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What Do Paula Abdul, Gary Vaynerchuk, Richard Branson, and Baby Bull Named Boris Have in Common?

My Year in Pictures and What It Taught Me That Can Help You Too

By Valerie Young

I talked to a friend recently who, despite starting out the year with the best of intentions, feels really discouraged about how little she’s accomplished on her goal of bringing a product idea she has to market. “I had such great hopes that this year would be different,” she said with a sigh. I knew how she felt.

Once the euphoria of getting a six-figure book deal with a major publishing house wore off, I realized I’d seriously underestimated how much work this was going to be. After all, I’ve been speaking on the Impostor Syndrome for some 25 years. And I’d long ago self-published my own book, “How to Feel As Bright and Capable As Everyone Seems to Think You Are.” But as I soon discovered, self-help is a particular genre with a particular format — one that was very new to me.

I’d spend days working on a few pages only to discover what I’d written was confusing, redundant, boring or all of the above. So I really do know what it’s like not to be as far along as you’d like. But still, I plugged along.

“What have you done so far?” I asked my friend. Rather sheepishly she replied, “Nothing,” Guess what? When you do nothing, you get nothing. This conversation got me thinking about my own year. I knew I’d accomplished some things, but amazingly I am still working on this book after almost two years!

Where Has the Time Gone?

I’m a visual person. So I thought it would be fun to put together a pictorial review as I have become addicted to taking photos with my iPhone. Along with the photos are some lessons learned along the way — lessons I hope inspire you to take action on your own deferred dreams.

April 2009

When I wasn’t out helping salamanders cross the road so they wouldn’t get squashed I was of course writing my book.

With the stress of the book writing I was actually grateful for all the times I had to jump in to help my neighbor Suzanne coax her very determined bull “Eric” back to his own pasture. No easy task since Eric much preferred the company of Phoebe and Molly, the Scottish Highlander’s temporarily being boarded in the pasture across the street.

April was also the second time I offered open enrollment for the self-paced version of the Profiting From Your Passions Coach Training Program. Over 40 new coaches signed on from as far away as the United Kingdom and Australia! What an honor.

Lessons: I re-learned how easy it is to feel overwhelmed or even discouraged when working on a big project. Besides taking the bull by the horns it helps to take frequent long walks. That’s when those confused thoughts start to come together.

May 2009

I love win-wins. But I love win-win-wins even more!

In May I took a break from writing to bring 15 Profiting From Your Passions graduates to Ryan Lee’s first Continuity Summit in Stamford, Connecticut. I know Ryan, so I was able to get the group in for free in exchange for being on-site “idea joggers.”

Attendees won because they could brainstorm with a team of people trained to help them think outside the box about how to monetize — or in this case to “continuitize” — their interests. Ryan won because he got to offer his 1000+ attendees this cool bonus for free.

And the coaches won because they got a guest pass to the entire three day training on a topic that can only make them better brainstormers for their clients. Plus, they were treated to a private pre-Summit session where Ryan himself taught them how various continuity models can be used to create recurring streams of revenue.

Lesson: When you help others they want to help you in return. Investing in your education is investing in your business.

On the family front, my nephew Thomas graduated high school and is now at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy. Don’t let the photo fool you. He’s 6 foot 6 inches.

Lessons: When you help others, they want to help you in return. Investing in your education is investing in your business. Make time for the young people in your life… they grow up so very fast.

June 2009

My people don’t do humidity. So Florida in the summer is not my thing. But then I saw Russell Brunson was doing a marketing seminar in Delray Beach. With a September book deadline fast approaching, I really didn’t really have time to go. But I’d seen Russell speak at Ryan’s event and knew I could learn from this guy. The fact that it was Delray Beach gave me an additional incentive to have lunch with AWAI Executive Director and friend Katie Yeakle.

I’m a huge fan of AWAI. Whether it’s training people to make money as a freelance copywriter or how to get paid to travel via travel writing, photography, and import-export, or how to start a resume writing business or break into romance writing — simply put, they do great work. (Feel free to read my complete reviews of these and other self-employment options at

Lesson: In addition to family and friends, make time to connect with people in your business life as well.

July 2009

After being on calf watch for months, baby Boris finally arrived! No he is not the illegitimate son of Eric the wayward bull. His real father is Vulcan, who went back to his home farm after fulfilling his fathering duties. I spent the summer happily keeping my eye on mother and baby while their owners were off building a new farm 30 miles away.

