Many things improve with age; airline travel is not one of them.  Even before increased airport security slowed things down, the flying experience was loaded with stress-inducing delays and rude behavior. Frequent flyers just grit their teeth and bear it as best they can, but a bit of pre-planning can improve the quality of the experience enormously.  

How can you avoid an exhausting flight?  Here are some simple things that can make a big difference in lowering the stress and hassles of airline travel.

 ° Be considerate of your fellow passengers.  Sounds obvious to me, but considering the number of folks I see who seem oblivious to others, this one needs mentioning.  My personal pet peeve is people seated in the back of the plane who fill the front overhead bins with their luggage so they don’t have to carry it so far. Later boarders, assigned to the front seats, have no place to stow their stuff.  That’s both annoying and rude.  Equally irritating are portable video games that produce sounds when they’re played.  

 Cramped airplanes, indifferent service and bad food are annoyances enough.  Don’t be part of the problem, if you can help it. Your fellow passengers are not your adversaries, after all. 

 ° Come prepared to amuse yourself.  I’m often surprised by the tacky books I see my flying companions reading, books hastily purchased at the airport gift shop. If you know you have a couple of hours that would be ideal for reading, why not be selective and use it to read something worthwhile? 

° Carry a snack.  Even on short flights, you may be overcome with hunger.  Depending on the airport to provide food can be dicey. It’s worth the extra trouble to bring something healthy along. Dried fruit, nuts and crackers are great portable snacks.  Once a year, I eat an airport hot dog.  That cures me of neglecting to carry my own provisions. 

 ° Simplify, simplify.  It’s astonishing to see the amount of stuff people drag along when they travel. Although the airlines are getting fussier about the number of items you can check, I’ve seen several people that I’m certain were moving all their worldly possessions via the airlines. 

If you travel regularly, keep a toiletry bag stocked.  You might also have underwear, nightwear, a hairdryer and an umbrella stowed in your suitcase ready to go. Pare your travel wardrobe to the bare minimum and refuse to pack anything “just in case”. 

Another tip is to proudly carry cheap luggage. The expensive stuff doesn’t survive baggage handling any better than the bargain bags so if you’re going to have to replace it regularly, spend as little as possible to begin with.

 ° Be more than a traveler.  Having something exciting to look forward to can lower the irritation encountered getting there. Once you’ve arrived, be creative about the way you’ll spend your time at your destination.  If your trip is primarily for business, try to leave some time for sampling local attractions. 

Scout out things that are of personal interest, too.  If you are wild about railroad memorabilia or Victorian architecture or Japanese gardens, add to your knowledge in the places you visit.   While it’s not always possible to indulge yourself on every trip, anticipating at least one special pleasure at trip’s end will have a positive impact on your attitude—which is the most important weapon you have for combating whatever unpleasant surprises you encounter on the way.

Explore More: Want to see the world and create a profit center at the same time? So did Anne Estes and she’s doing just that as an international house/petsitter. 

Monday was a National Day of Service and Seth Godin offered 18 creative service ideas that could be a worthwhile way to spend some time whenever you’d like to offer it.

For the past several years, Kiplinger’s magazine has run an annual feature called What $1000 Can Do. Every issue has been filled with ideastarters ranging from be a philanthropist to save energy with a front-loading washer. Although these usually appear in August, you can see previous $1000 roundups online.

If you’re new to Twitter (or not new, but still perplexed) there’s some terrific info on TwiTip including a helpful piece called 7 Ways to Be Worth Following on Twitter.

Everyone who’s been around me knows that I’m a passionate fan of Cirque du Soleil. Besides their breathtaking shows, I’m also a fan of their philosophy of merging business and art. The first Cirque show I ever saw was O and I love it so much that I’ve returned five times. Naturally,  I was excited to hear that Dave Taylor had written about his behind-the-scenes experience (complete with photos) at O.   It’s a rare glimpse into the support system behind the awe.

In case you missed it, take a look at Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher’s I Pledge video. Then create your own pledge and say it out loud.

I’ve also been alerting everyone to Rick Steve’s briliant PBS program on Iran. It’s running throughout the country now and into February. If your local station has yet to show it, make a point to see it. It’s a stunner.

