“As soon as you trust yourself you will know how to live, “ observed the German philosopher Goethe. Apparently,  that’s easier said than done. 

I frequently receive calls from people who have attended my seminars. The opening query often sounds like this: “I have an idea for a business and I want you to tell me if it’s really dumb.” Before I even hear what the idea is, I point out that in the past 20 years I’ve only heard one bad idea so the chance that they’ll come up with the second bad idea isn’t great. 

However, it doesn’t matter how good an idea is if you don’t believe that it’s good. And that’s the big secret to building trust. It is totally dependent on what we believe to be true. We can’t trust ourselves if our belief system says that we have little to contribute. When we find ourselves being more doubting than trusting, that’s a signal to stop and take a long look at the belief that’s behind our behavior. 

Furthermore, we can’t become trusting simply by keeping our ideas to ourselves in the hope that we’ll gather the necessary confidence to do something about them. Trust is built through doing.

If you’d like to build a bigger trust  fund, there’s a simple exercise that will help you do just that. As you go about your day, notice how often—usually without even thinking about it—you operate in a trusting mode. When you drive a car, for instance, you’d never be able to leave the driveway if you didn’t trust that other drivers were going to operate their cars by the same rules, stopping for red lights, staying on the proper side of the road, and so on. At the end of the day, think back on all the time you spent trusting that others were going to do what you expected of them. There’s the bank teller that actually put the money into your account, the cashier that gave you the correct change after charging you the proper price, the client that met you at the right time and place for lunch. 

Now consider an idea that’s been lurking in your thoughts. Do you offer yourself and your idea the same level of trust that you give to total strangers and casual acquaintances? If so, give yourself credit for that; if not, ask yourself why. It may be that you generally don’t think  highly of your own creative process. That’s a signal that some inner work is in order. 

A few years ago, Hallmark Cards had a television commercial showing a young girl getting ready to compete in a sporting event. Her mother hands her a card and says, “This is for if you win.” Then she hands her another and says, “This is for if you lose.” When the girl opens the cards we see that they’re identical and say, “I’m so proud of you.” 

We can only  trust  ourselves and our ideas if we aren’t attached to winning or fearful of losing. We build stronger trust  in the act of doing, of following our ideas to wherever they lead.

Even ideas that turn out to go nowhere have a purpose if we can use them like mental yoga letting them stretch us farther and make us stronger.

Trust it.

There’s an article making the rounds on the Internet with the come-hither title 9 Businesses You Can Start in Your Pajamas. Apparently, a lot of folks think Nirvana means never having to wear real clothes. 

For several years, I’ve been trying to stop the madness that involves coming up with new words for entrepreneurial activity. In my tracking of all the cutsey names businessowners give themselves, one of my least favorite has to be pjpreneur. I have tried to imagine why that would be appealing to potential clients. Why, I wonder, would I be drawn to hiring someone or buying their product when their major marketing focus is they haven’t bothered to get dressed? Haven’t figured it out.

While corporate refugees willingly dispose of their pantyhose and neckties, starting a business from home should not be an invitation to slovenliness. It matters more than you may think.

The other night I happened to see two episodes of What Not To Wear which both featured women who were musicians and music teachers. One was a cellist in New York, the other a jazz singer in Boston. Neither was enthusiastic about fashion, but both were confident in their musical  ability. After a fair amount of reluctance and resistance, they were transformed. To their amazement, they both reported performing better than they had in the past.

Several years I wrote a piece called Staying Motivated When You Work Alone. Here’s point number two:

Dress to accomplish things. Don’t give in to the temptation to schlepp around in your old bathrobe.  Costume yourself for the work to be done. If I’m being a serious writer, I put on jeans and a sweater; if my duties are mostly secretarial, I wear a skirt and blouse; if there are client calls to make, I dress like a tycoon. 

And, of course, if you provide a service, you may very well create a costume that is appropriate and memorable. There’s only one kind of business I can think of where pajamas might meet that criteria.

 The psychological lift you get from dressing appropriately may be subtle, but it’s important.  You just can’t feel like a mogul in your sweats. Keynote speaker Karyn Ruth White concurs. “It’s easier to ask for a big fee when you’re sitting in your home office looking like a pro. It’s much harder if you haven’t gotten out of your pajamas.”

