We hear a lot about the short attention span of both kids and adults. We see the marketplace flooded with items that are here today, gone tomorrow.

Pet rocks are the poster child of that phenomenon. So are most of the books that achieve best seller status.

The media adores stories about overnight success. They pay no attention once the flash in the pan is done flashing.

It’s always seemed to me that have a few minutes in the spotlight could be the entrance to a lifetime of emotional distress. I’ve avoided going after such temporary attention.

I’m thinking about such matters today because it’s also a milestone day for me. On July 15, 1993, a little book called Making a Living Without a Job quietly appeared on bookstore shelves.

Although I did a number of newspaper and radio interviews, the arrival of my baby was a fairly quiet one. My local Barnes & Noble did invite me to do a signing, but it wasn’t well promoted or well attended.

While my crystal ball did not inform me that this unheralded book would still be in print two decades later, I did know something that suggested it might stick around for a while.

What I’ve always known, partly from personal experience, is that we evolve to the notion of self-employment. Few of us grew up with any encouragement to forge our own path.

Many of us have never had friends or family who found work that made their heart sing. Lacking role models, being unaware of entrepreneurial thinking, it simply hasn’t been on our radar.

However, something else has been quietly happening for the past several decades, something that contributed to the long life of my little book.

What was the motivation? Much of it came from a very different direction. The human potential movement, the growing exploration of spirituality has had a direct impact.

The reason is quite simple. People who embark on a personal quest to find answers, better ways of living, often begin their search in bookstores and seminars, but the study phase can only last so long.

There comes a time when we need to create a laboratory, a place to test these ideas that began as self-discovery. For many pilgrims, a little business of their own is ideal.

Right from the start, I knew that there would always be a new group of people who had reached the point where Making a Living Without a Job was the next guidebook they’d need for the journey.

So while I celebrate this milestone, I also celebrate everyone who has stepped out of their comfort zone and joined me on this amazing exploration and journey in creating the life of dreams coming true.

As Soren Kierkegaard so eloquently reminds us, “If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never.”

Due to my respiratory problems, I keep my purse as lightweight as possible. Although I have an iPhone, I usually leave it at home when I’m running errands around town.

That policy was recently changed, however.

On Saturday, my sisters and I spent a lovely morning at the Ojai Lavender Festival. Somewhere along the way, Margaret showed me a feature on my phone I was unaware of. My phone has a step counter? I had no idea.

When I got home late that afternoon, I promptly checked to see how much walking I had done. Seemed like a good idea to challenge myself to walk just a bit farther every day.

That means that I now carry my phone with me when I leave the house. I’ve even been considering how I could carry it when I’m home to get credit for all the steps I take during the course of a normal day.

I’m beginning to understand why so many people are crazy about their Fitbits. After all, they keep us accountable—whether anybody else knows about it or not.

This morning, I had a Skype chat with Joan Jontilano who is currently in the Philippines. We had talked a month ago about her next project. Actually, she didn’t have a project, but we threw around some ideas.

A few days ago, she messaged me asking if we could talk again. “I’ve got a lot of stuff I want to talk about,” she said.

She wasn’t kidding. We had a lively conversation. Not only does she have a great idea, her enthusiasm was quite contagious.

What made the difference in just one month?

Joan told me she’d participated in a one week program that clarified her thoughts. “We had questions we had to write answers for plus a Facebook group that was really helpful,” she said. By her own account, she went from freaked out to focused.

Accountability. It can take many forms. Deadlines. Working with a coach. Group check-ins. Doing what you say you’re going to do.

No matter what form it takes, it always involves action. Or a few more steps everyday.

Note: This was a post from last August. I’m repeating it because we all need to be reminded of this simple fact.
Like millions of people, I tuned in for the Beatles Tribute on CBS. It was a lovely evening, but it wasn’t anything like my evening attending a Paul McCartney concert several years ago. That experience was magical from beginning to end.

You probably have memories like that, too, when you found yourself in the same room with someone you’d admired from afar. That is not an experience that can be duplicated by technology.

