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


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

It’s fundraising week at Nevada Public Radio and since I’m an enthusiastic supporter, listener and Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me fan, I received a call asking for additional support. The charming volunteer explained all the additional treats I’d receive and I found myself happily giving her my credit card information.

When that was concluded, she said, “We have a matching employer grant. So who’s your employer?”

That’s not a question I get asked very often so I hesitated for a moment before saying, “Barbara J Winter!” I said it with such gusto that it startled her (and me). She laughed, then apologized for doing so, then recovered and said, “Would she like to make a matching donation?” Then it was my turn to laugh. 

That brief encounter also was a reminder that we who are blazing new trails through self-employment must not be intimidated by our minority status.

People who are newly self-employed often find it uncomfortable to be asked, “So what do you do?” A man I knew in Santa Barbara confessed that he’d been self-employed for more than a year before he realized that he was answering that question by sheepishly mumbling, “I own my own business.” Then he’d add, “But I USED to be the director of the YMCA.”

Anyone who has taken the step out of mainstream employment to create something wonderful on their own should be eager to share that. Alice Barry goes a step farther. She told me that if she’s setting up an appointment or meeting she always adds, “I’m self-employed so I’m flexible.” 

Here in Joyfully Jobless Land, we’re not much for titles, but we do love stories. Even an ordinary question like, “What do you do?” can be an invitation to tell a short story. Once you know how to do that, you’ll find yourself welcoming such questions–no matter who is asking.

If you’d like to master telling your story, I know exactly the place you can do just that: Compelling Storytelling, December 2-4, Las Vegas.

Your job is to make your audience care about your obsessions. ~ Bruce Springsteen