“Be with those who help your being,” advised Rumi. For me, that means spending time in the company of inspired entrepreneurs. If I can’t be in the same room with one, I will visit a Web site (Innocent Drinks is a good choice) or have a long distance chat with one every day. 


I am not at all certain, however, that genuinely inspired entrepreneurs would call themselves that. (In fact, I’d be suspicious if someone put that as a title on their business card.) It’s more about thinking and acting in a way that let’s us know that inspiration is a guiding force in their lives. 


Here are some ways to spot one when you find them in the wild:


They love innovation and ideas

They ask “what if” alot

They drop names, giving credit and recognition to others

They may dress creatively

They are relentlessly curious

They spread encouragement

They laugh frequently

They are enthusiastic problem-solvers

They take good care of themselves

They are genuine optimists

They find change exciting

They are committed to leaving things better than they found them

They are genuises at mobilizing whatever resources they have

They notice opportunities all over the place




So excited about the Get Inspired! Project being launched October 1 by Toni Reece. Her goal is to interview 365 people about what inspiration means to them and then post the audio at http://getinspiredproject.com. Since inspiration means different things to different people, this should be fascinating. The idea is to speak with people from all walks of life. If you’d like to participate send a message to toni@thepeopleacademyinc.com.


Although my birthday doesn’t arrive until October 10, I received my first card last week.

The sender always remembers my anniversary and let’s me know they’re thinking about me. In fact, they started celebrating when we barely knew each other.


Several years ago, when I still lived in Minneapolis, I was in Sacramento to teach three seminars. At the end of the day, I headed to the airport to fly to Burbank so I could spend a little time with my daughter. I had booked my flight on Southwest, an airline that didn’t serve my hometown, primarily because of the ticket price and flight time. I was expecting even worse service than I was used to with more expensive carriers.


When I got to my gate, I walked up to the counter to ask the pleasant gate agent a question. That led to a little chat. I learned he’d been a schoolteacher prior to joining SWA; he learned I was off to celebrate my birthday with my family. I sat down in the waiting area and watched the growing group that would become my fellow travelers. 


Moments later, I was startled by an announcement that said, “Passenger Winter, please come to the podium.” I grabbed my suitcase and followed orders. The moment I reached the podium, the message continued. “Ladies and gentlemen, we have a special person flying with us tonight. This is Barbara and it’s her birthday. Join me in singing Happy Birthday to her.” And they did. 


Now that I’m a regular SWA passenger, I know that such spontaneous behavior isn’t that unusual. However, at the time of my serenade, I was (reluctantly) a frequent flyer with Northwest Airlines who had a strong monopoly in the Minneapolis market. I’d spent years being treated as their adversary by gate agents and flight attendants. A birthday card from NWA? Never. In fact, when I hit 1,000,000 miles flying with them, I didn’t even get a thank you note. NWA and SWA are polar opposites and their corporate cultures show it.


SWA continues to surprise me. To my delight they’ve taken on bully NWA and I’m now able to fly with them to Minneapolis, as I did for Follow Through Camp earlier this month. That trip was made even more delightful by their in-flight magazine which happened to be a special Entrepreneur’s Guide which declared Make Your Bright Idea Bear Fruit. I couldn’t stop laughing over Jay Heinrichs editorial which began, “There are two kinds of people in this world: entrepreneurs and naysayers. I belong to the second group…Entrepreneurs never follow the advice of people like me.”


Of course, their magazine is always worth reading and seems to be written with the intention of adding another layer of pleasure to their passenger’s flight. 


Last week on my return from Denver, our flight was staffed by a flight attendant/Elvis impersonator—and another who seemed to be working on his standup comedy act. As the lights of my new hometown came into view, Elvis impersonator led the plane on a rousing (and respectable) rendition of Viva Las Vegas. Everyone was smiling as we touched down.


Surprise. Delight. Care. You don’t need to run an airline to put those to work for you. 





Steven Pressfield’s blog post this week was called Just Show Up and talked about the importance of putting yourself in the arenas where you want to succeed. So simple. So easy to resist. 


In my early days of studying success, I discovered that the folks who made the effort, who spent the time and money to attend seminars and gatherings of other entrepreneurs invariably succeeded more quickly than those who avoided such events.


