What do we live for, if not to make life 

        less difficult for each other?

George Eliot

From the moment I met Ruth, she told me that she hated her career as an operating room nurse. Despite the fact that she possessed an adventurous and creative spirit, she never quite managed to leave medicine.

One day she called to tell me she had injured her back while lifting a patient. Then she enumerated all the other injuries—physical and mental—that had occurred on the job. 

At the end of her litany, she said she thought the solution to her frustration was to move to a different department in the hospital. I was not convinced that this would solve her problem so I challenged her by asking, “If that’s the cause, how can it be the cure?”

That question had far greater impact than if I’d made a statement about what I thought she should do.

Asking good questions doesn’t just help illuminate difficult situations: asking is also a way to solicit support for our dreams. While some people resist asking for help or information thinking it will make them appear needy, there’s a healthy way to go about this questioning business.

In her delightful book Educating Alice, author Alice Steinbach writes that as a child her family remembers her pestering them with questions. She explains it this way: 

“Given my insatiable curiosity and intense admiration for Nancy Drew, my future plans hinged on entering the detective profession. I saw myself as Nancy Drew aging into Miss Marple. It was the perfect life for me, I thought then, one that would require me to constantly ask questions, find out the answers, and along the way learn a lot of new things.”

Steinbach didn’t become a detective, but she did have a successful career as a journalist where her question-asking skills got a regular workout.

Soliciting information isn’t the only reason to ask questions. Here are some others that are particularly useful to the entrepreneur.

* Clarifying questions. Good communicators use this technique all the time to make sure that they understand what was said. “Did I understand you correctly when you said you wanted to give me a free massage?” is just such a question.

* Getting ideas. Asking questions of yourself can bring answers from your subconscious mind. 

I frequently ask myself, “How can I make things better?” Sometimes the answer is mundane (dust  the bookshelves), but often it serves as an invitation for some grander project.

* Seeking advice. These are the kinds of questions I get asked the most. “How do I market my services on a shoestring? What do you think of this idea? Do you know anyone who can help me break into the specialty food marketing business?” 

Entrepreneurs must be willing to ask for advice from informed sources. They must also be willing to listen and not argue with the advice they’re given. 

* Helping customers make a decision. Successful sales people are skillful at asking questions that bring prospects to a commitment. 

“So would you like a six-month or twelve-month supply?” is a decision-making query.

The esteemed business guru Peter Drucker said, “My greatest strength as a consultant is to be ignorant and ask a few questions.”  

So where are you needing support? Who can you ask? What can you ask of yourself? Sometimes we fail to receive support because nobody knows we need it. 

Think of the world as a big, rich resource center that has everything you need to make your dreams come true. Tapping into it may be as easy as asking the right questions. 



Hardly a week passes without some study or article about what it takes to be an entrepreneur appearing. One of the latest purports that entrepreneurs are born, not made. While I couldn’t agree less, there is one quality that seems to be present in all successful entrepreneurs: resourcefulness.


Resourcefulness is a close cousin to ingenuity. My dictionary says it’s “clever at finding ways of doing things.” I think of it as valuing and using the resources at hand.


In her wonderful book, If You Want to Write, Brenda Ueland tells would-be authors, You must become aware of this richness in you and come to believe in it. But it is like this: if you have a million dollars in the bank and don’t know it, it doesn’t do you any good.” It’s not just writers who need to take Ueland’s advice to heart. 


The best way to cultivate resourcefulness is to purposely practice it in everyday life. Here are a few ways to do just that:


* Ask Resourceful Questions. Is there a better way? Who would find this useful? How can I do this in the most creative way? Questions like these will add momentum to your ideas and you’ll start bringing more of them to life.


* Go on an Idea Quest. “Anyone can look for fashion in a boutique or history in a museum,” says Robert Wieder. “The creative explorer looks for history in a hardware store and fashion in an airport.” 


Although entrepreneurs sometimes bemoan the fact that they have too many ideas, that doesn’t stop them from getting more. Ideas, after all, are our real stock in trade. Keeping the pump primed means paying attention to unlikely, as well as obvious, sources of inspiration.


Whenever your creative spirit needs a lift, intentionally go looking for ideas. Sign up for a seminar or sit in a park or mall and watch people. Visit a business you wouldn’t normally go to and open your mind to the unexpected.


* Find Your Funny Bone. Laughter not only reduces stress and has a positive impact on our health and well-being, it can also put us into a more resourceful state of mind. Last year, I stumbled across an audiobook at my library that had me in stitches. It was a collection of Prairie Home Companion’s Joke Shows. Lots of the jokes were corny, but there were plenty that were hilarious. I couldn’t stop telling my favorites to anyone who would listen. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that several great ideas for new projects popped into my head after this laughter fest.


