At the end of last week I made a whirlwind trip to Denver. It’s a trip I’ve made dozens of times so I was nicely relaxed and looking forward to seeing some old friends. I was also teaching three seminars at Colorado Free University, a marvelous adult ed program that I’ve had the pleasure of working with for a long time.

What I didn’t anticipate is how this familiar trip was going to be a festival of friendliness. When my Aunt Marge was alive and I’d go to visit her, she always encouraged me to tell her about my travels. “You meet the most interesting people,” she’d declare.

She was absolutely correct and this trip was full of interesting folk from beginning to end.

Because of my respiratory problems, I’ve learned to order a wheelchair at the Mile High City airport. My pusher was a young man who told me he’d arrived in Denver 10 months earlier from Sudan speaking no English. I was surprised by that revelation since we carried on a conversation during the entire ride. His resourcefulness was inspiring.

When I checked in at the Doubletree, my hotel of choice, I noticed a sign on the counter saying something like “Let us know. We’ll make it right.” I knew they meant it since I’d had a problem on a previous visit, sent an email to the manager as I was leaving the hotel, and had an email from him and a call from his staff apologizing (and canceling my bill) when I got home.

That unusually attentive response earned them a customer for life.

Then there was a three hour dinner with my longtime buddy Karyn Ruth White. As usual, it was three hours of hysteria. What else could I expect from a former stand-up comedian whose current mission is to teach other to manage stress with laughter?

The next day I had two seminars that included all sorts of interesting people. Was surprised to see Scott Poindexter in my I Hate Marketing class and excited to hear about his new online business to share his passion for environmentalism.

That evening one of the students in my Establish Yourself as an Expert class was CFU instructor Vikki Walton who entertained us with her adventures in Backyard Farming, a new passion that she now teaches to others.

When Dorinda Mangan, my volunteer chauffeur drove me back to the airport, I started telling her about my classes. “You meet the most interesting people,” she said, echoing my Aunt Marge.

My second airport wheelchair pusher was also a delight. Just 18-years-old, she to me that she’s currently in college, plans to become a pediatrician, has a burning desire to travel and said she’d discovered how simply smiling and greeting travelers as she whizzes through the airport seems to brighten their day.

I wanted to adopt her.

Then I boarded my flight where I was greeted by Steve, one of the most entertaining flight attendants ever. As I came on I commented that it smelled like they were baking cinnamon rolls. “It’s my new cologne,” he said with a twinkle in his eye.

After he had all of us laughing during the normally boring requisite announcements, he continued spreading good cheer during his trips down the aisle. When I complained that I wished they’d still serve cookies instead of just pretzels and peanuts, he explained I need to take a longer flight since those are reserved for cross country passengers.

A few minutes later, he handed me a bag of contraband cookies.

I’m not usually sorry to land, but we were having such fun, I hated for the flight to be over.

It was a long day, with Making a Living Without a Job in the morning, two flights (Burbank via Las Vegas) and a drive home.

Back in Valencia, I made a quick stop at the post office and was wondering what in the world I was going to feed myself since I hadn’t had time to eat much all day. Imagine my delight when I got to my doorstep and discovered that my daughter Jennie had left a lovely home cooked dinner for me.

As I unlocked my front door, I realized I was energized, not exhausted, from my whirlwind trip. “Oh, I love my business,” I announced to my empty living room.

Love, laughter and learning. Think I’ve discovered the secret of a perfect trip.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The other day I was hanging out with my grandchildren when Zachy, who’s not yet 4, decided to turn his younger brother’s cradle into a helicopter. He tipped it on end and struggled to cover it with blankets.

The contraption was wonky and kept slipping across the wooden floor. Zachy was undeterred.

I suggested he abandon the project, but he kept at it. “I’m making an awesome helicopter,” he explained.

I’ve known Zachy long enough to know that determination is one of his trademarks. Once he has a vision, he follows through. He is unimpressed by adult wisdom and advice. It’s obvious that he would rather struggle than settle.

Zachy reminded me that innovation can be messy and uncomfortable, but when we’re curious that doesn’t matter much.

I also realize that without curiosity it’s hard to make things happen or to make much of a difference.

Seth Godin’s book Tribes has much to say about the importance of recovering our curiosity. “I don’t think it’s a matter of saying a magic word; boom and then suddenly something happens and you’re curious,” he writes.

“It’s more about a five- or ten- or fifteen-year process where you start finding your voice, and finally you begin to realize that the safest thing you can do feels risky and the riskiest thing you can do is play it safe.

“Once recognized, the quiet yet persistent voice of curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever. And perhaps it’s such curiosity that will lead us to distinguish our own greatness from the mediocrity that stares us in the face.”

This weekend I’m headed to Denver to teach at Colorado Free University, one of the longest-running curiosity incubators in the country. I’ve been wondering if the people area realize how fortunate they are to have such a treasure in their midst.

While I’m looking forward to meeting the people who are curious about how to establish themselves as an expert or make a living without a job, I’m especially excited to see who shows up in my new program, Become a Great Idea Detective.

I could have called it, I’m Curious. Now What? because it’s loaded with tools for exploring and expanding ideas. Besides that, hanging out with curious people is at the top of my list of favorite activities.

“It’s taken me three decades to unlearn the impulse to be practical,” confessed writer Sarah Ban Breathnach. “Just imagine what you might have accomplished if only you’d been encouraged to honor your creative reveries as spiritual gifts.”

