Although trendspotter Faith Popcorn’s best-selling The Popcorn Report came out in 1991 (and is out of print), the ten top trends she alerted us to seem remarkably fresh. Here’s what she told us would move that decade:

Cashing Out: Looking for satisfaction, more of us will opt out of corporate life for a simpler way of living.

Cocooning: In an increasingly unpredictable world, our homes will become important sanctuaries.

Down-Aging: Nostalgic for their childhood, baby boomers make retro pursuits and products popular.

Egonomics: The sterile computer era breeds the desire to make a personal statement.

Fantasy Adventure: Modern age whets our desire for the roads not taken.

99 Lives: Too fast a pace, too little time causes societal schizophrenia.

S.O.S. (Save Our Society): The country rediscovers a social conscience of ethics and compassion.

Small Indulgences: Stressed-out consumers want to indulge in affordable luxuries.

Staying Alive: Awareness that good health extends longevity.

The Vigilante Consumer: The consumer uses protest and politics to keep the marketplace inline.

Popcorn spends a fair amount of the book pointing out the opportunities that come with each of these trends. My favorite exercise in The Popcorn Report is the Universal Screen Test. This is a simple way of taking an idea and holding it up against the major trends. Is the idea of being Joyfully Jobless, for instance, riding the horse in the direction the horse is going? Let’s look.

Cashing Out: Absolutely. The movement away from working for large corporations and doing work that is satisfying is the wave of the future.

Cocooning: Right on-trend again. Creating a homebased business gives us more time in our own cocoons.

Down-Aging: There are many aspect to this trend including a sense of playfulness. Down-agers want a sense of fun about their work and will ignore ideas about retirement age. On trend here, too.

Egonomics: What could be a more personal statement than creating work that’s an extension of who you are? Pass again.

Fantasy Adventure: Our new desire to test the unknown in ways that are safe but exciting makes stepping out on our own a perfect way to live our dreams. On trend.

99 Lives: Regaining control of our time and lives leads us to self-bossing as a partial solution.  We’re going for balance here. Pace will be less frantic. A+ on this one.

S.O.S.: What better way to put your values, passions and social concerns into action? Yes, to this trend.

Small Indulgences: Every successful entrepreneur learns the value of rewarding their progress in small ways. This trend also suggests many product ideas.

Staying Alive: Knowing what we do about job-related, stress-induced illnesses, how could any health conscious person not work for themselves? Major on-trend.

The Vigilante Consumer: Changing the way things are done sometimes involves doing it yourself. Some Vigilantes will discover their most effective weapon is being an honest  businessperson.

According to my calculations, being Joyfully Jobless scores a perfect 10. How do your ideas fit into the trends Popcorn predicted?

$100 Hour: Popcorn also points out that our franchised, repetitive marketplace will spawn a backlash with more folks looking for unique, even custom made products. How might you create one-of-a-kind experiences for your clients?

Explore More: John Woods certainly passes the Universal Screen Test. If you don’t know him, add his Leaving Microsoft to Change the World to your reading list.

The seeds of great discoveries are constantly floating around us, but they only take root in minds well prepared to receive them. ~ Joseph Henry

As I was running errands yesterday morning, I heard an interview on public radio with violinist Joshua Bell. He had some interesting things to say about how he maintains his enthusiasm for music. Part of his success, he hinted, is that he’s also passionate about football and other things that have nothing to do with music. He confessed that some days he doesn’t even practice his violin. As I listened, I realized that Bell’s approach is one adapted by many creative souls…my sister Margaret, for example.

Before  Margaret drove me to the airport for my flight back home on Tuesday, she loaded up her car with tools. One of the customers for her handywoman services needed a house call after the man of the house cleaned their aquarium and dumped the rocks down the garbage disposal causing a household emergency.

After she dropped me at the airport—and before she came to the rescue of her distraught homemakers—Margaret stopped at a large fabric/craft store and purchased feathers and other supplies for her big new passion, handmade fascinators. Her enthusiasm has been so contagious that all sorts of people are adding their support. Earlier in the day, Margaret’s daughter called to say she had the photographer booked and was lining up models for an upcoming photo shoot to expand her Website. Over the Top Fascinators has generated a creative flurry  at Margaret’s house and a delightful new profit center.

While I love the juxtaposition of fashionista and handywoman, I also realized that the way in which this has come together is a study in generating creative thinking. What did Margaret do that we can use in our own enterprises?

