I recently moved and came across the materials from a seminar that you hosted with Valerie Young in western Massachusetts. I found the Work at What You Love workbook and now I am living the life I wrote about then. I’m actually doing even more creative stuff than I could have dreamed of back then.

I remember that I loved the seminar but really was at a place where I thought the ideas would work for anyone but not me. I had very low self-esteem in the area of work because I kept choosing jobs that were a poor match.

This was how I thought my life was going to be: just grin and bear it and accept that I would never live my life from a more authentic place. So I kept working these draining jobs, going to therapy, completely stressed about money all the time.

And yet, there was a part of me that would not give up.

My husband saw an ad for an innkeeper. At the time, I was working at a hotel as a front office manager on Cape Cod and was so miserable. I called and the owner said he was really not looking for an employee, but a business partner.

We were not ready to lease the inn, so we offered to run the inn as independent contractors and had a legal agreement drawn up. Now, basically, we work for ourselves and get a decent percentage of what we bring in.

We run the inn how we want to and we are truly having the time of our lives. We both get to use our skills and because they are so different they compliment each other well.

My husband says that he feels alive in a way that he has not in a long time. We just discovered new space behind the inn that we will be turning into retreat/meeting/yoga    space.

It is so funny because now I am never sure how much money will be coming in week to week and it is the thing I worry about least.

I am having way too much fun working hard and now believe that the Universe will provide me with everything that I need because it already has.

Cheryl Bagangan, Onset, MA

A couple of years ago, I was teaching Making a Living Without a Job at UNLV. Although it wasn’t going to be a large class, I always have a sense of anticipation on seminar days and this was no exception.

After I had finished the first part of the program, I asked if there were any questions or comments. A woman raised her hand and asked a good question which I did my best to answer.

I noticed a man named Rich on the other side of the room suddenly sitting up straighter. As soon as I’d handled the first question, his hand went up.

“I’ve been listening to what you’ve had to say,” he said and paused. I thought a disagreement was coming.

I was wrong. “And I’m happy to learn than I’m doing a lot of things right, “ he said.

Without any prompting, he went on to share his story. “I did everything possible to keep from losing my job,” he said. “I took a pay cut, I worked longer hours, I hung on for dear life. A few months ago, I was laid off anyway. When I left, my employer said they hoped to hire me back as soon as possible and wanted me to leave my office just as it was with my wife’s picture and other personal things. I agreed.”

Then he went on to tell us that he’d spent a couple of weeks licking his wounds and then decided it was time for a new plan. This new plan included starting a service business as a handyman and junk remover.

Rich told us a bit about his what his days are like now. “My wife says,” he laughed, “that she’s never seen me so relaxed and happy.”

The longer he talked the more enthusiastic he became. “Last week,” he went on, “I decided to go back and visit my old employer. I’ve only been gone a few months, but everyone looked like they’d aged two years. I looked at my old office and thought, ‘I’m never coming back.’”

As often as I hear stories like Rich’s, I never fail to be moved by them.

Discovering our right livelihood is often a turning point, after all, one that introduces us to more joy, more adventure, and more extraordinary people than we ever realized was possible.

When he finished his story, I said, “So do you know what the number one regret is of people who become self-employed?”

Without hesitation Rich said, “That they didn’t start sooner.”

He is absolutely right. That’s a regret that can be avoided, of course, but only if you go after your dreams sooner.

Psychologist Alfred Adler concurs. “There is only one danger I find in life,” warned Adler, “you may  take too many precautions.”

Shortly after my daughter Jennie graduated from college, I noticed a change in her. News that would have been greeting with an “Oh, wow!” in the past was met with a shrug or a grunt. Nothing seemed to excite her.

When I mentioned my concern to my sister, she said, “I don’t think you need to be worried. I was like that when I was in my twenties trying to send the message, ‘I’ve seen better,’ so people would think I was worldly.”

Happily, the enthusiastic Jennie eventually returned, but not everybody passes through their blasé phase so quickly. Some people make it a lifetime policy to be unimpressed and unexcited about everything that life has to offer.

While they may think that they’re displaying superior intelligence by their perpetually disapproving attitude, they’re really repelling others (including customers and clients) from their life.

Being around the terminally bored is like being in a room lit by 25 watt light bulbs. It’s strangely uncomfortable and there’s a natural impulse to want to move into a brighter space.

