Leo Babauta once wrote about being criticized by some of his readers for repeating himself. He said, “Repetition is often thought of as a bad thing — never repeat yourself! But actually, repetition is a powerful tool for making changes.”

I totally agree. Here are some things I repeat to myself all the time.

You are what you take time to become.

Passion: enthusiasm that must take action.

Inspiration expands our horizons.

What we call failure is often just running out of patience.

What you don’t know can be learned—or hired.

Do not take advice from uninformed sources.

Inspired entrepreneurs laugh a lot.

Stop looking for formulas. Start looking for ideas.

Self-employment is the place where you discover friends you didn’t know you had.

Personal growth shows us how to expand, not shrink.

Becoming an entrepreneur is like learning a new language.

Practice, practice, practice.

Ask better questions if you want to get better answers.

 

 

If you quake at the thought of going out on your own and setting up shop, here are some fearbashers that can reroute you back to the road to success.

* Do temporary work.  March into a temporary help agency and get signed up for a short term project. When you get an assignment, don’t think of this primarily as a way to earn money. Use this project to do some homework.

No matter what business you are sent to work in, observe what goes on in a detached and analytical manner.

I’m willing to guess that you’ll quickly discover that all sorts of mistakes and mishaps (and even stupid decisions) will be part of every day. Now notice that despite this lack of perfection, the business manages to stay afloat.

If you’re really lucky, you’ll get an assignment on a ship of fools who are oblivious to their own goofiness. You don’t have to be arrogant about it; just notice that every business has huge margins for error and it doesn’t bring them crashing to their knees.

You can certainly do better than that, can’t you? So get out there and do it.

* Observe a successful immigrant entrepreneur.  A high percentage of people who come here from other parts of the world start their own businesses. Imagine how much harder that would be in a strange culture where you may not speak the language.

Yet, many of these newcomers have such a desire to build something of their own, a desire that they couldn’t fulfill in their homeland, that the obstacles melt in the face of that determination.

We  look like wimps next to the hardworking and committed businessowners who have been drawn to this land of opportunity.

Let them inspire you.

* Fail on purpose. Young children aren’t judgmental when it comes to trying new things. As we get older, many of us avoid any situation where we might not be brilliant.

As a result, our world shrinks down to a short list of acceptable activities. That is not the road to personal growth. If you are terrified at the thought of failing, make a list of all the things that you are an utter klutz at doing.

Then do something on your list as frequently as possible. At the very least, you may amuse your friends when you throw three gutter balls in a row.

At the other end of this temporary humiliation is all the power you’ll gain by surviving a minor failure.

* Develop a big roar. Next time you’re driving in your car, pretend you’re the Lion King.  It worked in the Wizard of Oz and it will work for you, too. No kidding.

* Make Nathan Lane your patron saint. A few years back, the wildly talented Lane starred in his own television series, which was downright awful. It was so terrible, in fact, that it only ran for a few painful episodes.

Had it been even mildly successful, Lane would have continued  taping the series instead of wowing audiences in The Producers, the biggest hit Broadway hadseen in years.

If you try something that turns out badly, think of it as your own failed series—and celebrate the end of your contract.

* Imagine your success. I am convinced that most people fail to go after their dreams or leave their comfort zones because they haven’t  taken the time to really think about what rewards their ultimate success would bring them.

When you are focused on the rewards that will inevitably come, setbacks and disappointments are easier to handle. Often, in truth, what looks like a setback is just a resetting of the course and may, in the long run, make the journey sweeter.

That’s why it’s so important to be willing to defer short-lived gratification in order to have something grander in the future. But first you must envision it and sell yourself on that new and better life you foresee.

After all, courage is not the absence of fear, but, rather the determination to act because the rewards are worth it.

As you may or may not know, Las Vegas was particularly hard hit during the economic downturn. Consequently, the local news featured at least one Job Fair being held in the city every week.

Long lines of folks showed up for the slim chance of procuring one of the few job openings. It was all rather glum.

During one such news story, a question popped into my head. “Why isn’t anyone talking about alternatives to getting a job?” I was talking about that, of course, but I couldn’t just ramble down Las Vegas Blvd. sharing that option.

