Meet Barbara Winter


Barbara J Winter is a pioneering self-employment advocate, writer and teacher who has spent the last twenty-five years pondering the question, “Why aren’t we all self-employed?” Helping others discover the Joyfully Jobless life is her favorite occupation. To readers of Read more

Benvenuto!


Buon viaggio….good journey. How nice to have you along. This blog has been a long time brewing. Hardly a day passes when I don’t come across a fascinating new business idea, inspiring story or useful resource and want to pass Read more

Do Talk to Strangers

Barbara Postcard from Barbara Join the Conversation!  

Author Bill Bryson talks about being on a train and thinking about fellow travel writer Paul Theroux who wrote about fascinating conversations he has with strangers. This perplexes Bryson because he finds it difficult to strike up conversations with traveling Brits.

That got me thinking about a conversation I had with an enthusiastic traveler who wondered how I managed to open a dialogue with someone I’d just met.

Since my Do Talk To Strangers Policy is a vital component of traveling—and being entrepreneurial—I started to consider how I actually go about it. I realized that some of it is purely intuitive.

For instance, when a stranger plunks down next to me on an airplane, I take a breath, take a look and see if I’m moved to start a conversation. Most of the time I get it right. Once in a while, I know from my opening question that my seat mate is inclined toward solitude and I stop there.

Whether you’re standing in line at the post office (a place where I’ve met some fascinating folks) or waiting for a train, here are a few ideas to help you uncovering the interesting people around you.

° Make it a game. Decide ahead of time that you want to find an interesting story or inspiring stranger. I’ve been on long flights that seemed to pass in a moment because I had landed next to a great storyteller.

I consider that a fine compensation for the annoyances that are now part of contemporary travel.

° Don’t wait. Instigate. Be willing to be the one who makes the first move. A friendly smile is a good way to test the water. If it’s not reciprocated, move on.

° Look for common ground. I often open a conversation with a compliment or observation about something the stranger is wearing or carrying or something that’s happening around us.

When I hopped into a London taxi that was covered in promotional material for the Rolling Stones, I suspected that I had a fascinating chat ahead of me. And I did. I learned that my driver was the only cab in the city promoting the Stones, that he earned an extra £750 a year by putting advertising on his cab.

He also told me he’d once advertised for the South African Tourist Board and got a free trip to that country as a bonus. He was hoping he might get tickets to a Stones concert this time around.

° Be politely curious. Our reluctance to talk to strangers may be caused by thinking it’s about us. Wrong. It’s about them. Yes, you might be subjected to a tedious story now and then, but it’s worth the risk.

One of my most memorable conversations was with a young man who was a linguistic professor who spoke seven languages. when I learned that, I asked him the best way to learn a language. “Be a kid,” he said. I laughed and asked, “What’s the second best?”

The answer to that question—and many more—kept us chatting from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. I learned a lot and enjoyed his willingness to share his linguistic passion.

° Anticipate the best. Remember that it’s true that everyone knows something that you don’t. Discovering what that unknown fact or idea or passion may be can enrich your life. Sometimes a stranger leads you to a missing piece of your own puzzle.
Knowing that keeps me talking to strangers who unknowingly enrich my life.

And like everything else, it gets easier with practice.

Wearing Your Heart on Your Sleeve

Barbara Build a Better Year 3 Comments

When I opened my mailbox at the post office, I found a note and magazine article from Sandy Dempsey. She said she’d been going through a stack of magazines and, “When I came across this lovely interview with Bill Bryson I thought of you. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.”

The article made me smile, but I was genuinely pleased that Sandy had thought of me when she read it.

A few days earlier, I received an e-mail from Charles McCool, mastermind of McCool Travel, telling me that his family is planning a trip to Venice. Did I have any tips? Recommendations? Things not to miss?

Of course, I did, but it made me smile that he’d consulted me.

