Philip Adams said, “When people say to me: ‘How do you do so many things?’ I often answer them, without meaning to be cruel: ‘How do you do so little?’ It seems to me that people have vast potential. Most people can do extraordinary things if they have the confidence or take the risks. Yet most people don’t. They sit in front of the telly and treat life as if it goes on forever.”

Chances are good that you were not brought up to think that you could explore countless possibilities. Most of us who arrived after World War II, have been counseled to trod a narrow path in life. Pick one thing and stick with it, no matter what, has been the popular message.

That was not always the case. Consider Leon Battista Alberti who lived in Florence in the 15th century. He was an architect, author, classical scholar, musician, stage designer and town planner.

He was also known for his elegance, personal style and athletic ability and was reputed to be able to jump over a man from a standing start.

According to author Charles Nicholl, “He created a career for himself which hadn’t really existed before: a kind of freelance consultant in matters architectural, scientific, artistic and philosophical. In this role he served the papal Curia and the courts at Urbino and Mantua, as well as the Medici and Rucellai in Florence.”

While others didn’t know they could, Alberti didn’t know he couldn’t and so he created a remarkable life that made glorious contributions to the world around him. Many scholars consider Alberti the first Renaissance man.

We have no idea how many lives he inspired, but we do know that he was a powerful role model for a young teenager named Leonardo da Vinci who aspired to live an equally rich and creative life.

Finding a passion, any passion, opens our hearts to falling in love with life itself.  It’s difficult to explore possibilities if we have surpressed our passions. Ignoring the promptings of our heart, means turning a deaf ear to the call of those passions.

Many people think passion is a singular thing, but people who live passion filled lives are usually passionate about many things. Studies have shown that the more sources of passion we have, the happier we are.

Passions can change during different stages of our lives, too. As a growing  person, you will outgrow some passions as you grow into new ones.

To many people, success means having more; to the possibility thinker, success means being more. We may not aspire to master as many things as Alberti did—but could we?

The authors of The Creative Spirit think so. They write, “The French playwright Moliere tells the story of a countryman who asked what prose was, and was astonished to find that he had been speaking it all his life. It’s the same with creativity, which half the world thinks of as a mysterious quality that the other half possesses.

“A good deal of research suggests, however, that everyone is capable of tapping into his or her creative spirit. Your creativity increases as you become more aware of your own creative acts.”

Those who have studied human potential seem to arrive at the same conclusion: when we begin to make available to ourselves our own possibilities, it’s like drilling a well to an untapped energy reserve, like finding a bank account we haven’t used.

The only way to really know what’s possible is to put yourself into the game. Sitting on the sidelines and watching may be amusing, but it’s not the road to discovery. You’ve got to put yourself into the game and play fullout.

Explore. Create. Discover. Not only will you create a fascinating life, you’ll never run out of new possibilities and ways to astound yourself.

Nearly all of us who arrived on this planet after World War II grew up in the Culture of the Single Lifetime Career. From early on, we were encouraged to pick a path and follow it.

Once we had made the choice, we discovered that getting off that path was not only difficult—it incurred scorn and criticism from others. Besides the enormous discontent that such thinking has produced, it’s also crippled our adventurous spirits.

R. Buckminster Fuller was one of the greatest thinkers of the past century and someone who refused to give in to such singular notions. In his fascinating book, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, he writes, “Society assumes that specialization is natural, inevitable and desirable.

“Yet in observing a little child, we find it is interested in everything and spontaneously apprehends, comprehends and coordinates an ever-expanding inventory of experiences. If the total scheme of nature required man to be a specialist she would have made him so by having him born with one eye with a microscope attached to it.”

Isn’t that a great image? Think about an older person that you know, one you would describe as youthful. What’s the distinguishing characteristic of this lively elder? I’m guessing that curiosity about anything and everything is what stands out.

It’s the same quality that makes for successful entrepreneurship. We need to be curious about our own industry, of course, but we need to be equally curious about things that seem to have no direct bearing on what we’re up to.