Of course, dressing for success is different when you’re joyfully jobless, but it still starts with getting dressed.

After years of  struggling with the Single Lifetime Occupation career path that everyone else seemed to accept with more ease than I could muster, I gradually came to realize that if I stopped looking for a job and, instead,  created my own, I could include many different activities. That revelation was my personal tipping point

What started out as a quest to relieve my boredom, became much more than an amusement. Building a portfolio of profit centers was not only interesting, it also gave me flexibility, numerous options and was as good for my imagination as it was for my pocketbook. 

The real reward of  this portfolio approach became clearer when I came across a quote from James Dickey. He said, “There are so many  selves in everybody and to explore and exploit just one is wrong, dead wrong, for the creative process.” 

How did we miss that one? It  wasn’t always so. During the glorious time known as the  Renaissance, there was a cultural expectation that the well-lived life was about exploring and exploiting these many selves. Places like Venice hummed with creative activity that found expression in business, music, fashion, linguistics and romance as individuals moved between projects in numerous areas.

Apparently, such thinking lingers in Venice. At any rate, it lingers in the life of Carlo Pescatori whom I met in 2006 when my siblings and I rented one of his apartments for a week. 

Carlo was originally a pharmacist, but when a 500-year-old building came into his family rather unexpectedly, he left his pharmacy to devote himself to turning the property into a business. The building  now has diverse uses, too. Carlo’s parents occupy an apartment on the ground floor while another space is rented to a group of architects. Carlo lives on the top floor while the other four apartments are vacation rentals. 

Carlo’s joyfully jobless life has continued to evolve since we first met three years ago. A recent e-mail from him gave me this update of what’s in his portfolio at the moment.

Venice apartments for rent  keep being my primary activity. Beautiful job but now and then, after 8 years of that, I admit I sometimes feel this as a job I’ll eventually leave. I don’t know when or how. Or why, just a feeling which keeps coming out once in a while.

Last year  I began offering Italian lessons via Skype at Parlo Con Carlo.  I’ll probably look for new students this year: I didn’t push that too much, just wanted to be sure I liked it, so I let it go by itself  for a while.

On a more creative side, I was asked by a musician friend to write lyrics to songs of his. It worked out fine and we finished/published online a couple of them. Tough step for me to take, like declaring that I am good enough at it. All tools are available in order to put a demo together, so there’s some Resistance that needs to be seen there.

New project being born soon, meanwhile: talking to the photographer I have my rolls (yes, still sticking to film!) developed by, he turned out to own a huge archive of negatives of celebrities visiting Venice from late forties to late eighties. No website to sell them online, so I’ve been studying hard how to build one and I’m finally going online with it this month. Its name is StarsinVenice.com. This is the kind of thing involving passion, art, some kind of expertise, luck and good feelings; so I don’t think it’ll fail. And it can eventually run by itself: even better!

Yes, multiple profit centers are an essential power tool for joyfully jobless success. Bella intelligenza!


If you’d like more ideas about Creating & Managing MPCs, order the audio of my recent teleclass on the same subject. 



Like Rick Steves, when I have to fill in the occupation line on a form, I write, “teacher.” Even though I do other things, I’ve always thought of myself that way. I even have credentials to prove it, although the things I teach have nothing to do with the diploma I earned.

In the past decade or so, more and more folks have taken up the teaching title, using their experience, rather than academic credentials, to build a platform. Adult learners like to learn from teachers who have street smarts, not just book smarts (although I hope teachers have both). I even wrote a piece called Teaching From Experience: How to Get Started to show others how to put their expertise to work.

But getting started in teaching isn’t what’s on my mind today. I’m more troubled by bad teaching after receiving this story from an entrepreneurial friend of mine. We’ll call her Joan. Last year she applied for and received  a grant for artists. As part of the requirements of the award, she had to take a class on running a business. Here’s her report:

In that business plan class that was required for my grant, the person teaching it had an unsuccessful business and kept telling us about it. She was pretty hostile towards me when I asked her a question about approaching things differently.

