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From Beverly Hills to Broke. For Sheila Brown, Life’s a Beach

From in-demand Hollywood recruiter to world traveler and now coach, it is been a wild few years for Sheila Brown.

Sheila spent two decades in the recruiting field. For ten of those she worked for the likes of Paramount, Warner Brothers, Sony, NBC Universal, Disney and other major Hollywood studios.

Back then she lived in upscale Beverly Hills — with a lifestyle to match. She’d amassed three hundred Gucci bags, a closet full of Prada shoes… the whole shebang.

Sheila was doing great financially. But was she happy? No. What she really wanted to do was see the world.

Why Should Kids Have All the Fun?

She got to thinking about how when you’re a kid, you have lots of free time and no money. And what did you and every other kid complain about most? They’re bored… There’s nothing to do.

With adults though, it’s just the opposite. “People with good jobs have money but no time to enjoy life. I remember thinking, it’s not fair,” she said.

That’s when it hit her. Sheila didn’t want to wait to see the world until she was retired. She wanted to live life fully now, while she had her health.

“Spirit told me to get rid of the house, the bags, the shoes, and all those other stupid trappings of success and go for it.” So in 2009 she sold everything and today all her worldly possessions fit into just three suitcases.

The same three suitcases she now uses while fulfilling her dream of traveling the world. And travel she has. So far this year Sheila’s taken 21 trips. In between she stays with friends of family.

If you think Sheila can do this because she’s rich – think again.

In fact she admits to making some “dumb decisions” a few years back which caused her to go broke. But for Sheila adversity didn’t equal failure.

Instead she describes that time as “22 months of life lessons.”

“Poor is a Mindset. Broke is a Temporary Condition”

Even in her darkest moments, which included standing in line at the welfare office, Sheila said she never felt poor explaining, “Poor is a mindset. Broke is a temporary condition. And I was broke.”

Things turned around in 2011. “I trusted in God’s plan and one day in January the doors just opened.” Withing a few days checks arrived from 14 different sources – including an online business she’d set up and had all but forgotten.

It was during her broke period that Sheila came across the Changing Course website. When she saw the course description for the Profiting from Your Passions® Career Coach training she wrote in her journal, “Someday I will take this course.”

Never Say, “I Can’t Afford This”

Notice she didn’t say, “I can’t afford this.”

It goes back to that mindset Sheila talked about. I read once that you should never say “I can’t afford it” to anything that will put you closer to a dream.

You can say, “That’s interesting, but it’s not for me.” Or, you can say, “I can’t swing it right now.”

But when you say “I can’t afford it” unconsciously you’re telling yourself that you not only don’t have the money right now but that you never will.

Three years later Sheila fulfilled her promise to herself. She not only did she find the money to take the course, but she also flew half way across the country to do it.

I saved the best part for last. Today Sheila’s life is a beach. Literally!

Right after the training with me, Sheila flew to the Dominican Republic where she’d rented a house on the beach for six months… sight unseen.

(Now you know why Sheila’s video testimonial has that beach house feel.)

Obviously not everyone walks away from it all and travels the world. And that’s okay.

But her story does offer lessons for all of us. For me it’s the inspiring reminder that life truly is short and that we need to at least try to go after our dreams.

Are there things you’d be willing to give up in terms of comfort or material things or fear in order to get something of far greater value?

Is there something you’ve wanted to do forever, but have been telling yourself, “I can’t afford it?”

In the Life

I for one am thrilled that the seemingly endless US election cycle is finally over!

But in the final week I got to attend a rally in nearby New Hampshire with not one but TWO United States presidents. Talk about historic!

We left the hotel in the dark at 5:30am (that’s a street light above us) and were in line by 5:45am.

How crazy is it to stand for four and a half hours in the freezing cold with 14,000 other engaged voters to attend what turned out to be the biggest rally in New Hampshire history?

Certainly no crazier than the couple from London came to be a part of the election. Talk about passion!

Secret service in sunglasses. Army snipers on the roofs. Helicopters circling over head. An experience I’ll never forget.

A few days later I was on a plane for Phoenix to attend Suzanne Evans’ and Larry Winget’s Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Start Making Money event.

I’ve been friends with Suzanne for four years now so was curious to see first-hand what Larry Winget is all about.

That is besides being a five-time New York Times and Wall Street Journal best-selling author, former host of his own show on A&E show, highly-paid speaker for nearly 400 of the Fortune 500 companies, featured in two CNBC specials and having his own PBS special, and is a regular contributor on FOX News, FOX Business and other news networks as a personal development/business/financial guru.

The guy is even more impressive in person. If you haven’t seen him in action, check out his video clips at

Also impressive were the dozens of Changing Course readers, former clients and students I had the chance to meet or see again.

The lesson — never stop being engaged in the world around you.

Among the many blessings I will count this Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the 18 years you have allowed me to make a small contribution to your quest to follow your own road, live life on purpose, and work at what you love.

Are You Settling?

On November 3rd I turned 58. I know some people (women especially) don’t like to reveal their age. Not me.

My mom passed away at the too young age of 61. Life expectancy in some poor countries is as low as 45.

I consider each additional year, indeed each new day, to be a gift. And I think sharing my age honors all those who never got to be my age.

One of the benefits of age is increased clarity. As you rack up life experiences you discover what you want — and as importantly, what you don’t want.

When we are younger, we’re more apt to settle in all kinds of ways.

You settle for less than healthy relationships because, “It’s better than being alone.”

You settle for high-stress jobs or tyrant bosses because, “At least I have a job” or we say, “It could be worse.”

You settle for all kinds of things that later in life would be simply unacceptable. Now that I’m pushing 60, settling feels entirely uninteresting.

I don’t want my obituary to read: “She wanted to help thousands of people see interesting ways to make a living without a j-o-b. But she settled for cranking out marketing materials in a cubicle in someone else’s company.”

To be clear, settling is not the same as compromise.

Healthy relationships require compromise from both partners. And while I think you can get darned close, no job — or business — is perfect.

There are parts of any business that require you to stretch in uncomfortable ways. There are times when you’d rather take a nap, exercise, or do anything other than hustle to meet a deadline or phone a potential customer.

