Yesterday I spent a great deal of time browsing through back issues of Winning Ways newsletter. Even though I’ve been publishing it for twenty-six years, I’m always delightfully surprised when I go back and come across an article or idea or quote that I had forgotten—or forgotten to put to work in my business.

As I reread things I’d written more than a decade ago, I knew that I wanted to share several of the stories on this blog. After all, collecting entrepreneurial stories is a valuable aspect of building an inspired business and I love passing along those that catch my fancy.

For example, I came across reference to a study that found almost anyone can be a boss, but not everyone is cut out to be a subordinate.

So even though I’m a bit late in getting started this month, I’m excited that our theme for August is Catch the Spirit. I decided on that after reading something I wrote in the July/August 2003 issue that seemed a perfect way to set the stage for what’s coming.

I also think it exposes one of the best kept rewards of the Joyfully Jobless Journey. Here it is:

“There’s an unspeakable pleasure attending the life of a voluntary student,” said Oliver Goldsmith. I know he wasn’t talking about entrepreneurs, but I think that’s the real spirit that drives enterprising people.

What can we learn? What if we traded predictability for exciting experiences? What can we discover within ourselves that we didn’t know was there? How can our business be a blessing for those whom it serves?

Those are the kinds of questions that fire our entrepreneurial spirits—and keep us searching for answers.

If fear is holding you back, it’s a sure sign you’ve haven’t caught the spirit yet. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to change that.

A small success, reclaiming a neglected passion or a glimpse of a bigger vision can do the trick. You can speed up the process by exposing yourself to people who are already infected.

But be warned: while the entrepreneurial spirit is contagious, there’s also no known remedy for it. Once caught, it’s a permanent condition.

The symptoms are easy to spot. You’ll see opportunity everywhere. You’ll have more ideas than you can ever handle. Life will feel like an endless adventure. You may even begin to see symptoms of it spreading to the people around you.

Best of all, you will discover that what once seemed impossible is within reach.

Who’d want to recover from that?

When I woke up on my first day in London, I was happy to have spent the night in a lovely hotel room, not on a park bench. The eleven-hour flight had not included much sleep so my day didn’t begin until mid-morning when the hotel maid knocked on my door.

My plan for the day included two of my Top Ten Favorite Activities. Fortunately, both of these pleasures were happening nearly next door to one another in Piccadilly.

I jumped on the Tube and headed to Waterstones Piccadilly,  a former department store that now is home to over six floors of books. This booklover’s emporium stocks more than 150,000 titles and claims to have eight and a half miles of bookshelves.

After browsing through several favorite sections, I decided to check out the business area. I was delighted, but not surprised, to see that interest in self-employment is alive and well and living in the UK.

Then I noticed a single copy of a book I didn’t know existed called a book about innocent. Since I adore companies that are run with large infusions of whimsy, I have been a fan of the innocent folks since I first encountered them.

For the next hour, I sat in a comfy chair and acquainted myself with the innocent story and things they have learned in building their business which includes all natural smoothies, juices and veg pots.

Their story is one worth studying since the business has grown by repeatedly starting small and trying lots of things. It’s also obvious that fun is a high priority along with bringing healthy products to the marketplace.

I decided to pay for all that pleasure and reluctantly left Waterstones when it was time for my next adventure.

As soon as I got to the street, I noticed the presence of butterflies…not the insects, the kind that accompany stage fright. I was scheduled to speak at 7 PM at St. James’s Church, Piccadilly at the weekly Monday evening event hosted by Alternatives, a lively program entering its thirtieth year of bringing mind, body, spirit speakers to the community.

In the past, I had been in the audience for several of these events listening to speakers that included Mike Dooley, Doreen Virtue and Philip Pullman. Mathew Fox had been there the week before me and Marianne Williams was coming the week after.

I did my best to appear calm as I arrived at the lovely church designed by Christopher Wren and built in 1684.  I was greeted by Tom Cook, an American expat I had met several years ago, who filled me in on how the evening would proceed.

My talk, Self-employment as Your Next Career, would take place in front of the altar which was festooned with enormous bouquets of flowers left over from Easter festivities.

The logistics were fairly simple, but I wondered if anyone would come. Although the marvelous Alternatives program had sponsored several of my seminars in the past, this was my first excursion giving a Monday night talk.

