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?”


Although it didn’t arrive until the end of October, Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs was the top selling book of 2011. It’s continued to grace bestseller lists this year, too.

This is notable for several reasons, but caught my attention because biographies of entrepreneurs don’t usually attract such huge readership. What a shame.

Many such true stories are every bit as intriguing as fictional tales. More importantly, they can provide inspiration and trigger ideas for others wishing to succeed in the Joyfully Jobless world.

As Caroline Myss reminds us, “We evolve at the rate of the tribe we’re plugged into.” Knowing the stories of others who have carved their own path can be enormously helpful to our own evolution.

Some of my favorite business biographies aren’t even close to being bestsellers, but they’re certainly worth investigating. While many of the subjects/authors are now well-known, there was a time when they were known only to their families.

If you’ve missed any of these true stories, track them down and see what you can learn.

Losing My Virginity is Sir Richard Branson’s autobiography of his early years in business. He’s written several other books sharing his philosophy and recent enterprises, but this charmer offers us a glimpse of the early days of the self-described adventure capitalist.

Ben and Jerry’s Double-Dip by Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield shows us what it means to create a values-led business. Read this while enjoying a bowl of Cherry Garcia or Creme Brulee.

Hershey by Michael D’Antonio is the surprisingly inspiring tale of Milton S. Hershey who not only became synonymous with chocolate bars, but was one of the country’s first social entrepreneurs. This visionary was decades ahead of his time.

The Gospel According to Coco Chanel by Karen Karbo brings us the philosophy of another visionary whose humble beginnings bore no resemblance to the influential woman she became. Chanel was opinionated and not shy about speaking her mind on living life on your own terms.

In Pursuit of the Common Good by Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner is one of the funniest stories on the list. It’s a marvel that Newman’s Own ever managed to succeed.

Body and Soul by Anita Roddick is subtitled Profits With Principles. This book recounts the early days of The Body Shop. Equally worth tracking down is her later book, Business as Unusual. You may need to do some detective work to find either title. It’s worth it.

Start Something That Matters by Blake Mycoskie, the founder of TOMS shoes, urges us to use our businesses to make a positive difference in the world.

Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland is a book I reread every year. It’s the incredible story of the author’s journey to create Manchester Bidwell, a jobs training center and community arts program near Pittsburgh. Every city should be so blessed.

Banker to the Poor by Muhammad Yunus shares the story of the birth of micro-lending, which helped poor women in Bangladesh become successful businessowners.

While you may be able to locate some of these books through your public library, I believe they deserve a permanent home in your library. Every one of these stories is worth revisiting from time to time.

You’ll find several of these titles on Barbara’s Book List, along with several others that I haven’t included here. Out of print titles may be available through my new favorite used book source, Thriftbooks.


This morning I had a consultation with an American living in Mexico who is itching to add self-employment to his portfolio. Not surprisingly, his next step was hiding in plain sight and incorporated several of his passions and skills while giving him the opportunity to exercise his curiosity.

It was perfect.

By the time we finished talking on Skype (a favorite tool of expats), I was contemplating  a trip to Mexico. His enthusiasm was quite contagious.

It seems to me that—more often than not—entrepreneurs are explorers. Those explorations take many different forms, of course, but keeping their wanderlust well fed is a high priority for many.

As an intrepid traveler myself, I’m always gathering ideas and travel tips. Over the weekend, I came across a few old favorites that I’ve shared in Winning Ways newsletter and decided to pass them along here.

If you’re traveling to a country where a different language is spoken, it makes sense to learn a few key phrases in your host’s language.

Travel writer Catherine Watson says, “Learn how to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in a dozen languages. And then use them at every opportunity.

“For a real payoff memorize how to say, ‘I am sorry but I don’t speak your beautiful language,’ in the tongue of every country you’re going to visit.”

I wondered how you’d say Joyfully Jobless in another tongue so I paid a visit to a couple of online translators. (If you actually speak any of these languages, you might translate differently.)

Should someone ask you, “What do you do?” here’s how you might reply.

Afrikaans—blydskap werklose

Czech—radosti bez pracae

Danish—glaede arbejdslose

French—joyeusement le chomeur

German—Freudig arbeitslos

Italian—gioia senza lavoro

Norwegian—gledelig jobblos

Spanish—alegria por desempleo

Swedish—gladje arbetslosa

Your travel also can be enriched by having a project to explore. When I was visiting London several times every year, I always gave each trip a theme. One time I would visit gardens; another time bookshops were my focus.