Then the idea of creating a really informative event started to take shape. I envisioned an Un-Job Fair where people could learn a about self-employment in one day.

What are the myths and misconceptions about working for yourself? How do you get started? What legal obligations do you have? What kinds of businesses are easy to open?

As I was playing with this notion, I happened to have lunch with Don Woodruff, an old friend from the adult ed circuit. Don had been living in Las Vegas, too, but was headed to Denver.

At our farewell lunch, I shared my idea about the Un-Job Fair. He liked the idea as much as I did.

A few weeks later, I heard from Don who had contacted Helen Hand at Colorado Free University and told her about this wild notion of mine. She loved it, too, and decided to sponsor the first Un-Job Fair.

Helen tapped into her talent bank of teachers and soon had a great line-up of workshops. Steve Veltcamp and I flew in for the event and were thrilled at the response.

Not only were the workshops a wonderful blend of topics, I loved lunchtime when small groups of participants gathered on the lawns and got to know their fellow seekers over a picnic lunch.

Another highlight came as the day ended with a panel of speakers answering questions from the students.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when CFU decided to do it the following year. And the one after that.

On May 31, the fifth Un-Job Fair is happening again and if you’re in the area and want to gather tools for your own Joyfully Jobless Journey, this is the place to be.

See what’s in store at the Un-Job Fair and register now.

Maybe I’m alone in this, but lately I’ve been fretting about trust fund babies. I mean who is less equipped to deal with economic upheaval? While  their wealthy parents were showering them with things, they took away the really valuable stuff such as personal initiative and innovative thinking.

That’s not true for everyone who inherits enormous wealth—particularly if you’re the offspring of Warren Buffett—but there are plenty of examples of squandered lives.

During the height of the Human Potential Movement, a program was started in San Francisco to deal with the issues of guilt experienced by trust fund recipients.

Nobody really talks about much about the downside of inherited wealth, of course, but one heiress who ultimately became a wildly successful entrepreneur did.

Gloria Vanderbilt, heir to an enormous fortune, said the only money that meant anything to her was the money she had earned  by her own creative efforts.

This week, a story’s been making the rounds about Vanderbilt’s famous son, Anderson Cooper, who will not be inheriting any of her wealth. Cooper’s just fine with that. He understands that unearned wealth can be crazymaking, as numerous lottery winners have sadly demonstrated.

So what’s a healthier approach?

Former Cirque du Soleil acrobat-turned-yoga-teacher Alvin Tan wrote, “There’s a lot of doom and gloom going on here in the States. The economy feels like it is teetering on a fragile balance and good news is a distant wish. That’s the story that we hear anyway. I disagree.

“I am reminded of a comment by a dear friend that this could be the best of times for this country, this people. He believes that we are finally getting back to basics. What fantastic insight!

“In moments of fear, people cut back and return to essentials. It’s an opportunity to discard all the useless junk we’ve accumulated  and keep only what’s truly important.

“Can you train your mind to let go of the things you think you need? Acrobatic mindset training begins with using only what you need and nothing else.”

I keep thinking about those last words: use only what you need and nothing else. Perhaps a new definition of wisdom is having the certainty to know what is needed.

That fits so well with the concept of Less is More that has fascinated me for the past 30+ years.

One of my handbooks for that was a book called Cheap Chic by Caterine Milinaire and Carol Troy which applies the concept of Less is More to our closets. They write, “We’ve become spoiled in America. Surrounded by mass manufacturing and mass marketing, we stuff our closets with masses of mistakes….The most basic element of Cheap Chic is the body you hang your clothes on. Building a healthy, lively body is far cheaper than buying a lot of clothes to distract from it.”

Back to Basics.

What I find stunning about revisiting this 39-year-old book is that the photographs seem timeless. Nothing looks dated at all. “Find the clothes that suit you best,” advise the authors, “and then hang onto them like old friends.”

Cheap Chic echoes Diana Vreeland’s observation that being well-dressed is a matter of good taste and a severely limited budget. That also describes many good businesses.

Although  I’ve quoted it countless times before, it’s worth repeating again because Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens nailed it when he said, “In the absence of capital, creativity flourishes.” Stephens didn’t get that from a business school textbook; he discovered it building his own little business.

