Trying to build a business without entrepreneurial thinking is like trying to build a house with a toothbrush. An employee mindset is not a useful tool for such an important project.

Fortunately, learning to think like a successful self-bosser is something we can teach ourselves. Here are some proven ways of expanding entrepreneurial consciousness.

° Make persistence your personal trademark. We’ve all heard the stories of multiple experiments conducted by Thomas Edison before he figured out how to make a light bulb. Edison’s not the only one, of course, to succeed by not giving up.

During the remarkable renaissance of Tina Turner a few years back, the entertainer remarked, “I’m just now reaping the rewards for twenty-five years of hard work.” That persistence landed her on many Most Admired Lists, too.

By the way, psychologists and others who have studied the lives of successful people rate persistence as more important than intelligence.

° Embrace repetition. Most people operate on a limited budget of ideas. When one or two things don’t work out, they quit. Like persistence, constant practice is also a trademark of the successful.

If you need to be reminded that excellence requires repeated effort, consider this: when GQ magazine celebrated a milestone, they put Tom Cruise and Harrison Ford, two of the most photogenic creatures on Earth, on the cover. The photographer who took the cover shot used sixty-three rolls of film to get the perfect picture.

° Reframe the way you think about a current job, if you have one. Stop thinking that your job is a permanent condition. Instead think of it as your first profit center in your growing portfolio. It’s the one that allows you to generate cash flow while you create your next one.

Thinking of yourself as a service provider, not an employee, will change your relationship. If you start thinking of your job as a profit center, chances are greater that you’ll be saying good-bye to it sooner.

° Have a phantom mentor. If you could pick anyone, living or dead, to advise you, who would it be? Choose someone you admire greatly and have imaginary conversations with them. It’s not as weird as it sounds.

Or start asking yourself, “What would an entrepreneur do?” and see what answers spring to mind.

° Find the hidden gift in goal setting. A few years ago, I was considering buying both a desktop and a laptop computer, but was unsure about which to get first.

On a flight to Amsterdam, my seat mate was a pleasant man who told me he worked for a company that made hinges for laptops. I had no idea that this was a thriving industry and bombarded him with questions.

When I told him I was planning to get a MacBook, he said, “They’re coming out with something spectacular. If you can wait until August, do. I can’t tell you any ore about it since what I know is confidential.”

Later I realized there’s a gift given to goal setters and it’s this: when you are clear about your goals, life suddenly is filled with recognizable coincidences.

° Let love lead. A friend and I went to a sold out concert of Clannad, the Irish band, at London’s Royal Albert Hall. As we were leaving, I said, “Imagine saying, ‘Let’s start singing Celtic folk songs. I’m sure that will be a hit.’”

Of course, Clannad did nothing of the sort. They simply determined that they would spend their lives sharing the music that they loved, knowing that they wouldn’t be alone.

How many others shared that love was something that they couldn’t know ahead of time. There’s not always a way to do market research when love is your motive.

Trusting your instincts, however, can lead you to your perfect place. Like Royal Albert Hall.

Writers talk about (and agonize over) a condition they call writer’s block. When this occurs even experienced authors report feeling stuck. It’s not just limited to writers, of course. Any creative endeavor can get bogged down when the creator feels blocked.

Psychologists suggest that we can shorten our down time by doing something unrelated to the project that has us stymied. In other words, we can solve the problem by walking away from the problem…for a while.

With that in mind, I polled several of my creative friends and asked them, “What do you do when you need fresh inspiration?” Every one came back with a response.

Here, then, are some proven ways to give yourself a creative jolt.

° Keep an inspiration journal. Use it to collect anything that feeds your soul. Fill it with quotes, stories of people you admire, pictures of beautiful places.

Page through it when you have forgotten that the world is a wonderful place.

° Visit somewhere that’s busy. An airport of shopping center are excellent places for people-watching. Make up stories about the people you see.

Imagine what their lives are like, their occupations, where they live and so forth. Since you’re keeping it to yourself, make the stories as outrageous as possible.

° Dance or exercise. Moving your body can also get your imagination moving again.

° Organize a brainstorming session. Round up a few of your most creative friends and let them throw ideas at you. Pay attention to even the silliest ideas.

One of the reasons brainstorming works so well is that the other members of the group don’t have the same emotional attachment to your project that you do. There can be clarity in detachment.

