We’re on birth alert around here right now. No, I am not expecting another grandchild. The arriving baby belongs to my doula daughter’s client.

I had never heard of birthing doulas until a few years ago when a student in one of my Sacramento seminars told me that she was one.

According to Wikipedia, this is an ancient profession that originated in Greece. A doula is a nonmedical person who assists before, during and after childbirth. The continuous support during labor is associated with improved maternal and fetal health.

How Jennie became a doula still intrigues me.

One morning about seven years ago, she fetched me from the Burbank Airport. She could hardly wait to tell me her news.

For some time, Jennie had wanted to have a second child, but was not getting much enthusiasm from her partner.

Then the revelation came.

“I woke up this morning,” she told me, “and thought maybe I don’t need to have another baby. Maybe what I really want is to have babies in my life. My next thought was that I could become a midwife.”

Although it was early in the day, she had already called her local college, found out the requirements for becoming a midwife and was planning to enroll.

She spend the next year taking math and science classes which had not been part of her previous undergraduate program. After doing her catch-up work, she was scheduled for two years of nursing training followed by midwifery school.

It was a big commitment. Along the way, Jennie did have a second child and decided that doula training was a better fit for her. She also added Reiki training and hypnobirthing to her toolbox.

Although I’ve never seen her in action, I can imagine that her calm and confident demeanor is a huge asset to her clients. I have heard  that she’s glowing when she returns home from a birth.

Ray Bradbury advised, “In the moment of knowing a love, intensify it.”  New ideas are as fragile as babies. They also require incessant nurturing if they are going to grow into something magnificent.

That’s precisely what Jennie did.

It also happens to be the way we get our marching orders for the Joyfully Jobless life.

For me, meeting interesting people, however briefly, is one of the great rewards of travel.  On my last evening in Los Angeles several years ago, my daughter suggested that  we have dinner at The Milky Way.

This tiny restaurant is lovingly run by Leah Adler, a little pixie who just happens to have given birth to Steven Spielberg.  Her utter joy in making her customers happy is obvious as she flits from table to table chatting with everyone.

She seemed to be having such a good time that I thought being a restauranteur must be a new occupation for her. When she came to inquire about our dinner, I asked her if she was at the restaurant every day.

“Oh, yes,” she said. “I leave home at 8:30 every morning and I’m here until closing. I’ve been doing this for twenty-five years and there’s no place I’d rather be. I get to plan dishes with the cooks, flirt with old men and drink wine. What could be better than that?”

She also confided that she would be 82 on her next birthday and had no plans to retire.

(She is now 93 and still delighting diners at The Milky Way.)

Leah Adler is living proof of the longevity-enhancing rewards of right livelihood. What a contrast she is to all those folks who think life will begin once they retire.

A few weeks earlier, I’d gone to my post office and was waited on by a clerk that’s been there most of the time that I’ve had my mailbox. Since I knew that his retirement was coming soon, I asked, “How much longer, Jeff?”

“A hundred and forty-seven days,” was his instant reply. Imagine spending your time in a such a way that you’re counting the days until it’s over.

More and more studies now show that every day we spend doing work that we hate is very expensive.  It robs us of our creative spirit, impacts our attitude and physical well-being in a negative way, and causes us to miss out on the adventure that our personal life journey was intended to be.

Apparently Stephen King was onto something when he said, “If you can do it with joy, you can do it forever.”

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.”



There are numerous ways to become an entrepreneur. If you’re Italian, you might be born to it. Just as homes stay in the same family for generations, Italian businessowners commonly pass their enterprises down to their children.

If your family made wine, there’s a good chance that you’ll make wine. Even some Venetian gondoliers are following the career path of their fathers and grandfathers.

As much as I love the Italians, I’m grateful that finding a career by inheritance isn’t such a common practice here. If it were, I’d be an electrician.

Paradoxically, there’s a Tuscan proverb that says, “Whoever does another’s trade makes soup in a basket.” Perhaps that doesn’t apply to family endeavors.

Although there are people who happily take over the family business, having one foisted upon you can be a disaster.

