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After 25 Years, Parting Advice from the Dreamer in Residence at Changing Course

I’m writing to let you know that after a quarter of a century as the Dreamer in Residence at Changing Course, I’m stepping down.

If you read my recent post “Regret Nothing”, you’re probably not surprised.

I told you about some recent losses in my life and a family member battling cancer.

I talked about how times of loss or crisis remind us to take nothing for granted, most especially time.

About how now — more than ever — we need to ask ourselves, what would I most regret not doing?

It’s a question I asked myself in 1995. For me, the answer was crystal clear.

The thing I would most regret is never being my own boss.

What a Ride!

That journey began with the crazy idea to publish a newsletter for other burned out cubicle dwellers.

Over these 25 years, I’ve had experiences I could have never imagined possible.

I’ve gotten business advice from Sir Richard Branson and Gary Vaynerchuk.

I was invited to speak at a travel writer and photography class in Paris and at an International Living magazine conference in Panama.

Changing Course has been cited in dozens of newspapers and magazines in the US and Canada including The Wall Street JournalThe Boston Globe, The OregonianRedbook, Kiplinger’s, Self, Woman’s Day, and many more.

Entrepreneur’s Start Up magazine not only dedicated an entire page to my 10 Steps to Escape the Job World and Create the Life You Really Want they even sent a photographer to my house!

I helped hundreds of coaching clients connect the dots between what they love to do and how they can make money doing it.

Over 350 people from 19 countries took my course on how to get paid to brainstorm.

I led half a dozen Work at What You Love workshops around the country with Barbara Winter.

At the end of each, Barbara and I would turn to each other and say, “I think we helped change some lives today.”

Among them, Dyan DiNapoli who transformed herself into the Penguin Lady only to far surpass her wildest dreams.

And, as I noted in my recent tribute to the late Barbara Sher, I had the incredible experience of co-leading a four-day retreat in the Rocky Mountains with the very women who inspired my own dream, Barbara Winter and Barbara Sher.

I’m not telling you this to impress you.

I’m telling you this because far too many people only see the successful end result.

They don’t understand that every business big and small, started from nothing more than an idea.

Starting Out in 1995

One sure way to kill a dream is to wait until you’ve got everything 100 percent figured out before you begin.

For example, I began as the Making a Living Doing What You Love newsletter.

After two issues though, I realized that loving your work is nice – but it’s just the frosting on the cake.

The “cake” was being able to live life on your own terms.

So I came up with a new name, one that better spoke to people like me who were desperate to take the leap from having a boss to being their own boss.

I’d never published a newsletter, but I found a training program on cassette that gave me the basics. (I think I found them in a classified ad in Entrepreneur magazine.)

I bought some basic publishing software for my Mac and a designer friend at my old job did the initial layout.

A few years later I realized people might actually pay me for the informal advice-giving and resource sharing I’d already been doing with shuttle drivers, wait staff, and other disgruntled employees.

Mind you I had no formal training in either coaching or career counseling.

Which was fine because I had no interest in administering skills assessments or personality profiles or doing any of the other things traditional career advisers do to help people find their dream “job.”

I wanted to help people create their own job.

So one day I just hung out my shingle as an “outside the job box” career coach.

Over time other entrepreneurially-minded “idea people” told me they’d love to do what I do.

So I used lessons learned from my own experience to create the first and only training program to teach them how.

In the mid-90s getting on the “world wide web” meant knowing HTML.

I didn’t have a lot of money, but I did have a phone.

So I called a local community college to see if students in their HTML class needed a case study.

I got a free website and the two 40-something career changers who created it got to build their portfolio.

This was my first site.

Why Now?

For starters, when I launched the newsletter I was 40.

Last November I turned 65.

This is where you immediately go to the comments section to say, OMG, you don’t LOOK 65! 🙂

My mom died unexpectedly of a heart attack five months before her much awaited retirement. I’ve already outlived her by four years.

She left behind boxes full of material for quilts she’d never get to make and a lifetime of photos she’d planned to organize but never got the chance.

I know too many people who lived for their retirement day only to die just before or shortly after.

My Dad couldn’t wait to retire.

He liked to say he was going to spend the first few months sitting in a rocking chair.

Then after a few months, he was going to start rocking… very slowly.

I have no intention of sitting in a rocking chair.

In fact, I’m incredibly busy leading webinars and sketching out a new book.

And I’m looking forward to having more time to pursue other interests like actively addressing climate change and learning to do mosaics.

The other reason I’m stepping down is simple: It’s time.

Jon Stewart announced his retirement from The Daily Show by saying, “This show doesn’t deserve an even slightly restless host.”

The fact is, I’ve been struggling with this decision for a while now.

Up until recently, I was juggling three investment properties. Happily, I’m down to one.

