Everyday people post pithy quotes and sayings on their Facebook page. Last week one of them really jumped out at me. It said:

 I’m not telling you

it will be easy.

I’m telling you

it will be worth it.

For years, I’ve been telling anyone who will listen that one of the rewards of self-employment is that it gives us an excuse to be a lifelong learner. As we all know, learning something new isn’t usually easy.

What can self-employment teach us? Well, for starters there are the nuts and bolts of running a business. As fascinating as that can be, that’s not the best part.

Here are some of the learning gifts that come when we set up shop: We learn:

° To think creatively. Inc. magazine founder Bernie Goldhirsh used to remind his writers that entrepreneurs are artists and business is their canvas. Building a business that we love keeps our imagination on high alert.

We discover that imagination isn’t idle daydreaming. It’s a power tool.

° To be an enthusiastic problem-solver. While others may see problems as a bother or, even, a punishment, the self-employed see opportunities in finding solutions to the problems that are theirs to solve.

Just today, Selina Barker reminded me of this in a wonderful piece she wrote on Playing the Money Game . Her story is a case study in how the self-employed tackle problems.

° It’s okay to be uncomfortable. Charles Kingsley, a writer in the Victorian era, said, “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements in life when all that we need to be really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”

The successfully self-employed are willing to be uncomfortable when it’s leading to greater good.

° The joy of expansion. The world is full of incredible shrinking people whose lives get tinier and tinier as the years go by. The self-employed, on the other hand, opt for living in a bigger world, extending their boundaries, reveling in new experiences.

° Right livelihood is fun. The Buddhists, who brought us this concept, pointed out that one characteristic of right livelihood is that the work becomes more, not less, interesting the longer we do it. The folks who have discovered their right livelihood and turned it into a business seem to be having the most fun of all.

Pay attention when you encounter someone who is truly, madly, deeply in love with what they are bringing to the world.

° Personal responsibility is heady stuff. Are there times when we wish there was someone else to blame? Probably.

When we make a commitment to creating a business that grows and prospers, we accept all the twists and turns in the journey.

° To ask better questions. The dreambashers among us may challenge any new ideas with, “How are you going to do that?”. The self-employed learn that the quality of the question does, indeed, determine the quality of the answer. Asking idea-generating questions is a worthwhile pursuit—and a fine art to master.

° That we can become more than we thought. Our business gives us the evidence, year in and year out. We notice that situations that once were a challenge now are faced with ease and, even, joy.

As we gain experience and our confidence grows, we uncover gifts and talents that have been lying dormant, waiting to be recognized and put to use.

Most importantly, we discover what M.C. Richards meant when she said, “All the arts we practice are apprenticeship. The big art is our life.”



During the bleakest time of my life, my neighbor John stopped by to see how I was doing. Relieved that someone cared about me (I told you this was bleak), I rattled off a lengthy list of my latest woes. When I finished, John put his arm around my shoulder, smiled at me and said, “Barbara, you’ve got the wrong set of problems.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

He thought for a moment and said, “Well, you should be worrying about where to find a good mechanic for your Mercedes Benz.”

As dismal as I felt, John reminded me that this was a temporary condition. This conversation also awakened me to the fact that not having problems isn’t an option. No matter what level of success we achieve, to be alive means that we’ll have problems to solve. Thank goodness.

Paul Hawken says there’s an easy way to determine if a business is good or bad. “A good business has interesting problems,” he says, “while a bad business has boring ones.”

The problem with problems, then, isn’t that we have them, but that we hold onto such petty ones. When we fail to solve our little problems, our everyday living problems, we forfeit any possibility of getting more interesting ones to solve. If you want to have intriguing problems to solve, you’ve got to first solve the ones you’ve got. Then you get to trade up for the interesting ones. 

$100 Hour. Ask yourself, “Who’s got a problem I know how to solve?” Often when we have mastered something–whether it’s installing a toilet or salsa dancing–we forget that not everyone that would like to do what we’ve done has learned how. Solving problems is the basis for many profitable businesses.

Explore More: Clare Bean  and Morgan Siler are single mothers who decided to solve a problem they had themselves…the isolation of raising kids on their own. They started  i Heart Single Parents  to bring single parents together in a community where they could connect. They’ve also just launched Single Parent magazine to share more ideas and information with single parents everywhere.

Wise people put their trust in ideas and not in circumstances. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson