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

A Few Thoughts on Discovering Passion

Barbara Postcard from Barbara Join the Conversation!  

It appears that I have fallen in love with the mandolin. This was no overnight love affair, however. It kind of sneaked up on me.

As a longtime fan of the music of Antonio Vivaldi, I had heard my share of mandolins and associated the instrument with music from the past.

That all began to change when I attended a performance of Prairie Home Companion and heard the amazing Peter Ostroushko play. Nevertheless, I wasn’t ready  to commit.

Then it happened. A  few years later on the weekly broadcast of PHC, Ostroushko performed the most glorious piece, something he’d written to celebrate a friend’s wedding. I didn’t remember the name of it, but when I saw he had a new CD, I decided to take a chance.

Sure enough, The A and A Waltz was included. It’s been the soundtrack in my car ever since.

I’ve been thinking about this slow love affair quite a bit. I suspect that when many of us hear about passion, we have a vision of being gob-smacked by something that grabs us by the shoulders and won’t put us down. Love at first sight, perhaps.

I don’t think it works that way. In fact, other than the births of my daughter and my grandchildren, I can’t recall any other times when passion was present from the first moment.

More often, it creeps up, like the mandolin, but it doesn’t come at all unless we expose ourselves to new experiences and possibilities.

Passion isn’t passive; we have to get involved.

One way of doing that, of course, is to pay attention to the passions of others. People we love dearly and admire genuinely may very well have passions that leave us cold.

On the other hand, passionate people may get our attention simply because of their contagious enthusiasm.

Opening ourselves to things that delight others may deliver lovely surprises we hadn’t anticipated. At the very least, we’ll benefit from the power of enthusiasm that raises our own positive attitude simply by being present.

At the same time, we need to notice when a passion has passed its sell-by date. It’s extremely easy to spend time doing things out of habit because we failed to notice that passion has fled.

Sometimes when you partake in a longtime activity and find it no longer amuses or informs or entertains, you’ll begin to feel a bit of disappointment, as if you’d been jilted.

Remember that some passions simply have a longer run than others. Just as closets need to be weeded from time to time, so do the activities that are worth our time and attention.

Whether that passion is for music, art, cars, food, gardens, social justice or any one of a thousand other things, ultimately passion invites us to become more, to do more, to be more. Eventually those enthusiasms infiltrate other areas of our lives.

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings,” Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us. Passion is a pointer to where those blessing can be found.

When the mandolin plays or the antique doll at the flea market catches your eye, pay closer attention and see where it leads. Give it time and see if it grows into something spectacular.

And if that doesn’t happen, keep looking. Just don’t insist on love at first sight.

Unexpected Passion

Barbara Postcard from Barbara Join the Conversation!  

It appears that I have fallen in love with the mandolin. This was no overnight love affair, however. It kind of sneaked up on me.

As a longtime fan of the music of Antonio Vivaldi, I had heard my share of mandolins and associated the instrument with music from the past.

That all began to change when I attended a performance of Prairie Home Companion and heard the amazing Peter Ostroushko play. Nevertheless, I wasn’t ready to commit.

Then it happened. Several weeks ago, while listening to the weekly broadcast of PHC, Ostroushko performed the most glorious piece, something he’d written to celebrate a friend’s wedding. I didn’t remember the name of it, but when I saw he had a new CD, I decided to take a chance.

Sure enough, The A and A Waltz was included. It’s been the soundtrack in my car ever since.

I’ve been thinking about this slow love affair quite a bit because I suspect when folks hear about passion, they have a vision of being gob-smacked by something that grabs them by the shoulders and won’t put them down. Love at first sight, perhaps.

I don’t think it works that way. In fact, other than the births of my daughter and my grandchildren, I can’t recall any other times when passion was present from the first moment.

More often, it creeps up, like the mandolin, but it doesn’t come at all unless we expose ourselves to new experiences and possibilities. Passion isn’t passive; we have to get involved.

One way of doing that, of course, is to pay attention to the passions of others. People we love dearly and admire genuinely may very well have passions that leave us cold.

