Although it’s been years since I bought a copy of Woman’s Day magazine, when I was whizzing through the market express line with my muffin, the bold headline on the cover caught my eye. The attention-grabber read 12 Ways to Make Money at Home.

It wasn’t just the information that had me snapping up  the issue. Even though I live, breathe and dream about self-employment, the conventional career advice has often treated working for yourself as a last resort, a stop gap, perhaps, between real jobs.

When I see mainstream media giving the joyfully jobless path some attention, I am both curious and supportive.

On the same day I bought the magazine, I received a message from Kristina Rupert who was busily exploring Making a Living Without a Job. She didn’t just write a nice fan message, however. She had a personal experience to share.

Kristina wrote, “I graduated from college 3 years ago with a B.S. in Entrepreneurship and when I chose the major my advisor said, ‘I don’t know if that is a good idea, what kind of business are you going to start?  This major is more for people that are getting into a family business.’

“ I proceeded to ask him, ‘Do you ask theater majors what Broadway hit they are going to star in?’  He didn’t answer the question, but then, he didn’t have to.  I knew the truth.

“So I went against that terrible advice and stuck with it because I knew it was right for me.  Your book has validated that decision for me.

“This is the wake up call I needed to get out there and start making a life for myself, on my terms.  I just had to stop reading to write and tell you how utterly wonderful this book is!”

So hooray to Kristina for listening to her heart and hooray to Woman’s Day for flaunting alternatives to getting a job.

(My favorite idea in the magazine article is the woman from Newport Beach, California who writes people’s messages in the sand at the beach and takes a picture that she then e-mails to them. Who knew there was a market for this?)

Of course, the same issue also has plenty of traditional career advice, and their work at home advice is limited to online opportunities. Still, I’m optimistic that they may be getting the attention of more readers who have been diverted from the joyfully jobless path by uninformed sources.

After all, making a living without a job is about much more than just paying the bills. Sadly, Kristina’s advisor, many career counselors and amateur advisors haven’t discovered our secret.

They do remind us, however, that if we’re going to blaze new trails, turn our passions into profits, create things that have never been seen before, we need to stick together— and encourage entrepreneurial spirit wherever we can find it.

The most important teacher I’ve ever had wasn’t in any school. Instead, Bob Conklin was an entrepreneur, writer, and speaker who passionately cared about people and believed fervently that we humans were capable of great things.

Although he was extraordinarily inspiring, he bore almost no resemblence to many of the people who identify themselves as motivational speakers. Bob was both a compelling storyteller and an empathetic listener.

This wise and gentle man quietly enticed me into the world of personal growth and self-discovery. He suggested books, urged me to sign up for seminars. For that, I am forever in his debt.

Spending time with Bob was always worthwhile. Even now, I’m not entirely sure what made it so magical except that I always left such encounters liking myself a little bit better. That, in turn, made it possible for me to move ahead a little bit farther.

Bob wrote that he and his wife once sat down and added up all the investments they had made in their lives. Stocks, real estate, and other investments were all listed. Then they calculated the return on their various expenditures.

“By far, the greatest return on any investment we ever made,” Bob wrote, “were those investments in our own growth and development. The time and money we spent in seminars  gave us returns—financial and otherwise—that far outstripped any other investments we had made.”

Seeing the example of Bob’s life, I was already convinced. I also knew that if I was going to succeed on my own, I’d have to carve out a new curriculum for myself.

So how high a priority is learning for you? Are seminars in your budget? Do you gravitate to programs that teach skills or creative thinking?  Does your personal curriculum include both information and inspiration?

Don’t have a budget for success? It’s probably costing you more than you may think.

Mark Evans, a former newspaper reporter turned entrepreneur, had an article in the Globe and Mail on the importance of continuing education for entrepreneurs. He writes, “It is easy to dismiss the need to learn new skills, using excuses such as not having enough time, a lack of interest, or having no need to enhance your tools, but this would be a mistake.