Shortly after 6, people began to saunter in. I sat “off stage” chatting with Richard Dunkerley and Steve Nobel who keep Alternatives running. When I turned around I saw that nearly 200 people had arrived.

Richard introduced me and I was off and running. When my talk ended, Richard brought out a chair, instructed me to sit down, and a long line of people wanting to talk to me formed.

Richard Branson, who knows a thing or two about starting a business, once said, “The world is a massively more hospitable place for entrepreneurs than it was twenty years ago.”

On this lovely London Monday, I had seen evidence of that everywhere.

Forty-five minutes later I was headed back to the Tube, thinking I had just auditioned for my Saturday Making a Living Without a Job seminar. My week was off to a wonderful start.




My definition of job security is having a strong, healthy entrepreneurial spirit. That can only occur if you feed yours regularly with activities and thoughts that are nuturing. Here are some of my favorite ways to do just that.

°  Give yourself a change of scenery. It may be efficient for factories to standardize their production lines, but our creative selves thrive on variety.

Take a different route when running errands, take a sabbatical, take a vacation, take your laptop to the park. You can be productive without being routine.

°  Tithe your time. Don’t just send a check to support things you care about. Find ways to share your time.

When Joe started his own insurance agency he decided he’d spend 10% of his time doing volunteer work. Eventually, he worked his way up to 50% volunteer time. Did his business suffer? Not at all. He made so many contacts along the way that his insurance business grew naturally.

This is another way to back up your personal values with action.

°  Create a research project. What would you like to learn more about? Look for a way to fund your research.

Start by checking the grant directories at your local library. You may have a project that someone is eager to fund. Get clear about how this will enhance you personally and entrepreneurially.

You could  find yourself photographing  mosaics in Morocco or interviewing artisans in Ecuador. Use your imagination to come up with a fresh research project that excites you.

°  Share what you already know. Write a tip sheet and get it published—or publish it yourself and distribute it. Mentor a new entrepreneur or a kid. Put your experiences together and teach a seminar.

There’s no better confidence builder than sharing your unique insights and experiences.

°  Find  great entrepreneurial stories. On a flight, I read about a mother and her daughters who started a fascinating business called Junk Gypsies. I was so enchanted by their story that I logged onto their Web site the next day and became a customer.

There are thousands of inspiring stories out there. Make it your hobby to find them. After all, it’s your tribal history.

°  Offer praise. Master the art of writing the exquisite fan letter. Let other people know that you noticed.

After I read Monica Wood’s breathtaking novel Any Bitter Thing, I began planning a review for my local library Web site as well as Amazon. And the author deserves a letter of thanks as well, I decided, to know that her writing has touched her reader.

Catch others doing something good and let them know you noticed. It’s good for them and good for your soul.

°  Learn how to synthesize ideas. We should have learned how to do this in school, but I fear many of us haven’t.

For instance, I was reading Jim Miller’s Savvy Senior column in my local paper. He was asked by a reader how to find a reliable handyman. He offered dozens of suggestions.

As I read what he had to say, I thought that anyone wanting to have such a business could find some great suggestions for marketing themselves using the suggestions in Miller’s article.

It’s equally important to look at enterprises that are nothing like yours and figure out what you can adapt from their way of doing things or their overall philosophy.

° Attend with a friend. I always like to see pairs of people showing up together in seminars. I realize that sometimes a friend comes along hoping to discourage their companion from doing anything foolish.

However, sharing a learning experience with an entrepreneurial friend can be a great way to extend and deepen the lessons learned. There’s nothing like building dreams with someone who gets it.

° Record your journey. Keep an illustrated journal of your entrepreneurial life. Don’t just include the big events; do a photo essay of an ordinary day in the life of your business.

The sooner you begin this, the better. It might become your grandchildren’s favorite storybook. Even more importantly, when we record and acknowledge our own lives, it raises our self-worth.


When  speaker Jerry Gilles told his audience of would-be writers that they should buy one hardcover book every week to support the industry they were part of, there was an audible gasp in the room.

What Gilles was suggesting wasn’t radical at all. It is just one way to put into action  the idea to  “Support That Which Supports You.” Successful people do that all the time.

As entrepreneurs, we have numerous opportunities every day to spread the entrepreneurial spirit. Here are a few ways to do just that.