As much as I appreciate the gifts of technology, I often wonder if we’re forgetting how powerful it is to have real contact.

Back in the nineties, the independent adult ed movement began to take off all around the country. The timing was perfect for me as I was beginning to teach my seminars on creative self-employment.

These programs filled a real gap, making it possible for busy adults to spend a few hours—rather than committing every Tuesday night for six weeks—gaining some useful information and ideas.I loved the programs because most of them were small businesses run by a tiny staff that usually included the owner. I also loved the people these programs attracted—curious lifelong learners who were equally excited to have this option to explore new ideas.

Sadly, these programs began to disappear. Sometimes the overhead was too high for the income being generated. A few owners tried to cut their costs by moving their catalogs online, instead of spending thousands on the print catalogs.

That didn’t work very well, either, and I think I know why. Catalogs are for browsing and often deliver unexpected prizes. Hmmm…making a living without a job? Wonder what that’s about. Think I’ll sign up and check it out.

With online catalogs, you pretty much need to know what you’re looking for in advance.

But that’s not the only reason I feel sad that these programs didn’t survive. We lost something really valuable, something that happens when we make the effort to put ourselves in a room with others exploring the same subject.

There’s another dimension added to our learning when it’s gotten person-to-person. We might even make a new friend, have an insight, get a question answered that only happens through personal connection.

Or as C.S. Lewis so eloquently pointed out, “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.”

About the time I moved from Las Vegas, Zappos founder Tony Hsieh announced the ambitious Downtown Project which he is spearheading. His bold vision is to turn the languishing area into “Disneyland for entrepreneurs.”

New start-ups are moving to Las Vegas, co-working spaces with names like Work in Progress are buzzing and renovated apartments and condos are attracting entrepreneurial owners.

There’s another aspect to this project that is unique. Hsieh is determined to create a place filled with opportunities for serendipity which he calls meaningful collisions. I share his fascination with the phenomenon.

While the common understanding of serendipity is unexpected good fortune, I learned that it goes much further than that. The origin of the word comes from an old Persian fairy tale called The Princes of Serendip.

The story involves three young noblemen who traveled the world. They rarely found the treasures they were looking for, but continually ran into other treasures equally great or even greater which they were not seeking.

In looking for one thing they found something else. Even though their goals eluded them, they were more than rewarded with their wayside discoveries. When they realized what was happening, they got an entirely new slant on life.

As Hsieh explains, “I think you can create your own luck. The key is to meet as many people as you can and really get to know them. I think for most people, college was the last time it was normal to just randomly run into people all the time. As you get older, you drive to work, see the same people every day, then go home. But the best things happen when people are running into each other and sharing ideas.”

Want to have more serendipitous adventures? It does not occur when we are passively waiting for something to happen. We must be actively engaged in the pursuit of some goal and, yet, be willing for it to turn out differently than first imagined.

Although you may not be part of the Las Vegas Downtown Project, you can create serendipitous opportunities wherever you happen to be. Keep asking yourself, “When was the last time I did something for the first time?”

Engage in social media (don’t just open a Facebook account). Join or start a MeetUp group. Attend seminars where ideas will be filling the air. Investigate co-working spaces in your community. Or start one. Find a mastermind group or accountability partner. Create a quest to explore a new subject. Refuse to settle for predictability.

Specialize in meaningful collisions and celebrate them as they happen. Or, as Tony Hsieh advises, keep creating your own luck.

My four-year-old grandson Noah was visiting the other day when I happened to mention something about New York. “Oh,” he exclaimed, “that’s where Lady Liberty is.” I nodded in agreement and was reminded once again about the impact of travel.

Noah was a mere two years old when his family made a trip to New York. He still talks about it. And he still calls it Yew Nork.

Years ago, I became a fan of Helene Hanff after reading her most popular book, 84, Charing Cross. I identified with this frustrated Anglophile who eventually found herself making multiple visits to London.