On top of that, I also have a thriving speaking business on something called impostor syndrome.

Learning that there was a name for the secret fear that others will discover we’re not really as intelligent, talented, or qualified as others “think” we are, was the impetus for my graduate research.

I’ve been leading workshops on the subject on and off since the 1980s.

Then in 2008, I got a six-figure book deal with Random House.

It took me two and a half years to write the book. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

When it finally came out in 2011 speaking invitations picked up.

In the last three years, they’ve exploded.

I’ve been to Portugal, Switzerland, England, and Denmark and spoken at organizations like Google, Microsoft, Dell, Blizzard Entertainment, Rakuten, Oxford University, NASA, the National Cancer Institute, and my personal favorite, Romance Writers of America.

The point is, all this obviously left a lot less time to focus on Changing Course.

And it wasn’t fair to anyone – most especially you.

What’s Next for Changing Course?

The other thing Jon Stewart said was, “In my heart I know it’s time for someone else to have this opportunity.”

It felt wrong to just hang out a “closed” sign. Especially now when more people than ever need help.

That’s why I’m thrilled to announce that the perfect duo stepped forward to take the strong foundation I’ve built and run with it.

Drum roll, please…

Meet the new Dreamers in Residence Arthurine Walker and Kate Fessler!

Kate and Arthurine will introduce themselves in more detail next time.

What I can tell you is that you’re in really good hands.

I met them when they took my Profiting from Your Passions coach training.

Even though they were both in the Class of 2007, since it was a teleclass, Kate and Arthurine didn’t meet until they teamed up to take over the reins at Changing Course.

It seems fitting that 13 years later the students would go on to take the teacher’s place.

For now, I’m not going anywhere.

The three of us are working together on an upcoming Work at What You Love Virtual Workshop. Stay tuned for details soon!

And I’ll definitely be involved in promoting and teaching the Profiting from Your Passions Career Coach Training Summer School.

Before I wrap up my final newsletter, I’d like to share some parting wisdom on what it really takes to change course.

Parting Advice #1 You Don’t Need Confidence — Really

If I’d waited until I felt ready… until I thought that I knew enough… until I felt confident – I’d still be in my cubicle.

In 1998 USA Weekend magazine article was dedicating an entire edition to the impact of the 1990 recession on families.

The editor asked if I could contribute some tips for two-income households looking to downsize to one income.

I knew nothing about it.

But I said yes anyway.

I mean, how hard could it be?

I called a financial planner for his advice and talked to a few couples who’d done it.

Add to that a dash of common sense and voila! I had my own sidebar of tips and free advertising for Changing Course to their millions of readers.

Fast forward to 2020 and every one of us has a PhD in Google.

You don’t need confidence to start a business because you don’t need to know everything.

You just need to be smart enough to figure it out.

Just say yes and learn as you go.

Parting Advice #2 It Really Is All Small Steps

Most dreams die because we give up too soon.

I know how easy it is to feel like you’re not making progress.

That’s why starting in 1996 I started documenting the things I’d accomplished each year.

It was my way of assuring myself, See Valerie, you are making progress.

Everyone wants to be in their dream life right now. But that’s not how it works.

Michelangelo didn’t sculpt David in a day. He literally chipped away at it bit by bit.

Take for instance this very announcement.

It took me f-o-r-e-v-e-r to write.

I didn’t edit it once; I edited it at least 20 times!

The thing is, you’re not “writing a book or a blog post or your website.”

You’re writing a sentence, then another one and another one.

You’re not “becoming a speaker.”

You’re outlining your talk (which trust me, you’ll then change hundreds of times).

You’re not “starting a landscaping business.”

You’re looking up local competition to see how you’ll do things differently, better, faster, higher-end, or more affordable.

Then you take another small step and another and another.

It may not sound glamorous, but it really is all small steps.

The important thing is to begin.

Parting Advice #3: Besides, It’s Not About You

One of my clients had spent years lovingly caring for an ailing parent.

After “Kim’s” mother passed she began to write a play about her experience.

Then she stopped.

Kim wasn’t afraid of failure she was afraid of success.

“What if my play is a hit,” she said, “then I’d have to play big.”

I invited her to imagine a sold-out theater full of people…

… to feel the excitement in the crowd…

…to know that among them were people who’d been through a similar experience and were eager for their own joy and pain to be honored by the words she’d scripted…

…to watch as the lights dimmed and the curtain rose to reveal an empty stage…

…and finally to picture herself, the almost playwright coming out to announce…

“I’m sorry, there will be no play tonight. I was too afraid of being great to write it.”

Can playing big be scary?

You bet.

It’s even harder if you’ve spent your life putting others’ needs before your own.