On the other hand, passionate people may get our attention simply because of their contagious enthusiasm. I’m not particularly interested in cars, but listening to Car Talk is a frequent pleasure on my weekends at home.

Opening ourselves to things that delight others may deliver lovely surprises we hadn’t anticipated. At the very least, we’ll benefit from the power of enthusiasm that raises our own positive attitude.

At the same time, we need to notice when a passion has passed its sell-by date. It’s extremely easy to spend time doing things out of habit because we failed to notice that passion has fled.

Sometimes when you partake in a long-time activity and find it no longer amuses or informs or entertains, you’ll begin to feel a bit of disappointment, as if you’d been jilted.

Some passions simply have a longer run than others. Just as closets need to be weeded from time to time, so do the activities that are worth our time and attention.

Thinking about collectors and collecting has had me contemplating the role of passion in a slightly different way. How do collectors decide what to gather? What’s the difference between those who build thoughtful and valuable collections and those who are simply packrats?

As I was musing about all this, I stumbled upon a delightful book called Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols, a British journalist and fanatic gardener.

The book  begins with a bit of a confession: “Some fall in love with women; some fall in love with art; some fall in love with death. I fall in love with gardens, which is much the same as falling in love with all three at once.”

Nichols goes on to tell his story of finding a wreck of a place in rural England that required years of diligent labor to transform it into the garden of his dreams. Thus began a perpetual hunt for interesting specimens to add to his collection.

It’s obvious that his passion for plants continued to increase even as the challenges involved expanded as well.

But, of course, passion is like that. It often has us doing things we never imagined we could do—or would do.

Whether that passion is for music, art, cars, food, gardens, social justice or any one of a thousand other things, ultimately passion invites us to become more, to do more, to be more. Eventually those enthusiasms infiltrate other areas of our lives.

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings,” Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us.

Passion is a pointer to where those blessing can be found.

When the mandolin plays or the antique doll at the flea market catches your eye, pay closer attention and see where it leads. Give it time and see if it grows into something spectacular.

And if that doesn’t happen, keep looking. Just don’t insist on love at first sight.

Recognizing Passion

Barbara Postcard from Barbara 2 Comments

It appears that I have fallen in love with the mandolin. This was no overnight love affair, however. It kind of sneaked up on me.

As a longtime fan of the music of Antonio Vivaldi, I had heard my share of mandolins and associated the instrument with music from the past.

That all began to change when I attended  a performance of Prairie Home Companion and heard the amazing Peter Ostroushko play. Nevertheless, I wasn’t ready to commit.

Then it happened. Last year, while listening to the weekly broadcast of PHC, Ostroushko performed the most glorious piece, something he’d written to celebrate a friend’s wedding. I promptly ordered his latest CD and The A and A Waltz has been a regular feature on the soundtrack in my car ever since.

I’ve been thinking about this slow love affair quite a bit because I suspect when folks hear about passion, they have a vision of being gob-smacked by something that grabs them by the shoulders and won’t put them down. Love at first sight, perhaps.

I don’t think it works that way. In fact, other than the births of my daughter and my grandchildren, I can’t recall any other times when passion was present from the first moment.

More often, it creeps up, like the mandolin, but it doesn’t come at all unless we expose ourselves to new experiences and possibilities. Passion isn’t passive, after all; we have to get involved.

One way of doing that, of course, is to pay attention to the passions of others. People we love dearly and admire genuinely may very well have passions that leave us cold. On the other hand, passionate people may get our attention simply because of their contagious enthusiasm.

I’m not particularly interested in cars, but listening to Car Talk is a frequent pleasure on my weekends at home. I’m also not much of a foodie, but John Curtas, a Las Vegas restaurant reviewer, is a delight to listen to on Nevada Public Radio and often has me making notes about places I really must visit.

Opening ourselves to things that delight others may deliver lovely surprises we hadn’t anticipated. At the very least, we’ll benefit from the power of enthusiasm  that raises our own positive attitude simply by being present.

At the same time, we need to notice when a passion has passed its sell-by date. It’s extremely easy to spend time doing things out of habit because we failed to notice that passion has fled.

