A couple of weeks ago, a story in my weekly suburban newspaper caught my eye. The title of the piece was “Hoisting a Business” and told the story of 18-year-old Anthony Waddle, a former high school pole vaulter who has set up a school in his parent’s backyard to train the sport to other kids. He charges $100/month with a $40 annual registration fee. His goal is to have 40 students and an indoor facility.

I’m always on the lookout for unique ways that people make a living without a job, of course. Another local favorite is a story about Dr. Michael Crovetti, who runs a sports medicine academy. Not only has Dr. Crovetti performed 8,000 surgeries, he started another business called Skeletal Metal, a jewelry business that sells bracelets, rings, earrings and pendants made from the same types of steel plates he used to pin together broken bones.

Examples of the entrepreneurial spirit are all around, but unless you’re tuned in, you’ll miss the good stories. If you’re going to be part of the revolution, it seems obvious to be curious and inspired by the things others are doing. 

A few years back, CBS Sunday Morning began a story about Chuck Leavell, a tree farmer in Georgia. I looked up from my crossword puzzle thinking his name sounded familiar. Since I don’t know any Georgia tree farmers, I was a bit perplexed until the story unfolded and we learned that Leavell has a second occupation playing keyboards for the likes of Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. A devoted environmentalist, he studied agronomy while riding on tour buses. The piece was a fascinating study of making room and time for diverse passions.

Just yesterday, there was Zappo’s founder Tony Hsieh sharing his business philosophy with Oprah (via Skype from his headquarters just down the road from me). I’ve been paying a lot of attention to him lately so I was curious to see what he had to say. He may be the most unassuming executive around, but he really got my attention when he said, “We believe in chasing the vision, not the money.” Chasing the vision has led him to design a workplace this is wonderfully wacky while being wonderfully efficient. 

That’s not Zappo’s only guiding principle, however. Here’s their mission statement. Feel free to borrow.

Deliver WOW Through Service

Embrace and  Drive Change

Create Fun and A Little Weirdness

Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

Pursue Growth and Learning

Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

Do More With Less

Be Passionate and Determined

Be Humble


When my sisters and I used to spend time together, someone always went home with a new hair color. These days we’re more apt to be gathered around a computer, as we were on Thanksgiving showing Becky how to upload her photo on her new Facebook page.

I am appreciative and thankful that my siblings are curious adults who teach me all sorts of things. The day before Thanksgiving, my sister Margaret and I made a trip to Lowe’s, a place I find mildly intimidating. Going with Margaret is a different experience, however, since it’s more like visiting a museum. We had gone to buy some mundane safety treads for my bathtub. I left with a new light fixture for my kitchen which Margaret assured me I could install myself. “If you get stuck,” she said, “call and I’ll walk you through it.” We’ll see.

Because one of the things I am especially thankful for is the free enterprise system, it’s not surprising that I came across all sorts of stories that added to my joy during this holiday week. On my drive from Las Vegas to California, I always listen to an audiobook and I picked a good one, even though I knew nothing about it. Good Business by Mihaly Csikzentmahalyi takes a look at how visionary entrepreneurs create an environment that allows for flow, that optimal state of creativity that the author brought to our attention back in 1991 through his bestselling book Flow. He shares many ideas that an entrepreneur running a tiny business will find useful. And the quotes from Anita Roddick are profound.

Margaret, who had been a volunteer for the Obama campaign, told me a terrific story about Scott Jacobs, a 22-year-old local artist was was evicted from his house on Election Day. He took a half-finished painting of Obama that he’d been working on and set up his easel in front of Ben & Jerry’s, who were giving away free ice cream to anyone who had proof they’d voted. Jacobs attracted a lot of attention–and suddenly his life got much better before the day was over. You can read this great story at the Ventura County Star.

Entrepreneurial artists were already on my mind thanks to a piece in the NY Times called Transforming Art Into a More Lucrative Career Choice. Check it out.

Guy Kawasaki, another personal favorite, has an article called The Art of Bootstrapping that is worth a look. Actually, it’s worth printing out and rereading on a regular basis.

Finally, the latest issue of Newsweek has a Turning Point article by Carlos Mencia called Laughing in the Face of Change. It begins, “Right now, a lot of people are losing their jobs. They’re saying ‘Oh, my God, what am I gonna do?’ I’m here to tell you, this is your chance. Paint. Put out a rap album. Design a car. Do whatever you’ve always wanted to do….Why am I so confident about this? Because I had one of those turning points in my life: long before Comedy Central came calling, I used to be headed for a degree in engineering.” Read the rest of the story. It’s great.