Even when you do manage to convince yourself that you are worthy, to suddenly move your own dream to the front burner can feel selfish.

All the more reason you need to see that everyone loses when you play small.

There are people out there right this very minute who want and deserve to benefit from your full range of knowledge, abilities, and skills.

So instead of the proverbial question, “What would you do if money were no object?” ask yourself, What sort of difference could I make if fear was not a factor?

Speaking of dreams…

You’re Invited to My Retirement Party!

Stay tuned for some sort of Valerie’s Retirement Party + Changing Course’s 25th Anniversary + Grand Re-Opening celebration.

With COVID-19 it’s not yet clear whether all or parts will be virtual. Or if it will be one party or separate celebrations.

No matter what, it won’t be until at least the fall.

For now, I’d love to hear from people who, via Changing Course, have been inspired to live the mission I established 25 years ago…

Live life on purpose
Work at what you love
Follow your own road

When did you start reading the Changing Course Newsletter – and why?

Was there a resource or an idea in the newsletter that sparked your own entrepreneurial journey?

Was there a particular book or audio that helped you?

Were you on one of the many teleclasses I ran with inspiring self-bossers like the maker of I Love Chicken Poop lip balm or the guy who started a successful online Bible study business or the woman whose craft instruction business was so successful her husband quit his job to join her?

Did we do a career coaching session together?

Did you attend one of the workshops…

Making Dreams Happen in Boulder, Colorado?

Work at What You Love in Northampton, Massachusetts; Madison, Wisconsin; or Ventura, California?

Dreams Can’t Wait in Kennebunkport, Maine?

Did you come all the way from Alaska or Sweden or Israel or Mexico or Montreal to participate in one of the small retreats I ran at my home in Montague?

Did you venture off to Ecuador for the Relax, Renew, Reinvent workshop?

I’d love to hear from you here! 

(just scroll down to the comment section below)

And, please don’t worry if you don’t think you’ve done “enough.”

Or if you started and stopped or otherwise got stalled.

As Mary Ann Evans, writing under her pen name George Eliot, wrote, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.”

Heck, Gramma Moses didn’t start painting until into her 80s!

Finally, I’m deeply grateful to Lisa Tarrant for leaving her job-job 19 years ago to go on this crazy ride with me (and for being shorter than me :)) I couldn’t have grown Changing Course without her.

Thanks too, to Melinda Ashley for jumping into a whole new world of virtual assisting to lend us a hand!

Most of all, I want to thank all of you for honoring me with your attention all these years.

Knowing you trusted me with your dreams has meant the world to me.

Regret Nothing

I almost didn’t stop to visit Sam.

“Too busy. No time. I’ll stop another time.”

But something made me pull off the highway.

Sam and his wife Doris lived next to me for over a decade.

After a snowstorm, I could always count on Sam to show up to plow my driveway.

And they could count on me to drop by with apple pie or gingerbread or whatever my grandmother had baked for Wednesday night dinners at her house.

Sam and I joked that I’m like the daughter he never knew he had… or wanted 🙂

Even after I moved in 2007, Sam and I stayed in touch.

A few years later Doris passed away and Sam relocated to a skilled care facility for veterans.

Here we are on one of our visits.

The Holyoke Soldier’s Home has seen a huge spike in people testing positive for COVID-19 – Sam was one.

In the past few weeks, a stunning 75 residents have died.

Sadly, this son of immigrant parents, World War II navy veteran, devoted husband, father, and grandfather, and my dear friend Sam Lococco was one.

(If you’d like to, you can watch a moving final salute to Sam, click here.)

Just weeks ago, we were all trekking along living our lives.

Then a global pandemic turned everyone’s world upside down in an instant.

For me, the upheaval began months earlier.

In November, my brother-in-law was diagnosed with colon cancer.

Eddie and my sister Debbie met in high school and he’s one of the nicest people I know.

In December, my world was once again rocked when one of my closest friends was also diagnosed with cancer.

I’ve known Pete since college when he and a couple of his pals from the UMass Lacrosse team moved into the apartment below. (Guys downstairs, “girls” upstairs.)

Like most young males Pete had a “healthy” appetite.

One that earned him the nickname What’s-to-Eat-Pete.

His most enduring nickname though was Pete-Dog.

(Also pictured here, Amy-Dog, Sue-Dog, Lynn-Dog, and a very young Val-Dog.)

In January, I attended a memorial service for a local woman named Deirdre.

We’d known each other for 30+ years and shared many mutual friends, but we didn’t hang out.

Still, Deidre’s death hit me hard.

Perhaps it was because we were the same age.

Or because she was robbed of her recent retirement from teaching high school science.

What We Say Vs. What We Do

What all life-changing events share in common is a sudden focus on priorities.