After all, the world is full of people who are crazy about things we know nothing about  and discovering what they love can make our lives richer.

One Thanksgiving, I had dinner with a group of relatives I didn’t know very well. The sister of the hostess sat next to me at dinner and the moment she sat down announced, “I want to have my own business.”

I asked her if she knew what she wanted to do and she lit right up. “I love doing beadwork. I come home from my job and go right to my project room and bead all night,” she told me.

The moment dinner was over, she whipped out her beads and spent the afternoon making jewelry.

A few minutes later, my cousin Ray came over to visit with me. Ray has been a farmer his entire life raising corn and soybeans. A few years ago, he turned several acres of his farm into vineyards

In his second year of production, his crop outperformed all expectations. He was so excited about this new aspect of his business and had a list of ideas for building it. I couldn’t wait to return in the summer to see his vines.

Even though I may never take up beading or growing grapes myself, being with these passionate folks opened a creative valve and I spent my long drive home stopping to write down ideas for my own business.

Exploring is more than just amusement. There’s no doubt in my mind that you, I and our fellow humans are in possession of Renaissance souls just waiting to be discovered.

It’s only by following our hunches, by trying a wide range of things, by listening to others share their passions and by moving outside the familiar that we can unwrap the gifts that are waiting our recognition.

You don’t have to go halfway around the world in order to be a genuine explorer. You just need to open your heart and mind to testing and tasting the unfamiliar.

And when you catch yourself thinking or saying, “I would never…” reverse that thought and give what you’d never do a try.  You might discover that you adore traveling alone or giving a speech. Or you might discover that once was enough. Either way, you’ll have gained a new insight into what brings you the greatest joy.

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The upcoming Joyfully Jobless Jamboree on October 15 & 16 is going to be a fantastic opportunity to explore more. We’re thinking of it as Woodstock for the selfl-employed. Spending time in a beautiful setting surrounded by lively, creative self-bossers is certain to inspire you to take your business higher and farther.

This is the perfect place to explore, connect and create. Early Bird deadlines are rapidly approaching so don’t wait any longer to get registered.

While I’ve made no secret about the fact that I spent several years of my life as a genuine self-help junkie, I haven’t talked much about how that led me to quit working for others.

Even though I’m still not certain about all the rewards of that exploratory journey, the biggest gift was discovering things about myself that had been buried, hidden, or ignored. I began trusting my own instincts and came to realize I needed to act on those things I’d uncovered.

Most obvious of all was that I had no business having a job. Not only would I be cheating myself if I continued to be employed, I’d be cheating my employer since I couldn’t ever bring all of myself to the job.

Although my bosses were all happy with my work, they were also clueless about how much more I could have contributed.

At some point, I realized I could continue unhappily working at jobs that bored me or I could turn what might appear to be shortcomings into advantages.

Here are a few of the reasons I’m totally, completely, permanently unemployable.

There are many things I love to do—but almost nothing I want to do day in and day out. This was most apparent with teaching, a top love of my life. When I was expected to teach for seven hours a day, five days a week, nine months of the year, what I loved suddenly wasn’t so lovable anymore.

As a teenager, I’d changed my mind weekly about what I wanted my career to be. Of course, this drove my guidance counselors crazy. “Pick one and stick with it!” was the message.

That struck me as impossible, but I relented and gave it a try. It wasn’t until I began to think about self-employment that I realized I could create a business that incorporated multiple passions.

Commuting makes me crazy. Every job I had involved at least one hour a day of driving. I’ve never calculated how many hours of my life would have been spent that way had I held a job for forty years, but it never seemed a wise use of time to me.

Today, my idea of commuting involves airplanes, preferably with my passport tucked in my purse, headed to a new place I want to explore.

Financial goals mean nothing when someone else determines my income. As I began learning about goal-setting, financial goals were always discussed, but almost meaningless if I was trying to fit my goal into a salary slot.

As I became more entrepreneurial, my ideas about goal-setting changed also. Instead of trying to squeeze my goals into my budget, I discovered it was far more effective to set honest goals first and figure out ways to finance them second–not the other way around.

