One day, a friend called to say she was upset to learn that she needed an expensive car repair. I suggested that we go mall walking that evening. “Let’s see if we can walk ourselves into an answer,” I said. For the first twenty minutes, we walked and she talked. By that time, her stress was considerably lower.

Then an amazing thing happened. As we turned a corner, she said, “I have an idea. I’ve got those Disney World passes that I could sell on eBay.” We walked a little farther and she thought of something else she could add to her online marketing. A few days later, she’d made her sales and fixed her car.

When you feel stuck or bereft of an idea, putting yourself in motion can do wonders. Walking, driving on a familiar road, or doing household chores involves motion, but doesn’t require much mental energy. Our minds become receptive.  (This is not true of playing sports where our mind is also engaged in the action.) 

Soren Kierkegaard said, “I have walked myself into some of my best thoughts.” You can, too.

$100 Hour: Finish things. How about a follow-through service to complete unfinished projects? If you’re handy at repairs or household jobs, you could complete things that do-it-yourselfers never got done. Needlework is another area where enthusiasm sometimes diminishes before the work is done. Busy people frequently start more than they can finish. You could find a gold mine here—and relieve a bit of guilt.

Explore More: In her book The Creative Habit, choreographer Twyla Tharp writes, “I begin each day of my life with a ritual: I wake up at 5:30 A.M., put on my workout clothes, my leg warmers, my sweatshirts, and my hat. I walk outside my Manhattan home, hail a taxi, and tell the driver to take me to the Pumping Iron gym where I work out for two hours. The ritual is not the stretching and weight training I put my body through each morning at the gym; the ritual is the cab. The moment I tell the driver where to go I have completed the ritual.”

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


Several years ago, I was having tea with friends at the Four Seasons in Santa Barbara when the conversation turned to feng shui, the Chinese art of placement. I knew nothing about it and decided to investigate. I made several attempts to learn more by reading about feng shui, but found the books complicated and hard to apply.

Sometime later, I noticed that two local feng shui practitioners were giving a talk at Border’s. My friend Jill and I decided to attend—a decision that seemed quite innocent at the time.

Little did I suspect that it was going to turn me into a madwoman. The lecturers gave us some simple tips about things we could do in our environments to improve the chi (energy flow), along with a description of the bagua (kind of a blueprint for placement). I spent an hour or so in bed that night mentally moving furniture. I decided that my office was completely backwards, feng shui-wise, so the next morning I began rearranging things. Six hours later, my office had taken on a new airiness and was more inviting than it had ever been.

The speakers told us in order to get things flowing ahead we should move 27 objects that hadn’t been moved for a year. I had no difficulty locating 27 things that were ready for relocation. I changed mirrors and hung crystals, I fretted over sharp corners and pondered ways to soften them.

That was only the beginning. Feng shui masters had, in fact, developed a list of principles for improving business. For instance, to get the new year off to a prosperous start, they recommend greeting a new stranger every day for 27 days. Here are some other ways to add good energy to your business:

* To invite opportunity to knock, fix your front door. To further your opportunities, unblock doorways and remove stored items from behind doors.

* To support your vision and commitment, sit at a desk that is spacious, allowing room for the expansion of your ideas.

* To call forth a clear vision, hang a brass chime just inside your office door.

* To think creatively, hang a mirror to the right and to the left of your desk.

What’s particularly interesting to me about this feng shui business is that it’s a wonderful way to become more clear about the metaphors in your life. For instance, after I moved my computer to the other side of my office, I needed a longer cord. The one I had was quite tangled and I was going to just move it when I realized it would be running through my partnership area. “I don’t want tangled partnerships,” I told myself and decided to take time to straighten out the cord. 

It can get more cosmic than this, but I will resist my urge to go on about the metaphysical insights gained from moving furniture around.

“Care for our actual houses,” writes Thomas Moore, “is also care of the soul. No matter where we live, we can cultivate this wider piece of earth as a place that is integrally bound to the conditions of our hearts.” But, then, the Chinese knew that all along.


Want to know more? I highly recommend Move Your Stuff, Change Your Life by Karen Rauch Carter which is written with the Western reader in mind.

1. Do not take advice from uninformed sources.

2. Do not confuse an expense with an investment.

3. What I don’t know can be learned…or hired.

4. Personal growth is a daily discipline.

5. Do not confuse a project with a dream.

6. Do not declare failure just because you’ve run out of patience.

7. There’s a difference between risk and calculated risk.

8. Negative thinking makes everything harder.

9. Authentic gratitude makes everything easier.

There are hundreds of perfectly smart reasons to be joyfully jobless, not the least of which is that people who are doing work that they love tend to be, well, more loving and joyful. Want to bring more fun and joy to your business? Here are a few well-tested ideas.