It could be the loss of a loved one…

It might be a serious illness or accident – or own or someone close to us…

Or the collective pain of a senseless mass shooting… the 911 attacks… or now COVID-19…

In these moments, we stop whatever crazy treadmill we’re on to remember what matters most.

We reflect on what we really want from life.

And for a few days anyway, social media is filled with reminders to live each day to the fullest.

Yet we rarely make any real or lasting changes.

Once the immediate shock and grief fade, most of us go back to the way things were. Busy as ever.

At least that’s been the case for me.

The last time a crisis moved me to make a significant life change was 27 years ago.

That’s when my mother died unexpectedly of a massive heart attack. My mom was just 61 and five months from retirement.

It was the catalyst to my leaving my 90-mile-a-day commute to take a job at a smaller company closer to home.

A few months into the new job it hit me…

I didn’t need a new job. I didn’t even need a new career.

I needed a whole new life.

So in 1995, I started the Changing Course Newsletter to serve others looking to follow their own road.

I’m proud of everything I’ve accomplished in the last 25 years.

But like everyone else, I’ve fallen into “too busy” mode.

Too busy to visit Sam as often as I could…

Too busy to exercise…

Too busy to do all sorts of things that matter far more than whatever I was doing at the time.

Maybe you’ve felt the same.

Regret Nothing

My friend Pete Berry turned 62 in May.

He retired from his job and threw himself into his real passion — making pottery.

Here he is at the Harvard Ceramics Studio where he also taught.

And here’s some of his beautiful handiwork in my dining room.

In December, we learned Pete’s cancer was incurable. He died March 9th.

Pete left this world surrounded by his wife Andy (also my college friend), his brother Steve, and our dear friend Sue-Dog on the hospice floor of a Boston hospital.

Then COVID-19 came roaring into our lives, and five days later Massachusetts hospitals were closed to visitors.

Losing my friend has been incredibly painful.

Yet I’m so grateful we were able to say our tearful goodbyes in person. Sadly, Sam’s family and so many others cannot.

In one of our last conversations, Peter said, “I’m too young to die, Val.”

He was right. And I still haven’t fully processed the fact that he’s gone.

What breaks my heart all the more is knowing that my incredibly funny, sensitive, gifted, and very dear friend left this world full of regrets about dreams deferred and unrealized potential…

I worry I will too.

That’s why I was so moved by Deirdre’s passing.

Her obituary began with “[she] died as she lived, on her own terms.”

Deirdre wanted to learn saxophone and play in bands, be a docent at the greenhouse at Smith College, paint, garden, learn about birds, local history, start a dog walking business, join a board for a non-profit, give service to a local aid organization. She did every one of these things and so much more.

In other words, Deirdre regretted nothing.

How many of us can say that?

What Will You Most Regret?

Barbara Bush once said, “At the end of your life, you will never regret not having passed one more test, not winning one more verdict, closing one more deal. You will regret time not spent with a husband, a friend, a child or a parent.”

For many of us, regrets include failing to act on our dreams.

What if you took a moment right now to write down the two or three things you’d most regret not doing…

  • learning a language or how to play an instrument…
  • opening a little shop
  • getting your art into a gallery…
  • running fly fishing expeditions…
  • starting an online business…
  • living and working on an island or in the heart of Paris or anywhere you like…
  • running a coaching business out of an RV as you travel the country…
  • writing a book…
  • getting your photos published…
  • living and working on your own terms…

Now more than ever, we need to inspire one another to do more than talk about our dreams, but to take steps to live as regret-free a life as possible.

So, what if you went one step further and actually named one small step you could take to move closer to your dream?

Finally, what if you took the really powerful step of publically declaring your intention?

When you do, it makes the dream real.

Sharing is also a way to hold ourselves accountable to follow through.

Scroll down now to share YOUR dream in the comments section.

Then forward the blog to a friend who can help hold your feet to the fire!

I Need Your Prayers

Not surprisingly, I’ve been re-evaluating my priorities as well.

In fact, I have a major announcement coming soon.

Until then though, please join me in praying in whatever form that takes for you.

Pray for those who’ve lost their lives and for those left behind.

Pray for those who are still fighting for their lives.

Pray for everyone in the medical and hospital community from the EMTs, to the doctors and nurses, to the low wage workers who clean the rooms, prepare the meals, work security…

Pray for the people who are driving our buses and trucks or who work at the grocery stores and in the warehouses.

Pray for everyone suffering financial hardships here in the US as well as those millions around the world who have no soap or running water.

And pray for the wisdom and courage to live your life without regrets.

Lastly, it would mean a lot to me and my family if you could send prayers and healing energy to my brother-in-law Eddie.

Thank you and stay safe!