Relationships, parenting, work all require these kinds of healthy trade-offs.

But settling is different. When you settle, you unwittingly check your true needs, desires, and gifts at the door.

When You Settle You Are Telling Yourself, “This is the Best I Can Do.” 

And when that happens you don’t even try to get your needs met. You don’t attempt to realize your true desires. You talk about bringing your gifts into the world or of wanting to make a difference. But you take no steps to either.

So why do we settle?  I’m not referring just to you. I mean all of us.

Everyone has his or her reasons for settling for a job when what they really want is a life. In the end though it come down to this:

a) You don’t think it’s possible — or more specifically, you believe it’s possible for other people… but not for you

b) You don’t believe that you deserve to get what you want in life

c) Or both

Webster’s Dictionary defines “nonsense” as language, conduct, or an idea that is absurd or contrary to good sense.

The idea that it is possible for others to create the life they really want but you are somehow less talented or interesting or capable is absurd.

The belief that every other person on the planet — except you — deserves to do work that is meaningful and self-sustaining is contrary to good sense.

And when you consider that there are countless millions of people who right this very minute are enjoying the freedom, the flexibility, and the satisfaction of being their own boss, then it is nonsense to believe you can’t be among them.

That is, IF you are ready to stop settling.

If you don’t know what makes you happy then make it your quest to find out. Take a class. Read a book. Hire a career expert who specializes in self-employment. Ask your friends what they see you doing. (If your friends are settling — skip that last idea.)

You can settle for a lifetime spent in a high-stress job in a dysfunctional organization. You can settle for far less than you want or deserve. You can settle for a life of mediocrity.

Or you can try to change course. The essential word here is “try.”

With each passing birthday I am more certain of the truth in the words of the great opera diva Beverly Sills who said, “You may be disappointed if you fail, but you are doomed if you don’t try.”

There is no shortage of interesting ways to make money doing what you love. There is only a shortage of resolve to take the first step.

No Longer Willing to Settle?

I currently have room in my schedule for 4 new Profiting from Your Passions® laser clients and 2 VIP clients. (VIP  clients are by application only).

Before our session you’ll receive tools to hone in on your unique gifts, interests and skills. That alone is invaluable.

Then working with me in a private consulting session, I’ll show you practical ways you can make money doing what you love. Ideas are guaranteed to pass the “The Life Test.” And you’ll leave knowing the exact next steps you can take immediately so you can happily “settle into” your new life.

To learn more, including whether a laser or VIP session is right for you, go to Riverside Family Chiropractic

In the Life

My heart goes out to my friends and readers in all the states hit hard by this mother of all storms. Amazingly we here in Western Massachusetts had relatively low winds and little rain. In fact, today the sun is out!

Not knowing what to expect and preparing for the worse I returned from Utah a day earlier than planned.  My friend and coach extraordinaire Debbi McFarlane-Clayton kindly arranged for a local book signing. It’s so gratifying to be able to help others – and women especially – to see how incredibly bright and capable they really are.

The venue was Broadview University where Debbi teaches. The walls were adorned with student art in areas like game art, entertainment design, comic and sequential art, and more.

From there I headed east to Park City home of Robert Redford’s famed Sundance Film Festival. I was there to deliver the keynote for Utah Women Lawyer’s annual retreat. The 5-star St. Regis was fabulous and the views spectacular – although I hadn’t really dressed for snow!

Two weeks earlier I was in Stamford CT to lead the first live, in-person version of the Profiting from Your Passions® Career Coach training program since 2008! I got to spend three days with a group of super smart, interesting people from as far away as Oregon, California, Colorado, and Missouri.

People like Sheila Brown who was taking the class en-route to the ocean-side home in the Dominican Republic that she and a friend rented sight unseen. Talk about adventuresome! The plan is to host people who are seeking to change course to come to the island for a personalized career make over and leave with a new path – and a plan!

Then there’s Rick Terry, a recently retired senior executive from Texas. He now travels between a huge nature preserve in Oregon where he is the caretaker and the vineyard he bought in northern California. In addition to making wine Rick plans to run retreats as well. Think “Under the Tuscan Sun” for execs who are ready to get off the fast track.

Really every one of the attendees brought a unique history, experience, and perspective. We learned a lot and we laughed a lot.  I see great things for this group!

John Sanpietro and Ric Thompson

I think these guys thought I would be lighter than I am. 🙂

Like the rest of the class I went directly from our course to Ryan Lee’s DotComXPo marketing event. Ryan is living proof that you can be a great guy and a hugely successful entrepreneur!

If you haven’t attended a large internet marketing event I urge you to save your pennies so you can. The speakers were top-notch and as usual I walked away with some great marketing advice. But as importantly I reconnected with dozens of other savvy entrepreneurs who I’ve met at other events. Over the years we’ve become kind of a virtual family.

Unfortunately I had to leave early for the wake and funeral of my sister-in-laws mother. Kay was an absolutely lovely Scottish woman who lit up the room with her smile and always made me and my siblings feel like family. She will be missed.

Although I missed seeing Shark Tank’s Daymond John speak on Saturday I did get one of my coaches to have him sign a copy The Brand Within. I love his take on how every moment of the day we’re essentially broadcasting our personal “brand.”

Especially loved learning how Daymond and three neighborhood pals went from sewing clothes in his mother’s home in Queens to building their billion dollar clothing line FUBU. Plus if you love Shark Tank you’ll love the inside story of how he almost turned down the job!

In between trips I continue to enjoy my home with a view where I try to heed the wise words of Rudyard Kipling and “Delight in the little things.” Here are a few recent images from my daily walk with my boy Cokie…

What If You Got to Pick and Choose Among Opportunities?

One of the benefits of being your own boss is the adrenalin rush that comes from getting to constantly pick and choose among opportunities. I didn’t get that when I had a job-job.

That’s because when you work for someone else you tend to have a very different take on the very meaning of the word “opportunity” than those of us who work for ourselves. Let me tell you what I mean.

