Like many people, I have a lengthy pre-holiday To Do List plus all the normal things that fill my days. Today I was planning to pick up some packages that have been languishing at my post office, but when I stood in the long, long line for ten minutes without any movement, I abandoned that project. 

Next on the list was to write a new blog post about another way to Close the Gap. After reading Seth Godin’s blog post, however, I abandoned my idea and now urge you to get your very own free copy of his brilliant ebook What Matters Now. This may be the best gift any entrepreneur could get this year. And it’s loaded with wise words from wise people. Pay attention, and you’ll find even more ways to close the gap for yourself.

Oh, and then pass it on.

 

Even before Paul McCartney’s Chaos and Creation in the Backyard was released, critics were glowing using words like adventurous, melodic and emotionally complicated to describe it. That hasn’t been the case with the 19 other albums he’s done since the Beatles broke up 35 years ago. McCartney acknowledges that his body of work has been uneven. 

 

”Since the Beatles, I’ve approached making records every which way,” he says. “A lot of times it’s a real casual thing. Do a few tracks a day, have a bit of fun. Normally I kind of say, ‘I’d like to make a good album.’ This time there was motivation, determination. ‘I’m going to make a good album. I’m going to, and that’s that.” 

 

To accomplish this, he hired producer Nigel Godrich, who refused to let him stay in his comfort zone. It took two years to put the album together, partly because McCartney plays most of the instruments himself. 

 

The critics aren’t the only ones happy about the results. At the start of a new round of concerts, McCartney says, “It’s be great not to be out there with a crap album, singing songs I don’t care much about.” Sounds like Sir Paul has rediscovered the power of commitment.

 

Excellent results are never accidental. Without commitment, our creative powers are scattered and our ability to attract support and resources dries up. Of course, it’s possible, as millions of people demonstrate, to go through life getting by without ever committing deeply to anything much at all. 

 

In their insightful book, Money Drunk, Money Sober, Julia Cameron and Mark Bryan call money (and money difficulties) the last addiction. They identify five kinds of money dysfunction, including one they call the Maintenance Money Drunk. This is a person who grows increasingly  bitter or numb from the inability to pursue or even identify their dreams.

 

They write, “One of the telltale symptoms of the Maintenance Money Drunk is the phrase ‘I’m going to,’ heard over and over again without action toward the goal. We often say that the greatest gift of solvency is learning how to turn a wish into a goal. And action is the difference between someone who is really going to do something and someone who is just wishing.” 

 

It’s exhausting to be a Maintenance Money Drunk and it’s exhausting to be around one. Commitment is the catalyst that propels us to take action—and break the cycle of apathy that keeps us stuck.When McCartney said, “I’m going to,” he got busy writing songs. 

 

There’s a foolproof test for commitment that goes beyond any verbal claims of commitment: look at your calendar and your checkbook. Are you spending your time and money in ways that back up what you’re truly committed to? It’s only when you bring your spending into alignment with your dreams that good things begin to happen.  

 

Commitment gives us direction, but it doesn’t guarantee ease. As Paulo Coehlo so eloquently reminds us, “Too often we decide to follow a path that is not really our own, one that others have set for us. We forget that whichever way we go, the price is the same: in both cases we will pass through both difficult and happy moments. But when we are living our dream, the difficulties that we encounter make sense.”

 It is often the last key in the bunch that opens the lock.

                                Stansifer

 

 

I am not the only one who loves  Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos.; classical music stations report that listener surveys always list them as a top favorite. Did you know that this perennial favorite began life as a huge failure? The Concertos were written as an audition for a commission Bach hoped to get with the city of Brandenburg, Germany. Amazingly, he lost the competition. No one seems to remember who the winner was.

 

Bach is not the only creative soul, of course, whose work met with rejection before success came along. Writer John Grisham sent his first novel to sixteen agents before one of them agreed to take him as a client. That agent submitted A Time to Kill to twenty-six publishers before one bought it, bringing out a meager 5,000 copies. Since that humble—and humbling— beginning, Grisham has topped the bestseller charts with every book he’s written and has millions of copies of his books in print around the world.

 

While history is full of stories of early defeat that turned into astonishing success later on, there is no record of all the good ideas that got put away in a drawer after encountering a first rejection.