In a later book, Apple of My Eye, she wrote about her adopted hometown, New York, and confessed she’d never visited the Statue of Liberty or several other famous landmarks.

That’s not unusual, of course. I have London friends who have never toured the Tower of London, nor explored the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s easy to overlook treasures in our own backyards when we are neighbors.

What a shame.

Even if you don’t live in a spot that draws visitors from far and near, exploring your own part of the world can be a fascinating undertaking. At the very least, you’ll be able to entertain your family at the dinner table with tales of your local adventures.

At the very most, you’ll be giving your curiosity a wake-up call.

Spend a couple of hours now and then getting lost on purpose. Visit a new local business. Stroll through the grounds at your community college. Do a photo essay of your area. Or go looking for a community problem that you can help solve. Get connected while seeing familiar places with fresh eyes.

You may, of course, wish to travel beyond your backyard, but you can keep your travel bug well fed without a passport.

There are some hidden benefits in changing your scenery. This piece from Lifehack illustrates that beautifully:

15 Reasons Why Frequent Travelers Are More Likely To Be Successful 

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.

Business names, like book titles, matter a great deal. I confess that I’m often intrigued and horrified by the names people give their enterprises.

Do we really need another beauty salon named A Cut Above?

Nevertheless, I realize that finding the perfect name can be a challenge and sometimes we are so eager to get going that we opt for an okay moniker knowing we can always change it if a more inspired choice comes along.

You might adopt my hobby and start paying closer attention to business names that you find attention-getting—and those that repel.

When I picked up the crossword puzzle in last Sunday’s LA Times, I was amused to see that the theme of the puzzle was Funny Business. The puzzle’s creator explained that all the names used had been found via an Internet search.

Most of them are puns and some of them are especially clever. Here are the clues followed by the answers (all of which I managed to figure out).

Fromage shop’s name? C’est Cheese

Antique store’s name? Junk and Disorderly

Coffee shop’s name? Brewed Awakening

Ambulatory equipment store’s name? Cane and Able

Bouquet shop’s name? Florist Gump

Swimwear shop’s name? Beach Yourself Up

Vintage record store’s name? Vinyl Resting Place (a personal favorite of mine)

Tailor shop’s name? Sew It Seams

Maternity shop’s name? Womb to Grow

Okay. It’s your turn. What clever, funny, weird business names have you come across?

In the early days of launching my business, I never turned down a speaking invitation or media interview. That led to all sorts of surprises.

On a warm Saturday evening one September, I got a call from my travel agent. “You’re on television,” she announced. The cable program produced by our library system was rerunning an interview I had done months earlier.

Soon after it was first broadcast, I called to make an appointment with my dentist. As soon as the receptionist found out who she was talking to, she said, “Dr. Klein just saw you on television.”

A couple of months later, I went in for my annual physical. When my doctor came in, she didn’t greet me with her usual, “How are you, Barbara?” Instead, she burst into the room exclaiming, “I heard you on public radio!”

Shortly after that, I was in my hometown for an uncle’s funeral. I dashed into the church bathroom before the service and was cornered by a woman I barely remembered who demanded to know if I had been on television. I assured her that I had, although she wasn’t certain about where or when she’d seen me. “I thought that was you,” she said smugly.

After all this time, I suppose I should be getting blase about this sort of recognition, but I’m not.

Which brings me to the point of this. While any savvy entrepreneur welcomes free publicity for their business, shyness or inexperience in dealing with the media keeps too many great stories from being told.

But putting yourself in the spotlight can have an impact far greater than you can ever imagine.

The more venues you can find, the more diverse your promotion efforts, the more familiarity you create. This all adds to your credibility and, ultimately, profitability.

It just makes sense to set aside time regularly to generate publicity.

Write a tip sheet and turn it into a news release.

Contact the producer of a local talk show.

Call up your neighborhood newspaper and pitch a story idea to a reporter whose work you have liked.

Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper or magazine.

