Early last year, I got a request from Marianne Cantwell to participate in a video project she was putting together.  It seemed simple enough  when she first proposed it.

Marianne asked me and several others to answer in a sentence or two the question, “What do you wish you had known when you were eighteen?”

I began thinking about my eighteen-year-old self and realized that like most people that age, I was busily trying to figure out what I thought.

What kind of life did I want to have for myself? Was it easier to settle for an uninspired life or listen to the promptings of my heart?

I do not recall anyone suggesting that I should learn to think for myself.

As I began to jot down ideas for Marianne’s project, my list got longer and longer. How would I ever be able to pick one thought that summed up all the missing pieces of my puzzle?

What did I wish I’d known when I was eighteen?

Here’s my partial list:

Adventure Trumps Comfort.
Forget the Notion of a Single Lifetime Occupation.
Invest Wildly in Your Self and Your Dreams.
You Can Have Your Excuses. Or You Can Have Your Dreams. You Can’t Have  Both.
Caution is Highly Overrated.
Take Every Opportunity to Astonish Yourself.
Fun is Not Frivolous.
What Makes You Different May Be What Makes You Valuable.
Don’t Waste Time Solving Problems You Don’t Have

I knew none of those things when I was eighteen—or twenty-eight. While I was deliberating about which of these things I wanted to share, Marianne came to my rescue and said to use them all and she’d decide which were the best fit for the project.

That got me off the hook, but doing the exercise had triggered a new thought.

What would happen if such radical notions were adopted early in life? What if  we were encouraged to define adventure, dreams and opportunity for ourselves? What if we assumed that a lifetime was well spent if we kept stretching ourselves?

My question was answered when I happened upon a story of Justin Churchman, a CNN Hero. Justin set a goal to build eighteen houses in Juarez, Mexico before his eighteenth birthday.

After he participated in a building project with his seventh grade class, Justin got busy writing letters, giving speeches and working to raise more than $48,000 for Casas por Cristo. He also picked up a hammer himself and finished building his eighteenth home on his birthday.

Inspiring as Justin’s story is, I suspect that plenty of people who saw it reacted by thinking, “Well, that’s fine if you’re eighteen, but I couldn’t start such a thing at my age.”

Ah, age. It’s often the scapegoat for our fondest excuses. That’s not the way a card-carrying dreambuilder thinks.

Dreambuilders are apt to prefer this reminder from Robert Pirzig: “There is a sanity within me that reminds me that to regret that a journey wasn’t started sooner only delays further its beginning.”

The aforementioned Marianne Cantwell was featured in a nice piece in London’s Daily Mail. Read more about her journey from cubicle dweller to free range human

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?

On the morning of my birthday last month, I awoke to an emailbox full of greetings. One in particular caught my eye. It came from my globetrotting friend Marianne Cantwell who was in Bali recovering from a freak injury to her back.

The title line simply said A Birthday Surprise. I don’t remember what went through my mind as I opened her message, but what I found was truly a surprise.

Somehow, Marianne had gathered a wide array of people from around the world to send birthday greetings to me. If you haven’t seen the video, I urge you to check it out before you read the rest of this story.

Click on here for birthday video.  Type in the password adventure (lower case).

As the day went on and phone calls joined the e-mail and postal mail greetings, I interrogated every one about their participation in the video surprise.

My sister Nancy had a great story about getting permission to have her picture taken from the rooftop of a restaurant in Athens. My friend Georgia in Sweden told me how she’d coached our mutual friend John in Minneapolis to get his picture included.

The stories went on and on. It was obvious that this project delighted the participants almost as much as it delighted me.

But there was one mystery. Who was that cute little surfer wishing me a happy birthday from Costa Rica? I couldn’t think of a soul I knew who lived there.

When I talked to Marianne, she was evasive. “I had to cheat a bit on that one,” was all she’d admit.

Then last Saturday, I had the pleasure of spending several hours with Marianne who had landed in California for a short stay. As we sat listening to the surf on the beach in Ventura, I asked her again to reveal his identity.