It took a number of years for my business here at Changing Course to be profitable. So during that time I supported myself as contract trainer for a company that delivers corporate seminars on time and focus management.

As part of the course I’d explain managing priorities in terms of assessing both the urgency and importance. Examples of activities that are both urgent and important include meeting deadlines, managing crises, or responding to opportunities.

Everyone gets meeting deadlines and firefighting. But whenever I’d ask my students for an example of a work-related opportunity their reaction is always the same.

With the exception of the folks in sales or marketing, no one – and I mean not a single person – could come up with an example. In fact, they look positively baffled. It took me a while to figure out what was going on. But now that I’ve been my own boss for going on 18 years now, I understand why.

The thing is, when you work for someone else – and there is no additional financial incentive to either create or respond to opportunities – opportunities are seen as things that add more work.

Managers (of which I was one) used to try to pass them off as “growth opportunities.” But with a few exceptions everyone knew it was just more work on top of an already full plate.

In contrast, my life as an entrepreneur is ALL about picking and choosing amongst multiple opportunities. For example, I once passed on authoring a book with a major publishing house on finding the perfect job. While I was flattered to be asked, writing is not something that comes easily to me.

I know how much work it takes to write a book. So I decided that that when I did write my one, it would have to be on a topic that really excites me… like creating creative income streams or how to be an “opportunity analyst” or the book I ultimately did write on how to feel as bright and capable as everyone “thinks” you are.

To invest all that time into a project that didn’t even excite me just didn’t make sense.

Before my Virtual Assistant (VA), Lisa Tarrant, left her corporate job to work with me at Changing Course, she didn’t fully appreciate the opportunity factor. Within a matter of weeks though, she got it.

The same day the book offer came in; we got a call about a promising partnership opportunity, found a new marketing channel, were contacted about a speaking engagement in California, and were offered the chance to submit an article to a major publication.

At the end of an exhilarating day I turned to Lisa and said, “Now do you see what I was talking about?” The huge grin on her face told me she did.

I feel sorry for people who don’t get to experience the rush of adrenalin that comes with having so many opportunities from which to choose. But you don’t have to be an entrepreneur (yet) to start thinking like one!

Frances Bacon once said, “A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.” As you seek to escape the j-o-b world and create the life you really want, make it a point to focus on all the benefits there are to changing course.

To help you stay inspired, add to the list of what your new life will be like: The adrenalin rush that comes from the opportunity to constantly pick and choose among opportunities. It’s not only a thrilling way to live – from where I sit – it’s the ONLY way to live!

If you’ve already taken steps to start your own business there’s one more step I urge you to take. I know for many it feels like a big investment to outsource, especially when you’re “bootstrapping” your business.

But when you hire someone who can handle all the stuff that drains you – even if it’s just for a few hours a week – it frees you up to take advantage of all those cool opportunities that are the best and highest use of your gifts.

I feel so passionate about this that I’ll be hosting an upcoming Teleclass all about Virtual Team Building. You’ll find all the details in the Featured Resource section below. I think you’ll be surprised to discover just how affordable hiring virtual assistants can be!

How Long Do You Plan to Wait?

The great Olympian Carl Lewis said, “Life is about timing.” So is the decision to make a major work-life change.

Over the last week I’ve taken calls from dozen people all desperate to find a way to take control of their life and time by transitioning from having a boss to being their own boss.

Some have been Changing Course followers for a relatively short period of time — from literally a day to a year or two.

Others have been reading this newsletter for three… five… ten years. Two people have followed me since I began this newsletter some 17 years ago!

You’d think I’d be happy to have such loyal followers. I am flattered.

But am I happy? Not necessarily.

The whole reason I started this business was to give people the information, inspiration, and ideas to be able to change course. If I somehow inspired you to launch a small enterprise — great! And if staying connected to me helps you stay on track — all the better.

But what about the people who’ve been reading this newsletter for up to 17 years and have yet to take a step?

I’m not judging. But the connection between how long someone had been thinking about changing course and their willingness to act was both unmistakable and telling.

Some of the people who called did so because they wanted to know if I could help them come up with ways they could make money doing what they love. The vast majority of newer “fans” followed through and booked a laser session.

The “old timers” mostly took notes about how the process works. But they weren’t ready to commit.

Then there were calls I fielded about the upcoming business start-up program I’m leading on how to become a licensed Profiting from Your Passions® career coach. They began saying remarkably similar things…

“This feels like what I was born to do.”

“This is exactly what I want to do — thank you for making this class so affordable.”

“I’ve spent three decades doing work everyone told me I should do — but I hated every minute. I feel like I wasted my life. Now I want to help other people not make the same mistake I did.”

What I do is not for everyone. So I never expect everyone to work with me. However, I couldn’t help but notice how often people said something I’d heard thousands of times before. And I’m not talking about my course.

People with a wide range of dreams will be super excited about the prospect of going to culinary school or becoming a dog trainer. Then the opportunity presents itself and they say the same thing…

“I need to think about it.”

Sitting on the Fence of Life

In the meantime a lot of people sit on the fence watching other people open their retreat center or write their children’s book or become wine experts.

Or they go from guru to guru. They take in tons of advice — but never follow any of it.

Days turn into weeks, then months, then years, and soon entire decades have passed. And before they know it, the “thinkers” are wondering where the time — and their dreams — have gone.

For the record, I’m an advocate of thoughtful decision-making. Reflection keeps us from grasping at every shiny object that comes along. And there are plenty of legitimate reasons for not taking action.

At the same time, far too many people make decisions with their head while ignoring their heart. It’s what put a lot of us on the wrong career path to begin with.

The world is full of unhappy nurses and sales managers who now regret that they made the “logical” career choice. They know they’re on the wrong path. And they know there are steps they can take right this very minute that will put them on the right path.

But still they think and think and think but never act. And that’s a shame.

There Are No Coincidences

I’m not one to throw around words like “magical.” But time and again I’ve seen what happens when people step into their dreams. The smallest step can lead to pure magic.

Take registered nurse Alicia-Joy Pierre. With not one but three websites, including and another business aimed at helping other nurses to think outside the job box, Alicia-Joy is clearly entrepreneurial.