Keep having Firsts. Challenge yourself to do things you’ve never done before. It can be as simple as trying a new food or taking a yoga class. This is harder to do than you may think since we humans tend to build habits and then operate in familiar territory. Having Firsts requires conscious, creative effort.

Exercise your entrepreneurial thinking to keep it in shape. You build entrepreneurial muscle by studying other enterprises, by acquiring new skills, by taking risks. Just like physical fitness, it needs to be a daily activity if you want maximum results.

Don’t be afraid to be whimsical. Small businesses shouldn’t look like miniature corporations. Lighten up. Create a costume and wear it when you work. Have toys or a guitar in your office for play breaks. And if whimsy’s not your style, purposely do something out of character once in a while.

Celebrate all victories and milestones. One of my favorite celebrations comes from Karyn Ruth White. When she had been in business for 6 months, she sent herself 6 roses with a congratulatory card. At the one-year anniversary, she increased that to a dozen. She’s continued the tradition although she topped off the size of the bouquet at a dozen and a half. Find your own way to celebrate your progress.

Turn ordinary chores into satisfying rituals. Got bills to pay? Instead of gritting your teeth, light a candle, put on some lovely music, pour a cup of tea and make it an event. Slow down and express gratitude for your current abundance. Look for ways to make the most mundane chores fun…or at least pleasant.

Plan Joyfully Jobless gatherings. Find five other self-bossers that like each other and let each one plan a monthly gathering just to have fun. You could find yourself salsa dancing one month and picnicking in a park the next. Hanging out with other entrepreneurs can be a lovely tonic, but don’t wait for somebody else to get things rolling.

Support that which supports you. This has been my personal and business policy for a long time and it hasn’t failed me yet. It’s partly a way of putting values to work and partly a way to acknowledge people who are helpful or enthusiastic customers and clients. This also has application when it comes to personal behavior.

Be kind. Stephen Covey writes that when we commit an act of kindness our endorphin level goes up. Likewise, when we receive a kindness it raises our levels. However, it’s also been found that if we merely witness an act of kindness, it raises endorphin levels, too. So go ahead and spread kindness around.

There is no question that a playfully light attitude is characteristic of creative individuals. ~ Mihalyi Czikszentmihalyi


Everyone going down the road to making a living without a job immediately encounters a sign saying, “Exit Your Comfort Zone Now.” Not surprisingly, many would-be explorers turn around at that point and return to whatever cocoon they have left. Since many people dislike being uncomfortable—even temporarily—they never discover what’s on the other side of their discomfort.

Is it possible to live your dream and stay in your Comfort Zone? It doesn’t appear so. I’ve been unable to find a single instance where that’s been done. Even those who have achieved a large part of their dream are constantly having to stretch a bit farther by checking out the unfamiliar.

Last week, I stumbled upon a public television documentary about Andrea Bocelli.  As you may know, the Italian tenor lost his eyesight at the age of 12, but his willingness to go outside his Comfort Zone remained. The program showed Bocelli in a number of sitiuations that most would consider challenging. Besides a passion for windsurfing and horseback riding, we also saw Bocelli skydive. But his bravado wasn’t confined to physical feats. After becoming an international sensation, he went after his lifelong dream of performing in opera. 

But there’s a larger purpose at work in Bocelli’s life. At the end of the program, he said that his intention is to show people that no matter what horrible or sad things happen in our lives, there are still thousands of reasons to be joyful. 

Stewart Emery once said, “Sometimes making a difference looks like making waves in the complacency of another.” It’s equally true that making a difference in our own lives often involves making waves in the comfort we’ve created for ourselves. 

While life sometimes pushes us into situations that are outside our Comfort Zone, don’t wait for it to happen spontaneously. Every so often, purposely move into unknown territory. If you do, there will be times when you feel like the world’s biggest klutz. Don’t let that stop you. After all, the more frequently you leave your Comfort Zone, the more your horizons will expand. 

Dr. Alan Gregg summed it up in his observation about the rewards of travel. “The main value of travel lies not in where you go, but in leaving where you have been. Go to a new place. Have your former gods challenged. Re-examine your axioms. Find out the evidence for your assumptions, and you will begin to set a true value upon the environment from which you came. I never tire of Sir Oliver Lodge’s way of saying this: ‘The last thing in the world that a deep-sea fish could discover is salt water.'”


Since I am a big fan of Ode magazine and Huffington Post, imagine my delight when Susan Corso, who is a blogger for both, shared my piece on change. You can read it on Susan’s Huff Post blog.

