There’s no question that we are living in rapidly changing times, but what’s not given much attention in all the emotional conversation is that the outcome will not be the same for everyone. Some people will come through these times bitter while others will end up better. Money has nothing to do with which side we end up on.

Lately I’ve been thinking about something I heard spiritual teacher Terry Cole Whittaker say. When people would come to her for counseling and declare, “My life is falling apart,” Whittaker would ask, “How do you know it’s not falling together?” 

Most of us have had a time–or several–in our own lives when something that seemed tragic turned into something terrific. We humans seem to forget those past turnarounds so allow ourselves to go through all sorts of anxiety–often before our story reaches a happy ending.

The other day I was going through some back issues of Winning Ways when I came across an old AT&T ad which added a little more perspective. Here’s what it said:

I lost a boss.

I found a loan.

I lost a paycheck.

I found a payroll.

I lost an office with a view.

I found perspective.

I lost a title.

I found my own place.

I gave up a position.

I found my future.

Want to come through the turbulence better, not bitter? Try this: Stay calm, breathe, look for the gifts.

The important thing is this: to be able to sacrifice at any moment what you are for what you could become. ~ Cardinal Suenens

Right after I sent out my Joyfully Jobless News today where I mentioned Booklovers’ London, the new stop on Inspiration Station, I got this tip from Londoner Ken Titmuss who shared this little treasure. He writes:

A very special bookshop  I can recommend is the one at Old Street Tube station. This is a station with a walkway round that has a few shops. Camden Lock Books is the only branch from the original shop in Camden and is literally a hidden book shop unless you discover it whilst travelling.

It is small and the stock is very much hand picked, but what is so appealing to a book lover is how it is organised and with books picked out as recommendations. The whole shop is a labour of love.

What is even more special is this is all in the lost neighbourhood of St Lukes, where you can still go and visit the burial place of the greatest Londoner of all William Blake and see where the City Pest House was situated, thanks to a plaque on an old car park.

So next time your travels bring you to London I suggest you seek out the little under the ground book shop. It’s a book lover’s paradise.

Ken (the Heart of St Giles Walking Tour guy)

When a word or phrase is used too often, it can lose its punch. Consider Joseph Campbell’s oft-quoted, “Follow your bliss,” which seemed breathtaking the first time we heard it. Today’s buzzword is, of course, change. It’s taken a bit of a beating in the past weeks, which is a shame. When an outrageously creative change agent provides positive leadership the impact can be stunning—as the following story shows.

Antanas Mockus had just resigned from the top job of Colombian National University. A mathematician and philosopher, Mockus looked around for another big challenge and found it: to be in charge of, as he describes it, “a 6.5 million person classroom.” 

Mockus, who had no political experience, ran for mayor of Bogotá. With an educator’s inventiveness, Mockus turned Bogotá into a social experiment just as the city was choked with violence, lawless traffic, corruption, and gangs of street children who mugged and stole. It was a city perceived by some to be on the verge of chaos. 

People were desperate for a change, for a moral leader of some sort. The eccentric Mockus, who communicates through symbols, humor, and metaphors, filled the role. When many hated the disordered and disorderly city of Bogotá, he wore a Superman costume and acted as a superhero called Supercitizen. People laughed at Mockus’ antics, but the laughter began to break the ice and get people involved in fixing things.

The fact that he was seen as an unusual leader gave the new mayor the opportunity to try extraordinary things, such as hiring 420 mimes to control traffic in Bogotá’s chaotic and dangerous streets.

He launched a Night for Women and asked the city’s men to stay home in the evening and care for the children; 700,000 women went out on the first of three nights that Mockus dedicated to them. 

Another Mockus inspiration was to ask people to call his office if they found a kind and honest taxi driver; 150 people called and the mayor organized a meeting with all those good taxi drivers, who advised him about how to improve the behavior of mean taxi drivers. The good taxi drivers were named Knights of the Zebra, a club supported by the mayor’s office. 

“Knowledge,’” said Mockus, “empowers people. If people know the rules, and are sensitized by art, humor, and creativity, they are much more likely to accept change.”

Candidates, take note.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Since my Do Talk To Strangers Policy is a vital component of traveling, I began to consider how I actually go about it. I realized that some of it is purely intuitive. For instance,  when a stranger plunks down next to me on an airplane, I take a breath, take a look and see if I’m moved to start a conversation. Most of the time I get it right. Once in a while, I know  from my opening question that  my seatmate is inclined toward solitude and I stop there. 

Whether you’re standing in line at the post office or waiting for a train, here are a few ideas to help you uncover the fascinating folks around you.

* Make it a game. Decide ahead of time that you want to find an interesting story or inspiring stranger. I have been on long flights that seemed to pass in a moment  because I had landed next to a great storyteller. I consider that a fine compensation for the annoyances of contemporary travel.

* Don’t wait. Instigate. Be willing to be the one who takes the first step. A friendly smile is a good way to test the water. If it’s not reciprocated, move on. 

