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How to Get Out of Job Jail

Winston Churchill said, “The pessimist sees difficulty in every opportunity. The optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Optimism is essential to success. All the more so if you want to make the leap to being your own boss.

In fact, the ability to view the world through the lens of opportunity is by far the fastest path to freedom.

That’s because, as you are about discover, difficulty that’s been keeping you locked in job jail may be the very thing that can set you free.

For starters, have you ever thought…

“I have so many interests that I can’t decide”

ezine1Kate is interested in lots of things. So many that she has a hard time picking just one. This makes Kate what my friend Barbara Winter calls a “scanner.”

She’s “addicted to scrapbooking,” spends hours happily researching information online, and before she got stuck with a stressful two-hour-a-day commute Kate was an avid golfer.

Unfortunately, none of Kate’s interests have anything to do with her j-o-b as a financial analyst.

Kate feels trapped. Which is ironic given her other passion. Writes Kate,

“I’m always looking at possibilities and trying to help my friends or co-workers or even total strangers who know they’re on the wrong path. One friend who is a cat lover calls me the answer lady because I’m constantly researching cool things she could do in the cat world”

In fact, Kate says getting paid to do what she’s done all along for free is “too good to be true.”

However, her excitement is short lived.

Her new worry? “What if I go in one direction only to discover it wasn’t my true calling after all?”

As a result Kate isn’t acting on any of her passions for fear that by saying ‘”yes” to one path, means closing the door on others.

Not so says Barbara. In Refuse to Choose she writes,

“…a scanner can’t choose one direction. It’s like telling a parent to choose one child to feed. A parent knows she has to feed all her children. And a scanner must find a way to follow every path that interests her.”

In fact, rather than a barrier to self-employment, having multiple interests means Kate has multiple ways she can earn money.

She could partner with a local travel agency to offer golf outings to exotic locations two or three times a year…

She could teach courses on scrapbooking throughout the year…

Or since people like to hunker indoors in the winter, scrapbooking could be a seasonal business.

That way Kate could still make money combining her love of online research with her knack for generating business ideas for cat lovers, travel lovers, sports lovers…

Better yet, she could specialize in helping other scanners!

Not only will life be more interesting, but in the end, having multiple profit centers means Kate will probably end up making more money as well.

Speaking of money… Do you worry that if you do what you love, the people and the money just won’t follow?

“Will enough people really pay me for this?”

Some people spend so much time fretting about whether there’s enough of a need to start their business that they wind up doing nothing.

Tim wants to quit his job in human resources to do freelance writing from home. But he knows it will take a while to match his former salary.

A self-described “dog guy,” Tim thought about also doing some dog sitting. But with so many kennels in the greater Washington DC area, he doubts he’d make much.

It’s a costly assumption to make.

Twenty five bucks a night may not sound like a lot, but when you travel as much as I do, it adds up! Last year alone, I paid my own dog sitter close to $1,200 to care for my aging dog Cokie in her home.


In a span of 10 minutes Tim could sign up for, a new service that matches dog owners with in-home pet sitters.

Most sitters in the DC area charge $25-$40 a day. But a woman who bills herself as the “dog whisperer” commands a whopping $80 – per dog.

And guess what? She’s got more reviews than most of the competition!

Determining market potential for any potential business is basically a number crunching exercise.

calculatorIf Tim found just three clients who, between them had five dogs, and they booked 70 nights a year ($80 x 5 dogs x 70 nights) he’d have a pretty sweet $28,000 income stream!

(If you want to learn more about how to calculate potential earnings check out my article on the Profiting From Your Passion® FAQ page.)

Joanne also wants to work from home. She’s intrigued by the idea of becoming an “outside the job box” career coach, but like Tim, she worries about the need.

“I work in a large dysfunctional organization. There’s a big shake up going on and lots of bad management decisions. Everyone is miserable — including me.

I’m the one everyone comes to for advice about how to get through this mess but I know they aren’t the types to quit their jobs to follow their bliss.

I desperately want out but I’m just afraid there’s not enough of a market out there for this kind of work.”

Let’s review…

She and everyone around her is “miserable,” but Joanne doesn’t think there’s a market for someone who can help burned out cubicle dwellers find relief?

Is every disgruntled employee a potential client? Of course not. But even if it were somehow possible to work with every person on the planet, Joanne only needs to reach enough people to get launched and then grow from there.

If for every 100,000 employees, 5 percent were open to the idea of making a living without a job – that’s 5,000 people.

Then there’s the finding that the most significant spike in people starting their own businesses is among people aged 55 to 64.

With 10,000 baby boomers retiring every single day for the next ten years, this market alone is enormous.

Kate, Tim, and Joanne don’t have a problem. They have an opportunity. Once discovered, the ball is officially in their court.

As Wayne Dyer said, “There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love; there’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.”

It’s Never Too Late to Re-Learn Important Stuff

It’s been a while since I sent this newsletter.

In fact, even I was surprised to discover the last issue was last June!

Instead I’ve been sharing ideas and resources largely through short blog posts.

Today I felt tugged to return to my roots.

Roots that began when I published the first Changing Course newsletter way back in 1995.

(Okay now I feel old!)

cokievalThis is Cokie and me in the early days.

Cokie was probably three-years-old in this picture. Now he’s 15.

At least I can still see and hear. Cokie… not so much. But gratefully the old guy is hanging on.

A lot has happened since 1995. Heck, a lot’s happened since my last newsletter!

Over the last few months I’ve had opportunities to re-learn two important lessons.

Lessons that can help you realize your own dream of working at what you love, living life on purpose, and following your own road.

Know When Good Enough Is Good Enough

Is chronic perfectionism killing your dream?

Are you waiting for everything to be absolutely perfect before you launch your great idea… your small business… your new LIFE?

Maybe you want to start a blog or write a book or give motivational talks. But instead you endlessly tinker and tweak and adjust, making sure everything is just so… but never begin.

Trust me I’ve been there.

Over the years though, I’ve learned that all my high-minded notions of “quality standards” and “getting it right” really just equaled paralysis.

On the whole, the male entrepreneurs I know operate from a very different definition of quality. The mantra repeated by multi-millionaire speakers at the numerous marketing seminars I’ve attended always comes down to some variation of this:

“You don’t have to get it right you just have to get it going.”

One marketing guru went even further telling procrastinating perfectionists that, “Half ass is better than no ass.”

His wording may be crass but the fundamental truth remains:

If you wait for everything to be perfect you’ll never act.

Whether it’s a product, a service, or an idea, you have to put version one out there, get some feedback, improve on it, and then create a new and improved version from there.

You can always course correct as you go.

But at some point you must decide it really is good enough.

It’s a lesson I relearned just last week while recording a presentation.

I spent the better part of a day doing dry runs before finally hitting the dreaded “Record” button.

Everything was going great until around the 35 minute mark, and I coughed.

Could I have stopped and re-recorded the whole thing? Yup.

And if someone had hired me to create the video I would have.

But this was a free video I produced for a select group of people who want to learn more about an upcoming training program on how to get paid to brainstorm.

So instead I kept going.

Earlier in my entrepreneurial journey I would have been compelled to make it perfect.

Instead I chose to think most viewers would forgive the cough.

And to recognize instead the considerable effort I put into finding statistics about the boom in the numbers of people embracing self-employment and the examples of creative business ideas.

Plus the entire second half of the video is basically a free marketing lesson.

Lessons I knew this audience could use to launch or to grow a business regardless of whether they ultimately sign up to train with me or not.

So yes, I coughed. And guess what? Life went on.

Don’t Get Too Wedded to Your Dream

In October I realized a long-held dream of getting onto Oprah’s radar when I was interviewed for O magazine on how to feel more confidence.

omagazineWhen the issue finally came out I was so excited I babbled to the cashier, the other customers at the newsstand, truly anyone with a pulse – “I’m in this magazine!!!”

As honored as I was, in all honestly, my real dream was to be a guest on Oprah’s TV show.

But the show ended its 25 year run a mere two months after my book came out. Talk about a near miss.

What I learned from this experience is that people don’t fail to achieve a dream.

The failure is giving up when things don’t turn out the way we imagined.

I’ve had plenty of clients who fantasized about owning a bed and breakfast, but they didn’t have the money to buy their own place.

Happily, some discovered it much more satisfying (and less stressful) to have B&B owners who need a break to pay them to be bed and breakfast sitters instead.

Others realized that the part they really liked was the idea of decorating the place. Washing sheets and making breakfast at 6am… not so much. So they pursued decorating instead.

As the Rolling Stones reminded us, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime, you just might get what you need.”

5 Ways to Fund Your Dream Part 5

When it comes to changing course, money – or rather the lack of it – stops a lot of people in their tracks.

So to help, I’ve put together a five-part series on creative ways to fund your dream.

You may not be able to take advantage of every idea or resource.  In fact, none of the five ideas may be right for you and your personal situation. You need to read them anyway. Why?

First, the strategy that may not be a fit for you today may indeed be the one that launches your dream a few years from now.

Second, just knowing that options truly do exist will remind you that your crazy dream is not so crazy after all.

And finally, one of the ideas or resources you see here may be perfect for someone you know. Pass it on and you just might change a life!

Strategy #5: Know Your Options

3102014_1Ever wondered how most successful small business owners get the money to launch?

Entrepreneur magazine did and what they found might surprise you!

Of businesses less than five years old, with annual sales in excess of $1 million, a whopping 69 percent started out by using their own money to fund their business.

3102014_2Going it alone, pulling yourself and your business up by your bootstraps otherwise known as “bootstrapping” is all about getting things done while spending as little as possible and not raising outside financing.

That’s why the first four ideas in this series focused on small ways for you to bootstrap your dream. (If you missed these, then start here.)

But bootstrapping isn’t your only option.

You have five basic options for finding the money to fund your entrepreneurial dream:

OPTION 1: Using Your Own Money

OPTION 2: Debt Financing – Borrowing with the expectation that you will repay the loan

  • Borrowing from friends and family
  • Borrowing money from a bank
  • Borrowing from a micro-lender

OPTION 3: Equity Financing – Getting others to invest in your dream in exchange for a financial stake in your business

  • Friends and Family
  • Other “Small” Investors
  • Angel Investors/Professional Investors/Venture Capitalists

OPTION 4: Getting a grant

  • Private Grants
  • Government Grants and Other Assistance
  • Grants for Social Entrepreneurs
  • Grants and Funding for Creative Types
  • Grants for Non-profits

OPTION 5: Crowdfunding via sites like Kickstarter or Indigogo

  • Friends and family
  • Your social network
  • Total strangers who support your dream

You can stick to just one option. For instance, I bootstrapped the start-up of Changing Course and then continually re-invested earnings back into the business as needed.

Or you can put together various combinations.

Say you wanted to open an art gallery. You could kick in some of your own money, get a loan from your Aunt Gracie, and secure a grant from a local arts council.

So what option do successful small business people use? According to that same Entrepreneur survey:

  • Private investors — 21 percent
  • Friends and family — 21 percent
  • Line of credit from a bank (presumably using their home or other property as collateral) — 18 percent
  • Bank loans — 12 percent
  • Credit cards — 10 percent

Know How Much You Need

3102014_3Before you can even consider how you’ll get the funds, you need to know how much money you need.

If your goal is to start a small, one-person, home-based business as say a freelance writer, consultant/coach, or web designer then you’ll probably need relatively little start-up money. In this case Option 1 – bootstrapping is the way to go.

But what if you have what I call a “Big Dream”? In the past I’ve worked with clients who wanted to:

  • Open a dude ranch in the Canadian Rockies
  • Start a non-profit to help impoverished people in South Africa sell their crafts
  • Renovate a historic building into a multi-purpose art space

Big dreams tend to involve things like looking at things like renting or purchasing property, hiring employees, finding donors, travel expenses, and/or purchasing equipment or inventory – all of which require more start-up capital.

So here you’ll probably need to borrow money, find investors, seek corporate sponsorship, or all three.

In other words, the amount of money you need to change course depends on your business needs and your plans for growth.

Assess Your Entire Situation

3102014_4Once you know how much money you’ll need, you need to decide which funding option is right for you. Which strategy you choose depends on three things:

1) Your current financial obligations or circumstances

2) Your comfort level with risk

3) How quickly you want to change course

For example:

  • If you have a couple of kids about to enter college you’re in a very different financial situation than if you’re a 21-year-old who just graduated college and is living at home
  • If you’re the sole provider of a family, either as a single parent or part of a two-parent family, you’re in a different situation than someone who is only responsible for themselves
  • If you’re an individual that makes a lot of money but are drowning in credit card debt, you face different challenges than if you earn far less but spend within your means
  • If you find yourself faced with a “once in a lifetime” chance to purchase a special piece of property or a coveted business that’s up for sale then you may be willing to take out a loan, court investors, or otherwise assume a greater financial risk in order to seize the day

The Benefits of Bootstrapping

Even if you ultimately decide to use other options, starting out, the easiest way to fund your new business is to use your own money.

After all, you don’t have to fill out any applications or worry about your credit score. There are no investors to try to woo. And you don’t have to worry about repaying anyone.

At least that’s what Shep and Ian Murray discovered.

After graduating college the two brothers felt stifled in their respective Manhattan desk jobs. They longed for the laid back days of summer they’d spent as kids on Martha’s Vineyard.

3102014_5So inspired by the mega-success of another Massachusetts island business Nantucket Nectars, they quit their jobs in 1998, took a $7,000 cash advance from their credit cards, and launched designer neck tie business Vineyard Vines.

In true bootstrapping style, they ran the business themselves for the first two years. Today they have a whole team of employees.

Things have really accelerated in the last five years. The Murray’s went from a single Edgartown retail store to:

  • Having their ties worn by every living president as well as other high-profilers as John Kerry, New York Mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and financier Warren Buffett
  • They’re on track to generate $100 million in sales thanks in large part to the decision to invest in their business by expanding to offer a complete clothing line for men, women, and children
  • Doubled the number of stores to 20, including new locations as far away as Plano, Texas, and Newport Beach, California
  • And signed licensing deals with the NFL, NHL, and MLB
  • And Vineyard Vines’ clothing is the “official style” of the Kentucky Derby

Not bad for a couple of bootstrappers!

Whether you want to build an empire as the Murray’s ultimately did, or are just looking to start a small self-sustaining business, the fundamental steps to funding a business remain the same.

Step 1:  Believe in your dream

Step 2: Find a way to fund it that best fits your situation and goals

Step 3: Take action!

Ready to start bootstrapping your own dream? Start with one of these strategies from the entire 5 Ways to Fund Your Dream series:

Strategy 1: Find a Contest Related to Your Dream and Enter It
Strategy 2: Get Your Priorities Straight
Strategy 3: Make and Stash Some Extra Cash is available
Strategy 4: Barter

5 Ways to Fund Your Dream Part 4

You want to make the leap from having a boss to being your own boss. The only problem? M-o-n-e-y!

I wish I could tell you there was a 1-800-Free-Money hotline. Or give you the name of some government office that writes big, no-strings attached checks so people like you can just up and quit your job to start a business.

But I can’t. So that means you have to find another way.

Strategy #4: Barter

innWhen freelance photographer Roger William Theise found out I was from Massachusetts he positively gushed about a recent vacation to Cape Cod. He was especially taken with the charming seaside village of Chatham, home of the famous lighthouse.

So the Ithaca, New York-based shutterbug approached the keepers at one of the more upscale inns with a unique proposal.

Roger would take flattering pictures of the inn and once back at his studio he’d email the best shots. If the owners were unimpressed, they were free to keep the photos no questions asked.

However, if innkeeper liked what they saw, then Roger would be rewarded with a free one-week stay the following summer. It worked!

The enterprising photographer could have made the same pitch to owners of restaurants, clothing stores, fishing expedition boats, gourmet shops… The possibilities are endless!

More importantly, there’s no reason why the timeless practice of bartering couldn’t work for start-ups too.

What Do You Need?

If you have an idea you haven’t acted on – or began only to stall – ask yourself this question:

What do I need right this minute to get my business moving?

If you’re like most people, your first response is “money.”

It’s entirely possible that you’ll need a hefty business loan or an infusion of cash from angel investors later on.

But in the pre-launch phase most people tend to have more specific needs. Needs that have to do with gaining practical experience, training, knowledge or information, or all of above.

Things like…

  • training in how to use Quickbooks®, Adobe Illustrator, Final Cut Pro, or another type of software
  • someone to write a grant proposal for that non-profit you want to start
  • advice, mentoring, or coaching
  • someone to help you put together a crowd-sourcing campaign so you can raise tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands) in start-up costs
  • marketing help
  • professional editing of your screenplay, book, or information product
  • the opportunity to assist or shadow someone doing the kind of work you’d like to do
  • web-design or tech support
  • A professional headshot or product shots

Some of these things you can get at no cost by reading QuickBooks for Dummie’s or tapping a grant-savvy friend or relative to walk you through the process.

Other times what you need is going to cost you. If funds are tight, then bartering might be the perfect solution. After all, everyone has something they can offer in exchange. You can:

  • run errands
  • cook or bake
  • care for kids or pets
  • proof-read
  • prepare taxes
  • organize things (files, garages, closets)
  • hem clothes
  • do research
  • clean
  • do basic home or auto repair…

In fact, if you know how to edit, take great photographs, write grant proposals or do any of the things on the list above – then you have something to barter.

5 Rules for Barters

Once you’ve determined what you have to give in return, consider these five rules of etiquette before, during, or after any barter.

1)      Make sure the other party wants what you have.

If the person lives with a professional chef, your offer to prepare and freeze a week’s worth of dinners probably won’t fly. Nor does it make sense to pitch pet-sitting to someone who doesn’t own animals.

Instead, make a list of things you can offer in exchange and let the other person choose.

2)     Make sure the exchange is relatively even.

Someone once asked me to wave their entire $3,000 seminar fee and wanted me cover their travel expenses to boot. What would I get out of the deal? A couple of hours handling the registration desk – something I could hire out for under $100.

Andy LaRoche, Pittsburgh PiratesI understand it’s not always possible to do a perfectly even exchange. After all how do you put a price on spending a weekend shadowing the director of a successful sports camp as some of my own clients have done? But common sense should lead you to propose something that’s more equitable.

3)     Get the agreement in writing.

Taking the time to summarize the agreement in writing can save a lot of headaches or even resentments later on.

You don’t need a formal document. A simple email thanking the person and asking if the terms you’ve outlined reflect their understanding will suffice.

4)     Do what you said you’d do – and then some.

Unfortunately I’ve been on the receiving end of less than satisfactory barter agreements. So while it should go without saying, make sure you follow through and do an outstanding job.

And if the value of what you’re getting exceeds what you’re giving then find a way to exceed the agreed upon expectations. Show up with or send some home-made treats or flowers. Offer to stay late. Or do more than agreed upon exchange. What you do is less important than that you express your appreciation.

5) Be gracious.

Note Card & CoffeeBartering with someone you don’t know is a leap of faith. If you initiated the barter, make sure you take the time to send a hand-written thank you card.

What about you?

Do you have a successful (or horror) barter story to share? What tips would you add to this list? I’d love to hear from you!

Strategy 1: Find a Contest Related to Your Dream and Enter It
Strategy 2: Get Your Priorities Straight
Strategy 3: Make and Stash Some Extra Cash is available
Strategy 5: Know Your Options

5 Ways to Fund Your Dream Part 3

You want to make the leap from having a boss to being your own boss. The only problem? M-o-n-e-y!

I wish I could tell you there was a 1-800-Free-Money hotline. Or give you the name of some government office that writes big, no-strings attached checks so people like you can just up and quit your job to start a business.

But I can’t. So that means you have to find another way.

This next idea (#3 in my 5 Ways to Fund Your Dream series) is so simple that you may have overlooked it.

Best of all… anyone can do it.

Strategy #3 Make and Stash Some Extra Cash

For the last nine-and-a-half years of her life, my mother worked as a custodian at a local state university. It was the only way she could see to earn a pension since my Dad didn’t have one.

One of the perks of the job is that college students consume a lot of cans of soda – and beer. And for my Mom that meant extra cash.

canThat’s because Massachusetts is one of 11 states with a bottle bill, which means consumers get 5 cents for every return. That may not sound like a lot. But my Mom made an extra $100 to $125 a month on the cans students discarded.

What would you do with an extra $1,200 to $1,500 a year?

Before you make up your mind that this kind of money isn’t nearly enough to fully achieve your dream, ask yourself instead how even small chunks of money might move you closer to your dream?

In other words:

  • How many photography, cooking, woodworking, beekeeping, or marketing classes could you take?
  • What kind of advanced training could you get in coaching, solar energy consulting, horticulture or wherever your interests lay?
  • What supplies or books could you buy?
  • What kind of equipment could you purchase or upgrade?
  • How much of someone else’s time could you buy in terms of business coaching, housecleaning, or administrative assistance?

I’m not suggesting you start collecting cans off the roadside (although plenty of people do and they aren’t all homeless). In fact, there may be ways you can make extra money that will also bring you closer to your dream.

For instance, if you love to paint and you enjoy teaching others check out a company called Paint Nites. The brainchild of co-founder Dan Hermann, Paint Nite® “is a new concept blending two timeless pastimes: painting and drinking cocktails.”

paintBars and restaurants with an extra room win because they get paying customers in the door on a slow night to enjoy a drink while taking a fun painting class.

Artists and teachers win because they earn the majority of class fees while Paint Nite® does most of the marketing.

Paint Nite® wins because they profit from a smaller share of the class fees and they get a free venue for their classes.

To learn more and to apply to either host a class or teach one, go here.

Maybe sewing, quilting, jewelry making, or other crafts or hobbies like photography or scrapbooking are more your thing. If so check out You Can Make This.

How it works is, you create the design and the how-to guide and the company features it on their site. When someone buys it, you as the content publisher earn 50 percent of the sale price.

I interviewed company founder Kim Christopherson maybe five years ago. Turns out after just one year, her website was so successful that husband Ryan was able to quit his job to work with Kim full time.

How did she start? It all began when she turned to eBay to earn extra money by selling her crafts.

So, what about you? What can you do to bring in an extra $100-$200 a month?

If you love to shop can you snag great designer clothes at Goodwill, Salvation Army or close out sales and sell them at pricier consignment shops or online?

Could you tutor kids in math or language or an instrument?

Can you make extra money teaching, consulting, or supervising others on how to write a grant, wallpaper a room, build a tree house, use Adobe Illustrator® or anything else where you have some knowledge or skills?

mugEveryone has stuff you don’t need that you can sell on eBay or Craigslist? Heck I have a dozen old Starbuck’s city series coffee mugs I bought for $10-15 each that now fetch $40-$90 just sitting in a cupboard.

There are all sorts of ways to earn extra money – money you can specifically earmark toward starting your small business.

What you’ll soon realize is that the money itself isn’t the important part. The important part is that you will have taken proactive steps to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Strategy 1: Find a Contest Related to Your Dream and Enter It
Strategy 2: Get Your Priorities Straight
Strategy 4: Barter
Strategy 5: Know Your Options

5 Ways to Fund Your Dream Part 2

When it comes to changing course, money – or rather the lack of it – stops a lot of people in their tracks.

So to help, I’ve put together a five-part series on creative ways to fund your dream.

You may not be able to take advantage of every idea or resource. In fact, none of the five ideas may be right for you and your personal situation. You need to read them anyway. Why?

First, the strategy that may not be a fit for you today may indeed be the one that launches your dream a few years from now.

Second, just knowing that options truly do exist will remind you that your crazy dream is not so crazy after all.

And finally, one of the ideas or resources you see here may be perfect for someone you know. Pass it on and you just might change a life!

Strategy #2: Get Your Priorities Right

Comedian and actor Chris Rock remarked in an interview, “Having money doesn’t make you rich. Having options makes you rich.”

Arianne and Scott Bennett didn’t have either. The couple desperately wanted to travel. But they didn’t have any expendable income.

However they were both able to afford their $4.50 pack a day cigarette habit. Smoking had become a priority.

So in 1998 they both decided to quit and stash the money they saved into a travel fund. Ten months later the couple had enough money to fly to Amsterdam where some friends had recently moved.

falafelThey loved the canals and the old world charm. But what Arianne and Scott really fell in love with were the many falafel shops. So they returned to the states to open their first Amsterdam Falafel shop and today run a booming franchise business.

Arianne and Scott’s dream began with a simple decision to put their money into something that would bring them joy. Can you say that about where your money goes?

If not, where can you cut back? Could you cancel or downgrade a pricey cable bill. Pack your lunch. Skip the daily latte. Whatever you do be sure you redirect the money you save into a special Dream Account.

For my friends Linda and Waino saving money isn’t a strategy. It’s a lifestyle.