I also made another quick trip. This time to attend one of Yanik Silver’s Maverick Business Insider meet ups. Profiting From Your Passions Coaches Kate Fessler and Carrie Jeffers were there as well.

The first half of the day Yanik spoke to the group about branding and connecting with your customers. In the afternoon we were bussed to an indoor race track for a little team competition. The squirt guns were Yanik’s idea. You know, in case we got bored riding around a track in little go-carts. One of my team members was Mike Filsaime who, in addition to being a hugely successful information marketer, is also a really nice guy. I’m not exactly the race car driver type. But I did my best to try to win one for the team! I say “try” because we came in second to last.

Lessons: Continually stretch yourself outside of your comfort zone. Be grateful for small pleasures… and cows.

August 2009

With only four weeks to finish the book, August was a blur. I wrote from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. seven days a week. Can you say carpel tunnel?

Lessons: Everything takes twice as long as you think. A book, like any big project is always one step, one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter at a time.

September 2009

The last chapter was rough (understatement), but I hit my September deadline. A 3-day whirlwind trip to Manhattan began with a meeting with Heather Jackson, my editor at Crown. I assumed we’d talk about my book. Instead it was a farewell meeting. Heather told me she’d seen the handwriting on the wall for publishing as we know it and wanted to be ahead of the trend. So she was leaving to pursue a new career — bringing fiction to television.

I was happy for Heather, but, selfishly, sad for me. She’s had lots of best-sellers including Tim Ferris’s The 4 Hour Work Week. It was actually Heather who came up with the title.

I did get to meet my new editor Suzanne O’Neil. Suzanne was busy with other books which gratefully bought me time to go back and rewrite the last chapter.

The main reason I went to New York was to be a part of a fun-filled romp Carrie Wilkerson organized for top affiliates Suzanne Evans and me. In addition to being interviewed for Carrie’s online TV show, we saw Wicked, and took a trip to Vayner Studios to meet and interview social media phenomenon, star of Wine Library TV, and author of the best-seller Crush It Gary Vaynerchuk.

The trip capped off with a quick interview with a producer at WPIX television who’d seen some of my tips in a recent issue of More magazine. She and the videographer asked if I’d ever thought of creating a TV show! I was flattered… and intrigued.

No there were no sheep in New York. These shots are from my fabulous day at The Big E which is a big state fair but for all five New England states. I spent a lot of time in the animal barns and chatting with my very favorite people — entrepreneurs! For a fun read check out the my Big E article at

Lessons: Honor your deadlines, do mix business with pleasure, and talk to and learn from entrepreneurs anywhere and everywhere you find them.

October 2009

More book editing. I did get to a Red Sox game. The Angels were ahead by three runs. It was already close to 11 pm on a “school night.” We had a 90 mile drive ahead of us. So my friend Char and I decided to leave just before the last inning.

Big mistake. The Red Sox came back to tie the game. Then with two outs and the bases loaded, “Big Poppie” hit a home run.

Lesson: Tough it out because, like they say, “it’s never over until it’s over.”

November 2009

The month began with a wonderful birthday dinner compliments of Lisa and Haley. Just getting to hang out with Haley is a gift alone!

After Haley, the highlight of November (okay my entire life) was being a part of a very intimate Q&A session with billionaire adventurer and social entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Airlines, Virgin Records, and countless other companies under the Virgin name.

We only had an hour with Branson. But in that time we could ask him anything we wanted. I decided to pick his brain about my grand plan to train thousands of people around the world to be Profiting From Your Passions coaches. I won’t take the time here to relay the full exchange. What I will say is he thought my idea was, and I quote, “absolutely brilliant!”

That was great of course. But I was really impressed with his answer to Eben Pagan’s question, “What’s the difference between the mindset of a millionaire and a billionaire?” Branson replied there really isn’t one. Rather success always come down to being a good listener and respecting people, adding, there are a lot of people in the world who will never get to be rich through no fault of their own. I knew then I liked him.

Our meeting with Branson was a fundraiser for his non-profit organization Virgin Unite. which was holding their annual Rock the Kasbah star-studded gala later that night. Despite the glare of the television lights, I managed to get some shots of Branson with actors Jenna Elfman and Sharon Stone. Once inside, I chatted briefly with an incredibly nice and surprisingly tiny Paula Abdul. The food was incredible and I had front row seats to Natasha Bedingfield, Estelle, and Gavin Rossdale who rocked the house. What a treat!