On Thursday evening, I had a surprise call from Vancouver resident Sally Laird. “Guess where I am,” she said. I thought a moment and guessed, “Las Vegas.”

“Yup,” she laughed, “at the Bellagio. Eating gelato.”

Sally is well aware of my fondness for both.

Then there was the inquiry from my sister Nancy wanting to know about Kiva and how to become a lender.

These sorts of things happen to me on a regular basis and I never get tired of people thinking of me when they encounter something they know I love.

My true loves are not a secret.

Anyone who spends time with me discovers my fondness for Bryson, Venice, the Bellagio, gelato, Kiva—and dozens of other things. I’ve probably posted links to articles on all those subjects on Facebook.

Anyone who visits my home can see that I live surrounded by images, books and other evidence of my true loves.

I’ve never seen the point of keeping passion to myself, although I was frequently advised to do so. “Oh, Barbara,” my mother would sigh,  “you wear your heart on your sleeve.”

She did not mean it as a compliment.

“In the moment of knowing  a love,” I once heard Ray Bradbury advise, “intensify it.” For me, sharing a passion is one way of adding intensity to it.

Passion is, after all, often contagious. Before I became friends with Georgia Makitalo, I knew nothing of the Romantic artists known as the Pre-Raphaelites. Before long, Georgia’s enthusiasm had me joining her on excursions to see their work in Toronto, Delaware and London.

I was only vaguely aware of architect Frank Lloyd Wright before my friend Jill McDermott began telling me of her passion for his work. We made a pilgrimage to his home in Spring Green, Wisconsin.

Eventually, she and I made a road trip which included explorations of his buildings in Oak Park, IL and Fallingwater, his masterpiece in Pennsylvania. When Jill moved near his home, Taliesin, in Spring Green, I attended her first outing as a tour guide there.

Having passionate friends has consistently enriched my life. And passion is an essential  ingredient if you want to create a business that is worthy of your time and energy.

Quite simply, building a business with passion as the cornerstone makes the process so much easier. It’s obvious that passion pulls you forward, keeps curiosity alive, connects you with kindred spirits.

It’s the X Factor that makes you magnetic.

Best of all, you get to wear your heart on your sleeve all the time.

So how do you display your passion? Feel free to leave a comment and share.

 

 

Do Talk to Strangers

Barbara Potpourri 3 Comments

It’s a new month which means it’s time for a new theme, but I decided to do something a little different this month. The official theme is Potpourri and I’ll be sharing whatever catches my fancy.

Here’s a piece I wrote a while back after someone asked me how I go about opening a conversation with strangers.

Author Bill Bryson talks about being on a train and thinking about fellow travel writer Paul Theroux writing about the fascinating conversations he has with strangers. This seemed to perplex Bryson because he found it difficult to strike up conversations with traveling Brits. That got me thinking about a short conversation with an enthusiastic traveler who confessed that he found it difficult to talk to strangers and wondered how I did it.

Since my Do Talk To Strangers Policy is a vital component of traveling—and being entrepreneurial—I started to consider how I actually go about it. I realized that some of it is purely intuitive.

For instance, when a stranger plunks down next to me on an airplane, I take a breath, take a look and see if I’m moved to start a conversation. Most of the time I get it right. Once in a while, I know  from my opening question that my seatmate is inclined toward solitude and I stop there.

Whether you’re standing in line at the post office or waiting for a train, here are a few ideas to help you uncover the fascinating folks around you.

° Make it a game. Decide ahead of time that you want to find an interesting story or inspiring stranger. I have been on long flights that seemed to pass in a moment  because I had landed next to a great storyteller. I consider that a fine compensation for the annoyances of contemporary travel.

° Don’t wait. Instigate. Be willing to be the one who takes the first step. A friendly smile is a good way to test the water. If it’s not reciprocated, move on.

° Look for common ground. I often open a conversation with a compliment or observation about something the stranger is wearing or carrying or something that’s happening around us.