Sometimes when you partake in a longtime activity and find it no longer amuses or informs or entertains, you’ll begin to feel a bit of disappointment, as if you’d been jilted.

Some passions simply have a longer run than others. Just as closets need to be weeded from time to time, so do the activities that are worth our time and attention.

Thinking about collectors and collecting has had me contemplating the role of passion in a slightly different way. How do collectors decide what to gather? What’s the difference between those who build thoughtful and valuable collections and those who are simply packrats?

As I was musing about all this, I stumbled upon a delightful book called Merry Hall by Beverley Nichols, a British journalist and fanatic gardener.

The book begins with a bit of a confession: “Some fall in love with women; some fall in love with art; some fall in love with death. I fall in love with gardens, which is much the same as falling in love with all three at once.”

Nichols goes on to tell his story of finding a wreck of a place in rural England that required years of diligent labor to transform it into the garden of his dreams. Thus began a perpetual hunt for interesting specimens to add to his collection. It’s obvious that his passion for plants continued to increase even as the challenges involved expanded as well.

But, of course, passion is like that. It often has us doing things we never imagined we could do—or would do.

Whether that passion is for music, art, cars, food, gardens, social justice or any one of a thousand other things, ultimately passion invites us to become more, to do more, to be more. Eventually those enthusiasms infiltrate other areas of our lives.

“You have to participate relentlessly in the manifestation of your own blessings,” Elizabeth Gilbert reminds us. Passion is a pointer to where those blessing can be found.

When the mandolin plays or the antique doll at the flea market catches your eye, pay closer attention and see where it leads. Give it time and see if it grows into something spectacular.

And if that doesn’t happen, keep looking. Just don’t insist on love at first sight.

Creatives in the Garden

Barbara Lessons from the Garden Join the Conversation!  

It would come as no surprise, I’m sure, to learn that I’m particularly sensitive to any mention of gardening as a companion to the creative process. Here are three very different stories that caught my attention this week.

When I was headed to Trader Joe’s last weekend, I heard a story on NPR about Trout Gulch Farm and couldn’t wait to get home and find out more about this place started by young filmmaker Isaiah Saxon.

According to the story on NPR, “With the help of filmmaking buddies Sean Hellfritsch and Daren Rabinovitch, Saxon has transformed 10 hilly acres surrounding his mother’s house in Aptos, California into Trout Gulch, a kind of rural hacker space where they build their own houses, grow organic vegetables, milk goats and produce state-of-the-art digital animation.”

Saxon explains how his group of 21st-century pioneers takes a do-it-yourself approach to just about everything. You can find out more about how these fellows are building their Hobbit village and building a successful business at the same time at Trout Gulch.

Four years ago, author Barbara Kingsolver had another bestseller with her nonfiction book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle written in conjunction with her husband and daughter.

The book chronicles the experiences of Kingsolver and her family who decided to spend a year eating only food they raised themselves or that was grown in their neighborhood.

As a result, Kingsolver found herself becoming the spokesperson for the locavore movement—and inspired countless others to start producing more of their own food.

The experience also inspired a small surge in the number of farmer’s markets around the country, plus a new enterprise started by Kingsolver’s spouse.

Her husband Steven Hopp reports, “My most notable commitment to local food has been to put the ideas I’ve learned into practice in our own little community. In 2008, I created a community business devoted to developing and promoting a local economy.

“The Meadowview Farmers’ Guild  is a two-part business, a restaurant devoted to local foods and a general store supplied with local hand-made goods from more than120 different individuals. The Harvest Table Restaurant is a casual fine dining restaurant devoted to sourcing its food as locally as possible.”

You can find out more about activities inspired by the book by visiting www.animalvegetablemiracle.com.

My favorite story of the week, however, comes from writer Elizabeth Gilbert who shared her experience on finding her lost curiosity by abandoning her writing and taking to the garden.

Read Gilbert’s short essay here: What to Do if You Can’t Find Your Passion.

