Some experiences simply do not translate. You have to go to know.  ~ Kobi Yamada

Although there are an unlimited number of ways to make the transition from employee to entrepreneur or from current business to a new profit center, people stuck in either-or thinking overlook one of the best options.

What I’m talking about is a variation of what Barbara Sher calls “a temporary permanent commitment.” Instead of disposing of all current enterprises, you find a creative way to test your passion.

You’re in a much better position, after all, to assess an idea once you have actively engaged in its pursuit. In many instances, you’ll have to create your own opportunities, but don’t overlook these resources that can allow you to audition an idea and decide if it belongs in your repertoire.

° Intern. Small businessowners have been eager users of intern talent during the summertime when ambitious college students are looking for some hands-on experience.

There’s a growing trend, however, toward internship programs for adults. Since many older career changers are not limited to summer availability as their younger counterparts are, this is an idea that’s catching on.

° Volunteer Vacations. In the past decade, volunteer vacations have grown in popularity with people wanting to donate time and energy to helping others. Global Volunteers has been one organization leading the way with programs located around the world.

It seems to me that there’s another reward of participating. Let’s say you’re contemplating a long term move abroad to a country that’s caught your fancy. If you’ve only visited as a tourist, you may have an incomplete picture of what it would be like to actually live there.

That’s where a volunteer vacation can give you another point of view. In most instances, you’ll be working alongside residents of the country, living in small towns and interacting in a way that tourists don’t normally manage to do.

° Apprentice. Another old idea that’s seen a revival involves an experienced person entering into a long term relationship with a novice to teach what they know. A woman in one of my workshops had set up such an arrangement with an artist she admired and worked happily alongside for several months.

If your desires are aimed at skilled trades, most states have information on apprenticeship programs that also involve classroom instruction.

° Design Your Own Curriculum. Remember those required classes you had to take (and pay for) in college even if you weren’t  slightly interested? Don’t let those boring experiences keep you out of the classroom now.

This time around, you get to decide what you want to learn. A bonus of being a regular student is that you can sort out your passions from your passing fancies and move along to things that really suit you.

° 90 Day Trial. A quarter of a year is a nifty time frame for auditioning an idea. You must do more than just carry it around. As Patricia T. O’Conner points out, “An idea in your head is merely an idle notion. But an idea written down, that’s the beginning of something.”

It’s pretty simple, actually. For 90 days you focus, experiment and reserve judgment. Once the time is up, then it’s time to take inventory, evaluate and decide if your idea deserves another 90 days or, even, a permanent  role in your life.

Not  sure if your idea passed the audition or not?  Use this guideline from David Whyte: “Anyone or anything that does not bring you alive, is too small for you.”

Albert Einstein once pointed out that everything should be made as simple as possible—but no simpler. This certainly can be applied to any business that wants to keep its equilibrium.

For most entrepreneurs, that requires constant vigilance since a business can become complicated and cumbersome in the blink of an eye. Here are some guidelines to keep that from happening.

° Make simplicity a goal. It’s not enough to say you want to simplify your business. Identify specific measurable results that will indicate that you have made your systems, marketing, accounting, etc. as simple as possible.

° Work on one profit center at a time. Give a single project your full attention by keeping papers or items related to other projects out of sight. When it’s time to move on to the next project, stash things related to the last project in a file or closet or drawer.

° Avoid confusion. “Clutter and messy work areas cause confusion and irritability,” observes Alexandra Stoddard. “Give your mind a spa and take some time out to rearrange your office. Block off a few hours on your calendar and use the time to putter. Edit out the unnecessary.”

° Identify spendthrift behavior and eliminate it. New gadgets and technologies can be seductive, but refuse to purchase anything for your business unless it makes a positive contribution.

° Keep projects separate. If you manage several profit centers, color code the work in each of them for ease in locating and filing.

° Keep a single calendar. A portable system is ideal. If you write appointments, deadlines, etc. in several locations, you’ll waste time transferring them from place to place.

° Hire a professional organizer to help you develop the best system for you. Make certain you understand how to maintain it as easily as possible.

° Clean out your computer and cabinet files at regular intervals. Make a note on your calendar every 60 or 90 days to tidy up so things don’t accumulate.

