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. It 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.”

Psychologist Eda LeShan said that middle-age occurs when you realize that  you won’t live long enough to read all the books you want to read. According to LeShan’s definition, some of us were born middle-aged.

Finding the time to read isn’t just a problem of our busy, modern world. Back in the 14th Century, Italian poet Francesco Petrarca faced the same dilemma and solved his conflict this way: “Whether I am being shaved, or having my hair cut, whether I am riding on horseback or taking my meals, I either read myself or get someone to read to me.”

Doubling up on activities is, of course, one way of squeezing in more reading time. Here are several other tips gleaned from voracious readers.

° Carry a book with you at all times. Paperbacks are wonderfully portable and make it easy to tuck a favorite into your purse or briefcase and use those unexpected free moments while your waiting to read a chapter or two. iPads and Kindle are other popular mobile companions.

Some readers finish a number of books every year in those odd moments waiting for the dentist or lunch companion.

° Eliminate something else that takes your time. What habitual time-users fill your days? Mind-numbing reality shows? Adjusting your schedule ever so slightly could open up reading space. Take a look.

° Listen to audiobooks. Authors and actors narrate both fiction and nonfiction titles—and the list of titles keeps growing. I’ve finished several books just running errands around town.

I find them indispensable for longer road trips. Audiobooks are also great when housework is being done.

° Travel by public transportation. If it’s possible to take a bus or train, rather than drive yourself, you can get lots of reading done in transit. The London Tube is full of readers, as are other subways, buses and trains.

° Wear your iPod. Just don’t turn it on. If your reading time takes place in a noisy lunchroom or airplane, don a headset or earbuds. It will block outside noises and deter others from chatting with you when you’d rather be reading.

° Don’t finish books that you don’t enjoy. Sounds obvious to me, but many folks think there’s something wrong with stopping midway through a book. Nonsense. Get on to another that brings more pleasure.

° Learn to skim. Time expert Alan Lakein suggests, “When you pick up a book, start by reading the headlines in the book jacket. Then glance through the book quickly, looking for something of interest to you…Your job in reading a book is to find the key ideas and understand their application to your situation.”

That only works for nonfiction, of course.

° Have a regular reading time daily. Even reading for 15 minutes every day will yield big results over time. Tune into your own special body clock and discover the times when you feel less energetic, less creative. Take advantage of these lower energy times to schedule your reading. For many people, bedtime is still their favorite time to enjoy a good book.

° Make reading a high priority. Books should feed your imagination as well as provide information. Be eclectic in your reading and clear about why it matters to you. Even in this high tech world, booklovers continue to delight at the smell and feel of a book in their hands telling a story that transports.

Devoted readers smile in agreement at Anna Quindlen’s observation: “I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people whose idea of decorating is to add more bookshelves.”



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.





When I woke up on Saturday morning, I realized I was halfway through my seminar series at UNLV in Las Vegas. Little did I know that the day was also going to bring a parade of unusually fascinating people.

After getting ready for the day, I headed to the hotel coffee shop. As I was having my first (and only) coffee of the day, I decided to check messages on my iPad.

There was only one other person in the shop, a young man with his MacBook set up, checking messages on his iPhone while listening to his iPod.  Ah, I thought, a fellow member in the Cult of Apple.

A few minutes later, he interrupted me and asked if I’d watch his things while he ran to the restroom. When he returned, I asked him where he was from. “Where do you think?” he countered.

“I think you’re from the UK,” I replied. He said I was correct and we began talking. He told me that he was on a long trip to the US that began in Miami, continued in Austin, and after his week in Las Vegas he planned to head to San Diego until his return home in the early May.“I need to get some work done so I’m ready to be in one place for a while,” he said.

Since I interrogate everyone I can about their work, I asked him what he did. Turns out he runs his own online business.He said the first two years had been difficult, but now in the third year he had made some changes and was seeing  success. He confided that he was eager to be totally portable.

I asked him if he’d encountered Marianne Cantwell, but she wasn’t familiar to him. Within a minute he had located information on her book Be a Free Range Human and was ready to acquire a copy.

When I casually mentioned that my testimonial was on the cover of Marianne’s book, he asked if Making a Living Without a Job was available on Kindle. He said he was going to order that, too.

That jolly encounter was just the beginning, however. Both of my Saturday seminars were filled with delightful students.

There was an enthusiastic young man who told us that he was annoyed about all the plastic straws he was throwing away everyday. So he found someone on Etsy to make him his very own reusable wooden straw. (Who knew?)

There was Pete Young who had flown in on Friday from Seattle for my programs. He said that for years he’d been in sales and traveled constantly. “This is the first plane I’ve been on in six years,” he grinned.

Before my final seminar of the series, a man came in the room, walked over and asked if I recognized him. He looked familiar, but I couldn’t get any farther than that. “1998. Burnsville Community Ed. Norm Kunselmann,” he said.

