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.”

On July 15, 1993, I woke up feeling excited and apprehensive. The cause of this emotional turmoil had been years in the making. It was publication day for Making a Living Without a Job.

I had spent much of the previous year writing and rewriting and writing some more. But the story truly began decades earlier when I set out on my own rather lonely journey in self-employment.

My experience was very much like Paul Hawken’s who said, “When I started the natural food business in Boston, my business knowledge was scant. I did the best I could and began reading everything I could lay my hands on.

“I subscribed to The Wall Street Journal. It confused me. I read the major business magazines. Their Fortune 500 world seemed irrelevant.

“I sneaked into classes at the Harvard Business School. Their case studies were lunar in their usefulness to my enterprise.

“The more I searched, the more confused I became. The more exposure I gained to the official world of business, the more 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 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.”

Like Hawken, I figured it out for myself and created the kind of enterprise that felt like a perfect fit. After years of happily working on my own, something quite unexpected happened.

When I was a newcomer in Minneapolis, I kept meeting people who seemed both fascinated and envious of my Joyfully Jobless life. One day it dawned on me that I might be able to help them if I shared my experiences.

Fortunately, the local independent adult ed program, Open U, agreed to run my class which I thought was a temporary project, too radical to be popular.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. I had found my genuine right livelihood.

Making a Living Without a Job not only became a regular offering of Open U, it attracted curious learners from around the US and, eventually, Canada and Britain.

Almost from the start, people inquired if I’d written a book. I knew that eventually there would be one, but was not interested in writing it until I had evidence from the field (i.e. seminar attendees) that my ideas worked for others.

When it felt like the time had arrived to work on a book, I decided that it should happen in an unorthodox way. Instead of approaching publishers, I got the crazy idea that I wanted a publisher to find me.

To my delight and amazement, that’s exactly what happened when not one, but three, publishers contacted me. After sorting through the offers, I decided Bantam’s was the best fit for me.

So here I am twenty-one years later with an anniversary to celebrate. Making a Living Without a Job has been in print the entire time, with an updated version appearing in 2009.

No one is more surprised by that than me.

As I now point out to seminar participants, we aren’t always the wisest judge of what our best ideas might be. We’ve got to take them to the marketplace and see what happens.

Or as the writer Anais Nin once advised, “Throw your dreams into space like a kite and you do not know what it will bring back. A new life, a new friend, a new love.”

According to Wikipedia, singer Josh Groban has sold nearly 20 million albums in his short career. One evening he told his Twitter followers that he’d just finished a two hour voice lesson and “think it’s time to turn pro.”

So why would a rich and famous performer keep taking lessons? More to the point, why would a would-be entrepreneur or freelancer or traveler not be investing in their dreams?

It’s that second question that keeps me awake nights.

Brazen Careerist Penelope Trunk had a particularly interesting piece about that called Frugality is a Career Tool.

She wrote “I have earned a lot of money in my life. But I have never had an extravagant life. I don’t own a house. I’ve never bought a new car. I’ve never bought a new piece of living room furniture, and I do not own a single piece of real jewelry. What I have spent money on was always intended to help me with my career. That was so I know that I can always earn money doing something I love.”

If you want good things to happen, you’ve got to take the first step, ask for the date, risk being turned down. Otherwise you’re just practicing wishful thinking, which is neither active nor useful. How do you notify your dreams that you mean business? Here are a few of my favorite ways.

Get equipped. In Making a Living Without a Job, I tell the story about how things changed for me when I splurged (or so it seemed at the time) on a passport. After years of failing to find a way to bring my travel dreams to life, I got serious and started getting ready for a trip. I bought guidebooks, I thought about my itinerary and wardrobe.

In less than a year, I was headed for the UK. Ever since, my passport has been called into service at least twice a year.

Get dressed. When my granddaughter showed up at breakfast wearing a fancy dress and rainboots before heading out to kindergarten, her father took one look and said “Lose the boots.”

Zoe was having none of it. “Dad,” she explained, “I’m an artist. I can wear what I want.”

Costumes are essential to theater and they’re equally essential to building a dream. At the very least, dressing for your dream helps you maintain focus.

Make space. In Eric Maisel’s The Creativity Book, he advises, “By designating a room as your writing study or rearranging your garage so your band can practice in it, you are setting up a sacred space and honoring your commitment to realize your creative potential.”

A successful writer observed, “I don’t know where inspiration comes from, but I know that it shows up at my desk every morning when I sit down to write.”

Get connected. Transplant yourself into a dreambuilding environment as often as possible. Gather with others who are motivated and proactive. Make idea gathering your favorite hobby. Listen to inspiring speakers and read eloquent authors who have taken a higher path.

The upcoming Mastermind Magic: Overcoming Obstacles and Maintaining Momentum is a perfect place to connect and get some sharper tools. This time, Terri Belford and I are holding this powerful event in gorgeous Sedona, AZ.

