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

Creating Your Own Job? Come to the Fair!

Barbara Postcard from Barbara 3 Comments

As you may or may not know, Las Vegas was particularly hard hit during the economic downturn. Consequently, the local news featured at least one Job Fair being held in the city every week.

Long lines of folks showed up for the slim chance of procuring one of the few job openings. It was all rather glum.

During one such news story, a question popped into my head. “Why isn’t anyone talking about alternatives to getting a job?” I was talking about that, of course, but I couldn’t just ramble down Las Vegas Blvd. sharing that option.

Then the idea of creating a really informative event started to take shape. I envisioned an Un-Job Fair where people could learn a about self-employment in one day.

What are the myths and misconceptions about working for yourself? How do you get started? What legal obligations do you have? What kinds of businesses are easy to open?

As I was playing with this notion, I happened to have lunch with Don Woodruff, an old friend from the adult ed circuit. Don had been living in Las Vegas, too, but was headed to Denver.

At our farewell lunch, I shared my idea about the Un-Job Fair. He liked the idea as much as I did.

A few weeks later, I heard from Don who had contacted Helen Hand at Colorado Free University and told her about this wild notion of mine. She loved it, too, and decided to sponsor the first Un-Job Fair.

Helen tapped into her talent bank of teachers and soon had a great line-up of workshops. Steve Veltcamp and I flew in for the event and were thrilled at the response.

Not only were the workshops a wonderful blend of topics, I loved lunchtime when small groups of participants gathered on the lawns and got to know their fellow seekers over a picnic lunch.

Another highlight came as the day ended with a panel of speakers answering questions from the students.

Needless to say, I was thrilled when CFU decided to do it the following year. And the one after that.

On May 31, the fifth Un-Job Fair is happening again and if you’re in the area and want to gather tools for your own Joyfully Jobless Journey, this is the place to be.

See what’s in store at the Un-Job Fair and register now.

Who’s That Little Surfer Dude?

Barbara Fellow Travelers 2 Comments

On the morning of my birthday last month, I awoke to an emailbox full of greetings. One in particular caught my eye. It came from my globetrotting friend Marianne Cantwell who was in Bali recovering from a freak injury to her back.

The title line simply said A Birthday Surprise. I don’t remember what went through my mind as I opened her message, but what I found was truly a surprise.

Somehow, Marianne had gathered a wide array of people from around the world to send birthday greetings to me. If you haven’t seen the video, I urge you to check it out before you read the rest of this story.

Click on here for birthday video.  Type in the password adventure (lower case).

As the day went on and phone calls joined the e-mail and postal mail greetings, I interrogated every one about their participation in the video surprise.

My sister Nancy had a great story about getting permission to have her picture taken from the rooftop of a restaurant in Athens. My friend Georgia in Sweden told me how she’d coached our mutual friend John in Minneapolis to get his picture included.

The stories went on and on. It was obvious that this project delighted the participants almost as much as it delighted me.

But there was one mystery. Who was that cute little surfer wishing me a happy birthday from Costa Rica? I couldn’t think of a soul I knew who lived there.

When I talked to Marianne, she was evasive. “I had to cheat a bit on that one,” was all she’d admit.

Then last Saturday, I had the pleasure of spending several hours with Marianne who had landed in California for a short stay. As we sat listening to the surf on the beach in Ventura, I asked her again to reveal his identity.

She hedged for a moment, then said, “He’s an entrepreneur.”

I laughed out loud. “How do you happen to know him?”

Her answer surprised and pleased me. “I found him on Fiverr,” she said. “I realized we didn’t have anyone on the video representing South America so I went looking for someone there.

“He and his father do this together and will record a message and send it for five dollars.”

Clever Marianne. Clever surfer dude and dad.

Don’t you love entrepreneurial creativity in action? I predict they all have a bright future.

7 Things You Might Want to Collect

Barbara Build a Better Business 7 Comments

Setting your life up to be lived as an on-going treasure hunt, can only happen if you’ve  identified things that enrich your life. Not all of those things are things, of course.

Here are some collectibles that enhance the entrepreneurial life.

° Testimonials. Happy clients and customers who take time to let you know that they appreciate your efforts do more than simply lift your spirits: they can also help you attract more happy clients and customers.

Develop a system for saving the e-mails, thank yous and verbal words of praise. I usually ask at the time I receive such things if it would be okay to share. Nobody has ever turned me down.