When I hopped into a London taxi that was covered in promotional material for the Rolling Stones, I suspected I had a fascinating chat ahead of me. And I did. I learned that my driver was the only cab in the city promoting the Stones, that he earned an extra £750 a year by putting advertising on his cab, and that he’d once advertised for the South African Tourist Board and got a free trip to that country as a bonus. He was hoping he might get tickets to a Stones concert this time around.

° Be politely curious. Our reluctance to talk to strangers may be caused by thinking it’s about us. Wrong. It’s about them. Yes, you might be subjected to a tedious story now and then, but it’s worth the risk.

One of my most memorable conversations was with a young man who was a linguistic professor who spoke seven languages. When I learned that, I asked him the best way to learn a language and his reply was, “Be a kid.” I laughed and asked, “What’s the second best ?”

The answer to that question—and many more—kept us chatting from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. I learned a lot and enjoyed his willingness to share his linguistic passion.

Those are the moments that keep me talking to strangers who unknowingly enrich my life.  And like everything else, it gets easier with practice.

 

You Asked For It…Well, Some of You Did

Barbara Postcard from Barbara 2 Comments

Since I shared my letter from Bill Bryson, I’ve gotten numerous requests from folks wondering what I had originally written to him. While I hadn’t planned to post that, I decided to give in to peer pressure.

As I said in my previous posts, my letter isn’t nearly so clever as the one I received in return.

When I write a fan letter to someone who seems approachable or has a sense of humor, I usually create a fake letterhead. In this case, the letterhead says Bill Bryson Fan Club, US Headquarters.

Since I had no address for him, I sent it to him at Traditional Home magazine, where he had a column.

And, yes, I may have slightly violated my daughter’s rules for writing a fan letter. This is what I said:

Last September when I was in London, I picked up a flyer at W.H. Smith which had an interview with you on the back page. My sister and I were so enchanted by it when we read it back at our hotel that we trotted right back to the store and bought Notes From a Small Island.

My sister convinced me to let her read the book since she was headed back to her home in Athens and the book was going back to Minnesota with me. She had spent the previous month in Oxford and said a taxi driver had entertained her by recounting an interview he’d heard with you on the radio.

Every night before going to bed, my sister would read a few chapters of your book. Since she was always laughing so hard, I’d force her to read aloud to me. We were both smitten.

When I got home, I went directly to Barnes & Noble to see if you were published here. I was so pleased to find your books and have recruited numerous fans for you.

I’ve also been thinking about the fact that you may, indeed, be currently residing on this side of the ocean. Is this so? I’m wondering if you have returned to Des Moines or are experiencing a different part of the country.

Since I was teaching a seminar in Des Moines a month ago, I asked my colleague there if she knew of you. She said, “Is that the guy who wrote the book saying all the women were fat in Iowa?” I admitted it was true, although that didn’t seem to me to be your most noteworthy observation.

On the odd chance that you might be residing somewhere in my neighborhood, I’d love to hear from you. Are you wincing? I, too, am an author and get such requests from time to time.

BUT if you are living around the corner and I didn’t even know it, I’d be sad to have missed you.

I do hope this letter finds you. I’ve been a bit perplexed about where to begin looking for you, but when the latest Traditional Home arrived this week, thought it was worth a shot.

At any rate, I wanted you to know how much pleasure your writing has given me and my Anglophile friends.

Your new fan,

Barbara Winter

 

Joy in My Mailbox

Barbara Postcard from Barbara 6 Comments

When she was a college student, my daughter wrote a fan letter to Linda Barry whose cartoons graced a local entertainment paper. In return, Barry sent her a drawing, which has been a cherished keepsake.

Jennie also devised her own rules for writing a fan letter. They are:

1) Don’t gush.

2) Do not assume the person getting the letter is interested in your life.

3) Stick to the point.

I don’t believe I’ve written a fan letter since without following those rules.

