The message I got about work when I was growing up pointed out that there was good work and bad work. Good work meant you didn’t have to sweat.

Nobody mentioned that sweat-free work probably would involve sitting at a desk all day doing repetitive chores.

It wasn’t until I became obsessed with the role of work in our lives that I began to challenge such limiting notions. Eventually, I came to think that the best work called us to use our minds, bodies and spirits.

That, of course, is also why the concept of having multiple profit centers appeals to so many people who always felt crippled by the Single Lifetime Occupation notion. It’s always fascinating to see how people who have thrown off that SLO idea put things together for themselves.

One of those people is Jason Mraz who keeps building more and more fans for his music. He also is enthusiastic about his other role as an avocado farmer.  

It comes as no surprise that he offers some strong advice to others. Here’s what he has to say about creating a rich, full life:

Go be that staving artist you’re afraid to be. Open up that journal and get poetic finally.

Volunteer. Suck it up and travel.

You were not born here to work and pay taxes. You were put here to be part of a vast organism to explore and create.

Stop putting it off. The world has much more to offer than what’s on fifteen televisions at TGIFriday’s.

Take pictures. Scare people. Shake up the scene.

Be the change you want to see in the world.

You’ll thank yourself for it. 

I dare you.


Steven Kalas is a family counselor with a lively practice. He also plays in a band that’s been busy promoting their new CD, but I know Kalas for a different reason: he writes Human Matters, my favorite column in the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Like many people with multiple interests, he’s found ways to incorporate his diverse interests into satisfying ways of making a living.

Of all the ideas in Making a Living Without a Job, none has ever gotten a stronger response than the notion of incorporating eclectic interests into a unique livelihood.

Many people have felt stifled trying to fit themselves into the Single Occupation mold. There’s often a visible sense of relief when I suggest that it’s possible to create a business from diverse passions.

There’s a practical side to the MPC notion, as well: multiple income sources can level out cash flow. No business, no matter how large or small, is immune from the ups and downs of income.

To everything there is a season, including cash flow.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when planning your potfolio of profit centers.

° They don’t have to all be the same size in order to be valid. Some profit centers will be occasional, some will peak and then decline, some will be major income sources.

° Under one umbrella or separate identities? If your profit centers are completely unrelated (eclectic rather than clustered), you will probably need to have individual identities for them.

You don’t want to confuse your market by clustering things that don’t go together.

 ° If it matters to you, it belongs in your portfolio. If your interests are diverse, you may decide that some ideas aren’t serious enough to turn into a profit center.

More likely, your apprehension comes from the old belief that if it’s fun and pleasurable, it  should remain a hobby.

Nobody tackles this issue better than Steven Pressfield who writes in The War of Art about turning pro. He says, “The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his ‘real’ vocation.”

° Differing  activities can boost creativity. In the name of efficiency, we’ve turned many of the workers of this world into robot-like machines who show up in the same place at the same time to do the same things day in and day out.

The capacity to think creatively is the first casualty of that system.

Creativity thrives on variety and setting up your profit centers to give you a wide range of experiences is ultimately as good for your imagination as it is for your bank account.

° Take inventory on a regular basis. Many profit centers require a lot of time and attention at their launch, but  become somewhat self-sufficient after that.

It makes sense to review the various projects you’re working on and align your attention with what each one needs.

Sometimes a profit center becomes a noisy child and takes you away from the others.

At other times, you’ll find you’ve grown bored with an idea and it’s time to consider a different future for it.

Every 90 days or so, do a review and make changes where necessary.

° Be wary of multitasking. One way to stay focused, is to assign different days of the week to different projects. When you’re throwing pots, you aren’t writing your pottery seminar, for instance.

° It’s evolution, not instant creation. Profit centers evolve over a long period of time. Ideas morph, new ones show up, old ones have served their time.

The important thing is to create a business that engages your talents and imagination, and pays you to do what you love doing most. As Paul Hawken reminds us, “The business you can succeed with is distinctly and utterly you and yours. It is unlike any other business in the world.”

You have your MPCs to thank for that!

Marlena De Blasi was settling nicely into her new home and  business in St. Louis. Besides being a food writer and wine consultant, Marlena was the chef in her own restaurant.