“People and companies need to evolve, change, recalibrate and, sometimes, reinvent themselves to adapt to a changing landscape. If you don’t change, the world may pass you by.”

But that’s only part of the story. Currently, there’s a popular piece on the New York Times site called But Will It Make You Happy? (If you haven’t seen it, I urge you to read the entire piece.)

Here’s a sampler: “One major finding is that spending money for an experience — concert tickets, French lessons, sushi-rolling classes, a hotel room in Monaco— produces longer-lasting satisfaction than spending money on plain old stuff.”

But, of course, Bob Conklin knew that all along. I now know that was the best thing he taught me.

When I was pruning my library, I came across a book called The Way of the Traveler by Joseph Dispenza which I had never read. After spending time reading it last night, I’m wondering why I didn’t make the pleasure of Dispenza’s company sooner.

He talks about travel as a journey of self-discovery. Many of the things he says are equally true of self-employment.

He writes, “Acknowledging the necessity of material provisions—especially money—is the great reality check of travel. The  challenge in preparing financially is to not allow money, or the lack of it, to limit your journey.”

Believing that our dreams are supportable is essential, of course, but we also must trust that support will come when we need it—and be open to however that happens.

Thinking about this, I flashed back on a trip to Switzerland that Nick WIlliams and I made in 2004. We spent a week riding trains, meeting some wonderful people, and doing business planning.

Since we both believe that inspiration often hangs out in beautiful places, we spent a day in Chamonix, France, home of the glorious Mont Blanc.  The entire trip turned out to be even better than I’d expected.

The next day we were heading back to Zurich where Nick was scheduled to fly home to London. I was spending another day before departure. “Do you know where you’re staying tonight?” Nick inquired.

I laughed and admitted that I didn’t have any idea, but had learned during my itinerary-free sabbatical that I always could find a place for the night no matter where I was. “I  assume there’s a room waiting for me, “ I said. “I have never had to sleep on a park bench.”

Applying this philosophy goes way beyond locating a hotel room when I need one. In fact, it just happened again this morning and in a most unexpected way.

On my way to Trader Joe’s, I decided to stop at the Goodwill drop-off spot in Lowe’s parking lot. I was greeted by a delightful man wearing a jaunty straw hat.

When I drove up, he promptly came over to my car to assist. I only had one bag to donate, but we started to chat. When I mentioned I was moving from a house I loved living in, he said, “There are a lot more wonderful houses out there.”

Then he surprised me by saying, “Moving.That’s what I do when I’m not volunteering here.” That got my attention, of course.

I asked him more questions and knew immediately that I had found my perfect support team for the move. Even better, the three-man moving company is called Smiley Enterprises. I’m pretty sure I was smiling as I drove away.

Do you trust that support will appear when needed? Or fear you’re unworthy of receiving what you need? Either way, you’re right.

Dreams are extremely fragile—especially in their early days. Dreams need to be nurtured and surrounded by support. Unfortunately, there aren’t many parenting manuals for dreambuilding.

Here are a handful of easy  ways to get your dreams off to a great start.

1. Passion must be present. While a dream may be born in passion, it’s up to you to keep it alive. If you’re half-hearted and lukewarm about them, your dreams will never come true.

One way to keep passion high is to spend a few minutes every day visualizing the successful completion of your dream. How does it look, smell, taste, sound, feel? Allow your vision to keep pulling you forward.

2.Take good care of the boss. It doesn’t matter how great a dream is if the dreamkeeper is too tired or uninspired to bring it to life.

Sometimes the easiest things to do are also the easiest to overlook—like drinking plenty of water and avoiding toxic people. Dreamkeepers have an obligation to create the healthiest and most balanced life possible.

3. Make your workspace a place that inspires you. Whether you work on a beach with your laptop or in an extra bedroom in your home, make it inspiring as well as efficient.

Burn incense, play classical music, have a tabletop fountain, and/or cover your walls with art or an inspiration board that pictures your dreams.

And if you’re sitting on a beach, pick one with a great view.