When I made my first visit to Austin, TX after my daughter moved there, I wrote about some of the fun and funky businesses there. The new issue of Budget Travel magazine echoes my enthusiasm in their 25 Reasons We Love Austin.

Finally, I know there were more great ideas floating around this week, but I’m on a really tight deadline to finish the updated version of Making a Living Without a Job so that’s currently taking over my life. It’s only temporary, I believe.

It has taken me three decades to unlearn the impulse to be practical.  Just imagine what you might have accomplished if only you’d been encouraged to honor your creative reveries as spiritual gifts. ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach

Okay, so maybe you’re one of those rare folks who already is having so much fun that you can’t stand another joyful moment. If so, this isn’t for you. On the other hand, if you suspect that  having fun may be the real key to making money (and enjoying the ride), read on. 

° Stop saying yes when you want to say no. Give yourself the gift of more time and less stress by refusing to accept invitations or fill requests that you don’t want to participate in. Decide that you’re done entering popularity contests and, instead, learn to decline unwanted invitations without excuse, apology or explanation. A simple, “No, thank you,” is just fine. You’ll find this easier to do if you are clear about your priorities and determined to spend your time in ways that support and enhance what you value most.

° Create a personal trademark. Larry King is known for his suspenders; United Parcel Service does everything in brown. A trademark can be a color, an item of clothing or jewelry, a slogan or, even a passion that others associate with you. What might you do to make yourself memorable?

° Turn a shortcoming into an asset. No, I’m not talking about concealing a major flaw, but you can use this exercise for learning to see positives that others may have overlooked—then flaunt it. A great example of this  was the ad campaign run by Lenscrafters which had the slogan, “Are you lucky enough to need glasses?” Every time I heard it, I found myself standing a little taller and thinking, “Lucky me!”

° Specialize in success. Really learn about the traits that characterize successful people. How do they think? Spend their time? Recharge their batteries? Too often we run our own lives on failure thinking that we’ve learned from people whose lives were not at all what we want. Pick a favorite guru and read what they have to say about optimal living. We are fortunate to have vastly better tools for living well than any previous generation. Not using them is just cheating ourselves out of the best possible life.


° Make a hobby of getting paid to have fun. Of course, people who have created a business of blissful activity already have this mastered. You can incorporate this idea in small ways, too. Want to dine out more often? Sign up with a mystery shopping agency that sends people out to scout the food and service at local eateries. Another variation of this is to give yourself a small amount of money (say $10 or $20) and challenge yourself to have maximum fun with minimum expense. Don’t ever make lack of cash an excuse for not having fun!


° Know who makes you laugh. Humor is a funny thing. We don’t all respond to the same things.Make a mental list of all the people who make you laugh and stay in touch with them. I also have a Make Me Laugh folder where I put cartoons and articles that amuse me so I know where to get a laugh in a hurry. And I keep Prairie Home Companion’s Pretty Good Joke Book nearby for a never-fail giggle.


Make this your year to lighten up and bring more fun into your life. Don’t be surprised if you suddenly find that fun seeks you out, too. Like attracts like, after all.

$100 Hour: During my 8 month sabbatical a few years back, I discovered how much I enjoyed housesitting. I took over a London flat, a cute cottage in Minnesota and helped out vacationing friends. A good source for long-term situations is the Caretaker Gazette.

Explore More: If you haven’t already done so, get yourself a copy of Daniel Pink’s A Whole New Mind.  It’s a travel guide for succeeding in the Idea Age.

All the really good ideas I ever had came to me while I was milking a cow. ~ Grant Wood

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


The 16th century essayist Montaigne put it well when he advised, “If you’re going to withdraw into yourself, first prepare yourself a welcome.” While I suspect he was talking about becoming introspective, his advice stands up if you’re going run a solo business and/or live an idea-filled life.

If you run your business from home, one of the dangers is that spending the bulk of your time in the same place can squash your creativity. An antidote for this is to make your personal environment the knd of place that consultant Mike Vance calls a “kitchen for your mind.” Too many homes are filled with the appliances of living, but lack the materials needed to spark ideas. One new entrepreneur told me she started noticing that all the magazines coming into her home were deadfully dull. She promptly cancelled all her subscriptions and began replacing them with new titles that fed her imagination.