Throughout his life Waino had a series of low-paying jobs, including school bus driver and hired hand at a dairy farm. Linda started out as an English teacher but soon discovered a love of making pottery.

For the last 30 years she’s thrown pots in her well-lit basement studio. In the spring and fall, Linda teaches pottery classes at a local college. And for a few weeks each summer, she runs classes for kids in her studio.

Of course like everyone, there are times when, Linda feels pressured by the demands for her work. But while her employed friends get a measly 2-3 weeks of vacation, Linda takes ten.

Freshly-Harvested-VegetablesThe couple grows much of their own food. So she takes three weeks off in May to plant their massive vegetable garden. The entire month of August is spent reading books, playing cards, and swimming at a rustic cottage on a remote lake in Maine that the couple own with Linda’s sister and her husband.

After a hectic few month run up to the busy Christmas craft season Linda takes three weeks off in January to cross country ski from her front door and to catch up on things around the house.

This isn’t Linda’s only vacation time. In the last few years she and a friend cross-country skied their way across a part of Switzerland, spent a week with other long-time friends and me in Cozumel Mexico, and last year she accompanied a friend to Ecuador.

Did I mention that Linda and Waino’s combined income has never been more than $50,000? If you’re wondering how they can do all of this and still afford to take over ten weeks off a year, it has everything to do with priorities.

The couple prides themselves on living a full but frugal life. Ardent environmentalists, they repair rather than replace, buy only what they need and for everything else they go used, barter with friends, or go without. They raise chickens for the eggs and grow and preserve a fair amount of their own food.

The mortgage on their small but comfortable home has long been paid off and they have more saved for retirement than the vast majority of those earning two-to-three times more.

If you live in pricy areas like New York City, Boston, or San Francisco it’s not always easy to live on less. So if you’re ready for a change of scenery, consider relocating to a more affordable place where your dollar will go much further.

cafeIf you’re up for re-prioritizing in a big way, you could always go international. Running an existing portable business or starting a new business in another country is actually pretty doable. There are ex-pats opening cafes, using Skype to continue to work with clients back home, and importing crafts and other products back home.

Getting a job in another country can be a major challenge, but it’s not impossible. The reason Linda went to Ecuador was to accompany a friend who couldn’t afford to retire in the U.S. and wanted to check things out. On her first visit the friend got a job teaching English and has since relocated there full-time.

You don’t have to retire to benefit from this list of best places to retire from International Living magazine.

Nor do you need to move, raise your own chickens or grow your own food. But, if you’re serious about finding a way to fund your dream – and enjoy more life – then consider ways you can live on less. In a word: Prioritize.

As Margaret Young said:

“Often people attempt to live their lives backwards: they try to have more things, or more money, in order to do more of what they want so that they will be happier. The way it actually works is the reverse. You must first be who you really are, then, do what you need to do, in order to have what you want.”

Strategy 1: Find a Contest Related to Your Dream and Enter It
Strategy 3: Make and Stash Some Extra Cash
Strategy 4: Barter
Strategy 5: Know Your Options

5 Ways to Fund Your Dream

When it comes to changing course, money – or rather the lack of it – stops a lot of people in their tracks.

So to help, I’ve put together a five-part series on creative ways to fund your dream.

You may not be able to take advantage of every idea or resource.  In fact, none of the five ideas may be right for you and your personal situation. You need to read them anyway. Why?

First, the strategy that may not be a fit for you today may indeed be the one that launches your dream a few years from now.

Second, just knowing that options truly do exist will remind you that your crazy dream is not so crazy after all.

And finally, one of the ideas or resources you see here may be perfect for someone you know. Pass it on and you just might change a life!

Idea #1: Find a Contest Related to Your Dream and Enter It

If you’re a writer or an artist or you love to make music or fancy cakes or you have a great business idea or a host of other things, why not enter a contest?

penguinIf you think it’s a total long-shot let me tell you about my friend Dyan DiNapoli aka The Penguin Lady.

Dyan didn’t enter a contest. But she did have a dream of working with sea animals at an aquarium. Not everyone supported her decision to go back to college to pursue the required degree.

It’s not that they thought she wasn’t up to the task. Rather they worried that the odds were not good, telling Dyan, “It’s too competitive.”

I loved Dyan’s response: “I just kept reminding myself – somebody’s going to get that cool job. It might as well be me.”

The same thing applies here. Someone is going to win that contest. It might as well be you!

In fact, it was a contest that launched the writing career of a registered nurse named Elizabeth Berg. Her first attempt came at nine when she entered a poem contest in American Girl magazine. Twenty five years later Elizabeth entered and won a writing contest sponsored by another magazine.

She penned magazine articles for ten years before writing her first novel. Today Elizabeth has numerous New York Times best-selling books to her name.

To be clear, entering a contest is not the same as sitting on your hands hoping to hit the lottery. Rather in each case you actually have to take positive action in order to win.

Finally the great thing about entering a contest is that even if you don’t win the contest you’ll still have won because you’ll have improved your craft and learned a ton along the way.That’s how some of the biggest Agency SEO have made it.

To get your own creative juices flowing, I’ve pulled together three of the countless contests happening this very moment.

The Staples’s Make Your Idea Happen Contest

Can you capture your great idea in 100 words or less? Well, you’ll need to if you want to win one of 10 prizes office supply giant Staples is giving out.

winnerGrand prize is $25,000, first prize is $15,000, and second prize $10,000. All prizes are all in the form of tech and office store products of your choice.

Plus winners receive something even more valuable. Free specialized business coaching from an impressive line-up of experts including a well-known chef, jewelry designer, and author.

And a lucky seven runners-up can cash in on $5,000 in products.

But you’ll have to act FAST because entry is due February 3 at 5PM eastern. That’s TODAY!

The only catch is you have to “Like” them at Facebook to enter and give them more pay for twitter followers. (A very clever marketing tactic you may use in your own business.)

Once you hit “like” you’ll find helpful sample entries and bios of the panelists. So… what are you waiting for!

Pillsbury Bake-Off

I grew up hearing about winners of the Pillsbury Bake-Off. The prize back then was $10,000. No small sum at the time.


Today the grand prize is a cool $1 million and a spot on Queen Latifa’s show! To learn about all of the recent winners of the 46th bake-off – and most importantly — to get on their list for news of the next one, go here.

Pillsbury isn’t the only game in town. King Arthur flour sponsors baking contests at dozens of state fairs.

And if cake decorating is your thing this Cake Decorating Classes site lists upcoming contests in the US, Canada and the UK.

Baking and cooking contests are so popular that there are entire websites dedicated to the topic – which is a cool business idea itself. Two I found are Cooking Contest Central and Contest Cook.

John Lennon Songwriting Contest


Since 1997 this international songwriting contest has awarded millions in prize money and products to amateur and professional songwriters who submit entries in 12 categories including rock, hip hop, Latin, gospel, country, children’s, and more.

The contest is open year-round and features two sessions — with 72 Finalists, 24 Grand Prize Winners, 12 Lennon Award Winners and 1 “Song of the Year.”

You don’t need a professional recording and instrumental compositions are encouraged. Entries will be judged on originality, melody, composition, and (when applicable) lyrics.

This year’s prize packages total over $300,000.00! Among the judges are Bob Weir, Jesse Harris, The Black Eyed Peas, The Bacon Brothers and The Veronicas!

What if you don’t win? Then enter another one and another one until you do.

Your Turn

Know of another contest? Get an aha? Or even just a boost of inspiration? Great! Scroll down to post your thoughts and ideas here!

Strategy 2: Get Your Priorities Straight
Strategy 3: Make and Stash Some Extra Cash is available
Strategy 4: Barter
Strategy 5: Know Your Options

Announcement: Registration for the Spring 2014 Profiting from Your Passions® career expert training starts soon. If you love to think outside the job box and help others, get on the Priority Notification page to learn more.

The Difference between prosperity and poverty

I saw the most incredible sunset the other day. I had to pull my car over to soak it in, this fleeting sky painting.

These small gifts don’t show up in my life more often than anyone else’s. I think I just notice them more.

I’m sharing this monument capital group holdings because few, if any, career advisors talk about gratitude as an essential element of career change.

When you think about it, career counselors and coaches are in the business of helping you move from where you are to where you want to be. In other words, changing your work and life are by definition all about the future.

Gratitude on the other hand is very much about the present.

It’s not always easy to be grateful when what you want is freedom, control over your time, and the satisfaction of knowing that the work you do matters. But what you have instead is a soul sucking job that leaves you no time to see, never mind smell, the roses.

Yet if you really want to make a positive change, it’s imperative to shift from a state of constant yearning for what you don’t have to being mindful of those blessings, however small, that you do have… right now.

Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin talked about this concept in their groundbreaking book Your Money or Your Life writing,

“So much dissatisfaction comes from focusing on what we don’t have that the simple exercise of acknowledging and valuing what we do have can transform our outlook.” Said another way, ungrateful people make lousy self-change agents.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are a lot of people in dire circumstances. Circumstances made all the more difficult during this holiday season.

Yet, say Dominguez and Robin, “Once we are above the survival levels, the difference between prosperity and poverty lies simply in our degree of gratitude.”

Even during my most financially challenging and emotionally discouraging days (and trust me there have been many), I still knew that I was blessed.

After all, I can see. I can hear. I have all my limbs. I am, God-willing, free of disease.

I can walk down my street in relative safety. I have food and a home and heat.

I have clean water, access to medical care, transportation.

I have friends and family who love me. And I am blessed to have all of you.

Living life from a perspective of gratitude is not just an exercise in happy thinking. According to Melody Beattie there are actual tangible benefits:

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity… It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”

On the bulletin board at my post office hangs a quote from the Women’s Theology Center in Boston. It reads, “We must go slowly, there’s not much time.”

Achieving a dream takes hard work, perseverance, and, yes, time. Life is too short to put off happiness until we have achieved our goal. With a dream, as with life, the journey is just as important as the destination.

As you enjoy a drink of clean water, a warm bed or the company of a loved one this Thanksgiving season and every day, pause and be grateful for what and who is in your life right now.

Take positive action to go after that better future. But also be here now… and savor the journey.

What are YOU grateful for today? Take a moment to scroll down and share.
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(And don’t forget to take advantage of the Big 50% Off Everything You Need to Change Course! Discount will appear in cart.)

You really only need two things to become your own boss

What do you think it takes to create a successful business? Money? Time? Both?

Before I answer that question I’d like you to meet someone who came up with a great idea on a Saturday, was in business by Monday and grew sales to the $1 million mark in a single year.

Her name is Maria Elena Ibanez.

It all started at a routine appointment at her hairdresser. There she happened to strike up a conversation with another customer who had a background in the Latino food business.

This impromptu meeting stimulated Maria Elena’s hunger… for opportunity. So much so that in that instant she made up her mind to become a major player in the Latino food industry.

That was in 2002.

By the end of year one, her business, Intermark Foods had $1 million in sales from four food products. By 2009 Maria Elena had led her company into the Inc. 5000 List of Fastest Growing Company for three years running.

It’s important to note that Maria Elena already had a background in business. In fact, she’d already launched two successful international computer distribution businesses and sold one. So, starting a business was nothing new.

But this new enterprise took her into an entirely different industry. In fact she knew nothing about the food business what so ever. Zip. Nada.

What she lacked in industry knowledge, Maria Elena made up for in her confidence to act on an opportunity when she saw one.

So, what can you learn from this “weekend business launcher” that can help you jumpstart your own entrepreneurial dreams? Plenty! Here are 5 essential lessons to get you started

Lesson 1: Find People Who Know More Than You Do

Stop thinking you need to know everything before you can begin. As Woodrow Wilson once said, “I use all the brains I have and all that I can borrow.”

There are lots of ways to tap the expertise of other people. You can partner with a subject matter expert, you can apprentice with an expert, you can pay someone to consult with you from time to time, or all of the above. The key is to ask!

Lesson 2: Create Your Own Crash Course

You don’t need to get an MBA or have worked in a field for 20 years to figure out the basics. Maria Elena ordered a couple of cases of books on Amazon and spent a few weeks creating her own crash course in the food and grocery industry.

Pretend your boss told you to put together a three month self-paced training program on how to make money growing irises in your backyard or how to get a syndicated talk radio show. You’d figure it out right?

If you want to be self-employed you need to start acting like the boss of you! Get busy making a list of what you need to know to move your dream forward.

Next create a plan for how you will learn what it is you need to know. Will you do a web search? Read a book? Make a phone call?

Then take one small step, and another and another until you have completed the plan.

Lesson 3: Trust Your Instincts

How many times have you seen a great business idea only to second guess yourself because you told yourself, it’s too “obvious”? Or, “If it’s such a good idea someone would have done it by now.” Nonsense.

Maria Elena built her brand by targeting an under-served niche in the Latin food market — dairy foods. How did she know to specialize there? Simple. She walked the aisles in the supermarket and looked for what was missing.

The key is to trust your instincts. If something looks like an opportunity, acts like an opportunity, and your gut is screaming, “Yes!” then pay attention!

Lesson 4: See Problems as Opportunities

Successful business owners understand that opportunities often come disguised as problems. For instance, Maria Elena could have pulled back during the slow economy. Instead she capitalized on it.

Cheaper rent and more available brainpower looking for work are just two reasons why she says an economic downturn is the best time to start a business.

What problem can you capitalize on right now? Lost your job? Can you use the extra time between job hunting to read a book on marketing or create a small profit center?

No idea what kind of business you could start that might actually build on the things you enjoy doing? Make a list of friends who know you well enough to recognize your unique gifts or interests who may recall any long lost dreams you’ve perhaps lost sight of.

Then invite them to help you come up with business ideas that would make best use of your own unique genius. Warning: Only invite friends who support your desire to be your own boss. Otherwise your brainstorming session will probably lead you back to working in a cubicle.

If that doesn’t work, hire an entrepreneurially-minded career coach who knows how to connect the dots between what you like to do and how you can make your own job doing it.

Lesson 5: Free Yourself From Analysis Paralysis

I know people who are still working on a business plan or website they began nearly a decade ago. They constantly plan and tinker and research and think… But they never launch.

Notice Maria Elena did not spend years, months, or even weeks locked in analysis paralysis. She made a decision one day and two days later was in full blown action mode.

She acted so fast in fact that the Latino food expert Eric Lefkofsky she met at her hairdressers on Saturday reported to work in Ms. Ibanez’s home office on Monday!

The Bottom Line

You don’t have to run out and start an empire tomorrow. But imagine what you could do if you just dove in and started somewhere…. anywhere!

Will you make mistakes along the way? I certainly hope so. Because if you aren’t making mistakes, then you’re not learning anything.

Will you go from $0 to a million dollars in a year? Clearly Maria Elena Ibanez’s story proves that some people do. But this is definitely the exception.

Does that mean you shouldn’t start? Not at all.

It took me seven years before I became an “overnight success!” However, if I’d understood these simple lessons earlier, I’m certain I could have cut that time in half.

There’s one more thing I wish I’d had more of sooner. And it’s not what you think.

You see, everyone thinks it takes money to make money. Not true. I’ve had clients who had lots of money. Some had both money and plenty of time to launch a business. And in all cases, I was able to help them craft a viable idea for their first profit center.

And yet they still couldn’t get out of their own way for one reason and one reason only: Lack of confidence.

You see, it really takes just two things to change course: A good idea and the confidence to act on it.

What about you?

Do you have a great idea but lack the confidence to act? Do you have abundant confidence but are stuck on the idea part? Do you have both? Neither?

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

How to Turn a Problem Into A Profitable Product

I recently had an encounter that opened my eyes – big time.

It happened when I hired a guy to perform the inspection on the new house I’m buying. I quickly learned that John has 11 children.

If that wasn’t amazing enough, he and his wife are getting set to pack the family into a huge caravan and crisscross the United State home schooling (or should I say “road schooling”) the kids as they go.

car(Okay they’ll need a bigger car than this one and you need to substitute a bunch of boxes for a whole bunch of kids… but you get the idea.)

So how can a guy who inspects houses for a living afford to take several years off from working to travel and spend time with his family?

Turns out he and his oldest son developed an app for his smart phone that makes the capture and sharing of inspection information both easier for the inspector and more user-friendly for the consumer.

They’re about to license their SaaS to a group of housing inspectors for a cool quarter of a million dollars. Cha-Ching!

That got me thinking about how a lot of people – and women especially – shy away from technology-related business ideas. That’s a real shame because we’re losing out on tremendous financial opportunities.

For example, yesterday I emailed you about a woman named Esther from the Netherlands.

Esther is a busy mom with zero entrepreneurial experience who started a successful software business in her living room.

What’s remarkable is that she didn’t have any idea what she was going to create. And she had only limited money to invest in a business.

Even more surprising, she has no experience in software. None!

So, how did she do it?

Esther’s journey began when she stopped thinking “I have to be an expert” and started thinking “find painful problems.”

If that doesn’t make sense yet, that’s ok. It will soon…

Because once you find whole a bunch of people who all share a common painful problem then you’ve got the essential foundation from which to launch a highly profitable small business.

In John’s case, it was other home inspectors. For Esther, it was photographers.

But it could also be any business owners or practitioners: Auto-mechanics, restaurant owners, personal trainers, chiropractors, or attorneys. The list is endless

Talk to people who are in the same occupation or situation and I guarantee you’ll learn about a shared problem or challenge.

John already knew the challenges he and other home inspectors faced. And his son was a self-described geek.

But Esther created a business from nothing by simply asking questions, selling her product before it existed, and using that money to hire an expert to build the product for her!

Okay so how does this process work? I’m sure you have plenty of questions…

You’re not alone!

Which is why I’m hosting an Educational No-Pitch Webinar called:

How to Find Product Ideas And Pre-sell Them Before You Build Them (And Then How to Find & Hire Experts to Build the Product for You!)

It’s going to happen live on Thursday, November 14, 2013 at 1:00PM.

The Webinar is being taught by Dane Maxwell.

Dane was referred to me by a trusted mutual friend who until recently was the educational director at the mega-affiliate site Clickbank. And the referral came just a week after my house inspection.

Both of these tidbits are important because as much as I hate to admit it, I’m wary of things I don’t understand.

You see, despite running an online business since 1998, I’m not the least bit technically-savvy. (Just ask my assistant Lisa!)

I mean before I met Dane I’d never heard the term “SaaS.” Now I know it stands for “software as a service” and according to Wikipedia the SaaS market is b-o-o-m-i-n-g.

So I sat in on one of Dane’s webinars and was practically jumping out of my seat with excitement about the possibilities for those searching for a viable way to become your own boss.

If you want to learn how Esther and others have created a recurring stream of income with no idea, limited money, and no software experience for settlement and annuity – then you do not want to miss this educational, no-pitch Webinar.

How to Find Product Ideas And Pre-sell Them Before You Build Them (And Then How to Find & Hire Experts to Build the Product for You!)

Thursday November 14, 2013
1:00 PM Eastern
12:00 PM Central
11:00 AM Mountain
10:00 AM Pacific
18:00 GMT

Register here now

If John, Esther (and score of others) can do it… so can you. See you Thursday!

Losing Your Way

In a 2010 issue of More Bailey Jack recounts the years she spent in low pay, low satisfaction jobs. Her true love was art.

But everyone “knows” there’s no money in art… right?

Sadly, like so many people who fail to listen to their heart, Bailey had lost her way.

It wasn’t until her 50s that she finally found her footing and with it a new livelihood as a working artist.

Even if she’d wanted to take classes, Bailey couldn’t afford them. So she taught herself to paint. And as it turns out she was really, really good at it.

But how could painting ever pay the bills?

After all she worked from 3am to noon, including weekends and holidays. Since she could never attend weekend art shows she never bothered to apply.

And on her meager earnings she couldn’t afford to buy canvases anyway.

“A vicious cycle became my life,” writes Bailey.

Then one day while she was painting in her studio, a neighbor named Dr. Pam Barge came knocking. The certified life coach, and now friend, sat Bailey down for a long talk.

roadmapPam told her that without some sort of roadmap… a plan… Bailey would keep going in circles and getting exactly nowhere.

It was a break through moment for Bailey. “Sometimes a stranger has to open your eyes and ears to hear what your heart is speaking,” she said.

That very night, before going to her “dreaded, low pay unhappy environment job,” she wrote out a six month plan. One that would focus on the steps she needed to take and ways to overcome the obstacles holding her back.

That’s when Bailey came up with a creative way a way to afford “canvas.” After all, any surface can be a canvas. Right?

So she began to use whatever was available. She painting on bead board, vintage doors, cast away wood, even recycled cabinet doors. But she needed more. But with no money… what to do?

dogShe approached a contractor whose yard was filled with discarded kitchen cabinets. Unfortunately he wasn’t interested in giving them away or selling them.

Sadly a lot of people would have given up. Not Bailey.

Instead she painted a portrait of the contractor’s dog and offered it to him for free.

It worked!

Before long the guy was stacking old doors on her front porch by the dozens.

Bailey also squirreled away bits of money to pay the fees to get into juried art shows and began approaching galleries.

It was in one of these galleries where a buyer from HGTV saw one of her paintings and promptly bought it for one of the shows.

From there Bailey’s art career took off. Check out a small sampling of her delightful work here.

Today her creations, all in the same whimsical style as the dog and Princess Leyla paintings shown here, are featured in galleries throughout Georgia and Florida.

ladyShe gets to travel the southeast to attend juried shows. And a once far off dream is her livelihood.

Best of all say Bailey, “I love the fact that I am creating everyday some image that may make someone happy.”

Finally putting an end to what Bailey so perfectly described as her “ridiculous journey of avoidance,” came down to two simple steps:

  1. Listen to where your heart wants to go and
  2. Devise a concrete roadmap to get there.

Whether you’re 25, 55, or 75 — life is way too short to avoid your dreams. So what’s your plan?

I’d Love to Hear from YOU!

What’s YOUR take away from Bailey’s story? Scroll down to share now.

And please take a moment to like us at the Changing Course Fan Page.

Realizing a Dream in Mid-Life

Much of my own inspiration comes from you my readers. People like Mary Alice Murphy who wrote to share her story.

Mary Alice lives in Silver City, New Mexico, a place she describes as “a gorgeous little town in far southwest New Mexico tucked into mountains with desert not too many miles away.”

Mary Alice spent most of the first five decades of her life not really knowing what she wanted to be “when she grew up.” Then at 58, it happened!

That’s when Mary Alice realized she wanted to be a newspaper reporter. She worked for a small local paper for ten years before being laid off at 68.

newspaperMost people in the same predicament would have just retired. But did I mention Mary Alice loves being a reporter?

“I not only continued being a newspaper reporter, but” says Mary Alice, “four days after being laid off, I had The Grant County Beat — my own local online news source — up and running.”

Overnight she went from employee to small business owner.

That meant needing to tackle things like becoming an LLC, getting financial advice, and finding a good but affordable webmaster.

By far though, the biggest challenge is the same one that dogs all off and on-line publications – generating ad revenue to pay the bills.

There are two things that are getting Mary Alice through this inevitable lean phase typical of the first few years of any business.

cameraladiesFirst there was the support of friends, some of whom she’s enlisted as unpaid or in her words “pitifully paid” writers.

The other thing that keeps Mary Alice going, “are the wonderful testimonials I receive from friends, as well as strangers, about how my news is ‘the best in town,’” she says, adding, “I thrive on compliments.”

Who doesn’t! In fact, I find central to most of my own clients’ dreams is the desire to somehow make a difference in the lives of others.

Mary Alice found her passion at 58 and then changed course in a big way at 68. Happily for both her and her many readers, the Beat goes on.

“It’s not making me rich,” writes Mary Alice, “but it’s keeping me happy and occupied!”

Your Turn

Do you know what you want to be “when you grow up”? Who do you turn to for support? What spurs you on to push through the tough times?

Share your story now either here or at the Changing Course Fan Page.

The Great Work Debate: Money Vs. Happiness

My nephew Jason was pretty excited about starting college. “Do you have any idea what you’d like to do when you graduate?” I asked. “Something in the sciences,” he said adding, “and where I can make a lot of money.” “Is that all?” I asked. Jason paused for a moment before replying. “Well, I just hope I can find a job I don’t hate too much.”

Time for a little auntie-to-nephew pep talk, I thought. “You have your whole life before you,” I said, “don’t you think you should be shooting higher than just short of misery?” Jason looked confused. “What should I be shooting for?” It was becoming obvious I was going to have to spell it out. “Satisfaction, fulfillment, you know – HAPPINESS!”

By the look on my dear nephew’s face I knew he wasn’t buying it. This got me thinking about the great debate raging inside many working adults today: Money vs. Happiness.

Money: 10 – Happiness: 2

At 41, my friend Eva is not rich, but she does earn a very good salary as a human resources manager in a federal agency. She has a closet full of clothes, owns a great house, drives a shiny new car and can afford in-home care for her two children. Last year she and her family rented a beach house for two weeks.