 

 

 

Needs No Introduction? Think Again

Barbara Let's Review 2 Comments

Late in March, 2008, my sister Margaret and I headed to UCLA to spend an evening listening to Elizabeth Gilbert and Anne Lamott. At the time, Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love was holding a spot on the NY Times best seller list that lasted for a whopping 187 weeks.

The book also caught Oprah’s eye and she devoted two programs to it. Gilbert was the media’s literary darling of the moment.

Lamott, on the other hand, had been quietly building a loyal fan base for over a decade. I had seen her years earlier at a small independent bookstore in St. Paul where a handful of her fans came to spend an evening with her.

As a fan of both of these authors, I was thrilled to be able to listen to them in person.

The program opened with someone from UCLA welcoming us. I don’t remember much about that but am guessing we were thanked for coming, told that we were in for a fine evening and asked to give a warm welcome to the first speaker, Elizabeth Gilbert.

Despite that wretched introduction, Gilbert walked out on the stage and promptly won us over by telling us how excited she was about her new boots. Then she charmed us with stories for half an hour or so.

At the end of her talk, she introduced us to her companion speaker. Gilbert told us how honored she had been when Anne Lamott agreed to write a cover blurb for Eat Pray Love. She confessed that on learning the news, she’d celebrated by drinking two margaritas and eating a bag of Halloween candy.

What I remember most about that introduction, however, is that Gilbert told us the two of them had first met 20 minutes before the lecture was to begin. She sounded slightly star struck.

Then she said, “If she had not done this, there wouldn’t have been a path. She proved to the world that you can write about divinity in a way that does not make intelligent people want to projectile vomit.”

That personal introduction had the entire auditorium anticipating what was coming next. Every speaker should be so fortunate.

Sadly, great introductions are all too rare.

(I confess, however, that my most memorable introduction came from a woman who showed up drunk to a singles’ event. After rambling on about her sex life, fellow organizers convinced her that I had to leave and needed to take the stage.

She pulled herself together and said, “Our speaker tonight is Barbara Winter and we’re lucky to have her because she agreed to talk for half her regular fee.” The audience was so embarrassed that I could have read from the Yellow Pages and they would have given me a standing ovation.)

Should the time come when you find yourself in a position to introduce someone to an audience, take your assignment seriously. Whether the person being introduced is as well known as Gilbert and Lamott or not, your job is to get the audience ready to pay attention.

This is true whether they’re reading an interview on your blog or sitting in a hotel meeting room. Reciting the facts won’t cut it. The best introductions share a personal story.

Why are you excited to bring this person to your event? How have your lives intersected? What difference did this person make?

Whatever you do, never, never, never say, “So and So needs no introduction.” Of course, they do. Otherwise why are you standing there taking up our time?

The same holds true when you are introducing yourself on your website or marketing materials. Stories trump facts every time.

Change of Plans

Barbara Closing the Gap Join the Conversation!  

Like many people, I have a lengthy pre-holiday To Do List plus all the normal things that fill my days. Today I was planning to pick up some packages that have been languishing at my post office, but when I stood in the long, long line for ten minutes without any movement, I abandoned that project. 

Next on the list was to write a new blog post about another way to Close the Gap. After reading Seth Godin’s blog post, however, I abandoned my idea and now urge you to get your very own free copy of his brilliant ebook What Matters Now. This may be the best gift any entrepreneur could get this year. And it’s loaded with wise words from wise people. Pay attention, and you’ll find even more ways to close the gap for yourself.

Oh, and then pass it on.

Would Winning the Lottery Make a Difference?

Barbara Fellow Travelers 3 Comments

On the morning of August 25, 1997, the big story on the morning news shows was the Powerball lottery drawing happening that evening. For the first time ever, a lottery jackpot had reached the $300,000,000 mark. Lines were forming outside convenience stores, people were planning a lavish future. A mathematician assured the Today Show interviewer that someone would absolutely win based on the finite combination of numbers..

Although I’m not a lottery player most of the time, I decided that if I didn’t buy a ticket or two I’d miss the excitement when the drawing rolled around that evening. I purchased five tickets, I recall, and didn’t give it further thought until the big moment. 

