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.”

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.



My friend Chris and I loved an old cartoon in which Ziggy declared,  “My idea of prosperity is a checking account with commas.” We promptly adopted that as our prosperity symbol.

Feeling prosperous is a highly individual thing and each of us has a different notion of what constitutes prosperity.  For many people, alas, prosperity means having more than whatever they currently have.

It’s much healthier to find small reminders that we are creating abundance in our own lives. Here are a few of my personal favorites.

* You use up your deposit slips faster than you use your check blanks. (This may not count if you bank online.)

* You don’t have any bills because you pay them as soon as they arrive and don’t let them accumulate.

* You’re always looking for ways to maximize and utilize what you’ve already got rather than noticing what you don’t have.

* You notice and acknowledge your surplus. As Sondra Ray points out if you have even a few coins in your purse, you have a surplus, yet almost nobody gives themselves credit for that.

* You say thank you  a lot. Gratitude is not only a sign of prosperity—it’s the way to attract even more.

* You refine your taste by noticing the things you find beautiful and by uncluttering your life to get rid of things that are taking up space but don’t bring you joy. You’re not afraid to create a vacuum.

Do you have any personal ways you acknowledge your abundance that aren’t on this list?

Nick Ortner, author of the wildly successful The Tapping Solution, recently wrote about encountering a powerful bit of advice. The words that got his attention were “who you spend time with…is who you become.”

He says, “I first heard this quote and concept over 15 years ago at a Tony Robbins weekend event. I was there by myself, having seen an advertisement for it while walking the streets of New York where I lived, and knowing I needed to do something different with my life.”

Of course, if you look at his life today as a bestselling author and sought after expert, it’s obvious that he took that advice to heart and found ways to spend time with people who had a positive influence on him.

Tony Robbins isn’t the only one to encourage positive connections. Centuries earlier, the Persian poet Rumi  urged, “Be with those who help your being.”

It’s wonderful, of course, if our lives are filled with friends and allies who serve that purpose. Most of us begin the journey of personal discovery in a different way.

We go looking for a teacher. We may do so without letting our current friends or family members know that such an exploration has begun.

Even more accessible than live events such as the one Ortner mentions, are books.

Although self-help is a huge industry today, not everyone gets the great results that he has. This is somewhat perplexing considering how easy it is to create our own program.

When I first discovered the literature of personal growth and development, there were few titles to choose from.

Today there are thousands.

I always have a self-help book or two in my current reading pile because there’s so much to learn.

However, the self-help movement has spawned plenty of dropouts. Why don’t all readers find this genre helpful? Here are a few thoughts on that.

° Refuse to abandon skepticism. Hanging on to cherished beliefs is a guaranteed way to prevent growth. “I tried that positive thinking stuff once,” they scoff. “Didn’t work.”

° Expecting instant results. Big mistake.

Simply reading a single book is not going to produce visible change. It’s more a process of chipping away at limiting thoughts and behaviors that have taken hold over years.

° Exercises are too much trouble. Most of us think of reading as zooming from the beginning to the end of a book.

Self-help books invite us to slow down and take a slower journey. Exercises are like rest stops along the way, causing us to pause, reflect and apply.

° Right book at the wrong time. Personal growth is an evolutionary process and we expand our receptiveness one concept at a time.

Sometimes a book arrive ahead of our readiness. When that happens, don’t abandon self-help. Try a different book.

I recall my first encounter with Napoleon Hill’s classic, Think and Grow Rich. It could have been written in Swahili for all the sense it made to me. When I revisited it a year later, I was ready to start learning the lessons.

° Miss the point. A woman I know who never quite gets her business running, often dismisses advice and suggestions by saying, “I’ve heard that before.”

Hearing is only part of the process. As Henry David Thoreau said, “A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hints. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting.”


There’s a character in Nick Hornby’s delightful novel High Fidelity who constantly challenges his friends to create on-the-spot Top Five Lists. “Name your top five Dustin Hoffman movies,” he demands.

The story is peppered with Top Five Lists covering all sorts of pop culture topics. It’s not a bad exercise.

When I began experimenting with ideas about setting goals, I started breaking down my yearlong aims into 90-Day Projects. For me, the number five was also operating.

For instance, one of my writing goals was to sell five magazine articles every 90 days. It’s an easy number to work with and I repeatedly used it in setting goals.

You, of course, may have a different favorite number that repeats itself in your life. Use whatever number you like to help you focus. Start by incorporating it into your lifetime goal lists, as well as  your shorter term aims.

Here are some that are on my list.