° Put your hands to work. Do needlework or carpentry or something that involves using your hands. Dig in the garden.

These can be stress-lowering activities which also can reinvigorate. I’d pick up my crochet hook rather than Prozac.

° Be quiet. Meditate. Go for a walk. Stare out of the window. Browse in a bookstore or library. Schedule quiet time daily to rest and restore.

° Practice mindless motion. Take a drive in the country. Or do something truly mindless like vacuuming the rug.

The key here is to incorporate movement that doesn’t require you to think deeply.

° Call a trusted friend. Not just anyone will do, however. Ask questions of your wisest friend and see what insights they may have. Listen.

° Expose yourself to a new idea or two. Read a book on a subject you don’t normally investigate. Take a class and absorb the energy of being in a room with other explorers. Look for new ideas or  consider a different opinion or viewpoint about old ideas.

The key, as this poll would suggest, is to shift gears. When you return to the project that has you perplexed, you’ll bring a new energy and perspective.

Even if you’re not currently bogged down, after working on a project for an hour or so, take 15 minutes and do one of the activities names above. Pick one that you don’t ordinarily do. Notice how you feel when you resume your task.

Whether you need a quick lift or want to prevent creative blocks from taking up residence, having an inventory of alternative activities can be a surprisingly effective way to keep things moving forward.

They were having a discussion about political slogans this morning on NPR. Apparently, presidential candidates have been using them for decades. Not all of them were effective nor memorable.

Whether we realize it or not, most of us have a collection of slogans that are stored in our brains. Like its cousin the mantra, a slogan regularly resurfaces and repeats itself.

Many of these have been with us since childhood and were more of a warning than a guide to living a great life. Money doesn’t grow on trees. If you can’t do it perfectly, don’t bother doing it.

I’m guessing you have a list of your own family favorites.

Slogans, mottos, mantras are incredibly powerful when repeated. They can stop us dead in our tracks or propel us forward.

My office has favorites displayed all over the room. Above the door is a large sign reading, “There’s no such thing as small change.”

Another favorite reminder from John Ruskin says, “We are not sent into this world to do anything into which we cannot put our hearts.” On the bulletin board over my desk is this challenge: do something today that your future self will thank you for.

When I was going through some boxes in my office closet, I came across a list that I’d created for a seminar. It’s really a collection of some of my favorite quotes and I urged participants to borrow one or several and make it their personal motto.

I offer you the same challenge.

Happy are those who dream dreams and are willing to pay the price to make them come true. ~ Cardinal Suenens

We dream ourselves into being. ~ Ray Bradbury

Being in business is not about making money. It’s a way to become who you are. ~ Paul Hawken

When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. ~ Mary Oliver

All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is out life. ~ M.C. Richards

Life is too short for you to be the caretaker of the wrong details. ~ Alexandra Stoddard

Be with those who help your being. ~ Rumi

I make the most of all that comes and the least of all that goes. ~ Sara Teasdale

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. ~ Anais Nin

It is better to err on the side of daring than on the side of caution. ~ Alvin Toffler

Success means living the life of the heart. ~ Francis Ford Coppola

What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible. ~ Theodore Roethke

Fortune is not on the side of the faint-hearted. ~ Sophocles

In the quest for happiness, partial solutions don’t work. ~ Mihaly Czikzentmihalyi

Only those who risk going too far can possibly find out how far to go. ~ T.S. Eliot

We are all pilgrims on the same journey, but some pilgrims have better road maps. ~ Nelson DeMille

Somebody has to do something and it’s just incredibly pathetic that it has to be us. ~ Jerry Garcia

I don’t want to be saved. I want to be spent. ~ Fritz Perls

When it comes to inspiration, we must invite it in—and seek it out. The more aware you are of the things you find inspiring, the easier it is to tap into those sources.

Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck or frustrated or cranky before you get a lift.

Inspiration is highly personal so know what feeds yours.

Here are some simple ways to help you live from an inspired place.

° Practice meditation. Practicing meditators tend to have better access to their inner fountain of wisdom and inspiration.

° Build a small collection of movies that you find inspiring and visit them from time to time. Favorites like Amelie or About a Boy can lift your spirits over and over again.

° Design regular learning projects that challenge you to stretch yourself. Learn a new language or acquire a skill that surprises you.

° Discover the happy, successful entrepreneurs in your midst and watch them at work in their natural habitats.