* Notice and Respond. When I received a clipping about an interesting business idea from one of my subscribers, I also noticed this invitation printed above the story. It said, “Have you taken the bold move of stepping out into the world of entrepreneurial self-employment? Send the Tribune a 150-word description of your business and we will enter your business in our editorial lineup.”


Opportunities are everywhere if  we open our eyes—and accept appropriate invitations.


* Make Brainstorming with a Group of Creative Thinkers Your New Hobby. There’s nothing quite like spending time getting and giving fresh ideas and perspectives. Start your own small group and commit to meeting (in person or by phone) once a month for half a year and see what happens. Sharing ideas with others opens your mind to new and better ideas of your own. Nice bonus.


Of course, events like Follow Through Camp are packed with creative brainstorms. Avoid such experiences at your own peril.


* Notice resourcefulness in action. I was delighted to receive my new copy of one of my all-time favorite books, Make the Impossible Possible by Bill Strickland. Although I’ve read it twice, I promptly began reading it again. This true story of resourcefulness in action takes my breath away. It will take yours away, too.

According to the dictionary, to be resourceful means able to act effectively or imaginatively, especially in difficult situations. Of all the skills and qualities that enhance the joyfully jobless journey, none is more valuable than resourcefulness.

The poster child for resourcefulness was Angus MacGyver, hero of the television series that captivated audiences in the late eighties and early nineties. MacGyver dazzled audiences with his inventive use of common objects—including his trusty Swiss Army Knife—to foil the bad guys and get himself out of desperate situations. MacGyver was the master of improvising solutions in a matter of minutes.

While MacGyver was fascinating he was also fictional. Less dramatic, but equally effective, resourcefulness goes on everywhere, every day. Consider Walter Swan, a retired plasterer and eighth grade flunkout who harbored a dream of his own.

For years, Swan had entertained his wife and their eight children with stories about growing up in the deserts of Arizona. Although he could barely read or write, Swan had a dream of turning his memories into a book. He taught himself to type with two fingers and began writing down his stories. His wife corrected and retyped the book and Swan optimistically sent his manuscript to several publishers. They all turned him down.

Discouraged by the rejection, Swan packed the manuscript away for ten years. But the dream of publishing success wouldn’t go away. Then Swan got the idea to publish it himself. He mortgaged his house, bought a computer which his wife learned to use, and bravely ordered 1,000 copies of Me ’n Henry. His exhilaration dimmed somewhat as he tried to interest bookshops in carrying his beloved journal. He found few takers.

He managed, however, to sell his first 1,000 copies and that was all the encouragement he needed. There’s got to be a way to sell even more copies he reckoned. What if he opened his own bookstore? He scouted around the near ghost-town of Bisbee, Arizona and found an empty space next door to the town’s only bookstore. It was just what he was looking for.

This bold move turned him into a bit of a celebrity. His One Book Bookstore brought him loads of national publicity. His days became filled with chatting with the numerous tourists who stopped by to purchase his book and have their picture taken with the author. Forty years after he first began working on his dream, Swan’s personal resourcefulness made it come true.

“If I were to wish for anything,” mused Soren Kierkegaard, “I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints, possibility never.” That’s the essence of resourceful thinking. The eye which sees the possible becomes the means to start things moving.

A simple way to expand your own resourcefulness is to give up any thoughts that begin with “If only,” and replace them with thoughts that begin with “What if?” “What if” questions open the door to new possibilities, while “if onlys” keep us stuck and helpless. It’s astonishing, really, what a difference two little words can make. “If only I had more customers,” can become, “What if I tried one new marketing idea every week?” “If only I could spend a month in Spain,” becomes “What if I found someone in Spain to exchange houses with in September?” You get the idea.

The resourceful person approaches problem-solving with the belief that there’s never just one way to accomplish anything. There’s an amazing spectrum of ways to do even the simplest things. The same is true for the complex. Be focused on what you want and flexible about how you achieve it. Like Walter Swan, the resourceful person knows that the possibilities are endless and like MacGyver, proves it.


Although the description for Follow Through Camp doesn’t mention resourcefulness, that’s really the focus of that event. You’ll discover that you’re even more resourceful than you may have thought and leave with more options than you had when you arrived. There are still five spots available in the upcoming Follow Through Camp which happens on September 11 & 12 in Chaska, MN.

Demonstrate your own resourcefulness by taking advantage of the Early Bird enrollment which expires on August 15.