° Designate space. My grandmother’s favorite saying was, “A place for everything and everything in its place.” As I’ve discovered, uncluttering is as much about creating places as it is about throwing away.

°  Identify your nemesis and make a special effort to deal with that. Going after the biggest problem—and solving it—often makes solving lesser problems a snap.

When I tuned into my public radio station this morning, I broke into a smile when I discovered they were playing one of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos. I’m not alone in loving that music. Classical music stations report that listener surveys always list the Concertos as a top favorite.

Did you know that this glorious series began life as a huge disappointment?

They were written as an audition for a commission Bach hoped to get with the city of Brandenburg. Bach lost the competition, but no one seems to remember who the winner was nor what music was voted superior.

Bach, of course, is not the only creative soul whose work met with failure before success came along.

According to my calculation, Dame Judi Dench has appeared in more than 75 films. In her autobiography, And Furthermore, she says she thought her acting career would be exclusively on stage.

“I had come to the firm conclusion that I had no real future in the world of film,” she writes. “When I went for my first screen test, I walked in and they were perfectly nice to me.

“Then this man, having looked at me for a long time, said, ‘Well Miss Dench, I have to tell you that you have every single thing wrong with your face.’

“So I just very quietly got up and left. I thought there is no point in going on with this.”

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.

What project have you tucked away because it didn’t get off to a great beginning? There are all sorts of reasons why success doesn’t happen the first time out.

Maybe you were ahead of your time. Or, perhaps, you needed to get some experience that would help you find a bigger and better way of doing things.

Or you may have met with failure because you hadn’t yet connected with the proper person. Why not take another look?

While I’ve never learned to love rejection, I have a calmer perspective since encountering some brilliant advice from 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 the address.’ Just keep looking for the right address.”

You might want to memorize that.

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. Here are a few ideas to borrow.

° Pick a number under ten and use it as a 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 is) 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.

Years ago, when I was floundering around trying 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 finished a program, she’d spend time marketing her services until she’d booked just one more. It’s been a policy I have used ever since with great success.

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

° 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.

° Numbers work equally well for subtracting 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. It’s far less overwhelming if you break it down into bite sized chunks.

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 necessary, but not necessarily pleasant, tasks can break through procrastination and get positive momentum going.

° 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

*  Things to study

*  New adventures to schedule

*  Self-bossers to invite to  breakfast

*  Fresh marketing tools to create

*  Media interviews to book

*  Nonessentials 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.

Although my sister Nancy moved to Greece in the early seventies, it wasn’t until twenty years later that I made my first visit. Not only were the ruins of Athens, Delphi and Corinth new to me, the trip was filled with many other firsts.

I ate food I’d never encountered before, made my way around a country with a different alphabet than ours, and haggled with shopkeepers. All of these new experiences made the trip unforgettable—and taught me things I’d never have learned otherwise.

Of course, we don’t need to travel to distant lands to find new adventures.

From time to time, I do a little inventory to see how many new experiences I’m giving myself. I often think of Gelett Burgess’ observation: “If in the last few years you haven’t discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead.”

I have no desire to end every year with the same opinions and experiences with which I started it. One of the best ways to insure that doesn’t happen is to embrace as many firsts as I can squeeze in.

Firsts are important not only for the pleasure that they bring. They’re also a concrete way to measure growth and progress.

If we aren’t constantly putting ourselves into new situations, trying new things, challenging a fear, opening ourselves to new ideas, meeting different people, how can be possibly become all that we’re meant to be?

“The person who never alters their opinion,” sputtered William Blake, “is like standing water and breeds reptiles of the mind.”

Without a steady stream of new experiences, we are in danger of becoming stagnate. I’ve met too many people who are living proof that this is so.

Some experiences really do only come around once in a lifetime. We don’t get a second chance at some of life’s firsts.

Our first kiss, our baby’s first steps, opening our first business, can only happen once.

There are other firsts we’re happy to have as a singular experience, like eating squid or spending the night in an airport after a flight is canceled.

Sometimes once is enough, but we can’t really know for sure unless we give it a try.

If you really want to build daily excitement and energy, challenge yourself regularly to do things for the first time. Remember that perfection and mastery are not your goals.

Learning more about yourself and expanding your pleasure options are what you’re after here.