Part of their success could be explained as gathering ideas and information that was helpful to their business. But that was only part. Being in the presence of other business builders also made a huge impact. 


One of the most difficult things I ever do is to convince new (and not so new) entrepreneurs to include in their plans regular attendance at events where they’ll connect with other joyfully jobless folks. How do you know when it’s time to show up? Here are some signs:



You’ve reached all of your goals

You’ve reached none of your goals

You’re in need of some fresh ideas

You’d like to get a new perspective 

Your kids think you’re a nerd and you suspect they’re right

You can’t remember the last time you felt really excited about something

You have more ideas than you know what to do with

You’re scared to death of your real dreams

You’re ready for a new adventure

You remember that a change of scenery always refreshes you

You aren’t making the kind of progress that you’d like

Nobody ever asks you what’s new

You need time to figure out your next step

You want to be bolder

Resistance is stronger than inspiration

You’re ready to have more fun with your business

You think boring and ordinary are the scariest words in the English language

You want to expand your entrepreneurial network

You believe your dreams are a good investment

Your creative spirit needs a jumpstart

You’re tired of trying to fit someone else’s idea of who you should be

It sounds like fun


Or as Steven Pressfield says, “There’s tremendous power in putting your ass where your heart wants to be.”




You can participate in events large or small. If you’d like to be part of a tiny group that’s committed to helping you gain momentum and forward movement, consider joining Alice Barry and me for Follow Through Camp coming up on November 6 & 7 in Chaska, MN. If you want to be along for this amazing event, don’t dither. From the moment I announced this next session, orders started arriving.


The week before I was scheduled to have dental surgery, I was filled with anxiety. After all, I have a lifetime of horror stories about my experiences with dentists. One of my earliest memories is of my angry mother dragging 6-year-old me down the street after I bit the elderly dentist in our hometown and he demanded she remove me from his office and never bring me back. 


As it turned out, my visit to the oral surgeon was surprisingly pleasant. After Dr. Johnson and I had our pre-surgery consultation, I asked him why he had chosen this profession. “I like to hurt people,” he said. I wondered how he knew that was exactly the right answer to my question.


When I got home and opened the bag they’d sent with me, it contained post-surgery directions, a tube of lip balm, tea bags (to stop the bleeding) and a package of ramen noodles. I was even more impressed with the kindness of the staff who all seemed to recognize that nobody really wanted to be there.


A few days later, I was talking to my friend Karyn Ruth White about my experience and she told me about her favorite dentist. Here’s her story:


 If I had any doubts about whether or not I would like my new dentist, they all vaporized the minute I walked into the lobby and spotted the ten foot toy toothbrush in the corner.  I was thrilled to see, a lobby filled with color, walls lined with cartoons, and Dilbert books on the waiting room tables.  The front office team was polite, efficient and yes, even friendly. I don’t want to get anyone in trouble here, but they were actually laughing together. Where was I?  I was pretty sure that this was not your average dental practice.  


My suspicions were confirmed when, after a short wait, I was escorted to the back exam room. Again the walls were lined with cartoons and lots of pictures of a man in a safari hat with tribes of African children all smiling and holding dental floss.  Then I met him, the man in the picture: the magical, mystical, mercurial man they called Dr. Graham Coveyduck.  He was about 5’7”, slim build, sharp mind, big smile, youthful twinkle in his eyes and an unending inventory of filthy jokes.  I decided then and there that I had found my new dentist.  


For ten years, right up until he retired, I was his happy patient.  I knew that whatever I needed done, he would make it as pain-free and fun as possible.  One of my favorite memories was the stuffed toy mouse he placed in between the ceiling tiles, so that it would be the first thing you saw when you reclined in the dental chair.  I also loved that he hung a bird feeder outside the exam room window so you could hear and watch the birds while you were in the chair.  He had a great cartoon in the lobby of an old guy with no teeth ,the caption read “Your teeth…Ignore them and they will go away.” 


On one visit he got me laughing so hard that when it was time to rinse and spit I missed the bowl and spit on his floor.  The entire staff laughed for five solid minutes over that one.  Dr. Coveyduck looked at me in mock seriousness and said “Nice!”, which sent me into another round of laughter.   


As a motivational comedian and entrepreneur, I am always on the lookout for businessowners who embrace the power of humor and laughter as essential components to true success.  My mantra is  “If it ain’t fun, it ain’t success!”  