Catherine Watson puts it this way: “For added pleasure, have a quest. It’s a lot more interesting to search for the Holy Grail than just sightsee.

“Start with something that means something to you at home. Say you collect antiques, pursue genealogy, love horses of just plain have a smart dog. Use that as a way to get inside the culture you’re visiting.

“Abroad, you could go to local auctions; end up in Alpine villages connected to your family; seek out country horse trials in England; talk to sheepdog trainers in Scotland.”

Of course, entrepreneurial gypsies are on the lookout for business ideas. That’s what Howard Schultz did when he decided during a European visit that what the US needed was a neighborhood coffeehouse.

As a result, thousands of neighborhoods now have their very own Starbucks.

When you travel, read local newspapers and magazines, visit small businesses, keep your eyes and ears open. You never know when an idea that charms you in a faraway place might be ready to come to life in your part of the world.

That’s precisely what the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop, discovered. She said, “I’ve always said that travel is the best university; getting from one place to another means more than physical movement.

“It also entails change, challenge, new ideas and inspirations….I had this idea of making little products like shampoo and so forth using ingredients I had found when I traveled.”


When I moved into my new home last December, I was determined to find the most colorful Welcome Mat available. Not only did I want my visitors to know I was happy to see them, I wanted to remind myself that I was entering a place where good things happened.

There may have been another factor motivating my insistence that I get it right; my downstairs neighbors have a mat in front of their door that growls Go Away. Since I pass by it every time I come home, I felt obligated to counterbalance that grumpy message.

When it comes to your clients, customers and potential clients and customers what’s your sign? Are you putting out the Welcome Mat—or hanging a Do Not Disturb warning?

You don’t have to look very hard to see that every business invites you in—or warns you not to bother them.

I  learned about the Do Not Disturb sign from years of flying with Northwest Airlines. Apathy and indifference seemed to pervade the corporate culture.

As the planes got grubbier and dirtier, the crews got crankier. Questions were often treated as an irritation and passengers were an unfortunate interruption.

There wasn’t much smiling going on during the million miles I logged with them.

Now that I am not limited to NWA (merged with Delta) as a carrier, I avoid them at all costs. In fact, I’ve not touched my frequent flyer miles with them despite the fact that I could have a free trip to Europe if I was feeling the need for more abuse.

On the other hand, my trips these days are mostly on Southwest Airlines and I find myself anticipating these trips since I never know what friendliness may be in store.

Is the flight attendant heading to Las Vegas auditioning as a standup comedian? Will the passengers be invited to sing  Happy Birthday to a fellow traveler? Will I manage to read all the interesting articles in their in-flight magazine before we land?

You don’t need to operate an airline to recognize the importance of sending a message that welcomes.

Of course, there are times when the Do Not Disturb sign comes in handy—especially if you live with other people who don’t understand that you have a business to build, but in every part of your business where you’re connecting with other people, keep the Welcome Mat out.

Here are a few easy ways to do just that:

° Answer all telephone calls with friendly expectation. Yes, it might be a telemarketer on the other end, but unless you’re a really gifted psychic, don’t risk it by sounding grumpy.

Your voice message needs to be upbeat as well. (Skip the trite, “your message is important to us” stuff, however.)

° Get into the conversation on social media sites. If you’ve got gas or you’re bored, keep it to yourself.

Use social media to praise, share, ask questions, interact. That’s not difficult stuff, but it does take conscious effort to do so.

Keep in mind, too, that this is about connecting with other people. No matter how adorable your kitten is, use your own photograph since you’re the one we’re responding to.

° Don’t make busyness an excuse for rudeness. Dazzle people with your fabulous and thoughtful good manners. If you really want to astonish people, send them a hand written thank you note or express your gratitude publicly.

Keep asking yourself if you’ve got your Welcome Mat out. It’s one of the best business building tools you’ve got.

As Anita Roddick reminded us, “You will never fail as a result of any investment you make in humanizing your business.”


A man once wrote to tell me he’d been homeless and living in his car when the old adage, “It takes money to make money,” came to him. Realizing that he couldn’t test this notion, he continued to contemplate his options and came to the new realization that “It takes ideas to make money.”

Having hit upon this thought, he started to get excited about solving his problems with his imagination. That led him to start a little service business that’s grown and prospered.

Struggling entrepreneurs often convince themselves that if they only got their hands on some money, it would solve all their problems. Not only is that position not very helpful, it also postpones the possibility of lasting success.