Several people in this  group thought that they were creating businesses that were not going to succeed. Then why do it? Or why not tweak it so it DOES succeed? One guy was going to open up a store with hard to  find magazines.  And he was convinced it would not  work.  

 So I offered up suggestions. Why not make this a trendy get together spot? Why not specialize in certain teas or coffee cake or something like  that? Make it a hangout so shoppers hang out there and buy a few hard to find magazines? Why not offer local readings or travel shows or something else to get folks out  there on a regular basis. All I heard was crickets.

The lack of energy in the classroom was so stifling!  But they were totally riveted when Kathleen spoke of how she lost her business….and how she had to take on a real job and go to business school etc. That was the only  language they seemed to understand.  This woman’s  bitterness should not be passed along to others!

What I found amazing in all of this was she did not point out what a windfall this $4000 grant was…and did not have the creative vision to see how each individual could take their ideas and create something really special.  

When I read Joan’s story, I thought of Sarah Ban Breathnach’s warning: “A disgruntled dreamer makes a risky mentor.”

Being a lifelong learner is a good thing. In fact, it’s one of the things most cherished by the joyfully jobless. While some classes and workshops will be a better fit than others, be smart about which information you invite into your own enterprise. Building a business is about nurturing your dreams, not dismantling them.

Should you find yourself in the presence of a card-carrying dreambasher, do what Joan did: plug your ears.


A reader sent me a message today asking if I’d write about dealing with—and I quote— the heartbreak of starting a business. Would I!  And I’d start by dumping the word heartbreak. Let’s tone it down a bit and call it by its proper name, disappointment. There’s a subtle, but important difference there. Heartbreak stops us in our tracks; disappointment is a setback that invites us to rethink our plans and actions.

As the writer so aptly suggests, we do need tools for dealing with disappointment or it will get the upper hand. So let me begin with a personal experience.

After years of being self-employed, I thought I’d gotten used to dealing with the ups and downs that are part of it. Then a big project was rejected and it caught me completely by surprise. I had been calmly confident that the project would be sold and was stunned when it was turned down. My first shocked response was, “How could he be so stupid?” A couple of hours later I was enraged. I wallowed. I wept. I wanted revenge. It had been years since I’d felt so hurt and for the first twenty-four hours I felt utterly powerless.

Amazingly, within a matter of a few short days, I was on the road to recovery determined that this would merely be a delay, not a defeat. Since disappointment is sometimes part of the territory for any risk taking entrepreneur, I looked back at what I had done that helped me pass through it with such speed. The next time you receive a blow, try these proactive ideas for getting back on your feet as quickly as possible.

 Allow Yourself  Time to Feel Bad

There’s no point in pretending that you aren’t disappointed when you are. Cry, scream, yell if that’s what you feel like doing. Take to your bed if you’re really upset. Rant and rave. Avoid anyone who will try to cheer you up before you’re ready to be cheered. Do not remain in this state one minute longer than necessary.

Call on Trusted Friends

I let several people know that I wanted and needed sympathy. They were all wonderfully empathetic and assured me that I was terrific and my rejector was obviously a creep that didn’t deserve to work with me. They each loyally took my side and let me know that they believed that my project was valid and would find a happier home elsewhere. My spirits began to lift immediately.

I assume you realize that all of my supporters were also joyfully jobless and experienced at dealing with disappointment themselves.

 Feed Your Soul

I came across a quote from Edmund Burke that fit my needs: “He that wrestles with us strengthens our nerves and sharpens our skills. Our antagonist is our helper.” I tried to visualize myself thanking my rejector.

I found I didn’t have enough imagination to stretch that far, but I could visualize him (after my inevitable and very public success) slapping his forehead and saying, “How could I have been so stupid?”  The very thought of that happening accelerated my recovery.

Choose Something Better

Shakti Gawain said that whenever something didn’t work out as she had planned she immediately affirmed that something better would take its place—and it usually did. I have had plenty of personal experience where my initial disappointment was overshadowed by something grander, something I would have missed if I had had my first choice.

As I began to get specific about what it would take to have an even better achievement than my initial goal, I started to relax and get excited at the new possibilities. With that in mind, another round of unexpected events began to occur. This time, however, they were more appropriate than my original plan. I even began to feel gratitude for the original disappointment.