In the Life

I know it’s a cliché but time really does fly and December started with a bang. Well, actually with a train.

That’s how I arrived in the Big Apple to be part of a video shoot with some amazing entrepreneurs talking about how to fund your dream. (Stay tuned for details!)


Getting ready for my close up! Central Park skaters. Trump water? What next?

Then off to Stamford to borrow my friend Ryan Lee’s brain for a few hours before my presentation at Connecticut College.

The college is in New London, an old New England historic seaport city with a charming 19th century downtown that’s seen better days. With the support of the city, shop keepers, restaurants and other entrepreneurs are starting to revive things. Who knows, maybe you could join them!

The next day I spoke at a workshop and book signing in Hartford. So many people try to do everything on their own when it’s often far easier (and a lot more fun) to find people you can partner with.

For example, this event was a fundraiser sponsored by three amazing organizations National Conference for Community and Justice YWCA and Harriet Beecher Stowe House

Think about what you love to do. Now ask, “Who could I partner with to share my message?”

Next it was on to Boston to join 8,000 other participants at the Massachusetts Women’s Conference.

What a line up! Arianna Huffington, Brene Brown, Barbara Bradley co-founder of Vera Bradley, Kristen Chenoweth, Deepak Chopra, and Carol Simpson to name just a few.


If you’re not out there attending events put on by or for the people you want to be like – even small local events –then what are you waiting for!

Speaking of Arianna… I sent her a copy of my book not knowing if she’d ever really get it. Well, she emailed to invite me to blog for the Huffington Post. (Thinking big pays off!)

If you experience those nagging voices of self-doubt, I’d love for you to comment on my first post Phony Impostors or Merely the Burdon of Great Potential?

Mostly these last few weeks I’ve been enjoying watching nature ease from fall into early winter. No real snow yet, but I’m hopeful!


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.

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…

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.

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!

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!

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

Water and Wow!

In the Life

If I had to sum up the last few weeks in just two words it would be Water and Wow.

Water…A mid-March trip to the charming seaside town of Woods Hole on Cape Cod fell on the first of a string of record-breaking summer-like days. So after speaking on the impostor syndrome at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, I drove around in my usual “Hey let’s see where this road goes” style.

Wow… I resisted the urge to hop the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard and instead stumbled on the Cornelia Carey Sanctuary. I spent an hour exploring the delightful bay-side nature trail built on a peninsula. Heaven!

More Water, More Wow

On to Florida!

First stop was Delray Beach and lunch with my friend and president of the American Writers and Artist’s Institute Katie Yeakle. I’ve been to several AWAI events in Delray but this was my first tour of their offices.

One of the bigger Wows came in the form of a serendipitous voice mail from a close friend I’ve known since junior high — who I might add, never, ever calls me on my cell phone.

Dianna moved to Pittsburgh some 20 years ago so I don’t get to see her as much as I’d like. Turns out, not only was she in Florida, but she was headed to Delray Beach for dinner!

That inspired me to call another mutual junior high pal now living in Boston. Not only was Gail also in Florida, but, unbeknownst to either of them, she and Dianna were staying within a mile of one another.

Gail was down to be with her mother, Stacia, who was dying of cancer. I’ve known them both since I was 13. By some miracle, Dianna, Gail and I were all on the same dot on the map on the same day and got to all be together. I’m so grateful to have gotten to see Stacia just three days before she slipped away to her great reward.

More water

Next, a quick few days visiting my sister Debbie and her family at their lakeside home in Melbourne. My brother Mark drove over from Orlando and we met up with my nephew at a local Cuban restaurant. Major food wow!

Seems like yesterday Jason was five! How did that happen?!

More Wow!

There is nothing quite as exciting as watching a friend positively soar.

I’d attended my friend Suzanne Evan’s first “Be the Change Event” in 2010. There were around 300 attendees. Two years later, over 650 enthusiastic entrepreneurs were on hand for what was a truly remarkable training event.

Joining me as my guests were nine recent graduates of the Profiting from Your Passions® Career Coach training program. What a great group!

Me and PFYP Coach Marty Marsh

PFYP Coaches Ken Ellis and Janet Thompson

PFYP Coaches Marty Marsh, Candy Kaiser, Mary Mendoza

In addition to learning a massive amount of information about how to market their business for rapid growth, coaches joined me in offering mini-brainstorming sessions at the Changing Course booth.

Of course the star of the show was Suzanne Evans herself seen here with her parents in the Hell Yeah Lounge (Suzanne’s trademark phrase) and welcoming sponsors at the tradeshow.

And Cokie? Between hanging with his best gal Mercy and dreaming about when he’ll see her again, suffice it to say, every day is a Wow Day for Cokie!

Blame It on Mexico

Blame it on Mexico!