The most passionate environmentalist I’ve ever known was Chris Utterback. To her, all offenses were equally serious whether it was defiling a public space with graffiti or chopping down a rain forest. She cared deeply for the earth and couldn’t understand why everyone didn’t feel the same sense of responsibility.

One day we were driving though the quiet Connecticut countryside where she lived and came across a pile of trash heaped on the roadside. She slammed on her brakes and we jumped out of the car, picked up the litter, bagged it and put it on the back of her station wagon. As we got back in, I sighed and said, “Planetkeeping is a full-time job.” Chris looked at me as if I’d said the most brilliant thing and without saying so, we both volunteered to be Planetkeepers. 

Planetkeeping isn’t just a full-time job; it’s a demanding one that requires vigilance and a willingness to do more than our share simply because it’s the moral choice. Planet-keeping is motivated by a sense of responsibility to nature and other people, whether we know them or not. It assumes that we’ll take care of whatever is ours to care for no matter how difficult or challenging that may be. Planetkeepers refuse to be influenced by the indifference or apathy of others.

As Marianne Williamson points out, folks who are part of the solution tend to be more optimistic about solving big problems than those who just fret. Here are a few idea starters for better Planetkeeping.

Master the 30-second commute. If you don’t already work at home, consider how much time and energy you could save if your office was only a few steps, rather than many miles, away from your living space.

Donate, don’t dump. Replacing your cellphone? Find a place that will recycle them or give it to a woman’s shelter. Cars and computers are two other items that can be recycled through community agencies. Start at Earth 911 to find out what’s happening in your part of the world.

Make your office or studio as green as possible. Go to which is a clearinghouse of information and resources. Another favorite of Planetkeepers is the sassy Ideal Bite site. They also send out a tip every day.

Vote for folks who are serious about taking care of the planet. And make a loud noise around those officials who are contributing to the problem—or who are profiting from bad policies.

Follow this example. Take a look at the way Virgin enterprises has involved both their employees and others interested in projects that make a difference.

There’s nothing unbusinesslike about sharing the benefits of your industry with happy, fulfilled people and a planet that is going to be there in all its glory for our children and grandchildren. ~ Richard Branson

After we opened our gifts last Christmas, my daughter said, “I was going to give you a Blackberry, but I didn’t want to feed your e-mail addiction.” Although I protested that it wasn’t that bad, she had evidence to the contrary.

What Jennie doesn’t understand is that my e-mail is usually full of interesting stuff. Reading it isn’t a chore at all. Here’s a sampler of a few things that have recently arrived.

The other morning, my handywoman sister Margaret sent this brief message: ”I must right a listing Christmas tree before a seafaring man comes home for the holidays.” The next message I opened was from Pat Peterson, a lively woman from Des Moines who had attended a Las Vegas event and Camp Jumpstart. Seems she had started a new business–or, to be more accurate, a new business had found her. It was such a delightful story that I asked her for permission to include it in the next Winning Ways.

Charla Swift, who just attended Compelling Storytelling, sent a message titled Still Reeling from Las Vegas. She began her update by writing, ” To say I’ve had idea overload is an understatement!  The first night my son Justin and I stayed up late talking about all the wonderful marketing ideas we came up with around the campfire. And the ideas just keep coming.” She went on to tell me about their exciting plans which are already in motion less than a week after the seminar. Charla ended her message by saying, “I cannot thank you enough for opening a whole new world for me to embrace. (Justin merely smiled as I told him of my revelation…do you suppose he already suspected???)  Sometimes, as the story goes, the mountains are much more visible from the plains. How true!  In addition to this new discovery, I have discovered more kindred spirits in my tribe.  Just when I think I can’t discover anything new, I find how little I know.” 

What’s more fun than hearing from an excited entrepreneur? Hearing from many excited entrepreneurs. Jay Hepner wrote to tell me he’d started a new blog. His first post called Taking My Own Advice is terrific.

Then there was this message from a complete stranger:

I don’t typically e-mail people who write newsletters but today is an exception!  Your latest newsletter will be forwarded in its entirety to many friends who are facing change in the hope that they will embrace the challenges positively.

My own story includes periods of time of purposeful disconnection from employment. Early on people couldn’t understand why I left very good job at the peak of my career and downsize at an age when the majority of people are focused on career and the accumulation of wealth.

My answer was complicated but the simple answer was “To live my life with integrity.” I had bought into the American Dream and was incredibly unhappy. I knew the process of connecting with my purpose in life would be challenging but I did not realize that the search would be as dramatic and enlightening as it has been. 