° Find the books that always speak to your highest self and keep them close at hand.

° Identify the three most inspiring people you know and see to it that you spend time in their presence as frequently as possible.

° Help someone else solve a problem and see how inspired you feel afterwards. Repeat often.

° Browse in a place you don’t normally go. Visit a hardware store or buy a magazine you’ve never read. See if you can figure out why someone else has an enthusiasm for a sport or hobby you’ve never considered.

° Remember that rigid routine is the enemy of inspiration. So are negative people. Both can creep up if we aren’t setting personal boundaries.

° Collect favorite quotes, make a vision board, fill your personal space with images of things that you love.

Recently I got an email with a familiar question. It said, “Your book is brilliant. Is there an update planned?”

I wrote back explaining, as I always do, that Making a Living Without a Job is about philosophy, not how-to, and updating isn’t necessary.

Upon further consideration, however, I realized that Winning Ways newsletter really is an on-going update to the ideas in the book.

Are you a candidate for this bi-monthly publication?

Here are some signs that it would be a perfect fit for you:

You’re interested in new resources and stories that inspire.

There’s room for one more on your cheering squad.

You sometimes catch yourself backsliding.

You’re overwhelmed by the avalanche of info on the internet.

You’re not sure how to recognize a snake oil salesman.

You suffer from Adventure Deficit Disorder.Y

You’ve discovered that inspiration isn’t vaccination.

You’re always on the lookout for ideas to add to your option bank.

You have no objection to being inspired.

Seeing WW in your mailbox reminds you that you mean business.

You love the notion of being a lifelong learner.

You know it’s important to invest in tools that will help build your dream.

You’ve learned that philosophy is more valuable than questionable success formulas.

You like having a permanent resource of ideas that won’t be forgotten on a computer file.

You’ve been repeatedly warned that self-employment is the place where there be dragons.

You know you’re a good investment.

Subscribe today and I’ll send you the July/August issue as a bonus. Your official subscription, however, will begin with September/October.

When I first became a practicing goal-setter, I wasn’t very successful. I’d write down big goals and then have no idea how to even begin. Eventually, I made a discovery that seems so simple I didn’t believe it would work—until I tried it.

It now is firmly established as my most dependable operating system. It starts with picking a number, any number.

You don’t have to be a math whiz to put numbers to work for you. Assigning a number to a project can help you focus and, also, give you a finish line.

Open-ended goals have a way of never reaching completion, but attach a numerical addition and getting started is much easier and the finish line become much closer.

Here are a few ideas to get things rolling.

° Pick a number under ten and use it as your goal setting guide. For me, it’s the number five. You might prefer three or six. Then instead of thinking, “I need to get more clients,” set a short term goal to get three (or whatever your favorite number dictates) new clients.

Of course, you can repeat this exercise as often as you like, but your chances for success increase enormously when you work with a smaller number that seems reasonable.

Years ago, when I was floundering around trig to get my speaking business launched, I met a successful, but unhurried, seminar leader who told me her business plan was “Do one, book one.” As soon as she’d finish a program, she’d spend time marketing until she’d booked just one more.

It’s a policy I’ve used ever since with great success.

° Stumped about your next steps? Challenge yourself and your subconscious mind by asking idea-generating questions such as, “What are three ways I can grow my business right now?” Or “Who are four people I could collaborate with?”

You may surprise yourself with how quickly you begin getting answers.

° Write a tip sheet. Don’t forget how useful numbers are in writing tip sheets which can be turned into articles. Six Ways to Get More Exercise is an easier article to write than one called How to Get More Exercise.

Using numbers also is a reminder that when you write a tip sheet the intention isn’t to tell everything you know. That same intention also simplifies goal setting since it brings your focus to one part of the bigger project.

° Subtract things from your life that you no longer want. Instead of trying to unclutter your life all at once, for example, get rid of nine things a day until the job is done.

Go through the junk drawer and throw away nine things or toss out nine magazines or find nine things in your closet you never wear and put them in a bag for the thrift store.

Assigning a number to a necessary, but not necessarily pleasant, tasks can break through procrastination and get positive momentum going. It’s the same reason setting a timer can help you get more done.

° Pick a number, any number, and then pick one of the projects listed below.