4. Take responsibility for staying inspired. There are three ways to run a business: Inspired, Uninspired or With Occasional Flashes of Inspiration. You can identify those things that inspire you and expose yourself to them frequently.

Whether it’s music or the words of a particular author or the company of another entrepreneur, know where your Inspiration Well is and go to the Well often.

5. Create your own Hall of Fame. Ask a successful actor or musician who inspired them and they’ll probably answer quickly. Ask a would-be entrepreneur the same question and you’re apt to be greeted by a shrug of  the shoulders.

If you’re going to succeed, you need to be inspired by real people. Read biographies or interviews of successful people and pay attention to the philosophies they share.

6. Be open to being inspired at all times. You never know where a great idea or solution to a problem will come from. Carry a notebook with you so you can jot down ideas as they occur.

If you spend a lot of time driving, you may want to carry a voice-activated recorder to capture your thoughts.

7. Notice what catches your attention, what makes you happy, what causes an emotional response. These are all clues. Don’t miss them.

For example, when you receive great—or horrible—customer service, think about what made the situation stand out and how you can adopt or avoid those things when you’re the one doing the delivering.

8. Collect entrepreneurial friends. There’s almost nothing more rewarding than spending time in the presence of kindred spirits who can add their own creative ideas and encouragement to what you’re doing.

Cultivating such friendships will be one of the best investments you can make.

9. Change the scenery. There’s nothing that dulls the creative spirit more quickly than daily routine. You can counteract the dulling effect of that by taking a field trip or creative excursion at least once a week.

Take your laptop to a coffee shop, visit a museum or walk in a Japanese garden. Challenge yourself to come up with new backdrops that feed your soul.


Join us at the Joyfully Jobless Jamboree on October 15 & 16 in Austin TX and you’ll be able to gather all sorts of ideas, inspiration and information that you can take back to your Hothouse.

Register now and save $100…or $150 if you hurry.

It’s easy to identify the folks on Facebook who aren’t joyfully jobless. They’re the ones who post things like, “Hooray! It’s Friday!”

They’re not alone, of course.

Have you seen the clever ad campaign Starbucks is running for their Via coffee? It’s brilliant storytelling done with coffee cup slogans. One of them says, “I hate Mondays.” At the bottom of her cup, there’s this inspiring message: “Only four days to go.”

When I lived in Santa Barbara, I watched the Friday exodus that happened weekly without fail. By mid-afternoon, the freeway was clogged with northbound drivers headed off for a weekend away from Los Angeles. On Sunday afternoon, the parade was reversed.

I think of that everytime I hear the other tv ad that’s revived Lover Boy’s old tune that begins, “Everybody’s workin’ for the weekend.”

That’s not quite true, of course. Weekends aren’t the big goal for everybody. There are millions of people who are working for retirement. In fact, for many people, retirement is the only goal they’ve ever set for themselves.

Working for the weekend and for retirement are, of course, not only expected, they’re socially acceptable. When everyone around you seems to accept that, it’s easy to assume that the big reward of a job is having time off.

Call me a wacky renegade, but I never understood how working at a miserable or dull job for five days was a fair trade for a weekend off. Happily, I’m not the only one who questions that system.

Ernie J. Zelinski, author of Career Success Without a Real Job says, “It’s impossible to buy back enough enjoyment in retirement to make up for the pleasure you missed while working at a lousy job.”

So what do people work for if it isn’t for the weekend or retirement?

The possibilities are as unique as the ones pursuing them, of course, but you’ll hear them answering that question with words such as passion, discovery, creativity, freedom, variety, adventure, personal growth, making a difference.

They seem to think those things are too important to experience only on the weekend.

If you’ve left the TGIF life behind, I urge you to celebrate your independence with gusto on this 4th of July weekend. As early patriot John Hancock observed, “The more people who own little businesses of their own, the safer our country will be…for the people who have a stake in their country and their community are its best citizens.”

We could use alot more of that kind of patriotic thinking right now.