Of course!

Norm was the permanently cheerful program director I’d worked with back in Minnesota. He had relocated to Las Vegas and was about to start working with UNLV’s continuing education program.

Then there was one of my favorite moments of the day. When Patrice Snead, a returning student who coaches women entrepreneurs, walked up to ask me a question, I asked one first. “How tall are you?”

She laughed and said her official height was 5’11’’. Then she said, “When I’m at networking events or out meeting people, I sometimes say, ‘I’m so tall I can see opportunities you might miss.’”

Best of all, there had been plenty of networking and resource sharing going on in all four of my programs as this curious group got to know each other.

Apparently, it was a fine weekend to be a gypsy teacher. This morning Tama Kieves had this to say about her time in New York:

Last night after my A Course of Miracles workshop in NYC, a bunch of us spontaneously went out to Whole Foods. We closed the place down with laughter. Doing the work you love can create soul “family” for you, income stream, & joy. What is not “safe” about this?

Yesterday I spent a great deal of time browsing through back issues of Winning Ways newsletter. Even though I’ve been publishing it for twenty-six years, I’m always delightfully surprised when I go back and come across an article or idea or quote that I had forgotten—or forgotten to put to work in my business.

As I reread things I’d written more than a decade ago, I knew that I wanted to share several of the stories on this blog. After all, collecting entrepreneurial stories is a valuable aspect of building an inspired business and I love passing along those that catch my fancy.

For example, I came across reference to a study that found almost anyone can be a boss, but not everyone is cut out to be a subordinate.

So even though I’m a bit late in getting started this month, I’m excited that our theme for August is Catch the Spirit. I decided on that after reading something I wrote in the July/August 2003 issue that seemed a perfect way to set the stage for what’s coming.

I also think it exposes one of the best kept rewards of the Joyfully Jobless Journey. Here it is:

“There’s an unspeakable pleasure attending the life of a voluntary student,” said Oliver Goldsmith. I know he wasn’t talking about entrepreneurs, but I think that’s the real spirit that drives enterprising people.

What can we learn? What if we traded predictability for exciting experiences? What can we discover within ourselves that we didn’t know was there? How can our business be a blessing for those whom it serves?

Those are the kinds of questions that fire our entrepreneurial spirits—and keep us searching for answers.

If fear is holding you back, it’s a sure sign you’ve haven’t caught the spirit yet. Fortunately, it doesn’t take much to change that.

A small success, reclaiming a neglected passion or a glimpse of a bigger vision can do the trick. You can speed up the process by exposing yourself to people who are already infected.

But be warned: while the entrepreneurial spirit is contagious, there’s also no known remedy for it. Once caught, it’s a permanent condition.

The symptoms are easy to spot. You’ll see opportunity everywhere. You’ll have more ideas than you can ever handle. Life will feel like an endless adventure. You may even begin to see symptoms of it spreading to the people around you.

Best of all, you will discover that what once seemed impossible is within reach.

Who’d want to recover from that?

It’s saddened me to watch the demise of independent adult education programs around the country. Not only were these places my favorite spots to teach, they were frequently owned and operated by enthusiastic lifelong learners.

Unfortunately, declining attendance didn’t just make it impossible to continue these programs; when learning isn’t heartily valued, it takes a bigger toll on the community.

Living in the information explosion that is our modern world, it’s easy to forget that there’s a big difference between acquiring information and genuine learning.

There’s also a dynamic that occurs in a roomful of others who share our curiosity that can’t be duplicated on our own.

Several years ago, Kevin Byrne, an adult learning coordinator, shared some scientific evidence for continuing education. “There is evidence that learning something—anything—new will cause our brains to make structural changes. These changes allow us to solve more complex problems and to make connections that seem inspired. We are literally smarter when we take up a learning activity.”

Byrne goes on to share a story about Dr. Marion Diamond’s research on rat brains. A professor of anatomy at the University of California Berkeley, Dr. Diamond spent two decades studying the effects of learning environments on rats.

When they were taken out of typical laboratory cages and placed in enriched environments—lots of rat toys and rat puzzles—the very structure of the rats’ brains changed in as little as four days.

These enriched rats solved mazes and puzzles faster than they could before landing in the toy-rich cages. By every measure, they got smarter.

There’s an equally interesting downside: when the enriched rats were placed again in ordinary cages, their brains changed again. They got dumber.

Age didn’t matter. But the type of activity mattered a lot. Diamond’s rats had to be actively involved with their enriching toys and puzzles to gain the higher I.Q. Just watching other rats playing did nothing at all for the brains of the spectator vermin.

Byrne says, “Of course, rat/human analogies are always somewhat suspect, but if Dr. Diamond is correct taking German Language or even French Braiding can actually make you smarter than watching 100 hours of NOVA.”