It was fun being dressed up and hanging out with some really impressive entrepreneurs. People like Q&A session organizer Joe Polish, who’s raised over a million dollars for Virgin Unite, Yanik Silver who has already booked a spot in the Virgin space shuttle, and entrepreneur and thought leader Eban Pagen. I had a wonderful chat on the taxi over to the gala with the very down to earth CEO of Virgin Unite and fellow Massachusetts native Jean Oelwang.

I knew I’d see everyone who’d been at the Branson meeting earlier that day. I never expected to be at a big Hollywood gala and actually run into other people I knew! People like Mike Hill, Ali Brown and Mari Smith, Russell Brunson, and countless other entrepreneurs whose work I know and admire. Oh, and did I mention I wore my grandmother’s gown from the 1930s? She passed five years ago this week. She would have loved to have seen me in that dress!

November ended with a long awaited vacation to Mexico.

What I needed was total R&R. Kind of like Cokie here in his blanket — total chill.

But what I got was a go-go vacation that left me more exhausted than when I arrived. Oh, and did I happen to mention my people don’t do humidity? Still I loved the animals, the spectacular sunsets, the people and the culture.

Lessons: Some millionaires and billionaires are jerks, but most are really decent people — just like anyone else. Be grateful for blessings big and small and work with what you’re given.

December 2009

December 4th I closed on my first investment property — a five bedroom, three bath house for only $103,000. The catch? It needed a ton of work. We’re talking burst pipes, rewiring, an unintentional walk through closet, ripping out filthy shag carpet with my friend Ange.

It was hard work, but after so many months working on the book, it was incredibly satisfying to work with my hands for a change. It’s hard to see the total before and after but this will give you a glimpse.

Speaking of transformations… By the end of fall enrollment period, a total of 27 new people went from wishing they could find a way to get paid to brainstorm cool business ideas to making the commitment to join the expanding Profiting From Your Passions coach community. With students and graduates now from as far away as Singapore, Kenya, Norway, Australia, the UK, Barbados, even Kazakhstan its clear that this trend of making a living doing you love without a j-o-b has gone global.

Boris and the rest of the cow family moved to a new farm. I’m not sure who cried more — me or him. Okay, it was me.

Lesson: Take calculated risks then work hard like heck to make them pay off.

January 2010

I was insanely busy serving as general contractor to get the house ready for the renters. But boy did I learn a lot! The best part was I got to help out a family with three young children who’d been burned out of their home two days after Christmas. They’re rebuilding less than a mile away and needed to find a temporary home so their kids could go to the same school. I feel like this connection was meant to be.

In the middle of all that drove to the other side of the state to speak to packed auditoriums of graduate students at MIT and Harvard. Having gone through the doctoral process myself I know how easy it is to feel like everyone else is brilliant and you’re just a fraud.

I also took a quick overnight trip to Miami to attend the annual Entrepreneur magazine conference. The entire conference was free thanks to sponsor UPS. It was wonderful to be around so many different kind of entrepreneurs with very cool businesses. I’ll introduce you to a number of them in a future issue. For now notice the joy in the faces of people who are doing their own thing. It’s contagious!

The totally cool part was that I got to pitch my business story to Entrepreneur editor Justine Petrucelli, meet editor in chief Amy Cosper, and chat with someone who’s work I’ve admired since he wrote his first best-seller in the 1980s, Guerilla Marketing guru Jay Conrad Levinson.

But wait! It gets better! I was also interviewed by the MSNBC show Your Business. Before you get too impressed, they interviewed anyone willing to stand in line. Here’s the clip if you want to see it Expert panelist Michael Port totally didn’t get my question (in his defense I could have been more clear.) Gratefully host JJ Ramberg did. I don’t think it’s my ticket onto Oprah or anything but it was fun to see myself on national television.

Another fast trip to New York for an amazing personal business coaching with Gary Vaynerchuk. Given that he charges corporations $50,000 a day I felt incredibly honored. What a brain that guy has! While I was there I met up with my agent and my editor at Crown where we (finally) set a publishing date for the book — August 2011!

Lessons: Invest in your education. Hang out with the people you want to be. Step up to the mike. Small steps really do add up. Be patient. Be grateful.

February 2010

Ah winter in New England. I for one find it beautiful.