Smart entrepreneurs know that apathy is an invitation to doom while enthusiasm is survival gear.

The wise have always known this. “Success is going from failure to failure,” observed Winston Churchill, “without a loss of enthusiasm.”

The word “enthusiasm” comes from the Greek “entheos” which means “God within”. It appears that those who are in touch with their inner spiritual fire are the most naturally enthusiastic about life itself.

Of course, many people have brief moments of excitement if they make a big sale, buy a winning lottery ticket or get invited to a reception at the White House. These are temporary responses, however, and once the moment has passed, so has their enthusiasm.

Genuine enthusiasm isn’t a temporary response to short-lived good fortune: it’s a way of dealing with whatever life offers up. It is actually an expression of a grateful and awe-filled attitude. Most critically, it’s a cultivated behavior—like good manners.

The chronically cranky don’t understand that they’re doing it to themselves. On the other hand, the perpetually enthusiastic know that their attitude is a powerful weapon against boredom, frustration and intolerance so they take great care to protect it.

Unlike good manners, which are totally learned behavior, enthusiasm arrives with us at birth. Watch any two-year-old exploring the world around them and you’ll see wide-eyed enthusiasm in action.

Unfortunately, many people believe that the role of parenting is about dampening enthusiasm, not fanning it, so too many of us arrive at adulthood with our enthusiasm dimmed and diminished. If we are to approach our lives with enthusiasm and vigor, we need to learn how to light our own fire.

That may be easier than you think. Since enthusiasm is an innate quality residing in each of us, we can decide to release it and allow it to propel us through our lives.

We can also discover for ourselves what nurtures our enthusiasm and make an effort to bring more of that into our lives. Conversely, we also need to identify those people and situations that diminish our zest and either eliminate them or find a workable way to include them with enthusiasm.

If you want to create a business that is rich, full and filled with wonder, start by releasing this magical power.

Do so and you’ll discover first hand what Charles Kingsley was talking about when he said, “We act as though comfort and luxury were the chief requirements of life, when all that we need to make us really happy is something to be enthusiastic about.”

After an out-of-town seminar trip, I found myself on an airport shuttle with a young man who asked me where I’d been and what I had been doing on my trip.

When I briefly explained that I taught seminars on creative self-employment, he said, “I’d like to work for myself, but my company gives me great benefits.”

Apparently  I was feeling a bit sassy  that morning. ”My company gives me great benefits, too,” I smiled. “In fact, my  business sends me to Europe whenever I want to go.”

What kind of benefits do you get from your company? My self-employed friends would list things like not having to drive in commuter traffic, being able to work in an office with a well-stocked kitchen nearby or having their cat in their lap as they work. But there’s no need to stop there.

One of the overlooked rewards of working for yourself is the opportunity to create the kinds of benefits that you truly desire. In addition to the ordinary things like health insurance and time off, here are five more perks worth considering.

 * A massage therapist who makes housecalls. Having your massage at home eliminates the stress of driving when it’s over and saves your time, too.

A friend of mine, has her massage therapist come late in the evening so she can go straight to bed for a night of extra sound sleep. Besides that, it’s a little luxury to have your own in-home therapist.

* A medical savings account. Although they’ve been around for a while, HSAs haven’t been particularly  well-publicized.

Essentially, an HSA allows you to put money into a special account to pay out of pocket medical expenses. This money is not taxed, however, and can rollover. Ask your insurance provider if they can help you establish such an account.

* A techie friend who knows more than you do. Actually, I have a team of such friends who patiently coax me into learning new things or answer my questions when I’m stumped.

On the afternoon when I thought I had erased everything in my hard drive, one of them dropped everything and came to my home office to restore order. Everyone needs such a willing friend.

* An accountant who understands small business. It might seem sexy to hire a large accounting firm, but don’t do it if you’re a one-person business.

People trained to handle corporate affairs won’t understand what you’re up to. Instead find an accountant who works from home or from a very small office—one who is self-employed.

* A diary and a photo album. Journals are great for exploring thoughts and ideas, but a diary is a factual running record of your life.

If you can find an old-fashioned 5-year diary and write in it faithfully, you’ll have an on-going account of your growth. It’s also fun to look back at the same date a year or two ago and see what you were doing.

Likewise, a photo album that chronicles your entrepreneurial life will become a treasured reminder of how far you’ve come.