After an amazing week in sunny Mexico with some of my best friends in the whole world, I have to admit –it was tough coming back to the cold.

Of course Cokie wasn’t happy to be left behind. At least he got to still enjoy one of this favorite treats – sweet potato skins.

Before I get to the vacation part I must say I love Mexican entrepreneurs! Ethical, encouraging of sales but not overly pushy, and evidence of their good humor was everywhere.

My favorite sign promised free margaritas all day tomorrow. Wonder how many gullible tourists come back only to find out the offer is only good tomorrow?

The 5000 square foot penthouse apartment was unbelievably gorgeous. Hammocks for everyone on the huge wrap around porch where we ate every meal.

A wonderful woman named Jenny not only cleaned for us (well, as much as five women who kept a tidy house would allow) but she cooked too. Where else can five people get a delicious authentic Mexican dinner for $50 total? She made so much food that it lasted nearly three meals!

We did some sight-seeing. But I could have just as easily hung out with Martha Beck’s new book on the private rooftop complete private lap pool. Full moon, star-filled sky, sound of the ocean waves, margarita… ahhh.

My friends and I joke that the biggest decision we had to make all week was, “Where to lounge… at the beach, in a hammock on the porch, on the roof deck…” Tough life.

Now do you see why I had such a hard time getting back into the swing of things?!

But I did dive back into work and with a bang!

An enthusiastic group of 32 people registered for the first ever live webinar version of the Profiting from Your Passions® career coaching training program which meant I had a lot of prepping to do.

The yearning to change course from having a boss to being your own boss is truly universal. Attendees in the 2012 class hail from as far away as India, Italy, the UK, and Australia. Some were attending literally in the middle of the night. Talk about dedication!

Apparently all my hard work paid off.

So far I’m hearing feedback like, “priceless,” “hidden gem,” “More than I could have asked for,” “divine weekend,” “it changed my life and inspired me AND my family,” “worth twice what I paid,” and “it’s clear that a tremendous about of work went into this program and I am so grateful.”

Little do they know it is I who am so grateful for them and for all of you.

The weekend intensive is over and the weekday class is completely sold out.

If you’d like to be added to future Advance Notification list, click here.

Stressed? Laugh it Out

By far though, the best part of my vacation was the company. Five old friends all coming together from different parts of the country for our own “Big Chill.”

One I’ve know since grammar school, another junior high school, and two from college. Laugh! Oh my God, did we laugh. Soooo good for the soul.

If you don’t believe me ask Rev. Susan Sparks.

After being a trial attorney for 10 years, Sparks felt called to the ministry. But she never lost her sense of humor. So in a fun example of combining multiple passions, Sparks joined a rabbi and a Muslim stand up comic on the Laugh in Peace tour.

“The church comes first,” Sparks says. “That said, both careers are a ministry… Laughter is holy gift we receive at birth, yet one we tend to lose over the years. My call is to encourage people to remember that gift through the pulpit and the punch lines.”

My trip was a good reminder that building laughter into our lives is as important as making time for exercise for recreation or, for that matter, work.

So my new morning ritual includes exercises while watching reruns of the Golden Girls. (Kind of like me and my girlfriends in Mexico!) I’d forgotten how laugh-out-loud – and in many ways, ground-breaking – that show was.

Where will you get your laughs this week?

In the Life…

It’s getting darker earlier here – about 4:45pm. I can feel my entire energy shift with the change in light. Add in the cold, and all I want to do is sit in front of the fireplace with a good book.

Unfortunately I can’t do that full-time because I’m too busy marketing my own book. Since the last update, I’ve done four interviews for The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women. Two were for on-air radio shows, one for Yanik Silver’s Maverick 1000 club, and one for Maureen Anderson’s The Career Clinic show. I’m honored to be in such brilliant company.

I’m also just back from Las Vegas where my friend Ryan Lee organized two days of brainstorming and socializing with fellow entrepreneurs. On the first day, we took what was for me a repeat tour of Zappos. If you can take a tour, I highly recommend it. It will totally change how you think about work.

What other company do you know who has on staff a full-time life coach whose job it is to help employees achieve their goals outside of work? Here are a few of the outcomes that were written on the stairwell walls.

After the tour, we got to meet in one of the conference rooms to do some serious masterminding. These guys are all extremely accomplished and smart. But even the most successful people can get stuck in their world. What I LOVE most is brainstorming ideas and solutions.

Beau Blackwell, Client Knowledge Guru at Clickbank

Beau Blackwell, Client Knowledge Guru at Clickbank

All of their businesses are online. Several came up to me afterward to say I helped them think beyond the on-line world.
One guy who is huge in the fitness world wants to write a New York Times bestseller aimed exclusively at men. He was looking for input from the guys in the group on the title and overall direction.