By all accounts, Eva should be happy, right? Wrong.

Eva works in one of those high-stress, need-it-yesterday type jobs. (Sound familiar?) Like a lot of people, she longs for the good old days. A mere decade ago, giving your employer a highly productive eight or nine hour day meant you were a dedicated employee. Give up a lunch hour once a week, come in on a Saturday once every few months and you were on a fast track to the top. How things have changed.

For Eva, career advancement isn’t even on the agenda. Instead, she’s just trying to stay afloat in the rising workflow rapids. Employees are expected to arrive before 8 a.m., work through lunch and often through dinner. On those rare occasions when she needs to leave by 6 p.m., Eva feels compelled to apologize for having to “skip out early.”

Then there’s personal time – what’s left of it that is. Tethered to her job by technology and the new “ever available” work ethic, Eva is expected to pick up voice and email messages from home, put in time on the weekends and check into the office during vacation. To say that Eva is unhappy would be an understatement.

Oh, but did I mention she makes a great salary?

Is That All There is My Friend?

No one in his or her right mind sets out to be miserably well off. Quite to the contrary. If we are to believe the advertising industry, money, and all the goods and services it can buy, is precisely what it takes to achieve that elusive state of “happiness.”

So earn and spend we do. But are we any happier?

Not according to Your Money or Your Life authors Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin. The authors asked over 1,000 people from the United States and Canada to rate themselves on a happiness scale of 1 (miserable) to 5 (joyous), with 3 being “can’t complain.”

Even Dominguez and Robin’s were surprised to find there to be no correlation what so ever between income and happiness. In fact, people earning between $0 – 1,000 a month reported being slightly happier than those whose monthly income exceeded $4,000.

Even though we own more than our parent’s generation, the percentage of Americans describing themselves as “very happy” peaked in 1957. Since then it has remained fairly stable or declined. This, despite the fact that American’s consume twice as much as they did in the 1950s, when the average size of a house was about the same as many two-car garages today.

What about you: Does your income far exceed your level of bliss? If so, you may be suffering from a case of “Affluenza?” Producers of the PBS television program by the same name, describe the disease as:

  • the bloated, sluggish and unfulfilled feeling that results from efforts to keep up with the Jones
  • an epidemic of stress, overwork, waste and indebtedness caused by dogged pursuit of the American Dream.

If you think you might be a chronic sufferer, you can learn about both the diagnosis – and cure – at the Affluenza program site

Happiness: 10 – Money: 2

Ok, what if you could reverse the equation? What if you could trade money for happiness? Would you?

Doug Ellis did. While he was in the corporate world, Doug had a better than average income. The fact that he had retirement vesting and other so called “golden handcuffs” made it tough to think about leaving. In the back of his mind, though, he knew money was only part of the happiness equation.

As his fifth year rolled around, Doug began to question whether being constantly “stressed and squeezed by the pressures of middle management” was worth it. As Doug explained it: “There are a lot of pressures forcing you to conform to a Dilbertesque existence. Eventually you either leave the cube farm, or hunker down in your cube and become an occupational veal calf.”

For Doug, the choice was hard, but clear. He handed in his notice, packed up, moved to a small town in Colorado and never looked back. Surrounded by mountains, Doug now walks to his new job as a writer for a small software company. “Life is short,” he says, adding “…one of the saddest things that can happen in pursuit of making a living is enslaving yourself to your boss’s dream, or giving up your own dream out of fatigue and fear. No paycheck, no matter how steady and fat, is worth it.”

The Choice is Yours

Well, where do you come down on the great debate? Is that paycheck worth the sacrifices? If you are leaning toward the happiness camp, you’re not alone. In a survey of 1,000 workers conducted by Robert Half International, two-thirds said they would willingly trade pay for more free time. For many, making a living is starting to take a back seat to having a life.

Is the thought of earning less money scary? You bet. That’s why I stayed in my own high-stress job for as long as I did. Then, without warning, my mother died of heart attack. She was five months away from retirement.

It was only then that I understood that predictability is a double-edged sword. Financial security wasn’t the only thing I could count on. If I didn’t take control of my life, I was destined to remain miserably well off.

Walking away from a good job with good benefits was risky. To me though, the real risk is that of looking back at my life twenty years down the road and knowing, that I was miserable, but I at least I had a good dental plan. End of debate.

What Your Guidance Counselor, Career Counselor, and Own Mother Probably Never Told You… You Don’t Need A Job to Make a Living

The alarm clock jars you awake at some insanely early hour. As you hit the snooze button you think, “there’s gotta be a better way to make a living.” As someone who rolled out of bed this morning at 8:30, I’m here to deliver the good news: there is.

A lot of people dream of escaping “Dilbert’s world” and being their own boss. Perhaps the biggest reason these dreams get derailed is money. Or, more accurately, faulty thinking about what it means to “make a living.” I’m no exception. For a long time I thought before I could take the leap to self-employment, I had to first figure out a venture that would generate the same amount of income as I was then earning.

Develop Multiple Profit Centers

Not so, says Barbara Winter, self-bosser and author of Making a Living Without a Job Winter is an enthusiastic advocate of what she calls “multiple profit centers.” Instead of thinking in terms of a single income, i.e. a “job,” Winter recommends aspiring entrepreneurs develop several income sources.

Outdoor enthusiast and neighbor Bob Sadowski is living proof that you can have your cake and eat it too. Bob lives on 80 acres in rural Plainfield, MA where he’s parlayed his life passions into his livelihood. When not running New England Bob’s Snowmobile Tours of Quebec snowmobiling tours throughout Quebec (one covers nearly 1,100 miles) this vintage car enthusiast specializes in buying and selling antique car and truck parts out of his barn.

Today my income comes from seven sources:

1) I create and sell books, CDs, and other products for other people looking to take the leap from having a job to having a life. For example, a few years back I put on a big seminar in the Rocky Mountains with Barbara Sher (Wishcraft, I Could Do Anything If I Only Knew What It Was, Refuse to Choose), and Barbara Winter (Making a Living Without a Job). I had the entire four-day event recorded and have been selling the 24-CD Making Dreams Happen audio program ever since.

2) I do telephone consultations with people from literally all over world on how to turn what you love to do into income.

3) Over time I realized I am not the only person who found their calling by helping other people find theirs. So I started an Outside the Job Box Career Consulting Certification Program to train other people who get paid to give career advice from the comfort of their own home.

4) Drawing upon research I did in graduate school, I’ve established myself as an expert on the topic of women’s self-limiting patterns and philosophies. Now I’m asked to deliver my How to Feel As Bright and Capable as Everyone Seems to Think You Are for such diverse organizations as Daimler Chrysler, Intel, American Women in Radio and Television, Harvard, and MIT.

4) A few years ago, I was approached by the career development office of a federal agency to deliver my “Outside the Box Career Planning” seminar for people getting ready to retire. It was so successful that they offered me a contract to run 10 sessions a year in D.C.

5) Speaking of workshops, every year I team up with Barbara Winter to co-lead an entrepreneurial boot camp called Work at What You Love for people who want to quit their job and get a life. To date well over 600 people have attended this annual event and the success stories continue to roll in!

6) I earn a fair amount of money as an affiliate of organizations that offer products and services I believe would benefit my readers. In case you are not familiar with affiliate programs work… basically every time someone clicks on a link from my site to one of these products or services and makes a purchase, I receive a referral fee of anywhere from $20 to $500.

7) Not long ago I started a member program called the Fast Track Your Dreams Community. Since the point is to jumpstart the change process, members start with a huge bag full of life-shifting books and CDs. From there they pay a low monthly member fee to continue to enjoy password protected access to monthly Teleclasses, a private member forum, and more. Membership sites are a great way to create a steady income stream – something I know is important to anyone transitioning from a regular paycheck to self-employment. What fascinates me is how much money people are making in such unique niches as embroidery, wrestling, and guitar playing. To learn more about how you can generate a regular cash flow with membership programs read my 2-part article series A Little Knowledge Can Go a Long Way: How to Generate a Steady Cash Flow Using What You Already Know.

Keep Your Day Job

Maybe you aren’t interested in quitting your job but you like the idea of not having all your eggs in one basket. When traveling to San Francisco, I stay in an apartment in a lovely hilltop home in the Ashbury Heights section of the city. The owner is a Bay area native who, in addition to teaching reading to grade schoolers (which she absolutely loves), has set up several additional sources of income.

For one, she rents the in-law apartment to tourists through the local B&B association on per night basis earning considerably more than she would with a year-round tenant. For weekend and summer time income, she parlayed her knowledge and love of the city into a personal tour guide business with a steady stream of customers right in her own home. She even takes in a few extra bucks renting videos to her overnight guests.

Maybe you don’t really like your job but can’t afford to just up and quit. Say your long-range goal is to make $50,000. You don’t need to be a math whiz to know there are different ways you can slice and dice this. For simplicity sake, though, let’s say you decide to set up five income streams, each generating $10,000. Since you’ll be building your multiple income streams while you’re still gainfully employed, starting two side businesses simultaneously is probably about your max time-wise.

What you now have is a monthly goal for each business of just over $800. That’s $200 a week. If making $20,000 a year seemed daunting, Winter says, psychologically earning $200 is more feasible: “Knowing what your financial goal is makes it easier to determine what action you’ll need to take to accomplish it.”

So what are you waiting for? It’s your life!

In the World of Possibilities, New Members Are Always Welcome

It may surprise you to know that none of my long-time friends are what I (or they) would consider entrepreneurs. Several are solo practitioners – therapists, coaches, massage therapists and the like. But getting paid “dollars for hours” as they say is very different from turning your creativity into a steady flow of income-generating possibilities.

Last weekend I hosted a small dinner party. Over drinks I mentioned that International Living magazine asked me to speak this fall in Panama at a conference for people who want to live and work overseas. Just as we were sitting down for dinner, my dog Cokie reminded me it was time for his supper too. As I mixed up a concoction of chicken, sweet potato, and dry food I reminisced about this delightful woman I’d just met in Paris who makes her living as a professional dog chef. My guests were especially fascinated to learn that she and her husband run a dog diner in the Arizona desert and that one of her biggest income streams is from speaking engagements (you’ll be hearing more about her soon.)

After dessert I pulled out a fresh tube of Chicken Poop Lip Junk to sooth my chronically dry lips. You can’t very well pull out Chicken Poop without telling the story of how product creator Jamie Tabor Schmidt (and recent Fast Track Teleclass guest speaker) of managed to get her product into a huge national chain like Walgreen’s.

It was at that point that my friend Joanne put her fork down, pushed back her chair, and exclaimed, “Wow, you live in this total other world, don’t you?” I honestly didn’t know what she was talking about. “What do you mean?” I asked. “Well, you just got back from reviewing a photography course in Paris. You’re speaking in Panama. You meet these fascinating people that no one else ever seems to meet. It’s like you exist on a planet all your own.”

As I looked around the table at my guests – a district court judge, the training director at a university, a clinical social worker, and a college professor – I realized that I may not live on a different planet, but in a lot of ways I do inhabit a very different world. It’s a place I’ve come to think of as the World of Possibilities.

Life in the Real World

Sadly, most people operate in a world they proudly refer to as the Real World. You can always tell when you’ve met someone who has never lived in – never mind entertained – the World of Possibilities. All you have to do is start talking about your life-long love of anything lavender and how you’ve been thinking of how you would absolutely love to move to the country and start a lavender farm, or create a sense of community among the hundreds of existing lavender farm owners, or run trips to the heart of the lavender industry in Provence, France.

The first thing you’ll notice is that they look at you like, well, like you’re from another planet. Next they are quick to recite with great certainty all of the reasons why your ideas are completely unrealistic. After all, having never started a business and knowing absolutely nothing about lavender farms, being from the Real World they are, nonetheless, authorities on what is and isn’t possible. And to underscore your other world status they will flatly tell you that you just aren’t operating in the Real World, which is actually a very lucky thing. Because when you dwell in the World of Possibilities you know these things are doable for one simple reason – people are doing them!

Take Me to Your Leader… Hurry!

There is of course, no “leader” of the World of Possibilities but fortunately we have very wise friend who is all too eager to disperse accurate information whenever we ask. It’s called the Internet. It took just a few key strokes to learn, for example, that there are literally hundreds of viable farms and lavender related businesses all over the world – many in the U.S. and Canada.

I also learned that the National Sustainable Agriculture Information Service (NSAIS) has TONS of information in both English and Spanish including a list of government grants to help small farmers.

Want to join the American or Canadian Lavender Growers Association? I bet a lot of other people would too. The problem is that while you can join the Australian Lavender Industry Association for $125 a year ($155 international) or the New Zealand Lavender Growers Association, there is no North American counterpart. Think about it… if 200 lavender farm owners pay just $35 in monthly member fees that’s $7,000 a MONTH in revenue.

Figure It Out

But how can I start a member program for lavender business owners if I’m not in the lavender business? The answer comes down to three little words: Figure it out. How? Go to the source. Ask people in the lavender business what they need. Do they need help marketing? Making operations more efficient? Finding seasonal workers? Breaking into new markets? Understanding new and existing government regulations? Creating joint ventures like advertising campaigns or events with other growers? Learning about new state or provincial programs to support agri-tourism?

Once you understand your market’s needs, your job is to find authors, successful farmers, agricultural marketing experts, botanists, organic food store owners and others who you can interview or who you can get to write articles. Or do Teleclasses, set up regional or national conferences, and generally seek out other resources that your members want. Like I always say, you may not know everything there is to know about a subject but you’re always smart enough to figure out who does! And if you get stuck for help… do what Possibility People do and ask for help from experts and others who are living happily (and profitably) in the World of Possibilities.

And what about the dream of running lavender tours to France? Despite the fact that the NSAIS site says “successful lavender producers typically invest considerable time (at least a year) just doing research, traveling to conferences, and talking with established farmers before setting up operations” and that “(m)any travel to France to view first-hand the lavender industry in Provence,” my internet search did not yield a single person running lavender farm tours to France. If you dwell in the World of Possibilities, then that sound you’re hearing is opportunity knocking!*

Join the Club

I know a lot of you reading this article have a foot in both worlds. A big part of you knows in your heart that it really is possible to open an artist’s retreat or design your own skin care line or find some way get paid to research holistic healing techniques. But the gravitational pull to “be realistic” keeps pulling you back to the Real World.

Hip-hop artist and actor Will Smith once remarked that, “(b)eing realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.” When I started this business in 1995, I could never have imagined speaking in Panama or reviewing photo courses in Paris or starting a membership site or forming work and personal relationships with people like Barbara Sher or Barbara Winter or running my own certification training program or meeting people who run the most fascinating businesses… And yet here I am doing all of that and more.

Dale Carnegie once said, “We all have possibilities we don’t know about. We can do things we don’t even dream we can do.” The vacancy sign is always out in the World of Possibilities. Whenever you find yourself thinking that your dream is not possible, find someone who is successfully doing the thing you want to do and follow them. I guarantee that this road will lead you to a lifetime of satisfaction, well-being, and even greater possibilities than you could ever imagine.


* For more information on how anyone can start a member program, listen to the interview I did with two top membership program experts on “How to Generate a Steady Stream of Income With a Membership Program” now available at

Follow the Trends to Find a Profitable Business Idea

Looking for an inspiring or innovative business idea? One surefire place to look is to trends. Depending on your interests it might be trends related to the U.S. housing market, global warning, parenting, fitness, food, pets, technology, travel, dating, sports… the options are really limitless. Today we’re going to look at three examples of how entrepreneurs benefit from the trend of safety. As you will see, each one is connected to the safety trend in a very different way.

Trend #1 Back to Basics With Wooden Toys

If a year ago I had told you wood-working types that you could run a successful business building simple wooden toys you would have said I was nuts. But with millions of recalled toys manufactured in China containing lead paint and other dangerous chemicals, the makers of domestic wooden toys were swamped with holiday orders. Ron Voake operates Vermont Wooden Toys ( out of his home in Norwich, Vermont. His company makes over 135 different kinds of wooden toys from “riding size” fire trucks to doll carriages to blocks. According to an article in the New York Times, wooden toy makers like Ron can barely keep up and are hiring extra employees. “Every time there was a story about a recall,” said the 61-year-old Voake, “I got flooded with orders.” Voake isn’t the only toymaker to benefit from the trend toward safe toys. Mark Rainville of Maple Landmark Woodcraft ( in Middlebury, Vermont was also deluged with orders. With toy orders up 60 percent in the last quarter of 2007, he and his holiday staff of 45 were working 16-hour days. It’s clear from his company’s Web site that Mark is seizing on other current trends like the buy local movement and environmental responsibility. And speaking of the environment…

Trend #2: Safe Water and a Cleaner Environment

When Stacey Griffin graduated from Tulane School of Social Work in 1995 she was more interested in healing kids than the environment. Five years later she opened a psychiatric facility for low-income children and adolescents ( in New Orleans. Then she lost it all to hurricane Katrina. Safe, clean drinking water was just one of the many problems in flood ravaged New Orleans. During the time she was rebuilding her staff and agency, Stacey got an idea from her then 3-year-old daughter who had a strong preference for juice boxes over water bottles. Why not package drinking water in juice boxes? Initially she was discouraged to find that two other companies were doing it. When she looked closer, though, she found that one specialized in disaster relief and the other geared their product to kids. That left a huge unfilled niche – environmentally responsible people like me who hate the wastefulness of creating, shipping, and then land-filling plastic water bottles. Stacey started Aqua2Go in 2006. She got a lot of help from her husband who worked on the business in addition to his full-time job. Things really took off when Ellen DeGeneres featured Stacey’s water boxes on her show. The very next morning a big merchant who Stacey had been working hard to contact called her at her home. Today Aqua2Go is in selected Target department stores, Winn Dixie super markets, Whole Foods in Louisiana, and other major retailers. Every day 40 million plastic water bottles go into the trash or becoming litter (, putting a huge a burden on local landfills. Some communities like San Francisco have responded by banning city departments from buying bottled water for their offices. This trend toward municipal bans, the need for safe drinking water on the go, and a growing awareness about global warming all point to continued success for entrepreneurs like Stacey.

Trend #3 All Natural Products for Kids

This next example comes from Kristen Bassick of Like Stacey, Kristen’s business idea was also inspired by her children. In Kristen’s case it was to find a natural way to treat the persistent dry skin of her own children, or little “sprouts” as she likes to call them. So at the urging of her husband who was throwing money at products that didn’t work, Kristen decided to start her own line of kids’ skin care products formulated without using nut oils, animal products, paraben-based preservatives (to which some people are allergic), soy, artificial colors, or chemical fillers. Her company’s promise also serves as her motto: To produce products with “Nothing weird. Nothing gross. Just good stuff for dry skin.” My Canadian friends who love the idea of all natural products for kids and prefer to shop local should check out an online company in the Toronto area called In addition to a wide range of products like an organic baby skin care line and cloth diapers they also carry wooden toys! I love Canada but I have a soft spot for Kristen’s business because she is one of the many success stories to come out of my annual Work at What You Love seminar. I’ll let Kim share her progress report in her own words:

I came to the seminar last August unhappy with my “job” and with an idea for a new business venture. But I was terrified by the idea of building a “business” with employees, and a building, and a manufacturing site…and all that stuff that just seemed like more than I wanted to take on. Sitting there listening to all of the stories of micro-business owners, who didn’t have a “job” and didn’t have what I had initially thought that a “business” would need to be, opened my eyes to what was possible. I launched my company in September after two years of putting all of the pieces into place. Manufacturing is outsourced, distribution will be soon. I work from my home office, available for all of the things in my actual life that demand my presence. I was lucky to be on the receiving end of a well-timed downsizing/severance at my corporate job and now have the chance to move Stuff for Sprouts to the next level. Life is good and my new jobless job is so completely cool I just had to share!

I said I was going to share three business ideas but there is actually one more safety-related trend worth mentioning. This one is actually not a new trend. In fact, it’s been kicking around for quite some time. I call…

Safety Trend #4: Thinking Up New Excuses For Staying Stuck

There’s nothing safer than staying miserably where you are. And one of the best ways to play it safe is to come up with a litany of excuses about why dream making is always easier for the next person. Admit it. How many of you zeroed in on the line about Kristen’s well-timed severance package and thought, “Hey, I could start my own business too if I had money coming in from a severance package!” Maybe you would and maybe you wouldn’t. But did you also see the line about spending two years putting all the pieces into place? I’ve worked with my share of desperate people who had a full year to find and work on a business idea but waited until they had one month of severance pay left to call in full out panic mode because they were going to have to find another j-o-b. There are plenty of other people out there with either the time or the money to start their own thing – but because they are too afraid, or they lack confidence, or they don’t know where to begin, or all of the above, they do nothing. Kristen did something. As Shirley Hufstedler said, “If you play it safe in life, you’ve decided that you don’t want to grow anymore.” If you are tired of contributing to the negative trend of coming up with reasons why you can’t leave your safe but ultimately soul-sucking job then do this one small thing. Get yourself a small notebook and label it Trends = Ideas. Then start actively being on the lookout for the thousands of trends that can be the catalyst to your brilliant business idea. One you have an idea, take a step. Any step. Once you get the entrepreneurial ball rolling, it’s hard to stop. Besides, as Hufstedler put it, “Security is not the meaning of my life. Great opportunities are worth the risks.”

What Does Gratitude Have To Do With Career Change?

As I drove alongside the Connecticut River today, I spotted two snow-white swans gliding elegantly atop still waters. I felt so blessed to have been in that place at that time to experience such a serenely beautiful moment. I feel lucky that way… a lot.

I don’t think I happen upon these moments any more than anyone else does. I just “see” them more than others do. I believe that’s because gratitude is so central to both my life and my work. I also happen to believe that maintaining a state of gratitude is fundamental to the process of changing course. Yet, I’m not sure I’ve ever heard another career counselor talk about gratitude as an essential element of career change. Come to think of it, I’m not aware of any career related books that talk about the importance of being thankful either.

I think perhaps the reason you don’t hear a lot of career change agents talk about gratitude is that we’re in the business of helping facilitate people moving from where they are to where they’d rather be. Changing your work and life are by definition all about the future. Gratitude on the other hand is very much about the present.

I understand that it can be pretty tough to be grateful when what you want is freedom, time, and a deep knowing that the work you do matters, but what you have instead is a soul sucking job that leaves you no time to see, never mind smell, the roses.

And yet if you really want to make a positive change, I believe it’s imperative to shift from a state of constant yearning for what you don’t have to being mindful of those blessings, however small, that you do have… right now. Joe Dominguez and Vicki Robin talked about this concept in their groundbreaking book Your Money or Your Life. They write, “So much dissatisfaction comes from focusing on what we don’t have that the simple exercise of acknowledging and valuing what we do have can transform our outlook.” Said another way, ungrateful people make lousy self-change agents.

Don’t get me wrong. I know that there is a lot wrong in the world. Far too many good people dying in too many bad wars… far too many people losing their homes because of bad loans… far too many people with no job at all. I know, too, that during this holiday season that some of you may be faced with dire circumstances. Yet, “Once we are above the survival levels,” say Dominguez and Robin, “the difference between prosperity and poverty lies simply in our degree of gratitude.”

Even during my most financially challenging and emotionally discouraging days of struggling to transition from my corporate job to working for myself, I still knew on any given day that I was blessed. I can see. I can hear. I have all my limbs. I am, God-willing, free of disease. I live in relative safety. I have food. I have heat. I have clean water. I have access to medical care. I have transportation. I have friends and family who love me. And I am blessed to have all of you.

At the risk of going all Oprah on you here, to me living life from a perspective of gratitude is not just an exercise in happy thinking. To me it goes much deeper than that. Melody Beattie described the benefits of gratitude well when she wrote:

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity… It turns problems into gifts, failures into successes, the unexpected into perfect timing, and mistakes into important events. It can turn an existence into a real life, and disconnected situations into important and beneficial lessons. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.

On the bulletin board at my post office hangs a quote from the Women’s Theology Center in Boston. It reads, “We must go slowly, there’s not much time.” Achieving a dream takes hard work, perseverance, and, yes, time. Yet, life is too short to put off happiness until we have achieved our goal. In other words, with a dream, as with life, the journey is just as important as the destination.

As you enjoy a drink of clean water, a warm bed or the company of a loved one today and every day, pause and be grateful for what and who is in your life right now. Go after that better future… but also be here now and savor the journey.

Teleseminars Are a Great Solution for People Who Hate to Sell

Do you have a business (or an idea for one) but hate the thought of having to “sell”? Do you love sharing information, resources, insight or knowledge with others? Do you have a message or cause you want to promote? If so, the solution may be as close as your telephone.