° Experiences. Different experiences are good for your curiosity, your personal growth and, often, the basis of  your best stories. Why, then, do so many people fail to put themselves in new situations?

Habit, routine and self-doubt are some of the culprits here.

While all new experiences aren’t necessarily planned in advance, it’s a good idea to regularly put some on your calendar. Without them, you won’t have many good stories to tell your grandchildren.

° Joyfully Jobless friends. It was Napoleon Hill who first brought attention to the notion of a Master Mind Group. That’s still a fine idea, but you also need informal relationships with others who are self-employed.

Start following entrepreneurs on Twitter. Organize a local Meetup group. Find out about organizations and informal gatherings of self-employed folks in your area. Go to workshops and conferences aimed at the self-employed.

Follow up on recommendations of friends who say, “Oh, you should meet So-and-So. You have a lot in common.”

Before you know it, you’ll have a tribe.

° Stories. More and more marketing gurus are  singing the praises of storytelling. Not only is this an overlooked marketing tool, many people overlook their own best stories.

Keeping a simple journal or file of stories you encounter—both in person or as a reader—is a good idea. When it comes time to  write a speech or spiff up your Web site or produce a mailing, you’ll have a pool of material to draw from.

Then there’s this from Michael E. Gerber: “I dare say, all successful entrepreneurs have loved the story of their business. Because that’s what true entrepreneurs do: They tell stories that come to life in the form of their business.”

° Portfolio of profit centers. There’s a line in the movie About a Boy that I love: “Two’s not enough. You’ve got to have backup.” They’re talking about relationships in the film, but it is equally true for profit centers.

As I’ve frequently mentioned, all enterprises go through cycles, but not all cycles are synchronized. If you have variety in your offerings, you can adjust, revamp, shift gears as necessary.

However, the flukes of the marketplace are only part of the reason for building a portfolio. You need outlets for all of your passions.

An evolving portfolio is how you create the pieces of our own particular puzzle.

° Resources. The abundance of information available to us is both dazzling and daunting. Knowing that useful resources exist  can do a great deal to dispel fear and doubt, but only if you take advantage of the  best resources you can find.

Go beyond a Google search and find resources in your community, at the library, and, perhaps, your local visitor’s center. Does your local newspaper do stories about small businesses in the area? Are there local radio talk shows that might enjoy having you as a guest?  What about adult ed programs that can sharpen your skills?

° Expertise. Almost from the beginning of my entrepreneurial journey, I recognized that being regarded as an expert would be useful. Of course, if you’re passionate about something, growing into expertise is almost inevitable.

Using that expertise to expand your visibility, help others, make new discoveries, and create additional profit centers requires understanding the expert’s role and a willingness to value what you already have accomplished.

As I point out in my Establish Yourself as an Expert seminars, this isn’t something you do by the first Tuesday of next month. It’s an on-going, evolutionary process—one that keeps you stretching, exploring and growing. Doing so can also open doors of opportunity in delightfully surprising ways.

My Favorite Habitat

Barbara Habitats Join the Conversation!  

This month we’ve been exploring habitats and the importance of putting yourself in your natural habitat as often as possible. Not all habitats are physical, however.

In fact, my personal definition of inspiration is “a place to come from.” When we decide to live our lives from an inspired place, we tend to get busy looking for ways to do just that.

For me, of course, self-employment is my starting point, my place of origin.

Last week, Steve Nobel from Alternatives St. James’s London and I had a lively chat about Self-employment as Your Next Career. Hope you’ll spend a few minutes listening to what we talked about.

Here’s the link on the joys of self-employment: http://shar.es/gfX5h

9 Ways to Get Your New Year Off to a Great Start

Barbara Postcard from Barbara 4 Comments

The Internet and media are filled with the annual chatter about New Year’s Resolutions, strategic planning, and goal setting. There are Best and Worst Lists for anything and everything.

As much as I’m looking forward to a fresh new year, I’d like to suggest a different approach for launching it.

We know from studies that resolutions don’t work very well. Who needs to start the year feeling guilty because they abandoned those lofty intentions?

Instead of tricking yourself with short-lived resolutions and dreary goals, take the long view. Embark on the new year with gusto by taking a creative, active approach.

Go wild and design 2012 and beyond on paper (not on your computer). Go really wild and get a new journal that will hold your ideas, dreams, and ambitions.

Lay the foundation for a brighter future by devoting a page or two to the topics I’m suggesting, along with others that are reflections of your personal values.