As Paul Hawken reminds us, “Money follows ideas. Money doesn’t create anything.”

Real estate people talk about sweat equity—investing time and energy rather than cold cash. Creative capital is a similar concept, but it goes a step farther.

When we use our imaginations to grow our businesses, we not only generate bigger and better ideas, we keep our passion alive and build confidence in our own ideas at the same time. Those are powerful ingredients for succeeding at any undertaking.

No one understood creative capital better than Body Shop founder Anita Roddick. She showed a natural flair for what I call Hansel and Gretel marketing. When she opened her first little shop in Brighton, England, she would spray a trail of scent from the main street to her side street location, hoping people would follow the smell.

She writes, “Believe me I was prepared to try anything in those early days to get customers into my shop. I wanted to get passersby to stop, so I put big, old-fashioned sandwich boards outside promoting one or another of the products. I drenched the front of the shop in the most exotic perfume oils so that it always smelled wonderful.”

Early on, Roddick came to understand the power of free publicity. After many runners in the London Marathon complained about sore feet, she got busy concocting a foot lotion and the following year got permission to stand on the sidelines of the marathon and hand out free samples.

The media took note. She also became a regular on talk shows, plugging The Body Shop as much as she could politely get away with.

Instead of spending  money for advertising, Roddick insisted on finding creative ways to communicate her unique message. “How we communicate is gob-smacking,” she wrote in her autobiography, Body and Soul. “We use every available medium to preach, teach, inspire and stimulate, and in everything we do our single-minded passion shines through.”

Another entrepreneur who understood and used creative capital brilliantly was Geek Squad founder Robert Stephens. From their earliest days, the Geek Squad stood apart from other folks in the computer repair industry through their clever use of humor, attention-getting automobiles and badge-carrying employees.

Starting on a tiny shoestring turned out to be an asset, not a liability, says Stephens. As he discovered early on, “In the absence of capital, creativity flourishes.”

The most successful entrepreneurs seem to understand the importance of valuing and nurturing their creative spirits. They experiment, try things, find ways to do more with less.

In fact, the creative business is more like an artist’s studio than a factory production line. It’s a model we can happily adopt.

Just feed your creative spirit well and put it to work on your behalf. This is one investment strategy that works brilliantly—in any economy.


Every time my UPS driver delivers another case of Making a Living Without a Job books, I am reminded that this idea almost didn’t happen. In fact, I was downright clueless about how big an idea it was.


Several months after I moved to Minneapolis, I discovered Open U, our local independent adult ed program. I thought this might be a good place to try out some ideas I had for seminars so I sent them a proposal. Making a Living was one of those ideas, but I didn’t think it was the biggest. Although I’d met a number of people in my new hometown who seemed intrigued by my joyfully jobless lifestyle, I suspected it was too radical to be popular. Maybe I’d do a session or two, I thought.


Thousands of seminar participants and tens of thousands of readers later, I am still astonished at how excited I get every time I walk into a meeting room to talk about my favorite subject. Helping others become self-employed has been a continuous source of joy and satisfaction for me.


So here’s a little secret about ideas: we can’t possibly know ahead of time which of our ideas are the real winners. The only way to find out is by putting them out into the world and seeing what happens.


Sometimes ideas arrive too early for the marketplace. Sometimes we discover when we try something out that it’s not as much fun as we thought it would be. Sometimes we don’t get the response we’d wanted, but still love the idea so much that we start looking for better ways of delivering it. It’s all a fascinating experiment.


We can’t know until we get into the game. It’s as simple as that. As Paul Hawken points out, “Owning a business and working for one are as different as chalk and cheese.” Surmising, fretting and musing about being an entrepreneur may be an interesting mental exercise, but it’s only by doing what an entrepreneur does that you can know what it’s really like.


I’m not the first person to discover this, of course. One of my favorite entrepreneurial role models was the late Dame Anita Roddick. Here’s what she had to say about her journey:


There are no rules or formulas for success. You just have to live it and do it. Knowing this gives us enormous freedom to experiment  toward what we want. Believe me, it’s a crazy, complicated journey. It’s trial and error. It’s opportunism. It’s quite literally, “Let’s try  lots of this stuff and see how it works.” 


My thinking was forged in the 1960s and in those days I would rather have slit my wrists than work in a corporation. So we had no organizational chart, no one-year, five-year plan. What we did have was management by our common values.