° Travel to five continents

° Create five strong and dependable profit centers

° Meet five people I deeply admire

° Have five causes I support financially

° Eat five fruits and vegetables every day

° Have five people with whom I regularly collaborate

° Discover five new pastimes that I’m passionate about

° Have five entrepreneurial friends with whom I connect on a regular basis

° Coach five protégés

 You’ll notice that this list includes the whimsical as well as the serious.

Start your own list and pick one or two items to start working on immediately. Your life will be richer if you do…and continue to add to your list and explore new territory.

Like other quarterly tax payers, I recently sent in my final contribution for 2011. I put a Love Stamp on the envelope.

That never would have happened in the past. I would have fussed and fretted and grudgingly written out my check.

Although I grew up with constant messages to be thankful and appreciative, those feelings were not familiar friends. Most of the time, I’d compare myself to others and I always came up short.

My classmates were more talented, more attractive, more intelligent. Other people had houses and cars that were far cooler than anything I owned.

The only time I came close to being thankful was when I’d hear a story of tragedy or misfortune. Whew, I’d think, at least I’m not a starving orphan in Africa. Whew, the tornado missed our town.

Stuff like that.

During an especially dark and difficult period of my life, I was horrified to discover some dreadful personal behavior. When my teenaged daughter would arrive home from school, I would begin to list all the mishaps that had occurred during her absence.

Then one day, I heard myself. I felt remorseful and was determined to change.

I came up with a plan. “Let’s make a pact to tell each other three great things that happened during the day as soon as you get home.”

That sounds like such a simple thing, but what happened next was nothing short of miraculous. For starters, I had to pay attention.

But that wasn’t the biggest change. Suddenly, I found myself purposely making sure that I had good things to report.

My focus shifted and before I knew it, good things were happening that I hadn’t consciously instigated myself.

That was only the beginning. I discovered that when I tapped into genuine gratitude, I began to uncover resources that had been hiding in plain sight.

This was heady stuff. For the first time in memory, I began to love my life. I stopped comparing myself to other people.

Gratitude knocked self-pity off its pedestal.

Eventually, I began keeping a Gratitude Journal. That had a surprising gift for me as well. Not only was I consistently reviewing my days and noting the things for which I was thankful, I was creating a resource to stop me when I was tempted to backslide.

On a day when I was feeling less than confident, I’d grab my journal and see page after page of all the blessings that had already shown up in my life.

It gave me my perspective back.

Many people who’ve turned their lives around report that change didn’t happen until they’d hit rock bottom. Emotional pain was the motivater for change.

You could test that for yourself, I suppose. Or you could experiment with practising genuine gratitude right here and now.

Writer Gustave Flaubert said, “The greatest goal in life is the not the attainment of fame. The principle thing in this world is to keep one’s soul aloft.”

Gratitude is the propellant for blasting your spirit into higher realms.

Show your appreciation. Start your own Gratitude Journal. Don’t overlook an opportunity to thank someone.

It’s impossible, after all, to stay grumpy where there’s so much to celebrate.

The headline for the marketing seminar caught my eye. The photograph with the story startled me. There was Curtis Beckman, news director at a prominent radio station.

He was doing a session on Working With the Media. Obviously, he was a man after my own heart.

“Jennifer,” I told my daughter, “this is the man I was mad for in college.”

“Did you go out with him?” she asked, looking at his still handsome face.

“Oh, no,” I said. And I thought to myself, “In those days I was too insecure to ever believe I could have what I really wanted.”

Changing those self-doubts into confident feelings was a slow process for me. I went to bed that night thinking about those changes and how different I had been in my college days.

Then an intriguing idea struck me.

“What,” I wondered, “would have happened if there had been a class in winning? What if instead of studying laboratory rats the psychology department had taught us about the healthiest people around and how to become emotionally healthier?”

The thought was so exciting that I couldn’t get to sleep. Instead, I designed the course outline for Winning 101. Here are some of the things we would cover.

° How to Have Strong Self-esteem. As Nathaniel Branden pointed out, “Productive achievement is a consequence and an expression of healthy self-esteem, not the other way around.” This class would put first things first.

° How to Build a Winning Self-image. Thinking highly of ourselves was not encouraged when I was growing up.

Psychologist David Burns, author of Feeling Good, advises, “Instead of saying, ‘I will love and respect myself when I’m a big success,’ try saying, ‘I will love and respect myself when I’m hurting and need the support. ‘”

Fortunately, we can acquire a positive self-image by changing our focus and self-talk. And, no, a healthy self-image is not the same thing as a narcissistic one.

° How to Set Goals. I didn’t learn about goal-setting until years after I graduated. No wonder I floundered for so long.

As I eventually learned, goal-setting is neither mysterious nor difficult. It is, however, necessary if you want to find your focus and spend your time building something that matters to you.