Challenge yourself to create Top Ten Lists (or whatever number you fancy) for the following categories:

Lessons Learned ~ I once heard Cher say that her greatest fear was not living as well as she knew how to live. It’s easy to forget our own wisdom sometimes, but a year end review can help.

That’s a wonderful ritual to implement. Consider what worked, what didn’t, what brought you joy, mistakes you won’t repeat.

People That Matter ~  I  once wrote an article for Winning Ways newsletter about a fantasy train trip that included people I love and people I’d love to meet.

Just thinking about who I’d want along for the ride was a terrific exercise. Give thought to the people who enrich your life and find ways to connect often.

Books to Devour ~ Psychologist Eda LaShan said middle age begins the moment you realize you won’t live long enough to read all the books you want to read. I’m pretty sure I was born middle-aged.

Having a designated spot to write down titles of books that sound intriguing means you’ll have a running list of suggestions when you need them.

Being Goals ~ Although the focus of goal-setting is often on things we want to acquire, there are three different areas to consider.

Besides the obvious Having Goals, there are also Being Goals and Doing Goals. Of these, the most important (and challenging) are the Being Goals.

I’d suggest that if you focus on the person you want to be, the having and doing takes care of itself.

Do More, Do Less ~ Too often when we decide to add a new activity or behavior, we fail to make room for it.

Several years ago on New Year’s Eve, a local tv reporter was interviewing folks on the street asking them about their resolutions. After hearing the usual, “Lose 10 pounds, save more money,” stuff, he interviewed a woman who confidently said, “I plan to walk more and smoke less.”

As soon as I heard that, I thought, “She’s the one who will make it.” I could imagine that every time she was tempted to smoke, she’d put on her walking shoes instead.

This is another wonderfully powerful exercise for sorting things out and focusing on what matters most.

Things to Discard, Abandon ~ Related to the previous tip, getting rid of clutter of every sort is also essential for living a rich, fascinating life.

If your life is filled with things, activities and people that don’t fit the 2012 version of you, it’s time to let go and move on.

Explorations & Adventures ~ The key to having an adventurous life is to have an adventurous imagination backed up by action.

In Making a Living Without a Job, I told the story about my years of failure in finding a way to travel. At the beginning, I had a specific destination in mind and started getting ready to go long before I knew how it would happen.

What places and experiences do you long to visit? Write ’em down.

90 Day Projects ~ Barbara Sher talks about making a temporary permanent commitment. This is a way to do just that and test drive your ideas.

Divide the year into quarters and have a special focus for each. Give yourself 90 days to focus on a couple of high priorities. Immerse, don’t dabble.

At the end of that time period, evaluate. This is the time to decide if you want to continue or move on to other things.

$100 Hour Ideas to Implement ~ If you’re familiar with this concept, you know that I encourage you to start a running list of ideas that you can turn into income. (Disclosure: the popular term for this is monetize. That word makes me shiver.)

This one is a genuine momentum builder and belongs in your portfolio.

 

Job Security or Self-Security?

Barbara Got Options? Join the Conversation!  

The other day, I was going through some papers and came across a question I’d written down. It said, “Why settle for false security when you can have the real thing?”

Apparently, I’m not the only one challenging the conventional notion about what constitutes security.

When I saw this piece from Christine Kane, I thought it was the perfect way to end Got Options? month here at Buon Viaggio. Obviously, she has given much thought to what constitutes genuine security.

°°°°°°

One of the scariest things I ever did was quit my first (and only) “real” job so I could begin my own brand of creative work in the world.

I became – gasp! – self-employed.

I was warned of the risks. I was told I’d lose my benefits and security. I was told it’s “hard out there” working for yourself.

The assumption so many people base one of their biggest life choices on is that working for yourself is risky.  After 16 years of making a living on my own terms – I believe the exact opposite!

So, here are seven new perspectives on the well-worn idea of “Job Security.” (My reasons why NOT to have a job.)

1. Having a job is risky.

When you have a job, someone can take away your income in two words: “You’re fired.”  This is happening more and more as companies crumble in the face of global changes.

If you ask me, there’s nothing secure about that.

In your own business, when a client or customer moves on – then guess what?  You get to say, “Next!”

2. No Bonus Pay for Messing Up.

When you mess up at your job, you get punished, maybe even a pay-cut. Then you have to run around “making nice” to the people who might lay you off or promote someone else who’s younger and “hungry.” (Hungry for what? More time at the office?)