 

I once had a student who had created a nifty product that she was certain would be snapped up by a huge travel company to give away as a gift to their clients. When they turned her down, she was furious. Her basement is filled with unsold inventory which she has never tried to market in other ways. She remains stuck in her early—and only—rejection. Her timid retreat is not unusual.

 

Sadly, this woman made the classic error of deciding in advance that acceptance could only come in one way. That’s a formula that is doomed. If the prospective client or lover or friend turns us down, we may lose sight of the fact that our true goal was to make a sale or have a romance or build a new relationship. We forget that our goal (and our self) is just fine. We simply made the mistake of picking a dancing partner that didn’t want to dance.

 

I once heard a sales trainer declare, “You gotta learn to love rejection!” I think he overstated his case. Few of us are so hardy that we can love being turned down. There’s a big difference between those who accept rejection as part of the success process and those who avoid it at all costs. Despite all the evidence that rejection is a universal theme in every success story, fear of rejection seems to be a powerful deterrent for many who will do almost anything to avoid the discomfort of being rejected. As it turns out, life’s grandest prizes are rejecting them.

 

The next time that fear of rejection stops you from tackling a dreaded task, remind yourself that the anticipation of rejection is almost always worse than the reality of it. All of us have known those agonizing times spent before we proposed marriage, made a sales presentation or gave a talk. Yet on those occasions when our worst fears were realized, the experience wasn’t nearly as horrible as imagining it had been.

 

While I still don’t love rejection, I have a clearer perspective on it since encountering some profound advice from writer Barbara Kingsolver. Although it’s aimed at writers, it’s equally appropriate to anyone going after a dream. Kingsolver says, “Don’t consider your returned manuscript rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it, ‘To the editor who can appreciate my work,’ and it simply came back stamped, ‘Not at this address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”

 

You might want to memorize that.

About the time I was planning to move to Las Vegas, a workshop participant named Pat Egan suggested that I should meet his mother. Like me, she had grown up in a small town in Minnesota, was an author, entrepreneur and enthusiastic traveler. Now we live in the same part of Las Vegas and Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse has been a favorite lunch companion ever since.

 

On Saturday, Sharon stopped by to give me a copy of her upcoming book (out November 2), Calling All Women: From Competition to Connection. It’s a terrific book of advice and inspiration gleaned from her years of working with people around the world. 

 

The reason I got an advanced copy is because Sharon had invited me to write the foreword. As I reread what I had written, I realized that I was talking about something that’s equally important for entrepreneurial success, although it’s not much discussed in conventional business books. Here’s a bit of what I have to say about that overlooked part of the journey.

 

Long after my formal schooling had ended, I first encountered the term “personal growth.” Up until then, I had assumed that once I reached adulthood, I had finished growing and that was that. I was immediately fascinated by the implication that growth could continue. Those two little words carried hope. The end of dead ends. Stretching. Discovery. Becoming. Wider horizons. Beginnings. 

 

Despite my eagerness to explore, it was difficult to find materials and teachers that could help me on my journey. At the time, both books and seminars were written by men, for men. Apparently, women were either unteachable or disinterested. I decided to ignore the lack of attention to my gender and adapt ideas and concepts from the existing material. Although I operated in secret, I came to think of myself as a card- carrying self-help junkie. 

 

Books and seminars were only the beginning. The real work was done in my day-to-day life, but the real work is never done. There’s always another path to explore. As time went on, the notion of lifelong growth took root and I simply assumed it was something that would be a daily part of my life. I came to see that the rewards of such a pursuit were greater than I’d realized. Actively pursuing personal development not only adds another dimension to life, it may, in fact, prolong it. “People don’t grow old,” says Deepak Chopra. “When we stop growing, we become old.”

 

So what does it take to keep growing yourself? One prerequisite for success is a willingness to change. Recently I came across an article I had written about change. I pointed out that change comes in two different packages and it’s necessary to tell them apart. There’s Imposed Change, which is the kind we can do nothing about. Taxes get raised, fashion designers insist we stop wearing willow green, or road construction makes travel difficult. On the other hand, there’s Instigated Change. That’s the kind that we think of as improving our lives because we have chosen it. Best of all, we can instigate change at any  time we want. 