Sitting in front of my television, I laid out the tickets and began checking them as the numbers were called. One of my tickets matched the first number drawn. Then the second, the third, the fourth, and the fifth. Then the Powerball number was called and it wasn’t a match for me. I thought I was going to throw up. 

Several minutes later, I called my friend John, a regular lottery player, to share my trauma. He commiserated with me and then cheerfully pointed out that I had won $5000. Moments earlier, I had lost $300,000,000. Now $5000 felt like a huge windfall.

The next day I drove to the Minnesota Lottery office and claimed my prize. I was giddy.

I had my picture taken holding a gigantic check with my name on it. I promptly deposited the actual check into my sabbatical account. Less than two years later, I was  enjoying eight months of travel and discovery. Traveling first class would not have enriched the experience one bit.

I hadn’t thought about this little episode until a month or so ago when someone reminded me of it. “Do you ever think about how your life would be different if you had won all that money?” he asked. I told him that I hadn’t ever done that and couldn’t imagine that I’d be doing anything other than what I do now. He seemed skeptical.

Honestly, I hadn’t told him the truth. I had considered what winning that money meant and realized that had I become the recipient of this huge fortune, my time would have shifted to being a full-time money manager. But that wasn’t the worst part of it. How could I have maintained any credibility in helping folks become self-reliant and self-employed? I would have forfeited my platform.

One of my all-time favorite episodes of the Actor’s Studio is the one with Dustin Hoffman. At the end of the show, a student asks him what he would be doing if he wasn’t a movie actor. Hoffman teared up and gives a passionate answer (which I’m paraphrasing here.) He points out that his movie career, while bringing him fame and fortune, was a bit of a fluke. If that hadn’t happened, he says, he’d be teaching theater  in a college in the northwest or acting in community theater somewhere in the country. “I cannot not do this.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by Elizabeth Gilbert who points out that while the success of Eat, Pray, Love was thrilling, she would be equally devoted to writing had it not happened.

Could it be that it’s not about size, scale or success? Could it be–at least in the well-lived life–simply about the doing? You don’t need $300,000,000 for that.

What’s Your Mantra?

Barbara Fellow Travelers 5 Comments

The way to change your life, Elizabeth Gilbert told Oprah, is to, “Get a new mantra.” She wasn’t talking about mantras in the spiritual sense, but as a personal motto or phrase that inspires you or expresses something you believe in.

Many mantras begin with the words “I am” and are a powerful force for shaping our lives. If we’re unaware of the mantras we’re thinking and saying, we may miss the connection to what we’re becoming. 

I was reminded of this when I received an e-mail from a man I’d met seven or eight years ago, but hadn’t had much contact with recently. I wrote back asking for an update and received a mantra-filled reply. Here’s a sampling:

I am still trying to make the best of an employed life and I find that I am not that happy. I am trying to make it work for the steady paycheck and health insurance. I do not believe that I can match my current income and benefits on my own, and I need to support the family.  Yet, it takes so much out of me, I have no energy to start anything outside of it.  Each day, I force myself  to be on time, force myself to comply to the ongoing, overwhelming requirements made of me, and come home exhausted.

Compare that to the mantras in Angela O’Brien’s message:

My business is better than ever right now and I have no fears about layoffs. I work as a private math tutor and babysitter and had to adjust my ego because I can’t tell people I have some lofty position.  What I have is daily freedom, joy, and independence. 

 I am learning to live on a lot less money and it is fine.  My motto is “there is always more than one (or two) answers”.  I am no longer sacrificing my health in order to have what society has always told me I should have.  My boyfriend is an independent massage therapist and his business has never been better, either.  We keep saying, “Wow, there’s no recession for us!”  I don’t have a big retirement account and neither does he, but we feel so confident in our ability to take care of ourselves that it doesn’t matter!  Self-bossing is the best!

See the difference? Pretty hard not to see it, but it’s a bit trickier to hear our own mantras and see how they are impacting our lives. Start by listening to the mantras that you are using to create your life. Are they a reflection of your dreams or your fears? Either way, consider adopting a brand new 2009 mantra for yourself. 