Like I said, ideation is my thing. So men, women, on-line, off-line… it really doesn’t matter. It’s just a matter of using your creative mind to generate creative ideas and being willing to venture creatively outside of the box!

And speaking of getting outside the box…

I actually flew into Vegas a day early to sit in on a marketing workshop Ryan was leading. The positive energy in that room was off the charts. As I chatted with people in such diverse businesses as roofing, fitness, scrap booking, self-defense, motivation, and voice coaching for Grammy award winning singers, I thought “I wonder who my readers are hanging with this week?”

I ask because when you surround yourself with entrepreneurs, you put yourself in the company of what I call YES people.

Regardless of whether they’re just starting out or have been self-employed for years, entrepreneurs said yes to their dream, yes to stepping up to become their own boss, yes to moving ahead without knowing everything first, and yes to continually learning and growing.

So who did you hang out with last week? As importantly who will you spend time with this week?

Yes, I know that it’s Thanksgiving in America. But still, you can make a point to chat with a local business owner in a wine shop or join in a conversation with inspired entrepreneurs on Facebook or other social media. Who knows, you just might give them a great idea!

Whether you’re celebrating Thanksgiving or not, I am truly thankful for all of you.  And I’m honored that you continue to allow me to help you change course so you, too, can work at what you love.

In the Life

It’s been quite the whirlwind here. Even I’m amazed at what’s happened in the course of two weeks. For starters… drum roll please.

At long last The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women came out. At one point it was on three Amazon top 100 lists but the stats change hourly so now it’s just on one. I’m grateful to all the speed readers who took the time to write a review at Amazon and for to everyone for helping spread the word.

The next day I did a 19-station satellite radio tour from my couch before taking off to speak to the engineering department at the University of Colorado-Boulder about overcoming the impostor syndrome (rampant on college campuses).

I arrived early enough to be able have lunch at the Dining Hall at Chautauqua. Being there brought back SO many wonderful memories of the Making Dreams Happen workshop I’d put on there back in 2003 with the phenomenal Barbara Sher and Barbara Winter. It truly was life changing. I was so inspired I’ve been thinking about a reunion! If you were there — call me!

It had snowed in Boulder earlier in the week and the combination of fall leaves on snow was exquisite. I hiked for maybe a mile until I saw the “What To Do If You See A Bear Or Mountain Lion” sign and a big ol’ paw track. I decided shopping was safer.

(loved the advice to fight back)

I bought so many clothes at the Goodwill I had to buy a duffle bag to get them back to Massachusetts where I proceeded to fly into the freak October blizzard that dumped a foot of snow on New England. Suddenly I lost my love of snow on autumn leaves.

After driving around numerous downed trees and power lines requiring a series of long detours I finally arrived home to find I was locked out of my house. Fortunately I was able to pick up Cokie at his new sitter Patty’s (that’s him sleeping with four of her six dogs on her bed… he’s the black dot in the middle).

So I turned around and drove to my Dad’s. He and his girlfriend had no power either, but at least it was a roof and a fireplace. Boy, you don’t fully appreciate how much your business demands electricity and phone service until they’re gone.

Four days later the power went on just in time to attend the annual Women’s Fund of Western Massachusetts dinner. The keynote was Jennifer Buffett (Warren’s daughter-in-law) who spoke about the positive global impact of funding projects that improve the lives of girls and women. When I asked her what I could share with my readers, she said to send you to the video on

Sadly this is also the week I send off my trusty assistant Lisa Tarrant who along with her creativity-to-spare husband Mark and her brilliant daughter Haley are moving to New Mexico. I’ve known Lisa for going on 20 years when we worked for the same company.

That is until I drew her into the world of self-bossers and she’s never looked back. Her first day on the job was the Making Dreams Happen workshop! What an initiation!

Sparing no expense I took the family out for a hot dog at the famous Nick’s Nest restaurant (more of a hot dog joint).

Here’s Haley saying goodbye to Cokie and here they are when she was first born and he crept his way up my shoulder for a little babying too.

Even though I know Lisa will continue to work with me and we only got together maybe half a dozen times a year, I loved knowing she was right off the highway on my way to the airport. Lisa you are one in a million. You changed my business and thus my life for the better. Here’s to the next Work at What You Love retreat in New Mexico!

Oh, and I also celebrated my 57th birthday last week! No wonder Goodwill offered me the senior discount. 🙂

In the Life

As you can see Cokie has a new friend. Her name is Early and she lives at one of the places Cokie stays when I’m on the road. Being a kitten she’s much more interested in him than the other way around. I’m just glad they get along!

As for me, I’m fresh off almost a week in the Big Apple and the National Publicity Summit where I was pitching my expertise about how to overcome the impostor syndrome and of course to tell everyone about my upcoming book.