° Ways to get into the conversation
° Books to add to my library
° New profit centers to design
ˆ Fascinating things to study
° New adventures to schedule
° Self-bossers to invite to breakfast
° Fresh marketing tools to create
° Media interview to book
° Non-essentials to eliminate
° Ways to support other entrepreneurs
° Articles to publish

Or add your own projects to the list—and then get busy making them happen.

Author Bill Bryson talks about being on a train and thinking about fellow travel writer Paul Theroux who wrote about fascinating conversations he has with strangers. This perplexes Bryson because he finds it difficult to strike up conversations with traveling Brits.

That got me thinking about a conversation I had with an enthusiastic traveler who wondered how I managed to open a dialogue with someone I’d just met.

Since my Do Talk To Strangers Policy is a vital component of traveling—and being entrepreneurial—I started to consider how I actually go about it. I realized that some of it is purely intuitive.

For instance, when a stranger plunks down next to me on an airplane, I take a breath, take a look and see if I’m moved to start a conversation. Most of the time I get it right. Once in a while, I know from my opening question that my seat mate is inclined toward solitude and I stop there.

Whether you’re standing in line at the post office (a place where I’ve met some fascinating folks) or waiting for a train, here are a few ideas to help you uncovering the interesting people around you.

° Make it a game. Decide ahead of time that you want to find an interesting story or inspiring stranger. I’ve been on long flights that seemed to pass in a moment because I had landed next to a great storyteller.

I consider that a fine compensation for the annoyances that are now part of contemporary travel.

° Don’t wait. Instigate. Be willing to be the one who makes the first move. A friendly smile is a good way to test the water. If it’s not reciprocated, move on.

° Look for common ground. I often open a conversation with a compliment or observation about something the stranger is wearing or carrying or something that’s happening around us.

When I hopped into a London taxi that was covered in promotional material for the Rolling Stones, I suspected that I had a fascinating chat ahead of me. And I did. I learned that my driver was the only cab in the city promoting the Stones, that he earned an extra £750 a year by putting advertising on his cab.

He also told me he’d once advertised for the South African Tourist Board and got a free trip to that country as a bonus. He was hoping he might get tickets to a Stones concert this time around.

° Be politely curious. Our reluctance to talk to strangers may be caused by thinking it’s about us. Wrong. It’s about them. Yes, you might be subjected to a tedious story now and then, but it’s worth the risk.

One of my most memorable conversations was with a young man who was a linguistic professor who spoke seven languages. when I learned that, I asked him the best way to learn a language. “Be a kid,” he said. I laughed and asked, “What’s the second best?”

The answer to that question—and many more—kept us chatting from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. I learned a lot and enjoyed his willingness to share his linguistic passion.

° Anticipate the best. Remember that it’s true that everyone knows something that you don’t. Discovering what that unknown fact or idea or passion may be can enrich your life. Sometimes a stranger leads you to a missing piece of your own puzzle.
Knowing that keeps me talking to strangers who unknowingly enrich my life.

And like everything else, it gets easier with practice.

Dreams are extremely fragile—especially in their early days. Dreams, like babies and seedlings, need to be nurtured and surrounded by support.

Here are a handful of ways to get your dreams off to a great start.

° Passion must be present. While a dream may be born in passion, it’s up to you to keep it alive. If you’re halfhearted and lukewarm about them, your dreams will never come true.

One way to keep passion high is to spend a few minutes every day visualizing the successful completion of your dream. How does it look, smell, taste, sound, feel? Allow that vision to keep pulling you forward.

° Take good care of the boss. It doesn’t matter how great a dream is if the dream keeper is too tired or too uninspired to bring it to life.

Sometimes the easiest things to do are also the easiest to overlook—like drinking plenty of water and avoiding toxic people. Dreamkeepers have an obligation to create the healthiest and most balanced life possible.

° Make your workspace a place that inspires you. Whether you work on a beach with your laptop or in an extra bedroom in your home, make it inspiring as well as efficient.

If you’re in your home burn incense, play classical music, have a tabletop fountain. Cover your wall with art or an inspiration board that features pictures of your dream. And if you’re sitting on a beach, pick one with a great view.

° Take responsibility for staying inspired. There are three ways to run a business: Inspired, Uninspired or With Occasional Flashes of Inspiration.

Identify the things that inspire you and expose yourself to them frequently. Whether it’s music, words from a favorite author or other entrepreneur, or some spot in nature, know where your Inspiration Well is located and go there often.