° How to Think Like a Winner. Here we’d explore the personal philosophies of outstanding people. One of the discoveries made by Abraham Maslow in his study of self-actualized people was that they had role models.

Since we can learn a lot by seeing winning behavior in action, Winning 101 would invite guest speakers—a rock star, an entrepreneur, an Olympic contender.

° How to Get Results. In this segment, we’d learn a powerful two-step process for producing results.

The formula consists of 1) focus on the ultimate outcome, 2) take action. There would be lots of homework, practice sessions and group reports. We’d also learn how to effectively solicit help and support.

° How to Get Along With Others. Not a popularity course, but some basic human relations training would round it out.

I even found a motto for the class. “The great thing in this world is not so much where we stand as in what direction we are moving.” Oliver Wendell Holmes said that.

Although I’m not going back to college and I doubt that this course has been added to the curriculum, I discovered that these valuable lessons are all taught to us as we build our businesses (if we’re paying attention).

Think of it: you can acquire these life-enriching skills while your business pays you to learn.

This September, why not go back to school as your own curriculum director? Learn as much as you can about being a winner in your own life. It could be the best class you ever took.


Passion isn’t something one gets––it’s something one merely allows.

Suzanne Falter-Barns

When I start talking about discovering your passion in my seminars, I notice that some people begin to look uncomfortable. I can almost hear their thoughts: “Passion? Do I have a passion? I took piano lessons when I was a kid, but that didn’t turn into much.”

Sometimes people come right out and say, “I have no idea what my passion is.” Obviously, they’re doomed.

What’s going on here may be a matter of semantics, of having a definition of passion that is limited to things that we think of as creative pursuits or relaxing pastimes. When it comes to dreambuilding, however, passion encompasses an enormous range of possibilities.

Passion is Bigger Than We Think

While it’s true than many  businesses get started because a person is wild about antiquarian books or fixing luxury cars or designing houses, just as many come from having a passion for the activity of running a business.

They’re the ones who love taking a new idea and bringing it to life. The product or service is secondary. It’s business itself that excites them. Richard Branson, whose Virgin enterprises began with selling records and now includes an airline, banks and numerous other divisions, is such a person.

Whether or not you can identify a specific product or service that you consider your passion, I’d like to suggest that there may be dozens of other passions that you possess that are going to be crucial to your entrepreneurial success. Here are a five to consider:

Independence–the desire to be in charge, to take responsibility, to make decisions is a huge catalyst for many an entrepreneur. Being in control of your time, writing your own rule book, and doing things in your own way  isn’t an act of selfishness. It’s the healthy desire for self-reliance.

Individuality–wanting to explore fully what makes us unique. This is increasingly difficult to do in a world that seems bent on conformity. “Nobody can be exactly like me,” said Tallulah Bankhead. “Sometimes even I have trouble doing it.”

Reveling in our uniqueness and making it an integral part of our business can be an on-going exercise in creativity.

Personal growth–giving ourselves a  lifelong project of self-discovery is enticing for many who come to the conclusion that self-employment does just that. As Paul Hawken points out, “Being in business is not about making money. It’s a way to become who you are.” Amen.

Serving others–knowing that our efforts make life better for other people can be a powerful motivation. As my handyman student Al says, “I have always wanted to help people and I’m doing that now and have never felt so appreciated as I do from my customers. And then they pay me on top of that!”

Curiosity and adventure–as many entrepreneurs have learned, you don’t have to trek through Nepal to have adventure in your life. The nature of building an evolving business is that it always has new discoveries to make.

“Just when you think you’ve arrived,” says singer Melissa Manchester, “you find there’s another mountain to climb.”  Curious adventurers understand that.

In a world where people like to talk about things they just might do someday, the Joyfully Jobless consider where his or her passion lies and then gets busy living it. Passion shows up bearing marching orders, after all.

Philosophers have often reminded us that what we are is more important than what we have. Passionate entrepreneurs live that every day.


I nearly went into a swoon yesterday when I read Frank Hyman’s New York Times piece called I’m Making a Living From My Hobbies. It’s a delightful example of putting multiple passions to work. Check it out and notice, also, what he says about investing in himself.

When I was growing up in a small town in southern Minnesota, I dreamed of living in other places. That didn’t simply mean relocating to another spot for the rest of my days, however. 

I intuitively knew that different places would make different contributions to my life. It took a while to put this plan into motion, but my journey  took me from Janesville, MN to Sun Prairie, WI to Santa Barbara, CA to Boulder, CO to Minneapolis, MN and now to Las Vegas, NV.

It’s obvious to me  that each place either supported my goals at the time or the lessons I had to learn. It wasn’t just a change of scenery that I was seeking. I was looking to grow myself.