 Don’t Forget This

Imagine a novel or movie which goes like this: once upon a time, someone started a business. It was an immediate success. They lived happily ever after.

That’s a story that would be boring to read and just as boring to live.

Leigh was a single mother with a stressful job and two young children. After attending Making a Living Without a Job, she knew that self-employment was the answer for her. She quit her job,  purchased a vending machine route and tripled its sales within two months. Once that was in order, she started her next profit center, buying and renovating houses. Not only did she find that she was spending more time with her kids, she also got them involved in her business as much as possible.

One day Leigh and her children went to visit a friend who had moved into a large new house. The friend took them on a room-by-room tour of the house proudly showing off her new home. When the tour ended, Leigh’s 5-year-old daughter looked at her  quizzically and said, “Mom, where’s the office?”

Leigh’s daughter is not the only one who assumes that a home should have an office. Glossy  magazines now feature layouts of slick home offices. Builders of upscale homes are including an office in their plans. Trendspotters tell us that this work-at-home lifestyle is not a passing fad.

Whether your work space is a studio, a rented office or a card table set up in a corner of your bedroom, efficiency is only one of the requirements. Your working space needs to be inviting, a place where you function easily surrounded by  things you love and find inspiring.

My friend Karyn laughs about her first home office that was a mirror image of the corporate workspace she had abandoned. No wonder she had a hard time going there and getting her business launched. Today her office reflects her witty personality—including the life-sized Elvis Presley cutout that guards the entrance.

It’s obvious that most of us do not duplicate the corporate cubicle look when we set out to design our personal working space. Gray and gloomy may be an appropriate backdrop for corporate workers, but home workers like to spice things up a bit. Color, personal objects, music, incense, fountains, and toys are apt to be part of the new entrepreneur’s decorating style. (If you’d like to add a really special touch to your office, checkout the decorative possibilities at www.wallwords.com.)

Chances are you’re reading this on your office computer. So take a look around. Does your office reflect your power and vision, or does it resemble a junk room with a desk? Are there objects, pictures and words that lift your soul? Is it easy to find things or do you waste precious time going through piles of papers? 

As Steven Pressfield points out, a professional seeks order. “He eliminates chaos from his world in order to banish it from his mind. He wants the carpet vacuumed and the threshold swept, so the Muse may enter and not soil her gown.”

Does entering your office make you smile? It should, you know. This is your laboratory, your creation center, your idea place. So listen to Vivaldi, light some incense, get a fountain, paint the walls terra cotta, hang a poster from your favorite movie, or decorate with whatever brings you joy. It’s a one-of-a-kind creation and you’re the beneficiary. Make it both beautiful and useful.

Some people become giddy when working with numbers. I am not one of them. However, that doesn’t mean I ignore them.

You don’t have to be a math whiz to put numbers to work for you. Assigning a number to a project can help you focus and, also, give you a finish line. Open-ended goals have a way of never reaching completion. Here are a few ways to make numbers part of your tool kit.

 Pick a number under ten and use it as a goal setting guide. For me, it’s the number five. You might prefer three or six. Then instead of thinking, “I need to get more clients,” set a short term goal to get three (or whatever your favorite number is) new clients. Of course, you can repeat this exercise as often as you like, but your chances for success increase enormously when you work with a smaller number.

 Bird by bird. Small is manageable. I learned this years ago when I was floundering around trying to get my speaking business launched without much success. Then I met a successful, but unhurried, seminar leader who told me that her business plan was, “Do one, book one.” As soon as she finished a program, she’d spend time marketing her services until she’d booked just one more. It kept her business flowing without overwhelming her. It’s been a policy I have used ever since with great success.

 Challenge your imagination. Stumped about your next steps? Challenge yourself (and your subconscious mind) by asking an idea-generating question such as, “What are three ways I can grow my business right now?” Or “Who are four people I could collaborate with?”

Numbers work equally well for subtracting things from your life you no longer want. Instead of trying to unclutter your life all at once, for example, get rid of nine things a day until the job is done.

 Pick a number, any number, and then pick one of the projects listed below. 