Crowds make me crazy. I don’t like shopping on Saturday, standing in long lines at the bank or movies. I do like traveling off-season and look for all the ways to avoid busy times when running errands.

It’s far less stressful and, I assume, that adds to my productivity.

Curiosity demands a change of scenery. In Making a Living Without a Job, I say, “I became an entrepreneur because I was curious about what I could become. It was a curiosity not shared by any employer I had.”

But my curiosity goes much farther than uncovering my own potential. I’m curious about the lives of other people, fascinated by the joyfully jobless, want to see places different from the one I call home. Mobility matters to the gypsy in me.

At the beginning of my entrepreneurial life, I had no idea that I had embarked on the best personal growth program ever invented.  The discoveries never end, however, if you’re doing it right.

So while all those things guarantee I’m never going to be named anyone’s Employee of the Month, they’re not the best reasons for remaining unemployable. My number one reason is a bit grander and voiced by writer Stephen M. Pollan.

“Create your own work path,” advises Pollan. ”Those with conventional career patterns age ten spiritual years for every five physical years they spend in the rat race. Those with a unique work path are constantly being reborn.”

Last week I began packing for my upcoming move. Since books are a huge part of my personal possessions, I decided to begin with a small bookcase.

I had almost finished when I noticed a copy of Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love tucked away in a corner. Since I’m attempting to be ruthless about weeding my collection, I almost put it in the discard pile, but then noticed I had flagged a couple of passages.

After I checked them out, I began browsing in the book, which I hadn’t looked at for several years, and pretty soon I was rereading several sections.

In her chapter on work she says, “Carl Jung advised people to look closely into whatever fairy tales or myths particularly attracted them as children.” She goes on to suggest that our favorite stories often held clues to our own right livelihood.

That got me thinking about stories from my own early days. One that immediately came to mind did not contain a princess or a dragon.

It was the story of The Little Red Hen. In case you’ve forgotten it, the story concerns a hen who finds some wheat and decides to plant it.

She asks the other animals for help, but they all turn her down. At every step of the way, she asks for help again, to no avail, until the she bakes the bread that comes from the wheat. Then everyone eagerly shows up.

As I thought about this simple little story, I realized that I know many little red hens. In fact, many of my friends are people who had an idea that got zero support from the folks around them.

Undeterred, they forged ahead, launched a business or a product or a creation. They did it because it was the right thing to do, not because it was wildly popular—at least not in the embryonic stage.

Just as I was mulling all that, a Facebook friend sent me a message about a children’s book she had just read called Inventor McGregor by Kathleen T. Pelley.  She thought I’d enjoy it as well.

I promptly tracked it down at my neighborhood library and was captivated. It’s a delightful tale of one outrageously creative fellow named Hector McGregor who  “lived in a higgledy-piggledy house with a cheery wife, five children and a hen called Hattie.”

He becomes a local hero because of his genius for inventing solutions to everyday problems. Then one day he gets a job offer and leaves his home for the prestige of working in a laboratory at the Royal Society of Inventors.

Guess what happens to his imagination.

Not only is Inventor McGregor one of the best books I’ve ever read on creativity, it’s a story that I hope becomes one that influences a generation of young readers to opt for the joyfully jobless life. I’m going to donate a copy to my grandchildren’s personal library right away.

Even if you don’t have a child to read it with, find a copy and treat yourself. After all, it would be a shame to miss a story that’s as wise as it is whimsical.

And if you have a favorite fairy tale or myth that’s influenced your life, tell us about it.

 

One of my favorite things about the holiday season is hearing from people who have been busily making the world a better place. This past week, has been filled with all sorts of reconnections with people I don’t hear from on a regular basis.

 

There was a newsy Christmas card from Marty Marsh sharing his adventures as an RVing entrepreneur. A hand written letter came from a woman I’ve never met thanking me for telling her about Make the Impossible Possible. Besides the cards and letters, there were several fascinating telephone conversations with fellow entrepreneurs. 

 

Although I thought I already had plenty of holiday spirit, these encounters added to my cheerfulness.