When I read Stewart Emery’s brilliant book Actualizations, I finally understood my urge to relocate. It was about much more than having a different view from my window. He wrote:

If you were a willow tree living by the riverside, the environmental conditions of your existence would support your evolution toward becoming a self-actualized willow tree.

If,  on the other hand, you were a willow tree and you were planted in the desert, the chances of your making it as a self-actualized willow tree would be virtually nil. The environmental conditions of your existence simply wouldn’t allow it.

It wouldn’t make any difference if you really wanted to be a self-actualized willow tree. It would not happen.

On a very  fundamental level, what is true for the willow tree is true for you and me.

If we are in an environment that supports our evolution toward self-actualization, then it  will happen, and if we are not, then it won’t happen.

However, you and I possess qualities or attributes that allow it to select its environment. You and I have within us the creative intelligence to recognize the conditions of existence that support our growth toward self-actualization, and we have the wherewithal to place ourselves in such an environment.

If we fail to recognize and construct environmental conditions that support our well-being, then we will have a colorless existence as members of the living dead.

For the past  two weeks, I’ve been working diligently on the upcoming issue of Winning Ways newsletter. The theme for this one is gardening and I realized that while there are some horticultural basics that most of us know, we haven’t had much encouragement to create the circumstances that support our own growth.

Fortunately, we can determine that for ourselves and put ourselves in nurturing environments. And we don’t have to move across the country to do so.

Does your habitat contribute to your growth? Or is it holding you back? Look up from your computer. What do you see? Inspiring books? Pictures that make you smile? Clutter? 

What about the people you hang out with? Are they cheering you on or holding you hostage? Been to any seminars lately that stretched your imagination?

 Is your habitat a desert or a riverbank?


Join Terri Belford, Alice Barry and me in glorious Sedona for Inspired Livelihood, April 16 & 17, and you’ll leave with a portfolio of ideas and plans for making your habitat the most nurturing place on Earth.

About the time I was planning to move to Las Vegas, a workshop participant named Pat Egan suggested that I should meet his mother. Like me, she had grown up in a small town in Minnesota, was an author, entrepreneur and enthusiastic traveler. Now we live in the same part of Las Vegas and Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse has been a favorite lunch companion ever since.


On Saturday, Sharon stopped by to give me a copy of her upcoming book (out November 2), Calling All Women: From Competition to Connection. It’s a terrific book of advice and inspiration gleaned from her years of working with people around the world. 


The reason I got an advanced copy is because Sharon had invited me to write the foreword. As I reread what I had written, I realized that I was talking about something that’s equally important for entrepreneurial success, although it’s not much discussed in conventional business books. Here’s a bit of what I have to say about that overlooked part of the journey.


Long after my formal schooling had ended, I first encountered the term “personal growth.” Up until then, I had assumed that once I reached adulthood, I had finished growing and that was that. I was immediately fascinated by the implication that growth could continue. Those two little words carried hope. The end of dead ends. Stretching. Discovery. Becoming. Wider horizons. Beginnings. 


Despite my eagerness to explore, it was difficult to find materials and teachers that could help me on my journey. At the time, both books and seminars were written by men, for men. Apparently, women were either unteachable or disinterested. I decided to ignore the lack of attention to my gender and adapt ideas and concepts from the existing material. Although I operated in secret, I came to think of myself as a card- carrying self-help junkie. 


Books and seminars were only the beginning. The real work was done in my day-to-day life, but the real work is never done. There’s always another path to explore. As time went on, the notion of lifelong growth took root and I simply assumed it was something that would be a daily part of my life. I came to see that the rewards of such a pursuit were greater than I’d realized. Actively pursuing personal development not only adds another dimension to life, it may, in fact, prolong it. “People don’t grow old,” says Deepak Chopra. “When we stop growing, we become old.”


So what does it take to keep growing yourself? One prerequisite for success is a willingness to change. Recently I came across an article I had written about change. I pointed out that change comes in two different packages and it’s necessary to tell them apart. There’s Imposed Change, which is the kind we can do nothing about. Taxes get raised, fashion designers insist we stop wearing willow green, or road construction makes travel difficult. On the other hand, there’s Instigated Change. That’s the kind that we think of as improving our lives because we have chosen it. Best of all, we can instigate change at any  time we want. 


Why does personal growth matter in running a business? Quite frankly, our business grows or stagnates in direct proportion to how much growth or stagnation we’re allowing into our lives. Our own business is also a terrific laboratory for putting what we’ve learned into practice. As Paul Hawken points out, “Being in business is not about making money. It’s a way to become who you are.” 


How wonderfully synergistic!