There was no shortage of candidates for the Most Annoying Person Award that I was mentally planning to bestow. At the top of the short list was Billy Mays, the guy who screams at us in TV ads to buy wrenches, foot powder and cleaning products.

But he had stiff competition from Stephanie, a young woman who had shattered the silence on the airport bus one recent Friday evening, by dialing up a series of friends to plan her weekend. Oblivious to the weary travelers around her, she babbled on and on. When the calls finally ended, it was all I could do to keep from yelling, “Thank goodness Stephanie’s run out of friends!” She certainly had not made any new ones on the bus, but she had become a strong contender for my award.

Both Billy and Stephanie dropped lower on the list when I rushed to answer the telephone only to be greeted by a disembodied voice which said, “Hello, we are canvassing your neighborhood to find people who want to work at home.” I hung up before the recording finished, but a few hours later I knew who the winner of my award would be, and it’s not a single person at all.

I call them the Work at Home Opportunistas and they are on the prowl. In fact, these folks seem to be causing an inescapable epidemic.

When I go to check my e-mail, a flashing banner screams, “Earn $10,000/month working from home!” My junk e-mail box is full of money-making offers every day. Driving around town, I see posters stapled to utility poles with similar come-hither messages. My personal favorite Work at Home promoter was the woman (I can only assume) who plastered the toilet stalls at the Mall of America with Work at Home cards promising $1,500/month PT, $5,000/month FT.

Suddenly, we seem to have entered a new era of schemes and scams. Many of them are nicely dressed and have photographs of appealing, supposedly successful entrepreneurs. Unfortunately, these aggressive Work at Home ads are targeting the unsuspecting. I can only imagine their appeal to someone who has just spent over an hour navigating icy roads to get to a job they don’t much like. Calling that 800 number for more information might seem like a welcome alternative.

After weeks of avoiding this avalanche of opportunity, I happened to see travel guru Peter Greenberg talking about going on a “free” cruise — another popular offer. The cruise ended up costing $1,400 and was dreadful from beginning to end. Maybe I should follow his lead and check out the home business offers, I decided.

Posing as an eager opportunity seeker, I began responding to every ad that crossed my path. I did an Internet search using Work at Home as my keyword phrase and was astonished to see page after page of offers. It would have taken me days to check out every listing on Google, so I only went for the most intriguing.

What I discovered was a pattern or system to all these offers that was soon familiar. Maybe there’s a Scam School where they teach this stuff, I mused. Answer an ad and here’s what you’ll find:

  • The emphasis is on the big money you can earn. Very often the actual business is just alluded to. Breathing seems to be the only required skill. The focus is on opportunity with a capital O. Request the free information offered and you probably will get a brochure offering to sell you the real scoop.
  • Especially popular right now are offers you can pass along over the Internet. From the comfort of your own home, you can reach millions around the world and rake it in.
  • Another familiar offer is listings (either a booklet you can purchase or on a web site you must pay to enter) of Work at Home opportunities. These are particularly terrific for anyone interested in earning pennies for tediously stuffing envelopes. In many instances, you are not told that you have to acquire the names and addresses that will go on the envelopes.
  • The offer that most amused me is the one that trains you to track down deadbeat parents and collect unpaid child support. Now doesn’t that sound like something anyone could do?
  • And what’s this repeated promise of a monthly income? Nearly every offer promises a certain income. Jobs have predictable incomes; businesses fluctuate.

Besides the fact that few people ever profit from such plans, buying into a scheme is certainly not my idea of being Joyfully Jobless. With all the possibilities for creative self-employment, these plans do little more than give working at home a shady reputation.

Sadly, as long as people lack self-confidence, there will always be shysters eager to take advantage of them. Hook up with one of these opportunistas and you’ll spend both cash and confidence — with nothing but a sad, hard lesson in return.

There’s more where this came from.
Order Winning Ways now!

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.