If brain fitness comes from the process of learning, rather than what is actually learned, it just makes sense to learn something new as often as possible. This is a participatory, not a spectator, undertaking.

Not only will you be a more interesting person, you’ll be a more successful entrepreneur, parent, citizen. And, of course, your brain will love you for it.


It’s no coincidence, it seems to me, that successful entrepreneurs are also enthusiastic lifelong learners. Yet many new businessowners are delighted to discover that running a business is an on-going learning adventure—and they get to design their own curriculum.

Entrepreneurial learning bears little resemblance to more conventional educational experiences. Instead of spending long hours sitting at a desk, entrepreneurial education looks more like working in a laboratory where the process goes something like this: explore, test, share.

Consider TOMS shoe company found Blake Mycoskie. In his new book, Start Something That Matters, this successful young entrepreneur gives us a glimpse into his feelings about a favorite tool of the perpetual learner.

He writes, “When I moved onto a 200-square foot sailboat, I had no room for belongings. So I divested myself, selling and giving away almost everything, keeping only sporting and the books I loved.

“One day, when I own a house, I’ll keep a full library of books. Books are different from other possessions—they’re more like friends.”

A Chinese proverb reminds us that, “Learning is weightless, a treasure you can always carry easily.” If you’re reading this blog, you probably don’t need to be convinced.

Nevertheless, I wanted to pass along some other thoughts about the importance of learning. You might want to hang on to some of these wise words. They could come in handy on a day when resistance is trying to talk you out of attending a seminar or you’re feeling uncomfortable about acquiring a new skill.

The illiterate of the future will not be the person who cannot read. It will be the person who cannot learn. ~ Alvin Toffler

Beauty can happen in an instance to the well-stocked mind. ~ Reynolds Pearce

There is an unspeakable pleasure attending the life of the voluntary student. ~ Oliver Goldsmith

If money is your only hope for independence, you will never have it. The only real security in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability. ~ Henry Ford

Vacant lots and vacant minds attract the most rubbish. ~ Arnold Glasgow

One learns by doing a thing; for though you think you know it, you have no certainty until you try. ~ Sophocles

In times of change, learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists. ~ Eric Hoffer

If you’re a true student of what you’re doing and a lover of your business activity, then study what you’ve done to understand what you could have done better. ~ Steve Wynn

The minute you’re not learning, I believe you’re dead. ~ Jack Nicholson

The good life is one inspired by love and guided by knowledge. ~ Bertrand Russell


If you’d like to know more about Start Something That Matters, check out this rave review from the Wall Street Journal. Doing Good By Shoeing Well


Yesterday I realized that we were entering the 90-Day Stretch leading up to the Joyfully Jobless Jamboree. Since the 90 day time frame is one of the best power tools I’ve discovered for creating focus and making regular new discoveries, I  know where my attention will be in the coming weeks.

If you want to accomplish more, make your business diverse and fascinating, and enrich your life enormously, I urge you to make 90-Day Projects a regular activity.

Imagine how rich your life could become if you took up the practice of finding new things to explore four times a year. In forty years’ time, that would add up to 160 new discoveries.

The simplicity of this plan is that you do each thing as fully as possible—one thing at a time. It’s a way to grow and stretch yourself by focusing on a single new activity.

Been wanting to try contra dancing? For three months, become the world’s most enthusiastic contra dancer. If at the end of 90 days, you’ve had your fill, move on to salsa. If you’re really hooked on contra dancing at the end of three months, find a way to work it into your life on a permanent basis.

* Begin with the end in mind. To get started, take a look at your lifetime goals list. (You don’t have a lifetime goals list? Make writing one your first 90–Day Project.) What item catches your fancy?

Pick one that suits you and give some thought to your intention in pursuing it. Do you want to enhance your creativity? Acquire a skill that will be useful in your business?

Meet some new and interesting people? Travel?

* Give it a theme. A friend who had been procrastinating about getting her writing career launched called her project Anne Learns How To Market Her Writing. This led her to read several books on the subject and take a couple of adult ed classes.

Before the 90 days were over, she’d sent out five query letters and gotten a writing assignment. Having a theme, kept her on track.

A theme helps add focus and raises awareness so you notice what supports that theme—and eliminate things that do not.

* Immerse, don’t dabble. While you’re in the midst of a project, be fully there. Immersion is popular with language schools and it works for other things, too. Make what Barbara Sher calls a “temporary permanent commitment.”

No, you don’t have to stick with this for the rest of your life, but be totally committed for all 90 days. There will be times when you’re bored or lose interest. That’s just part of the learning process. Keep at it anyway.

* Include the unpredictable. If you’ve always wanted to learn Swahili, do it. You don’t have to have a reason or application for using what you’ve acquired. Personal growth is the top priority here and learning for its own sake is commendable.

