Shortly before the end of the year, I was talking to Karyn Ruth White and the subject of resolutions came up. “I don’t really make them,” she said. “But I do sit down at the end of the year and write about ten lessons I’ve learned in the previous year.” Then she added, “I’ve even had a couple of them published.” What began as a personal project, got shared with others. Great idea, isn’t it?

While it could be argued that every business is informed and influenced by our personal experiences, a great deal of opportunity goes unused by people who fail to see the potential of putting that experience to work for them.

I have written a mission statement  that is a reminder to that personal experience is the crux of my business. My  mission is this: “Have a great life and talk about it.” That may  sound simple, but inherent in it is a constant challenge to keep growing and adding experiences that can enlarge and enliven other lives too.

In order to create a profit center that grows out of your own life, there are four essential ingredients that need to be present. They are:

  • Value Your Own Experience. Very often the things that are easy and effortless for us are overlooked because we assume that what we can do, everyone can do. That’s almost never true. Our special set of talents, skills and life experiences are a one-of-a-kind package, but we have to recognize why that can be valuable to others.
  • High Self-awareness. Writer Carolyn See says, “I hope I’m wrong, but I imagine about 90 percent of the human race is snoozing along, just going through the motions.” Staying awake for the journey is important if we are to find the gold in our lives.
  • Generous Spirit. We must be convinced that what we have discovered will make other people’s lives richer, happier, healthier or smoother in some way. Keeping it to ourselves seems, well, selfish.
  • Eager to Learn. Starting a business based on personal experience is just the entry point. It’s really an invitation to mastery if we use it to learn, grow and improve.

Personal experience lends itself to all sorts of enterprises. Here are some possibilities:

  • Find a Better Way. Doris Drucker, the wife of management guru Peter Drucker, found a new opportunity for herself this way. She writes, “For years my  role as the wife of a professional speaker was to sit in the last row of an auditorium and shout ‘Louder!’ whenever my husband’s voice dropped. I decided that there had to be a better feedback device and if there wasn’t, I was going to invent one. Then I decided, at the age of 80-plus, that I would start a business to sell it.”

    Solving a problem or simply finding a more effective way of doing something has been  the start of  many a successful business. As a college student, Tony Buzan wanted to learn how to use his brain effectively. When he couldn’t find any useful information to assist him, he began a personal crusade to learn all he could. As a result, millions of people are mind mapping and learning other techniques to optimize personal intelligence.

  • Tell Your Story. Benjamin Franklin said we should all write something worth reading or live something worth writing. Personal experience can be the basis for autobiography and how-to books. My bookshelves are full of personal experience stories such as Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun , Amy Stewart’s From the Ground Up, and Anita Roddick’s Body and Soul.

    Workshops, seminars and consulting are other ways of making your experience pay. You need to live it first, of course. That may sound like common sense, but at least once a week I’ll get a call or letter like the one I got from a man in Idaho who went on at great length about how confused he was about what business to start, then added a p.s. to his letter saying he plans to organize a seminar on Discovering Your Purpose.

  • Pay It Forward. A few years ago, Kevin Spacey was in a movie with that title. Apparently the message of passing along our good to others took root. Spacey took a year off from film making to put his energy into a website called that is creating opportunities for the next generation of screenwriters. Spacey says he realized that his considerable success was the result of others believing in him before he believed in himself and now he wants to pass that gift along to others.

Your experience could be utilized through teaching or mentoring those coming along behind you too. “If you have knowledge,” said Margaret Fuller, “let others light their candle at it.” If it’s time to plan a new profit center, take a fresh look at your own life. You may be sit-ting on a gold mine, you know.

No matter if you’re a newcomer or seasoned veteran of the Joyfully Jobless life, your marketing can get a big boost if you stay alert to media opportunities. One easy way to put yourself in the path of opportunity is via a free service called Help Out a Reporter. Three times a day, the energetic Peter Shankman sends a listing of a dozen or more story requests from reporters and freelancers in search of potential interviewees. It only takes a minute to scan the list (which is organized by subject area) and you never know when you might be a perfect match—and suddenly find yourself catapulted into the national spotlight. 

Here’s a recent post which could also be an opportunity for you to enter your business into StartupNation’s upcoming contest. Here’s the scoop:

 Summary: Need Innovative biz that takes place in a house

Category: Business & Finance

Name: Rich Sloan


Title: Founder, Editor in Chief

Media Outlet/Publication: StartupNation

Anonymous? No

Specific Geographic Region? No


Deadline: 6:00 PM PACIFIC – September 30


“StartupNation is looking for innovative non-office businesses
across a variety of categories. If you know of an innovative
business that deserves recognition entries are being accepted until
midnight Pacific Time on September 30, 2008 at Winners will be
judged by StartupNation and a panel of judges who are each
passionate about non-office business and the Top Ten categories
highlighted in this years competition. Winners of the non-office
100 find themselves at the center of a media storm that includes
recognition on national and local TV, radio, in newspapers and
magazines, and on some of the largest, most influential websites on
the web, MSN and StartupNation among them. “

Be sure to let me know if you win!

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.