1. Created a vacuum. After two decades in corporate life, Margaret quit her job not quite knowing what was coming next. She did, however, think it was time to be self-employed. It took a bit of time for her to realize that Another Pair of Hands, her handywoman business, was an idea that was hiding in plain sight. The bigger lesson here is that getting rid of what we don’t want often is a critical first step to creating what we do want. It also requires some courage.

2. Followed where enthusiasm led.  Too often we dismiss ideas when they don’t fit neatly with other things that we’re doing. If we acknowledge the the creative life will open new doors to new passions, we tend to be more welcoming. After all, passion begets more passion so we constantly discover new things to be excited about.

3. Practiced creative cross-training. Being involved in activities that require wildly different activities can be a powerful force for building creative muscle. Each activity makes its own special contribution and synergy is the result.

While our rational left brain may be telling us to keep thinking about solutions or options, often shifting gears for a while produces far greater results. 

Explore More: It’s only January and  I may have already found my favorite book of the year. Sir Ken Robinson, one of the world’s best-known thinkers on creativity, has a brand new offering called The Element: How Finding Your Passion Changes Everything. Filled with great stories, along with his keen observations about creativity and innovation, this book is both fun to read and wonderfully encouraging. There’s his story about the Traveling Wilbury’s, for instance, which reminds us that if we start the creative process we may end up with something far more brilliant than we expected. Robinson also talks eloquently about the importance of finding your tribe and nurturing your own inherent creative spirit. Simply inspiring from cover to cover.

Enthusiasm is the most important single factor in making a person creative. ~ Robert E. Mueller

Minutes after I returned from a mini-vacation in California, my daughter Jennie called. “Can you talk to Zoe?” she asked. “She put glitter glue on her Fancy Nancy puzzle and she’s having artist’s remorse.”

The next thing I knew, a sobbing 4 1/2-year-old was telling me that she had ruined her puzzle and then made matter worse by trying to undo her error. In the process, she had torn the puzzle. Reliving this horror made her cry even harder.

I did my best to explain to her that we have to keep trying things and we won’t always like the results. All that mattered to her was her ugly mess. All that mattered to me was to make sure Zoe knew that it is okay to make mistakes.

Zoe’s still too young to realize that the only way to know for sure if an idea is a good one or not is to try it out. If we’re really paying attention, we’ll also discover that the bad ones can teach us as much (or more) than the good ones. Since ideas are about bringing into being something that did not exist before, predicting the outcome is an exercise in futility. A willingness to experiment, on the other hand, will often lead us to surprising success.

Imagine having the idea to write a book about punctuation. If you’re passionate about such things, you might assume that it was too weird to think anyone would be interested in reading about the proper placement of commas and apostrophes. Yet thousands of us were delighted that Lynne Truss followed through with her idea. As she writes in the preface to the American edition of her book, “To be clear from the beginning: no one involved in the production of Eats, Shoots & Leaves expected the words ‘runaway’ and ‘bestseller’ would ever be associated with it…My book was aimed at the tiny minority of British people ‘who love punctuation and don’t like to see it mucked about with.’ When my own mother suggested we print on the front of the book ‘For the select few,’ I was hurt, I admit it.”  Her mother was wrong as thousands of readers proved.

Linus Pauling said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.” You can’t possibly know what the best ones are unless you’re willing to try out a bunch.

$100 Hour: Share how-to information in your own e-book. This popular way to get into publishing is ideal for niche marketers, as well as writers with expertise on timely topics. Check out Booklocker to learn more.

Explore More: If you haven’t read Eats, Shoots & Leaves, surprise yourself by discovering how interesting and funny punctuation can be in the hands of a creative writer. You’ll learn to avoid what my sister Margaret called Misplaced Apostrophe Syndrome. As Zoe would say, “Come on. It’ll be fun!”

Ideas are a dime a dozen. People who implement them are priceless. ~ Mary Kay Ash

Ever since Marcia Yudkin has been sending out her weekly Marketing Minute, I’ve looked forward to each one. She always comes up with suggestions that are both creative and practical. When the following article arrived in my mailbox last week, I knew I wanted to pass it along since it is a great addition to the Ideafest.

Many bloggers and newsletter writers run out of ideas: Yikes, what else is there to write about?

Take a tour.

Find some place where you can efficiently experience and then comment on dozens of examples relevant to your expertise.

What are they doing wrong – or right?

For instance, if you specialize in customer service, visit a mall or main street and describe the demeanor of the shop assistants or how they respond when you ask directions.

If you sell promotional specialties, walk the aisles of a trade show, then comment on the fresh and cliched giveaways you see.