It’s not just things, however, that can welcome fresh ideas. Bernice Fitz-Gibbon made a fortune by employing her creativity. Fitz, as she was known, grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin. In the twenties, she headed for New York and became an advertising legend. Not only did she write ads that people remembered, she taught hundreds of young people the trade. 

Fitz was a big believer in creating an environment where it was safe to make mistakes. She credits her father with nurturing her curiosity. In her wonderful book, Macy’s, Gimbels, and Me, she writes, “I was fortunate in having a teacher-farmer father who encouraged wildness. He felt that there were always enough tamers-down around. He equated docility with dullness. He didn’t want a house full of docile, respectful children. He wanted kids that exploded with different ideas—cockeyed ideas, unconventional thoughts clothed in an unconventional way.” 

Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Play with wild and crazy ideas. Whether you live alone or with others, keep finding ways to prepare a hearty welcome for the ideas that want to join you.

$100 Hour: Create a network. “My business really took off,” an artisan told me, “when I expanded my network of other artisans and we passed along leads to each other. Clients appreciated our professional recommendations and since we all knew each other’s work, we felt confident giving referrals.”

Explore More: If you’re not in the habit of looking at books of interior decorating ideas, spend some time browsing at your library or bookstore until you find a book that appeals to you. Authors such as Tracy Porter, Alexandra Stoddard and Sarah Susanka all have different styles, but are popular creative catalysts.

Sometimes I think creativity is magic. It’s not a matter of finding an idea but allowing that idea to find you.–Maya Lin

Although I’ve lived through numerous Inauguration Days in my life, I don’t recall any previous ceremony generating the kind of excitement that today’s celebration has. Even the ramp up to this day has been filled with incredible enthusiasm.

Rick Steves flew from Seattle to DC yesterday and reported, “As soon as the wheels hit the tarmac everyone on the plane yells “Obama!” and chants “Yes We Can!” We take the Metro into our nation’s capitol, where absolutely everyone seems to be family, and feels ready to welcome a new president…and a new era.”

Echoing Ghandi’s famous lines, this Inauguration asks us to Be the Change.

As of this writing, the day hasn’t begun. We haven’t heard Obama’s speech. We do know, however, that he wrote it himself and is going to talk about the importance of responsibility and accountability. He is inviting each of us to actively participate in something bigger than ourselves. 

Not only does this day remain to be seen, it’s also unknown whether or not the enthusiasm will survive as we begin to tackle enormous problems…problems that can’t possibly be solved by one person. One by one we need to privately commit to making history, not to being a spectator. Happily, I’m not alone in believing that we really could be the change if we never forget that we can.

To be continued…

Here’s a starting point: I Pledge  video


Think about an older person that you know, one you would describe as youthful. What’s the distinguishing characteristic of this lively elder? I’m guessing that curiosity about anything and everything is what stands out.

It’s the same quality that makes for successful entrepreneurship. We need to be curious about our own industry, of course, but we need to be equally curious about things that seem to have no direct bearing on what we’re up to. After all, the world is full of people who are crazy about things we know nothing about  and discovering what they love can make our lives richer.

One Thanksgiving, I had dinner with a group of relatives I didn’t know very well. The sister of the hostess sat next to me at dinner and the moment she sat down announced, “I want to have my own business.” I asked her if she knew what she wanted to do and she lit right up. “I love doing beadwork. I come home from my job and go right to my project room and bead all night,” she told me. The moment dinner was over, she whipped out her beads and spent the afternoon making jewelry. It was fascinating to watch her work and her joy was visible.

A few minutes later, my cousin Ray came over to visit with me. Ray has been a farmer his entire life raising corn and soybeans. A few years ago, he turned several acres of his farm into vineyards—an unusual crop in Minnesota. In his second year of production, his crop outperformed all expectations. He was so excited about this new aspect of his business and had a list of ideas for building it. I couldn’t wait to return in the summer to see his vines.

Even though I may never take up beading or growing grapes myself, being with these enthusiastic folks who were eager to bring their ideas to life was not only fun, their creative energy was downright contagious. I spent my long drive home stopping to write down ideas for my own business.

British author C.S. Lewis obviously understood the Idea Virus. He said, “Good things as well as bad are caught by a kind of infection. If you want to get warm you must stand near the fire; if you want to get wet you must get into the water. If you want joy, peace eternal life, you must get close to, or  even into  the thing that has them. They are a great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.  If you are close to it, the spray will wet you ; if you are not, you will remain dry.”