Teleseminars make it possible to share your knowledge and experience or otherwise and get the word out about your business to people literally all over the world. All you need is a conference or bridge line and a message, and you can reach ten to hundreds of people at a time.

Anyone Can Conduct a Teleseminar… on Just About Anything

Don’t think Teleseminars will work for you? Teleclasses are a great income stream and can be utilized with virtually any business. Check out these interesting markets that are using Teleseminars:

  • Horse Training Secrets
  • Aviation Services
  • Book Promotion
  • Real Estate Q & A
  • Global Warming

As with any business, success begins with finding a topic you feel passionate about. It could be nutrition, the challenges of single parenting, hunting safety, energy conservation, aroma therapy, surviving divorce later in life, urban gardening, traveling solo, baseball trivia – you name it. There really is no end to the topics that can be turned into a Teleseminar.

Some topics lend themselves more naturally to the Teleseminar format more than others. It would be tough, for instance, to teach a motorcycle repair or a cooking class purely by phone. But you could teach a class on how to write and self-publish your own cookbook. Not an expert? Then use your Teleseminar to interview people who are. Then, turn the recordings into a CD set and companion booklet called “Secrets of Canada’s Top Cookbook Authors: How to Write and Promote Your Own Best-Selling Cookbook.”

Or say you create a video series on basic motorcycle repair at home. You could market your product with a free Teleseminar called “The 10 Biggest Motorcycle Repair Shop Scams and How to Avoid Them.” As long as you include valuable information in the free class, your listeners won’t have a problem with you ending the Teleseminar with a special offer to purchase your entire video series.

If you’re just starting out, don’t fall into the dream-zapping trap of thinking you need to have three PhDs or 20 years experience before you consider yourself remotely qualified to be speak on a particular subject. If you have a passion for your topic, I guarantee you already know more than you think you do.

Start by thinking of the three most important things you think people need to know about “surviving divorce” or “safe hunting practices.” Then, for each of these three main points, complete the question, “The three or four most important things someone should know about this point are…” Before you know it, you’ll have a top ten list to form the basis of your seminar.

7 Reasons You Should Seriously Consider Putting On Your Own Teleseminars

Whether you have an established practice, a small business, or are just starting out…

  1. Teleseminars are a great way to get your name out to a larger marketplace and establish yourself as an expert in your field.
  2. Teleseminars are ideal for people who, like me, hate to sell but love to teach. Informing and demonstrating your commitment to helping others is a great way to build credibility. And being a credible source of information or assistance will ultimately lead people to want to do business with you.
  3. Teleseminars are a great way to build a list of prospective customers or clients. Once you have a list, you can continue to find ways to share your expertise, educate them about the work you do and what you offer, get valuable referrals, and generally connect with prospective customers and clients.
  4. Teleseminars make it amazingly easy to create your own information product for future sale. Simply by recording the call, even a free class can be transformed into an ongoing source of revenue.
  5. You don’t have to actually “teach” to run Teleseminars. If you have Larry King envy, you can host your own Internet Talk Radio Show and interview top experts and leaders in their field. (Trust me – it’s not as hard as you might think.)
  6. You can create lucrative joint venture partnerships with other enterprising entrepreneurs who offer products or services that add genuine value to your customers lives. The profit sharing potential here can be enormous.
  7. Teleseminars are not just about making money. They’re also a great way to promote a cause or otherwise share a message that’s near and dear to your heart.

Experience Not Required

Setting up a Teleseminar is a snap. There’s no need to print up flyers or pay for pricey ad space. Start by promoting your class to your own email list. You can collect payment yourself or through a shopping cart or merchant account.

Technology-wise all you’ll need is a conference or “bridge line.” Once you sign up with a bridge line service, the moderator (that would be you) and your attendees will be assigned a dedicated phone number and pass code which you can send out to your list via an autoresponder.

Then, when class time rolls around, you can hop on the couch (no need to dress up), pick up the phone, push some buttons to get into the call and another to record the class and voila, you’re delivering your message to 10 to 200 or more eager seminar attendees.

There are a lot of bridge lines out there ranging from free to hundreds of dollars per month. Obviously the more expensive bridge lines offer more features, but many of these features are unnecessary when starting out. is well known in the industry for offering a free service for up to 150 callers using their Web-Scheduled Standard. They also offer an 800# service with a recording option for a nominal fee. Two other free services I’ve used are and Normally they work fine but there have been a few technical glitches with each.

Another service I plan to try out is by Xiosoft. There is a monthly fee but this includes recording, event templates, a simultaneous webcast for those who prefer to listen in online (this is a biggie), and a number of other bells and whistles.

If you plan to turn your Teleseminars into information products, invest the money to have the call recorded by an outside service such as They’re reliable, professional, and deliver the MP3 file within an hour of the Teleseminar.

I don’t want to make delivering Teleseminars sound effortless. Anything you do to advance your dream of changing course requires some kind of effort – period. But the Internet has made the whole process pretty darned easy. And, hey if an avowed technophobe like me can do it…

Imagine Turning Your Annual Income into Your Weekly Income

If you’re even considering getting into Teleseminars, the undisputed leader in the field is a guy named Alex Mandossian.

Alex has delivered Teleseminars with many of the world’s top leaders and authors, including Donald Trump, Stephen Covey, and Mark Victor Hansen and has trained over 13,000 students since 2001. Over the past 12 years, he’s helped his clients generate over $203 million in sales.

Over the past few years, Alex has transformed his annual income into his monthly income. To see his actual numbers – and why he believes his marketing strategies can help practically any entrepreneur do the same – visit

Whether you have a business now or are still dreaming about quitting your job to work at what you love, you won’t want to miss this “Teleseminar Secrets Training.” Even if you have no plans to run a Teleseminar, I guarantee it will forever expand your thinking about turning your gift for teaching into a viable way to make a living.

Tools to Help You Go From Creating Debt to Creating Dreams

The traditional kick-off to the holiday shopping season in the U.S. is Thanksgiving. This year ads started popping up before Halloween. It’s been said that holiday debt is the gift that keeps on taking. According to a survey done last year by Consumer Reports, the average bill for holiday shoppers using credit cards to buy gifts will be $626. The average American household carries $9,000 in credit card debt throughout the year and then holiday debt gets piled on top of that.

A big question for anyone looking to ditch their job and join the ranks of the self-employed is, “How can I afford to change course?” And if you’re drowning in debt, the thought of being able to strike out on your own feels all the more impossible. There are all kinds of books and other programs out there to help you get out of debt and/or create prosperity. Over the last year and a half or so I’ve had the opportunity to cross paths with a number of authorities in the field. Each offers a different take on the money theme… finding it, keeping it, and managing it.

If you need to get your financial house in order before you can change course, here are a few people and resources I believe are worth checking out.

First Things First

I first told you about Joan back in 2006. What makes Joan’s story so compelling is that she spent most of her adult life in a pattern of under earning and compulsive debting. After her two brothers tired of bailing her out, Joan discovered the 12-step program Debtors Anonymous ( It worked she says, for a while.

After building a successful business she once again ended up in serious debt forcing her to close her business and declare bankruptcy. Eight years later, at age fifty-six, Joan relocated to Santa Fe, New Mexico with a mere $200 in her pocket. Losing her business propelled Joan to learn more about her financial dysfunction by digging deeper to untangle the deep emotions and family issues associated with money.

Today Joan uses what she’s learned to help others who are similarly stuck in unproductive money patterns. Her money self-help manual, Building Your Financial Muscles, contains exercises and resources for people who are searching for a way to relieve financial pressures and change the way they deal with money. Joan also offers a number of different audio programs with titles like, “Let Go of the Aloneness” and “Discovering Your Core Financial Issues.” More recently she’s expanded into tools specifically for entrepreneurs with a CD/workbook set called, “Marketing Your Micro-Business.”

Another new addition is a facilitator kit for people who want to run support groups for others struggling to become financially healthy. Right now the facilitator kit costs $89. If you get ten participants and each pays up to $20 per meeting then you can earn $200 per meeting. To learn about Joan and her unique approach to financial health go to

Living Debt Free

Whether you are drowning in debt, or just love the idea of living debt free, you should get to know the work of a fellow named Leo Quinn. I had the pleasure of meeting Leo last June at a workshop I attended in Denver. I discovered over breakfast one day that not only was he one of the event speakers, but with 27,000 loyal subscribers, he’s also a well-respected expert in the debt-elimination field. In fact, Leo had been doing this work long before the Internet boomed.

His most popular program is called “How to Own Your Paycheck Again.” Just to be clear, if you are not able to pay your bills or are teetering on bankruptcy, this is not the program for you. Leo specializes in working with people who want to get rid of their debt so they can live on less, retire early, or just generally spend less time working and more time doing the things they want to do. Personally what I like about it is that you can take the money you would have used to pay your credit cards or mortgage and apply that to your new business.

Normally “How to Own Your Paycheck Again” costs $97. But when I called Leo for this article he offered to extend a special $50 discount for Changing Course readers when you order before November 21st. With an iron-clad money-back guarantee you have nothing to lose but your debt. Learn more at

Goodbye Boss, Hello Kids

“In the middle of difficulty,” observed Albert Einstein, “lies opportunity.” Some of the best opportunities often originate from problems – either yours or someone else’s. One of the all too common problems that savvy savings expert Darlene Arechederra saw was that of two-income families in which one of the parents (usually the mom) wants to stay home with the kids but can’t afford to. Knowing that nothing is impossible if you know what you’re doing, Dar developed a self-help program called Goodbye Boss, Hello Kids.

For the same reason my site is called Changing Course and not Jump off a Bridge, Dar talks about the need to create a transition strategy, or a “bridge” as she calls it, from where you are to where you want to be – which in this case is home with the kids. A few of the lessons working parents receive in this 10-minute a day course include Finding Money to Grow Your Coming Home Account, Eliminating One of the Biggest Expenses for Working Women, Strategies To Help You Come Home Sooner, and How Bosses and Co-Workers Can Speed Up Your Journey Home. Learn more at

Creating Money for Your Small Business

What if you don’t have kids or just want to escape your job-job to work at what you love? Well, in addition to helping her clients to “unearth potential home business ideas that make their heart sing,” Dar also helps future home business owners create the money they’ll need for their cottage industry or home business. (Fast Track members be sure to log into the Money Matters section of to find Dar’s “5 Must-Know Secrets to Creating Money for Your Dream” in the current Money Matters e-Tip. It’s a must read for anyone who needs to find the money to jumpstart that great business idea.)

I came to know Dar when she enrolled in my 2006 Outside the Job Box Career Consulting Certification Program. Initially I was fascinated by her expertise in helping women specifically and people in general become financially savvy enough to jumpstart a small business. But what really intrigued me is that Dar is an introvert training for a career in a field you would think would better suit someone who is more outgoing. But like a true entrepreneur, Dar has turned what some might consider a challenge into an asset by specializing in working with other introverts! She even has a free blog called Now how smart is that?!

Journey to Abundance

Finally there is Fast Track Your Dreams member Kamin Bell. Kamin started her professional career as the U.S. Navy’s first female African-American helicopter pilot. She then went on to become a Mary Kay Sales Director and consultant. From here Kamin transitioned to having several small business ventures, the most recent of which is to publish her first book, Journey to Abundance.

Kamin sent me a review copy in September and I was genuinely impressed. Using the true story of her own financial ruin, fear, and crisis of faith, Kamin takes you along with her as she discovers the abundance and prosperity God wants for us all. Whether you are Christian by faith, or simply feel guided by a Higher Power as I do, you can not help but feel enriched, encouraged, and informed by Kamin’s story and by the thought-provoking exercises she has designed to set you firmly on your own “journey to abundance.” As part of the book’s pre-release Kamin is giving away a free chapter

There are many paths to financial well-being and prosperity. As we move into this period of holiday spending take some time to be mindful of the role that money plays in your life. If excessive giving will put you farther into debt perhaps this is the time to realistically assess your finances, your dreams, and how your relationship with money may be serving or undermining your goals of changing the course of your life.

Want to Re-Create Your Life? What Not to Do

You’ve probably read plenty of advice on what you need to do to find and follow the path to right livelihood. Well, I thought it might be time to offer a little counter-intuitive advice on what not to do. For example…

Do Not Automatically Trust the Experts

Even so-called experts sometimes get it wrong. I’m a big fan of the Public Television show Antiques Road Show. If you haven’t seen it it’s basically a roving antique appraisal fair featuring experts in anything from antique or vintage watches, furniture, pottery, paintings, books, and historical artifacts to just about anything else old. People show up hoping to get an expert opinion on the origins and value of anything from family heirlooms to an old movie poster they picked up for a few bucks at a garage sale.

In one recent segment a woman brought in a small green porcelain fish that had been in her family for many generations. According to a local antique dealer its only value was sentimental, adding that she could either keep it or put in a garage sale. Boy was he wrong. It turns out it was the earliest example of American porcelain that the Antiques Road Show appraiser – or any of his fellow experts – had ever seen. That small green fish was worth $30,000.

I once had a big time internet marketing guru tell me in no uncertain terms to change my home page. I did, and in the long run the change ended up costing me probably about $25,000 in sales. I still have the greatest respect for this individual whose results speak for themselves. But again, all experts get it wrong now and then – even me! So when in doubt, get a second and even a third opinion.

Don’t Take On Too Much

I know firsthand what it feels like to desperately want to flee a job that is sucking the life force out of you. I also know, too, that in our frantic attempt to get out of job jail we sometimes make the mistake of taking on too much all at once. “If I can read three books, attend four Teleclasses, sign up for six self-study courses, and listen to ten CDs this week,” we reason, “I’ll be able to reach my goal that much faster.”

But all too often just the opposite happens. In the process of trying to absorb too much information we become overwhelmed, with the result being the mental “memory full” message. And when that happens, just like when our computer is full, our brain actually starts to run slower. Even if you are a master at taking in massive amounts of information when you try to go in too many different directions at once you can end up going nowhere… fast.

Realizing a dream does require you to take action – lots and lots of action. Just not all at once. “For fast acting relief,” says Lily Tomlin, “try slowing down.”

Don’t Make It Harder Than It Really Is

A client named Billy wanted to start his own syndicated radio show. The problem? Like virtually everyone else on the planet (including me) he had no idea how to go about it. “Did you Google ‘how to start your own syndicated radio show’?” I asked.

This simple query led to a site called which offers consulting, a self-study kit, and other resources on how to launch a radio show. From here I hopped over to Amazon and found a well-rated book called The Radio Producer’s Handbook by Rick Kaempfer and John Swanson. I haven’t researched either of these resources, but still it is a great example of how something that feels so hard can be so easy.

Happily, that’s what fellow subscriber Andi Arndt just found out for herself. Andi wrote to say she’d started her own home recording studio this summer and had already found a regular client. “My realtor wants me to be the voice of all their listings, including virtual tours, HomeVoice call-in property info, their voicemail system, and narrating the weekly real estate show!”

But it gets even better. Andi says, “I also Googled ‘travel’ and ‘voiceover’ and found a great company in Brussels, Belgium that does audio city tours for iPods. I’m writing their New York City audio guide, and then narrating it when we record, and I’ll get a 50-50 split of what is sold on his impressive delivery platform. I’m pretty psyched.”

She adds, “I had such a great result from Googling the ingredients of my ideal job, now whenever I have a free moment I put my daydreams into browser language and follow my mouse through cyber-wonderland, picking up leads along the way!” Now how hard it that?

Don’t Do What You Usually Do

Sometimes the best way to jumpstart a dream is to not do the usual. If you usually listen to music while you drive or jog, next time you’re in the car or out for a run don’t turn on the radio or take along your iPod. Instead use the time to visualize your ideal life and the small steps you can take to get there.

Then, instead of rushing home to create yet another To Do list create a “NOT to do” list. Getting rid of things you feel pressured or obligated to do will free you up to spend time on the things you want to do… you know, like change the course of your life.

You’ve heard it a million times before, but small steps really do add up. The hardest part is getting started. “Whenever I get your newsletter,” says Andi, “it always makes me ask myself what I’ve done today to get one step closer to making my and my family’s dream a reality.” Now that’s a bit of advice you do NOT want to ignore!

Changing Careers? How to Get Around the Three Major Mental Roadblocks to Success

A part of you can’t wait to dive into your new career − but you’re also smart enough to know that you can expect a few bumps along the road to success. By far, the biggest roadblocks exist between your own two ears!Let’s take a look at three common mental roadblocks and learn how to overcome them.

ROADBLOCK No. 1: Wishful Thinking

How many times have you wished you’d hit the lottery? Now, how many times have you actually won the lottery? Far too many people spend far too much time wishing when they should be dreaming.

So, what’s the difference between wishing and dreaming?

Wishing is passive. We wish for things over which we have little or no control. We wish we were taller or thinner. We wish the waiter would hurry up. We wish our boss wasn’t so [you fill in the blank].

The other thing about wishes is that they are often tinged with regrets about past decisions − both big and small. We wish we’d ordered the fish instead of the chicken. We wish we’d taken the other job. We wish we hadn’t let the love of our life get away.

Dreaming is different. For one, a dream is active. Unlike wishes, we can actually do something about a dream. After all, you don’t “wish up” a plan, you dream one up!

You may not get everything you dream of getting, but two things are certain:

1. It doesn’t take a single extra ounce of energy to dream big than it does to settle.

2. You’ve got a lot more to gain by shooting high than by shooting low.

ROADBLOCK No. 2: What If Everyone Thinks You’re Crazy?

You’ve probably already thought about the people you can count on to support your plan to create a more meaningful work/life. But have you also taken stock of those you should make a point NOT to turn to?

Unless you come either from money or from a long line of pioneers, you may not get the support you want from your family. With the best of intentions, you may find your dream of quitting your job to pursue your dream career met with advice to “play it safe,” reminders that “you’re lucky to have a good job,” or a lecture on the seemingly insurmountable odds standing between you and success.

No matter how old you are, or how much you deny it, family approval does matter. This fact, of course, makes it all the more painful when the people we love fail to give us the emotional green light we so desperately seek.

Other people’s fear, skepticism, and negativity can be as contagious as the flu. And unless you’ve built up your immune system, these dream stompers can knock you for a loop − especially when they are right in your own family.

You have a choice. You can either continue to turn to these naysayers in hopes that they’ll respond differently, or you can choose the saner path of acceptance.

Don’t look for support from people whose life experiences have not prepared them to know how to support your dreams. Instead, take advantage of the support that really is available.

ROADBLOCK No. 3: Fear of Change

The closer you come to leaving the security of your 9-to-5 job (no matter how much you want out) the greater your level of excitement and trepidation (see “Word to the Wise,” below).

Anyone who has ever ventured out of their safe little world will tell you they had doubts. But when it comes to making a major life change, not only is a certain amount of fear perfectly normal, it’s actually helpful. There is a reason the web site is called and not The healthy part of fear is what will keep you from quitting your in a huff before you’ve put some other things in place. And the great thing about fear is that there are ways to deal with it.

So, try laughing in the face of fear. Am I kidding? No. Ridiculing your fears is actually a very effective technique for banishing them − because the mind rejects that which it considers absurd.

The trick is to turn your fears into a ridiculous event in your mind. That way, you allow your natural human reaction to absurdity to take over and dismiss them.

Try it yourself. Take your biggest fear and take it to extremes. Really exaggerate it. Let’s say you’re paralyzed by the fear of failure. Try picturing your entire family, all of your friends, your neighbors, everyone you went to high school with, even your boss, standing outside your cardboard-box home holding up signs that read: “We Told You So!”

Pretty ridiculous, right? When you realize that your worst-case fantasy is just that − a fantasy − what felt overwhelming will now feel much more manageable.

Another way to manage the fear of venturing out on your own is to start small. If the thought of just up and quitting your day job frightens you, start building your client base on the side. Begin with low-risk steps and gradually work your way up to the harder stuff.

Remember, courage is not a matter of losing your fear so you can take action; courage comes from taking action. And that, in turn, helps you overcome your fear. When you can act despite your fears, you will be rewarded many times over.

A Foolproof Strategy to Get Yourself Moving

In my last article, “In the World of Possibilities, New Members Are Always Welcome” I talked about the difference between the people who live in the so-called Real World and those of us who dwell in the far more enriching (and frankly more fun) World of Possibilities. To make my case, I borrowed a line from actor/director/ hip hop star Will Smith who said, “Being realistic is the most commonly traveled road to mediocrity.”

Okay I need to be fair here. Even though they may end up living a mediocre life, some Real World-types are actually quite creative. They are forever thinking up all kinds of ideas for inventions or articles or businesses. Some even go so far as to jot down exhaustive notes, outlines, and to-do lists. A few even go so far as to design prototypes, develop detailed marketing plans, or write entire books.

There is only one problem. Unless they make the leap to World of Possibilities, no one else ever sees their handiwork, which leads me to the story of an inspiring dream grower named Lynn Burkholder from Guelph, Canada. A few weeks ago Lynn sent out an announcement about her new newsletter, “The Inner Genius.” What’s an “inner genius”? I’ll let Lynn explain:

I believe we are all born with a set of gifts, talents and preferences that are “hard wired” into our DNA. I don’t think it’s an accident or necessarily a result of our environment that we are naturally drawn to certain tasks and areas of interest. Unfortunately, most of these gifts are never developed because we are expected to live our lives fitting into a construct that society has prescribed as the norm.

I also believe that it is never too late to excavate these gifts and incorporate them into our lives. When I was in Grade One, I used to write extra stories for my teacher. I even remember the sky blue pencil I used to write about my sister’s wedding. That love for writing has remained dormant for 30 years. Why? I could give you a long list of reasons but it all boils down to the fact that I didn’t develop the skill because I didn’t believe it was possible. In the society I was shown growing up, people didn’t make money writing. Thankfully, I don’t believe that anymore.

What seemingly small, insignificant past-time did you give up because you were told you couldn’t make a living at it? And further, who lead you to believe that you had to make a living doing just one thing? Why couldn’t there be two or three or ten?

Quite naturally then, Lynn’s new newsletter is aimed at people who want to pursue their Inner Genius. (Who wouldn’t?) But here’s where it got interesting. As I continued reading I learned that by signing up I would not only receive the first issue of Find Your Inner Genius on July 16th (remember that date) but that it would include a link to a free Special Report called “12 Ways to Find Out What You Are ‘Supposed’ To Be Doing!”

Commit, Then Do

Why am I telling you this? Well, Lynn was a member of my 2006 Outside the Job Box Career Certification program. The formal part of the training program ended in March. Lynn’s invitation arrived a few months later on July 9th to be exact (remember this date too). I couldn’t send a congratulatory email fast enough!

Apparently my words of encouragement came at the right time because as soon as she’d made this public commitment, Lynn says she was feeling, “really vulnerable.” And why wouldn’t she? After all, “Now I have to write a newsletter AND a special report by Monday,” adding, half jokingly, “Evidently, I like pressure. Ha ha.”

If I was proud of Lynn before, I was positively beaming now. She had mastered an incredibly simple but hugely important lesson about fast tracking any dream – commit, then do.

The first thing Lynn did was to put a stake in the ground by setting a deadline. Remember those two dates – announcing her new newsletter to the world on July 9th and setting a due date of July 16th? Lynn had given herself exactly seven days to write a newsletter and a special report.

Now obviously Lynn had given both the newsletter and the special report a lot of thought. And she no doubt had parts of both either written or at least sketched out in her head. Wisely though, she employed THE absolute best technique for making a more rapid leap from the mediocrity of the Real World to the world where possibilities become realities… she made herself accountable.

It’s one thing to come up with one of those made up deadlines that are between “you and you.” But to make sure she stuck to her goal Lynn announced her intention to the world. There is simply no better way to overcome procrastination than to employ the Commit, Then Do technique.

If you want to teach a seminar you haven’t 100 percent designed yet, set a date and start signing people up for your seminar. If you’ve spent the last year studying how to import olive oil from Italy, take a small deposit on a few pre-orders. If you want to write an eBook, promise a bunch of people that you’ll send them a free copy when it’s done.

Will you make yourself vulnerable this way? Absolutely! Yet “Unless you walk out into the unknown,” says Tom Peters, “the odds of making a profound difference in your life are pretty low.” The person who never makes him or herself vulnerable will never fall in love, will never visit long-dreamed-of destinations, will never share their gifts with the world, and will certainly never live the life they want – and richly deserve. The way I see it, it is far better to have to reschedule the workshop or return the deposits or push off the due date to risk being vulnerable than it is to leading a life of utter mediocrity.

Speaking of mediocrity – or more precisely the all too common fear that if you do eventually write your eBook or set up your import business or deliver your seminar that it will turn out mediocre at best – there is another related concept that any dreamer needs to master.