That’s what Sue Hibbetts, SupportBuddy on Twitter, shared with us on Sunday. She wrote, “At Jubilee Church the minister said, ‘What if your dreams are closer than you think?’ Today, my mantra  is, ‘My dreams are closer than I think!’”

And don’t just write a mantra for yourself. Your business deserves them, too. In fact, Guy Kawasaki says, “Forget mission statements — they’re worthless; instead create a powerful mantra for yourself.”

So write those mantras and, if you’re feeling frisky, share them with the rest of us. Or if you’ve already seen the power of a mantra, tell us that story, too.

 

The problem with getting bigger is that getting bigger costs you. Not just in time and money, but in focus and standards and principles. Moving your way to the biggest part of the curve means appealing to an ever broader audience, becoming (by definition) more average. More, more, more is rarely the mantra of a successful person. ~ Seth Godin

°°°°°°°

Join me at Follow Through Camp, May 15 & 16, and you’ll go home with a new mantra–and much, much more.

Italy Calling

Barbara Fellow Travelers 3 Comments

Fans of Eat, Pray, Love recall that when Elizabeth Gilbert wanted to regain her capacity to feel pleasure, she headed to the place where it’s celebrated—Italy. For centuries, Italians have also found pleasure in entrepreneurial pursuits.

One of my favorite modern stories of Italian business comes from John Berendt’s book The City of Fallen Angels where we are introduced to Massimo Donadon, the Rat Man of Treviso, who entertains guests at a dinner party with the story of his rise to success as a manufacturer of rat poison that’s sold throughout the world. 

Since Italy’s been calling to me recently, I wanted to showcase the joyfully jobless spirit Italian style. Let’s start in Rome with the Institute of Design & Culture founded by American expats, art historian Dr. Laura Flusche and Susan Sanders. Visit their site and check out their gorgeous blog, Eternally Cool and you’re in for a visual feast. You’ll also see that these women understand the concept of multiple profit centers.

If you’d like to have a daily dose of modern Italian culture, sign up for the delightful Italian Notebook. Every day brings another glimpse into this culture. Last week, for example, there was a story about Alfonso Bialetti, inventor of the ubiquitous stovetop coffeemaker which has sold a whooping 270,000,000 units since its invention. The previous installment introduced us to Camogli, a town whose plain buildings have been transformed through the artistry of trompe-l’oeil.

Rick Steves has always been passionate about Italy and about small, family-owned and operated businesses. His 14-day Best of Village Italy provides wonderful opportunities to meet winemakers, cooks, artisans and other village entrepreneurs.

If you’re a reader of my Joyfully Jobless News ezine, you may recall my recent article about Carlo Pescatori, a Venetian entrepreneur I met two years ago when my siblings and I rented an apartment from him. Carlo has added another profit center to his portfolio and offers conversational Italian tutoring via Skype. If you want to spruce up your language skills, check out Parlo con Carlo.

Speaking of Venice, the NY Times has a long, but fascinating, piece on Frugal Venice that is worth reading whether you’re planning to visit or not.

If you’re in the mood for a bit of armchair travel involving Italy, I have a couple of favorites to recommend. Sarah Dunant’s The Birth of Venus is one of the most extraordinary novels set in an extraordinary time when Florence was under siege by the religious fanatic Savonarola. 

Modern Florence is the setting for The Monster of Florence by Douglas Preston and Mario Spezi, a book I couldn’t put down. Here’s how Amazon describes it: When author Douglas Preston moved his family to Florence he never expected he would soon become obsessed and entwined in a horrific crime story whose true-life details rivaled the plots of his own bestselling thrillers. While researching his next book, Preston met Mario Spezi, an Italian journalist who told him about the Monster of Florence, Italy’s answer to Jack the Ripper, a terror who stalked lovers’ lanes in the Italian countryside.

Another treasure is Sprezzatura by Peter D’Epiro and Mary Desmond Pinkowish. Sprezzatura is the art of effortless mastery and this book introduces us to 50 Italians whose mastery impacted the world.

Finally, there’s Alan Epstein’s As the Romans Do: An American Family’s Italian Odyssey, in which you’ll meet another expat entrepreneur.