$100 Hour: Find a way to get paid to do something you usually pay to do. Love dining out? Sign up to be a mystery diner and enjoy dinner out in exchange for evaluating the service, food, etc. Love the symphony? Volunteer to be an usher. There are endless possibilities if you are willing to investigate.

Explore More:  Need some help brainstorming or clarifying an idea? Alice Barry, is a gifted Idea Artisan who spreads the Idea Virus wherever she goes. In the words of one of her happy clients, “She helped me to see and clarify a fuzzy picture of myself, who I want to be and  what I want to do.  She also helped me to see clearly how much I have already accomplished and gave me suggestions how to continue to build on this foundation.” If you need some idea-building assistance, a telephone consultation with Alice could get you moving forward.

An idea can turn to dust or magic…depending on the talent that rubs against it. ~ William Bernback

This past week, the Ideafest focused on the importance of inspiration. Not  surprisingly, all sorts of inspiring things kept popping up including this e-mail from Julie Fewster who lives in Northwich, Cheshire UK:

I took a look at Inspiration Station  earlier this month, when after a joyful Christmas I was trying to get back into the swing of a heavy workload.  The “take a fresh look at your workstation” element seemed to speak directly to my heart! I have two work areas, my creative space and my kitchen. I generally work in the kitchen of my house as it has most light and a wonderful view of our garden, which even in the depths of an English winter can be uplifting. 

On the day I read your article I was struggling to focus on the work I was meant to be doing. I took a look around me and realized I wasn’t surprised, there were too many distractions about, dishes to be done, stuff to be put away. Fighting back the little voice that said “You’re just avoiding work, Julie” I decided to take 15 minutes to tidy up around me. I went through the place like an angelic whirlwind. 15 minutes later I sat down at my PC and worked 5 hours straight, finishing more than I thought I could achieve that day. I am delighted I had spent 15 minutes decluttering.

Last week I found time to look at my “creative space”. I used to love sitting in the work space I had created whilst working, or should I say playing, my way through The Artists Way some years ago, in recent months I haven’t used it.  No, if I’m honest a year or more has passed since I spent any time there. It was sadly neglected, and I guess that reflected also the amount of attention my creative spirit has been getting too.  The good news is I have taken some simple steps which transformed it. I have my desk facing the window so I have space to gaze into and think big, I have changed the scenery, the pictures and the objects I have around me and fairy lights for added sparkle and I find that I am rejuvenated.  Thank you for the nudge in the right direction, 2009 seems more exciting just as a result of these simple actions.

My friend Peter Vogt, author of Career Wisdom for College Students, shares my desire that colleges offer more entrepreneurial options. Peter alerted me to a terrific piece in the NY Times called Dreamers and Doers that highlights some colleges who are doing just that.

I also tried to convince Peter to become part of the Twitter community. Here’s the message I sent him about that:

I don’t understand many of the tools and tricks, either, but I do know that it makes me smile at least once a day…usually more often. Here are three examples:

1. Just found this in my box and linked to a great article: Hammering With Bananas, Or How to Build a Freelance Career In Bad Conditions

2. I finished up a teleclass the other night, checked messages and there on Twitter was one that said, “I’m taking Barbara Winter’s teleclass right now. This woman is a walking encyclopedia. I wished she lived next door. I’d bribe her with fruit pies.”

3. My Gmailbox has a message I will never delete. It says, “Barack Obama is now following you on Twitter.”

I rest my case.

Here’s another discovery I made this week thanks to Twitter. If you’re a freelance writer, or want to be, check out Jenny Cromie’s The Golden Pencil, a luscious resource for freelancers.

Speaking of luscious, Springwise, the site that gathers new business ideas from around the world, was bursting this week with articles on everything from mixers for moms and babysitters to League of Rock, where amateur musicians can join a rock band for ten weeks. If you aren’t already on their mailing list, I urge you to sign up at once.

Rick Steves says it’s the most fascinating place he’s ever visited. He’s talking about Iran and his one-hour program, which I found spellbinding, is currently making the rounds on public television in the next couple of weeks. If it comes to a station near you, don’t miss it. 