Over the last five years I have been a teacher at a high school in North Carolina where I taught Foods I and II (nutrition and cooking); a substitute teacher in WV and VA;  hiked miles of trails including the AT and other trails in the east;  visited with my children including my grandson who will be a year old in January; started a farmers market; grown a garden; met new people; and earned my personal trainer certification.  I am still not “employed” but I am happy making contributions to the communities were I live. 

As I write Good Morning America is airing interviews with people who have lost their jobs. My heart goes out for them as they are being jolted from the comfort of life as they knew it. Their paradigms are being imploded. People who have their identity defined by their employment and career no longer feel valuable. Self-esteem is challenged, ideas are challenged. Soul searching will begin. 

I gave up job hunting. Now I barter for what I need. Right now I am a professional domestic and personal chef and love it!   It is my hope that I can help people transition during these challenging times to see their value and to redefine what they need to be happy. 

Change is all we can count on.

Thank you for living your life with integrity and sharing your thoughts.

Ms. Harmony Leonard

Currently in Bradford PA but that could change next week!

Happiness is neither virtue nor pleasure nor this thing nor that, but simply growth. We are happy when we are growing.~Yeats


Since my daughter Jennie moved to Austin, TX she’s loved everything about her new hometown except that there’s no Trader Joe’s. When I go to visit, I tuck several of her favorites in my suitcase, but they’re a poor substitute for having our favorite grocer available on a regular basis. For years, TJ’s (as its known to its loyal customers) was something I only experienced when I visited my family in California. I never could adequately explain what made this place so special since calling it a grocery store never seemed quite right. 

When I was moving to Las Vegas, proximity to TJ’s was a big priority. Now a visit to TJ’s is a regular experience for me several mornings a week and I’ve been thinking about all the things that set them apart from other grocery sellers. Some things are obvious. Their product line, for instance, is just theirs. You won’t find brand names mixed in with their offerings. You will, however, find things you never knew you wanted to try. How does that happen?

Besides having all sorts of things you many never have seen before, they also have daily samplings. Never had panettone? Try it and see what you think. Not sure you’d like gingerbread coffee? Have a cup and you might discover a new pleasure.

The product line’s not the only thing that’s different there: the shopping experience itself is unique. If I go to a normal supermarket, I usually zoom through picking up items that I need. TJ’s demands a more leisurely pace since you never know what new treasures might have landed on their shelves overnight. They also move entire sections around in the store from time to time so you really have to pay attention. 

The supermarket I shop at less frequently, has done a fine job of training their employees to recite the same questions to each and every shopper. Not so at TJ’s. It’s actually possible to have a personal interaction with the folks who are working there. After I’d won the weekly store drawing (for which anyone who brings their own bag is eligible), I was paying for my purchases with the gift card they’d given me. I mentioned that I’d won and the checker exclaimed, “YOU’RE Barbara W?” It’s not unusual for a store to post a winner’s name, but it’s pleasantly surprising to know the employees actually noticed.

One hot morning last summer, I walked out of TJ’s, jumped in my car and it refused to start. I went back inside the store and up to the customer service counter to ask if I could use their phone book. One of the fellows working there said, “Let me try starting it. I’ve got jumper cables in my truck.” I breathed a sigh of relief and thought I’d be on my way in a few minutes. It turned out to be more complicated than that, but throughout the ordeal, several employees got involved and offered suggestions until the tow truck arrived. As if I didn’t already love them enough, they won my heart forever that day.

Then there are the shoppers. I can’t recall ever interacting with people in other grocery stores the way I do at TJ’s. It’s not unusual for strangers to query one another about items. “Have you ever tried this?” a stranger might ask. One day, I was about to grind coffee and noticed a woman quietly watching me. I flashed a smile and she shyly admitted she didn’t know how the coffee grinder worked. I invited her to come closer and walked her through the entire process. “Oh,” she said, obviously relieved to see how easy it was,”I’ve been wanting to try their coffee, but didn’t know how to grind it.” 

I still smile when I recall standing in front of a jar of something I’d never seen before and saying out loud (I’m not sure why), “Do I like pumpkin butter?” A passing customer nodded and said, “I believe you do.” Turns out she was right.

The way Trader Joe’s communicates with their customers is also different  from the mega-markets. You won’t find a TJ ad in your Sunday paper, but you might find their quarterly Fearless Flyer in your mailbox or at the store. This little advertising piece–a masterful example of storytelling–is such fun to read that regulars eagerly look forward to its arrival knowing some new taste treat will be brought to their attention. 