When one of my clients faces challenges in her business, I remind her to be excited. She’s getting paid to learn!  Every mistake teaches her more about how to succeed.

Instead of getting an MBA – she’s getting a TBF. (Trial by Fire!)  TBF’s yield a high ROI!

3. Your Ceiling isn’t Adjustable When you Have a Job.

Often, I show clients multiple places they can generate income in their business within the next few months.  Their eyes light up as they realize that the possibilities are endless.  They stop thinking in terms of “hours for dollars,” and start thinking of passive income.  (Hey, why not get paid while you sleep?)

In a job, you can’t adjust your income based on the value you provide. Instead you have to ask for a raise.  Not fun.

4. Pantyhose.

As I write this, I’m working.

I’m wearing a Tarheels baseball cap, a t-shirt, and jeans. I’ve got my feet propped up on the deck railing as birds sing at the feeder.

When I had a job, there was a dress code. And rules about what you could have on your desk. There was limited time for lunch, and no time for creativity.  And don’t even get me started on pantyhose!

5. Your money doesn’t go as far.

Did you know that employee income is the most heavily taxed income in the U.S.?   As an employee, almost half your salary will go to taxes.  You get to spend what’s left on living expenses.

One of my first self-employed discoveries was that my money went MUCH further – because I could invest in myself with pre-tax income.  Any good accountant will help you make your dollars expand in your own business.

6. Focusing on your Weaknesses.

Have you ever heard of a “360?”

That’s when your co-workers and supervisors (and anyone else who wants to chip in) analyze your job performance. You learn all about your weaknesses – and you get a review outlining the ways you need to work on them. Often, people leave these “360” reviews in tears.

In the world of the solo-preneur, we don’t mess with our weaknesses. The motto is Strengthen your Strengths. Hire your Weaknesses. In other words, as you become aware of your weaknesses, you don’t waste your precious energy fixing them.

7. Negative Environment.

Many office environments don’t encourage creative thinking or positive focus. Instead, there’s lots of negativity among employees who feel powerless.

In your own business, you set the tone, and you choose who enters your environment. You become personally responsible for every aspect of your life.

This is often more uncomfortable than sitting back and blaming “The Man,” but it will absolutely free you.

°°°°°°°°

Christine Kane is the Mentor to People Who are Changing the World. She helps women and men Uplevel their lives, their businesses and their success. Her weekly Uplevel You eZine goes out to over 20,000 subscribers. If you are ready to take your life and your world to the next level, you can sign up for a F.R.E.E. subscription at http://christinekane.com.

TO SEE HUNDREDS MORE ARTICLES LIKE THIS ONE?

See Christine’s blog at ChristineKane.com/blog.

 

 

Complacent or Curious?

Barbara Got Options? Join the Conversation!  

On the day that my daughter left for college, she tucked a card in my dresser drawer that said, “Thanks for being such a great mother, a great friend, a great teacher and student.”

I’d like to think that the most important thing I taught Jennie was to keep being a student. And she has.

Just before New Year’s Day a few year back, she called to tell me about a trip she’d made to the bookstore where she’d found several treasures. “My project this year is to learn lots of new things,” she announced.

One of her purchases had been a desk calendar of scientific questions since she felt her knowledge was lacking in that area. As she constantly reminds me, doing things that appear out of character can be a powerful catalyst for learning.

Her bookstore visit opened the way for a discussion of our individual visions for the new year. After discussing a few specific goals, I said, “And my theme for the year is Stretch. To make sure that I don’t forget that’s what my life is about right now, I’ve taken up daily yoga practice as a literal reminder.”

“That’s a good one,” she agreed.

Since we’re coming to the end of the year, Jennie and I have been talking about the things we plan to explore when 2012 rolls around. She’s planning to revisit things she’s loved in the past.

I’m still narrowing down my theme for the year, but know it will be one that feeds my curiosity.

“Seems to me if I were the Maker of the Universe,” mused advertising whiz Bernice Fitz-Gibbon, “the people who would vex me the most would be the ones who went unseeing and unwanting through this fascinating world.”

They’re the ones who vex me most, too. On the other hand, the ones who inspire me most are those who keep stretching themselves day in and day out.

Ask such a person, “What’s new?” and they always have a fascinating answer.

Staying curious is not only something that’s available to anyone, it doesn’t cost a dime. Where it leads, depends on how willing we are to give up limited thinking and follow the callings that are unique to each of us.