Know When “It’s Good Enough”

In the software development world, this concept even has a buzzword. It’s called “Good Enough Quality.” In his article “Good Enough Quality, Beyond the Buzzword,” James Bach says, “Microsoft begins every project with the certain knowledge that they will choose to ship with known bugs.” No big surprise to PC owners and yet, at the same time, rather startling I’m sure to many.

The big Internet marketing gurus have another, somewhat more descriptive, name for it. The phrase they use to urge would-be entrepreneurs to just get your stuff out there is: “Half a** is better than no a**.” (Think Biblical name for donkey here.)

Before I say another word, I need to be 100 percent clear here. No one is talking about putting out sub-par products or services. Bill Gates did not build the dominant software company in the world with bad products. No one makes it long in the Internet marketing world, never mind get to be multi-millionaires like the big gurus have, by putting out schlocky stuff. As Bach is quick to add, “Good enough has nothing to do with mediocrity.”

The point is one of biggest reasons why most ideas never see the light of day is because people get so obsessed with making sure that every possible kink is worked out, every word is perfect, every conceivable base is covered, that they never just get their stuff out there.

Let’s face it. It’s always “easier” to do nothing. It’s always easier to endlessly research your big idea. Never acting on your gifts may be depressing and soul-sucking, yes, but still it really is easier. So I wish I could tell you there was such a thing as effortless success. But as Lynn and others know, once you’ve mastered the concepts of “Commit, Then Do” and the “It’s Good Enough” you still actually buckle down and DO it.

Do you know why Will Smith says he never gets tired of pushing? It’s because he says, “There is no pain worse than not achieving a dream when it is your fault. If God did not want you to have it, that is one thing. But if you do not get what you desire because you are lazy, there is no pain worse than that.” Amen.

If you’re ready to go after your dream, Lynn is holding a special “Summer Sale.” For a limited time only, Changing Course subscribers like you can receive a personal 90 -minute “Outside the Job Box” career consultation for only $50 (normally $150). To schedule a consultation or to get your free Special Report, go to and sign up for Lynn’s more-than-good-enough newsletter now.

A Little Knowledge Can Go a Long Way: How to Generate a Steady Cash Flow Using What You Already Know

Back in the early nineties, The Wall Street Journal featured a story about sports-lover Don Schoenewald. After thirteen paid team mascot jobs and four mascot character creations (including ones for the New Jersey Devils and the San Jose Sharks), Don went on to start the first professional training school for mascots in the world. Since then several other schools have popped up and Schoenewald has moved on to other things. Still, it is a great example of an entrepreneur tapping into the best capital there is – his own intellectual capital!

Training others to do what you do is a great way to “monetize” your knowledge and experience. But it’s not the only way. There are lots of different ways to “package” and sell what you know teaching on- or off-line classes, getting your own syndicated radio show, writing a book and so on. But there is another lesser-known way to turn your interests into income. And, it’s the only way I know that is actually designed to generate a steady and relatively predictable flow of income on a monthly basis.

If You Want a Continuous Stream of Income, Create a “Continuity” Program

From the book of the month club of my youth to the Netflix automatic DVD rental model of today, member clubs have always been popular with consumers, often referred to as “continuity” or “subscription” programs. It’s easy to see the appeal. Members like the idea that for a flat monthly fee they’re guaranteed exclusive access to a continuous flow of information, resources, entertainment, support, or products of interest.

Continuity programs also provide two other things consumers want – convenience and affordability. Traditionally, if you wanted to join a professional association or subscribe to a magazine, you paid your annual dues or subscription upfront. However, thanks to the Internet, organizations like Consumer Reports Magazine will automatically bill your credit card in smaller monthly installments. In exchange, subscribers get exclusive online access to product reports not available to non-members.

If you’re tuned into the Internet marketing world, then it will come as no surprise that continuity programs are all the rage. It may surprise you to learn that some of the most successful member programs have nothing whatsoever to do with Internet marketing. People are running member programs in such diverse niches as embroidery, jazz guitar…even sky diving!

What about the benefits to you as an entrepreneur? By far the biggest benefit of operating a member program is money. Or, more specifically, the consistency of cash flow. As long as you make good on your promise to consistently deliver quality content, as a member program owner, you’ll receive a steady flow of revenue in the form of member fees. We’ll talk more about income potential in a minute.

Anyone Can Start a Member Program

What I want you to understand is that anyone can start a member program. Even you! Not too long ago Ryan Lee was struggling to get by as a physical education teacher in the Bronx. Today he runs 48 different membership sites all in the health, fitness, and sports training field and by all accounts Ryan is a millionaire.

I learned about Ryan through Tim Kerber, the co-creator of a membership software company called Member Gate. Over the past eight years, Tim’s company has helped over 400 clients start member sites. A little over a year ago, Tim wisely decided to build on his own expertise, and that of people like Ryan and other subject matter experts, to start (are you ready?) a membership site for membership site owners. is a great place for new member site owners like me to continue to grow and learn.

Then, last spring, Ryan and Tim pooled their knowledge at a two-day Membership Site Bootcamp in West Palm Beach, Florida. Despite the $2,500 price tag, the event sold out quickly. Unfortunately, I couldn’t make the bootcamp. But I was excited to hear that they are busy packaging up all of the course content (and more) into some sort of step-by-step self-study program.

In the meantime, Ryan and Tim have produced a series of short (and free) videos based on the live workshop. The videos are a way to raise awareness about the revenue potential of member sites, to share some meaty content from their live event, and to generate excitement prior to the launch of the self-study program later this summer. Of course, when you hear some of the numbers, it’s hard not to be excited!

When you watch the first video, you’ll see some monthly revenue stats from actual member sites. Some are making $5,000 a month while others are making significantly more. Although making upwards of $208,000 a month may seem like a lot of hype, I’ve met enough people in this business to know that these kinds of numbers – while at the top of the income curve are entirely plausible.

Numbers make my head hurt (just ask Lisa). So I particularly appreciate the part in the video where Tim uses the analogy of compound interest to explain how adding just one new member a day can pretty rapidly grow a relatively small member list into a very robust program. But what really got my attention was when he points out how having a member site increases the future re-sell value of your business!

For people who enjoy feeling a part of a larger community as I do, running a member program also provides a less tangible, but nonetheless important, benefit. Depending on how you structure your member program, you will feel a certain kinship between yourself and others who share your particular interest or passion. While I certainly don’t “know” all 250+ members of the Fast Track Your Dream Community, I feel like I do!

Information Will Set You Free

If you have a tendency to stay stuck because of fear, then repeat after me: “I don’t have enough information right now to be afraid or excited.” When it comes to changing course, information will set you free. That’s because the greater your knowledge, the greater your options and the less risky change becomes.

So get informed. Sign up to watch these short videos now.

Like I said, information is what will set you free. So, as you watch the video series, I’d like you to do two things. One, jot down any questions and/or ideas you have about member programs. Two, pay attention to any inner dialogue that is self-enabling or self-defeating. Then fill in these blanks…

  • The biggest question I have about starting and running a member program is….
  • The first idea that springs to mind is….
  • I know I can do this because…
  • The reason I know I could never do this is…

In the next newsletter I’m going to talk about the “bad thinking” that may be keeping you from profiting from your experience. I’m also going to show you how a few different continuity programs work. And, I’ll tell you the one step you absolutely must take prior to launching ANY product or service – including a member program.

Whether your passion is salsa, gardening, art, or wrestling, there are a myriad of ways to turn what you already know into your livelihood. If you are drawn to the idea of a more regular, predictable income stream that has the potential to be extremely profitable, then running your own member site may be something worth exploring.

It’s Who You Know That Counts: The Importance of Learning by Example

My nephew Todd is about to wrap up his first year of college at Sacred Heart University in Connecticut. On a recent trip home, I asked if he’d decided on a major yet. “Yup,” he replied confidently, “I’m gonna be a business major.” “That’s great!” I said, “You can become an entrepreneur!” “No way,” Todd said. I was stunned. “But, why not?” With great certainty Todd informed me that, “Most businesses fail.”

Now where would an eighteen-year-old kid come by such blatant misinformation about small businesses? It’s not like he grew up on reality television shows about eBay sellers trying to survive on deserted islands or videogames that pit small business owners against evil economic forces.

In the traditional job world, landing a plumb job often comes down to having “connections.” Of course “who you know” is helpful for self-employed folks too. But if you’re miserably stuck in your job-job, it’s who you DON’T know that can make the difference between a lifetime of enduring your work or relishing it. It suddenly hit me that the reason my young nephew is so down on going into business is that, like most people, he doesn’t hang out with people who have done it successfully.

Time for a little auntie-to-nephew chat… “You know, Todd, if you spent time around entrepreneurs like I do you’d see that there is an entire parallel universe out there of people who are making their living in ways that are fun, that contribute to the world, and that are far more financially rewarding than the vast majority of job-jobs.”

Todd definitely liked the idea of doing something “fun” and he was vaguely curious about how a job could help change the world. But it was that last comment – the one about making more money – that got his attention. “Like what?” Todd asked.

Understanding the value of learning by example, I rattled off a few of the folks that I “hang out” with. Each offer valuable lessons for us all.

Work Can Be Fun

Annamarie von Firley started wearing vintage clothing as a teenager and got hooked on the look. Today she spends her day in ways the average employed person only dreams about. Annamarie’s five-person company, reVamp ( designs, makes, and sells historically accurate clothing. How fun is that?

Proving once again that multiple profit centers are the way to go, reVamp runs weekly fashion shows and offers “vintage immersion classes.” Los Angeles-area vintage buffs and others can sign up to learn about such fun topics as vintage make-up and hair styles, advanced apron making, and 16th and 17th century cosmetic preparations taught by, get this, a make-up historian. Who knew?!

Making a Living by Making a Difference

Another business that’s sure to inspire my college-bound nephew is Mercado Global ( In 2003 while they were still students at Yale, Benita Singh and Ruth DeGolia spent nine months in the western highlands of Guatemala. They fell in love with the beautiful handicrafts made by the local women. Before returning home with a suitcase full of samples, they made a plan to sell to the U.S. market by linking up with local women’s cooperatives.

Back on campus the two students managed to sell all of the items they’d brought back at a 300 percent profit. A year later they started Mercado Global and soon thereafter launched its first catalog featuring products from 14 community cooperatives. Their first-year profit was $75,000. The second year it was $600,000.

But the real success of this business can not be measured in dollars. Ninety percent of the profits go back to the local community. In its first year, sales from Mercado Global provided fair wages to 178 cooperative members across Guatemala with enough additional revenues to send upwards of 100 of their children to primary school for one year.

Knowledge Equals Money, Selling Knowledge Equals Lots of Money

Another “under the radar screen” business that gets surprisingly little press in the mainstream media is information products. The great thing about selling information products is you keep your day job while you grow your business on the side. Last week I told Fast Track Your Dreams Community about a guy named Andrew who is doing just that.

Andrew is a veterinarian who wrote a little eBook that teaches people how to care for their ailing dogs and cats. Over time he was able to get sales up to a pretty steady $1,000 to $1,500 a month. Not bad when you consider that he was only charging somewhere around $27.

A lot of people would be happy with an extra $12,000-$15,000 a year in “passive income.” But Andrew had read all the statistics about the size of the pet market in the U.S. All he had to do was find a better way to tap it. So, he did what smart business people do. They find other business people who have “cracked the code” and they learn from them.

Andrew used a small portion of his profits to invest in a self-study program that taught him how to expand his product by simply by asking his customers what they wanted. Once he’d created a higher priced product, he also learned from this same program how to more effectively locate and sell to the people eager to buy what he has to sell. In just two weeks he made $59,400 in sales.

The great thing about entrepreneurs is that they learn from failure but positively feed off of success. Building on that momentum Andrew went on to create a membership site that is now generating approximately $10,000 a month. Right now he’s looking at earning somewhere in the neighborhood of $300,000 in 2007. I’ll be meeting Andrew and other successful information marketers in person at the big Product Launch Formula seminar later this month in Denver.

Not surprisingly, I’m pretty sure the seminar already sold out. But if you recognize the power of learning by example, you can still sign up to learn more about Andrew’s big success by going to And, if you think you’re ready to make a serious investment in your business, that’s also where you can check there to see if any new seminar slots have opened up.

I know I opened Todd’s eyes. You probably don’t need convincing as much as you do insight and information. Fortunately, each one of these entrepreneur’s stories offers lessons for the aspiring self-bosser:

From Annamarie we once again learn that there are an infinite number of fun ways to turn your interests into income. Ruth and Benita provide an inspiring reminder that you really can turn your values into your vocation. And from Andrew we see how a relatively small investment in your education can pay you back many times over.

I’ve got four years to work on my nephew before he ventures out into the wide world of work. But if you want to be a member of the joyfully jobless club sooner than that, you absolutely positively need to start paying attention to the people who have already arrived.

There are lots of ways to “hang out” with entrepreneurs. You can start subscribing to magazines like Entrepreneur or to one of the thousands of passion-specific publications like Atomic Magazine, billed as “The Essential Guide to the Retro Revival,” Toy Soldier and Model Figure and In-Fisherman magazine.

And, contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have your own business to join your local Chamber of Commerce or attend their various networking meetings. It costs nothing to do what Barbara Winter and I do and “grill” every interesting entrepreneur we come into contact with.

I’ve been self-employed for going on a dozen years now and I still get jazzed hearing about regular people who have found interesting ways to work for themselves. Apparently I’m not alone. Year after year, one of highest rates segments of the Work at What You Love workshop is the panel of local entrepreneurs sharing their stories.

For others the sheer energy of being in a room full of people or otherwise part of a community who are as excited about the prospect of making a living without a j-o-b as they are enough to get the entrepreneurial ball rolling. After all, when it comes to being a successful self-bosser – it’s all about who you know!

p.s. Finally a bit of good news about today’s youth. According to Junior Achievement (, in 2006 a whopping 71 percent of kids aged 13 to 18 said they would like to become entrepreneurs. And between 1995 and 2006, the number of kids in this same age-range who participated in programs offered by The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship ( jumped from 2,600 to 15,970. I can’t wait to tell my nephew!

How One Income-Generating Idea Leads to Another

I take what you might call a more organic approach to organizing. The good thing about being “filing flexible” is that putting together this week’s list of unique ways to make a living without a job meant looking no farther than the foot high pile of newspaper and magazine clippings on my office floor.

But here’s the fascinating part. Despite grabbing a dozen clips, I only got as far as the first one. That’s because when you are an “Opportunity Analyst” like I am, one opportunity invariably leads to another. This is especially true when you start tuning into trends because they are ripe with profitable ideas. Let me show you what I mean.

At the very top of the pile was a section of The Old Farmer’s 2007 Almanac called Tastes & Trends 2007. One such trend to watch for is what are called “ethical wills.” According to an unnamed survey, to some benefactors, gifts such as morality, faith, and religion are more important than money. “Think of it as a love letter to family and friends,” says author of Healthy Aging Andrew Weil. “This makes you take stock of your life experiences and distill from it the values and wisdom that you have gained.”

The editors at the Old Farmer’s Almanac instruct us to watch for Web sites, books, and consultants to teach us how to create ethical wills. They were right. A quick Internet search led me to It was there that I found a listing by state of professionals and organizations using ethical wills.

A few more clicks and I discovered that in nearby Longmeadow, Massachusetts, attorney and personal historian Marian C. Broder of Memories Recorded has created multiple income streams around ethical wills. In addition to leading “workshops on writing ethical wills, transmitting values and telling family stories for community centers, synagogues, book clubs, libraries, support groups and individuals,” Marian also “works with individuals to craft statements that can be presented at life events and works with parents to draft documents of values and beliefs for children’s guardians to accompany estate documents.”

Then there is documentary film maker Carlyn Saltman of Carlyn lives and works in the even more nearby village of Turner’s Falls. This fascinating woman combined her training as a holistic counselor, hospice volunteer, and award-winning documentary filmmaker to help clients create ethical wills on Video, DVD, paper, or all three. As interesting as I found the idea of videotaping an individual’s ethical will, I was even more intrigued to discover that Carlyn has also tapped another huge trend – pets.

For Carlyn, producing pet videos was a natural outgrowth of videotaping people. She explains that, “pets usually get into the act in the course of filming a memoir or portrait documentary of their humans. They are family members, too, and they usually know it. Sometimes their unconditional love enriches our lives as much as our human relationships do. So it’s no wonder that beloved pets are popular subjects in their own right.” This is yet another great example of one income stream very naturally leading to another.

Then literally on the same Old Farmer’s Almanac page as the ethical will piece was a finding about cat lovers. If you happen to be a cat lover seeking to change course though, this finding equals opportunity. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, not only do five percent of cat owners hold birthday parties for their cats, cat owners also splurge more on gifts than dog or other pet owners spending on average $30 per year. Imagine offering cat or dog birthday packages in your area complete with sirloin cake, hats, pet photo sessions, and party favors!

And talk about trends! A quick hop over to the Association’s site ( led me to a much longer list of pet related trends and statistics. The information aspiring entrepreneurs will perhaps find most interesting is the 2007 Pet Products Trend Report. Now I already knew that Entrepreneur magazine had designated pet owners as one of the top 10 markets. But I had no idea that big name companies like Paul Mitchell, Omaha Steaks, Origins, Harley Davidson and Old Navy are now offering lines of pet products ranging from dog shampoo, pet attire, and name-brand toys to gourmet treats and food.

Another more well-known trend is for big chain hotels to promote themselves as pet-friendly. In addition to pet pillows, plush doggie robes, check-in gift packages that include a pet toy, dog treat, ID tag, bone and turn down treat, some higher end hotels even have a licensed dog masseuse on staff.

So where’s the opportunity for the pet-loving entrepreneur? My guess is that a lot of the smaller chains, independently-owned hotel and motels, and Bed & Breakfasts would like to be pet-friendly but don’t want to go to the fuss of pulling it all together. So, why not create a pet-welcome package where you provide the hotel owners with all the necessary products? Throw in a dog walking service or doggie-care package so guests can go out on the town without worrying about a barking Fido back in the room, and you’ll really distinguish yourself from the competition!

But I’m not done yet. The Opportunity Analyst in me definitely perked up when I saw that film maker Carlyn Saltman has wisely seized another opportunity – teaching what you know. Much to the displeasure of financial planners and realtors, baby boomers are avid do-it-yourselfers. So for people who have video skills and equipment and want to complete a personal history project of their own, Carlyn will set up a schedule of telephone and/or in person consultations to guide them through what she says can be a daunting undertaking. Even if you are just starting out in your business, make the addition of teaching others what you know a part of your longer range income stream plan.

Finding interesting and profitable ways to make a living doing what you love is easier than you think. All that is required is an inquisitive mind, the willingness to be open to the ways that one opportunity may lead to another, and faith to act on a good opportunity when you see one.

Earn Money as a Local Tour Guide

There really are no shortages of interesting ways to turn an interest in a viable income stream. As any good “Opportunity Analyst™” knows, you never know where a great idea will come from.

For example, in advance of an upcoming speaking engagement in Lexington, Kentucky, my client sent me
a link to my hotel. In addition to the usual list of hotel amenities, the Marriott Griffin Gate Resort also featured a link to Area Attractions.

I’ve never been to Lexington. But I also only have a few hours to sight-see. Generally I prefer to explore on my own. But there are times (like when I had a mere four hours to see Frankfurt, Germany) when it’s a lot more convenient to have a local tour guide pick you up at my hotel and show you the sites. This is especially true for older people or for anyone who may have difficulty getting around on their own or who don’t like driving in unfamiliar places.

So I decided to follow a link called “Hotel Recommended Tour Services” which led me to The Opportunity Analyst in me was fascinated to see how some local people managed to turn their knowledge of this world-renowned “horse country” into a viable small business.

Adults plunk down $30 to be taken “inside the plank fences and down the shady lanes of Central Kentucky” and onto working farms – something the average person could not do on their own. Tourists get a “behind the scenes look at horses after their racing careers are over, in-foal broodmares, weanlings, yearlings and, depending upon the time of year, newborn foals.”

The tours run twice a day, seven days a week. If the photos at the Website are any indication, it looks like they can handle at least a dozen people. You do the math. I’m sure, like a lot of businesses, there are slower and busier months and days. But, all and all, it’s not a bad way to make a living sharing your passion with others.

What strikes me is that a lot more people could be partnering with local hotels to run walking and other kinds of tours. For example, anyone who has attended the annual Work at What You Love workshop in Northampton, Massachusetts knows what a special area this is. And yet, I could not find a single small tour company operating in the entire Pioneer Valley. Sounds like opportunity knocking to me!

If you think you’d get bored running the same tour over and over, then think outside the box and create a series of tours. Tours could be based on themes, demographic niche (children, garden lovers, etc.), or season.

For example, a theme tour in my area could include a historical tour of Emily Dickenson’s house and grave site, a drive by former Northampton mayor and United States President Calvin Coolidge’s home, and a visit to Old Deerfield Village just to name a very few.

The next day could be the craft- or art-lovers tour. Tourists could be guided through one of many local art galleries, the Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art, the Smith College Museum of Art, or the Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA) in the nearby Berkshires. Certain tours could coincide with date-specific events like the upcoming Asparagus Valley Pottery Trail where ten potters in the Amherst, Northampton and Greenfield, Massachusetts areas open their homes and studios to visitors.

But that’s just the beginning. I could see tours emphasizing kid- or even teen-focused activities, guiding small groups of flora and fauna lovers on local nature trails, leading canoe trips up the Connecticut River, even taking fans of the paranormal on tours of local haunted houses or cemeteries.

Once you’ve been running your touring business for a while you can do what did. In addition to running walking tours themselves, they also train out-of-town tour operators how to lead their own walking tours in the area. Now that’s thinking like an entrepreneur!

You don’t need to live in a well-known tourist destination to find people eager to pay a knowledgeable local to show them around. As travel writer and former contributing editor to International Living magazine Jen Stevens points out, “Where ever you live is a destination for someone else.” (Listen to my complete interview with Jen

Case in point was a full-page feature in The Boston Globe’s Sunday Travel Section about a small, used bookstore and café located a mile from my home called The Montague Book Mill ( Proving once again that just about any deficit can be turned into an opportunity, the owners of this off-the-beaten-path location sell T-shirts, coffee mugs, and bumpers stickers featuring the logo: “Books you don’t need at a place you can’t find.”

Don’t want to start a tour company? The fact that lots of people would love to make money running tours tells me that opportunity is still knocking… just at a different door. For example you could start the Association of Walking Tour Operators of Canada. Or you could interview small – and ideally, unique – tour operators and then produce some kind of a “how to start a tour business” handbook or audio series.

If you don’t want to start your own Website you may be able to work with an established information products distributor like Dream Jobs to Go or Fab Jobs. Both sites feature “how to” guides on a range of businesses like How to Become a Food Critic, Movie Reviewer, Jewelry Designer, Professional Golfer, Spa Owner and many, many more. If your guide is accepted, you earn a commission on all books sold. Plus you can still sell them at your own site and elsewhere as well.

The possibilities are limited only by your imagination. Opportunity is knocking. So what are you waiting for?

Innovative Ideas May Be All “In Your Mind”

Aspiring entrepreneurs – especially those who are “creativity-impaired” – can take heart in knowing there is more than one way to generate ideas for products or services.

Capitalize on mistakes. Some of the best product ideas were unintended. Did you know, for example, that Post-It-Notes were the result of what 3M Company researchers at first thought to be a bad batch of glue?

Then there was Thomas Sullivan, a New York City tea importer who, in 1908, found that the sample tins of tea he normally sent to customers had become more expensive. His solution was to send less tea and to have the samples sewn into small silk bags. Sullivan’s customers assumed that these convenient bags were meant to steep in hot water and orders started rolling in for this new product innovation now known as the tea bag.

Sleep on it. One of the best times for idea development is in the early stages of sleep. Both Thomas Edison and artist Salvador Dali often used their nap time to stimulate creative thinking. The men would nap in a chair while holding a small metal object (Edison held a ball bearing, Dali, a key).

The object would eventually clank to the floor, awakening the nappers with a start. Edison and Dali would then quickly jot down whatever ideas or intuitive connections may have been in their mind.

Pay attention. Did you know that burrs were the inspiration for the popular clothing fastener known as Velcro? When you start looking at the familiar with fresh eyes you’ll be amazed at the creative business possibilities you might see.

Be ready. Keep a notebook and pencil or a small tape recorder handy at all times. After all, you never know when or where the inspiration for your new enterprise may strike!  

Trust your gut. Speaking of Post-It-Notes, back in the late 1980s my then employer held a course on innovation. Attendees were put into small groups to brainstorm new product ideas and then present the best idea to the entire class. As I watched the other groups writing their favorite idea on flip chart paper and hanging them on the wall with masking tape, the light bulb went on…

What if flip chart pads were manufactured to work like giant Post-It-Notes for easier hanging? Being a trainer myself, I thought it was a great idea. My group didn’t agree and picked another one instead. What was at the time a novel product improvement is today pretty much the standard for flip chart pads. I may have missed out on a fortune but I learned an invaluable lesson – trust your gut and go for it.