I met a man in one of my seminars who told us he’d spent his life grudgingly running a family business that he loathed. His sadness was visible, but even though he was no longer young, he was working diligently to make a new start and bring to life an idea of his own.

Even though families may not hand down a business, family pressure still plays a huge (and often unsavory) role in career choice. I frequently have people tell me, “My parents always told me I should work for someone else because it’s more secure.”

I want to counter with, “Would you wear your parents’ clothes?” Their thinking may not fit you either.

Every day I encounter people who are making soup in a basket, who are bored, inept or downright hostile because they are doing work that comes from a place other than their heart and soul.

Finding our personal right livelihood is too important to our well-being to overlook. We may choose to follow in our family’s tradition but only if we’ve come to know ourselves well enough to know that this is a perfect fit.

Clothiers talk about bespoke garments, meaning made-to-order clothes that are fitted to the wearer. I think it’s time to talk about bespoke businesses, one of a kind undertakings that are perfectly suited to the owner’s values, talents and dreams.

It takes a lot more time and energy to create such a business, of course, than to just pull one off the rack. Like a master tailor, we can only produce a bespoke business by knowing our personal measurements, making numerous adjustments, and investing pride in our work.

In a world that often seemed determined to do everything fast, creating a bespoke business requires a willingness and discipline to slow down, take things a step at a time, and pay loving attention to details.

The rewards for such willingness are huge, although they may not be quick.



Longevity was the furthest thing from my mind when I started my first business 35 years ago, but when I do an inventory of those years, it’s obvious that creating things with a lengthy life span has been part of the process. Nobody is more surprised than I am that Winning Ways newsletter is in its twenty-third year of publication. Or that Making a Living Without a Job has never gone out of print since 1993. Not all projects have lasted so long, but the things that have are the real core of my business.


Although I’ve been busily promoting and hand-selling for the past twenty years,  there are some other aspects to my entrepreneurial life that are also longevity factors. These are things that I think have made all the difference and kept me moving forward. They’ll help you, too, no matter what the current age of your business.


Passion and Right Livelihood are essential. According to the Buddhists, who coined the lovely term “right livelihood”, there’s a simple test to know if your work qualifies. That test is this: the work becomes more, not less, interesting the longer you do it. Avoiding boredom is only possible if passion is present. Best of all, practicing right livelihood keeps pulling us in the direction of mastery, urging us to learn more, do more, be more.


Understand cycles. Every business in the world, no matter how big or how small, goes through cycles. Down is followed by up—and vice-versa. It takes a year or two of entrepreneurial effort to discover the particular patterns inherent in your business, but once you do, you can work around them. For me that’s meant learning what times of year are most conducive to scheduling seminars and then using the down times from that profit center to work on creating new projects. Cycles also teach us about financial management, if we’re paying attention.


Willingly defer gratification. I have advertising whiz Bernice Fitz-Gibbon to thank for teaching me this one. In her marvelous autobiography, Macy’s, Gimbels and Me, she wrote, “It’s smart to defer gratification. Be willing to take less at first in order to have much, much more later.” I believed her and discovered she was absolutely correct.


Stay focused on the big picture. There’s a temptation to declare failure when a project disappoints or, even, falls flat and fails. However, too many new entrepreneurs confuse a project with a dream. Know the difference.


Evolution is your friend.  Anyone devoted to preserving the status quo shouldn’t embark on the joyfully jobless path. I constantly remind folks that the business you start out with isn’t the business you end up with. If you’re doing it right, you’re growing and changing and your business is a reflection of that. It’s equally important to make wherever you are in the process as exciting a place as possible. Now.


The real key to longevity was expressed perfectly by Paul Harvey whose broadcasting career spanned seven decades. He once said, “I hope someday to have enough of what people call success so that I’ll be asked, ‘What’s your secret?’ to which I’ll reply, ‘I pick myself up again when I fall down.’”




If you want more longevity-enhancing tools, join me for one or more of my upcoming teleclasses. We open on Wednesday, October 14 with The Thrifty Entrepreneur: Doing More While Spending Less. That’s followed by Outsmarting Resistance on the 19th and A Beginner’s Guide to the Seminar Business on the 21st. Can’t attend in person? You can still sign up and receive the audio download for any of the classes.