The trick for entrepreneurs, it seems to me, is to keep the creative flame burning once there’s an abundance of capital. It can be done, of course, and Zappos (and a few others) are demonstrating that. In fact, one of the 10 basic values of the growing Zappos enterprise is Do More With Less.

When I look at the businesses that I find inspiring and fun to watch, I notice that creative thinking is a constant. Perhaps that’s simply inevitable when your starting point is to use what you have and only what you need to move ahead gracefully.

 

 

There’s a character in Nick Hornby’s delightful novel High Fidelity who constantly challenges his friends to create on-the-spot Top Five Lists. “Name your top five Dustin Hoffman movies,” he demands.

The story is peppered with Top Five Lists covering all sorts of pop culture topics. It’s not a bad exercise.

When I began experimenting with ideas about setting goals, I started breaking down my yearlong aims into 90-Day Projects. For me, the number five was also operating.

For instance, one of my writing goals was to sell five magazine articles every 90 days. It’s an easy number to work with and I repeatedly used it in setting goals.

You, of course, may have a different favorite number that repeats itself in your life. Use whatever number you like to help you focus. Start by incorporating it into your lifetime goal lists, as well as  your shorter term aims.

Here are some that are on my list.

° Travel to five continents

° Create five strong and dependable profit centers

° Meet five people I deeply admire

° Have five causes I support financially

° Eat five fruits and vegetables every day

° Have five people with whom I regularly collaborate

° Discover five new pastimes that I’m passionate about

° Have five entrepreneurial friends with whom I connect on a regular basis

° Coach five protégés

 You’ll notice that this list includes the whimsical as well as the serious.

Start your own list and pick one or two items to start working on immediately. Your life will be richer if you do…and continue to add to your list and explore new territory.

According to Wikipedia, singer Josh Groban has sold nearly 20 million albums in his short career. One evening he told his Twitter followers that he’d just finished a two hour voice lesson and “think it’s time to turn pro.”

So why would a rich and famous performer keep taking lessons? More to the point, why would a would-be entrepreneur or freelancer or traveler not be investing in their dreams?

It’s that second question that keeps me awake nights.

Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk had a particularly interesting piece about that called Frugality is a Career Tool.

She wrote “I have earned a lot of money in my life. But I have never had an extravagant life. I don’t own a house. I’ve never bought a new car. I’ve never bought a new piece of living room furniture, and I do not own a single piece of real jewelry. What I have spent money on was always intended to help me with my career. That was so I know that I can always earn money doing something I love.”

If you want good things to happen, you’ve got to take the first step, ask for the date, risk being turned down. Otherwise you’re just practicing wishful thinking, which is neither active nor useful. How do you notify your dreams that you mean business? Here are a few of my favorite ways.

Get equipped. In Making a Living Without a Job, I tell the story about how things changed for me when I splurged (or so it seemed at the time) on a passport. After years of failing to find a way to bring my travel dreams to life, I got serious and started getting ready for a trip. I bought guidebooks, I thought about my itinerary and wardrobe.

In less than a year, I was headed for the UK. Ever since, my passport has been called into service at least twice a year.

Get dressed. When my granddaughter showed up at breakfast wearing a fancy dress and rainboots before heading out to kindergarten, her father took one look and said “Lose the boots.”

Zoe was having none of it. “Dad,” she explained, “I’m an artist. I can wear what I want.”

Costumes are essential to theater and they’re equally essential to building a dream. At the very least, dressing for your dream helps you maintain focus.

Make space. In Eric Maisel’s The Creativity Book, he advises, “By designating a room as your writing study or rearranging your garage so your band can practice in it, you are setting up a sacred space and honoring your commitment to realize your creative potential.”

A successful writer observed, “I don’t know where inspiration comes from, but I know that it shows up at my desk every morning when I sit down to write.”

Get connected. Transplant yourself into a dreambuilding environment as often as possible. Gather with others who are motivated and proactive. Make idea gathering your favorite hobby. Listen to inspiring speakers and read eloquent authors who have taken a higher path.

The upcoming Mastermind Magic: Overcoming Obstacles and Maintaining Momentum is a perfect place to connect and get some sharper tools. This time, Terri Belford and I are holding this powerful event in gorgeous Sedona, AZ.