° Create your own Hall of Fame. Ask a successful actor or musician who inspired them and they’ll probably answer quickly. Ask a would-be entrepreneur the same question and you’re apt to be greeted by a shrug of the shoulders.

If you’re going to succeed, you need to be inspired by real people. Read biographies or interviews of successful people and pay attention to the philosophies that guide them.

° Be open to being inspired at all times. You never know where a great idea or solutions to a problem will come from.

Like Sir Richard Branson, carry a notebook with you at all times so you can jot down ideas as they occur.

If you spend a lot of time driving, you may want to carry a voice-activated recorder to capture your thought. Do not, however, text them to yourself while driving.

° Notice what catches your attention. What makes you happy? What causes an emotional response? These are clues. Apathy is not a success tool.

Take time to pay attention to advertising and marketing that you like—and that you loath. Consider how you can bring the qualities you respond to into your business.

° Collect entrepreneurial friends. There’s almost nothing more rewarding than spending time in the presence of kindred spirits who can add their own creative ideas and encouragement to what you’re doing.

Cultivating such friendships will be one of the best investments you can make. Seminars and coffee shops are great places to scout for new friends.

° Change the scenery. There’s nothing that dulls the creative spirit more quickly than daily routine.

You can counteract the dulling effect of that by taking a field trip or creative excursion at least once a week. Take your laptop to a park, visit a museum or walk in a Japanese garden.

Challenge yourself to come up with new backdrops that feed your soul.

Those of us who write with the intention of motivating others, constantly deal with an enigma. What, for goodness sake, does the word “motivation” really mean?

My thesaurus lists all sorts of possibilities including “tempt, seduce and bribe.” That’s hardly what I had in mind here at Buon Viaggio.

After years of thinking about this word, I’m still not certain that I have a clear definition myself. I do, however, know what it means personally.

Motivation to me is when an inner force is moving me in the direction of an outer result. I also know that it needs to be nurtured and encouraged.

Several years ago, I was thinking about a new opportunity that I was considering. As I was musing about it, the idea for a poem popped into my head.

I happened to come across that poem again this afternoon. My granddaughter Zoe was hanging out with me and I read it to her. She urged me to share it with you.

So here it is:

If this is not a grand adventure,

what’s the point?

There is no necessity in my life

for just another way

to spend some time.

Not now, not when I long

to hang by my fingernails

eyes as big as saucers

with the wonder of what’s next.

So will you promise me

that I will find

my heart pounding

breath coming in loud spurts

between the laughter

that will signal

“We did it” We did it

with sass, with style,

with spirit and spunk”?

To go beyond where I have been before

Ah, that would qualify as an adventure

One worthy of the love and passion

It will take

To pull this one off!

So here’s how my week has started. Got up to an email that involved a change of plans for a fall seminar.

My daughter and her family left for a two-week road trip. The road they were planning to take is closed due to a bridge collapse. They rerouted themselves, but forgot to leave a housekey for the sitter.

Fortunately, I have a key to their house and live close by so delivering it was not a big deal.

However, this has me thinking, yet again, about how flexibility is a valuable stress management tool.

This is not something that comes easily for many of us who have had a lifetime of conditioning to follow a predictable path. It’s something we need to challenge and eliminate if we’re going to be self-employed.

Quite simply, it is impossible to create anything of significance if we aren’t willing to embrace unpredictability.

Building a business is one way of acquiring those skills. Another way is through travel.

Several years ago, Nick Williams and I met in Switzerland to do some brainstorming. The trip was wonderfully productive and included a glorious day in Chamonix, France.

We were on the train heading back to Zurich where Nick had a flight to catch back to London. I was staying for another day. “Do you know where you’re staying tonight?” he asked.

I shook my head, laughed and said, “No, but I’ve never had to spend a night on a park bench so I’m trusting that I won’t have to do so tonight.” Of course, I located a perfect place to spend the night.

I know there are many people who would be in a dither without every detail of their travels in place. Seasoned travelers, on the other hand, opt for a bit of unpredictability since that’s where the adventure resides.

Same thing in our business. And the more flexible we’re willing to be, the more evidence we gather that a change of plans can often open the door to bigger and better things.

Remember, too, that a perfectly acceptable answer to the question, “How are you going to do that?” is “I don’t know.”

We take the adventure, accept the challenge, head off in new directions to find out how to do that. If we know in advance, what’s the point?

Test it for yourself—as often as possible.