Who knows? You might be one of those folks who tries bungee jumping to celebrate your ninetieth birthday. Even if you aren’t, you will never grow dull if you keep looking for ways to experience as many firsts as you can possibly imagine.

So when was the last time you did something for the first time?

Several years ago, two friends and I decided to take a trip to Las Vegas in July. (Insider tip: there are big bargains during the hot summer months.) Since both of them had been working on big writing projects, their cash flow wasn’t great.

Within a week, however, they had both secured the necessary funds. How did they do it?

No, neither of them held up a 7-11. Being self-employed, they had Option Banks, a collection of ways to generate cash flow when needed.

In the olden days when I worked for a fixed salary, I operated very differently than I do now in regard to goals. In fact, I was more experienced at wishful thinking than I was at achieving goals.

Should a new idea cross my mind, I would see if it fit into my budget. It hardly ever did, of course, unless it was very tiny. In those days, money—or the lack thereof—controlled my dreambuilding.

Needless to say, my dreams shrunk to almost nothing.

Self-employment changed all that. Now I decide what I really want. Then I figure out how to make it happen.

This is considerably more fun than my old system.

Here’s how it works.

A couple of months ago, my sister Nancy proposed that we celebrate her birthday next year with a trip to Provence. The moment her message arrived, I replied, “I’m in.” My other three siblings did the same.

I began putting this project together by checking my travel fund. Years ago, I had read a suggestion to create separate accounts for different projects. It was an idea I heartily embraced.

However, with no clear goal, my travel fund had been neglected. I could have accessed funds for the trip from elsewhere, but I decided it would be more fun to focus on fattening my designated account.

My first step was to offer a short sale on my teleclass audios. Within a few days, I had doubled my travel money.

Since I am highly motivated by visible progress, I came up with several other small projects that added funds.

Then the projects began coming to me. I got an invitation to do a seminar in London and scheduled it for the end of my trip to France.

My doctor recommended me for a medical study. The timing was perfect, the schedule was flexible, the project could help others. Being a human guinea pig would also bring in a third of my trip funds.

If you’ve never done so (or haven’t done so for awhile), I urge you to create your own project and find a new way to fund it. Pick something that really excites you, something you truly desire.

Start with something small, but meaningful.

Then get busy putting it together. The real reward in this is NOT the goal itself. The big prize is the confidence and creativity boost that comes with making things happen.

As Alan Cohen reminds us, “Money should be the servant of your visions, not their master.”

 

My 5-year-old grandson Zachy started Kung Fu lessons this fall. It has not been an easy experience.

So when I got a call from his mother last week, I was delighted to hear her say, “Zachy earned his yellow belt today. Can you come over and watch Noah while I take Zachy out for ice cream?” I was on it.

Celebrating small victories is more important than our busy selves sometimes realize. It’s reinforcement of the most basic sort that we’re on the right track.

It’s also fun to celebrate, of course.

We build a track record or a body of work by placing a high value on small doings. This seems to be a well-kept secret.

Appreciating small steps does not, as some seem to think, imply that we’re only capable of small achievements. I see evidence of that all the time.

In August, my sister Nancy sent an email to me and our three other siblings proposing we plan a trip to Provence next spring to celebrate her birthday. Before the day was over, we’d all signed on.

As plans began to take shape, I decided this project would be even more fun if I created some special activities to fund my travels.

Although I always have a travel account, it wasn’t currently large enough to support two weeks abroad. I had the funds available in other places, but liked the challenge of making a special project of it.

What can I do right now to get things rolling? I asked myself. I decided to run a sale on audios of my teleclasses. Within a few days, my travel account had doubled.

Before I could plan what the next project would be, an unexpected opportunity came to me when I got a call (thanks to my doctor) inviting me to participate in a medical study for which I am well-qualified.

I was immediately interested because I thought it would be of help to other people. As the initial phone interview was taking place, I learned that the timing worked well with my schedule.

After we worked out some of the logistics, the interviewer told me I would be paid for my participation. More money for my travel account, I thought.

When I did some quick calculations, I discovered that this project would double the money I already had accumulated.

More small doings. More visible progress.

I’m thinking it may be time to go out for ice cream.

On my way out of the bank this morning, I picked up several deposit slips. As I walked back to my car, I suddenly remembered that a friend once jokingly pointed out that a sign of prosperity is using up your deposit slips before using up your check blanks.