 

Why does personal growth matter in running a business? Quite frankly, our business grows or stagnates in direct proportion to how much growth or stagnation we’re allowing into our lives. Our own business is also a terrific laboratory for putting what we’ve learned into practice. As Paul Hawken points out, “Being in business is not about making money. It’s a way to become who you are.” 

 

How wonderfully synergistic!

As fascinated as I was by Paul Hawken’s The Magic of Findhorn, I had no idea when I read Hawken’s early book that he would become one of my favorite entrepreneurial gurus. That didn’t happen until I stumbled upon his 17-part PBS series, Growing a Business. Sometime in the late 1980s this visionary program became a Saturday afternoon ritual for me and my friend Chris, who would call from Connecticut to discuss the latest installment and what we’d learned. The series, written and produced by Hawken, introduced us to all sorts of innovative entrepreneurs including Ben and Jerry and Yvon Chouinard. We were dazzled. The companion book for that series remains one of my all-time favorite books on creating a business that’s an extension of who you are and what you value.

 

Hawken, best known as the co-founder of Smith & Hawken, the mail order gardening tools company, was an early player in the natural food industry, opening a store in Boston when he was barely out of his teens. Today, he spends his time writing and speaking about the responsibility of business in caring for the environment. His book The Ecology of Commerce is a popular textbook in colleges around the country.

 

But the advice Hawken dispenses is in sharp contrast to much of the business writing out there.  He says, “When I started the natural food business in Boston, my knowledge was scant. I did the best i could and began reading everything I could lay my hands on…The more I searched, the more confused I became. I began to doubt that I was in business at all. I seemed to be doing something entirely different. I get that same feeling today when I read most of the standard business literature. I believe that most people in new businesses, and some in not-so-new businesses, have the same problem. They don’t feel connected to the conventional wisdom…as if a small business is just a flake chipped off the larger corporate world.”

 

When it comes to entrepreneurial advice, Hawken is a vocal advocate for bootstrapping and believes that hands-on learning is one of the great gifts of operating on a shoestring. Here’s an example of how Smith & Hawken put those ideas into practice. Hawken writes:

 

We did it ourselves or not at all. I never thought much about this in-house advantage until 1985, when a friend launched a new catalog company. He started with an initial mailing of 500,000 catalogs (our first effort had been 487), which he hired a large company in Dallas to create. My friend and I were having lunch when the subject of production costs came up. I asked him how much he spent and he replied nearly $100,000 for production alone. He noticed me choking on my dim sum and he asked how much my last catalog had cost (by this time Smith & Hawken was up to about 1 million circulation). I suggested we break the costs down.

 

His photography cost $25,000. Ours cost $4,000.

His copywriting costs $12,000. I did all of ours.

His layout and design team ran $25,000. Our in-house labor came to $6,000.

He paid $15,000 for typography. We paid $2,700.

He paid $5,000 for a stylist. I asked who or what that was.

He paid $82,000 in total. Our catalog cost us $12,700 for the same number of products and pages.

 

It’s not coincidental that my friend’s company is not in business today. He got further faster in the beginning because he had more money to spend, but he thereby forfeited a critical amount of self-education and development.

One of the qualities that successful entrepreneurs share is the capacity for paradox management. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the need to be both patient and impatient at the same time. Impatience is necessary to keep things moving, but it carries a danger with it and can lead to quitting too soon. 

So why does it take so long to see progress? Before you declare failure, consider these reasons:

° Idea needs tweaking. You start a new project thinking your customers are retirees and nothing happens. Then you begin getting inquiries from golfers and shift your marketing to reach more of them. That’s a classic example of right idea, wrong market. Here’s where some Joyfully Jobless friends can be helpful, showing you options that you missed. 

° Need to grow into the bigger vision. When things aren’t working out, many people think there’s something they must do, but often it’s something they must be that solves the problem.

The best reason for dreaming bold and following through on that dream is what we become as a result. If we’re not willing to acquire the skills and mindset of our best self, and invest time in getting there, our ultimate goal will be stalled. Eventually, it will disappear.

° Missed a step. Here’s where impatience can get in the way. Trying to jump from Point A to Point L doesn’t work. When a project is in limbo, retrace your steps and see if you left something out, something that needs to be included to produce the final result.