At the same time I know that some people struggle working on their own but positively shine in a partnership.

So when another nurse registered for the live version of the Profiting from Your Passion® class in Connecticut I connected her with Alicia-Joy. Now they’re both enrolled in the coach training class and already talking about collaborating.

Finally there’s Stephanie. During a laser career session I learned that Stephanie’s life-long fascination with politics had been sparked by a high school boyfriend.

But rather than follow her dream of going into public policy she spent the last two decades in the mental health field. She also wanted to live by a lake. That never happened either.

Even if she could get into policy making — which at this point in her career Stephanie was pretty sure she couldn’t — the vast majority of policy jobs are in Washington DC. So living lakeside didn’t look too promising either.

Or so she thought.

Within weeks of taking action Stephanie not only was invited to chair a local advocacy group but much to her surprise a prestigious public policy center is located two hours away — on a lake.

And in a remarkable twist of fate, after not seeing her old high school boyfriend for decades Stephanie ran into him in a shopping center parking lot. There truly are no coincidences.

As George Eliot said, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Whether you’ve been a follower for seven minutes or seventeen years — it truly is never too late to stop thinking about your dream of changing course and start acting on it.

Life is too short for regrets. So get off the fence and take that first step.

To Change Course You Need to Know Your “Why”

Do you know what you’d love to be doing – and why?

I ask because a few weeks ago I sent a survey to people interested in taking my upcoming training program to be a Profiting from Your Passions(R) career coach.

I was curious to know things like, “What appeals to you about training to do this kind of work?” And, “Why do you think you’d be good at helping people come up with ways to make money doing what they love?”

Essentially these are “why” questions.

And it doesn’t matter if you’re considering training to be a pastry chef or a dog trainer or an auctioneer. You need to know your why.

In the case of my potential trainees, answers generally fell into three categories.

  1. They love the idea of helping people.
  2. They love the idea of getting paid to do what comes naturally.
  3. Or both.

Here’s a small sample of what they said:

I LOVE to do this. I think most people have a flawed mindset that dissociates money earning with doing what they love. The 2 are highly compatible. I believe that. Firmly. Alicia

I’m always helping people. It would be nice to be compensated for something I love to do. Shelly

I seem to attract people who need the information I have. I get called the ‘go-to’ person in my circle. Lee

Through the years, people ask me for advice on “what to do” with their life, and in certain situations. I tend to think “outside the box.” Many times I have suggestions that they would never have thought of. Debra

I am always giving advice to people in reference to their business dreams, about the things I have learned through reading and searching the net. Violeta

I excel at ideation, I’m a very good listener, and I’m good at helping people accept new ideas and perspectives. Kim

I absolutely love helping other people find ways to turn their passion into a career. I find myself getting engulfed in a sea of ideas any time someone mentions their dream career to me. I feel so excited and compelled to just start rattling off ideas about how they could market themselves, etc.

Sometimes people look at me a little funny at first (because of my immediate excitement) but once they realize I’m genuinely excited for them, they start tolisten. Kyra

I have always enjoyed helping people problem solve. I am a natural out of box thinker, and have wanted to start coaching people. Dione

Through the years, people ask me for advice on “what to do” with their life, and in certain situations. I tend to think “outside the box.” Many times I have suggestions that they would never have thought of. Debra

I’m good at discovering things in people that they don’t even see themselves and finding ways that people can monetize their own expertise. I do this often with people but just don’t get “paid” to do it. Roslyn

In different ways all of these answers speak to a future direction.

Sometimes though, the desire to change course comes mostly from where you don’t want to be.

For example, Theresa began by saying, “I’m always giving advice to people about careers that I think would be good for them and many have taking the leap of faith and are doing well.”

Knowing that you’ve already used your gift and talents to help other people is a great “why.”

But then Theresa goes on to say, “I so want to be free from my current job.”

That last line reminded me something I learned some 17 years ago when I too was desperate to get of out my job-job.

Whether you’re in a bad relationship or an unrewarding job, the urge to change course tends to start with a quiet stirring that something is amiss.

Too often, though, we ignore these gentle whispers until the volume becomes so loud we are either forced to act or retreat into a kind of numb denial. I, for one, opted for the latter.

So, seven years and numerous promotions later, there I was on a fast-track heading in the wrong way. Five mornings a week I awoke to the insistent buzz of an alarm clock jarring me from my peaceful world of dreams long before I was ready.

As I dragged myself out of bed, I’d mentally note the number of days between then and blessed Friday.

The problem was not about the workload or the people. In fact I really liked my co-workers.

The problem was that the course I was on was taking me farther and farther away from myself and from my truth.

I had no clue as to what that was. So I accepted a job at a small company closer to home. A move I now describe as the career equivalent of changing deck chairs on the Titanic.

But nothing helped.

More and more I found myself staring wistfully out my office window longing for a life that allowed me to attend to the things that really matter – the people I love, quiet reflection, exercise, fulfilling work, causes I believe in.

The walls of denial were starting to crumble.

It was in the solitude of the office stairwells, away from people and phones where my own whispers of discontent first reached a dull roar.

With each step I chanted, “I’ve got to get out of here” over and over as if the words themselves could magically transport me to another place, a different reality.

You Can’t Get There From Here

I didn’t fully grasp it then, but “here” embodied more than a particular job or company. It was a lifestyle built around the need to follow someone else’s schedule, play by someone else’s rules, and achieve someone else’s goals.

It’s been said that the only real success is to be able to spend your life in your own way. This was the direction I needed to go, yet I couldn’t seem to get there.

There’s an old joke about a tourist who stopped to ask an old Vermont farmer if he’s on the right road to get to Bennington. “E-yup,” said the farmer. “But you can’t get there from here.”

The same can be said about how I was approaching my life.

Because my stairwell mantra focused on what I didn’t want, I’d unwittingly set up a psychic roadblock. Until I’d formulated a clear picture of my desired destination, I most probably wouldn’t be able to get there – at least not from here.

But, when my emotional focus shifted from “here” – current life – to “there” – a new life that embodied the truth of who I was and the elements I deemed essential to a contented life – something truly remarkable happened.