Don’t be shy about blowing your own horn. You never know who will say, “Hey, I saw you on television!”

The first goal I ever set for myself was to never have two years that were exactly the same. I had found it frighteningly boring to spend my time going to jobs in the same place at the same time with the same people.

I wanted to welcome surprises and unexpected delights. Self-employment has made that possible in ways I never dreamed it could at the beginning of this journey.

Although much of my work is done at home, I’m always working on new projects and have found all sorts of ways to mix things up. Even so, the past week managed to surpass some of the others in terms of variety and pure enjoyment.

It began on November 14 when I joined my sisters Nancy and Becky in Santa Barbara for a splendid evening listening to author Alexander McCall Smith.  Not only was he the first speaker I’ve heard talk while wearing a kilt, his extraordinary storytelling skills kept us laughing for ninety minutes.

This was even more special since I’ve spent the past several months reading his 44 Scotland Street series. Obviously, I’m not alone in loving McCall Smith who is stunningly prolific. He also has something like 25,000,000 copies of his books in print.

The next day, my friend Judy Miranda fetched me and we headed to Phoenix for the second Fund Your Life Overseas Conference. Judy has an import business called Global Hand Artisans and is devoted to selling handmade goods she uncovers in places such as Guatemala.

Despite the long drive, it was great fun to catch up with her since we hadn’t seen each other for sometime. In the interim, we had both added some new stamps to our passports so we had many travel tales to share.

On Sunday, the 16th, the conference began and it was 2 1/2 days of non-stop talking and learning. I met old friends and made new ones. I talked to attendees from all over the country.

Equally fun was seeing speakers, some of them already expats, who shared great how-to information on creating portable businesses. I did three talks aimed at helping participants build their entrepreneurial mindset—something that’s as useful as a passport if you want to see the world and get paid at the same time.

We headed back to California on Wednesday morning after stopping for breakfast at the home of Judy’s friends. Judy had lived in Phoenix for many years and loves reconnecting.

As we were sitting at the kitchen table with Sarah and Larry Soller, I was surprised to discover that Larry was also an ex-Minnesotan. Even more intriguing to me was finding out that we were English majors at the same college at the same time.

Larry also was active in theater and spent many years as a college theater professor himself. Although he no longer teaches on a regular basis, Larry is active doing voiceover work and is an enthusiastic volunteer with Habitat for Humanity.

The entire week was a glorious reminder that the world is full of people who can enrich our lives—if we take time to find them and pay attention. Or as Caroline Myss reminds us, “We evolve at the rate of the tribe we’re plugged into.”

I was startled when the Starbucks barista handed me my coffee and said it had been paid for. “Who is my benefactor?” I asked. She pointed to a young woman with a slightly Goth appearance who had been ahead of me in line.

Although she and I hadn’t spoken, I suspected she’d been eavesdropping on my conversation with the fellow who was part of a group headed to a church camp, as was she.

I went over to thank her and discovered that random acts of kindness seemed to be her specialty. She modestly accepted my thanks and said she was always on the lookout for ways to share with strangers.

Years before the term random acts of kindness was coined, David Dunn wrote a wonderful book called Try Giving Yourself Away. Dunn first came upon his hobby when he gave away an advertising idea to a railroad. Later he found enormous pleasure in seeing his idea used in ads at railway stations and hotel lobbies.

He writes, “It was thus I made the important discovery that anything which makes one glow with pleasure is beyond money calculation, in this world where there is altogether too much grubbing and too little glowing.

“I began to experiment with giving-away and discovered it to be great fun. I discovered, too, that successful giving-away has to be cultivated. There is a knack to it, just as there is to successful getting.

“Opportunities for reaping dividends of happiness are fleeting. You have to act quickly or they elude you. But that only adds zest to the exercise.”

If you’re in the market for a new hobby, consider the examples of my young benefactor and David Dunn. I have a hunch that the people we see going about their daily business with a smile on their face have already discovered the joy of anonymously making life a little bit better for people who will never repay them—or even know their names.