I thought of that as I was going through some old file folders today and came across one labeled Letters to Keep. At the front of the file was my all-time favorite letter that I’ve ever received in response to writing a fan letter.

I also have the original letter that I wrote, but it’s not nearly as amusing as the one I got back two months later. Even if you aren’t familiar with the letter writer, I think you’ll figure out that he knows a thing or two about  writing.

This is what  I found waiting one morning in my mailbox.

Dear (if I may be so forward) Barbara:

Many thanks for your letter of March 13, and huge, blushing apologies for the long, long delay in replying, but I have been away since March hiking the Appalachian Trail, so I am afraid your letter just missed me. I hope you can forgive me.

What can I possibly say in response to so many kind and flattering words, other than that I am having your letter enlarged and framed, and am instructing my children to memorize it? (They think I am a dork. I am not quite sure what that is, but I gather it is not a condition to aspire to.)

As you can see, we have indeed moved back to the States, specifically to New Hampshire, which we chose because we wanted to be on the east coast for easier access to England. It is wonderful and everybody loves it. If you are ever out this way, it would be my honor and pleasure to take you for meat loaf at  Lou’s Diner—a better offer than it sounds, believe me.

Until that happy day, I can but offer you my sincerest thanks for your very generous words. You don’t say what kind of author you are, and I fear that I am hopelessly out of touch with American letters, but I shall be looking for your work from now on, and can assure you that your books will now be displayed face out in all the leading bookstores in New England. (It’s not a problem; I go in to do my own regularly.)

Hope to meet you one day. Until then, and once again, many, many thanks and all very best wishes.

Yours sincerely,

Bill Bryson

By the way, we did eventually meet. I have a picture of Bryson, my sister Margaret and me at Vroman’s Bookstore to prove it. Alas, I can’t get WordPress to let me share it with you.

 

Do Talk to Strangers

Barbara Fellow Travelers 2 Comments

Author Bill Bryson talks about being on a train and thinking about fellow travel writer Paul Theroux writing about the fascinating conversations he has with strangers. This seemed to perplex Bryson because he found it difficult to strike up conversations with traveling Brits.

That got me thinking about a short conversation with an enthusiastic traveler who confessed that he found it difficult to talk to strangers and wondered how I did it.

Since my Do Talk To Strangers Policy is a vital component of traveling—and being entrepreneurial—I started to consider how I actually go about it. I realized that some of it is purely intuitive.

For instance, when a stranger plunks down next to me on an airplane, I take a breath, take a look and see if I’m moved to start a conversation. Most of the time I get it right. Once in a while, I know  from my opening question that my seatmate is inclined toward solitude and I stop there.

Whether you’re standing in line at the post office or waiting for a train, here are a few ideas to help you uncover the fascinating folks around you.

° Make it a game. Decide ahead of time that you want to find an interesting story or inspiring stranger. I have been on long flights that seemed to pass in a moment  because I had landed next to a great storyteller. I consider that a fine compensation for the annoyances of contemporary travel.

° Don’t wait. Instigate. Be willing to be the one who takes the first step. A friendly smile is a good way to test the water. If it’s not reciprocated, move on.

° Look for common ground. I often open a conversation with a compliment or observation about something the stranger is wearing or carrying or something that’s happening around us.

When I hopped into a London taxi that was covered in promotional material for the Rolling Stones, I suspected I had a fascinating chat ahead of me. And I did.

I learned that my driver was the only cab in the city promoting the Stones, that he earned an extra £750 a year by putting advertising on his cab, and that he’d once advertised for the South African Tourist Board and got a free trip to that country as a bonus. He was hoping he might get tickets to a Stones concert this time around.

° Be politely curious. Our reluctance to talk to strangers may be caused by thinking it’s about us. Wrong. It’s about them. Yes, you might be subjected to a tedious story now and then, but it’s worth the risk.