If you’re a Trader Joe’s fan already, the next time you visit, notice what you enjoy most about the experience. And if you aren’t fortunate enough to live near this creative enterprise, plan your next vacation to include a pilgrimage and see for yourself how imagination can turn mundane grocery shopping into a mini-adventure in pleasure.

In her short life, my granddaughter Zoe has played soccer, studied Spanish and taken swim and dance lessons. She’s also amassed an impressive library, traveled enthusiastically, hosted parties and is a whiz at doing jigsaw puzzles. When I visit, she and I usually prepare at least one meal together. She approaches cooking with gusto, but it’s not her big passion. For that, she needs a paintbrush.

Long before she was toilet trained, Zoe approached making art with an earnestness and concentration that seemed exceptionally mature. Fortunately, her parents understand how important it is to her. My daughter said she’d noticed that Zoe becomes agitated when she hasn’t painted for a while. “When I pick her up from pre-school and ask her how her day was, she’ll glumly report, ‘We didn’t do art today!’ or she’ll happily tell me, ‘We did art!’ She’s also starting to look at illustrations and ask what they used to make the pictures,” Jennie reports.

Zoe’s not the only one who becomes agitated when not spending time engaged with her passion. In Thomas Moore’s eloquent new book, A Life at Work, he writes, “If you ignore the deeper issues, you may not know the nature of your calling, and if you don’t do work that connects with your deep soul, you may always be dissatisfied, not only in your choice of work but in all other areas of life.”

Happily, more and more of us are waking up to how essential it is to discover and nurture this indescribable thing we call passion. As Steve Jobs said in his famous commence-ment address at Stanford, “The only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know it when you find it. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”

Zoe already knows that and I’m going to make certain that nobody tells her otherwise. And if art turns out to be a passing fancy and not a passion, I’ll make sure she knows that it’s okay to change her mind.


If you’re a client of Northwestern Mutual, check out the fall issue of Creative Living magazine for Rosemarie Colmbraro’s cover story, Profits from Passion and see what Barbara Sher and I have to say about making a living doing what you love.

The handouts are printed, the hotel has our room set up order, the Mystere tickets are booked. Everything that needs to be ready for another great Compelling Storytelling is in place. Alice Barry and I aren’t the only ones getting more excited as the days grow closer. Here’s a comment participant Charla Swift made on an earlier blog posting:

I can feel my heart starting to boom in my chest. I’m so excited about Compelling Storytelling, meeting new people who  share similar passions, returning to Vegas, and most of all reconnecting  with the woman who inspires creativity.  Barbara, you amaze me at how  effortlessly you embrace new experiences. You give me courage to see every event (small or large…planned or unplanned) as a gift.  One to be held up to the light, shaken, turned upside down, and really examined  to make certain I don’t miss the opportunity which may be hidden inside. It is with relish I board the plane on Dec. 1 to embrace yet another opportunity to be in your delightful company!!

Before I get to work whipping up the cranberry sauce for my family’s Thanksgiving feast, I wanted to pass along some things I’ve gathered recently. This is a random collection of resources to explore for yourself.

Need a little stress relieving break? Hop over to and start playing. I’ve been telling everyone about this site since I learned about it. Be warned, however, that it can be addictive.

Remember what you got for Christmas last year? When I was visiting my daughter this week, we were talking about last year’s gifts and discovered we couldn’t remember what we’d received. The exception to that for me were the gifts that made a difference in somebody else’s life. My sister Becky made a donation to KIVA in my name, my daughter sponsored a Heifer llama in my name and I gave a Room to Read girl’s scholarship in her name. Maybe more stuff isn’t the most memorable gift after all.

Love a good success story? The October 13th issue of Newsweek had a special section on Women and Leadership. Several of the personal accounts were written about their entrepreneurial journey. You can read about Anna Sui’s Launching Her Label, Lisa Price’s On Becoming an Entrepreneur and Kimberly Pierce’s The  Power of Plot. All three are wonderfully inspiring. 

Fretting about the economy? Here’s what Seth Godin says entrepreneurs need to consider:

In times of financial stress and bailouts, the obvious solution (eliminate all the waste!) is not the one that works. In fact, in these times, we’re more likely than ever to be nervous about the status of the organization we’re working with.

I’d replace the expensive sponsorships and buildings with something more valuable, quicker to market and far more efficient: people. Real people, trustworthy people, honest people…people who take their time, look you in the eye, answer the phone and keep their promises. Not as easy to implement as writing a big check for the Super Bowl, but a lot more effective.

Life is enriched because of the commitment, passion and focus we give it, not the time we give it. ~ Jim Loehr