It’s no surprise to me that so many people who embark on the Joyfully Jobless Journey are also travel enthusiasts.

Since I’ve been seriously nesting for the past five months, my wanderlust is feeling a bit neglected. I’ve hardly set foot on an airplane during this time, for goodness sake.

So when I was moving some things in my office this morning, I noticed a traveler’s journal someone had given me and decided to take a quick look. Every page has a travel quote on it and I couldn’t bear to keep them to myself.

Here’s a short sampler of some of my favorites. It’s easy to see how they can also be a metaphor for self-employment.

I hate a room without an open suitcase in it…it seems so permanent. ~ Zelda Fitzgerald

Traveling, especially traveling light, teaches you the difference between what is important in life and what may be an onerous burden. ~ Rick Berg

The man who goes ahead stumbles, so that the man who follows may have his wits about him. ~ Kenyan saying (This is also true for other pioneers.)

The traveler was active: he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive: he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes “sight-seeing.” ~ Daniel Boorstin

I was once asked if I’d like to meet the president of a certain country. I said, “No, but I’d love to meet some sheepherders.” The sheepherders, farmers and taxi drivers are often the most fascinating people. ~ James Michener

Someone said to Socrates that a certain man had grown no better by his travels. “I should think not,” he said, “he took himself along.”

Travel is transformational, the thing that keeps our world vibrant and alive. It’s one’s duty to travel, to keep moving, to expose oneself to foreign cultures, foreign landscapes, foreign ideas. ~ Brad Newsham

And, of course, I have to add my two all-time favorite quotes which were not included in the journal.

The world is a book and he who stays home reads only one page. ~ St Augustine

When setting out on a journey do not seek advice from someone who has never left home. ~ Rumi


Make sure if your story ever gets into someone’s book that it’s used as an example and not as a warning. ~ Jim Rohn

It was still hours until daylight when the airport shuttle picked me up at my hotel. The driver apologized for being late and assured me that he wouldn’t speed since he’d been a policeman for eighteen years and had enough of fast cars.

We drove to an apartment complex that looked like a charming village to fetch the next passenger. He was chatty, too, and introduced himself as Rueben. I commented that his neighborhood looked nice.

“Oh,” he scoffed, “it’s like living in prison.” He gave us a long list of his complaints including the fact that the management had no tolerance for bounced checks.

He told us he’d always lived in houses in California and this was his first apartment experience. “What brought you to Dallas?” I innocently asked.

“A mistake,” he snapped back. I decided he was a professional malcontent and ceased listening.

At the next stop, a younger man bounced into the van and plunked down beside me. “Hi,” he said, extending his hand. “I’m Grant.”

When I asked him what brought him to Dallas he told us he was starting a new Internet business and had come for a meeting and training. Grant lived in Maui where he’d relocated from Washington.

“What brought you to Maui?” I asked. (Okay, it hadn’t worked with Rueben, but I really wanted to know.)

Grant said he’d gone there on vacation, fell in love with the place, had gone home and liquidated his business in Washington and then set up a new one in Hawaii.

Rueben then told us that he’d lived in Hawaii for a time himself, “Before they ruined it,” he pointed out.

By this time, I was far more interested in hearing what the cheerful Grant had to say. “So you’re an entrepreneur,” I said.

“Yup,” he replied. “I’ve had employees since I was 23. But I really want to get this new business running and I’ll be a one-person enterprise. No employees is my goal.”

“Ah, a man after my own heart,” I said. “I have a one-person business too.”

At this point, Rueben joined the conversation again telling us how lazy people are and how hard it is to get decent employees. Rueben wasn’t about to be left out of this conversation since he, too, owned his own business.

I couldn’t imagine being locked up with him for an entire day, but was polite enough not to point out that the problem might not be with the people he hired—who all seemed to quit rather quickly.

On the flight home, I pondered the Ruebens of this world. Do they not notice, I wondered, that their critical behavior is influencing the outcomes they receive?

I’m certain that Rueben is convinced that the way he sees things is the way things are. On the other hand, Grant is open, excited and receptive, exploring as he goes.

Care to predict whose life will be filled with success?


“When setting out on a journey,” the poet Rumi warned, “do not seek advice from someone who’s never left home.”

Seems obvious to me, but I’m amazed at the number of people who let themselves be talked out of their dream of business ownership by folks who’ve never run a business.