 * Ways to get into the conversation

* Books to add to your library

* New profit centers to design

* Things to study

* New adventures to schedule

* Self-bossers to invite to breakfast

* Fresh marketing tools to create

* Media interviews to book

* Non-essentials to eliminate

* Ways to support other entrepreneurs

* Articles to publish

 Add your own projects to the list—and  then get busy making them happen.

There’s no big trick to managing time when the instructions are, “Show up at 9, stay until 5 and do what I say in between.” It’s a different matter when you’re running the show.

The first book I ever read on the subject was Alan Lakein’s How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. My favorite idea in his book was to assign an A, B or C to every item on your To Do List and organize your work by starting on the A items, and so forth. If you’re doing it right, Lakein suggests, you’ll never get around to the C items.

Other books on time management seemed to assume that the reader was a corporate employee. Somewhere along the way, I realized that the self-employed don’t think about managing time, but are more inclined to think about it as investing time—their time.

I asked my Facebook friends to share their favorite time tools and they were kind enough to let me pass them along here. See if there’s a new tip or two you can borrow.

Lisa Allen I’d have to say it’s my watch. Honestly.

Sandra Lee Schubert My brain, next my Dayrunner

Nelson Freytes Google calendar in sync with my iPhone

LeeAnn Gibbs a kitchen aid timer

Pam Donald MS Outlook, followed by my planner. Though I confess that I’m always setting reminders and then hitting ‘Remind Me Later’ over and over. Sort of a time-management snooze button.

Kimberly Stewart my internal clock; but keeping my work schedule full helps a lot because then I don’t get too much opportunity to be lazy. In other words, a full schedule keeps me efficient. 

Vicky Jo Varner kitchen timers! Especially my Ecko, which gives a ten and five minute chirp warning before the final alert. 

Jen Vondenbrink My weekly calendar with my Levenger notebook.

Annie Woodall I find to-do lists to be extremely helpful — just having the visual of what needs to be accomplished within a given amount of time is motivating (plus, I love crossing things off). I also regularly use Google calendar (with emailed reminders), the kitchen timer, accountability to others and breaking tasks into small components to keep me on track.

Rebecca Quinn Most important: Outlook (calendar, tasks, reminders) synced with my phone. And having everything on phone – Email, text messaging, twitter. Extras: A cool little cube timer with different sides for 5-15-30-60 minutes – great for focusing on tasks for a set time (from TameTheChaos.com). Dave Lakhani calls it “fearsome focus”. Plus a Franklin Covey paper planner with lots of room for annual, monthly & two-pages a day. And to-do lists. Everything in writing whether paper or digital!

Janit Calvo My conscience. I also use an online stopwatch to get myself moving if I want to get through a boring chore fast – like inventory!! (I got that from you, Barbara – to do the mundane chores quickly to have more time for the fun things!)

Loletta Lloyd I use my Outlook calendar and good old fashioned to-do lists. Writing things down helps me focus on the specific task and visualize how much time I will need to delegate to it and what other little steps I need to do to finish the big picture.

Sandy Dempsey My to-do lists and idea notebook – both help me manage what projects I need to and want to work on, books I want to read, topics I want to write about and fun things I want to do.

Lisa Cotter Metwaly I love the kitchen timer to keep me on task. 30 minutes gives me enough time to make a dent in most things and I usually keep going once I start. If I feel like quitting after the timer goes off I know I can be happy about accomplishing my goal of 30 minutes.

Linda Locke Mine is setting deadlines. As a former newspaper reporter I respect the power of the deadline and the adrenaline rush it gives me. If I absolutely, positively have to get something done, this is my go to method!

Paul Browning  The software OneNote by Microsoft Office. I can put what I want in it, it gives complete unadulterated freedom in how I design my goals and note taking.

Maureen Thomson Short Keys 

Sue West accountability partner == whether it’s business coach, a partner I’m collaborating with, or my once-a-month “kick butt on deadlines” colleague meeting. I finally learned I don’t have to do it all. It’s better not to be “SO” self-managed.

Jane Beaver Lists, computer pop-up calendar items, and flexibility.

Susan Wolters Sketchbooks/notebooks, post it notes/scrap paper, and a paper wall calendar. The rest is in my head, or about to be imagined.