* Go for variety. For nine months of the year, Todd builds twig furniture in his home workshop. When summer rolls around, he hits the road, selling his wares at Arts and Crafts festivals around the country. It’s a huge contrast to the solitary time that makes up most of his year.

“Getting out and talking to people, explaining how I work and so forth can be exhilarating and exhausting. But it always fires me up for my creative time.”

At its best, the 90–Day Project generates synergy partly because it provides a contrast.

* Get involved in a parallel universe. Anyone who takes up a new learning activity quickly discovers that there’s a whole group of people already engaged in that pursuit. Part of the fun of being a neophyte is meeting more advanced aficionados.

This is also a great way to make progress on your goals. Want to lead a tour to the Mayan ruins someday? Create a 90–Day Project to research Mayan history.

Then create another to learn all about organizing and promoting a tour. Then create another to market your  Mayan Exploration.

Not only is this a logical way to move ahead, making smaller projects out of a bigger project can eliminate a great deal of anxiety and fear. After all, you are just researching, learning and experimenting.  There’s nothing too scary about that.

There are other bonuses to the 90–Day Project as well. You’ll become more disciplined, committed and, best of all, more interesting.  So go feed your Renaissance soul with a new adventure. Then in three months do it again.

My grandchildren and their parents arrived yesterday afternoon so it’s a wonderfully chaotic time around World Headquarters. (Translation: no time to write a new post.)

So I’m rerunning a post from a few months ago that you may have missed…or are willing to revisit.

Author Robert G. Allen wrote, “The will to prepare to win is more important than the will to win. Preparing usually means doing those kinds of things that failures don’t like to do.

“ It means studying and learning. It means reading books, going to seminars. It means not being afraid to corner experts and ask foolish questions.”

As a person who has traveled across the country to attend a seminar and even further to conduct one, I can’t imagine why everyone hasn’t discovered the joy of participating in events that have the power to change our lives for the better.

Getting yourself to a seminar may, in fact, be more important than what happens in the seminar.

When you are willing to spend your time and money to expose yourself to new ideas, new techniques for doing things, and new people who can add their enthusiasm to your dreams, you’re also sending a strong message to your subconscious mind about your own worth.

Conversely, not investing this way also sends a strong message. As Sondra Ray says, “When you say, ‘I don’t have enough money to go to that self-improvement seminar or buy that book, it’s almost like saying, ‘I am not a good investment.’ The best way to make money is to invest in yourself.”

What would you like to be better at? Speaking German? Creative marketing? Managing your time? Boosting your emotional intelligence?

You can accelerate your progress at anything by putting yourself in a roomful of people who are on a similar quest.

Best of all, an investment in yourself is the one thing that no one can ever take from you. No matter what is happening in the economy or where interest rates are headed, the investment you make in your personal growth—and continue to make— never stops paying dividends.

“In times of change,” said Eric Hoffer, “learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

With all the resources—the books, the seminars, the insights of  others—available, it makes no sense to skip the critical preparation stage.

Because, in the the final analysis, winning isn’t about what you have or even what you do. Winning is about becoming the person you were meant to become no matter how long and difficult that journey may be.

Take advantage of every  resource you can find. You never know what might happen if you do.

You could be sitting in a roomful of strangers and suddenly meet yourself.


If you only attend one more event this year, I urge you to make it the Joyfully Jobless Jamboree. Filled with ideas, inspiration and opportunities to connect with others who are building their own exciting enterprises, this is going to be two of the most memorable days we can deliver.

Visit the Jamboree website and see what’s coming on October 15 & 16 in Austin, TX and make plans to join us now.

“There’s an unspeakable pleasure,” observed Oliver Goldsmith, “attending the life of a voluntary student.” It’s no coincidence that the most successful entrepreneurs are enthusiastic voluntary students.

Author Jess Lair once said that when it came to living his life, he wanted the best teachers he could find. That made perfect sense to me and I’ve continued to build my own portfolio of teachers.

Some of them stick around for a long time; others come along and share an idea or show me how to do something in a better way and then I move on. 

In the past few days, I’ve encountered three insightful fellows who all added to my learning. 

One of them is Dave Courvoisier who is best known here in Las Vegas as a television anchorman. He also is building a voiceover business and actively shares tips and information with others who are doing the same.

His article on making better videos caught my eye and I promptly filed it for future reference. If you’re an aspiring vlogger or YouTube star, check out these on camera tips from a pro to improve the look of your videos.

As I told my Facebook friends, I don’t always agree with Ben Stein, but yesterday he and I were soulmates when I heard his piece “Follow Your Heart: Risk Be Damned” on CBS Sunday Morning. Don’t miss it.

Finally, there’s Jason Mraz. I’ve been a big fan of his music and became even more intrigued when I learned he’s also an avocado farmer. After seeing this piece on MSNBC Business, I realize he’s also a kindred spirit.