All creative folks have their favorite ways of re-lighting their imagination. On those days when I need a little jolt, but don’t have a lot of time to devote to it, a swing through my neighborhood branch library or bookstore usually does the trick.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who has discovered these idea palaces, but a letter I received a while back shared a bookstore experience that made me smile. I’ll keep the writer anonymous. Here’s his story:

“Exactly 24 hours ago, I took my penny pail to the bank and cashed it in for $32.09. Against my better judgment, I decided to visit Border’s bookstore to have a latte and browse through a book that had caught my eye on several previous tours. Before my coffee was cool enough to drink, I decided to spend over half my available cash on Making a Living Without a Job.

 “After brooding for nearly two weeks and accomplishing nothing, I read your entire book in one sitting. 

 “Since then, I have sold books to a used bookstore, sold an expensive golf bag to a secondhand sporting goods store,l, sold a rowing machine to a secondhand exercise machine store, took four large trash bags of good clothing to a consignment shop.

“I dared to try my new Rollerblades, scheduled a meeting with my father-in-law to learn his business secrets, faxed a letter and resume to a local business college about teaching several courses, made a number of phone calls for some consulting work. and listed 37 potential Profit Centers. 

 “Oh, yes, I also made a huge pot of Texas Red chili and did five loads of laundry.” 

He goes on to write, “I have been making a living without a job, though I lacked an understanding of the process and certainly lacked the passion you so eloquently described.

“I knew the time had come to return to the dream. Thank you for giving it back to me.”


Every time my UPS driver delivers another case of Making a Living Without a Job books, I am reminded that this idea almost didn’t happen. In fact, I was downright clueless about how big an idea it was.


Several months after I moved to Minneapolis, I discovered Open U, our local independent adult ed program. I thought this might be a good place to try out some ideas I had for seminars so I sent them a proposal. Making a Living was one of those ideas, but I didn’t think it was the biggest. Although I’d met a number of people in my new hometown who seemed intrigued by my joyfully jobless lifestyle, I suspected it was too radical to be popular. Maybe I’d do a session or two, I thought.


Thousands of seminar participants and tens of thousands of readers later, I am still astonished at how excited I get every time I walk into a meeting room to talk about my favorite subject. Helping others become self-employed has been a continuous source of joy and satisfaction for me.


So here’s a little secret about ideas: we can’t possibly know ahead of time which of our ideas are the real winners. The only way to find out is by putting them out into the world and seeing what happens.


Sometimes ideas arrive too early for the marketplace. Sometimes we discover when we try something out that it’s not as much fun as we thought it would be. Sometimes we don’t get the response we’d wanted, but still love the idea so much that we start looking for better ways of delivering it. It’s all a fascinating experiment.


We can’t know until we get into the game. It’s as simple as that. As Paul Hawken points out, “Owning a business and working for one are as different as chalk and cheese.” Surmising, fretting and musing about being an entrepreneur may be an interesting mental exercise, but it’s only by doing what an entrepreneur does that you can know what it’s really like.


I’m not the first person to discover this, of course. One of my favorite entrepreneurial role models was the late Dame Anita Roddick. Here’s what she had to say about her journey:


There are no rules or formulas for success. You just have to live it and do it. Knowing this gives us enormous freedom to experiment  toward what we want. Believe me, it’s a crazy, complicated journey. It’s trial and error. It’s opportunism. It’s quite literally, “Let’s try  lots of this stuff and see how it works.” 


My thinking was forged in the 1960s and in those days I would rather have slit my wrists than work in a corporation. So we had no organizational chart, no one-year, five-year plan. What we did have was management by our common values.


Entrepreneurs want to create a livelihood from an idea that has obsessed them. Money will grease the wheels, but becoming a millionaire is not the aim of the true entrepreneur. In fact, most entrepreneurs I know don’t give a damn about the accumulation of money. What gets their juices going is seeing how far an idea can go.


And I only know one way for that to happen.



The brilliant Chris Brogan talks about Overnight Success and Excuses. Check it out.