An Interesting Business Opportunity for People with an Eye for Home Design

When I was a child one of my favorite games was “house.” I was forever re-decorating my bedroom, turning corners of the attic or basement into imaginary abodes, and re-arranging the doll’s furniture. Given that the dolls themselves were optional suggests what I was really playing was the child’s version of interior decorator.

As an adult I still love home decorating, but when it comes to making major design decisions, I always call on my friend Gail. Gail’s house looks like something out of a magazine. Although her job-job is installing computer networks for a major airline, Gail’s passion and gift are home and garden decorating.

Here are 5 ways to tell if you have a passion for home decorating:

  1. People are forever walking into your home and complimenting you on your sense of home design.
  2. Friends frequently call on you for decorating advice.
  3. You’re hooked on the cable television channel Home and Garden (HGTV) or magazines like Better Homes and Gardens, Architectural Digest, Domino, Country Homes…
  4. When, at a mall, you would rather browse Restoration Hardware or Pottery Barn than Coldwater Creek, J. Jill, or other clothing stores.
  5. You could sit and admire the fruits of your own home design handiwork for hours.

If you passed the passion test then you’ve probably already thought about becoming an interior designer. The fact that you haven’t pursued this as a career path suggests there’s something about it that isn’t a fit for you. Perhaps it’s because becoming a licensed interior designer means getting into more complex areas like structural issues and electrical schematics.

Even though decorating itself is about color, shapes, texture, and design, it’s also very much a people thing. This point was driven home to me by a client named Robert. Robert’s passion was creating ambiance. One big reason being an interior decorator never spoke to him was that he didn’t want to work with people he couldn’t relate to. As Robert put it, “I don’t want to spend hours helping rich housewives decide between this crown molding or that crown molding.” What Robert really wanted was to get paid for doing what he loved to do – helping average-income people create spaces that feel good.

Getting Paid for Your Sense of Design

Self-taught designer-turned-entrepreneur Stephen Fofanoff knows exactly where Robert is coming from. I first met Stephen when he was a panelist at Changing Course’s annual Work at What You Love workshop in Ventura, California.

Stephen’s entrepreneurial aspirations began when he and partner Chris Warnock bought a house they planned to fix up and sell. Although neither of them were trained as a decorators, their renovation job was so fantastic that friends began asking for their advice. No one they knew could afford to drop $100,000 on a pricey interior designer.

What the do-it-yourself types really wanted was for someone with a “designer’s eye” to sit down with them for a few hours and tell them what they should do. Someone who could come in and offer advice on what color to paint a room or what kind of countertops they should buy or how to place furniture to make a small room appear bigger or an oversized room feel cozier.

So Stephen and Chris made it their mission to find interior design companies who were offering the kind of affordable, flexible home and garden design advice that their friends were looking for. When their search came up empty they knew they heard the unmistakable sound of opportunity knocking.

Seeking to ride the wave of the do-it-yourselfer craze and acknowledging the fiercely independent and style-savvy homeowner, they started their own company aptly named A Designer’s Eye. Initially they structured the business on a percentage basis like interior designers do. For a short time, they considered another popular commission-based model that involves pushing a specific brand of furniture or window treatment. Neither felt right. Stephen and Chris put it more bluntly. “We both tried doing it the old way, and it sucked. We felt like scam artists trying to win clients’ trust, then overcharging them.”

Instead say Stephen and Chris, “We really just wanted to swoop in, help clients come up with great ideas and cool designs, then give them a hand pulling it off, not latching on and draining them until the next juicy prey came around. Once we decided we were going to do it our way, it was easy. Clients loved it. We just built our business around the things clients needed.”

Needless to say, A Designer’s Eye was a huge success. The clients loved being able to control how much they spent by paying for expert advice on an hourly basis. But the business attracted another fan base – namely style-savvy people like Stephen and Chris who have a natural talent and passion for decorating.

So after receiving 79 unsolicited requests for franchises in a matter of months, Stephen and Chris decided to franchise their business. “We knew we were on to a winning idea,” says Stephen. “What has surprised us in the test phase of the business model is how responsive customers have been to our ‘no pressure’ philosophy. This approach has won us a trusting customer base that keeps working for us in return business and add-on services. This element is making our franchise model even more viable.” The company’s goal is to franchise 500 units in the next five years.

Stephen and I have talked on and off since meeting in June. Given the high interest in home decorating, I wanted to learn more about what’s involved in becoming A Designer’s Eye franchisee. Franchisees are no small investment. So why, I wanted to know, wouldn’t someone with a flair for design just strike out on his or her own? One of the biggest reasons says Stephen is while creative types are gifted design-wise they hate dealing with the business side of self-employment.

To help with things like planning, organizing, client and time management, each franchisee is partnered with a personal Business Development Coach. Part motivational “life coach” and part “business coach” this person has one job and one job only – to do everything they can to make his or her franchisee successful faster. Toward this same end, Stephen and Chris are already in the planning stages of additional revenue streams for franchisees.

Each week the designer and his or her coach get together for a phone meeting. During that meeting the coach helps the designer create a weekly activity plan, decide how best to prioritize and manage their time, problem solve, and more. In addition to the human support, franchisees get a state-of-the-art Web-based business management system that automates all the key design and business functions.

Having an innate talent for home decorating is just the beginning. As part of their 160 hours of training (which, according to Stephen, is considerably more than the 80 to 100 hours interior designers typically receive) franchisees receive a week of onsite training at the company headquarters in Woodland Hills, California.

In addition to learning about various aspects of design, the training includes role playing, technical training, marketing and networking, class shopping trips, and negotiating with vendors. Designers also receive ongoing training where they learn, for example, how to work with the yearly color forecasts. Even though each franchisee has a protected territory, they are encouraged to network and learn from other decorators via regional meetings and monthly phone calls with a coach.

Going the franchise route requires an initial financial investment. The advantage, though, is that what you spend in money you make up for in time. It’s kind of like taking out a loan to get an MBA or other advanced training verses trying to acquire the same level of training and experience on your own time. As a franchisee you’re also buying into a proven system, which in the end can save a considerable amount of time and money that can otherwise get eaten up through individual trial and error.

For those who are drawn to the creative side of home and garden decorating but have trouble being self-motivated, another huge advantage of becoming a franchisee is support. Between the initial training, the ongoing training, the one-on-one coaching and support, and the live customer support available to clients when you’re out of the office, you get to be in business for yourself, but not BY yourself. For people who want to focus on what they love to do without the stress of figuring out how to build and manage a business on their own, a franchise might just be the way to go.

Click here to learn more about A Designer’s Eye and this unique franchise opportunity or read a list of questions and answers by Stephen, Chris, and the Director of Franchise Operations J. Kathy Repique at

How Much Do You Need to Know Before You’re an Expert?

Part 2 in a 2 Part Series on Expertise

In the last issue we explored two common obstacles to striking out on your own to start your own business – the Expert Trap and the Expert Myth. In this issue we’re going to expand the definition of expertise.

A white paper by the National Speakers Association on “The Expertise Imperative” offers some fascinating observations about expertise. For example, being an expert goes beyond building knowledge. According to the article, in addition to having more knowledge (with the Internet there is no excuse for not accumulating a basic base of knowledge) one difference between experts and non-experts is that experts organize what they know in ways that make it accessible quickly.

In other words, experts are skilled at taking what they know and delivering to others it in a way that is somehow useful. That’s why Barbara Winter is such a fan of creating tips sheets. So much so that she organized her vast knowledge about the benefits of using tips sheets to establish your expertise by creating a tip sheet on tips sheets!

Apparently experts approach problem solving differently as well. According to the article, while “novices head straight for solution of the problem” the expert “spends proportionally more time building up a basic representation of the problem before searching for a solution.”

As you go about coming up with a new business idea, think about a topic that interests you and on which you’d like to become an expert. Then seek to learn as much as you can about the problem…

  • Why do some dogs bark when they are left alone?
  • Why don’t otherwise socially conscious people recycle?
  • Why do children spend so little time in nature?
  • Why do couples who are miserable stay together?
  • Why do perfectly bright, capable people feel like intellectual frauds?
  • What keeps people stuck in jobs they hate?

Once you have a “pretty good” handle on the nfl betting picks problem, start generating solutions that you can make accessible to others and then turn your solution into a business.

“The Rewards of Expertise”

In that same article Alan Weiss outlines “The Rewards of Expertise.” He ought to know. A highly compensated consultant and speaker, he is also the author of 22 books appearing in six languages and president of Summit Consulting in East Greenwich, Rhode Island (

Weiss describes ten emotional and psychological factors that indicate expertise is “present in a person.” Looking beyond the initial “consultant-speak,” Weiss’s unique take on the psychological payoffs of expertise got me thinking…

What if being an expert is as much a state of mind as it is statement of “fact”?

In other words, think about the things that interest or excite you… art, travel, sports, building things. Then see if you can identify with any of the characteristics or experiences Weiss’ list:

  1. Regularly and spontaneously creates projects, speeches and other interventions that utilize various permutations and variations of the expertise.
  2. Demonstrates outright zeal and joy when engaged in the pursuit, elevation and communication of the expertise.
  3. Feels elated, rather than drained, after being challenged about the subject matter.
  4. Equates the expertise with the overused term, “authenticity.” That is, “this subject matter is me.”
  5. Sparks others and subsequently triggers motivation through sheer enthusiasm.
  6. Rapidly develops and evolves the expertise; is motivated to create sharp learning curves.
  7. Is drawn “magnetically” to the subject area; making it hard to disengage or omit it from thought.
  8. Steadfastly believes and evangelically persuades that it is in the best interests of others to share in the pursuit, skill or topic.
  9. Feels frustration when the skill can’t be applied or can’t be understood by others.
  10. “Retreats” to the expertise for solace, reinvigoration, comfort and self-worth.

If you’re beating yourself up, holding yourself back, or otherwise letting those negative voices keep you from putting your gifts out into the world, try substituting those tired myth-based messages with these new ones:

“Make three correct guesses consecutively and you will establish a reputation as an expert.” Laurence Peter

How Much Do You Need to Know Before You’re an Expert?

Part 1 in a 2 Part Series on Expertise

During a recent visit to the dentist, my hygienist Anne asked about my recent speaking tour in California. When I told Anne I’d spoken on the Impostor Syndrome to over 600 people at four universities, including Stanford, her response was, “Wow, you must be a real expert.” While that term doesn’t always resonate with me, I suppose I am an expert.

But what does it mean to be an “expert”? Naturally you do need to know something about the topic at hand. But how much knowledge do you actually need to consider yourself an expert?

The Expert Trap

If you’ve ever read a job description and automatically disqualified yourself because you didn’t have one or two out of a long line of competencies or the necessary experience, passed on an opportunity to speak on or otherwise showcase your knowledge because you “don’t know enough,” or not started your own business because you are not yet “an expert” then you may have fallen into the Expert Trap.

The common belief that you need to know 150 percent before you’re remotely qualified to step up the plate is a huge dream stopper. Striving to be THE expert is the knowledge version of perfectionism. And as with perfectionism, going for total knowledge can at best slow you down and at worst bring your dream to a screeching halt.

The problem for people who fall into the Expert Trap is that they suffer under the misconception that there’s some clear line of demarcation between expert and non-expert – and that they’ll somehow know when they’ve reached it. We tell ourselves, “If I can just get enough knowledge, experience, or training, then I’ll be an expert.”

And herein lies the rub – you can never know it all. It’s like the commercial where a man beams that he’s reached the end of the Internet. What makes the ad funny is its absurdity. The Internet is so vast and ever-changing that if you lived a thousand years you’d never reach the “end.” It’s the same with knowledge. There is no end. You can add to your understanding of a subject but there will always more to learn.

The Expert “Myth”

You’re especially prone to the Expert Trap if you mistakenly believe that competence and expertise are one and the same. The belief that, “If I were really competent, intelligent, qualified… I would know more” keeps far too many people from striking out on their own.

A lot of men fall victim to this same self-limiting thinking. Yet my early research, coupled with twenty-plus years of anecdotal evidence, suggests women are more prone to equate competence with knowing it all.

Apparently I’m not alone. A few years back I wrote a letter to the editor. In it I described how a man who finds himself confronted with something he’s never done before is more likely to “wing it” while a woman in the same situation often expects herself to know it all up front.

A week after my letter appeared I got this email from Dan Pink, author of Free Agent Nation and A Whole New Mind:

I just read your letter-to-the-editor in Fast Company. Great work! My hunch – speaking as a male all too willing to opine without sufficient facts – is that you’re spot-on. That at least is what I discovered during several hundred interviews with independent workers over the last two years…kudos again on telling it like it is!

Just to be clear – expertise in and of itself is not a myth. After all, we all know people who are undisputable experts in their respective fields. The myth is:

  • believing that being an expert means you have to know everything there possibly is to know about a subject
  • believing you will someday be able to announce triumphantly that you have reached the end of knowledge and are “done”
  • believing that if you don’t know everything there is to know, then you know nothing at all
  • believing our inner voice when it says, “If I were really smart, then I would know how to do this.”

Not only is it humanly impossible to “know it all,” but the misguided pursuit to do so can kill a dream before it ever begins. As Suzanne Falter-Barns asks, “How many of us linger forever in endless training and classes, waiting to get really good at something before we plunge a single toe into the submission/rejection pool?”

Just as with perfection, the pursuit of expertise can become a convenient excuse for never moving forward. The reality, says Falter-Barnes, is that “You cannot become a master until you actually take the leap, do the work, make several thousand mistakes, and live to tell about it.” Adding, “Experience is truly the only thing that makes experts so expert.”

Finally, next time you’re rattled by not knowing it all, let yourself off the hook by remembering the wise words of Mark Twain who said: “I was gratified to be able to answer promptly. I said, ‘I don’t know.'”

Click here to read part 2 of this 2 part series.

Planting Seeds and Watching Dreams Grow

The Garden is an occasional series featuring the steps fellow readers are taking to lovingly grow their dreams… one day at a time.

Photographer and Arts Lover Duane Gamble

I first met Duane Gamble two summers ago at the annual Work at What You Love seminar. That’s when I learned that this mechanical engineer with a passion for freelance photography was steadily working towards completing a book that he hoped to add to his current profit center.

Like many great small business ideas, Duane’s book was born from personal frustration. You see, Duane also runs a business called Creative Photo Products. Just as it sounds, Duane creates and sells a wide range of products featuring photographic images including note cards, tote bags, T-shirts, pillows, gift enclosures, framed prints, clocks, refrigerator magnets, and bookmarks. Finding suppliers, vendors and manufacturers often proved difficult as did figuring out how to buy supplies in large enough quantities to make his finished product profitable.

“I had to become my own detective,” says Duane. “After all those years of finding sources for raw materials and figuring out all of the manufacturing, product development and marketing, I became a knowledgeable expert in finding resources for creative people and self-employed people trying to market and promote their creative products.” Well, a year later Duane published his first book, The Visual Arts Resource Manual and it is chock full of helpful resources designed to save artists time and money. To learn more, go to

Animal Lover Nancy Frank

Talk about planting seeds and watching them grow! I kind of stumbled on Nancy Frank’s site after she posted a comment on a blog. That’s where I learned that in her life Nancy has been the Founding Director of two wildlife rehabilitation centers in southern Wisconsin, operated a dog training school in Milwaukee, and established Dog Days of Wisconsin Summer Camp for Dogs and Their People.

In addition to her current “job” operating Opportunity Llamas farm, Nancy recently another venture called Companion Paws The organization seeks to meet both the needs of independent seniors, who wish to continue to share their lives with animals, and of the animals they care for.

I know first hand how important animals are in an older person’s life. I lost both of my grandmothers in 2005. The grandmother I was closest to took care of my dog Cokie whenever I traveled out of town to speak. He essentially became her sixth grandchild. She and I talked every day by phone. Her first question was always, “How is Cokie?” Her second question was, “How are you?” There is no doubt in my mind that Cokie kept this 93 year old young.

After falling and breaking her hip, my other grandmother spent a little over a year in a nursing home. Cokie loved his frequent visits to the nursing home but not nearly as much as my grandmother and the other residents loved seeing him. This small dog brought such love, companionship, and comfort to both grandmothers. I hope you will consider making a small donation to this worthwhile cause. I know it will go a long way in helping Nancy to continue her heart work of bringing the joy of animal companionship to seniors.

Massage Therapist and Educator Stephanie Manriquez

Perhaps most gratifying is getting to watch a dream grow over the course of nearly a decade. For the last few years the Changing Course home page has featured the story of Stephanie Manriquez. Our first connection came in the form of a handwritten note included with her subscription to the original hardcopy version of this newsletter.

Stephanie was 50 at the time and thinking about quitting her job in Tacoma, Washington to move 300 miles to attend massage therapy school. She wanted to know, “Am I crazy?” I told her that if making a major work and career change is your dream, she’d be crazy not to go for it.

Well, Stephanie did go for it. A year later this single mother of six grown children wrote to say she’d put her belongings into storage and moved to Bend, Oregon – a place she’d left seven years before and “had missed ever since.” There she rented a room from an old family friend, got a part-time job at Starbuck’s because they offer full-time medical benefits to part-time employees, and became a full-time student in a licensed massage therapy program.

It was a huge transition, but Stephanie loved every minute of it. “Every day is wonderful and the feelings that come from being back home are beyond words. I love my new life and am looking forward to graduation this year. The mountains are snow-covered, the trees are so green and the sky is bluer in Bend. I can walk to work, to school and the store. What more could one ask for? It was scary and exciting all at once, but I took a leap of faith and have never regretted the move. Money isn’t everything and life is much too short to squander it.”

She went on offer this advice, “I notice the same theme in all your stories, the fears, the hopes and the relief once the move is made. If I could say one thing to help one person take the plunge, it would be that the benefits far outweigh the rest!”

I had lost track of Stephanie until five years later when she wrote to let me know she had indeed achieved her dream of becoming a licensed massage therapist… and then some. In that time she had earned her Associates degree in Applied Science in Massage Therapy, opened her second office practice, worked with a panel for the National Board of Massage Therapist and Bodywork, was teaching in the massage therapy program at Central Oregon Community College, and was working on a Bachelor’s degree from Eastern Oregon University. “Things have been GREAT for me” she said. Adding, “I made hard decisions and risky choices to start over almost 6 years ago. I have NEVER regretted my decision one moment!”

It was great to know that Stephanie had “made it.” But this very determined dreamer was not done yet. Nearly ten years after that first note to ask if I thought her dream was “crazy” I received still another update.

“Well,” says Stephanie, “life just keeps on getting better! I now own a small massage school Massage Now Learning Institute ( that works with people that need to license in Oregon to practice massage therapy… I have three more massage rooms in Sunriver, Oregon for a total of 6 rooms, and I have 12 Licensed Massage Therapists working with me. I am now close to 60 and life just keeps on getting better! Keep on doing what you do to encourage others to go for it!”

While Stephanie, Duane, and Nancy chose different paths, each of their journeys began the same way… with a single step. What small step can you take today to growing and nurturing your own dream of creating the life you really want?

No Time to Go After Your Dream? How to Turn Your Dreams Into Reality in Five Minutes a Day and Other Tips for Time-Stressed Dreamers

You’ve already made up your mind that there has to be more to life than careers, cubicles, and commuting. Yet, the prospect of making a major life change when you’re already feeling caught between a “clock and a hard place,” feels overwhelming.

Here are five simple steps even the busiest person seeking a major career change can take to get the process rolling:

1. Turn griping time Into planning time.

How much time do you spend every week blowing off steam about your lousy job? Instead of wasting precious time complaining about what you DON’T want, use the time to create a clear mental picture of what you DO want. Then make a plan for getting from here to there. Five minutes a day spent working your plan will move you far closer to your goal than 15 minutes of griping.

2. Keep your goal front and center.

Get out your calendar and set a target date for when you want your new life to begin. Besides being a great source of motivation, knowing how much time you have until “D-Day” lets you create a realistic plan for hitting it. Next, find creative ways to keep your dream literally, in your face. As you come across images or quotes that reflect your dream, place them around your workspace, in your daily planner, on the refrigerator – any place you’re sure to regularly “see” your destination.

3. Buy with an eye to the future.

If your dream involves working from the comfort of home, you probably won’t need all those business suits overrunning your closet. Resolve now to make do with the work wardrobe you already have. When you do take the leap, you can donate your business attire to an organization like Dress for Success that assists men and women just entering the job market. Spend the money you’ve saved instead on things you’ll need for your new career or venture – like courses, buying or upgrading a home office computer, purchasing equipment, inventory, and so on.

4. Avoid the nay-seers.

Erma Bombeck once said, “It takes a lot of courage to show someone else your dreams.” Erma knew that most people – especially those closest to you – tend to discourage change of any kind. Unfortunately other people’s skepticism, like the flu, can be contagious. And, unless you’ve built up your immune system, these dream killers can knock you for a loop. Don’t look for support from pessimistic family or friends. Instead seek out people who can give your dream the support it deserves.

5. Do what you can – but DO SOMETHING.

As one Chinese proverb reminds us, moving a mountain begins by lifting one stone. To keep from being overwhelmed – yet still make headway – break your larger goal down into more manageable steps. Then, no matter how hectic your day, pledge to take at least one small step. Before you know it you’ll have turned your dreams into your life.

Having Trouble Changing Course? The Solution May Not Be What You Think

One of the best parts of my “job” is getting to hear how someone I’ve somehow touched made the shift from dreaming to doing. I’m not talking about achieving their dreams, although that’s always great to hear when someone has finally taken the leap. But I find it equally exciting to learn about the small successes.

Just this week I received lovely box of handmade chocolates in the mail. It was a gift from someone who attended the annual “Work at What You Love” seminar this past July. The note read, “Thanks to you, I can’t look at work the same way anymore.” High praise, especially when you consider it came from a college career counselor. As far as I’m concerned a shift in how we think about work itself is progress. And when it comes right down to it changing course is really just series of small steps – and as you’ll soon see, the right information.

All these progress reports from others got me thinking about my own journey from corporate America to self-bosser. So I decided go back and take a look at the very first article I wrote for the inaugural online version of Changing Course back on August 8, 2000. It was a question and answer exchange between a reader named Anne and me.

In case you weren’t around in 2000, I thought it might be helpful to share it again:

Dear Changing Course,

I have been reading, planning, thinking, taking notes, etc. on starting an at-home business. My love is sewing and crafting and faith in God. My idea? Creating and selling inspiration quilt blocks. The problem? It seems that almost 95% of what I have read about at-home business and finding your life purpose/path ends up being based in a service-oriented business. It seems like providing a service vs. producing a product is the truly sustaining career path. Am I wrong?

I love my husband, my family, my friends – I am blessed with a myriad of beautiful and loving people in my life. What I am missing from 7-5, Monday-Friday is my “life.” Any advice?

Anne from Wisconsin

Dear Anne,

I am not sure what you are reading but as I flip through my
copies of Entrepreneur, Business Start-Ups and other small
business-oriented magazines, I see no evidence that service businesses have an edge on those that sell a product. In fact, in some instances, products
may have the edge because people can “see” what they’re buying.

The issue for anyone thinking about starting a home-based business is not service vs. product. The real question is: Will people buy what I have to sell? Finding the answer means you have to do your homework. The first thing you need to do is determine who your potential customers are and where to find them.

Not sure where to begin? Here are seven ideas to get you started:

IDEA #1: Approach local specialty gift stores about selling your quilts on consignment. You’ll have to sell your wares to the store at wholesale but your expenses will be next to nothing.

IDEA #2: Sell your product from your own website. This may be a little labor intensive at first but would also allow you to reach literally millions of potential customers. Contact spiritually like-minded sites to propose setting up reciprocal links.

IDEA #3: Investigate what it takes to get into specialty catalogs featuring hand-made products aimed at your target market.

IDEA #4: Place classified ads in magazines, church newsletters, ezines and other publications aimed at people who share your faith to see what kind of response you get.

IDEA #5: Craft fairs abound this time of year. Do a little “on-site” research by walking around and seeing what other vendors are doing. Compare prices, style, quality, displays and so on. If it looks like a viable way to market your craft, get a table of your own.

IDEA #6: Talk to other crafts people about their experiences. You’ll find that most people — especially entrepreneurs — are only too happy to share what they know with kindred spirits.