That all changed on a trip to Venice where she attracted the attention of a banker named Fernando who was certain she was the woman of his dreams. Although he spoke almost no English, he made his intentions known and within months Marlena had uprooted herself to join him.

She recounts this improbable love story in her delightful book, A Thousand Days in Venice. The subtitle could be Love is Bigger Than Culture Shock.

Once they have survived Italian bureaucracy and a reluctant priest who isn’t sure he wants to marry them, the couple begins their new life together.

One day Fernando announces that he’s tired of working at the bank where he’s been employed for 26 years and wants to work with Marlena. Apparently, our resourceful and adventurous heroine didn’t just awaken love, but also Fernando’s sleeping entrepreneurial spirit.

The account of their new venture is recorded in her second book, A Thousand Days in Tuscany.

In many ways, Marlena De Blasi is a classic entrepreneur with a willingness to try new things and create new income sources. In fact, one of her mantras is “always a beginner.”

As a result, her businesses are kept fresh and vital by the introduction of new profit centers.

Multiple profit centers, as I’ve been saying for years, are the key to growing a business. Every time you add a new product or service, you’re creating another profit center.

Although the idea of multiple profit centers is highly appealing to those who think that business is just about making money, the concept is equally interesting to Renaissance souls who have numerous ideas and interests.

As James Dickey pointed out, “There are so many selves in everybody and to explore and exploit just one is wrong, dead wrong, for the creative process.”

Whatever the motivation, mastering Multiple Profit Center creation is essential to running an inspired business.

If you run your business on the assumption that it is a vehicle for innovation and fresh thinking, profit centers  seem to bubble up naturally from your creativity. When these different profit centers involve a variety of activities, synergy is generated.

For instance, running a restaurant, being the chef and writing about food all come out of a passion for gastronomy, but each has its own requirements and activities.

As you build your collection of profit centers, you’ll find that some are going to be bigger than others, some the mainstays of your business, and some will be periodic. Since entrepreneurs adore new ideas, this keeps their imagination in high gear.

Charles Handy is another advocate of developing multiple profit centers. “Think of it this way,” he advises. “You will have a portfolio of work like an architect has or your stock portfolio. No prudent investor puts all his savings into one stock and no sensible business goes after only one customer.”

Multiple profit centers are the antidote to putting all your eggs in one basket.

No matter whether you call them passions, projects or profit centers, they’re not just the building blocks of your business: they’re the life blood.

Creating a business that engages you physically, intellectually and spiritually is a richly satisfying—and highly individual—undertaking.

And when one idea has served its time, there’s a new one ready to take its place.


I get excited about small businesses that are run with

passion so that’s what I recommend in my guidebooks.

Rick Steves

Thanks to Rick Steves, there’s a collection of micro-mosaics that I got  to see when I was in  London. Thanks to him, I’ve stayed in some delightful little hotels in Europe. I’ve also instigated plenty of conversations with fellow travelers who happened to be carrying a Rick Steves guidebook.

I’ve been a Rick Steves fan since long before he was so well known so when he landed in my part of the world as part of his public television promotion, I was eager to spend an evening listening to him talk.

During the question period, I raised my hand and said, “You spend 100 days a year in Europe, you manage a staff of 60, and you have a wife and two kids. How do you get all that writing done?”

He looked thoughtful and said, “Well, you’ll notice that none of my guidebooks mention night life.” He went on to explain that even when he’s on the road, he spends four hours a night writing.  In addition to the guidebooks that get updated annually, he also writes the scripts for his popular television series.

This is all impressive, but I’ve been studying his Europe Through The Back Door business and think there are also some great lessons to be learned from this entrepreneurial expert.

In the competitive field of travel writing, how has he managed to build his enterprise?  There are some obvious and some not-so-obvious things that Rick Steves does right.

* Was willing to start small. You can learn the entire evolution of his business on his terrific Web site ( Here’s how it started:

“Throughout the late 1970s I traveled lots and taught my European Travel Cheap class at the University of Washington’s Experimental College in Seattle. Realizing a teacher needs a textbook, I put the lectures on paper, compiled my favorite discoveries, and in 1980 wrote the first edition of Europe Through the Back Door.