Entrepreneurs want to create a livelihood from an idea that has obsessed them. Money will grease the wheels, but becoming a millionaire is not the aim of the true entrepreneur. In fact, most entrepreneurs I know don’t give a damn about the accumulation of money. What gets their juices going is seeing how far an idea can go.


And I only know one way for that to happen.



The brilliant Chris Brogan talks about Overnight Success and Excuses. Check it out.


In June 2005, I spent a week with my three sisters, brother and brother-in-law in England’s gorgeous Cotwolds. We rented a charming house from the enterprising Berrisfords, who own several guest cottages on an old farmstead. They were just the first entrepreneurs we were to meet during our stay.

About three miles from the house we were renting, was the tiny hamlet of Awre which boasted a few houses, a large church and the Red Hart Inn. We decided to have dinner there on Father’s Day. A friendly woman named Marcia sat us at our table. Marcia explained that she was one of the owners and didn’t usually wait on tables, but had given the day off to some of her staff so they could be with their fathers. She then charmed us with a story about the pub’s resident ghost.

As we waited for our food, I noticed a sheet of paper on the table which listed the names of every person who worked in the business as well as all the local suppliers that provided meat, produce and ice cream to the business. It was more like a playbill than something you’d expect to see in a restaurant. I began to wonder why more eating establishments didn’t introduce their staff this way.

When our food arrived, it was obvious that the remote Red Hart had attracted a talented chef—and a pastry chef who made the best brownies we’d ever eaten.

Later in the week we returned for a second visit and and were disappointed when didn’t find the brownies on the menu. Marcia was sympathetic and explained that they liked to rotate their offerings. At the end of our meal, the shy young pastry chef appeared at our table and gave me a handwritten copy of his sensational brownie recipe.

As we learned, the Red Hart Inn wasn’t the only business that was happily operating in this rural area. We kept encountering small businessowners in all of the villages and small towns that we visited. Even touristy gift shops proudly advertised local products like fudge and ice cream. It was a vivid reminder that the entrepreneurial spirit can and does flourish anywhere and everywhere. And, obviously, they delighted in promoting their area small businesses.

I’ve learned a lot about the role of philosophy in business from the late Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop chain. Here’s some advice she shared about starting a business:

There are no rules or formulas for success. You just have to live it and do it. Knowing this gives us enormous freedom to experiment. Believe me, it’s a crazy, complicated journey. It’s trial and error. It’s quite literally, “Let’s try lots of this stuff and see how it works.”

My thinking was forged in the 1960s and in those days I would rather have slit my wrists than work in a corporation. So we had no organizational chart, no one-year, five-year plan. What we did have was management by our common values.

Entrepreneurs want to create a livelihood from an idea that has obsessed them. Money will grease the wheels, but becoming a millionaire is not the aim of a true entrepreneur. In fact, most entrepreneurs I know don’t give a damn about the accumulation of money. What gets their juices going is seeing how far an idea can go.

Geography has nothing to do with that.

Every Wednesday my suburban newspaper shows up in my mailbox. I always look forward to reading it since the editorial staff seems to think that the most fascinating folks in our community also happen to be joyfully jobless. 

This week there’s a story about a woman who decided to turn her parents’ home into an art and music center, rather than renting or selling the house. There’s another about a man who became an artist at the age of 68. His creations are built out of pieces of wood attached together to tell a story. One is called Out of the Box and represents his lifelong desire to work out of the box as an artist. His works, which sell for $250-$1000, are currently being exhibited at a local gallery.

The front page of the Summerlin View is dominated by a story about Jordan Kelley, 22, and Lawrence Vaughan, 24, who started a free Internet job search Web site called Jobbi.com. Under the large color photograph of the smiling pair is a story of how they saw a need and set about filling it. But it’s the sidebar quote that got my attention.”We like to innovate and create. We didn’t want to be in a cubicle,” said cofounder Kelley.

In the introduction to Making a Living Without a Job, I said, “I became an entrepreneur because I was curious about what I could become. It was a curiosity not shared by any employer I ever had.” Not surprisingly, I’m also curious about why others have chosen this lifestyle. Here are a few reasons that others have given.