All the energy I’d been squandering complaining about the present was suddenly available to turn toward the task of creating the life I really wanted.

In the end it is your “why” that sustains your dream. Your vision of what could be is the wellspring from which you draw the courage to take those first bold steps to change course from where you are… to where you want to be.

So… What’s YOUR why?

I Love Portugal!

I love Portugal!

Super helpful, friendly people, great food (especially the seafood), and beautiful scenery.

Toss in a stay at an exquisite 19th century palace converted into a 5-star and what’s not to like?


I could get used to this!

I was in Lisbon to speak at the McDonald’s European Women’s Leadership Conference attended by nearly 200 women from some 20 countries as far away as Russia.

It was clear from the start that women across cultures share many of the same achievement-related challenges. Some of the roadblocks like the surprising lack of childcare in even highly developed European countries like Germany are societal in nature.

Winner of eight French football/soccer championships fellow speaker Nicole Abar is no stranger to social barriers. Being half Algerian meant Nicole grew up under the weight of racism.

A gifted athlete, she found her salvation in football only to hit a glass ceiling. After the French football establishment cut all funding for the women’s team Nicole took them to court — and won.

Other barriers to success are internal.

I hope my presentation helped boost the confidence of these highly competent women. I say “hope” because for the majority of attendees English is not their first language.

As a fellow American at McDonald’s working in London joked, “We’re both much funnier in America!”

Fun itself though is universal. Watching the big Portugal vs. Spain football/soccer game with a group of enthusiastic Europeans was a blast.

And I did get to do a bit of sight-seeing.

I was especially intrigued with the stone sidewalks that are everywhere in Portugal.

All the stones are hand-cut and had such depth and texture that they looked like art. What do you think?

My return flight was delayed a whopping 10 hours. So I decided to take the train to Sintra, a gorgeous area with multiple castles and not far from the picturesque shoreline.

That is until I ran into an enterprising geographer named António Tavares trying to drum up customers for his new tour business. Greenwalk is the only Portuguese tour company that caters to nature-lovers as well as to people who are sight-impaired.

It was too late to catch the “I Hate Tourism Tour.” And being a total a sucker for small businesses, off I went with António.

As you can see from the photos, it was a wise choice. He took me to fabulous places. And I gave him advice on how to grow his struggling business — naturally.

Can Aspiring Self-Bossers Learn from Corporate Types?

It’s been 17 years since I worked for a major corporation. Since then I’ve been in the business of helping people break free of the job world to be their own boss.

So trust me when I say that no one was more surprised than me how much I both enjoyed and learned from spending two days at McDonald’s European Women’s Conference in Lisbon.

Here are four lessons you can use in your journey to self-employment.

1) Rapid communication and implementation rocks.

We all have good ideas. If you’re going to have a successful business, it’s essential that you use the tools available to you to communicate and then take action — quickly.

Case in point: On my last few out of town trips, I rented my car from Enterprise. Regardless of what city, the service was noticeably exceptional.

I know a corporate initiative when I see one so I asked the young guy helping me with my bags, “What’s happening at Enterprise?” He just smiled.

So I wasn’t surprised when one of the other outside speakers in Lisbon used Enterprise as an example of rapid implementation.

For example, the company has begun tracking how small things like how when one rental center began offering drivers a bottle of water on both ends of their trip they increased overall customer satisfaction.

Far more impressive is how they’re using technology to not only measure but then to actually communicate and implement these and other employee-driven ideas across their entire chain in as little as 48 hours.

The lesson for you as a solopreneur is to look for ways you can use technology like social media to quickly and easily get feedback from your own current or prospective customers.

Then imagine how much further along you’d be if you took steps to implemented at least one of your great ideas in the next 48 hours!

2) Get an outsider view of what’s going on.

When you’re contemplating changing course, it’s easy to get lost in your head and thus to lose perspective.

When large organizations want to get an objective view of things they bring in a team of external consultants. But do these MBA types really see things that differently?

According to Eleanor Tabi Haller-Jorden, General Manager of Catalyst, Europe to get a truly outside perspective Intel hired two cultural anthropologists.

Maybe you can’t hire a cultural anthropologist. But what if you got some feedback from people with a fresh eye for your idea or situation?

If you’ve been thinking of planning home funerals or starting a summer camp for over-weight teens then by all means, learn what you can from those who have already done it.

But wouldn’t it be interesting to gather some fresh insight from someone who owns a pet supply business, from a ten year old, or someone who recently immigrated from a developing county? What might they see that you don’t?

3) Keep saying “Yes.”

In 1978 Jan Fields and her military husband were just short of broke.

The new mother desperately needed to find a job so she could go to law school at night. Juggling a baby, a 9-5 job, and school was not going to be easy.

On her way to a job interview, Jan stopped at McDonald’s for a cup of coffee. That’s when she says she saw a notice that the restaurant was hiring. In big letters were the words: Flexible hours.

She applied and got the job on the spot. When the manager asked if she could start the next day Jan said yes.

When a co-worker called after her first day on the job to ask her to work the closing shift, she said yes again. A month later she was offered the job of store manager.

It went that way for a few more decades.

Today Jan is president of McDonalds USA.

Not all opportunities are glamorous. Even when you aren’t sure where the path will take you, the key is to say yes and keep saying it.

4) You’re ready right now.

Far too many perfectly capable people fail to take their career or business to the next level because they believe they’re “not ready.”

It almost happened to Jan Field.

At one point in her career she’d been approached to apply for a job that would be a major step up. Even with her remarkable track record Jan was hesitant explaining to her boss and mentor that she didn’t think she was ready for it.

When she subsequently learned who had applied she realized she was more qualified than all of them. So she applied for and got the promotion.

Speaking of her experience in a interview, Jan said, “I learned an important lesson about not being your own obstacle because you’re afraid to take a risk. The irony is that the job was one of the best I’ve had over my career.”

The fact is Jan was able — and so are you.

Your perfect business could be right in front of your nose. The only thing standing between you and your dreams is your false belief that you’re not ready.

You will never feel “ready.” But make no mistake about it, you can do it.