Or suppose you’re an attorney.  Read the privacy policies of the ten most popular dating sites and warn readers about the pitfalls hiding between the lines.

For best results, explore some colorful setting your readers might not expect you to visit.

For my naming newsletter, I toured the ads in Entrepreneur Magazine’s annual Franchise 500 issue, cutting out examplesof comment-worthy company names, tag lines and logos.  In about 15 minutes I painlessly collected observations for the next three issues of my newsletter!

$100 Hour: Teach a class. Whether information is your primary product or you’re a service provider, the opportunities to pass along what you know are enormous. Start close to home in an adult ed program or, if your target is a younger audience, a community program for kids. What have you learned that could be useful to others? Don’t be stingy…pass it on.

Explore More: For years I’ve been raving about Marcia Yudkin’s marvelous book, Six Steps to Free Publicity. She recently updated this useful handbook to include the latest opportunities to let the world know what you’re up to. Whether you own a previous edition or not, the third edition belongs in your library.

What you actually do within twenty-four hours of having a creative idea will spell the difference between success and failure. ~ Buckminster Fuller

Many things improve with age; airline travel is not one of them.  Even before increased airport security slowed things down, the flying experience was loaded with stress-inducing delays and rude behavior. Frequent flyers just grit their teeth and bear it as best they can, but a bit of pre-planning can improve the quality of the experience enormously.  

How can you avoid an exhausting flight?  Here are some simple things that can make a big difference in lowering the stress and hassles of airline travel.

 ° Be considerate of your fellow passengers.  Sounds obvious to me, but considering the number of folks I see who seem oblivious to others, this one needs mentioning.  My personal pet peeve is people seated in the back of the plane who fill the front overhead bins with their luggage so they don’t have to carry it so far. Later boarders, assigned to the front seats, have no place to stow their stuff.  That’s both annoying and rude.  Equally irritating are portable video games that produce sounds when they’re played.  

 Cramped airplanes, indifferent service and bad food are annoyances enough.  Don’t be part of the problem, if you can help it. Your fellow passengers are not your adversaries, after all. 

 ° Come prepared to amuse yourself.  I’m often surprised by the tacky books I see my flying companions reading, books hastily purchased at the airport gift shop. If you know you have a couple of hours that would be ideal for reading, why not be selective and use it to read something worthwhile? 

° Carry a snack.  Even on short flights, you may be overcome with hunger.  Depending on the airport to provide food can be dicey. It’s worth the extra trouble to bring something healthy along. Dried fruit, nuts and crackers are great portable snacks.  Once a year, I eat an airport hot dog.  That cures me of neglecting to carry my own provisions. 

 ° Simplify, simplify.  It’s astonishing to see the amount of stuff people drag along when they travel. Although the airlines are getting fussier about the number of items you can check, I’ve seen several people that I’m certain were moving all their worldly possessions via the airlines. 

If you travel regularly, keep a toiletry bag stocked.  You might also have underwear, nightwear, a hairdryer and an umbrella stowed in your suitcase ready to go. Pare your travel wardrobe to the bare minimum and refuse to pack anything “just in case”. 

Another tip is to proudly carry cheap luggage. The expensive stuff doesn’t survive baggage handling any better than the bargain bags so if you’re going to have to replace it regularly, spend as little as possible to begin with.

 ° Be more than a traveler.  Having something exciting to look forward to can lower the irritation encountered getting there. Once you’ve arrived, be creative about the way you’ll spend your time at your destination.  If your trip is primarily for business, try to leave some time for sampling local attractions. 

Scout out things that are of personal interest, too.  If you are wild about railroad memorabilia or Victorian architecture or Japanese gardens, add to your knowledge in the places you visit.   While it’s not always possible to indulge yourself on every trip, anticipating at least one special pleasure at trip’s end will have a positive impact on your attitude—which is the most important weapon you have for combating whatever unpleasant surprises you encounter on the way.

Explore More: Want to see the world and create a profit center at the same time? So did Anne Estes and she’s doing just that as an international house/petsitter. 

Monday was a National Day of Service and Seth Godin offered 18 creative service ideas that could be a worthwhile way to spend some time whenever you’d like to offer it.

For the past several years, Kiplinger’s magazine has run an annual feature called What $1000 Can Do. Every issue has been filled with ideastarters ranging from be a philanthropist to save energy with a front-loading washer. Although these usually appear in August, you can see previous $1000 roundups online. 