°  Be joyful in the world. Make other people wonder why you’re so happy. As you go about routine errands, think about those you interact with and how they’re part of your success team. The postal clerk, bank teller and print shop are helping you accomplish your goals, after all.  Let them know they’re appreciated.

°  Adopt a protégé. Even if you’ve only been in business a short time, you’ve probably learned more than you realize.  Helping someone who knows less than you do can serve a dual purpose: besides making their journey  smoother, you’ll also see how far you’ve come.

That can be a huge confidence booster. Coach, encourage and support someone who’s just getting started. Ask them to pass it on.

°  Share what you’ve learned. Write a What I Learned From Starting My Own Business article and get  it published in a local business paper or post it on your Web site.

What do you wish you’d done differently? What was the best surprise you got in starting your own business? Pick six or ten key lessons and find a way to share them.

° Talk to the media. Local media is always on the lookout for stories about interesting folks in their midst. Let them know you’re there. Don’t just be a publicity seeker, however. Come up with an angle that’s newsworthy.

Artist Greg Evans had a great piece written  about him in  Colorado Avid Golfer magazine after he sent out a press release titled “From Corporate Life to Creative Life.”

Might your personal story be of interest? Or do you have expert advice to share that could add to your  visibility?

° Do  the opposite. The entrepreneurial path is not about following the crowd. One way to keep your creative muscles tuned up is to find ways to do things differently than everyone else.

Thinking in opposites is an easy starting point for finding a unique way of doing even simple things.

° Be a student of success. Eavesdrop on conversations and you’ll hear how many people are clueless about success factors and the behavior that leads to genuine success.

Teachers like Jim Rohn devoted their lives to studying winners and their findings are documented in books, in seminars and on CDs. Be more than a casual student of what they have to say.

° Conduct regular interviews with entrepreneurs. My niece Gretchen is associate business editor of the Ventura Star. She was telling me that one of the best parts of her job is talking to passionate entrepreneurs. “If they know you’re interested, they love to talk about their business.”

You don’t have to  be a newspaper reporter to take advantage of all this enthusiasm. Seek out entrepreneurs and be genuinely interested in hearing their stories. Easy as that.

° Support small business whenever possible. There are numerous ways to do this beginning with patronizing the entrepreneurs in  your community. You might pay a little more at your local hardware store, but you may also discover you’ll get useful advice along with your purchase.

And don’t overlook opportunities to form alliances and create joint projects with other entrepreneurs. Collaborations can create positive synergy.

° Help a kid. One of the most common regrets I hear from adults is that they weren’t exposed to entrepreneurial thinking earlier. So cheer a young upstart on.

° Connect with your tribe. While some old organizations, such as the Chamber of Commerce, may not be a fit for the new creative entrepreneur, look for places where the joyfully jobless congregate and join them.

When I was packing books for my upcoming move a tiny volume caught my eye. Although it’s not readily available in the US, the title that got my attention was Simon Woodroffe’s The Book of Yo!

Even though I’m not a sushi eater, I knew about Yo! Sushi, the business started in London in 1997 by Woodroffe and billed as the “World’s Largest Conveyor Belt Sushi Bar.” Today Yo! Sushi is an international brand with establishments in sixty countries.

The brand has expanded into other endeavors including Yotel, Yo! Zone, Yo! Home and RadiYo. According to their Website, YO! Co is the wholly owned holding company of Simon Woodroffe that works with others to develop and seed finance YO! ideas and new YO! brands. YO! Co owns equity stakes and collects royalties from its endeavors.

When Woodroffe wrote The Book of Yo! the company was only a couple of years old. Nevertheless it is a fascinating tale of bringing an idea to life.

The book begins with one of the most whimsical entrepreneurial bios I’ve read. Here’s a bit of it:

Simon, who knew nothing about restaurants and not a lot about sushi except that he liked it, won awards while YO! was still a small company, albeit always with big ambitions.

Simon lives alone in London’s West End without a TV set and with his own karaoke machine. He rides horses with his daughter Charlotte and her mum, climbs up and skis down mountains and dreams that his tennis will get better.

He reckons that if he had a year left to live, he’d carry on doing what he is doing today: writing, dreaming, scheming and speaking about YO!