What’s Luck Got To Do With It?

What’s Luck Got to Do, Got to Do With It?

So much of luck is really about just going for it and seeing what comes of it.

Two weeks ago I gave a copy of my book, The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women, along with a handwritten letter to Academy-award winner Kate Winslet. Kate is one of dozens of A-list actors quoted in my book on women feeling like impostors, fakes, and frauds.

She and co-start Josh Brolin are shooting a film four miles from my house so I figured what the heck. Unfortunately, I had to catch train so couldn’t wait for the actors to arrive but I did manage to get the book into the location manager’s hands.

Fast forward nine hours and I was in New York City passing along another copy with a different hand-written note for the host of Comedy Central’s Daily Show, Jon Stewart.

Jon isn’t quoted in the book. But I thought he’ll get a kick out of some of the amusing stories in there about other news people like Ted Koppel, Walter Cronkite, and Daniel Schorr and various quotes from people in government including Hilary Clinton, Dee Myers, and Margaret Thatcher.

Will Kate or Jon read the book? No idea.

If they do, will anything come of it? Still no clue.

But focusing on the outcome misses the point.

For years I’ve preached that successful people really are “luckier”– however, not totally due to serendipity. Rather, successful people routinely put themselves in situations where good things are likely to happen.

They show up in places where they’re apt to meet interesting people.

They are lifelong learners who frequently attend classes, symposiums, and conferences.

They set goals and follow through with deliberate action.

These are all things that less successful people rarely do. But because successful people do them, it effectively positions them to attract good fortune in the way of contacts, advice, assistance, and collaborators.

Of her own rise to fame, Good Morning America anchor Robin Roberts wrote, “I learned how to put myself in a position for good things to happen to me. Even when I felt outnumbered or afraid, I made sure I was ready to grab the ball when it came my way.”

New York is full of people who grabbed the ball. I was so inspired by the two people who were behind the restoration of High Line – the historic above-ground railroad bed turned lush walking trail that runs from Gansevoort Street in the Meatpacking District to West 34th Street, between 10th & 11th Avenues.

This gem was close to being demolished before they stepped up to save it. It took years, but “luckily” for the rest of us, their efforts paid off.

Then there’s Fany Gerson, the enterprising entrepreneur with a passion for giving back who launched LaNewYorkina.

Today she sells her Mexican ice pops called paletas at various venues around the city. And she has a cookbook!

It was really hard to pick which exotic flavor to try but went with a very refreshing lime and cucumber. Good choice!
On the flip side, there’s a danger in viewing success solely in terms of luck. You see someone who is living your dream of writing children’s books, being a motivational speaker, hosting her own radio show, or running her own Mexican pop stand and you think, She’s so lucky.

But what you really mean is, Sure, that happened for her, but it will never happen for me.

And in this case you’re probably right. Not because you are inherently unlucky but because when you frame success as totally the luck of the draw, like the lottery, your chances of achieving it are one in millions. As famed success mindset expert Earl
Nightingale said, “Success is simply a matter of luck. Ask any failure.”

P.S. By the time you read this, I’ll be in sunny Portugal speaking to 200 people at the McDonald’s European Women’s Leadership Network. Lucky me!

Summer is the Perfect Time to Grow a Dream

Since yesterday was the first official day of summer, it seemed fitting to reprint this popular article. Have a great summer and grow those dreams!

Has the school calendar of your youth hardwired you to see September as the time for new beginnings? If you yearn for a new job, a career change or maybe even a total life makeover – summertime is by far the best time to act.

Summer is synonymous with fun. It’s possible to make a change and still have time for recreation. In fact, the word recreation literally means to “re-create.” And what better way to spend your summer than recreating your life! Here are six ways you can use the rest of the summer to grow a dream:

  1. Catch a falling star. When my best friend, Elaine, and I weren’t building forts or skipping rope, we could be found lying beneath a shady tree or a star-filled sky. These weren’t idle pursuits. We were flexing our imaginations. As the most carefree of the four seasons, summers are made for dreaming. It’s the perfect time to gaze upward, to look inward and to imagine what could be.
  2. Grow a dream garden. Look within and you may find the seeds of a dream planted long ago. Left untended though, dreams will fail to sprout. Summer is the ideal time to cultivate our dreams both old and new. Start with good soil. What is it you care deeply about? What makes you happy? What do you want your life to look like? Now get rid of the weeds – the lame excuses, apathy, self-doubt, and fear born from lack of information. Tend to your dreams and watch them grow.
  3. Take advantage of the longer days. Even though those so-called lazy days of summer have gotten a lot busier of late, the additional hours of daylight do seem to add a bit more time to our lives. Once you’ve engaged in some active reflection, use some of this “found time” to start working toward your goals. Even if it’s only 20 minutes a day, it’s all forward motion!
  4. Read a real thriller. As you’re packing for the beach leave the romance novel or who-done-it at home. Instead treat your life like the adventure that it is by picking up a real thriller like Paul and Sarah Edwards The Practical Dreamer’s Handbook or Create a Life That Tickles Your Soul by Suzanne Willis Zoglio. Maybe you already have a new direction in mind. Then take this time to read up on that exciting new career.
  5. Invest in your dream. Save both money and time by spending your vacation at home. Make it a real vacation by doing the kinds of things a tourist on a budget might do – go on a picnic, head to a museum, take a day trip. Stash the money you would have spent on a more costly vacation into a “dream fund.” Use your savings to take career-expanding classes, buy some snappy new interview outfit or even start your own business. If your dream includes relocating do hit the road by using your vacation as an exciting research expedition.
  6. Summer is the ideal time to ease into a new job. With all the overlapping vacation schedules, many organizations operate in a somewhat more relaxed mode in July and August. As a new hire, that means the trial by fire period is apt to be a little less trying. If you’ve been putting off a job move until the fall, keep in mind the slower pace makes summer a great time to learn the new job ropes before the workplace once again launches into fall overdrive.

Re-creating your life is about making choices. What choices are you willing to make to grow your dream? Whatever you decide to do, have a safe, relaxing, and inspired rest of the summer!

What Do You Love To Do?