Happily, it’s never too late. If you’re curious.

Although I seldom purchase lottery tickets, today I was thinking of the marketing slogan used by state lotteries from time to time. You’ve probably heard it, too: You can’t win if you don’t play.

That’s true about much more than just the lottery, of course. In fact, the odds are more in your favor in other pursuits that don’t involve games of chance.

This weekend I’m heading to Colorado Free University to do a series of three seminars. As I was putting my trip together, I got thinking about some of the people I’ve met over the years at CFU.

There’s Renae Hansen who came to Making a Living Without a Job shortly before she returned to Michigan where she currently lives. Renae recently passed her real estate exam and celebrated by selling her first house.

Real estate is not a new passion for her, however, since she’d been investing in property herself for several years. Her experience as a buyer is going to serve her well as a seller, I suspect.

On many trips to Denver, I have a chance to catch up with Pat Blocker, another former student. Pat is a longtime dog lover left her less-than-thrilling job and now operates Peaceful Paws Dog Training. She regularly e-mails me to report on the continuing growth of her business.

In addition, she share tips with dog owners through classes and advice columns. When I mentioned on Facebook my return visit to Denver, Pat chimed in with these kind words:” Don’t miss this! Barbara is awesome! She’s taught me so much over the years.”

Then there’s Maureen Thomson whom I first met when she attended my seminars several years ago. At the time, she was working as a technical writer and building a portfolio of rental properties.

Then a new opportunity came knocking at her door—literally. As she was working on a remodel on her latest acquisition, people kept showing up inquiring about wedding services. It seems the house Maureen was fixing up had once been a wedding chapel.

At first, that amused her, but after several such encounters, it occurred to her that there were many people in search of alternative wedding services. That led Maureen to open Lyssabeth’s Wedding Officiants, a business that has grown by leaps year after year and now has branches in California and Oregon.

Things got even more exciting when she discovered that she could run her business remotely thanks to the pool of wedding officiants she had gathered to perform ceremonies.

As it happens, Maureen also has more than a bit of wanderlust. Earlier this year, she and her husband Jeremy decided to start another business offering their services as a caretaker couple.

Not only are they joyfully jobless, Maureen and Jeremy are now also happily homeless. After several projects in the US, they currently are caretaking a property in Australia.

Maureen blogs about their adventures at Vaco Vitae.

These three enterprising women are, of course, a tiny sampling of the folks I’ve met during my visits to Colorado Free University. As I get ready to return, I am wondering who will show up this time and start writing the next true story about entrepreneurial adventure.

And I wonder about all the folks who don’t bother to take advantage of programs like these to acquire ideas and information that can open new doors.

In his book Creating Wealth, Robert G. Allen discusses what it takes to be one of life’s winners. His answer might surprise you.

He says, “The will to prepare to win is more important than the will to win. Preparing usually means doing those kinds of things that failures don’t like to do. It means studying and learning. It means reading books, going to seminars. It means not being afraid to corner experts and ask foolish questions.”

If you’re in the Denver area (or Sacramento or Las Vegas in October), I would love to have you join me and discover what thousands of joyfully jobless folks are already putting to work.

It may be more important now than ever before.

As Eric Hoffer reminds us, “In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

That could be more powerful than a winning lottery ticket, but you still gotta play to win.


After the death of Colorado Free University founder John Hand, his sister Helen stepped in determined to continue the program he had founded twenty-five years earlier. When I was there last weekend, I picked up their latest catalog and was intrigued by Helen’s essay. She wrote:

John Hand based the school on the principle that communities have within them the resources to solve their own problems. For every person with a problem or need, there is someone with a solution or an answer. CFU is the place where those people meet.

What Helen points out is that CFU is a business which created a habitat with a special purpose. She goes on to say, “Clearly, unemployment is a huge problem today. Being stuck in jobs that are not gratifying is also a problem for many people.

CFU’s Un-Job Fair is an opportunity for people with those issues to meet with real-world entrepreneurs who have ideas and solutions.”

While it could be argued that even the most ordinary of enterprises may involve designing a habitat to house it, (i.e. restaurants, gift shops, car dealerships), there are numerous unconventional businesses that don’t fit the old bricks-and-mortar model.

These businesses often come into being to serve a neglected or overlooked niche. Consider, for example, Sober Cruises.

As anyone who has tackled alcohol addiction learns, travel poses some special challenges since partying is closely associated with vacationing for many people. For the recovering alcoholic, determined not to relapse, travel may seem a thing of the past.

Enter Sober Cruises, a company offering travel experiences for those wanting to travel without jeopardizing their hard won sobriety. They’re not the only such company. One of the oldest companies in the business, Sober Vacations International, takes over an entire Club Med resort once a year.

One of the purposes of my business is to inspire people in beautiful places. Should you be attendiing the upcoming Inspired Livelihood seminar in Sedona, AZ, you’ll be entering a habitat with the specific purpose of doing just that. 

Looking for ideas? Keep asking yourself, “Who’s got a problem I know how to solve?”

Begin answering that and you’ll discover endless possibilities for adding a habitat where people with a problem can connect with a solution.


If you’re in the Denver area, check out the new CFU catalog which announces our upcoming special event, The Un-Job Fair happening on May 1. (You can also find information at by going to the Special Events page.) It will be a day of exploration and information on becoming your own boss. Would love to see you there.