Like everything else Woodroffe touches, his book is also unique. A mere 60 pages long, this little treasure has a most unusual format. All the left-hand pages are orange and tell one part of his entrepreneurial journey. The right-hand pages are white and share a lesson learned from the aforementioned part of his story along with a brief tip sheet to encourage other would-be entrepreneurs.

Here are his a few of his thoughts on Finding the Way:

° Practice removing “I don’t know” from your vocabulary and when you are unsure, ask yourself the question, “If I did know the answer, what would it be?”

° Write down what you’d do if you had a year left to live.

° Keep a notebook of all your ideas, yes even the stupid, passing or fleeting ones. Become obsessed with getting them down, even keeping pen and pencil by your bed.

Then there’s this observation: “I’ve noticed that most successful people also fail, so I set myself daily targets to fail and when I get six in the bag I punch the air, knowing I am on track.”

Of course, he has advice on how to Practice Failing:

° Ask someone out with the intention of being rejected. You might be surprised.

° Make the hardest call you can imagine. After that the others will be easy.

° Tell someone who deserves it how much you love them.

° Support and encourage others to fail around you.

Woodroffe sold Yo! Sushi in 2003, but continues to spread entrepreneurial spirit through Yo!Co and speaking around the world.

Finding the little treasure that is The Book of Yo! Sushi was a terrific reminder that someone else’s story can inspire—even awaken—our own entrepreneurial spirit.

“I dare say, all successful entrepreneurs have loved the story of their business,” says Michael E. Gerber, “Because that’s what true entrepreneurs do: They tell stories that come to life in the form of their business.”

Don’t miss the stories. They’re loaded with clues.


Since whimsical British business is on my mind today, here’s another little story from today’s mailing from Innocent Drinks, another reminder why I love them so much.

Ian is the man who delivers our eggs from Treflach Farm every week and in return, we give him any out-of-date smoothies we have for his pigs. A big chunk of the profits from the farm go towards running local community projects so we like to help out Ian and his team whenever we can. Recently, we had a raffle to raise funds for a new classroom at Treflach, where children can go along and learn all about being a farmer, working outdoors and looking after the environment.


Several days ago, I recorded a podcast with One of the questions I was asked was about how we go about finding the essence of our livelihood. Here’s part of what I said:


You know, that was also a huge learning for me: learning the difference between essence and form. Essence really starts by becoming aware of when you feel the most creative and the most powerful and the most inspired, and what are the situations that lead you to feel that way. Finding the essence often is about looking for the intangible quality.


As we identify those kinds of things that really enhance what we’re doing, all of sudden, the possibility starts to explode because it goes way beyond just a single way of making that happen. And we realize, for instance, that the essence of what I love to do is help other people. Or the essence of what I love to do is inspire other people. Or the essence of what I love to do is teach other people. And then we can start asking ourselves the question, “How many different arenas can I create for doing that?”


As if to confirm my thoughts, a mailing arrived today from Rick Steves who is best known as a travel expert. However, I once read that when he’s asked to fill in his occupation his answer always is “teacher.” So here’s a bit of his story:


I’ve always taught what I’ve loved. 


I spent my high school years as a piano teacher. I was well known among parents in my community for taking kids with tear-stained cheeks to my piano bench, starting them out with boogies and pop songs…and eventually getting them turned on to Bach and Beethoven. 


Eventually, I had my own piano studio with a recital hall. In 1980, while I was teaching a piano lesson, a truck dropped off 2,500 copies of my first guidebook — Europe Through the Back Door. During that year’s Christmas recital, parents sat on boxes of travel guidebooks while their kids banged out carols, boogies, and Bach. 


By the following Christmas, I’d let my piano students go. People were still sitting on boxes of books, but now that recital hall was a travel lecture hall filled with eager students preparing for their European adventures. 


From that point on, I would be teaching European culture off the keyboard…to otherwise smart people who assumed Toscanini was a pasta and Botticelli was an intestinal problem. 


For twenty-five years I led our tours while apprenticing hand-picked tour guides. Before long, they would apprentice another “generation.” We carry on that personal-passion-for-teaching tradition to this day.


Do you know the essence of your ideal livelihood? If not, that’s your next assignment. It’s so much easier once you know.

LIke most Americans, I grew up with frequent reminders that I was living in the land of opportunity. Sometimes my elders even mentioned that the free enterprise system was what set us apart from struggling parts of the world.