The last few weeks in western Massachusetts can be summed up in one word – RAIN!

It’s been rain, rain, followed by more rain. Yes, it’s been dreary. But just as in life, more often than not there is a silver lining.

For starters, all that rain has made everything so lush! “Lush” is one of those fabulous sounding words that seems so perfectly suited to its meaning.

Rain also brings out the natural beauty and texture of stones. A stone you’d never notice when dry positively glistens when it’s wet.

And if you’ve been to my house you know I’m a compulsive rock hound.

For the last five years or so, I’ve been dragging home rocks of all sizes. Some are from local streams, including the brook that runs in front of my house.

Other rocks have come from as far away as Arizona, California, and Vermont. (More than one ticketing agent has said, “What do you have in this suitcase – rocks?”)

The purpose of all this collecting was to ultimately have enough to build a dry stone wall along the walkway to my front door.

I was inspired by a 2007 segment on CBS Sunday Morning about Martha’s Vineyard “stone artist” Lew French. It took him a year to build a three-story wall and one of his more ambitious jobs cost his client $300,000.

I’m not the only one fascinated by dry stone walls. Another resident of Martha’s Vineyard named Mariana Cook became so hooked that she put together a book called “Stone Walls: Personal Boundaries.”

The book combines essays by farmers, historians and an archaeologist to explore the history of dry stone walls in different countries. It’s also an inspiring example of what can come out of following a passion – in Cook’s being featured in the New York Times.

So after admiring the remarkable images in Lew’s book Stone by Design for the last five years, at long last, and with considerable help from my friend Tina, I finally got a solid running start on building my own dry stone wall.

This shot was snapped just after a heavy rain.

There’s still a lot of work to be done before I come even remotely close to the artistry of Lew French. But then I’ve got the rest of my life to perfect my wall… And for now I’m loving every minute of it.

What do you love to do?

Finally a special thanks to all of my friends and family who joined me this past week for my first book reading at Barnes & Noble in Holyoke Massachusetts. Your support means so much to me!

Signs, Signs, Everywhere the Signs: How Everyday Signs Can Help You Change Course or Careers

On a recent trip to nearby Northampton, Massachusetts, I saw some signs that offered invaluable lessons to anyone in the process of making a leap from having a boss to being their own boss.

From these signs I pulled three key components that can help guide you on your own career change path.

#1: Be Wonderfully Bold

This sandwich sign on the sidewalk in front of the massage practice of Patty Gate stopped me in my tracks. There’s a lot to love about this small sign.

First, it offers an irresistible offer in the form of a free massage. Obviously she’s just starting out if she’s willing to give up immediate income on the hopes that she’ll gain loyal customers that will book again and again. It also speaks volumes about Patty and the confidence she has in her work.

So the first key take away is to consider how you present yourself as a business owner. Is it as bold and confident (and therefore trustworthy) like Patty? OR as meek and hesitant (which could cause others to think twice about hiring you).

Then there’s the testimonial: “Best Massage Therapist.” At first glance, I assumed that this was a designation she received from the local newspaper called The Valley Advocate, in which every year people vote on the best restaurant, the home builder, the best place to get a hair cut, etc.

When I looked closer I realized the title is self-appointed!

Notice Patty didn’t wait around to collect a dozen quotes from customers to claim her status as Best Massage Therapist, nor is she waiting around for someone to crown her the best.

Instead, Patty took matters into her own hands and boldly crowned herself the best in the biz! Go Patty!

#2: Find a Need and Meet It

Where your talents and the needs of the world cross lies your calling.

~ Aristotle

Next check out this flyer:

Poster and flyer distribution may not be Amy’s — or anybody else’s, for that matter — “calling.” But this resourceful woman has definitely found a need that she can be paid to fill.

Years ago I put on public seminars. So I know how time consuming it was to schlep around town hanging posters in windows and in bulletin boards. Clearly this kind of business wouldn’t work well everywhere but there’s a definite need in a college town like Northampton and or nearby Amherst Massachusetts.

Plus I love the message. She lets her potential customers know that not only is she quick as a bunny but that this is a professional poster and flyer distribution!

So look around the world around you for a problem or a need. Then think about how you can solve or fill it.

Even if it’s not your full-time gig or your “dream business,” there are always interesting ways to pay the bills while you work on changing course in your career and/or to generate that extra income to fund the business that truly is your calling!

#3: Know What You Stand For

Finally, check out the stairs that lead to the side entrance of the Northampton Quaker Meeting House On each stair is a word representative of what Quakers stand for.

Starting at the bottom and moving up, they are about:

  • LOVE

Whether you already have a small venture or you’re still in the planning phase, take time to think about what your business does or will stand for.

Then use those values to guide you as you make those all important business decisions.

What are YOUR guiding values?

Take a few moments to make a list now – and then I’ll share a few of mine with you.

  1. _________________________________________________________
  2. _________________________________________________________
  3. _________________________________________________________
  4. _________________________________________________________
  5. _________________________________________________________

For me, it’s things like perseverance, hard work, integrity, compassion, customer service, curiosity, and inclusion.

The Bottom Line

Ready to change course? Guidance comes in many forms. Signs — literally and figuratively — are all around you; you just need to pay attention.

For the next few weeks I invite you to take notice of what the signs around you are telling you. Think about how they can inform your own quest to change course. Then share your thoughts and insights on my blog.

Whirlwind Trip to Arizona

My Dad is 82. No one should get to that age and not see the Grand Canyon.

So last week I took him and his lovely partner Leslie (I fixed them up!) on a whirlwind trip to Arizona.

We covered 706 miles in five days — Phoenix, Flagstaff, Sunset Crater National Monument, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, and the revitalized mining town of Jerome.

I love nature but I totally fell in love with the metal art scattered throughout Old Scottsdale. Fortunately, this area was brought back to life after people all but abandoned the charm of small local shops for the sterile albeit air-conditioned malls.

The very best part was making the decision to totally unplug for the entire week. Liberation!

Okay towards the end there, I did upload one photo of my hiking trail in Sedona to Facebook. But that was it. And it felt great!

