn’t reply and he didn’t show up on Twitter for several weeks. When he reappeared, he had a link to a new blog post. I clicked on link and was genuinely moved by his piece confessing to his readers that he’d received an e-mail from someone (that would be me) pointing out a problem he knew he had, but had failed to confront. It appears that Peter’s behavior is back in alignment with his goals.

 

When people are disappointed by the financial results in their lives, there’s often a disconnect between what they want and what they are doing. In The Little Money Book, Stuart Wilde talks about closing the gap between where you are and where you want to be. He says:

 

Certain industries are located in certain places in the world. If you’re a long way from where the action is, you may want to consider closing the gap. For example, if you want to make it big in movies, you’ve got to more or less be in New York or Los Angeles.

 

Closing the physical distance is a matter of showing up in the marketplace, becoming a face that people know, demonstrating your expertise, and getting into the loop where the movers and shakers are.

 

People who could bestow great opportunities on you aren’t scouring the distant hills for talent. They’re in the flow.

 

Closing the gap may require changing behavior, changing attitude, changing habitat. It almost never happens if we are devoted to protecting the status quo.

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Note: If you’ve never been to magical Sedona, there’s still time to join Terri Belford, Alice Barry and me for Inspired Livelihood...and even make your trip a tax deduction. Early Bird deadline closes at midnight on Monday, March 15.

After my friend Jane told me a little about feng shui, the Chinese art of placement, I made several attempts at learning more by reading about it. I found the books complicated and hard to apply.

I forgot all about it until I noticed a lecture that was being given at Border’s by two feng shui practitioners. A friend and I decided to attend.

Little did I suspect that it was going to turn me into a madwoman. The lecturers gave use some simple tips about things we could do in our environments to improve the chi (energy flow). They introduced us to the bagua, kind of a blueprint for placement.

I spent an hour or so in bed after the lecture mentally moving furniture. I decided that my office was completely backwards, feng shui-wise, so the next morning I began rearranging things.

Six hours later, my office had taken on a new airiness and was more inviting than it had ever been.

They also told us that in order to get things flowing forward in life, we should go home and move twenty-seven objects that hadn’t been moved for a year. I had no difficulty locating twenty-seven things that were overdue for relocation. I changed mirrors and hung crystals. I fretted over sharp corners and pondered ways to soften them. I had a ball seeing my old familiar surroundings with new eyes.

What’s so intriguing to me about this feng shui business is that it’s a wonderful way to become more clear about the metaphors in your life.

For instance, after I moved my computer to the other side of my office, I needed a longer cord. The one I had was quite tangled and I was going to just plug it in when I realized it would be going through my partnership area. “I don’t want tangled partnerships,” I told myself and decided to take the time to straighten out the cord.

Now when I notice it, I affirm that all my partnerships are running smoothly. It can get even more cosmic than this, but I will resist the urge to go on and on about the metaphysical insights gained from moving furniture around.

 “Care for our actual houses,” writes Thomas Moore, “is also care of the soul. No matter where we live, we can cultivate this wider piece of earth as a place that is integrally bound to the condition of our hearts.”

 But, then, the Chinese knew that centuries ago.

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If you’d like to learn more about feng shui, a delightful introduction can be found in Karen Rauch Carter’s Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life

 

All creative folks have their favorite ways of re-lighting their imagination. On those days when I need a little jolt, but don’t have a lot of time to devote to it, a swing through my neighborhood branch library or bookstore usually does the trick.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has discovered these idea palaces, but a letter I received a while back shared a bookstore experience that made me smile. I’ll keep the writer anonymous. Here’s his story:

“Exactly 24 hours ago, I took my penny pail to the bank and cashed it in for $32.09. Against my better judgment, I decided to visit Border’s bookstore to have a latte and browse through a book that had caught my eye on several previous tours. Before my coffee was cool enough to drink, I decided to spend over half my available cash on Making a Living Without a Job.

 “After brooding for nearly two weeks and accomplishing nothing, I read your entire book in one sitting. 

 “Since then, I have sold books to a used bookstore, sold an expensive golf bag to a secondhand sporting goods store,l, sold a rowing machine to a secondhand exercise machine store, took four large trash bags of good clothing to a consignment shop.

“I dared to try my new Rollerblades, scheduled a meeting with my father-in-law to learn his business secrets, faxed a letter and resume to a local business college about teaching several courses, made a number of phone calls for some consulting work. and listed 37 potential Profit Centers. 

 “Oh, yes, I also made a huge pot of Texas Red chili and did five loads of laundry.” 

He goes on to write, “I have been making a living without a job, though I lacked an understanding of the process and certainly lacked the passion you so eloquently described.

“I knew the time had come to return to the dream. Thank you for giving it back to me.”

Author Robert G. Allen wrote, “The will to prepare to win is more important than the will to win. Preparing usually means doing those kinds of things that failures don’t like to do.

“It means studying and learning. It means reading books, going to seminars. It means not being afraid to corner experts and ask foolish questions.”

As a person who has traveled across the country to attend a seminar and even further to conduct one, I can’t imagine why everyone hasn’t discovered the joy of participating in events that have the power to change our lives for the better.

People who can’t be bothered never learn this little secret: getting yourself to a seminar may, in fact, be more important than what happens in the seminar.

When you are willing to spend your time and money to expose yourself to new ideas, new techniques for doing things, and new people who can add their enthusiasm to your dreams, you’re also sending a strong message to your subconscious mind about your own worth.

Conversely, not investing this way also sends a strong message. As Sondra Ray says, “When you say, ‘I don’t have enough money to go to that self-improvement seminar or buy that book, it’s almost like saying, ‘I am not a good investment.’ The best way to make money is to invest in yourself.”

What would you like to be better at? Speaking German? Creative marketing? Managing your time? Boosting your emotional intelligence? 

You can accelerate your progress at anything by putting yourself in a roomful of people who are on a similar quest.

Best of all, an investment in yourself is the one thing that no one can ever take from you. No matter what is happening in the economy or where interest rates are headed, the investment you make in your personal growth—and continue to make— never stops paying dividends.

“In times of change,” said Eric Hoffer, “learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

With all the resources—the books, the seminars, the insights of  others—available, it makes no sense to skip the critical preparation stage. 

Because, in the the final analysis, winning isn’t about what you have or even what you do. Winning is about becoming the person you were meant to become no matter how long and difficult that journey may be.

If you truly want to join the winner’s circle, take advantage of every  resource you can find. You never know what might happen if you do.

You could be sitting in a roomful of strangers and suddenly meet yourself.

Not long ago, lawyer-turned-entrepreneur Jonathan Fields, author of the terrific Career Renegade,  gave readers of his blog a virtual tour of his office. Since we don’t often get a glimpse of other people’s home offices, I thought you would enjoy seeing where the magic happens.

After I read Food Rules by Michael Pollan, I was curious about his other books. I knew he’d written about food, but that was about all I knew. When my research uncovered an earlier title of his that had been reissued, I was eager to read it.

That book is A Place of My Own and is a detailed account of his desire to build a room of his own, a writing house in the woods behind his farmhouse in Connecticut despite his unhandy hands.

Pollan’s original vision was a place where he could write and daydream. Did he accomplish that? Take a look and decide for yourself.

Despite the title, these 10 Most Unusual Places to Set Up Your Office, don’t seem farfetched to me at all. Charming? Yes. (And don’t miss the office on Air Force One.)

Finally, if you haven’t paid a visit to Where in the World Do You Work? on the Joyfully Jobless Web site, take a look.

You’ll find snapshots of people from many different places, doing all sorts of creative work. And if you haven’t shared your story, we’d love to have you join us.