Refuse to believe that you aren’t a good investment because, quite simply, if you want your dreams to show up, you’ve got to show up first. And when you arrive, show ’em you mean business.

On Monday evening’s Daily Show, the Moment of Zen at the end was a clip of Phiilip Seymour Hoffman speaking at the Golden Globes. When you’re just starting out, he said, you must take every opportunity to act. Even auditions for parts you know you won’t get are important to mastering your craft.

It’s a message that frequently gets lost on mature adults. Sometimes our egos prevent us from embracing the beginner stage of a new project. Sometimes we forget how important it is to keep practicing even after we’ve already invested a great deal of time doing just that.

When I first moved to Minneapolis, I spent a year writing and editing. Although I wasn’t planning to do any speaking during that time, I realized that I certainly wanted to include it in my future repertoire. I also knew that taking a year away from speaking was an invitation for rust to set in.

To my delight, I learned that the Guthrie Theater, which I adored, had openings for backstage tour guides. I applied and soon was spending my Saturday mornings standing on that stage where I had watched Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy perform—as well as unknowns Morgan Freeman and Don Cheadle—sharing the theater’s story with visitors. I answered questions, showed off the rooms where costumes were made and sets built.

It was a perfect fit and when I launched my new seminars a year later, I had almost no stage fright.

Those early days of Making a Living Without a Job also brought invitations to speak to local groups. If I had the time available, I said yes to every request.

Sometimes it was a good fit. Sometimes it wasn’t. Almost always, no money came directly my way. I still said yes. As Hoffman reminded me, there’s value in putting yourself at the front of a room with other people watching.

I considered it valuable practice and, as it turned out, it was also marketing. People began showing up in my seminars after hearing me speak at a meeting or dinner.

We assume that serious actors sign on for a lifetime of auditions. We may not have noticed that successful entrepreneurs do the same.

Why bother?

As conductor Benjamin Zander points out in his marvelous book The Art of Possibility, “It is only when we make mistakes in performance that we can really begin to notice what needs attention. In fact, I actively train my students that when they make a mistake, they are to lift their arms in the air, smile, and say, ‘How fascinating!’ I recommend that everyone try this.”

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.





Several years ago, I confessed to the participants in my Making a Living Without a Job seminar that I was mysteriously drawn to learning to play poker. A man, who looked as if he might have sat at a few poker tables himself, shook his head and said, “You won’t be good at it.”

I laughed and said I knew exactly what he meant. After all, when I was in high school my mother had warned me by saying, “Your problem, Barbara, is that you wear your heart on your sleeve.”

It was not intended as a compliment, of course.

Although I decided not to become a professional poker player, I have created a business that is all about letting me wear my heart on my sleeve.

I’ve been publishing Winning Ways newsletter for 27 years without getting bored. I’m certain my enthusiasm has remained high  because it’s a perfect vehicle for sharing the treasures I uncover in my own Joyfully Jobless Journey.

In fact, a really good business is simply a way to repeatedly share what we love with others.

So it always startles me when I get a friend request on Facebook from someone I don’t know with no profile picture, no biographical information, or, even, a mention of where they live.

In ordinary life, we become friends with people who share our interests or make us laugh or enrich our lives in some way. Over the years, my closest friends have all introduced me to new pleasures and inspired new explorations of things I knew nothing about.

That couldn’t have happened if they kept these passions private.

One of the things I love most about social media is that it becomes another outlet for sharing passions. Anyone of my Facebook friends who is paying attention knows that I am passionate about books, treehouses, and Venice, in addition to being fervent about self-employment.

So this month, I’m going to write about some of those passions on this blog and want to suggest that you consider how things that seem to have nothing to do with your business can actually inspire it.

I love the way Robert Weider puts it: “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum. The creative person looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.”

And then they wear it on their sleeve.

This month I’m sharing postcards from the field. Hearing these stories is one of my favorite parts of my business. This one may sound familiar.


I have been in a terrible slump for seven months since I was unceremoniously shown the door at my corporate workplace. At the same time, I knew this was my chance to escape a career that sucked the life out of me anyway.

However, with no positive feedback for my entrepreneurial ideas, I kept going back to the same old well which had long since dried up. After all, my long resume showed years of accomplishment in my field.

After months of interviewing for jobs I didn’t want and countless hours scouring the Internet, I was still unemployed and more confused than every. So I’ve been on a quest to discover a new way of living, a better way, that makes me feel alive again.

But I had no guidance, only naysayers.

Ever hopeful that enough research would unearth the path to my new life, last Friday night I threw on some jeans and a sweatshirt and headed to the bookstore. I went straight for the business section and gathered as many books as I could carry over to the threadbare couch, thinking how well that tired, beat-up thing matched my outfit and spirit.