Doesn’t it make more sense to see what successful self-bossers have to say? Today we’re going to do just that.

The world is a massively more hospitable place for entrepreneurs than it was twenty years ago. ~ Richard Branson

But for those who think that an eternal escape from work would be paradise, don’t forget that we all need a playground and your own company is one of the best playgrounds of all. ~ Derek Sivers

The self-owned and -operated business is the freest life in the world. ~ Paul Hawken

I dare say, all successful entrepreneurs have loved to tell the story of their business. Because that’s what entrepreneurs do: they tell stories that come to life in the form of their businesses. ~ Michael E. Gerber

More good has been launched by more people from kitchen tables than any other platform in the land. ~ Jim Hightower

I think the best investment you can make is to start a business that is so much fun you don’t care if you go broke. With this approach, you can be certain of success. ~ Phil Laut

Feeling taxed? I am GRATEFUL to be making money doing what I love. For years, writing was a hobby, a hope, a haunting. Now it’s a legitimate business, one I file on Schedule C. If you’re lucky enough to be “taxed” on your dream or free enterprise, celebrate today. It’s a milestone and a privilege. ~ Tama J. Kieves

Self-managers of our own assets. That’s what more and more of us are becoming. ~ Charles Handy

Bootstrappers built this country and they continue to make it great. Virtually every business—from IBM to the local dry cleaner—was bootstrapped, usually by people with far less smarts, less money, fewer connections and less vision than you have right now. ~ Seth Godin

Entrepreneurs want to create a livelihood from an idea that has obsessed them. What gets their juices going is seeing how far an idea can go. ~ Anita Roddick


Want more wise advice from fellow travelers? I’ve collected some of my favorite quotes in a little book called Seminar in a Sentence. Readers tell me they carry it with them so they can find inspiration on a moment’s notice. Order yours now.


I can honestly say that I have never gone into any business purely to make money. If that is the sole motive, you are better off not doing it. A business has to be involving, it has to be fun, and it has to exercise creative instincts.  ~ Richard Branson

When you decide to follow the path of self-employment, old notions that you can only make a living working for someone else may not be the only thought you need to leave behind. Your idea of what it takes to be an entrepreneur may be as outdated as the typewriter, too.

Listen in on a conventional business conversation and the first thing you’ll notice is how often sports are used as a metaphor. You’ll hear things like, “That’s just par for the course. You gotta step up to the plate. We need more team players around here.”

Business as a competitive game reflects another outdated image.

Much of the information about starting a business reflects a limited concept, too. When the idea of starting my own business took root in my mind, I began doing research.

What I discovered was the assumption that everyone wanted to grow a massive enterprise. Did I really want a building with my name in six-foot high gold letters? Employees? Pension plans? None of that appealed to me.

The idea of working for myself wouldn’t go away and I decided there must be another way of doing things—a way that’s high on satisfaction and simplicity. Happily, Dr. Schumacher came along and affirmed my hunches.

The philosophy of small scale enterprise gained global attention in the seventies when economist E.F. Schumacher wrote his visionary book Small is Beautiful: Economics as if People Mattered. Schumacher mainly caught the attention of the counterculture, since conventional business was still focused on a Bigger is Better mentality.

Yet his ideas made sense to those concerned about global issues, as well as those who suspected that one of the functions of business was to help people actualize their potential.

He argued that those benefits could only come from small scale enterprises that care about people and the planet. It’s an idea that suddenly seems ripe and ready to replace the old model.

Meet the 21st Century Entrepreneur

The signs are everywhere that a new kind of businessperson is emerging. The venerable Wall Street Journal even named an editor to cover Lifestyle Entrepreneurs, as they call them. These are people who start businesses for reasons other than amassing a fortune and building a large organization.

These visionaries don’t resemble athletes at all. In fact, they look more like gardeners.

Paul Hawken, a successful entrepreneur and writer, goes so far as to suggest that every business student should study biology since the lessons learned in the plant world directly apply to successful businesses.

Penelope Hobhouse, a real hands-on gardener and prolific writer, shared her life rules for garden design and the parallels to good business design are obvious. (I’ve added a couple of comments in parenthesis.)

1. Never go anywhere without a notebook. Be a perpetual student.

2. Find a mentor—one or many.

3. Do your homework.

4. Trust your own experience. Keep notes of what works and what doesn’t.

5. Don’t get hung up on plants (or products or services). A garden is bigger than all that.

6. Never think you’ll get it right the first time. If a plant isn’t happy, don’t hesitate to dig it up and move it to a better spot.

