The other evening, Paula Lucas shared a dream on Facebook. Paula is longing to travel the country pulling one of those adorable teardrop trailers.

Since I got to know Paula at the recent Obstacle Buster Mastermind program, I knew that she has been building a lively business selling at outdoor markets. I heard opportunity knocking.

I jumped into the conversation and suggested she could travel and build her business at the same time. She had, of course, considered that possibility.

“Do you realize,” I asked, “that if you and your teardrop trailer are not just traveling, but also setting up shop at flea markets, it would make your travels a tax deductible business expense?”

I was pretty sure Paula would find that appealing. As do I. Tax deductible travel is one of my favorite self-employment perks.

We’ve all been somewhat conditioned to think that benefits are something that come as the result of having a job. Consequently, logic suggests that not having a job means not having benefits.

Nonsense. Self-employed people have all sorts of benefits—both the conventional sort plus many others that no employer ever offered.

In fact, an important part of planning a successful business is deciding just what benefits matter to you and making sure that you include them. As your business grows and prospers, you’ll want to review your personal set of benefits and make appropriate changes and additions.

It’s also emotionally healthy to remind yourself often of the benefits that are accruing because you’ve chosen to put yourself in charge.

Here are some favorites of other self-bossers:

° Napping. According to a reports on the national news, a few companies are instituting nap time and providing places for employees to snooze during the day. They defend this radical notion by citing increased productivity.

The Joyfully Jobless have known about this perk for years.

° Automobile savings. Unless you drive extensively for your business, you’ll probably enjoy much lower car expenses—including lower insurance premiums—than if you were spending hours in traffic everyday.

And, of course, cutting out a long commute also has stress reduction benefits.

° Improved health. While a growing number of studies now verify the health hazards of a stressful job, less publicity has been given to studies showing the link between satisfying self-employment and healthy longevity.

One long-term university study found that the single consistent longevity factor in those they studied was a lifetime of rewarding work.

And as anyone knows who has to rely on restaurant and fast food for nourishment, it’s much easier to eat wisely when you’re the cook.

° You don’t have to ask for permission—ever. You can schedule your work around your own particular rhythms and burn the midnight oil if that’s your style.

Or spend six months working intently followed by six months devoted to leisure.

° Tax deductions. There are numerous deductions available only to the self-employed—including ordinary expenses you’d be making anyway, but not subtracting from your tax bill if you held a job.

“The self-owned and operated business is the freest life in the world,” says Paul Hawken. It’s also loaded with wonderful benefits unknown to those who inhabit the world of 9-5.

What are your favorite perks?

On Sunday afternoon, three-and-a-half-year-old Zachy and I were out in the backyard searching for bugs. All of a sudden he looked at me and said in his most serious voice, “This is Earth. Earth is our planet.”

I nodded solemnly. “We have to take care of it, don’t we?”  He nodded solemnly, too. We spent a little time talking about what that meant and things we could do, but I wondered what kind of a planet we are leaving for Zachy to take care of.

This is not a new concern of mine.

The most passionate environmentalist  I’ve ever known was Chris Utterback. To her, all offenses were equally serious whether it was defiling a public space with graffiti or chopping down a rain forest.

She cared deeply for the earth and couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t feel the same sense of responsibility.

One day we were driving through the quiet Connecticut countryside where she lived and came across a pile of trash heaped on the roadside. She slammed on her brakes and we jumped out of the car, picked up the litter, bagged it and put it in the back of her station wagon.

As we got back in, I sighed and said, “Planetkeeping is a full-time job.”

Chris looked at me as if I’d said the most  brilliant thing and without saying so, we both volunteered to be Planetkeepers.

Planetkeeping isn’t just a full-time job; it’s a demanding one that requires vigilance and a willingness to do more than our share simply because it’s the moral choice.

Planetkeeping is motivated by a sense of responsibility to nature and other people whether we know them or not. It goes far beyond environmental causes.

It assumes that we’ll take care of whatever is ours to care for no matter how difficult or challenging that may be. Planetkeepers refuse to be influenced by the indifference and apathy of others.

Like courtesy, Planetkeeping is learned behavior. It becomes habitual behavior to those who have determined that they will, indeed, do what they can to leave things better than they found them.

It’s a practice that is worth a closer look. Imagine, for a moment, how quickly things would change if everyone went through their days actively working to improve everything they touch.

What would happen to road rage? To rudeness? To the environment? To self-esteem? To greed? To our communities? To litter? To hunger?

It may be a long time before the majority of world citizens take up the cause to make things better, but that shouldn’t stop us from raising our own standards now.

How can we as small  businessowners improve everything we touch? As family and community members?

Perhaps it starts simply with a willingness followed by a commitment to put such lofty thoughts at the heart of our activities and relationships.

Planetkeeping also demands that we stop withholding our own gifts and talents and put them to work in the service of making the world a better, happier nurturing place.

How to take up the challenge?

As Paulo Coelho reminds us in his marvelous book, The Alchemist, “The secret is here in the present. If you pay attention to the present, you can improve upon it. And, if you improve upon the present, what comes later will also be better.”

Zachy will thank us all.

This piece appeared in early 2009, but I find myself rereading it from time to time lest I forget these valuable lessons. It seemed a good time to share it again.


There’s a woman who goes walking in my neighborhood every day. What’s so noticeable about her is that she always looks furious. I have been tempted to holler at her and ask, “Doesn’t your body produce endorphins?”

I know that wouldn’t be well received, however. She’s taken a strong position as one of the perpetually miserable among us and she’s not about to give it up.

I got thinking about such people one day after encountering a miserable looking woman as I was going out of the grocery store. I realized that she wasn’t just having a bad day; this was a permanent state of being for her.

I also concluded that the miserable are really expert at maintaining their stance. Here’s what they do to keep themselves from wavering:

* Ignore or block out anything that might disturb misery. This is turning selective awareness into an art form. Good news is not given a second glance. When good fortune does sneak in, turn lemonade into lemons.

* Remain planted in an environment that fosters misery. Bad relationships and dreadful jobs are great tools for keeping misery alive and well. The more insufferable the people around, the better.

* Recount tales of misery for anyone who will listen. No matter how long ago it happened, keep the pain alive. If there’s no one to talk to, mentally go back to the horrors of years gone by. Repetition makes anything stronger.

* Avoid new ideas. What the miserable already know is enough. Besides, new thoughts might cause confusion or, even, contradict cherished beliefs.

* Stifle any impulse to laugh. This is especially important when in a group where others give in to laughter. Let them know that you are not amused.

* Never empathize. If someone else wants to share their misery, just add it to your own bank of evidence, but don’t get sucked into feeling sorry for them. And under no circumstances show any empathy for the optimists that might slip into your world.

* Hoard. Do not offer compliments or any form of praise. And by all means protect money and possessions from others. Sharing is for idiots.

* Have a Misery Insurance Policy. The most effective is to decide that whatever you have is not enough. This guarantees you’ll remain miserable forever.