It would take this entire newsletter and then some to tell you about the amazing people I met at the Summit so I’ll hold that for a future issue.


After day 3 of the National Publicity Summit a few of us went to an Irish bar to celebrate

I got to meet and learn from producers from all the top shows… The Today Show, Good Morning America, The CBS Early Show, The View, Regis & Kelly, ABC News, Anderson Cooper, Rachael Ray, The Wendy Williams Show. What an honor.

Plus, I had a chance to pitch story ideas to editors and freelance writers representing a host of magazines including Time, Essence, More, Woman’s Day, Glamour, Entrepreneur, Family Circle, not to mention hosts of radio stations from Atlanta to Harlem.

Was I nervous? You bet.

My two-and-a-half minute pitch changed many times over the course of three days. Now I need to work on getting on television shows in smaller markets like Boston and Denver – something I discovered all the national networks look for before booking experts.

The big news of course – drum roll please…

Is that after nearly three years of blood, sweat, and tears (and very little sleep) my book came out yesterday all across the U.S. and Canada

Thanks in large part to all of you who supported me with your orders, at one point (it changes hourly) The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women made it to onto three different Amazon Top 100 lists – including #8 of the Top 100 Women in Business books.

I can’t thank you enough.

My schooling in sound bites begins with a bang today with back-to-back satellite radio interviews in major markets all over the U.S. What an adventure.

Lessons from the Fair… and Life

It’s September and that means my annual jaunt through the New England state fair known as The Big E. As with most such fairs, there’s a heavy emphasis on agriculture – a refreshing reminder that there are worlds that have nothing what-so-ever to do with technology.

I love seeing people showing off their horses or cows or sheep. Where others are competing for customers, they’re competing for coveted ribbons – proof of a job well done.

Besides the wonderfully bad fair food, as always the highlight of the day for me is the entrepreneurs selling everything from Vermont flannel to handmade dog leashes to emu lotion.

Being a vendor is tough gig. We’re talking 17 days straight days working 12-14 hours a day, and that doesn’t count set up and tear down time. The fact that so many return year-after-year to do it tells you it’s time well spent on betta fish tanks.

Take Kathie Rosenschein’s of Kathie’s SuperSeedz (yum!). Over the years I’ve watched this mother of five go from selling at the fair to selling on QVC. The big news this year is she got her product into Whole Foods and Stop & Shop. She also rebranded to incorporate her image on the product so there’s more of a personal connection.

Lessons from the fair…

As you think about starting or growing your own business, look for off-line opportunities to sell your product. For example, this year there were even more authors promoting their books at the fair. Find ways too to bring your personality into your product or service like Kathie did.

Taking steps to change course is important. But so is making time for friends. I spent a delightful reunion weekend in Vermont with three old friends from high school. Toss in a new puppy and it was pure bliss!


Weather’s Effect on Entrepreneurs

The big news here, as much of the rest of the U.S., has been the weather. I was on vacation when Hurricane Irene hit. Fortunately the brook in front of my house was high but in no danger of flooding. The cloth placemats on my porch didn’t even blow off the table.

Not everyone of course was so lucky. Nearby Vermont was hardest hit with washed out roads causing dozens of communities to be completely cut off. A breached dam in Vermont also caused massive flooding in two areas I’d visited not two weeks before with a group of workshop participants.

The historic Deerfield Inn where the group had dinner is closed indefinitely after the entire first floor was submerged in water. West in Shelburne Falls flood waters washed over the Bridge of Flowers. The raging river picked up the building housing one woman’s quilting business and deposited it downstream. A vintage bookstore lost most of its inventory and several restaurants got hit hard. A few had flood insurance. Most did not.

Click to View

The Bridge of Flowers
before the storm

The flooding in the northeast, tornadoes in the mid-west, and the unrelenting heat and drought in Texas have hit small businesses and farmers especially hard. If you live near any of these areas please make a special point of supporting your local entrepreneurs.

You don’t need to spend a lot of money. If enough of us take just ten or twenty dollars we might have spent at a big chain store or restaurant and instead spend it locally, it can mean the difference between going on or of going under for many small businesses.

On a lighter note, the unusually rainy summer has spawned a huge harvest of mushrooms. On Sunday I took part in a mushroom identification walk through a local state reservation sponsored by my local Audubon society. Naturalist and artist Marty Klein (who I’ve dubbed the Mushroom Whisperer) not only has a vast knowledge of mushroom he’s also a really fun-gi.

And on the book front, I’ve come up with a fun way to reward people who pre-order three or more copies of The Secret Thoughts of Successful Women. All the details are at


A New Direction

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

Julia Raymond
Curvology Studio

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