She hedged for a moment, then said, “He’s an entrepreneur.”

I laughed out loud. “How do you happen to know him?”

Her answer surprised and pleased me. “I found him on Fiverr,” she said. “I realized we didn’t have anyone on the video representing South America so I went looking for someone there.

“He and his father do this together and will record a message and send it for five dollars.”

Clever Marianne. Clever surfer dude and dad.

Don’t you love entrepreneurial creativity in action? I predict they all have a bright future.

Like many Americans, I was taught that we lived in the land of opportunity. Our history teachers reminded us that people had flocked to our country because of the better life that awaited them here. It was a source of great pride.

At the same time we were learning those history lessons, we were also being groomed to get a job. No teacher or guidance counselor ever suggested that living in the land of opportunity also offered me the possibility of creating my own enterprise.

When my travels began to take me outside of the US, I quickly discovered that the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well and living everywhere, too.

It was an early Making a Living Without a Job seminar in London, however, that really made me aware that the entrepreneurial spirit knows no geographic boundaries. Participants arrived at that event from France, Denmark, and India as well as from the far corners of the UK.

So it comes as no surprise that on my recent trip to the UK I spent most of my time hanging out with some inspiring and creative entrepreneurial folks.

After my evening talk in London, I headed to Birmingham where I was met at the train station by the delightful Maggy Whitehouse, who also was my hostess for the night.

I met Maggy a decade ago when she attended a workshop I did in London on self-publishing. Although that was our only in-person contact, we’d stayed in touch over the years and I watched her writing and speaking career blossom.

My packed talk in Birmingham that night was another sign that there are plenty of people considering the Joyfully Jobless life. One man brought his 10-year-old daughter who has already shown interest in starting her own business.

Back in London the next night, I spent the evening with the Scanners Night group led by author and speaker John Williams. Once again, the audience was a mix of folks who were already self-employed and those wanting to be.

Because these self-proclaimed scanners have diverse interests, my talk that night was called Multiple Passions, Multiple Profits. I talked about creating a personal portfolio that incorporated their varied activities.

The following day, I spent the morning hanging out with Eve Menezes Cunningham, a freelance writer (among other things) who had interviewed me several years ago for the first article she had published. Since that time, she’s also included me in some other wonderful pieces she written.

Eve and I were joined by the vivacious Marianne Cantwell, the founder of Free Range Humans and about-to-be author. Originally from Australia, Marianne has been traveling the world since leaving her cubicle several years ago. When we discovered that we’d both be in London at the same time, we promptly planned to get together.

Unfortunately, I was in a fair amount of distress because of a most unpleasant experience I was having with my accomodations. Marianne swung into action and began looking for a new place for me to lay my head.

She enlisted John Williams’ aid in the search and thanks to AirBnB, I was headed to a lovely home in Fulham where I spent the rest of my time in the UK.

To my delight, my new hostess, Debbie Cave, is a woman who understands mutllple profit centers herself. In addition to having paying guests in her home, Debbie also runs her own public relations and marketing company.

After a good night’s sleep in my tranquil new room, I woke up excited about how I was planning to spend my last free day In London. Consultant Mary Phillips, whom I first met when she attended a seminar in the Lake District, was coming in from Bradford and we had plans to meet for lunch.

Since we both knew how to find the Whole Foods store, we had decided to connect there and have lunch. I passed by the store, but had never been inside.

Imagine my surprise when I stepped into the three-story market which was unlike any Whole Foods store I’d ever visited before. You can buy groceries there, of course, but since the entire second floor is devoted to a restaurant and food stations serving exotic smoothies, gelato, salads and more.

Since Mary and I hadn’t seen one another since my last London visit, we settled in for lunch and a catch-up chat. Five hours later, we tore ourselves away from the Whole Foods experience.

As I headed back to Fulham on the Tube, I realized that my week had not allowed for any touristy activities, but connecting with all these creative friends, old and new, had made this one of the richest visits ever.

Obviously, the land of opportunity isn’t a land after all. It’s a state of mind.