For half a century, Andy Rooney has been an outspoken and opinionated journalist. For most of that time, his stories were written on his beloved manual typewriter. It is only in the past few years that he’s relented and switched to a laptop computer. His ancient typewriter is enshrined in his office where it remains a symbol of a long and creative career.

Andy Rooney is not alone. Watch someone masterful at work and you’ll notice that there’s almost a reverence given to the tools of their trade. On the days when Eric Clapton performs, he chooses not to see or touch his principle guitar. He says that as he prepares to go onstage, he walks to get his guitar and it’s like going to meet a lover.

Paul Hawken was touring British gardens when he learned about the personal relationship some folks have with their tools. He writes, “As I watched the gardeners work I studied their tools. I hefted a spade, the tool of choice. It seemed unusually heavy and it was sharp as an ax. The gardener saw me looking and came over. That was not merely a spade, that was his spade. I asked him if it wasn’t heavy and tiring to use. With a smile he invited me to give it a try. I toiled away as he grew increasingly amused. In his Lancashire accent he said, ‘Let your tool do the work. That’s what it’s made for.’ He showed me how use the weight of the spade, how to make the tool an extension of my arms, how to move my body.”

Hawken was so impressed with the lesson he’d learned that when he returned to the United States he tried to interest some companies in importing English garden tools. No one was interested. Eventually Hawken realized that this idea belonged to him and the successful mail order business Smith and Hawken was born bringing the tools Hawken loved to a new market. 

 Our relationship with tools is important—and maybe even a bit mystical. “I’m always looking forward to opening the ovens in the morning,” says glass artist Dale Chihuly. “Glassblowing is a spontaneous medium that suits me. I’ve been at it for forty years and am as infatuated as when I blew my first bubble in 1965. We use the same tools they used 2000 years ago. I know if I go down to the glass shop, I’m going to make something that’s never been made before. That in itself is an inspiration. I used to think it was the glass that was so mysterious, but then I realized it was the air that went into it that was miraculous.”

 How close or far are you from working with tools that inspire affection? Is there a tool that inspires affection that is gathering dust? Is there a new tool that you’ve been thinking about learning to use?

 tool (tool) n. 1. a thing (usually something held in the hand) for working on something. 2. a simple machine. 3. anything used in an occupation or pursuit, a dictionary is a useful tool. 4. a person used as a mere instrument by another.                       Oxford American Dictionary

One day as I was driving down the freeway, I had a peculiar thought. “What would it be like,” I mused, “to do work which required wearing protective gear?” I drove a few more miles contemplating the various kinds of protection worn by different occupations.

I realized that (in the broadest sense) every kind of work requires tools. Not all of those tools come from a hardware store, of course, but whether it’s a cake pan, a computer, a chisel or a combine, we humans are aided by inventions brilliant and mundane.

That led me to a bigger revelation, one that hasn’t been talked about much. What occurred to me is that one of the biggest clues to discovering our passion may come via our tools. In fact, when we are doing work that we love, sitting down at our computer or picking up the phone to explore an opportunity  or grabbing our guitar sends the signal, “Let’s get going here.” Sometimes it’s even exhilerating.

So what’s your power tool? What is that thing that when you’re using it you feel most creative, most competent?  It might not be as obvious as you’d think.

Although Malcolm Gladwell seems to be incapable of producing a book that doesn’t become a bestseller, he recently told an interviewer that he hadn’t originally planned on a writing life. He said, “Writing was the thing I ended up doing by default, for the simple reason that it took me forever to realize writing could be a job. Jobs were things that were serious and daunting. Writing was fun.”

Then there’s Al who called me after he’d started his handyman business. He told me how he’d taken a job that he grew to dislike after graduating from college. To overcome his dissatisfaction, he began taking career assessment tests, working with career counselors, trying to figure out what his right livelihood was. “I took every test known to humankind and never got any clearer. As all this was going on,” Al said, “I remodeled my house three times.” 

“Hiding in plain sight, Al?” I asked. He laughed and agreed.

As you go about your work today, give thought to the tools that you use. Love them or hate them? Pay attention. They’re trying to tell you something. 

Like Al and Malcolm, you might be holding a big clue in your hands and not recognize it.