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.


Shortly before it was time for me to come home from Austin on Sunday, my daughter Jennie and her 5-year-old daughter Zoe began going through Zoe’s things picking out items for next weekend’s garage sale. There were outgrown clothes, last year’s Halloween costume plus toys and books that weren’t being passed down to Zoe’s baby brother. By the time they finished, they had a formidable pile.


Zoe was inspired by hearing that her mother had once organized a garage sale when she was a kid who wanted to finance a trip to Disneyland. Zoe, too, has a specific project in mind and also plans to give part of her earnings to a cause she deems worthy.


What Zoe’s learning is something successful entrepreneurs have discovered for themselves and do all the time. The process goes something like this: 1) decide what you want to do or have, 2) determine what it will cost, 3) create a project to fund it. It’s a simple idea that’s quite foreign to the more conventional way salaried employees operate.  Shrinking your dreams to fit your budget may seem logical, but it’s a recipe for dullness. 


For most of us, becoming joyfully jobless requires that we examine our relationship to money and make a concerted effort to develop healthy attitudes and behaviors. Unlearning the scarcity thoughts of our elders, being willing to accept money for having fun with our work and a myriad of other unhelpful thoughts can keep us from moving ahead with our businesses and creating a life of abundance. Every dreambuilder gets ample opportunites to discard old approaches to money.


On my flight home from Austin, I saw another big example of what I’m talking about. I’m rereading Bill Strickland’s astonishing story, Make the Impossible Possible, and came across the story of how he financed his flying lessons in order to fulfill his dreams of becoming a flight engineer. He’d already gotten his private pilot’s license, but earning his commercial license was going to cost $50,000, an enormous sum for someone running an inner city arts’ program. 


Strickland writes that one night after leaving the flight school, he noticed a Beech Sundowner in a hangar with an “Airplane for Sale” sign on it. He writes, “As I looked it over an outrageous possibility occurred to me. When I got home, I called about the Sundowner. The asking price was $50,000. It struck me that my flight school might need another plane for training, so I called and asked the owner if he’d be interested in leasing a plane from me. The next day, I took his willingness to the bank—literally, I told the loan officer I wanted to buy an airplane, then lease it back to the flight school for a monthly fee that would cover my loan payments…Then I used the plane, when it wasn’t being rented out, to accumulate the flight time I needed. The flight school maintained the plane, and the money from the lease paid back my loan. My only expense was the cost of fuel.”


This month we’re exploring a new theme: Making Peace With Money. It’s a challenge that comes to all of us, but not everyone meets it with grace and poise. I’ll be sharing thoughts about this emotionally charged subject all month long. Hope you’ll visit often.


Hardly a week passes without some study or article about what it takes to be an entrepreneur appearing. One of the latest purports that entrepreneurs are born, not made. While I couldn’t agree less, there is one quality that seems to be present in all successful entrepreneurs: resourcefulness.


Resourcefulness is a close cousin to ingenuity. My dictionary says it’s “clever at finding ways of doing things.” I think of it as valuing and using the resources at hand.


In her wonderful book, If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland tells would-be authors, You must become aware of this richness in you and come to believe in it. But it is like this: if you have a million dollars in the bank and don’t know it, it doesn’t do you any good.” It’s not just writers who need to take Ueland’s advice to heart. 


The best way to cultivate resourcefulness is to purposely practice it in everyday life. Here are a few ways to do just that:


* Ask Resourceful Questions. Is there a better way? Who would find this useful? How can I do this in the most creative way? Questions like these will add momentum to your ideas and you’ll start bringing more of them to life.


* Go on an Idea Quest. “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum,” says Robert Wieder. “The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” 


Although entrepreneurs sometimes bemoan the fact that they have too many ideas, that doesn’t stop them from getting more. Ideas, after all, are our real stock in trade. Keeping the pump primed means paying attention to unlikely, as well as obvious, sources of inspiration.


Whenever your creative spirit needs a lift, intentionally go looking for ideas. Sign up for a seminar or sit in a park or mall and watch people. Visit a business you wouldn’t normally go to and open your mind to the unexpected.


* Find Your Funny Bone. Laughter not only reduces stress and has a positive impact on our health and well-being, it can also put us into a more resourceful state of mind. Last year, I stumbled across an audiobook at my library that had me in stitches. It was a collection of Prairie Home Companion’s Joke Shows. Lots of the jokes were corny, but there were plenty that were hilarious. I couldn’t stop telling my favorites to anyone who would listen. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that several great ideas for new projects popped into my head after this laughter fest.


* Notice and Respond. When I received a clipping about an interesting business idea from one of my subscribers, I also noticed this invitation printed above the story. It said, “Have you taken the bold move of stepping out into the world of entrepreneurial self-employment? Send the Tribune a 150-word description of your business and we will enter your business in our editorial lineup.”


Opportunities are everywhere if  we open our eyes—and accept appropriate invitations.