It’s also nice to get away and Suzanne Evan’s Be The Change event in Fort Lauderdale was the perfect excuse to follow the sun. It was also a chance for another meet up with a group of the Profiting From Your Passion coaches. Some came as part of a special four-month marketing coaching program I’d arranged for Suzanne to lead specifically for my coaches. Others came as a guest of me and Suzanne. A few coaches missed the group shot but I tracked them down for solo ones.

Other than the one live training I held in 2008, all of the other Profiting From Your Passion coach trainings have either been conducted as a Teleclass or offered as a self-paced program. Even with all the additional support — the monthly calls, active forum, and the chance to team up in small study groups, I miss not meeting people in person. That’s why I love being able to provide these kinds of additional support, networking, and educational opportunities. The coaches get to connect with each other and I finally get to meet them!

Not everyone who wants to turn their interests into income wants to be a coach. So I decided to hold a workshop for people who are ready once and for all, to decide what they love to do, figure out how to make money doing it, and make a plan. But I was also tired of all the travel. So I held the first of two Profiting From Your Passions Retreat & Workshop right in my own home. I got to work more deeply with them and they formed a tight support team to stay on track after the seminar.

Lessons: Keep learning and growing. Go, do, give as much as you can. Don’t be afraid to experiment.

March 2010

One more Profiting From Your Passion workshop and retreat here at my home. This time we stopped by to meet and learn from a neighbor — executive coach and seminar leader Neil Yeager author of The Seventh Prism. Each group has its own personality!

And yet another chance to connect with even more Profiting From Your Passion coaches when I once again arranged for a group to attend Ryan Lee’s 2010 Continuity Summit. They had a blast and I got to show off the fancy new table display!

The next week, three of the coaches served as onsite “Idea Detectives” at Yanik Silver’s Underground Marketing 6 seminar. I was able to get them a free pass to what is normally a $2500 event and the attendees got some great laser coaching for free. The coaches totally rolled with the 007 theme of the Underground doing their thing in trench coats!

At the 11th hour I forfeited my seat at the Underground to attend Brendon Burchard’s seminar on building partnerships with non-profits and corporations. It was an outstanding seminar with lots of great information I can use when I launch my book. Sometime this year or next I also envision a national “Profiting From Your Passion Seminar Tour” with dream sponsors like Entrepreneur magazine, Staples, the Kaufman Foundation and other organizations interested in supporting entrepreneurs. Wish me luck!

Lessons: Go out of your way to meet up with old friends and make new ones. Entrepreneurs rock — if you aren’t hanging out with them now, make it your business to start now. Think big!

April 2010

One year later. Another spring and I am still editing my book and prepping for a series of speaking engagements. A keynote to university administrators next week in Baltimore, two for women entrepreneurs and accountants in Canada in May, and a potential series of workshops for several hundred women scientists and engineers in June in Germany.

I’m also continuing to find ways to build on my Profiting From Your Passions Coach Training Program. The changes in the economy has convinced me that this work is needed now more than ever. People finally get that there’s no such thing as job “security.” And with that understanding they’re more open to the idea of taking a chance on themselves.

Meeting so many coaches this year has given me some great ideas about how to make the training even better. So I’ve also been busily working on that. The last time I held an open registration period for the coach training was last November. So right now I’m taking names of people who want to be on a list to get advance notification of when the program opens up again later this month.

If you like the idea of getting paid to brainstorm, add your name and primary email address and I’ll be in touch soon when I have more details.

After a whirlwind year I’m also at an interesting turning point in my life. No I’m not leaving Changing Course. But after 15 years I am seriously looking for ways to do things differently.

And I need your help. I put together a super short survey to get your input on what you need to take the leap from having a boss to being your own boss — how I can best help you get there.

I would be honored and grateful if you’d take three minutes now to share your thoughts. All you have to do is click here.

Lessons: Constantly look for ways to improve your products and services. And don’t be afraid to ask for help when you need it.

Your Turn

How often do you look back to track your progress? I’m not talking about the obligatory New Year review. I mean really go back and month-by-month to see where your time and energy really went. What has your last year been like? What strides have you made in pursuit of your dreams? What lessons have you learned or relearned? How can you use these lessons in the service of your dream?

If you don’t like what you see, remember — spring is the time to break out and really mooooove your dream along. And for my friends down under, fall is a great time too!

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A New Direction

I decided to take the Work @ What You Love Workshop and also work one-on-one with Valerie. The workshop explored so many unusual and unexpected solutions to my specific questions. I made so many new connections to what clearly works for me in crea...

Julia Raymond
Curvology Studio

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