If you’re new to Twitter (or not new, but still perplexed) there’s some terrific info on TwiTip including a helpful piece called 7 Ways to Be Worth Following on Twitter

Everyone who’s been around me knows that I’m a passionate fan of Cirque du Soleil. Besides their breathtaking shows, I’m also a fan of their philosophy of merging business and art. The first Cirque show I ever saw was O and I love it so much that I’ve returned five times. Naturally,  I was excited to hear that Dave Taylor had written about his behind-the-scenes experience (complete with photos) at O.   It’s a rare glimpse into the support system behind the awe.

In case you missed it, take a look at Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s I Pledge video. Then create your own pledge and say it out loud. 

I’ve also been alerting everyone to Rick Steve’s briliant PBS program on Iran. It’s running throughout the country now and into February. If your local station has yet to show it, make a point to see it. It’s a stunner.

When I made my first visit to Austin, TX after my daughter moved there, I wrote about some of the fun and funky businesses there. The new issue of Budget Travel magazine echoes my enthusiasm in their 25 Reasons We Love Austin. 

Stop and Kiss, the fun card game for couples, is offering free love coupons you can download from their Website just in time for Valentine’s Day.

Finally, I know there were more great ideas floating around this week, but I’m on a really tight deadline to finish the updated version of Making a Living Without a Job so that’s currently taking over my life. It’s only temporary, I believe.

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

Okay, so maybe you’re one of those rare folks who already is having so much fun that you can’t stand another joyful moment. If so, this isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you suspect that  having fun may be the real key to making money (and enjoying the ride), read on. 

° Stop saying yes when you want to say no. Give yourself the gift of more time and less stress by refusing to accept invitations or fill requests that you don’t want to participate in. Decide that you’re done entering popularity contests and, instead, learn to decline unwanted invitations without excuse, apology or explanation. A simple, “No, thank you,” is just fine. You’ll find this easier to do if you are clear about your priorities and determined to spend your time in ways that support and enhance what you value most.

° Create a personal trademark. Larry King is known for his suspenders; United Parcel Service does everything in brown. A trademark can be a color, an item of clothing or jewelry, a slogan or, even a passion that others associate with you. What might you do to make yourself memorable?

° Turn a shortcoming into an asset. No, I’m not talking about concealing a major flaw, but you can use this exercise for learning to see positives that others may have overlooked—then flaunt it. A great example of this  was the ad campaign run by Lenscrafters which had the slogan, “Are you lucky enough to need glasses?” Every time I heard it, I found myself standing a little taller and thinking, “Lucky me!”

° Specialize in success. Really learn about the traits that characterize successful people. How do they think? Spend their time? Recharge their batteries? Too often we run our own lives on failure thinking that we’ve learned from people whose lives were not at all what we want. Pick a favorite guru and read what they have to say about optimal living. We are fortunate to have vastly better tools for living well than any previous generation. Not using them is just cheating ourselves out of the best possible life.


° Make a hobby of getting paid to have fun. Of course, people who have created a business of blissful activity already have this mastered. You can incorporate this idea in small ways, too. Want to dine out more often? Sign up with a mystery shopping agency that sends people out to scout the food and service at local eateries. Another variation of this is to give yourself a small amount of money (say $10 or $20) and challenge yourself to have maximum fun with minimum expense. Don’t ever make lack of cash an excuse for not having fun!


° Know who makes you laugh. Humor is a funny thing. We don’t all respond to the same things.Make a mental list of all the people who make you laugh and stay in touch with them. I also have a Make Me Laugh folder where I put cartoons and articles that amuse me so I know where to get a laugh in a hurry. And I keep Prairie Home Companion’s Pretty Good Joke Book nearby for a never-fail giggle.


Make this your year to lighten up and bring more fun into your life. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly find that fun seeks you out, too. Like attracts like, after all.

$100 Hour: During my 8 month sabbatical a few years back, I discovered how much I enjoyed housesitting. I took over a London flat, a cute cottage in Minnesota and helped out vacationing friends. A good source for long-term situations is the Caretaker Gazette.

Explore More: If you haven’t already done so, get yourself a copy of Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind.  It’s a travel guide for succeeding in the Idea Age.

All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow. ~ Grant Wood

During the bleakest time of my life, my neighbor John stopped by to see how I was doing. Relieved that someone cared about me (I told you this was bleak), I rattled off a lengthy list of my latest woes. When I finished, John put his arm around my shoulder, smiled at me and said, “Barbara, you’ve got the wrong set of problems.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

He thought for a moment and said, “Well, you should be worrying about where to find a good mechanic for your Mercedes Benz.”