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.



One of the major reasons it gets easier and easier to start a business is because of the generosity of folks who are already doing it. Every day I see entrepreneurs sharing information and encouragement with others who are coming along behind them. Still, new entrepreneurs often think they have nothing to contribute. Nothing could be farther from the truth. As Dennis Hopper says in the movie Crash, “You’re either a roadblock or a short cut.” 


Here are some ways to spread entrepreneurial spirit and provide a shortcut for others.


Be a model in the world. Proudly share the joys and rewards of self-employment. Almost daily I see a Facebook or Twitter post sharing a story that ends with, “I love working for myself.”  You don’t have to be a missionary, but don’t hide it, either.


Patronize small businesses. It’s not always an easy option, but make the effort to support the community that you’re a part of. Take a look at the work Becky McCray is doing on behalf of small town businesses at


Adopt a protégé. Even if you think you’re still a novice, you’re bound to have already learned things that would help a beginner. Don’t be surprised if you’re the one who learns the most.


Be a micro-lender. My favorite organization is Kiva because you get to choose the entrepreneur who receives your loan. It’s a real joy to help a business grow in a far corner of the world and it only take $25 to get started. Once a loan is repaid, you can take your money back or loan it again. 


Start a local Meet Up group. Homebased businesses can be invisible to their neighbors. This is a great way to connect with other entrepreneurs in your own backyard.


Help a kid. Volunteer to talk about entrepreneurship at Career Day at your child’s school. Or become a Junior Achievement volunteer. There’s nothing like a living role model to show that there’s an alternative to getting a job.


Attend Tribal Meetings. Retreats, seminars and workshops designed to help you make your business better are happening all over the place. The connections you make may be as valuable as the information you receive. And, of course, you may have information that solves a problem for another attendee.


If you want to see entrepreneurial support in action, join me for Follow Through Camp, coming up on November 6 & 7. Arrive with an idea. Leave with a commitment.


Orders for Making a Living Without a Job were piling up and my shipment was more than a week overdue. I called my publisher to see if they could track the order and learned that the shipping department was clogged getting Dan Brown’s blockbuster The Lost Symbol out in time for its’ debut.  I was assured that my books should be arriving momentarily.


Later in the day, I heard my doorbell and when I opened the door saw the UPS delivery man heading to his truck. Even though it wasn’t my regular driver, I called out to him and said, “Do you allow your customers to kiss you?” He turned around, smiled and walked back up the sidewalk. “Man, I hear ‘You saved my life,’ all the time. Yup, we’re just out here delivering packages and saving lives every day.” I suggested that UPS turn that benefit into a new advertising campaign. 


I get a lot of packages from UPS and have noticed that even though I’m on their route late in day, the drivers are always cheerful. My regular driver calls me by name and exchanges a few words even though he’s probably eager to finish his day. It’s a dramatic contrast to the cranky postman who delivers my mail with a snarl. 


Yesterday afternoon I decided to sweep my front porch and prune the bush that was intruding into the walkway. As I was puttering, I noticed that the welcome mat by my front door was showing signs of wear and tear. In fact, it says “lcome”. I made a note to replace it soon. After all, I want the UPS guy to know I’m glad he showed up. 


Even though my customers do not normally appear at my front door, I am always looking for ways to keep the welcome mat out in my business, too. Seems pretty fundamental to me.


You’d think that every entrepreneur would consider it essential to welcome potential buyers and clients to their business, but experience shows that’s not always the case.


Consider the less-than-welcoming way some businesses answer their phones. Browse at any flea market or craft fair and you’ll see numerous vendors who are reading a book or chatting with other vendors while ignoring the crowd.  And it’s not just exhibiters that do this: many businessowners seem to wear a “Do Not Disturb” sign—defying anyone to ask them questions or offer them money.


Smart entrepreneurs make it their mission to let others know that they are in business to serve. I bet the people that you most like doing business with have their own version of a welcome mat, don’t they? Do you?