One of my most memorable conversations was with a young man who was a linguistic professor who spoke seven languages. When I learned that, I asked him the best way to learn a language and his reply was, “Be a kid.” I laughed and asked, “What’s the second best ?”

The answer to that question—and many more—kept us chatting from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. I learned a lot and enjoyed his willingness to share his linguistic passion.

Those are the moments that keep me talking to strangers who unknowingly enrich my life.  And like everything else, it gets easier with practice.

 

 

Need a Laugh?

Barbara Money for Fun Join the Conversation!  

Shortly after I met my friend Chris Utterback, I found myself having an especially challenging day. I decided to give her a call and when she answered the phone I didn’t say hello. “Make me laugh,” I demanded.

“Just a minute,” she said. “I have to get my joke folder.” Joke folder?

When she got back to the phone she explained that she kept a file folder of cartoons and stories that she found funny. She promptly began reading me her favorites and before long we were giggling like second graders.

By the time I hung up the phone, the world was looking considerably brighter again.

Ever since, I’ve kept my own Make Me Laugh folders, along with other emergency supplies for moments when I need a dose of hilarity.

If you’d like to expand the amount of laughter in your life, here are some ideas that can help.

* Memorize this quote. Ernest Hemingway said, “The seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who can laugh in life the seeds are covered with better soil and a higher grade of manure.”

* Take a laughter class. If your local adult ed program has such a class, sign up at once. If you can’t find such a class, get a set of CDs or tapes from your favorite comedian and play them in the car. I’m especially fond of Prairie Home Companion’s Pretty Good Joke Show CDs.

* Meet my friend Karyn Ruth. The most hilarious trip I ever took was the London adventure I shared with Karyn Ruth White. We both recall it as a week of nonstop laughter. I always look forward to seeing her on my trips to Denver, where she lives, and know that our phone chats will be filled with noisy laughter.

If she’s not available to accompany you on a trip, order her Kiss My Botox CD, her Laughing in the Face of Stress DVD or her book Your Seventh Sense that will help you polish your own funny bone. They’re all available at KarynRuthWhite.com.

* Read something funny. There aren’t a lot of authors that make me laugh out loud, but one who does is Bill Bryson. His travel books are especially hilarious. I’m especially fond of Neither Here Nor There, although any of his books is bound to produce a giggle or guffaw.

You don’t have to be a Minnesotan to find the Pretty Good Joke Book from Prairie Home Companion pretty darn funny.

* Meet Annette Goodheart. The first laughter therapist I ever heard of was Dr. Goodheart whose adult ed classes in her hometown of Santa Barbara had long waiting lists.

Dr. Goodheart calls laughter ‘Portable Therapy’ and points out that its benefits include: strengthens your immune system, helps you think more clearly, replenishes creativity, releases emotional pain, and it’s free.

See for yourself at teehee.com and laughtercoach.com.

* Join a Laughing Club. The movement started by The Laughing Clubs of India is spreading throughout the world. You may have a local branch or you might want to start one yourself.

The concept is simple: get a group together and laugh for half an hour first thing in the morning. They claim all sorts of amazing cures among their members.

Or let John Cleese show you the benefits of Laughter Yoga on this video.

Don’t ever forget that laughter is a medicine that doesn’t require a prescription. Dose frequently. It’s good for you and equally good for your business.

 

Before and After

Barbara Making it Better Join the Conversation!  

Every so often, I open my mailbox at the post office and have the surprise of a check I hadn’t known was coming. I always think of Bill Bryson’s observation, “Is there anything, apart from a really good chocolate cream pie and receiving a large unexpected check in the mail, to beat finding yourself at large in a foreign city on a fine spring evening?”

Happily, I also have had the pleasure of a fine chocolate cream pie and springtime evenings in foreign cities. Except for the chocolate cream pie, the unexpected checks and evenings in Venice were not part of my life before I became joyfully jobless.