One need not be wealthy, well connected, or even well educated to come up with a good new idea. Building a vision on excellence is open to anyone who wants to do good business. ~ Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Another barrier to building an inspired business is what I call Either/Or Thinking. Too often, that’s simply a manifestation of scarcity thoughts. Consider conventional career guidance that encourages us to believe we must have a Single Lifetime Career. In this scenario your 17-year-old self may have made a choice that is a terrible fit for your 37-year-old self. Why can’t you have multiple occupations? You can, of course, but if you’ve been schooled in Either/Or Thinking, you may not have contemplated such a radical notion.

One idea-generating remedy for this is to build an Option Bank. An Option Bank, just like the place where you store money, is a repository of good ideas, dreams and goals. Like an ordinary bank, the more you put in, the more you can draw out. This is also the place where you leave employee thinking behind. 

How many ways can you think of to make money? How many ways can you have more fun? How many ways can you connect to other people? Bank your answers to those questions and keep adding to the lists. The more options you can see for yourself, the more flexible you’ll be. You’ll find solutions more quickly and build a bigger life. 

By the way, your mind is a lousy place to use as an Option Bank. For this you need paper or a file.

$100 Hour Idea: Look in your Yellow Pages for Market Research companies. Get yourself listed in their databases and make yourself available for occasional studies. You won’t get rich doing this, but you will add another fun moneymaker to your Option Bank.

Explore More: Check out One Person/Multiple Careers by Marci Alboher. Not only will you meet people who have combined unlikely career choices (i.e.rabbi/standup comedian), Alboher shares great information about how to take this road less traveled. This is full of stories of folks who have created a life that includes all of their passions.

Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and  learn how to handle them, and pretty  soon you have a dozen.–John Steinbeck

Yesterday I mentioned that “How you gonna do that?” is a question that stops the idea flow. I’ve always been annoyed by cynical queries, but  it wasn’t until I read The One Minute Millionaire by Mark Victor Hansen and Robert G. Allen that I really began to understand why questions matter so much. They write, “The size of your question determines the size of your answer. Few people ever ask  earning, inventing, innovating, generating and creating questions.” 

Whether you’re asking a question of yourself or helping someone else find a creative solution, what kind of question can help you find better answers? You can start with something as simple as, “What’s the best use of my time right now?” that helps you focus on a positive outcome. 

There’s another question starter that seems to be the companion of the creative thinker. Two little words can open up the imagination: What If? What if people could carry their favorite music around in a tiny device? What if we build a Website where friends could connect? What if we put solar panels on the roof of a car?

Or try asking yourself, “What can I do to…”

grow myself?

create abundance?

serve others?

find kindred spirits?

build my dreams?

have more adventure?

Don’t dismiss too quickly questions that challenge you and don’t stop asking because you don’t get an answer a minute after the question crosses your mind.

If I’m stuck or bored, there’s one question that I’ve found guarantees I’ll swing into action. That question, which seems ridiculously simple, is “How can I make things better right now?” As soon as I ask it, I start looking right in front of me for the answer. Sometimes the answer is a bit mundane (i.e. fold the laundry or stop being so grumpy), but move often it leads to an awareness of larger improvement that can be started immediately. 

Most certainly, notice whether you’re asking yourself questions that welcome or discourage creative thoughts. Once you become aware of the power of questions, you’ll start asking for the answers that you truly want.

$100 Hour: Trendspotter Faith Popcorn suggested that time is the hot commodity and great opportunity lies in creating a business designed to save people time. Personal concierge services have become increasingly popular, as have more specialized things. One of my favorites is a service that downloads music on busy folks’ iPods.

Explore More: Several years ago, I met  Maureen Thomson when she showed up in Making a Living Without a Job in Denver. Since then, she’s come to seminars in Boston and Las Vegas.  I’ve had the fun of watching her take a little idea of being a wedding officiant and build it into an enchanting business called Memorable Ceremonies. Maureen also writes a column for theNorth Denver News and her recent piece called Simple Pleasures brought more mail than anything she’d written. Take a look and I think you’ll see why. It’s a terrific piece about her own joyfully jobless journey and how she’s moved ahead. 

Outlandish ideas move the world ahead far more powerfully than logical steps. An outrageous imagination is ultimately the most practical contribution. ~ Alan Cohen