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

8 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting a Business

Barbara Postcard from Barbara Join the Conversation!  

bjwun-job-fairIt’s National Boss’s Day, a day that I celebrate heartily since I have the perfect boss. It took her awhile to figure things out, of course, but lifelong learning is one of the gifts of self-employment.

When I started my first business, I didn’t know another self-employed person who was creating something unique. There was no internet and not many books that were written for someone wanting to start a one-person operation. It was all trial and error…lots of error.

Today there are abundant resources, but some of the most important things I learned still aren’t being acknowledged. Here are eight things I wish I had known sooner.

° The business you start out with is not the business you end up with. By its’ very nature, business is an evolutionary process. As you change and grow—and as the marketplace changes and grows—you’ll make adjustments.

The good news is that you can get started wherever and whenever you want without having to know every detail. Be willing for your business to deliver pleasant surprises and lessons.

° Refuse to take advice from uninformed sources. It’s easy when you’re filled with self-doubt to listen to dream bashers. Don’t do it. And don’t solicit advice from those who have failed.

It’s amazing to me how often I talk to people who have abandoned a great idea because someone who knew nothing about their business (and probably wasn’t even an entrepreneur themselves) talked them out of it.

As the Persian poet Rumi wisely advised, “When setting out on a journey, do not seek advice from someone who has never left home.”

° Know the difference between an expense and an investment. Many new self-bossers see any outlay of money as an expense. While your business will have costs associated with running it, spending money now to produce a greater good in the future is an investment.

Your money needs to go to both. Some of the biggest return on investment comes when you invest in yourself.

° What you don’t know can be learned. Learn how to research your ideas and connect with informed sources. If you operate on the assumption that you can acquire the information and skills you need at every stage of development, you’ll always have the pleasure of being a voluntary student.

Equally important is determining which parts of doing business make your heart sing and which make your heart sink. Once you know that, you can farm out the parts you’re not good at. Know what you want to know and know what you don’t care about knowing.

° Personal growth is a daily activity. Paul Hawken says, “Being in business is not about making money. It’s a way to become who you are.” I became an entrepreneur because I was curious about what I could become. Self-employment continues to be my best teacher.

In order for your enterprise to reach its’ fullest potential, you have to reach yours. An occasional seminar or personal growth book or CD isn’t going to have the impact that daily work does, even though those tools are also important.

° Don’t confuse a project with a dream. Your dreams are your ultimate destination. A project is a step along the way. Too many people use a project failure as an excuse to abandon their dreams.

Know the difference and don’t make that mistake.

° Patience is your best friend. There’s a fine line between being patient and being a procrastinator. It seems to me that what many people call failure is simply running out of patience, giving up before their idea had a chance to blossom.

Remind yourself that you can’t possibly know how long it will take to accomplish something you’ve never done before. Be willing to be impatiently patient.

° Know the difference between taking a risk and taking a calculated risk. Timid people who are not self-bossers think that you’re a wild person jeopardizing your family and your finances. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

Studies have shown that successful entrepreneurs take risks, but they’re cautious, calculated ones based on research and intuition. Do your homework. Take a step.

Of course, part of the appeal and adventure of being joyfully jobless is not always knowing exactly how things will turn out. Be willing to let things turn out better than you imagined.

A Short Story About a Long Success

Barbara Postcard from Barbara 9 Comments

On July 15, 1993, I woke up feeling excited and apprehensive. The cause of this emotional turmoil had been years in the making. It was publication day for Making a Living Without a Job.

I had spent much of the previous year writing and rewriting and writing some more. But the story truly began decades earlier when I set out on my own rather lonely journey in self-employment.

My experience was very much like Paul Hawken’s who said, “When I started the natural food business in Boston, my business knowledge was scant. I did the best I could and began reading everything I could lay my hands on.

“I subscribed to The Wall Street Journal. It confused me. I read the major business magazines. Their Fortune 500 world seemed irrelevant.