Quaint, huh? In this day of online banking and virtual commerce, we don’t need to ever have direct contact with currency. Advertisers and credit card companies have done a brilliant job of making money an abstract concept.

Unfortunately, too many of us have failed to realize what a disservice we’re doing to ourselves by keeping away from direct contact. Consider, however, that advisors who help people get out of debt are quick to recommend destroying credit cards and only spending cash.

During the days when I began to deal with my own poverty consciousness, I read some advice from Sondra Ray that dramatically demonstrated the power of personal contact.Ray suggested that a way to remove negative thoughts about money was to procure a $100 bill and carry it with you. The other part of this exercise is that you’re only allowed to spend it if you can immediately replace it.

Doing so seemed both bold and scary to me at the time, but I also understood the rationale behind it. As Ray points out, when you are about to spend your last small bill and go to remove it from your wallet, you’ll see the $100 next to it and your thought is more apt to be, “I have plenty,” rather than, “I don’t have any money.”

I’ve never been without a $100 bill since. I’ve also never had the stress and despair that haunted me in earlier times in relationship to money.

Although I frequently tell audiences that self-employment is where we come to make peace with money, I also know that this is a foreign concept for those of us who inherited all sorts of unhealthy beliefs about the stuff.

It seems to me that we’re about as clueless about money as the Victorians were about sex. I also suggest that having a healthy attitude about money is a do-it-yourself project.

A fine starting point for that comes from Charles Handy in his book The Hungry Spirit.

He writes, “In most of life we can recognize ‘enough.’ We know when we have had enough to eat, when the heating or air conditioning is enough, when we have enough sleep or done enough preparation.

“More than enough is then unnecessary and can even be counterproductive. Those who do not know what is enough, cannot move on. they do not explore new worlds, they do not learn.

“They are trapped in a rut of their own success, always wanting more of the same, always dissatisfied, never knowing the feeling of abundance.”

Handy goes on to talk about how vital it is for self-employed people, which he and his wife both are, to determine what enough means. He points out that this does not mean scrimping and just getting by.

It also doesn’t mean accepting anyone else’s definition of enough. (Millionaire status? Six-figure income? Says who?)

It starts with a clear vision of what you want your life to be like, what matters most to you. It’s understanding what Alan Cohen meant when he said, “Money should be the servant of your visions, not the master.”

What does Money Ease really mean to you?  Once you sincerely figure that out, the Money Dragons will vanish.

It may not be easy, but it’s so worth it.

Long before I began my life as a gypsy teacher, I was a gypsy student. I attended seminars on personal growth, on marketing, on building a business as often as I could. Since the teachers I wanted to study with weren’t showing up in my small town, I spent a great deal of time and money traveling to learn.

What I learned (among many other priceless things) is that seminar rooms are my natural habitat. I love to learn and I really love being in places where new ideas and insights also show up.

I began meeting people with the same determination to grow and prosper. Horizons expanded. I acquired a passport and began going places I had only dreamed about.

Putting myself in a roomful of others who had similar dreams and aspirations was powerful. Not only did I began to gather useful tools that I could put to work building the life of my dreams, simply being surrounded by others convinced me that I wasn’t crazy for wanting to live an adventurous life.

I’m beginning to realize what an uncommon experience that is.

Most of us have grown up in a culture that seems to say that education is something we finish in our late teens or early twenties. We drift away from the places and learning experiences that were part of our youth.

Too many of us have been taught—in all sorts of subtle ways—that adulthood is about making our choices and repeating an agenda day after day, year after year.

Fortunately, more and more perfectly respectable adults are sneaking back into classrooms, trying new things, exploring new interests. Best of all, they’re discovering that regular participation in seminars and classes is an extraordinarily good investment of their time and money.

It also has an impact on success. A big impact.

According to the National Business Incubation Association, 80-90% of businesses are still operating after five years where the founder has received entrepreneurial training and continues with a network group, as compared to a 10% success rate for those who do not.

And our explorations don’t always have to be about new subjects. Repetition is the way we learn a new language and it also is the way we grow our entrepreneurial selves.

Every so often, I have a participant in my Making a Living Without a Job seminar who tells me they’re back for another go around. After attending a few years earlier, they’ve got their business up and running, but they’re ready to go farther.