“Through my travel classes, I sold all those first editions of Europe Through the Back Door. In 1981, I got a bit more professional with the second edition, taking out the personal poems and the lists of most dangerous airlines. The third edition, even though typeset now, still looked so simple and amateurish that reviewers and talk show hosts repeatedly mistook it for a pre-publication edition.

“Throughout the 1970s I was a piano teacher. By about 1982, my recital hall was becoming a travel lecture classroom, and I needed to choose Europe or music. I chose teaching travel over piano, let my students go, and began building Europe Through the Back Door. “

* Passionate. It’s hard to develop any level of mastery—or success—if we’re lukewarm. Not only does passion keep us growing, it’s also highly contagious, which is a terrific marketing tool.

It’s apparent that Rick Steves loves what he does. He says there was a moment when he knew that Europe was going to be his playground.  “When I’m in Europe,” he wrote, “I’m breathing pure oxygen.”

That passion keeps him coming up with new recommendations and discoveries.

* Makes it look easy. My daughter said she was watching him one day and thought the reason he’s so successful is that he seems so ordinary and unsophisticated. “I  think people watch him and think if he can do it , they can too.”

Like all good experts, he has the ability to give people confidence. His easy going style makes him a great teacher and his sense of humor adds to the fun.

* Understands multiple profit centers. Today ETBD is a business with plenty of diversity. In addition to the twenty-plus books that Rick has written, the company also has a booming tour business, as well as a mail order company that sells travel gear along with books, videos and DVDs. And, of course, there’s that television gig.

* Has a clearly articulated philosophy. Every issue of the free ETBD newsletter contains that philosophy which is carried out in all aspects of his business. There’s a particular kind of traveler that is his customer and they don’t waste time trying to attract folks who lack an independent spirit. His customers are folks who appreciate a Less is More approach.

* Creates a loyal customer base. One popular features of the Web site and newsletter is a section called Road Scholars which shares travel tips from fellow ETBD fans. They also have events for alumni of their tours to meet and swap travel tales. There’s a sense of personal involvement with the company.

If you’re in the business of packaging information of any kind, Rick Steves is a fellow entrepreneur that is worth learning about and worth learning from.


Want to see Rick at work? Here’s a short video of him updating his guidebooks.


In earlier times—the Renaissance, for example—it was assumed that people were capable of mastering many things. No one was accused of being a dilettante if they wrote poetry, ran a business, composed music, spoke several languages and fought a war or two. It was truly a self-fulfilling assumption since many people developed and enjoyed multiple talents and occupations.

Although modern times have been less than encouraging, more of us are questioning the notion that we’re only suited for a single path. When we were both speakers at a conference, I met a delightful man who has ignored  the single career option and instead shares his passions in numerous ways . Here’s part of his biography:

“Bruce Richardson is a musician, innkeeper, writer and tea entrepreneur who has introduced a state known for bourbon to the grand celebration of afternoon tea. With his wife Shelley, Bruce has transformed a 150-year-old Greek Revival mansion into what travel writers commonly refer to as Kentucky’s premier tea room.

“In 1990, when Shelley and Bruce restored Perryville’s historic Elmwood Inn as their home, they included bed and breakfast accommodations and a tea room. Within five years, they ceased taking overnight visitors to concentrate completely on their tea business.

“After numerous requests from Elmwood’s customers, they began organizing their recipes into books. Their first book, A Year of Teas at the Elmwood Inn, was followed by a second volume, A Tea for All Seasons. Bruce also authored The Great Tea Rooms of Britain and The Great Tea Rooms of America.  In addition, he did the photography for Elizabeth Knight’s Tea in the City: New York.

“In 1995, Bruce and Shelley founded Elmwood Inn Fine Teas, the gourmet food division which sells to gourmet stores in the US and eight foreign countries.

“An ordained minister, he also served as mayor of Perryville, KY; was founder and director of the Danville Children’s Choir and served as consultant to the Boyle Country Schools Gifted Program. He was the founder and past president of Boyle Country Habitat for Humanity.”

Obviously, this is a man who understands the concept of multiple profit centers. He’s also someone who values his personal gifts and takes responsibility for sharingthem. Is it any wonder that in the process Bruce also became a fascinating person?

There’s a passage in one of the Gnostic Gospels that says, “If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, then what you do not bring forth will destroy you.” That’s a powerful reminder of the responsibility we each have for excavating and using our personal treasures. All of them.