In fact, the pre-entrepreneurial life I led bears little resemblance to the post-entrepreneurial life I’ve created. And I’m not the only one who is aware of the differences.

In The War of Art, Steven Pressfield writes, “The moment an artist turns pro is as epochal as the birth of his first child. With one stroke, everything changes. I can state absolutely that the term of my life can be divided into two parts: before turning pro, and after.”

Seth Godin echoes that in Small is the New Big. He says, “For the last six years, I’ve had exactly one employee. Me. This has changed my life in ways I hadn’t predicted. The biggest changes are:

“1. The kind of project that’s interesting is now very different. It doesn’t have to be strategic or scalable or profitable enough to feed an entire division. It just has to be interesting or fun or good for my audience.

“2. The idea of risk is different as well. I can write an e-book and launch it in some crazy way and just see what happens. Because my costs are nothing compared to those of a large organization, there are no boundaries in the way I approach something.”

Like Pressfield and Godin, I’ve been thinking about my own before and after story. For instance, in the before part of my life I didn’t know anyone who loved their work. Now I hardly know anyone who isn’t passionate about what they do.

In my previous life, I only dreamed about traveling. Today, I’ve filled up several passports.

Before I was self-employed, I had never been to New York, Seattle, Toronto, Victoria, the Lake District, Boston—or dozens of other wonderful places. Best of all, I not only have gotten to see the world, I’ve gotten paid to do so.

So, of course,  I identify completely with Peter Mayle’s observation: “I would rather live precariously in my own office than comfortably in someone else’s.” 

The After version of me knows something the Before version didn’t even suspect: Mayle just defined perfectly what security really means. I can’t imagine ever wanting to trade this life for the one that came before. 

This isn’t just change…it’s transformation.

I believe this calls for a celebration. How about a jamboree?

Laughing All the Way

Barbara Good Investments Join the Conversation!  

Should I ever wake up some morning and think, “I guess it’s time to get a job,” I know exactly how I’ll abort that thought. I’ll just get in my car and head for the nearest freeway. A few minutes spent in rush hour traffic would certainly bring me back to my senses. 

It’s not just the slowness of heavy traffic that annoys me: the behavior of my fellow drivers is one of the few things guaranteed to make me lose my cool. No thoughts of universal oneness and love of humanity surface when I’m spending time in traffic.

Shortly after being inspired by Marianne Williamson’s Everyday Grace, I decided to try a new approach. When a fellow driver would threaten my life, I’d send them a silent blessing and then say a short prayer that went something like, “Dear Lord, please send that person better driving skills.”

I figured there was a hidden opportunity here to start shaping up all the folks who didn’t bother using their turn signals or who were distracted by a fascinating phone conversation. 

It calmed me a little as I recalled the Biblical admonition to pray without ceasing and realized that bad drivers were propelling me to a constant state of prayer. I had no idea that another weapon awaited me.

A few years ago, I attended a Laughter Workshop taught by Kim McIntyre Cannold. After all, I love to laugh and I thought it would be fun. I didn’t expect to learn something so amazing, something that has proved invaluable already—especially in traffic.

Cannold, who is certified by the Association for Applied and Therapeutic Humor, opened her workshop by talking about the different kinds of laughter and had us all try out various types from tittering to belly laughing. Then she boldly suggested that we could schedule a laugh fest every day and simply laugh our heads off for no reason other than it would improve our emotional and physical well-being.

That was news to me. Laughing for the sake of laughing? While laughing as a healing agent has long been known, I’d never heard it suggested that we could just laugh without any outside stimulus.

The next time a driver cut me off, I decided to laugh, although it seemed a bit hypocritical. To my astonishment, it felt great. It felt much better than fuming to myself, which didn’t change the situation. 

Laughing didn’t change the other driver’s behavior, either, (and I figured my prayers might take a little longer to be answered), but it sure changed me. It was obvious that the one who laughs gets the reward.