° Miscalculated the time it would take. I can never decide if it’s naive or arrogant to think that we can predict the timeline of something we’ve never done before. An old proverb says, “Going slow does not prevent arriving.” That’s a good proverb to recall as you inch ahead.

° Ahead of the market. It’s not unusual for a new idea to take time to catch on. If you’re offering something that hasn’t been available before, the marketplace may need to learn more about the benefits they’ll receive or, even, rethink an old notion. Sharon Rowe is a perfect example of that. In 1989 she started importing reusable shopping bags. She was about 20 years ahead of time. Today, however, her Eco-Bags Products is a multimillion dollar operation.

° Divine intervention. Deb Leopold runs First Class in Washington, DC. The day after the tragic Metro train crash, she told her Facebook friends that she’d been detained at her business the previous evening because CNN was there to do a story about a class she was running. Had she gone home at her usual time, there was a possibility she’d have been involved in the accident.

All of us can look back at things that were disappointments that turned out to be blessings. The trick is to start looking for the gift in a frustrating situation to see if it’s pointing us in a better direction. Sometimes what feels like a detour is actually a call to eliminate ambivalent commitment. 

A talented and creative young woman I know, who currently lives in Madison, posted a message on Facebook that said, “Wishing I weren’t so hooked on Boulder so I could just move to Minneapolis instead.” I promptly responded saying that since I had lived in both places (and since I was going to be seeing her soon) that I’d like to have a chat with her.

Boulder and Minneapolis were big teachers for me. One was traumatic and the other nurturing. I know there were numerous factors that made one my perfect place and the other a nightmare. Like any other relationship, there’s not always a villian in the story. Sometimes we just make a bad match.

In his wonderful book Actualizations, Stewart Emery eloquently discusses our relationship to our environment. He writes, “If the environmental conditions surrounding our life support our evolution toward self-actualization, we will move in that direction. Let’s state this another way: if you were a willow tree living by a riverside, the environmental conditions of your existence would support your evolution toward becoming a self-actualized willow tree…If, on the other hand, you were a willow tree and you were planted in the desert, the chances of your making it as a self-actualized willow tree would be virtually nil. The environmental condiitons simply wouldn’t allow it.”

Of course, we see this all the time. People who lack education, encouragement, and support don’t even begin to fulfill their potential. However, Emery points out that we have some advantages over the aforementioned willow tree. “A willow tree that finds itself planted in the desert cannot hail a passing yellow cab and ask the driver to take it to the riverside. You and I, on the other hand, can. You and I have within us the creative intelligence to recognize the conditions of existence that support our growth toward self-actualization and we have the wherewithal to place ourselves in such an environment.”

So, obviously, it’s not about Boulder vs. Minneapolis. It’s about knowing how we want to grow ourselves and finding out where that riverbank is—then insisting that we are rooted in it. 

And that begins by identifying what we want to become. We can’t stay seated in a cubicle and become a fully actualized entrepreneur. We can’t avoid taking seminars or connecting with other Joyfully Jobless folks and expect our own entrepreneurial spirit to bloom. Or as Quentin Crisp once observed, “It’s no good saying ‘I want to be a ballet dancer’ if you continue to tend your pig farm. By then pigs will have become your style.”

Despite what the old adage says, it’s not always possible to bloom where we are planted, but it is possible to plant ourselves where we can bloom. Sometimes our biggest act of courage is the process we call transplanting.

Every business has times that are less busy than others. You can use this time to fret and worry that your entrepreneurial life has come to an end—or you can view it as a gift of time to do some of those things you’ve been telling yourself you’ll do when you have time. It  just makes sense, it seems to me, to spend this time wisely and well. Here are a few possibilities.

* Review and revise your support system.  Is it time to hire a virtual assistant? Find a new tax accountant? Get expert advice? Unless you’re willing to settle for the first person that comes along (and we all have had times when we’ve done that and regretted it later), this is a perfect opportunity to clarify what you need from various service providers and make certain that you’re getting it. If you are ready to add to your support team, start interviewing potential sources of support.

* Simplify, simplify.  Been meaning to clean out your closets and pass things along to a charity shop? Get your office in shipshape? These are time-consuming tasks that aren’t very glamourous, but the psychic rewards are huge. 