IDEA #7: Experts come in book form as well. Barbara Brabec is one of the more prolific authors on succeeding in a crafts-related business. Check out:
“Creative Cash: How to Profit From Your Special Artistry, Creativity, Hand Skills, and Related Know-How,” or “Handmade for Profit: Hundreds of Secrets to Success in Selling Arts and Crafts”

For your convenience, both books are now available in our bookstore at

As for advice about what to do about your life being “missing” during
the workweek… the first step to reclaiming your life is to
believe you deserve to have one!

To learn more about the difference between making a living
and having a life, I invite you to read Step 1 of my “10 Steps to
Escaping the Job World and Creating the Life You Really Want”

Finally, perhaps the most important thing about pursuing a dream is to just
begin. Why? Because as the great opera diva Beverly Sills once said, “You
may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

Valerie Young

Linus Pauling once said, “The best way to have a good idea is to have lots of ideas.” Even though this particular Q&A is seven-year-old, re-reading it got me thinking about some common myths about changing course. Like, for example, the mistaken belief that the main reason people don’t strike out on their own is because they’re too afraid. I don’t think it is fear that holds us back. What I think keeps most people stuck is a lack of information. I mean, if you were Anne can you imagine how excited you would be to receive not one, but seven solutions to your problem?

Which leads me to the other huge misconception namely, that it “takes money to make money.” The truth is there are only two things you need to make money – a creative mind and the information you need to implement it. Think about it. What if someone handed you a fistful of money and said, “Here… go start a successful business doing something that would make you incredibly happy.” If you didn’t have a clue as to what would make you happy or you had a great idea but absolutely no idea where to begin, where would you be?

I’ve seen firsthand how information and a little creative thinking can literally change lives. So over the years I’ve tried to deliver as much information and as many ideas as possible. It was a lot easier to answer individual question in 2000 when I had around 900 readers than it is today with more than 23,000. As much as I’d like to, there’s just no way that I can respond to everyone personally. That’s why when I created the Fast Track Your Dream Community, I wanted to make sure there was a place where the Anne’s of the world could go to get their individual questions answered – and that there would be more people than me to answer them.

So in September I started a training program to teach people how to start their own business helping people figure out how to turn their interests into income. It has been an incredibly gratifying experience to use what I’ve learned over the course of a decade to help others start their own businesses in about three months. I was even more excited when this new cadre of Outside-the-Box Career Consultants (AKA “The Dream Team”) agreed to staff a password-protected Q&A Forum just for Fast Track Members.

One of the people who signed up for the Creative Career Consulting Certification Program is Ken Robert, the author of this week’s Guest Article. Starting in couple of days, Ken and dozens of other creative minds from the U.S. and Canada will be popping in and out of the Fast Track Your Dream Q&A Forum. They’ll be answering – and as importantly, posing – questions to help people like you to find the information and ideas you need to turn your passions into profits.

The great idea lover George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “If you have an apple and I have an apple and we exchange these apples then you and I will still each have one apple. But if you have an idea and I have an idea and we exchange these ideas, then each of us will have two ideas.” Exchanging ideas is powerful stuff. The more people there are generating ideas, the more ideas there will be for everyone. And if lots of people are sharing their ideas just imagine how much fruit all of our collective ideas will bear. It’s like an ongoing virtual idea fest!

As some of you already heard though, there is a flip side to all this personalized Q&A and idea sharing…

Giving Fast Track members so much individual attention also meant I had to make the tough decision to limit the number of people I can accommodate to around 200. I know this means that less than 1% of the 23,000 Changing Course subscribers will be able to get in. But I decided it was better to disappoint a few people initially than to bite off more than we could chew at the Q&A Forum – and then not be able to properly serve the people that get in the program.

Registration for Fast Track began a few hours ago. The response has been incredible. In the first hour, more than 25 percent of the seats are gone. At this rate it looks like 50 percent of the membership spots will be spoken for in the first 24 hours.

Things are really crazy here today. Right now my plan is to keep the registration process open for two weeks or until we reach 200 members, whichever comes first. Given the tremendous response I honestly don’t know what’s going to happen. If you aren’t able to get into the program initially, once things settle down in a month or two and I get a handle on what the Q&A Forum coaches can handle, I’m hoping to open up the program to more people.

If you’re ready to fast track your dream then click here to learn how you can become one of a select group of people to turn their interests into income in 2007 (

A Surprisingly Easy Way to Increase Your Odds of Working at What You Love

It’s estimated that roughly half of all people will make a New Year’s Resolution. No big deal right? But did you know that the simple act of making a resolution makes you ten times more likely to make achieve your goal? TEN times! It’s true. According to a study reported in the Journal of Clinical Psychology, people who explicitly make resolutions are ten times more likely to attain their goals than people who don’t explicitly make resolutions.

Think about it… What if you knew that deliberately pledging to change course in 2007 that you could increase your chance of success tenfold? What if this simple act drastically accelerated your quest to say goodbye to unreasonable bosses, office politics, and alarm clocks, and hello to right livelihood, balance, and flexibility?

Well, you are about to meet some regular people just like you who have just increased their own odds of living life on their own terms. In the last newsletter I posed a simple question: “What kinds of things do you intend to do differently in 2007 to move closer to your dream of changing course?” I obviously hit a nerve because the resolutions are still pouring in. I heard from people in 30 states and 7 countries as far away as India. I wish I could include them all here. But that would take dozens of pages. So, I’ve selected just a few of the many New Year’s Resolutions to share here with you.

Naturally, people’s promises reflect where they are in the overall process of changing course. People who still don’t know “what they want to be when they grow up” made up their mind to stop, as one person put it, “pussyfooting around,” and be proactive about figuring it out. For Linda P. from Las Cruces, New Mexico, that means taking active steps to “find my heart’s desire and work to make it my life’s work.”  

Then there are people who know exactly what they want to do. Like Al from Manchester, New Hampshire whose resolution is to establish his own business exporting used cars to Latin America. Resolutions for people like Al all come down to three little words: “Just do it.” In fact, I received many resolutions about putting a stake in the ground by making a concrete plan. “I may not be able to escape job jail in 2007,” said one person, “but the escape strategy will be implemented and well under way and the escape date will have been determined.”  

Many people I heard from have already started down the path to self-employment. For them New Year’s Resolutions were about either formally launching or growing their business. For example, Lauren from Wisconsin says that, “in 2007 I will use my time wisely to market my very part-time freelance marketing communication business so by mid-year I can make it a full time gig.” That way Lauren says she can, “say good-bye to inflexible bosses, archaic policies, and having to rely on someone else’s decision whether I am good enough to move ahead in the world.” Another creative entrepreneur plans to “expand my business for Army wives to inspire them to be more and to teach them that they can have their own success while still supporting their husband.”  

Some people’s goals are about cultivating and maintaining a mindset and a set of behaviors most conducive to success. For example, Kristi Butler writes from Los Angeles that her resolution is to, “not lose my focus. I will complete the goals I’ve set for myself. I will ask for help when I need to, so I won’t become overwhelmed. I will remember that whatever I do must make me happy or I won’t do it.” 

Other resolutions reflected the seamlessness of personal and business goals. In the coming year S. Borzo of Des Moines, Iowa, promises to, “focus on seeing myself in spiritual, mental, physical, and financial abundance,” and to “see the world of people living in peace.” This “optimistic cheerleader for the efforts of others who courageously make small business tick in Des Moines” also plans to successfully launch her new “buy local” business which you can preview at  

Some people simply want to continue on their current same healthy path. For example, in addition to the practical matter of staying focused on his current job “in order to pay-off all my debts,” fifty-two-year-old Rick from Vancouver, Washington plans to “continue to follow my ‘intuition,’ which has served me well in 2007, as I continue to rebuild my life after ‘losing it all’ at the age of 51, follow my path to great health and a confident outlook, explore my visions and further define the true ‘life I want to lead,’ and …continue to be in a ‘state of gratitude’ each and every day.

Many people wisely promise to take small, manageable steps. Writing from Center Valley, Pennsylvania, Marguerite plans to “set time a side each day even if it is 15 minutes.” By carving out this time to do things like complete specific online classes and get involved in the forums, Marguerite says she’ll finally be ready to start her freelance business so she can quit her current job and work for herself. Marquina Rawlings from Canton, Michigan says, “in 2007 I will face and embrace my fears and stick with taking one step at a time each day until I have the stamina to take on more of my dreams. I will identify what is fun for me and explore it eagerly and happily.” Adding, “I will make friends with people who have good vibrations.”

Likewise, Fiona from the UK promises to “stop procrastinating, take more action (in all areas of my life), and take the necessary practical steps towards creating a new reality…” For Fiona this new reality includes, “daring to dream, believing that a new life is possible, believing in me and beginning to set up a training/consultancy business.” One of the more intriguing resolutions also came from across the pond. Writing from Perthshire, Scotland, Jenni Johnston says that in 2007 her resolution is to, “be strong and to travel on my own to China and volunteer to work with pandas at Wolong Panda Reserve.”

For Anne Muse, 2007 is also all about action. This new resident of Las Vegas says:

“I have spent the last 25 years playing it safe, working at one mind numbing, soul altering, spirit crushing job after another… I realized yesterday, I am no longer that sassy, life-affirming, young woman whose inner fire lit up her eyes and I knew why. After 25 years of rarely being appreciated or valued I had instead became a quiet, reclusive, depressed drone… But in October 2006 I began to quietly, internally, turn my wounds into wisdom. It wasn’t until I read the Disraeli quote in your newsletter [“Most people will die with their music still in them”], that I figured out why… Despite all I had been through, I did not want to die with my music still locked up inside of me… I have several books to write and publish, as well as several business ideas that are brilliant and obviously something I am supposed to do – it’s my purpose, my reason for being here.”

Then there are people like Suzanne from St. Peters, Missouri who have learned the hard way that a dream deferred is a dream denied. Vowing to live life fully in 2007 and beyond, Suzanne writes, “I spent the last half of 2005 and most of 2006 fighting breast cancer. I won! I also spent the last year and one half assisting in the close of the company I work for. Yes, I found out about both the cancer and the closing in the same week. My last day of work is January 31. Based on what I’ve been doing this past year and a half, I figure I can somehow find the guts to figure out what I want to do with the rest of my life, and DO IT.”

Wow! Are you as inspired as I am? Next to Anne, Suzanne, Jennie and all the others, my New Year’s Resolution seems pretty, well, dull. But then I haven’t had a heck of a lot of time to spruce it up for public consumption. Normally I take the week between Christmas and New Year off to relax from the blur of shopping, to “de-decorate” the house, and reflect on my goals for the coming year. But not this year. First off, I barely had time to drape some lights over my jade plant and slap a wreath on the door. So right off the bat that cut down on the de-decorating. The reason I didn’t decorate was what would normally be my holiday down time turned into pull-out-all-the-stops-and-work-like-a-dog time.

As those of you on the Fast Track Your Dream Priority List already know, I’m down to the wire on next week’s “launch” of the new Fast Track Your Dream program. So while you’ve been decking the halls I’ve been in major crunch mode! I’ve been telling you for a few weeks now that this thing is going to be big… and I wasn’t kidding.

I spent the last two weeks finalizing close to 700 pages of printed material, giving one final listen to ten 80-minute long CDs, preparing the curriculum for three different Tele-classes, finalizing dates with the guest speakers (prepare to be impressed!), and making sure all the early enrollment bonus items are in place.

Those who signed up to get the Fast Track Priority Updates already know that this is going to be a “high-touch” program designed to answer your individual questions. On my end though that means spending this week busily coordinating all the behind the scenes technical and scheduling issues so everyone in this new Fast Track Your Dream Community has a place to go to get all of your “how to” questions answered the Changing Course “Dream Team.” (If you’re curious it’s all in the Fast Track Update below.)

The point is, after quietly working on this program for over two years and then having this big push in the last few months, I, too, have decided to change course in 2007. As I write this newsletter a light snow is falling against the backdrop of a distant hillside. A new calf was born on Christmas day so now I get to enjoy two baby cows frolicking in the field next door. (I love cows!) I left my corporate job 11 years ago, I get to work at home, I do work I enjoy, and I get to experience the deep satisfaction of knowing that in some small way my work matters.

Life is good. But I want more…

So, my 2007 New Year’s Resolution is to work less and play more. To kick off my new resolution, I cashed in 250,000 Hilton points and for an upcoming vacation at a fabulous resort in Mexico. (Can you say siesta and cabana?) When I get back I’ll be starting a drawing class and hosting the first annual beat back the winter blues February cookout and charades party. And to emulate friend and role model Barbara Winter I vow to take full advantage of my self-bossing status by going to more matinee movies and taking Fridays off.

Apparently I’m not alone in my desire for less work and more play. Barbara just emailed me an article with the headline “Work-life balance tops global New Year Wish list.” According to ACNielsen more than half of consumers surveyed in 46 countries from the United States to Vietnam said they wanted work to play a lesser role in their lives in 2007.

What about you? Have you decided to make 2007 YOUR year to get the changing course ball rolling? If so, let me leave you with a question:

Three frogs are sitting on a log. One frog decides to jump off. How many frogs are left on the log?

If you answered one, two or none then go back and re-read the question. The correct answer is three. Why? Because the frog didn’t jump. It just “decided” to jump. We “decide” things all the time. We decide we’re going to get in shape, or get organized, or design our web site, or start on that screen play we’ve been carrying around in our head, or to work less and play more…

Don’t get me wrong. Most people spend their entire lives waiting to hit the lottery while their dreams shrivel and die. So actually deciding to take control of your life is, in and of itself, a huge step. And by actually making “changing course” your New Year’s Resolution you’ve already increased your chances of success tenfold. However, as Peter Drucker points out, “plans are only good intentions unless they quickly degenerate into hard work.”

Now you need to back up your intention with action. Is changing course scary? You bet it is. But as famous Life magazine photographer Margaret Bourke-White succinctly reminds us, “action stops fear.” One final New Year’s Resolution from an anonymous reader is to “realize every opportunity in front of me and act upon it.” If you are looking for a roadmap, the tools, and the support that comes from being part of a community of active dream seekers, the Fast Track Your Dream Community is one opportunity you won’t want to miss out on.

Initial interest in this program has been enormous. Don’t risk being shut out of what promises to be a life-changing opportunity. To get a head start on joining and on grabbing one of a limited number of special bonuses – including the chance to attend a live Teleclass with Barbara Sher author of the new bestseller, Refuse to Choose – I encourage you to add your name to the Priority Notification List today or visit

What Keeps You Up at Night? You May be Worrying About All the Wrong Things

In my last newsletter I finally broke the news that I was hard at work putting together all the elements of something intended to help you change course faster than you could likely ever do on your own. One of the inspirations for my new “fast track a dream” project came from a question put to me by a reporter for USA Today’s entrepreneur section. What he wanted to know was, “What keeps a small business owner like you up at night?”

The article came out a few weeks later. Not surprisingly it focused on concerns of people who own dry cleaning shops, car dealerships, ad agencies and other traditional brick and mortar businesses. What kept these small business owners up at night were things like rising fuel prices, employee turnover, the cost of employee health care coverage, and a potential jump in the minimum wage. Frankly I never expected my answer to be included in the article because at this stage of my business the kind of things I angst about are atypical to say the least.

But it wasn’t always that way. When I first left my corporate job to strike out on my own my number one concern was earning enough money as a freelancer to pay the bills while I tried to make Changing Course profitable. I now think of those early years as my “hustle years.” If one contract suddenly disappeared I would hustle to put something else together. Worst case scenario I knew I could always go out and get a j-o-b.

Ten years into the business I’m doing very well. So well in fact, that I now get to worry about far more interesting problems – like, for example, what can be done to somehow help people avoid Benjamin Disraeli’s prediction that “most people die with their music still locked up inside them.” It pains me to meet a person who has these tremendous gifts inside yet who allows himself or herself to remain locked safely but miserably in job jail. People who don’t dare to dream at all and so could not possibly bring themselves to dream big dreams.

You would think that I’d be content knowing that in some small way I’ve helped literally thousands of people to make the leap from having a boss to being their own boss. And you’d think, too, that after doing this work for 12 years I’d have been prepared for the onslaught when I asked readers to send me their top two or three questions about what it takes to change course. But even I was taken aback. At last count I received a whopping 1,200 questions – and they’re still coming in!

I was genuinely moved by how many people who responded to the survey also took the time to include some sort of personal note. Many wanted me to know that my work matters. For example, a kindred spirit from Sydney, Australia included a quick note to say, “Thanks for your enthusiasm & your service to a very wide community.” Another dreamer from “across the pond” wrote, “Your newsletter has often kept me going when I’m at the end of my tether. There’s nothing like this in the UK… very few resources for the many like me who’re desperate for escape.”

Some of the people I heard from have already taken the leap. Like Marianne Korten who runs a communications skills training and consulting business called Soul at Work ( in Amsterdam in The Netherlands. Marianne wrote: “I would like you to know that I am very grateful for your newsletter. It uplifts me every time I read it and there is always a story or source I can use. You are my light in my darker entrepreneurial days.” Even though she’s already launched her business, Marianne understands that all of us – aspiring and established entrepreneurs alike – need someone to remind us that changing course may not always be easy, but it is worth it.

And that’s exactly what Olliette is learning as well. Olliette’s husband worked for a home builder for four years. For various reasons, including the fact that he did not receive a single pay raise, it was a job he did not enjoy. Olliette says that off and on she’d try to talk her husband into striking out on his own but to no avail. Then out of the blue he was terminated. Being fired is never easy. Yet sometimes it takes a crisis to moves us to action.

Olliette said her husband’s firing, was both “devastating and a blessing in disguise. He became a licensed general contractor that same year. His first customers were folks who had purchased homes from his former boss. It has been two years. There are challenges and of course management issues at time but the ride is wonderful. We managed to turn a small profit last year.”

That was year one. “This year,” said Olliette, “is even better. We started with handyman services and now we are doing kitchen and bath remodeling. We even purchased, renovated, and sold an investment property this year. It is not easy but it is wonderful to know that we are building something from the ground up. I still work full time but I help my husband manage the business, handling much of the administrative duties. I am also able to use my love of decorating to help serve customers. Your newsletter gives me hope and encouragement. It is not an easy road to take but I love the adventure.”

Olliette is right about one thing – changing course is an adventure. According to Webster’s Dictionary the word adventure derives from the Latin adventus, past participle of advenire to arrive. Of course the dictionary tells us that an adventure also involves an undertaking usually involving danger and unknown risks… but also an exciting or remarkable experience.

Sonia Perez from Charlotte, North Carolina shared her adventure as well. Sonia’s story is a telling example of how a little encouragement can go a long way. She writes:

“I finally quit my job and started my own CPA business doing tax preparation and accounting. I wrote you a very heartfelt note before I left the audit department at the bank sometime before May 2003… I had been preparing emotionally and mentally for this step for years and I was so ready that I had to do it. Your words of encouragement in the newsletter and the fantastic note that you personally wrote to me in 2003 made most of the difference…!”

Okay, so you’d think hearing from people like Marianne, Sonia, and Olliette would make me sleep like a baby… but you’d be wrong. Don’t get me wrong – I absolutely love hearing success stories like these. In fact, they make my day. I love giving people the support and information they need to work at what they love on their own terms. And I like to think I’m pretty good at it. But for the vast majority of people the process of changing course is so painfully slow. So slow in fact, that most people never do a thing.

So for a while now what’s kept me up at night is trying to figure out how to help greater numbers of people to change course F-A-S-T-E-R! Since launching Changing Course in 1995, I’ve learned a ton about how to significantly accelerate the process of getting from where you are to where you want to be. Up until now the challenge has been figuring out how to share it all.

Like I said in the last newsletter, I have been literally working on this project for two and a half years… but I’m finally ready to wrap it up. It is going to be a complete brain dump of everything I know about how to quit your job to work at what you love. In fact, when I asked the question in my recent survey, “If you could sit down with me for lunch what top two or three questions would you want to ask me about changing course?” most people wanted to know how to “find” one thing or another.

Some people asked how they could find their heart’s desire… their calling if you will. Others wanted to know how to find the time or the money to pursue their dream. A fair number of people had very practical money questions, like what to do about health insurance and retirement. Others were looking for advice on how to get an unsupportive spouse or other family member to support their dreams. Still others were seeking specific information and guidance on things like marketing or how to start a small business. And a few even said flat out told me that all they really need to get going is a good “kick in the pants.”

The whole point of doing the survey was to make sure that before I sent my new fast track project off to the printer and duping house that I didn’t miss anything. Your answers did help me tweak a few things – like adding more information and some new worksheets on how to establish multiple income streams and passive profit centers. But overall I was really happy to see that my original “brain dump” was right on target.

When this thing “launches” it’s going to cover everything from figuring out what you’d really love to do, to how to turn your interests into income, to finding the money to fund your dream, to dealing with fear and self-doubt, to what to do about health insurance and taxes, to marketing on a shoe string budget, to navigating the transition from salary to self-generated income, to business start-up tips, to where to get ongoing support and answers to frequently asked questions, to how to profit from an online business, to how to stay inspired and keep your dream on track… and then some.

I know that finding the money, time, courage, and support to change course are all important to changing course. The good news is that they are also manageable. What I mean is, there really are actual practical steps you can take to work out, work on, and work around all of these barriers to changing course. I know because I’ve been studying these steps for over a decade now.

I understand your worries because I lived them. In fact, I spent seven years fretting about where I would find the money, time and confidence to change my life direction. What finally moved me to action was a painful wake up call. My mother spent the last nine years and seven months of her life toiling at her job as a second shift custodian – a job she took solely to get vested for the retirement benefits. When my mom died unexpectedly of a heart attack at age 61 just five months before she was to retire, it totally changed how I viewed time (we can choose how we use it), money (things work out), and life (it’s all too short).

One of the questions I received was, “What should be the driving, better yet, propelling force to get the courage to do it?” It was a good question but one that is also impossible to answer for someone else. But I know what the propelling force was for me. Losing my mother at such a young age made me realize that I had spent far too much time agonizing endlessly about what might happen if I changed course and not nearly enough time worrying about what would happen if I DIDN’T.

In other words, instead of being afraid of the “unknown risks” that adventure can bring, I should have been equally worried about the “known risks.” The known risk of staying stuck was spending another 25 years dealing with alarm clocks, commuter traffic, office politics, and spending five days a week living the spirit numbing reality that, as it’s been said, “the truth is rarely told between the hours of 9-to-5.”

“The big break for me,” quipped Jon Stewart of the Daily Show, “was deciding that this is my life.” I know what he means. For me the propelling force was finally getting – and I mean really getting – that I only had one life to live. And that by not at least trying to create the life I really wanted, in all likelihood I would die with my music still in me. Now THAT was scary!

The American editor and author Christopher Morley got it right when he said, “There is only one success… to be able to spend your life in your own way, and not to give others absurd maddening claims upon it.” So when you go to bed tonight try “worrying” about what it might look like to actually spend your life “in your own way.”

But rather than letting this question keep you up I want you to think about what you might do to move yourself in the direction of your dreams and not your fears. I want you to begin to focus less on “what is” and more on “what could be.” 2007 is almost upon us. As we approach a New Year you may already be thinking about how you want 2007 to be different… how you can make 2007 YOUR YEAR. So, what promise can you make yourself to make that happen?

When It Comes to a Dream, Sometimes “Too Busy” is a Good Thing

I’m sorry the newsletter is so late. The last few weeks have been way busier than usual. I’ve been so engrossed in finalizing this huge new project that I been working on that I wound up doing my Thanksgiving Day grocery shopping at six o’clock the night before. And, trust me — jockeying with throngs of other last minute shoppers for that last can of cranberry sauce is not as much fun as it sounds 🙂

Like I said, the reason I’ve been so preoccupied is this massive project. I’m all for slowing down and smelling the roses. But in this case, being too busy is actually a good thing.

This is the first time I’ve mentioned this project publicly but I’ve been working behind the scenes on it for well over two years now. I’ve been going along at this kind of slow steady pace up until about two months ago. That’s when it hit me that the New Year is fast approaching… and you know what that means!

I’ve talked to probably a dozen people in the last two weeks alone who are vowing that 2007 is going to be their year to finally take the leap. I’m a big fan of resolutions. Or more accurately, I’m a big fan of making and KEEPING resolutions. So I started saying no to other commitments so I could finalize all the pieces of this particular project in time for the New Year.

The reason I’m so excited about this new project is that it is entirely focused on answering the one question that keeps me up at night. Namely…

How can I help overworked and under-fulfilled people (like you?) to change course faster? In other words, what exactly does it take to “fast track” your dream of being able to quit your job and get a life?

It’s hard for me to believe sometimes that it’s been over a decade now since I successfully traded in my 90-mile-a-day commute to my job in corporate America for my sunny home office with a view. I can’t tell you what a difference it makes being able to get up when you want to, to take vacations when you need to, and to have total control over your life and your time. Take my word for it – once you’ve reached “the other side” as Barbara Winter likes to put it, you never go back.