In the coming new year, discover the truth of Gregg Levoy’s tantalizing promise: “When people begin to follow their calls, they way opens up, even after they’ve kept the gods drumming their fingers for decades, pacing around the front hall while they take forever in the boudoir getting ready.

“Opportunities wash up on shore; people take an interest; out of the corner of your eye, you spy synchronicities; the right book or the right person crosses your path. Sometimes even money follows. Perhaps it’s nothing more mysterious than the universe supporting growth and life loving itself.”

Nice vision, isn’t it?

If we allow ourselves to become complacent—or, even worse, cynical—we destroy any possibility of having such a rich and adventurous life. We block our stretch.

So pick a theme. Plan some fascinating projects. Listen and follow your calls. Use it or lose it.

If you don’t there’s much to be lost. “A life devoted to trifles,” warned Hannah More, “not only takes away the inclination, but the capacity, for higher pursuits.”

 

Wishing or Willing?

Barbara Got Options? Join the Conversation!  

We’re coming to the time of year for reflection and resolutions, but once a year doesn’t seem nearly often enough to me. Too many of us reach this annual ritual reflecting and resolving the same old stuff.

Let’s close out this year by eliminating, once and for all, the dithering that keeps us from boldly moving ahead in our lives.

And let’s start with a favorite mantra of the cowering: “I don’t know how.” Instead of seeing this as an invitation to learning, it becomes a convenient hiding place (and a crowded one at that).

There’s an exercise I created a few years ago after reading that when his flight seatmate asked author Robert Fulgham what he did, Fulgham suggested that they spend the flight lying to each other, describing some fantasy occupation that they had only imagined. That produced one of the liveliest trips of Fulgham’s life.

Although I’ve never tried it on a plane, I thought it would work in a seminar. People are put in pairs and instructed to take turns answering the question, “What do you do?” with a fabricated story.

The listener asks questions about how they chose this occupation, what they love most about it, etc. The only rule is that participants have to pick something they’ve never seriously considered.

Suddenly the room explodes as faux symphony conductors, espionage agents, innkeepers and horse trainers start sharing their stories. People are smiling and laughing as they weave their fictional tales.

They also startle themselves as they discover they know more about “how” than they realized. The dangerous, actual lie, then, is, “I don’t know how.”

If you’re tempted to use this worn out excuse, stop and notice that you have the world’s largest  How-to Emporium at your fingertips—the Internet. Add on libraries, bookstores and living examples and “I don’t know how,” appears to mean, “I don’t want to be bothered.”

Moving from wishing to willing involves a few other changes as well. In fact, one of the most critical steps is often overlooked: making room for what you want.

Writer Truman Capote  said, “I  believe more in scissors than I do in the pencil.” That applies to all sorts of creative endeavors in life.

Metaphysical teachers talk about creating a vacuum  by clearing out what you don’t want and trusting that it will be replaced with something better.

Letting go ahead of the evidence is terrifying to many people who seem to have forgotten a basic teaching from high school physics about two objects not occupying the same space at the same time.

That’s not just true for rocks, of course. We like to tell ourselves that we can’t let go until we have our replacement lined up, but that’s wishy-washy thinking that can keep us from moving ahead.

Norwegian actress Liv Ullmann seemed to be speaking for many of us when she said, “I had a life with options, but frequently lived as if I had none. The sad result is that the woman I’ve become is not the woman I could have been.”

Here’s a question worth pondering as we head to the new year: What am I willing to do to make a difference in my life and the lives of others? What  new options am I going to exercise? What is the best way to make room for that?

Once you know the answers, remember that wishing won’t get you there.

Are you willing?

 

Got Options?

Barbara Got Options? 1

It’s a new month so there’s a new theme here at Buon Viaggio. For the next four weeks, we’ll explore a question that I ponder regularly: got options?

Of course, it’s a bit of a trick question since options aren’t something we get; options are more often something that we recognize.

It’s a lesson I learned long ago.

At a particularly difficult time in my life, I was sharing my frustration with a friend. She listened attentively to my story and then quietly said, “Barbara, you always have options.”

I was too miserable to grasp what she said in that  moment of my despair. Later, as I was making decisions, changing directions, and setting new goals, I’d remember those wise words and get busy exploring the options available to me.

It’s a practice that has served me well—and I’m not alone in that discovery.