* Look for common ground. I often open a conversation with a compliment or observation about something the stranger is wearing or carrying or something that’s happening around us. 

When I hopped into a London taxi that was covered in promotional material for the Rolling Stones, I suspected I had a fascinating chat ahead of me. And I did. I learned that my driver was the only cab in the city promoting the Stones, that he earned an extra £750 a year by putting advertising on his cab, and that he’d once advertised for the South African Tourist Board and got a free trip to that country as a bonus. He was hoping he might get tickets to a Stones concert this time around.

* Be politely curious. Our reluctance to talk to strangers may be caused by thinking it’s about us. Wrong. It’s about them. Yes, you might be subjected to a tedious story now and then, but it’s worth the risk. 

One of my most memorable conversations was with a young man who was a linguistic professor who spoke seven languages. When I learned that, I asked him the best way to learn a language and his reply was, “Be a kid.” I laughed and asked, “What’s the second best ?”

Those are the moments that keep me talking to strangers who unknowingly enrich my life.  And like everything else, it gets easier with practice.

It is not he who has lived the longest, but he who has traveled farthest, who knows the most. ~ Armenian Proverb

Have you visited Inspiration Station yet? My plan for that part of the site is to explore different places from an entrepreneurial point of view. The current locale is one of my favorite places—Venice, Italy. I’ve been thinking about Venice since I wrote the pieces there, so I was particularly intrigued by a story in the latest issue of Ode magazine. 

It’s a short piece about a women’s prison on Giudecca Island, which is a short distance from mainland Venice. The Santa Maria degli Angeli project is a wildly successful enterprise run by the prisoners who have a garden, greenhouse and cosmetics lab. The soaps, lotions and shampoos they produce are purchased by upscale hotels. Not only do the women share in the profits of this business, studies have shown that once they’re released, they tend to become highly production citizens.

Another project that has an even longer track record is San Francisco’s Delancey Street Foundation. Thousands of felons, drug abusers and illiterate members of the community are thriving thanks to this project. What’s their secret? Here’s what their Website says: ” We have pioneered an entrepreneurial pathway out of poverty. We have successfully developed over 20 enterprises run completely by formerly unskilled people using the each-one-teach-one philosophy. We have pooled our resources so that our enterprises have provided about 60% of the funding and growth of our organization.” 

Besides their impressive record of giving people at the bottom of society a new life, what’s fascinating about the Delancey Street Foundation is the kind of businesses they run. They are the largest local moving company in San Francisco. Imagine how much resistance the idea of using former felons as household movers must have gotten! Another enterprise is an upscale restaurant  entirely staffed by ex-convicts. People who come to the restaurant not knowing about their background quickly learn when they read the menu who is cooking and serving their meal. 

So here’s my question: If  the Giudecca Women’s Prison and the Delancey Street Foundation knows about the personal growth rewards of self-employment, why aren’t our schools raving about the Joyfully Jobless option? Free enterprise needs a new press agent.

Being in business is not about making money. It’s a way to become who you are. ~ Paul Hawken

There are only two reasons I bother to set my alarm clock: an early flight or CBS Sunday Morning. Since my local tv station carries this unfailingly informative program at revolving times (it can start anywhere from 6 AM to 7:30 AM) setting my alarm is a calculated guess. 

I am kind of a latecomer to this program. In the days when Charles Kuralt headed it, my friend Chris Utterback would often call afterwards to discuss something she’d seen on the show. Since turning on the television wasn’t part of my Sunday morning ritual, I relied on her to give me a recap.

Now that I’m a devotee, I wonder why it took me so long. Perhaps it’s because CBS never promotes it and assumes that fans will show up without any fanfare. 

What prompts me to interrupt my sleep is the consistently interesting stories they bring us. Last Sunday, they reran a piece with one of my heroes, Richard Branson. Then there was another about a business I’d not heard of called Catch a Piece of Maine, a unique enterprise started by a couple of passionate young lobstermen who were a study in innovative marketing and customer service. (You can read both of the pieces if you click on the link and scroll down to the August 31 show.)

Whether they’re featuring someone well-known or someone obscure, I always leave the show grateful to have learned something new or seen creative thinking in action. Sunday Morning is superbly produced and worth a look. Quite simply, it’s a lovely way to begin the day.


Happy New Year! Even if you don’t consider September the start of a new year as I do, you can use this idea to start the new month or phase of your life.

I wouldn’t dream of starting a new year or a new project without deciding first what my theme is. After all, a party is just a party—until you give it a theme. Then your creative imagination goes to work finding ways to illustrate that them, as well as eliminating what doesn’t fit.

A theme can put your entrepreneurial efforts on track and keep them there. It could be a single word or a phrase that becomes your motto. Doing so will help you gain clarity and focus. When planning your time or making a decision, a quick check will reveal if your choice adds or detracts from the theme you’ve declared. 

Here are a few them possibilities to consider, but they’re only a starting point.