Refuse to believe that you aren’t a good investment because, quite simply, if you want your dreams to show up, you’ve got to show up first. And when you arrive, show ’em you mean business.

On the day that Bill Gates announced that he was beginning a transition from the day to day operation of Microsoft in order to spend more time working with his Foundation, I spent the morning listening to Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry’s fame, talking about Social Responsibility and Radical Business.

Philanthropic entrepreneurs are nothing new, of course. Early industrialist Andrew Carnegie spent the first half of his life building a fortune and the second half giving it away. As a result, thousands of cities and small towns across America were the recipients of a public library.

Celebrities, too, have done more than just lend their names to causes they care about. Elizabeth Taylor was an early advocate for AIDS research while Paul Newman created a business expressly to fund charitable projects.

When Time magazine named Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono as their Persons of the Year, it  was a tribute to the possibilities of what can be accomplished when a caring spirit accompanies wealth and fame.

“If you want to change the world,” Paul Hawken advised, “don’t join the Peace Corps. Start a business.” Business can, indeed, be a vehicle for social change. Or it can be a platform.

As I  look at the history of social responsibility, entrepreneurs seem to have played a leading role.  In the small town where I grew up, it was the local business community that spearheaded charitable projects. Fundraisers as well as pitching in with labor were common events.  If Habitat for Humanity had been around, I’m sure we’d have seen our small town leaders swinging a hammer.

On the other hand, there have always been folks who have accumulated wealth and made charitable contributions more to impress others than being moved by their hearts.

When I look at the entrepreneurs I admire, the spirit of giving seems to be a common denominator.

So what about small businessowners who haven’t got millions to give away? Silly question, huh?

One of my favorite ideas comes from Barbara Sher who urges people to follow her lead and practice what she calls Plop Philanthropy. Simply put, that means looking for something that needs doing and plopping yourself down to do it.

Even before Ben & Jerry’s was a big booming business, they found numerous ways to contribute to their community. For instance, they decided to purchase all their milk and cream from Vermont  farmers who agreed not to use bovine growth hormone with their cattle. As Ben & Jerry’s grew and prospered, so did the family farms around them.

Rick Steves, who actively supports organizations working to end hunger, has also made a huge contribution to small family businesses simply by recommending them in his guidebooks.

My personal favorite kind of charity tends to favor organizations that help create self-sufficiency. I’ve been a longtime supporter of the work of Heifer International and Kiva who have done stunning work helping people around the world become entrepreneurial.

Helping others thrive through their own efforts does more than just put food on the table: it builds opportunities for service and satisfaction. Those are not small achievements.

Being a change agent does not require huge amounts of wealth, but it does require caring and commitment. Now, more than ever, we who inhabit the global community need to find ways to solve problems, inspire others, and put our hearts to work in making this a safe and healthy place to live, love, work and create the future.

As Anita Roddick reminds us, “If  we don’t  act, who will?”

 

It appears that I have fallen in love with the mandolin. This was no overnight love affair, however. It kind of sneaked up on me.

As a longtime fan of the music of Antonio Vivaldi, I had heard my share of mandolins and associated the instrument with music from the past.

That all began to change when I attended a performance of Prairie Home Companion and heard the amazing Peter Ostroushko play. Nevertheless, I wasn’t ready  to commit.

Then it happened. A  few years later on the weekly broadcast of PHC, Ostroushko performed the most glorious piece, something he’d written to celebrate a friend’s wedding. I didn’t remember the name of it, but when I saw he had a new CD, I decided to take a chance.

Sure enough, The A and A Waltz was included. It’s been the soundtrack in my car ever since.

I’ve been thinking about this slow love affair quite a bit. I suspect that when many of us hear about passion, we have a vision of being gob-smacked by something that grabs us by the shoulders and won’t put us down. Love at first sight, perhaps.

I don’t think it works that way. In fact, other than the births of my daughter and my grandchildren, I can’t recall any other times when passion was present from the first moment.

More often, it creeps up, like the mandolin, but it doesn’t come at all unless we expose ourselves to new experiences and possibilities.

Passion isn’t passive; we have to get involved.