Over the years I’ve had the opportunity to talk to literally thousands of people just like you. People who understand, as I do, that it really is possible to find work that both pays the bills and feeds the soul.

I’ve also had the good fortune to work with and learn from some of the masters in the career change field. People like Barbara Sher, Barbara Winter, Nick Williams. And I’ve gotten to interview some amazing entrepreneurs who have successfully turned their interests into income.

I’ve also spent years – ten to be exact – scouring the world for useful tips and resources, many of which have gone into a mind boggling 151 issues of this newsletter. Just when I think there can’t possibly be another cool resource out there, I somehow I continue to find more.

The point is during that time I’ve amassed an incredible amount of knowledge, skills, and information about what it takes to create a richer more balanced life doing work you truly love. So why would any of this possibly keep me up at night?

Simple. It’s one thing to know all this stuff. For the longest time, my challenge was figuring out the best way to quite literally take everything I’ve learned about changing course and put it into some kind of immediately usable form that can help you to get where you want to go more rapidly.

Well… to make a long story short, I’ve figured it out. It’s taken a long time, and it’s been a lot of work putting it together, but I have now built a full-out end-to-end system that can teach anyone how to do this. Even you.

I’d like to share more specifics about the actual project but I have to wait until I get a few last-minute details nailed down. For one thing I’m trying to decide how many people I can accommodate and I don’t want to raise expectations and then not be able to meet those obligations. And the last thing I want is a bunch of disappointed dreamers on my hands!

Afraid to Take the Leap? Simple Ways to Face Down Your Fears

The so-called safe path is always “easier.” Just ask Ursula Clay. Ursula tried to take the secure career path her immigrant parents had chosen for her. In fact, she worked incredibly hard to achieve a level of financial success and security her parents, both high school dropouts, never had. Says Ursula:

“I worked very hard to get through law school at night, all the while working full time and struggling financially. When I finally achieved what I thought was the brass ring – i.e., good salary, fancy title, etc. – it was a thoroughly disappointing revelation that this was the end result of all the hard work. It felt very empty and meaningless, further made so by the birth of my two beautiful children. I just felt as though I could not possibly have been put on this earth to toil way for 12 hour days at a job that kept me away from my family, and which I dreaded going to every day.”

“Unless you walk out into the unknown,” says Tom Peters, “the odds of making a profound difference in your life are pretty low.” After two years of executing her escape plan which included many moments of fear and uncertainty, Ursula is embracing the unknown. “It’s like getting out of college again, and having a clean slate. I do not know where I am going to end up, or what might come my way. In fact, staying home with my kids right now may be the next calling, and after that, who knows!”

Laugh in the Face of Fear 

Anyone who has ever ventured out of their safe little world will tell you they had doubts. When it comes to making a major life change, not only is a certain amount of fear perfectly normal, it’s actually helpful. For example, it’s our healthy fears that keep us from jumping off cliffs. And the great thing about fear is that there are always ways to get around it. 

So try laughing in the face of fear. Am I kidding? No. Ridiculing your fears is actually a very effective technique for banishing them. Let me show you what I mean. 

If I told you the U.S. Senate had just voted to relocate the capital from Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas, your response would probably be something like, “No way!” That’s because the mind rejects that which it considers absurd. It’s the same with fear. The trick is to turn your fears into a ridiculous event in your mind. That way, you allow your natural human reaction to absurdity to take over and dismiss them. 

Try it yourself. Take your biggest fear and take it to extremes. Really exaggerate it. Let’s say you’re paralyzed by the fear of failure. Try picturing your entire family, all of your friends, your neighbors, everyone you went to high school with, even your boss, standing outside your cardboard-box home holding up signs that read: We Told You So!

Pretty ridiculous, right? When you realize that your worst-case fantasy is just that – a fantasy – what felt overwhelming will now feel much more manageable.

Change Is Easy – When You Take It One Step at a Time

Another way to manage the fear of venturing out on your own is to start small. If the thought of just up and quitting your day job frightens you, start building your freelance career on the side. Begin with low-risk steps and gradually work your way up to the harder stuff.

You never know what is going to move you to action. It can be a book, something you saw on television, a chance conversation, a workshop… I was flattered to learn that for Ursula that chance encounter happened when in 2003 she “stumbled upon” the Changing Course website. That was enough to move Ursula to start “formulating an escape plan.” She writes, “My plan consisted of figuring what I wanted to do after I quit my job, and putting myself in a financial position that would allow me to walk away from a well-paying, but unsatisfying career.”

Receiving a consistent message that change was possible says Ursula, “had the effect of pulling me back to my escape plan whenever I started fearing the unknown again, or just got lazy.” For Ursula that message came in the form of this newsletter. For you it might be a support group, a coach, or even a buddy who can check in to see how your plan is progressing.

Even though Ursula has taken the leap, she’s now working on the second part of her goal – coming up with ideas for multiple income streams. The good news is that having faced down her fears once means Ursula can approach her new goal from a far more desirable vantage point. “Now,” she says, “I can read the newsletter on my home computer in my sweatpants while my daughter naps, instead of on my Blackberry while riding the 8:02 pm train back to the suburbs from work.” And to just to underscore how excited she is to be embarking on this new chapter in her life, Ursula signed off with, “Regards from the other side.”

Remember, courage is not a matter of losing your fear so you can take action; courage comes from taking action. And that, in turn, helps you overcome your fear. When you can act despite your fears, you will be rewarded many times over. That’s because, as Anais Nin once observed, “Life shrinks or expands according to one’s courage.” Once I found the courage to escape job jail my life expanded in ways I never imagined possible. Life really is better over here on the “other side.” I encourage you to take one small step today to join those of us are enjoying the view from the other side.

Business Planning 101: Do You Really Need a Business Plan?

Go to just about any small business start-up advisor, class, website, or book and they’ll all tell you the same thing – before you do anything you must write a business plan.

Case in point: According to the Small Business Administration, “the importance of a comprehensive, thoughtful business plan cannot be overemphasized. Much hinges on it: outside funding, credit from suppliers, management of your operation and finances, promotion and marketing of your business, and achievement of your goals and objectives.”

Chairman of First Business Bank in Los Angeles Robert Krummer, Jr. makes an even more dire warning: “The business plan is a necessity. If the person who wants to start a small business can’t put a business plan together, he or she is in trouble.”

Well Bob, if that’s true, then I – and just about every established successful business owner I know – am in deep doo-doo. For better or worse, a Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index study found that only 31 percent of small business owners surveyed started with a business plan.

I’ve run one kind of business or another since I was a 21 year old graduate student. In fact, facilitating workshops was one of the ways I paid my bills. Even during my eight year stint in the corporate world, I always had some venture going on the side. And, I’ve never had a business plan. Neither have friends, collaborators, and fellow entrepreneurs Barbara Sher and Barbara Winter.

Despite not having a business plan for the last twenty years Barbara Winter has somehow managed to publish a phenomenal newsletter called Winning Ways (Winning Ways). That makes Winning Ways the longest running small business newsletter in the country. Her book, Making a Living Without a Job is in its 17 reprinting. A popular speaker and seminar leader, Barbara’s seminars regularly sell out.

Then there’s Barbara Sher. A short list of Barbara’s business accomplishments include writing half a dozen best-selling books, starring in her own special broadcast on public television stations nationwide, appearing on shows like Oprah, Good Morning America, and 60 Minutes, and recently hosting a sold-out workshop on a Greek Island. Barbara Sher doesn’t have a business plan either.

Then there is me. I’m the only one among the three of us who hasn’t written a traditionally published book – yet! But even without the benefit of being a published author, I have managed to attract over 23,000 subscribers, gotten my share of national and international coverage in publications like the Wall Street Journal, Kiplinger’s, Entrepreneur, Self, Glamour (UK), The Sydney Morning Herald, the Globe & Mail, am currently training 23 people to become “outside the box” career consultants, and was recently invited to speak at a workshop for artists that includes an all expenses paid 7-day Caribbean cruise (all you artists, stay tuned for details in 2007). And I don’t have a business plan.

If you buy into the banking chairman’s thinking, all three of us are in trouble. Well, the way I see it, if this kind of success spells trouble, than sometimes a little trouble is just what an inspired entrepreneur is looking for!

Consider Your “Natural Work Style”

Sometimes not having a business plan is a function of one’s natural work style. I can’t speak for Barbara Sher or Barbara Winter, but knowing them both, I’d venture to guess that like me, they are not big planners by nature. That’s not to say that we don’t know where we’re going. We very much do. It’s the difference between heading off on a vacation with a well-planned itinerary verses deciding what to do based on “how you feel once” you get there.

The same thing is true when running a business. Some people by nature prefer a structured, planned approach. Others prefer a more flexible, plan and adapt as you go approach. Guess which camp we’re in?

This very newsletter is a good example of a more “spontaneous” approach to work. I often plan what to put in the newsletter anywhere from a week or two ahead of when it’s going to go out. Sometimes I decide the day I sit down to write it. That’s not to say I don’t spend considerable time planning when planning is called for. It’s that I’m perfectly fine changing my article if I think of a better idea, adjusting things mid-class, deciding to add a whole new chapter, or indeed changing the entire direction of the book if that’s what’s called for. Entrepreneurs tend to be idea people and idea people want to go where the ideas take them – not where the plan said they have to go.

You, on the other hand, may be just the opposite. If you published a newsletter you’d probably lay out an editorial calendar six months to a year in advance. It would make you utterly crazy to set off without the structure of a written plan. Having a logical system for managing various aspects of your work makes your work flow more smoothly and efficiently.

Taken to the extreme this need for discipline and control might be seen by some as, well, anal retentive. However, as the great J.C. Penney once said, “Only the disciplined are free.” While a perfectly organized office and highly detailed business plan may appear rigid to others, to the disciplined person a certain level of organization and structure is actually freeing. That’s because once a system or plan is in place, they no longer have to think about it!

Consider Your Business Type

Personal work style is only one consideration in whether or to the extent to which you have a business plan. The other has to do with the business itself. Just because Barbara Sher, Barbara Winter and I don’t have formal business plans doesn’t necessarily mean you shouldn’t. If your business idea involves seeking outside funding in the form of a bank loan or investors, then naturally you will need to prepare a business plan.

On the other hand, the other reason none of us have business plans is because we all have pretty simple businesses. We show up to speak or do a workshop and receive a check from the event sponsor or the attendees. We sell a book or other information product and someone gives us their credit card or sends us a check and the money gets deposited in the bank.

When we buy something like a new computer or a plane ticket or a magazine subscription we get out our credit card or write a check. Then either we or the respective bookkeeper we pay $25-$35 an hour to come to our home office, records the expenses, and then files the receipts so we can write these off of our taxes.

This simplicity is very much by design. None of us wants to manage the complexity and the corresponding headaches of running an empire. We are what are known as “lifestyle entrepreneurs,” meaning our businesses are an extension of our lives.

I first heard the term “lifestyle entrepreneur” when the public radio show, Marketplace did a segment on entrepreneurs who choose their business to fit their desired life. The series was based on a book called “Not Just a Living: The Complete Guide to Creating a Business That Gives You a Life” by Mark Henricks. Clearly Barbara Sher, Barbara Winter and I are not alone. According to Hendricks a whopping 90% of people who become small business owners are seeking to make a living and have a life.

One of the sessions Barbara Sher conducted at the Making Dreams Happen ( retreat was a small business workshop. In it she talked about her entrepreneur grandfather. A lot of immigrants, both then and now, turn to entrepreneurship either out of necessity or because they know it is a classic route to the American Dream. For Barbara’s grandfather that meant driving around Detroit in a horse-drawn carriage collecting scrap metal to sell. Do you think he had a business plan? Of course not! The man had a carriage, a horse, and a strong work ethic.

When you think about it, little has changed since the turn of the century. Every minute of every day some small business owner in the so-called developing world “sets up shop.” From their little stands they sell cups of hot tea, fruit, woven carpets, beaded shoes, or pottery. Others provide a service like shuttling people around town, shining shoes, or taking in laundry. And just like their more privileged counterparts in the developed world who operate tea shop tours in London, or import olive oil from Italy, or make designer lamps out of vintage shoes, they do so without the benefit of a business plan.

If your goal is to start a small self-sustaining business that does not require getting outside financing, renting space or expensive equipment, hiring a management team or otherwise involve a lot of complexity, then my advice is Keep it Simple. Do your homework, learn everything you can about your prospective clients or customers, become a life-long student of marketing, and make it your mission to provide excellent customer service. Now that’s a plan.

If you do need or want a business plan, a friend raves about the Business Plan Pro software from Palo Alto. The vast majority of people can get by very nicely with the standard version. What I also like about this particular software is that it comes with 500 pre-written plans for popular businesses. My friend wanted to start a pet wellness center and found there was a similar template that had done a lot of the work for her. Plus they have a special eBay edition.

Or you can download a free business plan template (and lots of other helpful tools) at ( It doesn’t have any of the bells and whistles that Business Plan Pro has but hey, it’s free. (Interestingly enough, Business Plan Pro donated 400 copies of their software program to Score counselors.)

Even if you plan to run a pretty simple business or hate to plan, if this is what it takes to finally get that business idea out of your head and down on paper, then I’m all for business plans! Learn more at

Business Planning 101: When it Comes to Business Advice – Consider the Source

Whether you get your business information from the Internet, from networking with other small business owners, from books or magazines, or indeed from this very newsletter – when it comes to business advice, consider the source. This warning even applies to programs specifically designed to assist start up and existing businesses.

If you are looking to do business with the federal government for example, the Small Business Administration ( has some excellent information on the ins and outs of landing government contracts. Years ago I got some great advice from a marketing dynamo and SBA counselor named Diane Doherty. And if you need to borrow money to start your business and can’t get a bank loan, the SBA has several loan guarantee programs designed to help small businesses secure funding.

Then there is the Service Corps of Retired Executives otherwise known as SCORE. SCORE offers free one-to-one and online advice and training to new business owners. The over 10,500 volunteer counselors are working or retired business owners, executives and corporate leaders looking for ways to share their business experience with people who need it. You have to applaud the fact that SCORE counselors take time out of their lives to help first time entrepreneurs.

And all you have to do is read the long list of success stories at the SCORE site ( to know this organization has helped a lot of people launch their businesses. Take Michelle Violetto and Tanya Ehrlich. Four years ago, these long-time friends launched Little Scoops, a 1950s-style ice cream dance party service for kids. A few short years later, Little Scoops was named as one of the” Hot New Franchises for 2005″ by Entrepreneur Magazine.

Then there’s Judith Moore, a lifetime baker, who was on a quest to find the “perfect” chocolate chip cookie recipe. In true bootstrapping form, Judith bartered with a guy who owned an advertising agency to develop a brand identity for the Charleston Cookie Company ( in exchange for a years worth of free cookies. Next she next contacted Coast SCORE in North Charleston, South Carolina, for advice on her business plan. Judith’s SCORE Counselor helped her focus her vision and to create a spreadsheet and produce cash flow projections for three years of business.

Judith’s SCORE counselor continues to advise her on issues related to business structure, management and growth. For Judith, working with a SCORE counselor has been a recipe for success. Judith recently entered into a new partnership with Dean & Deluca, a retail and catalog gourmet food company based in New York City.

There are lots more inspiring stories like these. Unfortunately there are other stories too, and not the good kind. Over the years, I and others in the creative career change field have heard countless reports of aspiring entrepreneurs being subjected to uninformed SCORE counselors trashing their business idea and dashing their dreams. One workshop attendee even had a SCORE counselor describe his business idea as, and I quote, “An exercise in mental ….” well, you can probably fill in the blank but suffice it to say it is not a word that would have made it through the internet spam filter.

This kind of undoubtedly well-meaning but none-the-less demoralizing, and in this case, inappropriate, advice has caused more than one aspiring entrepreneur to pack up their dreams and go home. It’s the multitude of stories like this that has prompted Barbara Sher to dub SCORE “scorn.” If a client named Marcelle’s story is an indication, the term is well-deserved.

As you may recall from part one of this series, Marcelle spent $2,000 to incorporate her one-woman business running empowerment workshops. In that article I argued that given the low-liability factor of conducing self-help seminars, that this money could have been better spent on marketing her business.

Around this same time Marcelle also sought advice from two local SCORE representatives. The men she met with were nice enough. But when they learned that Marcelle planned to aim her personal empowerment workshops at women of color, the counselors flat out told her she couldn’t do it arguing that targeting a particular race would constitute discrimination.

I’m not sure why I, or any other White woman, would show up at a personal empowerment workshop that was advertised as being for women of color. But if I did, and I was refused entrance to a public workshop, prohibited from purchasing a book, or otherwise denied service based on my race then Marcelle would indeed be guilty of discrimination. But that’s not what these business advisors were saying. Instead they were claiming that Marcelle was prohibited by law from targeting her business to a particular race or ethnic group – period.

Think about it folks. That’s like insisting that someone starting a child care center has to also serve senior citizens, or that a men’s suit store has to also stock women’s suits, or that a manufacturer of hair care products for African Americans would have to develop formulations for all hair textures. To label as “discrimination” what anyone who has taken a “Marketing 101” class knows as “niche marketing” is ludicrous at best and negligent at worse.

Again, despite these and other anecdotal stories of bad advice, on the whole SCORE as an organization does good work. In addition to individual counseling by many qualified and helpful counselors, SCORE also offers a very convenient email advice service called Ask SCORE. The service allows you to ask confidential questions to counselors all over the country 24/7. A simple keyword search led me to a long list of experts on subjects ranging from import-export to kennels to food marketing to summer camps.

When it comes to working for yourself, it’s always good to consult with those who have been where you want to go. Again, I’m confident that the majority of SCORE representatives are knowledgeable and helpful, especially to people whose businesses require attaining financing and hiring employees.

Keep in mind that SCORE stands for the Service Corps of Retired Executives and not the Service Corps of Retired Entrepreneurs. So when it comes to getting advice from SCORE or anyone, my advice is this: If you find yourself feeling more discouraged than enabled, thank the advice givers for their assistance and move on. Even with this article – when it comes to business advice, consider the source.

Business Planning 101: Keep it Simple

In a famous Far Side cartoon a school boy asks to be excused from class because he says, “My brain is full.” Whose isn’t? In today’s information- and communication-heavy world most people are operating on perpetual overwhelm. So it’s no surprise that if something feels even remotely complicated our unconscious kicks in to steer our already too full brain to less taxing waters… like lying on the couch watching (and then subsequently feeling like) the Biggest Loser, playing mindless computer games, or compulsively checking email.

Even people who desperately want to ditch their day job and work for themselves procrastinate because it feels too… well, hard. All that paperwork, the government red tape, all the complicated legal and accounting issues, writing a big business plan, getting a loan… Ai yi yi!

If I actually had to think about all that stuff my brain would be full too. But that’s the thing – despite being self-employed for over a decade now I don’t think about any of it. Why? Because other than seeing my accountant once a year at tax time, my business – like most small home-based businesses – was incredibly simple to set up and is even simpler to run.

I’m not alone. Most small businesses and home-based businesses especially, are not terribly complicated to start. Businesses like consulting, art making, web site design, or freelance writing don’t require you to rent space, hire a bunch of employees, or otherwise building an empire. Yet, I’ve seen far too many aspiring self-bossers retreat to their cubicles after receiving overly complicated – or sometimes wildly flawed – advice from “business experts.”

For example, if you plan to start a small, one-person home-based business you can probably ignore the advice of business experts to run out and hire a high priced attorney and accountant. Don’t get me wrong. Both advisors can be useful. But in the eleven years I’ve been in business, I’ve used an attorney only once and that was to review a licensing agreement.

I also have an accountant. I see him exactly once a year at tax time. Other than that, like me, you can probably do everything right on your home computer using a simple bookkeeping program like Quicken or Quickbooks. (Tip: If you plan to do online banking, you may want to check to see which software your bank syncs with.)

For the first nine years of my business I did my own bookkeeping – and I hate anything remotely mathematical. But if you can handle the basics of personal banking – deposit your earnings and pay the bills – then you can manage a business checking account. Better yet, pay a local bookkeeper $25-$35 an hour to come in a couple times a month. It will be well worth the money and you can use your time to build your business. Whether you do your own bookkeeping or hire it out, to ensure you take advantage of every possible tax deduction I suggest you have an accountant prepare your taxes.

A Common Sense Take on Incorporation

Any advice offered here is based on a combination of my own personal experience and common sense. Everyone’s situation is different, so do your homework before making any decisions about your business structure and/or the need for professional advisors.

Having said that, it drives me crazy when business start-up experts advise aspiring entrepreneurs to run out and hire a pricy attorney and incorporate. Obviously some businesses should be incorporated. In addition to liability issues, in some cases there are certain tax advantages and disadvantages to incorporation. (For a comprehensive article on the pros and cons of incorporation from Entrepreneur magazine, click here or go to

In my case any tax breaks from incorporation are not worth the hassle of the additional paperwork and filing required. My guess is, unless you plan to own a brick and mortar business, see clients or customers in your home, open a skate board park, or otherwise start a business where liability is a factor, you probably don’t need to incorporate either.

Take my client Marcelle. For the past few years Marcelle had been saving money to start a business offering personal empowerment workshops for other women of color. It broke my heart to hear Marcelle tell how she’d just dropped over $2,000 to have an attorney incorporate her one-person workshop business as a limited liability corporation (LLC). When I asked what on earth compelled her to incorporate, Marcelle told me an attorney had “put the fear of God” into her. All it would take, said the attorney, was one lawsuit, and Marcelle and her husband could lose their house.

I’m not an attorney. But unlike Marcelle I’ve been at this training business for over twenty-five years. Common sense and personal experience tell me that the chances of being sued by a disgruntled workshop attendee are so remote as to be laughable. Over the past two-plus decades I’ve conducted hundreds of workshops attended by literally tens of thousands of people. During that time not only has no one sued me, but the likelihood of my ever being sued is next to zero.

Unless Marcelle’s workshop includes some high risk activity like fire-walking or she makes some very specific claims that, for example, guaranteeing workshop participants that her program will reap them a certain level of financial success, it is all but inconceivable that she would ever see the inside of a law office never mind a court. If a workshop participant doesn’t like Marcelle’s seminar then the worse case scenario is they’ll ask for a refund – which, like any reputable business person, Marcelle would promptly give them.

What Is In a Name?

Years ago I created a line of greeting cards under the name Making Waves. Turns out there was a hair salon a few towns over with the same name. Since our two enterprises had nothing to do with each other, I didn’t care and neither did they. Marcelle hadn’t thought much about her business name until her attorney convinced her to pony up another $300 for the attorney to conduct a legal name search meant to once again keep her from landing penniless on the streets as a result of an expensive lawsuit.

Naturally if you’re planning to spend thousands of dollars on signage for your storefront or on a big ad campaign you should definitely do a name search. But, if like Marcelle, the biggest investment in your business name is $25 for business cards, then that’s exactly how much you’ll be out if you have to print new ones.

Paying for a name search goes back to common sense and proportion of injury. If it turned out that another company actually does have a legal claim on Marcelle’s business name do you really think their first course of action would be to drag her into court? No company wants to spend money on attorney and court fees if they can help it. A far more likely scenario is that the offended company would have their legal counsel send Marcella a letter telling her to cease and desist using their name – at which point she would.

Was Marcella’s attorney trying to take advantage of her? Not at all. Instead like any good attorney she was doing what she was trained to do, which is to protect her client against possible litigation. Common sense tells us though that the risk of losing a home as a result of a disgruntled attendee at a personal empowerment workshop or the inadvertent use of an existing business name is next to nil. The $2300 that Marcelle spent on unnecessary legal protection could have been better invested in marketing her business.

For example, instead of protecting her business name Marcelle could have used her hard-earned cash to get a great name! If you want to be confident that your business name is not already taken or you are still shopping around for a name, marketing guru and “Head Stork” at, Marcia Yudkin can help. Marcia offers an impressive list of resources for Do-It-Yourself-Namers allowing you to search the availability of company names in the U.S., Canada, U.K, Australia, and New Zealand, find books and other products, and check out the originality of tag lines. (For information on how non-profits can get a free name and tag line see Resources for a Change.)

Or, for a very reasonable $997, Marcia and her crack team of international “storklets,” will come up with ten original names from which you can choose. Now that’s what I call money well spent!

Are there times when you need to incorporate, retain an attorney, or hire an accountant? Of course. But most businesses really can Keep it Simple. Spend your money on things that will grow your business – building your expertise, hiring a good copywriter, getting a professional looking web site, finding a killer business name. Keep it simple and your head really will be full – with ideas!

Take a break from figuring out how to change your life by changing someone else’s life: is a national clearinghouse of volunteer opportunities. For Katrina specific opp’s

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