I really love to go places and see new things. Even opening the door to a new hotel room has a feeling of anticipation. I just love it. I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city. ~ Bill Bryson, travel writer

To me the desire to create and have control over your own life was very much part of the human spirit. What I did not fully realize was that work could open the doors to my heart. ~ Anita Roddick, Body Shop founder

See,my trick in life is to get away from having a job. That’s been my guiding light. ~ Paul McCartney, musician

I get excited about small businesses that are run with passion so that’s what  I recommend in my guidebooks. ~ Rick Steves, travel teacher

I wanted to make my store something a corporate mind would never dream up and that a large company could never sustain. ~ Collette Morgan, Wild Rumpus Books

I became an entrepreneur when I discovered there was not barbed wire surrounding my cubicle! ~ Pat Blocker, Peaceful Paws dog training

But for those who think that an eternal escape from work would be paradise, don’t forget that we all need a playground, and your own company is one of the best playgrounds of all. ~ Derek Sivers, musician and serial entrepreneur

I come from a long line of people who run little businesses to support their art.~ Sophia Coppola, entrepreneur and film director

I became an entrepreneur because I didn’t want to be beige. ~ Maureen Thomson, Memorable Ceremonies

Seems to me that many folks choose the Joyfully Jobless Journey because of a vision of a more congenial life. Along the way, they discover rewards they hadn’t even anticipated. What about you?

The other day one of my Twitter friends posted a message that said, “Listening to two 50-year-old men complaining about their boss Never want that to be me.” I’ve eavesdropped on those kinds of conversations myself and am always reminded that such grumbling would never happen in a chat with my joyfully jobless friends. 

It’s not just conversation that’s different, of course. Entrepreneurs develop a different mindset. So why was I perturbed when I saw another Twitter post that said, “EMPLOYEE MINDSET=accept what you can’t change. CEO MINDSET=change what you can’t accept”? For starters, CEOs are often not true entrepreneurs. They are, however, the chief perpetrators of the employee mindset. 

Unfortunately, most of us have had far more training on how to behave like an employee than on how to behave like an entrepreneur. Even after we make the transition to self-employment, that old thinking– which may have served us well when we worked for someone else–follows us into our own enterprise. When that happens, it can wreak havoc with our best and brightest dreams. 

Often, employee thinking is sneaky companion. Take the oh-so-emotional area of money. If we spent years justifying staying too long in a bad job by convincing ourselves that the money compensated for our misery, we may have a hard time accepting money for doing something we find deeply pleasurable. 

As Paul Hawken warns us, “Owning a business and working for one are as different as chalk and cheese.” The good news is you can learn Entrepreneurial Thinking and put it to work building the business of your dreams. While it does require effort, it’s easier than learning a new language or Texas Hold ‘em. 

One of the best ways I know to accelerate that process is by spending a day in my What Would an Entrepreneur Do? seminar. (The next one is happening on June 19 in Madison, WI). 

Even if you’re thousands of miles away from Madison, you can consciously build an Entrpreneurial mindset. Make an effort to listen and learn from the successful. Follow successfully self-employed people on Twitter or Facebook and notice what they find important enough to pass along. You’ll start noticing inspiring quotes, interesting articles, success stories about other entrepreneurs. Soak it up. 

Hop over to my book page and you’ll find several great reads written by entrpreneurial thinkers. There’s Lynda Resnick’s Rubies in the Orchard, Anita Roddick’s Business as Unusual, Paul Newman and A.E. Hotchner’s Shameless Exploitation: In Pursuit of the Common Good.

However you choose to build your  entrepreneurial mindset, don’t wait. Initiate. That’s what an entrepreneur would do.

Body Shop founder Anita Roddick was one of my favorite entrepreneurs. Over and over she demonstrated how it is possible to break the rules, follow your own heart and make a difference in the world. Here’s something she said about why it all worked for her.

I’ve often wondered what has protected my soul over the years in a business environment that usually alienates humanity in every way. Here are some answers:

° We didn’t know how to run a conventional business. We had never read a book on economic theory and had never even heard of Milton Friedman.

° We had no money. Every original idea was based on reusing everything, refilling and recycling everything we could.

° We loved change. We believe everything was subject to change.

° We had a secret ingredient called euphoria. We shared an extraordinary level of optimism and we still do.

° Finally—and this was the main ingreident—we couldn’t take moisturizer seriously.

I also discovered, very early on, that I love retailing. I don’t like systems, broadsheets, analyses, three-, five- or any-year plans, but I love buying, selling and making connections. I love the productivity and the creativity. I love the values.


The business of business should not just be about money. It should be about responsibility. It should be about public good, not private greed. Inaction is no longer an option. If we don’t act, who will? ~ Dame Anita Roddick