One way of doing that, of course, is to pay attention to the passions of others. People we love dearly and admire genuinely may very well have passions that leave us cold.

On the other hand, passionate people may get our attention simply because of their contagious enthusiasm.

Opening ourselves to things that delight others may deliver lovely surprises we hadn’t anticipated. At the very least, we’ll benefit from the power of enthusiasm that raises our own positive attitude simply by being present.

At the same time, we need to notice when a passion has passed its sell-by date. It’s extremely easy to spend time doing things out of habit because we failed to notice that passion has fled.

Sometimes when you partake in a longtime activity and find it no longer amuses or informs or entertains, you’ll begin to feel a bit of disappointment, as if you’d been jilted.

Remember that some passions simply have a longer run than others. Just as closets need to be weeded from time to time, so do the activities that are worth our time and attention.

Whether that passion is for music, art, cars, food, gardens, social justice or any one of a thousand other things, ultimately passion invites us to become more, to do more, to be more. Eventually those enthusiasms infiltrate other areas of our lives.

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings,” Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us. Passion is a pointer to where those blessing can be found.

When the mandolin plays or the antique doll at the flea market catches your eye, pay closer attention and see where it leads. Give it time and see if it grows into something spectacular.

And if that doesn’t happen, keep looking. Just don’t insist on love at first sight.

Like millions of people, I tuned in for the Beatles Tribute on CBS. It was a lovely evening, but it wasn’t  anything like my evening attending a Paul McCartney concert several years ago. It was magical from beginning to end.

You probably have memories like that, too, when you found yourself in the same room with someone you’d admired from afar. That is not an experience that can be duplicated by technology.

As much as I appreciate the gifts of technology, I often wonder if we’re forgetting how powerful it is to have real contact.

Back in the nineties, the independent adult ed movement began to take off all around the country. The timing was perfect for me as I was beginning to teach my seminars on creative self-employment.

These programs filled a real gap, making it possible for busy adults to spend a few hours—rather than committing every Tuesday night for six weeks—gaining some useful information and ideas.

I loved the programs because most of them were small businesses run by a tiny staff that usually included the owner. I also loved the people these programs attracted—curious lifelong learners who were equally excited to have this option to explore new ideas.

Sadly, these programs began to disappear. Sometimes the overhead was too high for the income being generated. A few owners tried to cut their costs by moving their catalogs online, instead of spending thousands on the print catalogs.

That didn’t work very well, either, and I think I know why.  Catalogs are for browsing and often deliver unexpected prizes. Hmmm…making a living without a job? Wonder what that’s about. Think I’ll sign up and check it out.

With online catalogs, you pretty much need to know what you’re looking for in advance.

But that’s not the only reason I feel sad that these programs didn’t survive. We lost something really valuable, something that happens when we make the effort to put ourselves in a room with others exploring the same subject.

There’s another dimension added to our learning when it’s gotten person-to-person. We might even make a new friend, have an insight, get a question answered that only happens through personal connection.

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

You’ve probably seen an article—or even a book—about starting a business that begins, “Not everyone can be an entrepreneur.”  That cautionary warning always annoys and mystifies me.

Why, I wonder, would anyone write a how-to piece and begin by scaring away the reader?

Over the years, interviewers have frequently asked me if anyone can be an entrepreneur. My answer was and is, “Yes, I believe anyone can be self-employed, but I don’t believe everyone will make that choice.”

At the same time, I’ve been keeping track of some of the groups of people who have successfully started a business. As you can see, it’s wonderfully diverse and defies stereotyping.

Free Enterprise is Accessible to…

 Budding tycoons

Kids

Seniors

Grumps

Visionaries

Adventure seekers

Homebodies

Gypsies

Nostalgia buffs

Collectors

Organizers

Builders

Caretakers

Crooks

Luddites

Geeks

Artists

Crafters

Cooks

Ph.Ds

Dropouts

Gardeners

Musicians

Immigrants

Teachers

Lifelong Learners

Singles

Families

Animal lovers

Inventors

Marketers

Explorers

Extroverts

Introverts

Parents

Coaches

Researchers

Tortoises

Hares

This is just a start. Who would you add to the list?