Need some fun? Visit www.karynruthwhite.com .While you’re there, check out her hilarious new DVD, Girls Night Out. It’s a fine–and very funny–addition to your home video library.

Orders for Making a Living Without a Job were piling up and my shipment was more than a week overdue. I called my publisher to see if they could track the order and learned that the shipping department was clogged getting Dan Brown’s blockbuster The Lost Symbol out in time for its’ debut.  I was assured that my books should be arriving momentarily.


Later in the day, I heard my doorbell and when I opened the door saw the UPS delivery man heading to his truck. Even though it wasn’t my regular driver, I called out to him and said, “Do you allow your customers to kiss you?” He turned around, smiled and walked back up the sidewalk. “Man, I hear ‘You saved my life,’ all the time. Yup, we’re just out here delivering packages and saving lives every day.” I suggested that UPS turn that benefit into a new advertising campaign. 


I get a lot of packages from UPS and have noticed that even though I’m on their route late in day, the drivers are always cheerful. My regular driver calls me by name and exchanges a few words even though he’s probably eager to finish his day. It’s a dramatic contrast to the cranky postman who delivers my mail with a snarl. 


Yesterday afternoon I decided to sweep my front porch and prune the bush that was intruding into the walkway. As I was puttering, I noticed that the welcome mat by my front door was showing signs of wear and tear. In fact, it says “lcome”. I made a note to replace it soon. After all, I want the UPS guy to know I’m glad he showed up. 


Even though my customers do not normally appear at my front door, I am always looking for ways to keep the welcome mat out in my business, too. Seems pretty fundamental to me.


You’d think that every entrepreneur would consider it essential to welcome potential buyers and clients to their business, but experience shows that’s not always the case.


Consider the less-than-welcoming way some businesses answer their phones. Browse at any flea market or craft fair and you’ll see numerous vendors who are reading a book or chatting with other vendors while ignoring the crowd.  And it’s not just exhibiters that do this: many businessowners seem to wear a “Do Not Disturb” sign—defying anyone to ask them questions or offer them money.


Smart entrepreneurs make it their mission to let others know that they are in business to serve. I bet the people that you most like doing business with have their own version of a welcome mat, don’t they? Do you?

When I moved to Minnesota, I had no idea that superb public radio was one of the benefits of living there. I also had no idea that I was crazy about Italian Baroque until I made MPR my companion. Having spent a fair amount of time in rental cars in other parts of the country, I know that not everyone has access to such marvelous programming. 


It’s not just entertainment, however. A well-publlicized study conducted at the University of California at Irvine showed that students performed better on tests after listening to Mozart. Other studies confirm that the power of music goes far beyond what we’ve realized. In Washington state, for example, some community colleges mix English lessons with Baroque music, reducing the time it has taken new immigrants to master our language.


A few years ago, a high school student made news with a science project he put together to study the effect of music on white mice. Some of the mice were left in a room for ten hours a day with classical music playing; another group spent the same time being subjected to heavy metal. Then the mice were sent through a maze.


The mice who’d heard the classics whizzed right through, beating their pre-listening performance. On the other hand, the heavy metal mice seemed disoriented and bumped into walls. While I’m not sure what, if anything, this proves, it does suggest that listening to music that has stood the test of time may have a benefit that goes directly to the brain.


So set your radio dial to your local classical station and give a listen. If  you don’t have access to a good one, build your own library. If you’re a novice, start with a few of the “foolproof” composers. Sample Bach, Mozart, Handel and Vivaldi. They were all prolific musicmakers and remain the most popular of classical composers. With their music playing softly in the background, you may discover your stress level goes down and your productivity goes up…or that you’re just wild about Baroque.


Goethe said, “One ought every day to hear a little music, read a good poem, see a fine picture and, if possible, speak a few reasonable words.” Taking advantage of that may begin with turning on your radio. It’s a simple and lovely way to create an atmosphere that supports you in doing your finest work.


When I got home from my recent trip to Minnesota, there was a package waiting for me from Lands’ End. I’m not a big customer of theirs, but I’m a happy one. For starters, there’s their order department. Moments after dialing their 800 number, a cheerful voice, a live person, answers. They’re always as cheerful at the end of the call as they are at the beginning. I might ask about the weather in Wisconsin and they might be eager to tell me about their last visit to Las Vegas. 