As dismal as I felt, John reminded me that this was a temporary condition. This conversation also awakened me to the fact that not having problems isn’t an option. No matter what level of success we achieve, to be alive means that we’ll have problems to solve. Thank goodness.

Paul Hawken says there’s an easy way to determine if a business is good or bad. “A good business has interesting problems,” he says, “while a bad business has boring ones.”

The problem with problems, then, isn’t that we have them, but that we hold onto such petty ones. When we fail to solve our little problems, our everyday living problems, we forfeit any possibility of getting more interesting ones to solve. If you want to have intriguing problems to solve, you’ve got to first solve the ones you’ve got. Then you get to trade up for the interesting ones. 

$100 Hour. Ask yourself, “Who’s got a problem I know how to solve?” Often when we have mastered something–whether it’s installing a toilet or salsa dancing–we forget that not everyone that would like to do what we’ve done has learned how. Solving problems is the basis for many profitable businesses.

Explore More: Clare Bean  and Morgan Siler are single mothers who decided to solve a problem they had themselves…the isolation of raising kids on their own. They started  i Heart Single Parents  to bring single parents together in a community where they could connect. They’ve also just launched Single Parent magazine to share more ideas and information with single parents everywhere.

Wise people put their trust in ideas and not in circumstances. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


The 16th century essayist Montaigne put it well when he advised, “If you’re going to withdraw into yourself, first prepare yourself a welcome.” While I suspect he was talking about becoming introspective, his advice stands up if you’re going run a solo business and/or live an idea-filled life.

If you run your business from home, one of the dangers is that spending the bulk of your time in the same place can squash your creativity. An antidote for this is to make your personal environment the knd of place that consultant Mike Vance calls a “kitchen for your mind.” Too many homes are filled with the appliances of living, but lack the materials needed to spark ideas. One new entrepreneur told me she started noticing that all the magazines coming into her home were deadfully dull. She promptly cancelled all her subscriptions and began replacing them with new titles that fed her imagination.

It’s not just things, however, that can welcome fresh ideas. Bernice Fitz-Gibbon made a fortune by employing her creativity. Fitz, as she was known, grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. In the twenties, she headed for New York and became an advertising legend. Not only did she write ads that people remembered, she taught hundreds of young people the trade. 

Fitz was a big believer in creating an environment where it was safe to make mistakes. She credits her father with nurturing her curiosity. In her wonderful book, Macy’s, Gimbels, and Me, she writes, “I was fortunate in having a teacher-farmer father who encouraged wildness. He felt that there were always enough tamers-down around. He equated docility with dullness. He didn’t want a house full of docile, respectful children. He wanted kids that exploded with different ideas—cockeyed ideas, unconventional thoughts clothed in an unconventional way.” 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Play with wild and crazy ideas. Whether you live alone or with others, keep finding ways to prepare a hearty welcome for the ideas that want to join you.

$100 Hour: Create a network. “My business really took off,” an artisan told me, “when I expanded my network of other artisans and we passed along leads to each other. Clients appreciated our professional recommendations and since we all knew each other’s work, we felt confident giving referrals.”

Explore More: If you’re not in the habit of looking at books of interior decorating ideas, spend some time browsing at your library or bookstore until you find a book that appeals to you. Authors such as Tracy Porter, Alexandra Stoddard and Sarah Susanka all have different styles, but are popular creative catalysts.

Sometimes I think creativity is magic. It’s not a matter of finding an idea but allowing that idea to find you.–Maya Lin

Although I’ve lived through numerous Inauguration Days in my life, I don’t recall any previous ceremony generating the kind of excitement that today’s celebration has. Even the ramp up to this day has been filled with incredible enthusiasm.

Rick Steves flew from Seattle to DC yesterday and reported, “As soon as the wheels hit the tarmac everyone on the plane yells “Obama!” and chants “Yes We Can!” We take the Metro into our nation’s capitol, where absolutely everyone seems to be family, and feels ready to welcome a new president…and a new era.”

Echoing Ghandi’s famous lines, this Inauguration asks us to Be the Change.

As of this writing, the day hasn’t begun. We haven’t heard Obama’s speech. We do know, however, that he wrote it himself and is going to talk about the importance of responsibility and accountability. He is inviting each of us to actively participate in something bigger than ourselves. 

Not only does this day remain to be seen, it’s also unknown whether or not the enthusiasm will survive as we begin to tackle enormous problems…problems that can’t possibly be solved by one person. One by one we need to privately commit to making history, not to being a spectator. Happily, I’m not alone in believing that we really could be the change if we never forget that we can.

To be continued…

Here’s a starting point: I Pledge  video