Coming back to a seminar they took as a want-to-be-entrepreneur is not the same experience as it was the first time around. Different parts of the seminar are useful to them now that they barely noticed on an earlier visit.

It reminds me of Clifton Fadiman’s observation that when we reread a book and find more in it it’s not because there’s more in the book; it’s because there’s more in us.

Even after all these years, I find that anytime I wake up in the morning and realize it’s a seminar day my next thought is, “Somebody’s life is going to change today!”

That somebody may have a new vision that wasn’t there before. Or they might be getting a missing piece of their puzzle. Or it may just be the pleasure that comes from connecting with others who are open and eager to exploration.

As Caroline Myss reminds us, “We evolve at the rate of the tribe we’re plugged into.” Putting yourself in a room with the tribe you want to be part of can be the start of a wonderful new adventure.

Of course, you’ve got to show up if you’re going to plug in.

 

 

 

 

It appears that I have fallen in love with the mandolin. This was no overnight love affair, however. It kind of sneaked up on me.

As a longtime fan of the music of Antonio Vivaldi, I had heard my share of mandolins and associated the instrument with music from the past.

That all began to change when I attended a performance of Prairie Home Companion and heard the amazing Peter Ostroushko play. Nevertheless, I wasn’t ready to commit.

Then it happened. Several weeks ago, while listening to the weekly broadcast of PHC, Ostroushko performed the most glorious piece, something he’d written to celebrate a friend’s wedding. I didn’t remember the name of it, but when I saw he had a new CD, I decided to take a chance.

Sure enough, The A and A Waltz was included. It’s been the soundtrack in my car ever since.

I’ve been thinking about this slow love affair quite a bit because I suspect when folks hear about passion, they have a vision of being gob-smacked by something that grabs them by the shoulders and won’t put them down. Love at first sight, perhaps.

I don’t think it works that way. In fact, other than the births of my daughter and my grandchildren, I can’t recall any other times when passion was present from the first moment.

More often, it creeps up, like the mandolin, but it doesn’t come at all unless we expose ourselves to new experiences and possibilities. Passion isn’t passive; we have to get involved.

One way of doing that, of course, is to pay attention to the passions of others. People we love dearly and admire genuinely may very well have passions that leave us cold.

On the other hand, passionate people may get our attention simply because of their contagious enthusiasm. I’m not particularly interested in cars, but listening to Car Talk is a frequent pleasure on my weekends at home.

Opening ourselves to things that delight others may deliver lovely surprises we hadn’t anticipated. At the very least, we’ll benefit from the power of enthusiasm that raises our own positive attitude.

At the same time, we need to notice when a passion has passed its sell-by date. It’s extremely easy to spend time doing things out of habit because we failed to notice that passion has fled.

Sometimes when you partake in a long-time activity and find it no longer amuses or informs or entertains, you’ll begin to feel a bit of disappointment, as if you’d been jilted.

Some passions simply have a longer run than others. Just as closets need to be weeded from time to time, so do the activities that are worth our time and attention.

Thinking about collectors and collecting has had me contemplating the role of passion in a slightly different way. How do collectors decide what to gather? What’s the difference between those who build thoughtful and valuable collections and those who are simply packrats?

As I was musing about all this, I stumbled upon a delightful book called Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols, a British journalist and fanatic gardener.

The book  begins with a bit of a confession: “Some fall in love with women; some fall in love with art; some fall in love with death. I fall in love with gardens, which is much the same as falling in love with all three at once.”

Nichols goes on to tell his story of finding a wreck of a place in rural England that required years of diligent labor to transform it into the garden of his dreams. Thus began a perpetual hunt for interesting specimens to add to his collection.

It’s obvious that his passion for plants continued to increase even as the challenges involved expanded as well.

But, of course, passion is like that. It often has us doing things we never imagined we could do—or would do.

Whether that passion is for music, art, cars, food, gardens, social justice or any one of a thousand other things, ultimately passion invites us to become more, to do more, to be more. Eventually those enthusiasms infiltrate other areas of our lives.

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings,” Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us.

Passion is a pointer to where those blessing can be found.

When the mandolin plays or the antique doll at the flea market catches your eye, pay closer attention and see where it leads. Give it time and see if it grows into something spectacular.

And if that doesn’t happen, keep looking. Just don’t insist on love at first sight.