* Make Brainstorming with a Group of Creative Thinkers Your New Hobby. There’s nothing quite like spending time getting and giving fresh ideas and perspectives. Start your own small group and commit to meeting (in person or by phone) once a month for half a year and see what happens. Sharing ideas with others opens your mind to new and better ideas of your own. Nice bonus.


Of course, events like Follow Through Camp are packed with creative brainstorms. Avoid such experiences at your own peril.


* Notice resourcefulness in action. I was delighted to receive my new copy of one of my all-time favorite books, Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland. Although I’ve read it twice, I promptly began reading it again. This true story of resourcefulness in action takes my breath away. It will take yours away, too.

At last night’s Golden Globe Awards, Steven Spielberg spoke eloquently about the need to nurture inspiration and not make decisions based on what’s easy or popular. I don’t hear people talking about that much. No wonder inspiration is dismissed or ignored.

For a long time, I thought motivation and inspiration were two words describing the same thing. I no longer think that. As I see it, motivation is a force that generates action because of the consequences if we don’t. Motivation may or may not have anything to do with genuine passion or enthusiasm. In fact, many people who call themselves motivational speakers imply that motivation is a highly emotional state the we must whip ourselves into—or be branded losers. To be motivated often involves talking ourselves into doing something because we should or must. 

Inspiration, on the other hand, is a call to creative action. We act because we want to, not because we have to. 

The dictionary defines it this way:

arousal of the mind to special activity or creativity

a product of your creative thinking and work

a sudden intuition as part of solving a problem

inhalation: the act of inhaling; the drawing in of air as in breathing 

Although it’s somewhat difficult to describe the state of inspiration, most of us recognize it when we’re experiencing it. When we are inspired, we glimpse new possiblities. Continual inspiration is a reward for paying attention.

The results of living our lives and running our businesses from this state are enormous. Quite simply inspiration always leads us to be more and do more. When we’re inspired we feel more brilliant, creative, loving, alive, authentic. Not only do we accomplish more, but we do so with greater ease. It’s hard to feel inspired and complain. 

Happily, inspiration isn’t just for artists. It also doesn’t have to be random or rare. You do, however, have to know what turns yours on. As James Ball reminds us, “An uninspired mind is a handicap we can all do something about.” This week we’ll explore ways to do just that.

$100 Hour: Share what you know. Last spring, an article in the NY Times called Making Money the How-to Way caught my eye. They spotlighted Metacafe and showed how all sorts of people are creating how-to videos and a nifty profit center.

Explore More: Make the Impossible Possible: One Man’s Crusade to Inspire Others to Dream Bigger and Achieve the Extraordinary by Bill Strickland. One of the best books ever about inspiration in action.

Pay a visit to Inspiration Station for ideas on creating your own Inspiration Station.

The idea flow from the human spirit is absolutely unlimited. All you have to do is tap into that well. ~ Jack Welch

This is the time when I traditionally pick my favorite title of the year. Looking back on 2008 (and my sagging bookshelves) I see that I had many new favorites in the past months. This is just a sampling of books that stayed with me long after I finished reading them.

It was only a few weeks ago that I discovered  Geri Larkin, but I think of her as an old friend. I’m equally wild about her Plant Seed, Pull Weed and The Chocolate Cake Sutra. Both are wise collections of life lessons from an author who obviously pays attention.

Another book that didn’t get nearly the attention it deserved is Thomas Moore’s A Life at Work which is a thoughtful exploration of the importance of discovering your right livelihood.

Getting a Grip by France Moore Lappe is another special title from the visionary author of Diet for a Small Planet. This one’s a call to action using the power of creativity to solve global problems.

Since I also spent a fair amount of time reading books about storytelling, I found one real standout: Annette Simmons’ Whoever Tells the Best Story Wins.  It’s a wonderful handbook on using story in business.

Not surprisingly, my list of favorites includes some fine personal storytelling. A book I couldn’t stop thinking about is Rafe Esquith’s Teach Like Your Hair’s on Fire, which isn’t just a book for teachers. It’s a passionate account of the power of learning.  You’ll wish every child you care about could spend a year in Esquith’s classroom.

Although the competition was stiff, there was one book, which I read early in the year, that beat out all others for first place on my list. That book is Bill Strickland’s  Make the Impossible Possible. Strickland’s personal journey is an inspiration—and so are the ideas that he shares.  

He eloquently tells how a chance encounter with an artist put him on a new path in his teens. Especially fascinating to me is his commitment to merging art and commerce and using both to change lives in dramatic ways. This may be one of the best stories ever showing how commitment to a vision can be the start of something extraordinary. 

When President Obama begins inviting innovators to the White House, I hope Bill Strickland gets a regular invitation.

I suggest that the only books that influence us are those for which we are ready, and which have gone a little farther down our particular path than we have yet gone ourselves. ~ E.M. Forster