 

On Saturday, I had a fun Skype chat with Maureen Thomson. I hadn’t talked to her since she moved from Denver to the Oregon coast. Not only did she fill me in on how much she was loving her new home, but her wedding ceremonies business, Lyssabeth’s, is booming too. 

 

It was thrilling to hear about the growth of Maureen’s business, of course, but since I’ve been tracking her progress for a long time, it wasn’t a huge surprise. 

 

The surprise came a few hours later when I got an e-mail from Mark Anthony, a fellow I’d encountered years ago in Minnesota. Mark and I had met briefly when he invited me to keynote at a home business conference he organized. After that, we’d kept in touch sporadically, but not regularly. I knew that he had moved to Las Vegas, but we hadn’t really been in touch here. 

 

So, of course, I was curious to hear what he had on his mind. He contacted me to tell me that he’d written a blog post called An Open Letter to Barbara Winter. Of course, that got my attention and I promptly checked it out. I urge you to do the same. Mark’s story contains a startling confession…and a reminder that if we’re growing a business the learning never ends.

 

Last week, the NY Times published a popular article called On to Plan B: Starting a Business. The piece talked about people they called accidental entrepreneurs, folks who had lost their jobs and decided to go out on their own. The story was illustrated with a photograph of one such entrepreneur, Lisa Marie Grillos, who, along with her brother started a business making chic bags for bicyclers. The bags are roomy enough to hold a wallet, keys and a cellphone and hook over the bar on the bike. In many ways, the idea seems so simple, obvious even, but I’d never seen such a thing.

Those bags–and thousands of other good business ideas–seem to be answers to the question that’s been the theme of this blog all month: How Can I Make it Better? It’s a question that calls the creative spirit into action. It certainly is the driving force for inventors and designers. But it doesn’t stop there.

I’ve been quietly studying the most interesting people that I follow on Twitter. Every last one of them seems to be passionate about making things better for their customers and for their followers on Twitter. They pass along useful links, offer encouragement, and enthusiastically rave about the success of their friends. It’s a striking contrast to the folks I see on the news ranting at public forums and rallys. It bears no resemblance to the nasty comments left anonymously on blogs or YouTube.

I’m more convinced than ever that leaving it better than they found it is the driving force behind the kinds of businesses I admire. One of those businesses is Innocent Drinks, the UK smoothie makers. Ever since I discovered them, I’ve eagerly awaited their funny weekly mailings and visit their Web site from time to time to see what’s new at Fruit Towers, their headquarters.

The other day, I received an e-mail from Cheryl Kempton, a Minnesotan-turned-Londoner, alerting me to a surprise she had sent my way. A few days later, I opened my mailbox and found a package wrapper from an Innocent Drinks veg pot. Cheryl knew I would be amused by their clever label copy. She was right.

Then Sandy Dempsey posted a terrific YouTube video of one of Innocent Drinks’ founders, Richard Reed, talking about Integrity in Business. I urge you to spend 9 minutes watching his inspiring talk about what drives this innovative company.

Then get up and make something better.

Years ago, I read a wonderful book by Alan Lakein called How to Get Control of Your Time and Your Life. One of the things that stayed with me from this nifty little manual was the question, “What’s the best use of my time right now?” It’s a question that helped me regain my focus when I felt scattered, reminded me about priorities and, most importantly, pointed out that I was in charge of how I was spending my time.

Anyone who spends time with a toddler knows that their exploration of the world is filled with a steady stream of questions. Annoying as that can be to an adult, it’s also an essential learning tool for the child. 

As common as the humble question is, I don’t think we’ve given enough attention to the importance of asking good ones. I certainly hadn’t thought much about it, although I was acutely aware of the all too familiar dream killing question, “How are you going to do that?” which greets millions of new ideas. 

Several years ago I read The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen which gave me a new perspective. In their chapter The Size of the Questions Determines the Size of the Result, they write, “The wrong question will generate the wrong result or a less than outstanding outcome. Questions predetermine the answer. The size of your question determines the size of your answer. Few people ever ask million-dollar earning, inventing, generating and creating questions. They are yours to ask.”