Expand
Travel Light
Simplify
Explore More
Make Connections
Build Strength
Do It Easy
Visible Abundance
No Limits
Daily Laughter
More Magic
Wildly Creative
Amaze Myself
Welcome Opportunity
Keep Moving
Back to Basics
Fully Engaged
Renaissance
Collaborations
Dream Bold
Catch the Spirit
New Adventures

 

Nothing in the universe is neutral. It either costs or it contributes. ~ Stewart Emery


 

I got this e-mail today and as I was answering it, I got thinking there might be other readers feeling the same way. So here’s the question and how I answered it:

I’m planning to take your upcoming class on goalsetting. I feel like I’m not sure how/what can make me focus better. I wonder if it’s even possible for me to accomplish such a path sometimes. I find I tend to feel bad not to spend time with family and friends or my mind gets lost in worrying about them or pleasing them, etc…or taking time at 10pm at night to watch Donny Deutsch… or go do other things. How do you and the others really achieve all of this stuff and find time for everything else?

I know you get a lot of emailings from a wide range of personal growth teachers. Maybe Step One for you is to really decide what is most valuable–even rank all those emailing as A, B, C–and unsubscribe from the Cs. Only look at the Bs if you have buckets of time to spend. (This advice comes from a fine classic by Alan Lakein called How To Get Control of Your Time and Your Life.)

Secondly, do you have a theme, an organizing principle? It sounds as if Simplify! might be fitting for the next 90 days. Then every activity, invitation, distraction is held up to that mirror. Does it take me closer or farther away from a simpler, richer life?

It’s sorting again. A, B, C.

Also, if cleaning up your office is a starting point (and it’s a good one) do it with the spirit of William Morris who famously said, “Have nothing in your houses that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” Physical clutter is often very connected to mental clutter. It’s also easier to handle. So if you tackle that project with the intention of getting rid of anything that’s not fabulous or meaningful or representative of who you are right now, you’re bound to get free of some of the mental stuff that’s also keeping you stuck.

If you feel guilty about not spending enough time with your family and friends, for instance, talk to them and negotiate something that works. Tell them you need to focus on laying a foundation for your business and ask them how you can spend time with them in a way that’s satisfying, but not excessive. A special day or gathering every few weeks may be a better solution than regular, but not so festive, times together. Then when you are together, you’re really there and not thinking about things you need to be working on.

Then there’s this fine quote from Jim Loehr who has a book on storytelling: Life is enriched because of the commitment, passion and focus we give it, not the time we give it.

When I started my first business, The Successful Woman, I thought I’d model it after existing personal development companies. I quickly realized that many of the people making a living as motivational speakers were doing things that I had no interest in emulating. My response to some of the business practices I saw was to devise a list of personal rules which I have continued to follow. Unlike ordinary goals, these rules weren’t about what I wanted to do; they were about what I didn’t want to do.

Not long ago, I was thinking about those rules and how they have helped me design a business that keeps me captivated. These rules have also helped me avoid pitfalls and temptations. While they may not apply to your business, I wanted to share them and suggest you come up with your own counterpart that fits who you are.

Don’t have two years that are exactly alike. This rule came about in response to the years I’d spent teaching at the high school level, years that seemed to be carbon copies of one another. One of the big motivations with self-employment for me was the opportunity to try many things and make continuous discoveries. 

Don’t teach what I haven’t learned. When I was starting out, I was eager to hear and observe as many professional speakers as possible. While I learned a great deal about effective presentations from observing the pros, I also saw far too speakers who relied on platitudes and less than original thinking. Even though I knew it would take longer, I was determined to learn first, teach later.

Don’t build dependency relationships. At its worst, we think of cults as engendering blind obedience. Plenty of other gurus have also created organizations that foster dependency. I want people to discover their own power and passion and that can never happen if they’re dependent on me.

Thinking about what you don’t want to include in your business can save time, save missteps and frustration—and keep you focused on those things that make your heart sing.

P.S. Want to be a more effective goal-setter? Check out my upcoming teleclass, Goalsetting 101.

Buon viaggio….good journey. How nice to have you along.

This blog has been a long time brewing. Hardly a day passes when I don’t come across a fascinating new business idea, inspiring story or useful resource and want to pass it along. Up until now, I haven’t had a vehicle for doing so. That’s where Buon Viaggio comes in.

Here’s what you can expect if you come to visit often. There won’t be much ranting, but there will be lots of raving. I’ve also taken a vow of brevity since I know how distracting and time-consuming it can be to keep up with all that’s happening in Cyberspace. And I promise you that I’ll never blog about what I’m having for lunch.

After all, you’ve got dreams to build and that’s where you should be spending your time and energy.  I’m going to do my best to add momentum to those dreams in many different ways—without taking up a lot of your time. 

So if you need a daily shot of inspiration, this is the place to find it. Benvenuto!

It is when we all play safe that we create a world of utmost insecurity. ~ Dag Hammarskjold