Get out some trash bags, put on some upbeat music and have at it. Get rid of the junk in the junk drawer. Weed your library. Up-date your filing system. Clean out your e-mailbox. It’s as liberating as losing twenty pounds.

* Up your wellness. Use this extra time to walk or workout. Get a massage or facial. Read up on nutrition. Experiment with new healthier foods that take time to prepare. Start meditating again. Plan a stress reduction program. Work these things into your schedule now and you’re more apt to keep up with them when your busier times return.

* Volunteer. Pass your gift of time along to someone else by helping out. If you live in a major metro area in the US and are needing ideas, go to www.volunteermatch.com which lists a wide variety of projects in search of help. Why not volunteer at your kids’ school or at a local foodbank or shelter? You could even instigate a project of your own and get your friends involved.

* Learn something new. Build some brain cells with a class or seminar. Add to your computer skills, start learning a new language, take up salsa dancing. Use this time to saturate yourself in a new subject that catches your fancy. 

To be continued…

We think much more about the use of money, which is renewable, than we do about the use of time, which is irreplaceable. ~ Jean-Louis Servan-Schreiber

According to people who study such things, we’ve gone from the Industrial Age to the Information Age and are now entering the Idea Age. Creative thinking, often scorned by left-brained thinkers, is taking on a new importance. Richard Florida, author of The Rise of the Creative Class, says,  “Access to talented and creative people is to modern business what access to coal and iron ore was to steel making.” 

I am wildly excited about this turn of events because I’ve known about the power of ideas for a long time. Shortly after I started my first business, I came across a quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes that became a mantra for me. He said, “A person’s mind stretched to a new idea can never return to its original dimensions.” I could see plenty of evidence of that in my own journey.

It saddens me when people talk about a vision and then dismiss it by saying, “It’s just an idea.” JUST an idea?  Think about this: ideas can be…

big

little

crazy

magical

bold

empowering

terrifying

fleeting

life-changing

daunting

abundant

ridiculous

nagging

awakening

potent

trivial

lofty

neglected

startling

far-fetched

on target

provocative

fleeting

brilliant

silly

slow

stuck

elusive

seeds

inspiring

annoying

tenacious

baffling

starved

nurtured

The one thing I know for sure is that the best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas. So this is your official invitation to join me for Ideafest! a month of ideas designed to feed your entrepreneurial spirit. If, as Daniel Pink says, the future belongs to right-brainers, we need to be enthusiastic idea-spotters, gatherers and implementers. I hope you’ll stop back daily to add to your idea collection, find inspiration and launch your best year ever.

Buon Anno!

Another Good Idea: If you want to get focused or simply  need to acquire a power tool for your Joyfully Jobless Journey, join me for Goalsetting 101, a 90-minute teleclass that will show you a creative approach to setting and achieving goals. The teleclass takes place on Tuesday, January 6, 8-9:30 PM Eastern, 5-6:30 PM Pacific. 

Explore More: If you haven’t already done so, read A Whole New Mind by Daniel Pink asap. 

A person’s mind stretched to a new idea can never return to its original dimensions. ~ Oliver Wendell Holmes

One New Year’s Day during my daughter’s college years, she called to  tell me about her celebration the night before. “The party I thought was going to be fun wasn’t,” Jennie said, “and the one I thought was  going to be boring was terrific.”

“What a great metaphor,” I replied. 

“Oh, Mom,” she groaned, “you think everything is a metaphor.”

She was right, of course. I love metaphor and think they’re highly underrated as learning tools. I’m not alone in thinking so. In his wonderful book, Growing a Business, Paul Hawken suggests that the best training for running a business is gardening. I have always found the parallels fascinating and thought of it again when I came across an article about Geri Larkin’s book Plant Seed, Pull Weed

Here’s what you need to do, says Larkin, if you want to have a great garden:

1. Want a great garden

2. Do what needs doing

3. See what’s in front of you

4. Share its abundance

5. Give it your enthusiasm

6. Keep the weeds at bay

7. Have patience

8. Harvest its joys

These steps may sound simple—obvious, even—but they require mindfulness and continuous practice. Just like meditation or gardening or raising baby humans. However, if you want to have a great business you couldn’t find a better outline. Nice metaphor, huh?

The vast majority of success stories are written by the plodders. ~ Paul Hawken