Ironically, nobody ever suggested that I could personally take advantage of all this opportunity by engaging in entreprise myself. Instead I was groomed to be a servant to someone else’s dream.


Since becoming entrepreneurial, I’ve learned that  while we might still be spreading the Land of Opportunity Story, the enterprising spirit is not limited to any geographic locale.I see evidence of that every day. For instance,  this morning I had a delightful Skype chat with a budding entrepreneur from Geneva, Switzerland. A few years ago, I taught a Making a Living Without a Job seminar in London that had participants from France, Sweden, Scotland, India and Germany.


Of course, succeeding at business isn’t limited to those countries, either, as has shown us. This impressive micro-lending program has connected us with businessowners in places most of us have never heard of, much less visited.


It appears that geography has almost nothing to do with success, but other factors such as desire, willingness and innovation do need to be present if we’re to build something of our own.


Yesterday I received an e-mail that reminded me of how universal the entrepreneurial spirit is. I was so thrilled by her story that I shared part of it on Facebook. Here’s the message in its entirety. 


 I have read your fantastic book Making a Living Without a Job and I would like to thank you so much for your help! It was one of the best books I have ever read on the subject of being my own boss. 


I come from Slovakia, a post communist country where I was brought up believing the state will take care of me. Going from one corporate job to another I was coming home late in the evening everyday not having time for anything else. In first ten years after school I believed this is the way  how it should be, working for somebody else, building a career. Only after some time I have realised I have destiny in my own hands and I don’t have to sit in front of the computer all day long in a job I hate. 


I have moved to the Netherlands with my partner and I was struggling to find a job. Now I  have ended up in a job which I truly  hate from all before. This job made me realise its time to finally do it, and after I have read your book I made a business plan and next month I am going to start my own portable career. 


I bought some other books but they were most like dry manuals probably written by some bankers ;~  They did not have that soul searching bit I was looking for. You have become my friend, my guide, my inspiration through your words, quotes, advices and exercises. You have made a difference in my thinking and my future path. 


 Andrea Zátoriová


I probably don’t have to tell you that this was my favorite message of the day.

Entrepreneurs have a well-deserved reputation for being independent. This can be both a strength and a weakness. Psychologists tell us that the maturing process happens in three stages. We go from being dependent to being independent to being interdependent. 

Our working lives often follow the same path. Most of us start out working for someone else, go out on our own and may be quite alone at first, then mature into a business that interacts and collaborates with other businesses.

One of the wisest axioms I’ve ever heard is the one that says to support that which supports you. If you are going to be entrepreneurial, that translates into supporting entrepreneurial activities in whatever way you can. 

There are some simple things you can do to use your business as a vehicle for supporting the entrepreneurial spirit around the world. For starters, look for ways to do business with other small businesses. You might pay a little more to shop at an independent bookseller or hardware store, but do it anyway.

When author Barbara Sher learned that her neighborhood florist was in danger of going out of business, she went home and e-mailed her large database inviting them to order flowers from the shop and have them sent to her. She explained how wonderful the flower shop was and what a bright spot it was in her New York neighborhood. She assured us that even a small order would help. That’s the kind of practical support that we can offer one another.

Another way to expand the spirit of enterprise is to contribute to organizations who help others start businesses. For years I’ve been a strong supporter of Heifer who gives livestock to people around the world to get them started in business. These days, I’m especially enthusiastic about Kiva who gives us the opportunity to become micro-lenders for a mere $25. What’s especially fun about the Kiva model is that you get to select the recipient of your loan–and follow their progress repaying the loan. If you haven’t paid them a visit, I urge you to do so. 

Look what Kiva has accomplished in three short years:


Total value of all loans made through Kiva: $46,738,210
Number of Kiva Lenders: 348,752
Number of loans that have been funded through Kiva: 65,425
Percentage of Kiva loans which have been made to women entrepreneurs: 77.71%
Number of Kiva Field Partners (microfinance institutions Kiva partners with): 88
Number of countries Kiva Field Partners are located in: 41
Current repayment rate (all partners): 98.69%
Current default rate (all partners): 1.31%
Average size of loan for funding: $456.57
Average total amount loaned per Kiva Lender (includes reloaned funds): $134.09
Average number of loans per Kiva Lender: 3.58

By the way, did you notice the repayment rate? What does that say about the power of enterprising spirits?