How can you learn to ask better questions? For starters, notice the ones that stop you dead in your tracks. Notice, too, any thoughts you may have that asking questions is a sign of weakness. (Fanatics don’t ask questions. They make pronouncements.) Listen, too, to good questions and see how they open up creative thinking.

Last year, I decided to try a little experiment. Actually, it wasn’t so little. I adopted a question that I asked myself over and over all day, every day. It sounds ridiculously simple, but it produced an endless stream of joyous results. That little question is, “How can I make it better?” “It” usually meant whatever was in front of me. Sometimes the answer was rather ordinary…along the lines of, “Make order on the top of your desk.” Almost always, the answer directed me to taking small actions, things I could accomplish immediately that led me closer to bigger achievements. 

I urge you to adopt this question for yourself and see where it leads you. As Hansen and Allen point out, “As you ask yourself and others better questions, your results will vastly improve, the world will be better off, your quantity and quality of service will expand, the difference you make will experience quantum change, and you will leave a profound legacy in the footprints of time.”

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If you’ve been wondering how your can make your business better, join Alice Barry and me at our upcoming Follow Through Camp, September 11 & 12, and leave with answers that you can turn into action immediately.

Think about an older person that you know, one you would describe as youthful. What’s the distinguishing characteristic of this lively elder? I’m guessing that curiosity about anything and everything is what stands out.

It’s the same quality that makes for successful entrepreneurship. We need to be curious about our own industry, of course, but we need to be equally curious about things that seem to have no direct bearing on what we’re up to. After all, the world is full of people who are crazy about things we know nothing about  and discovering what they love can make our lives richer.

One Thanksgiving, I had dinner with a group of relatives I didn’t know very well. The sister of the hostess sat next to me at dinner and the moment she sat down announced, “I want to have my own business.” I asked her if she knew what she wanted to do and she lit right up. “I love doing beadwork. I come home from my job and go right to my project room and bead all night,” she told me. The moment dinner was over, she whipped out her beads and spent the afternoon making jewelry. It was fascinating to watch her work and her joy was visible.

A few minutes later, my cousin Ray came over to visit with me. Ray has been a farmer his entire life raising corn and soybeans. A few years ago, he turned several acres of his farm into vineyards—an unusual crop in Minnesota. In his second year of production, his crop outperformed all expectations. He was so excited about this new aspect of his business and had a list of ideas for building it. I couldn’t wait to return in the summer to see his vines.

Even though I may never take up beading or growing grapes myself, being with these enthusiastic folks who were eager to bring their ideas to life was not only fun, their creative energy was downright contagious. I spent my long drive home stopping to write down ideas for my own business.

British author C.S. Lewis obviously understood the Idea Virus. He said, “Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, peace eternal life, you must get close to, or  even into  the thing that has them. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.  If you are close to it, the spray will wet you ; if you are not, you will remain dry.”

$100 Hour: Find a way to get paid to do something you usually pay to do. Love dining out? Sign up to be a mystery diner and enjoy dinner out in exchange for evaluating the service, food, etc. Love the symphony? Volunteer to be an usher. There are endless possibilities if you are willing to investigate.

Explore More:  Need some help brainstorming or clarifying an idea? Alice Barry, is a gifted Idea Artisan who spreads the Idea Virus wherever she goes. In the words of one of her happy clients, “She helped me to see and clarify a fuzzy picture of myself, who I want to be and  what I want to do.  She also helped me to see clearly how much I have already accomplished and gave me suggestions how to continue to build on this foundation.” If you need some idea-building assistance, a telephone consultation with Alice could get you moving forward.

An idea can turn to dust or magic…depending on the talent that rubs against it. ~ William Bernback

Build a personal portfolio of ideas. A man I know has the unfortunate habit of running out of money. When this happens, he goes into panic, followed by depression, followed by applying for a job he hopes he won’t get. During his latest cash flow crisis, I tried to explain to him, as gently as possible, that there was no reason for this endless Feast or Famine cycle.