Carefully, I searched through each book for some glimmer of inspiration but they all seemed written for someone else until I picked up Making a Living Without a Job. It struck a chord immediately and I couldn’t wait to get it home and devour it.

I wrote down the ideas that seemed to be pouring out of my head faster than I could capture them.

Here’s the thing: I had these ideas before, but whenever I  looked back at them, they seemed foolish and impossible. I was listening to all the naysayers in my life, a tape I play over and over whenever I try to do something that is not mainstream.

I simply need to throw that tape away, but I guess I hung onto it as the voice of reason that kept me from investigating my wild ideas and crazy dreams. It really is not my own fear, however, that has held me back. It is the fear of others.

I can’t throw away the people who care about me, but I will not share my dreams anymore. The advice I receive paralyzes me from seeking what I really want and pushes me to search for a job that meets with their approval.

Their ideas and mine are so completely at opposite ends of the spectrum, I have been doomed to a merry-go-round of indecision.

Barbara, your voice is now the one in my head. I look at you and what you have created and I am profoundly inspired. I am encouraged to take the leap and do what I was put on this earth to do.

I am an artist and I was withering in the corporate world. I was drowning in a sea of confusion and you have told me that my ideas aren’t crazy, that it can be done. For that I am deeply grateful.

I will let you know how my new life unfolds now that the straight jacket has been removed from my creative spirit.

Kate Taylor, Minneapolis, MN

Recently, I was browsing in some back issues of Winning Ways newsletter and found myself rereading letters I’d published over the years. I decided to share some of my favorites this month.


I found your book, Making a Living Without a Job, about three years ago. I read it, thought it was inspiring, and put it on my “keep” bookshelf. After a few weeks, I read it again.

Since that time, I have read that darn book at least six times.

When I bought it, I was in a high-pressure, unrewarding job as a foreman for a masonry construction company. Today I am Joyfully Jobless!

I’ve been on my own for almost two years and could not be happier. Not that life is easy: it’s just more rewarding. My relationships with everyone in my life have improved as a result of following my passions.

What do I do? Well, I have several profit centers. I build ponds and waterfalls as one profit center. Another is upgrading concrete patios and garages with coatings. I also trim very tall palm trees. I enjoy climbing way up there!

In addition, I install landscapes, still do masonry projects and sell things on eBay. I am constantly thinking up new ideas to try out.

I could go on and on. You and your book helped me find the courage to step out and change my life—and that of my family too.

Incidentally, I believe in supporting things and people that have a positive impact which is why I decided to send the $36 for the subscription. It’s the least I can do to thank you for what you have done for me.

Sean Williams, Mesa, AZ

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?

Two of the things I loved most about living in Minneapolis were having constant access to the wonderful programming of Minnesota Public Radio and to the medical services of Dr. Loie Lenarz.

Dr. Lenarz was the first woman doctor I’d ever had and I actually looked forward to my appointments with her. One day I walked in and she was grinning. “I heard your interview on Public Radio,” she said. “I really enjoyed it.”

Several days earlier I had been interviewed about an self-employment on my favorite radio station. The interview had gone very well and at the end the producer told me I’d received more calls than any guest in the history of that show.

I had never really given Dr. Lenarz any details about my work, but she was curious. Throughout my exam we talked about making a living without a job.

When I went back six months later, Dr. Lenarz was in the midst of my checkup when she dropped a bomb. “I’m going to be leaving the clinic,” she said, “and filling in at other clinics around the area.”

“What?” I exclaimed. “You’re the best doctor I’ve ever had. How can you leave me?”

“Well,” she calmly replied,  “someone whose opinion I value highly, pointed out the advantages of creating a more flexible schedule.”

How could I argue with that?

I happened to remember this story about Dr.Lenarz today because I had my yearly physical with my new delightful doctor. I even told the story to Dr. Goff, pointing out that I meant it as a warning that she must not give up her practice.

Then I came home from that appointment and read the new post from Christine Kane and thought I was seeing a connection.

In her article, How to Become an Extreme Encourager and Change the World, she tells this story:

Long ago, when I first shared my dream of becoming a professional musician with one of my friends, she knitted her brows and said, “Huh?”

The dire warnings she fired off didn’t surprise me. Hey, most of us have had a lifetime filled with this kind of “practical advice.”  And I was used to giving up in the face of it.

During this fumbling stumbling time, I met a man who became an unlikely best friend and mentor.  He was a brilliant jazz musician as well as a self-employed computer programmer.

One night, I told him my dream.  Without even blinking, he said, “Honey (he always called me Honey), you’d be fabulous. That’s perfect!”  And he meant it.

After reading her story, I realized that we can encourage others to live their best life directly, as Christine’s mentor did. Or we can encourage others by relentlessly living our own best life.

Either way, you never know who’s listening.