7. Encourage self-seeding plants to seek their own place in the garden. (Find your own metaphor in that.)

8. Don’t forget that sunlight and shade are design elements. (Your business needs variety and contrast, too.)

9. Avoid fussiness. Above all, simplify.

10. Focus on the garden you really want.

“Sometimes we get so busy running our businesses,” Oprah once observed, “that we forget why we started the business.” Oprah is not the only one dealing with that predicament.

Sooner or later, we all get swept up in the logistics of keeping our businesses running and temporarily overlook our real reasons for going out on our own.

It seemed appropriate to end this challenging year with some reminders about why the Joyfully Jobless path is one worth taking. Throughout December, I’ll be reviewing and reminding myself (and anyone else who cares to listen) about the rewards of working independently.

I’m starting with a short list I’m calling Self-employment is the Place Where…

° you discover ideas you didn’t know you had

° you discover friends you didn’t know you had

° you discover you can make a bigger contribution

° you set the rules and live by them

° you discover what one-of-a-kind means

° you flaunt your individuality

° you discover that you’re media worthy

° you discover that experimenting is fun

° you discover that failing isn’t fatal

° you discover that beginnings are exciting

° you discover the importance of taking care of the boss

° you discover the power of setting boundaries

° you discover that there are many forms of payment of which money is just one

° you discover you’re more creative than you realized

° you discover that you still have dreams that deserve to come true

Most importantly, you discover what poet David Whyte meant when he wrote, “Anyone or anything that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”

What discovery do you want to remember?

This week has been mostly about getting ready for the Joyfully Jobless Jamboree. There have been long Skype conference calls with Alice Barry and Sandy Dempsey and a steady stream of e-mails.

All of us are filled with anticipation and excitement because we’re old hands at taking ourselves away, changing the scenery, surrounding ourselves with a new cast of characters, and focusing on moving ahead without distractions or interruptions.

Retreats are so powerful that I can’t imagine why everyone doesn’t take advantage of such opportunities. After all, in order to do all we can and have all we desire, we must first become all that we are.

For most of us, that requires the assistance of those who are farther along on whatever path we’re treading. There was another example of this last week from one of my Facebook friends.

Andrea Brigitte Klee wrote, “I just returned home from Barbara Sher’s Scanner Retreat in France. What a week! I ate the best southwestern French food ever, and had a major breakthrough concerning the direction of my life. I found the answers to two basic questions, and, surprisingly enough, it was me who answered the questions.”

Yup, retreats have a way of letting us get in touch with our boldest dreams. At their best, they also provide us with tools to keep the momentum going once we’re back in familiar territory.

Author Sondra Ray once pointed out that the most important item in a budget is for personal growth and yet few people include it. Ray says, “When someone says, ‘I don’t have enough money to go to that seminar,” it’s like saying, ‘I’m not a good investment.”


If you’re a one-person operation, you are the biggest asset your business has. Without investing time and money in yourself, it’s difficult for that asset to expand.

Retreats have another bonus in addition to self-discovery. Ever see the movie About a Boy ? It has nothing to do with attending a seminar, but it certainly is a terrific story about personal growth.

Hugh Grant plays a purposeless young man who is supported by royalties from a silly Christmas song his father wrote years earlier. His life begins to change when he unwillingly befriends a socially inept boy.

At the end of the movie, when many lives have changed for the better because of the relationships they’ve made, the boy says, “One is not enough. You’ve got to have backup.”

That astute observation doesn’t just apply to personal relationships, of course. Having backup is critical for anyone who is serious about building business longevity.

So what kind of backup should we be putting in place? According to Scott Stratten’s brilliant new book UnMarketing, it starts with connecting to others. To do that successfully requires making relationship building an on-going activity.

Some of those relationships will begin via social media, of course, but face to face offers another dimension that can’t be achieved via a computer.

So I’m heading to Austin expecting to come home with new ideas, new enthusiasm, and fuel for the next leg of my journey.

Most of all, I’m excited to find some new friends who will provide—and receive—backup, because, quite simply, you can never have too much of that.


We’ve had many questions about recordings from the Jamboree. However, we decided it’s a “you had to have been there” kind of experience so we won’t be Tweeting, posting, recording or taping the event.