This thriving mail order business was started by Gary Comer who first got into mail order selling with an earlier business. Lands’ End began as a sailboat equipment company in 1963 in Chicago, Illinois. The business became so successful that it expanded into general clothing and home furnishings. When Comer realized that he had a growing business on his hands, he decided to locate to the quietly beautiful area of southern Wisconsin. After all, this wasn’t going to be a city slicker operation. The company is named from its sailboat heritage, after Land’s End, but the misplaced apostrophe in the company name was a typographical error that Comer could not afford to change, as promotional materials had already been printed.


Even though their business was conducted by post, the company was determined to delight their customers. They became known for their return policy which was “Guaranteed. Period.” 


Lands’ End endeared themselves to me with a photo in one of their catalogs showing a car driving down a country road at dawn. The copy talked about their energetic employees who came to work at Lands’ End after milking their cows at home. They promised that if we ordered from these folks we’d get the same attention as they gave to running their own farms. 


Several years ago, the Lands’ End holiday catalog arrived. After dinner one night, I began browsing through it and there, among the fleece and knits, was the most marvelous essay by Garrison Keillor called What I’m Giving You for Christmas. Of course, the piece was entertaining, but it was also bold. Here, in a catalog of merchandise being offered as potential gifts, Keillor was warning about the perils of giving and receiving.


He wrote, “A Christmas gift represents somebody’s theory of who you are, or who they wish you were…You’d like to get a gift that aims high—Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, a ticket to Nepal, a MacArthur grant—and instead here is a pair of bedroom slippers with lights in the toes so you can see your way to the bathroom at night.” I was so delighted that Lands’ End shared this charming essay that I wanted to order one of everything  in the catalog right then and there.


Jerry Garcia once pointed out  (delightfully) the responsibility we must assume in order to make the world a better place  by saying, “Somebody has to do something and it’s just incredibly pathetic that is has to be us.”


What do you suppose might happen if more of us took up the cause of being delightful? What kind of business would we create? What kind of relationships? Pathetic or not, why not make it your mission to do whatever you’re doing in the most delightful way?


During her freshman year in college, I got a call from my distraught daughter. She’d just heard from her bank and discovered she had an enormous overdraft fee. “Do you keep a balance in your checkbook?” I asked.


“What’s that?” she shot back. 


“Oh, dear,” I said, “something else I forgot to teach you.”


It’s a common mistake to assume that everyone else knows the same things we do. It’s not just our children that are missing useful information, however. Chances are you know all sorts of things that would be helpful to others, but it doesn’t occur to you to share what seems ordinary. I’ve always thought that the real genius of Martha Stewart is her assumption that everyday living things are not common knowledge. 


Sometimes we also need to be reminded of things we already know, but are neglecting. I thought of that recently when I was bemoaning the disappearance of independent adult ed programs around the country. For years, these folks were my favorite business partners and I held my seminars almost exclusively with them. It was a perfect match: they were small businessowners sharing ideas and information in their communities at a reasonable price. 


As the Internet became a convenient go-to source, enrollments in these programs began to go down. Printing costs for their catalogs continued to go up. Eventually, many owners decided the time had passed to run their operations and they closed up shop.


I’m not sure it had to happen, but I think we who were involved all failed to remind people of something most of them already knew. That huge advantage that adult ed had over the Internet is this: something happens in a roomful of other people exploring the same subject that goes beyond simply getting information. That’s a dynamic that can’t exist any other way. 


We must not assume that no matter how good our product or service is that it will market itself. We must not assume that everyone already knows how great our offerings are. And as entrepreneurs, we must not assume that what we learned about careers will translate into our joyfully jobless journey.


In his blog post, The Hierarchy of Success, Seth Godin points out that we almost never talk about the most essential things. He writes, “As far as I’m concerned, the most important of all, the top of the hierarchy is attitude. Why are you doing this at all? What’s your bias in dealing with people and problems?”


Obvious, isn’t it?




Business books usually fall into two category: how-to or biographical.

In how-to books, the author may or may not be an entrepreneur.

Biographical books most frequently are written by someone (and,

perhaps, their ghostwriter) who has built a successful business and

tells the story of the inception and growth of that undertaking.