Several months ago, CBS Sunday Morning did a piece about comedian/actor Chris Rock who was appearing in a Broadway play that was about to open. The interviewer commented on the diversity of Rock’s career and his financial success as a performer.

Rock sat up a little straighter and said, “Being rich is not about having lots of money. Being rich is about having lots of options.”

By that definition, which I believe is totally accurate, the world is full of rich people who have no idea. As writer Brenda Uleland said in her marvelous If You Want to Write, “It seems to me like this: if you have a million dollars in the bank and you don’t know it’s there, it doesn’t do you any good.”

Seems to me like this, if you have unlimited options and don’t know it, it doesn’t do you any good.

So this month, we’ll look at practical ways to uncover all that buried treasure. It may take a bit of digging, but I predict you’re going to love what you discover.

In the meantime, consider this bit of advice from Mike Dooley: “Both having money and not having money make fantastic adventures possible that would not otherwise be possible. Same for having, and not having, anything else.”

Opens the options window wider, doesn’t it?

 

 

Staying Positive When Things Turn Negative

Barbara Help Wanted, Postcard from Barbara 5 Comments

“April is the cruelest month,” mused T.S. Eliot. Obviously, he wasn’t around in October a few years back. While the weather had been magnificent, many people were not so inclined.

For background noise there was the nightly news with an unrelenting stream of stories about war, recession and political nastiness.

Closer at hand were the two women who left their manners at home when they came to my English tea class and the burglar who removed the battery from my car.

Staying positive in a negative world is challenging even in normal times, but this felt as if guerilla tactics were in order. Here are some of the most helpful I’ve found for getting past negative times and creating positive ones.

° Bombard yourself with positives. Overcompensate. Sondra Ray has a wonderful affirmation that goes, “Every negative thought immediately triggers three more powerful positive ones.”

If things are looking dim, consciously create the opposite thought. Keep your favorite books of inspiration close at hand and read at random during crisis moments.

° Take a proactive stance—and keep it. Nobody does a better job of explaining proactive vs. reactive behavior than Stephen Covey.

In his classic The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People he writes, “Proactive people focus their efforts on the things they can do something about. The nature of their energy is positive, enlarging and magnifying causing their circle of influence to increase. Reactive people, on the other hand, focus on the weakness of other people, the problems in the environment, and circumstances over which they have no control. Their focus results in blaming and accusing attitudes, reactive language and increased feelings of victimization.”

If you need more information about moving into a proactive position, revisit Covey’s book for practical suggestions.

° Indulge a passion. One year, I created two challenges for myself: to discover all the ways that chocolate and raspberries could be combined and to see all of the Monet paintings I could with my own two eyes.

Both of these quests added hours of pleasure when I was traveling—and when I was not. I highly recommend you give yourself a similar challenge.

° Catch someone doing something right and let them know. I noticed a woman at the airport in Chicago wearing a smart outfit. When she reappeared in Minneapolis, I walked up to her and told her I’d been admiring her clothes.

She thanked me and said, “You can probably tell by my accent that you’d have to go a long way to get one for yourself.”

“Where are you from?” I inquired. When she told me London was her hometown, I said, “Oh, but I’m going there next month!”

I came away with a warm feeling and a great shopping tip.

° Take yourself on a mini-retreat. Sometimes the only way to diffuse negative energy is to move yourself completely out of it. So plan a day or two doing something you normally wouldn’t do.

Spend Wednesday doing the Sunday crossword. Watch the seasons change at a cabin at the lake. Have a massage at bedtime.

While you are so engaged, concentrate fully on what’s going on in front of you—not the situation that upset you in the first place.

° Discover the hidden gift in the problem. When my car was burglarized, I was mighty upset. Then one of the handsomest men I have ever met arrived at my door (wearing his police uniform) and things began to look a bit brighter.

We even managed to laugh about the situation when he asked me to check the car for further theft. I looked around and told him all of my music CDs were in place. “I don’t suppose that people who steal batteries would steal Mozart, would they?” I asked.

Negative times can be profoundly diminished if you have tools for dealing with them.

Abraham Maslow once described the self-actualized person’s response to chaos by saying they behaved “like a clock ticking in a thunderstorm.”

It’s a picture I’ve tried to remember in crazy times and attempted to duplicate.

None of us is immune to life’s negative events, but it’s possible to minimize their impact. In the end, it’s really a matter of learning to starve our upsets and feed our opportunities.