If you’d like to expand the amount of laughter in your life, here are some ideas that can help.

° Memorize this quote. Ernest Hemingway said, “The seeds of what we will do are in all of us, but it always seemed to me that in those who can laugh in life the seeds are covered with better soil and a higher grade of manure.”

 ° Take a laughter class. If your local adult ed program has such a class, sign up at once. If you can’t find such a class, get a set of CDs or tapes from your favorite comedian and play them in the car. I love the Prairie Home Companion Pretty Good Jokes album.

° Meet my friend Karyn Ruth. The most hilarious trip I ever took was the London adventure I shared with Karyn Ruth White. We both recall it as a week of nonstop laughter. If she’s not available to accompany you on a trip, order her video Laughing in the Face of Stress or her CD set from www.karynruthwhite.com. She’s a seriously funny woman.

° Meet Annette Goodheart. The first laughter therapist I ever heard of was Dr. Goodheart whose adult ed classes in her hometown of Santa Barbara had long waiting lists. Dr. Goodheart calls laughter ‘Portable Therapy’ and points out that its benefits include: strengthens your immune system, helps you think more clearly, replenishes creativity, releases emotional pain, it’s free. She’s got a great Web site with several surprising features. Go to www.teehee.com to see for yourself.

° Read something funny. There aren’t a lot of authors that make me laugh out loud, but one who does is Bill Bryson. His travel books are especially hilarious. I’m especially fond of Neither Here Nor There, although any of his books is bound to produce a giggle or guffaw. 

° Join a Laughing Club. The movement started by The Laughing Clubs of India is spreading throughout the world. You may have a local branch or you might want to start one yourself. The concept is simple: get a group together and laugh for half an hour first thing in the morning. They claim all sorts of amazing cures among their members.

 Laughter and prayer are certainly important for the entrepreneurial life so be generous with both. Look for the funny side and you’ll discover there’s no shortage of goofiness to help you meet your daily quota of laughs. Be bold and test it for yourself. It’s medicine that doesn’t require a prescription.

What We Almost Missed

Barbara Fellow Travelers 3 Comments

While Bill Bryson was toiling away at a London newspaper, he was dreaming about being a freelance writer. With a wife and family to support, this seemed a risky and selfish dream. So he continued to drag himself to a job that was growing more loathsome.

One day he got a call at work from his wife Cynthia. “I’ve just put the house on the market,” she announced. Her husband was livid, but she remained firm. “You’ve been talking about quitting your job and it’s time you did that.” 

The London house was sold and the Bryson clan moved north to rural Yorkshire for a new life. Bryson’s modest goal was to earn a decent living by writing articles and books. He produced several books on the English language, which had modest sales, but it was his humorous travel tales that earned him a following and massive popularity. He’s also earned numerous awards, including  an honorary OBE (Officer of the Order of the British Empire) for his contribution to literature.

It makes me shudder to think that he could still be an obscure copy editor instead of making his devoted fans, of which I am one, laugh out loud.

Thinking about Bryson’s story makes me want to jump up on my chair and holler, “Hooray for the Cynthia Brysons of the world!” People like her are in short supply. On the other hand, the world is full of people like her husband, people who dream of doing one thing while doing another. 

Self-doubt is a nasty scoundrel that kills armies of dreams and thwarts ambition of all sorts. When we allow self-doubt to keep us from going after our dreams, we dupe ourselves into thinking that we’re behaving prudently. Unless we understand the folly of this position, it’s impossible to take action.

In the end, self-doubt is just that: doubt that one allows to fester in oneself. You don’t need a Cynthia Bryson to cure it, but you do need determination to get past it.

One of my favorite reminders comes from Paulo Coehlo who wrote, “Too often we decide to follow a path that is not really our own, one that others have set for us. We forget that whichever way we go, the price is the same: in both cases, we will pass through both difficult and happy moments. But when we are living our dream, the difficulties we encounter make sense.”