If you’ve read Making a Living Without a Job or taken my seminar of the same name, you’re already familiar with the $100 idea. Whether it’s a new idea to you or not, this is the perfect time to commit to putting it into action.

You can begin implementing the $100 Hour even if you now have a job or other commitments that clamor for your time. Begin by making a pact with yourself that you will set aside time daily, if possible, or at scheduled intervals for the purpose of creating an idea that will bring you $100. You needn’t complete the plan in the hour, but if time permits use your surplus to get your idea rolling. Do research, make calls, write letters—anything that advances your goal. As Neil Fiore points out, “Keep on starting and the finishing will take care of itself.”

If you’re focusing your energies on a single profit center, come up with an idea for expanding it in a way that will earn another $100. If you’re going to try a number of different ideas in order to figure out what you most want to do, then this time can be spent designing a variety of projects. Begin by looking for opportunities that may be hiding in plain sight.

A word of warning is in order here. While this idea works wonders, your ego may tell you that $100 is too insignificant to bother with. Ignore it. After all, great fortunes and grand achievements have been accomplished by steadfast devotion to creating tiny successes—which ultimately add up to enormous success. 

The discipline that comes with using this technique is perhaps its greatest bonus. However, once you start seeing results, don’t stop using it. With continued practice, you’ll find it gets easier and easier to come up with $100 ideas. At that point, you can raise the monetary stakes, if you like. At any rate, you’ll discover that the quality of your ideas gets better and better with practice.

$100 Hour:  Clean out a closet. Why not resell things you no longer use? Clothes, especially high-quality ones that are in good repair, can be taken to a consignment shop—as can toys, sporting equipment, furniture and computers. You can also advertise on Craigslist, sell things directly on eBay or organize your own yard sale. 

Explore More: John Schroeder’s Garage Sale Fever is a perfect handbook whether you’re selling or buying with the purpose of reselling. Even if garage sale season is months away in your part of the world, this will help you get things organized. 

“I’ll never forget this idea” is the devil’s whisper. Catch everything that matters in your notebook. ~ Richard Bach

 

As is common on the eve of Compelling Storytelling, I am filled with antiicpation. Spending three days watching participants make fresh creative discoveries that will impact their businesses is just about the most fun I can imagine.

Creativity still is a mysterious force, but the behavior that welcomes it is not mysterious at all. Unfortunately, too many people are oblivious to the possibilities of what can happen when we tap into our own idea factory.

I have been spellbound several times listening to Stephen King’s audiobook On Writing. King, one of the big names in popular fiction, weaves his advice to would-be writers in between autobiographical tales. A voracious reader and fan of sci-fi movies as a kid, King fell in love with the writing life in childhood and has never put down his pen since. 

Married right out of college, King supported his family by working at several horrendous jobs and then as a high school English teacher. Even with two young children squeezed into cramped quarters, he always managed to find room for a writing corner and practiced his craft daily. The result is a mind-boggling body of work that includes short stories, novels, movies and television productions. 

King knows more than a little about the writing life and at one point mentions a number of writers—Harper Lee comes to mind—who produced a single book and then were silent. “Why,” King wonders, “if God gives you a gift, wouldn’t you use it?” 

What Stephen King, understands is that creativity begets creativity. The creative spirit that resides within all of us is prolific, abundant, and flagrantly generous. It’s only when we ignore our own creative impulses that they appear to go away.

What does it take to live a life of extraordinary creative output? The answer is not slavish workaholism—as many people think. Creators all work in their own unique ways, of course, but  there are several obvious characteristics that creative folks share. 

Besides a high level of commitment and discipline, the prolific creators among us are enormously curious about many things. They don’t dabble. They immerse.The creative thinker is always gathering ideas and inspiration from far-flung places and people. For instance, King frequently asks himself questions beginning with, “What if” to form new connections between seemingly unrelated ideas. They look, they listen, they’re fully alive. 

“The idea flow from the human spirit is absolutely unlimited,” says Jack Welch. “All you have to do is tap into that well.” And then go to market.