Biographical books also may share advice, but often have the added

advantage of being inspirational. After all, hardly anyone writes this

kind of book to tell a story about how they got an idea for a business

and found themselves rolling in success the next day. Personal

narratives may not always involve overcoming enormous obstacles, but

they have the added advantage of being told from personal perspective

and offer the author/entrepreneur’s insights into those events that

shaped the business.



Winner Takes All by Christina Binkley is a well-written account of how

modern Las Vegas was shaped by three very different entrepreneurial

thinkers. Terrific storytelling because the story’s so good.


Business Stripped Bare by Richard Branson shares lessons learned by

this adventurous entrepreneur. You don’t have to build a global empire

to apply what he’s learned to your business.


Small Giants by Bo Burlingham is an exploration of companies that

chose to be great instead of big.


The Perfect Store by Adam Cohen. Even though a lot has happened since

this book was published, it’s an amazing tale of the humble beginnings

of eBay.


Hershey by Michael D’Antonio is the fascinating story of Milton

Hershey of chocolate fame who was also an ahead-of-his-time social



In Pursuit of the Common Good by Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner is a

highly entertaining account of the surprising birth and growth of

Newman’s Own.


Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See not only offers advice on the

nuts and bolts of writing, but also insights into the interior life of

an author.


A Sense of Place with Michael Shapiro is a collection of interviews

with people, including Bill Bryson and Rick Steves, who turned their

love of travel into a writing career.


Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland is a story I can read

again and again. Genuinely inspiring example of how a positive vision

impacts positively. Strickland chornicles his journey from inner city

teen without direction to founder of an enormously successful training



Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus is the wildly inspiring story of

the birth of micro-lending and the lives that were changed by helping

the poor create their own enterprises.

Recently, Alice Barry and I were talking and the conversation turned to something that mystifies both of us. As Alice put it, “Everyone says they want community and want to meet with other self-bossers, but few people take the initiative to put a group together.”


Honestly, I can’t think of anyone who successfully launched a business without intentional and regular contact with other entrepreneurs. Such invaluable connections were encouraged in Napoleon Hill’s success classic, Think and Grow Rich, where I first encountered the concept of the Master Mind group. After reading about it, I realized that it was an idea I’d seen in action many times. Every town in America (and elsewhere) probably has informal Master Mind groups which meet all the time. In small towns, you see clusters of businessowners gathering for breakfast or lunch to discuss local issues and create plans for making their spot of Earth a better place.


A true Master Mind group is small and members have been invited or selected to participate. The focus is sharp and the purpose clearly defined. It goes beyond simply meeting for companionship. For solo entrepreneurs, such a group is essential, it seems to me, and many small businessowners recognize that. However, waiting for someone else to take the initiative to get a group rolling is dicey. 


If you want to be the one who creates a local group of your own, here are some things to keep in mind.


√ Decide if you prefer a general group where members are doing a variety of things or if you want one made up of people with a common interest (such as writers or life coaches). Also decide if you want a mix of new and more experienced folks, or if you prefer one or the other.


√ Solicit participation by personal invitations to people you know or put out the word via Twitter or MeetUp. The most successful groups I’ve seen have been largely handpicked. However, an elitist approach won’t produce the best results.


√ Keep initial membership small. If your group attracts more than a dozen people, consider splitting into smaller groups.


√ Make it clear that a commitment to the group is important and no one should get involved if they aren’t willing to make participation for at least six months a top priority.


√ Unless all members are personal friends, hold meetings in a neutral location such as a coffee shop or restaurant—not in your home. Many libraries have free meetings rooms which can be reserved.


√ If you are meeting for two hours, use part of the time for a planned program or discussion and the rest for informal networking with each member sharing progress and problems.


√ Shared resources, book recommendations and so forth can be a regular feature of your meetings with members volunteering to share good ideas they’ve discovered.


√ Let leadership/planning responsibilities rotate.


√ From time to time, plan a Success Night to celebrate accomplishments and offer applause. This is especially important for people who are working solo and don’t get regular recognition. If you have several groups operating in your city, this could be a joint affair.


√ Remember, too, that when it comes to relationships, not all of the people we meet remain a permanent part of our life. If your first group doesn’t work out as planned, be willing to try again with a different cast of characters.