Afterward I had the great honor of being the keynote speaker at the YWCA North Central Indiana’s annual fundraiser. A whopping 500 people turned out to support their work with battered women and their children.

Sharing a laugh with another recipient, Indiana University Chancellor Una Mae Reck

5 Ways to Unplug So You Can Gain the Clarity You Need to Achieve Your Dreams

I’m not the only one who has a love-hate relationship with technology. On the plus side it’s what allows me to communicate with all of you.

And the internet has made self-employment accessible to hundreds of people who wouldn’t otherwise have the resources to reach potential customers all over the world.

But there is a downside:

  • Smart phones with the never ending stream of emails tethers you to work 24-7.
  • Friends now text instead of phoning or getting together.
  • The expectation to share the minutia of our lives on social media.

And I, for one, am not celebrating the airlines making the friendly skies the on-line skies.

I’m increasingly convinced that this being constantly tethered to technology is the source of so much stress, overload, and alienation.

You could get yourself a new invention out of Japan called The Hugvie. The cuddly vibrating doll you hug during those long distance Skype calls is supposed to reduce the sense of isolation.

A doll won’t help you gain the clarity you need to change course. But breaking out of your usual routine and surroundings will.

1) The Coffee Shop Approach

Stop into any local coffee shop and you’re bound to see one or more small business owners clicking away on their laptops or meeting with clients. They even have a name: “Starbuck’s entrepreneurs.”

You don’t need to have a business (yet!) to benefit from being in a cozy or if you prefer, a high-energy setting to engage in clarity enhancing activities like journaling, mind-mapping, planning, or networking.

A mere mile from my house is the fabulously funky Lady Killigrew café. It’s one of several small businesses housed in a restored mill known as the Montague Bookmill.

This sun-drenched café sits along side a raging stream. It’s the kind of rare place where you can’t help but feel both totally productive and utterly relaxed at the same time..

So instead of going to your usual joint, why not shake things up even more by trying a totally new spot? There really is something about the newness of the décor, the people, even the menu that can get your clarity juices flowing even more!

Lady Killigrew café also offers outdoor seating. True, the setting is especially lovely. But even in the most congested cities, given the choice, people love to dine outdoors.

Why? Because being outside is r-e-l-a-x-i-n-g. That leads me to the next strategy…

2) Get Outside

When do you feel most stressed out, confused, or over-whelmed? If you’re like most, your high stress times are also when you’re farthest from nature.

Now imagine stepping away even briefly. Picture yourself sitting on a park bench or under a tree or along a body of water or atop a mountain or even at a sidewalk café. How do you feel?

Chances are your breathing slowed… your mind felt clearer… your anxiety level dropped.

Unfortunately more of us are suffering the effects of what Richard Louv dubbed Nature-Deficit Disorder™. In Last Child in the Woods he describes the alarming consequences of children spending so much more time indoors than past generations. LINK BOTH BOOKS

His latest book, The Nature Principle: Reconnecting With Nature in a Virtual World makes the same case for nature-deprived adults. Click here for an excerpt.

The restorative power of nature, he says, boosts mental acuity and creativity; promotes health and wellness; builds smarter and more sustainable businesses, communities, and economies; and ultimately strengthens human bonds.

Spending time in nature is also a great way to tune out the noise of the world so you can tune into your deepest longings or the next great idea.

3) Help Yourself by Helping Others

What if you could get outside, have a major change of scenery, and lend a hand at the same time?

Since 1991 Earthwatch has paired some 91,000 travelers with site-based scientific studies all over the world. Volunteers work along side researchers to dig up mastodon bones in South Dakota, study black rhinos in Kenya, monitor pink dolphin populations in Peru’s Yavari River, or dozens of other expeditions.

Trips range from $1,600 to over $6,000 and include accommodations. Check out the “reduced contribution” link for last minute deals.

There are other ways to get outside of your comfort zone and have fun doing it. Montana-based Bunkhouses Working Ranch Vacations founder Karen Searle pairs travelers with one of 20 working ranches. (Very cool idea, Karen!)

In addition to the usual ranch chores – riding horses, mending fences, herding cattle – there’s time for the fun stuff like cooking over a campfire, cooling off in the local swimming hole, and local day trips.

Expect to pay between $1,500 to $1,900 including meals and accommodations for six-to-seven-day trips.

4) Use Your Vacation to Explore Other Careers

If you really want to make a life change, then you’ve got to carve out time to focus on what you want… and what you need. And it’s all but impossible to do when you’re distracted by the usual (and significant) demands of day-to-day life.

But there is a solution: Get away from all those distractions and demands so you can give your dreams the attention they deserve.

For instance, maybe you think you’d like to be a television producer, a fishing outfitter, or a cheese maker. But you’re afraid to invest all that time and money only to find out it’s not right for you.

5) Go on “Vacation” With Me!

Most people spend more time planning a two-week vacation than they do figuring out what they really want their lives to look like.

Seems to me, if you want to work doing something you love…if you want more control over your time and your life…if you crave a better balance of family and friends and work…then you have two choices:

1) You can continue to go through the motions week after week, waiting for inspiration to strike.

2) Or you can pledge to make a serious commitment to change and really focus on your dreams.

After the hugely successful retreat I held in Ecuador I decided I wanted to combine the benefits of a hands-on workshop with me and clarity that comes from spending time in nature.

So this July 9-13 I’m holding my second Work at What You Love Workshop and Entrepreneurial Retreat and Adventure here in the rolling hills of western Massachusetts.

It’s your chance to get away and get clear on what you want and how to get it. To get live coaching from me on how to turn your interests into income both before and during the workshop.

It’s also your opportunity to connect with a small intimate group who will form your ongoing Dream Team.

Best of all – with all the fun excursions I have planned, you’ll take steps to change your life and have fun at the same time.

The cost is much less than you might expect for an experience like this – especially if you register by June 11th to take advantage of the $1500 off early bird savings.

And to reward action-takers, when you sign up by this Wednesday May 23 you’ll receive a $250 Travel Voucher. Spend it for travel, for shopping, or put it toward your new life!

You’ll find all the information at

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.

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