“I sneaked into classes at the Harvard Business School. Their case studies were lunar in their usefulness to my enterprise.

“The more I searched, the more confused I became. The more exposure I gained to the official world of business, the more I began to doubt that I was in business at all. “I seemed to be doing something entirely different.

“I get that same feeling today when I read most of the standard business literature believe that most people in new businesses, and some in not-so-new businesses, have the same problem.

“They don’t feel connected to the conventional wisdom…as if a small business is just a flake chipped off the larger corporate world.”

Like Hawken, I figured it out for myself and created the kind of enterprise that felt like a perfect fit. After years of happily working on my own, something quite unexpected happened.

When I was a newcomer in Minneapolis, I kept meeting people who seemed both fascinated and envious of my Joyfully Jobless life. One day it dawned on me that I might be able to help them if I shared my experiences.

Fortunately, the local independent adult ed program, Open U, agreed to run my class which I thought was a temporary project, too radical to be popular.

I was wrong. Dead wrong. I had found my genuine right livelihood.

Making a Living Without a Job not only became a regular offering of Open U, it attracted curious learners from around the US and, eventually, Canada and Britain.

Almost from the start, people inquired if I’d written a book. I knew that eventually there would be one, but was not interested in writing it until I had evidence from the field (i.e. seminar attendees) that my ideas worked for others.

When it felt like the time had arrived to work on a book, I decided that it should happen in an unorthodox way. Instead of approaching publishers, I got the crazy idea that I wanted a publisher to find me.

To my delight and amazement, that’s exactly what happened when not one, but three, publishers contacted me. After sorting through the offers, I decided Bantam’s was the best fit for me.

So here I am twenty-one years later with an anniversary to celebrate. Making a Living Without a Job has been in print the entire time, with an updated version appearing in 2009.

No one is more surprised by that than me.

As I now point out to seminar participants, we aren’t always the wisest judge of what our best ideas might be. We’ve got to take them to the marketplace and see what happens.

Or as the writer Anais Nin once advised, “Throw your dreams into space like a kite and you do not know what it will bring back. A new life, a new friend, a new love.”

On Being an Agent of Change

Barbara Postcard from Barbara 6 Comments

On the day that Bill Gates announced that he was beginning a transition from the day to day operation of Microsoft in order to spend more time working with his Foundation, I spent the morning listening to Jerry Greenfield, of Ben & Jerry’s fame, talking about Social Responsibility and Radical Business.

Philanthropic entrepreneurs are nothing new, of course. Early industrialist Andrew Carnegie spent the first half of his life building a fortune and the second half giving it away. As a result, thousands of cities and small towns across America were the recipients of a public library.

Celebrities, too, have done more than just lend their names to causes they care about. Elizabeth Taylor was an early advocate for AIDS research while Paul Newman created a business expressly to fund charitable projects.

When Time magazine named Bill and Melinda Gates and Bono as their Persons of the Year, it  was a tribute to the possibilities of what can be accomplished when a caring spirit accompanies wealth and fame.

“If you want to change the world,” Paul Hawken advised, “don’t join the Peace Corps. Start a business.” Business can, indeed, be a vehicle for social change. Or it can be a platform.

As I  look at the history of social responsibility, entrepreneurs seem to have played a leading role.  In the small town where I grew up, it was the local business community that spearheaded charitable projects. Fundraisers as well as pitching in with labor were common events.  If Habitat for Humanity had been around, I’m sure we’d have seen our small town leaders swinging a hammer.

On the other hand, there have always been folks who have accumulated wealth and made charitable contributions more to impress others than being moved by their hearts.

When I look at the entrepreneurs I admire, the spirit of giving seems to be a common denominator.

So what about small businessowners who haven’t got millions to give away? Silly question, huh?

One of my favorite ideas comes from Barbara Sher who urges people to follow her lead and practice what she calls Plop Philanthropy. Simply put, that means looking for something that needs doing and plopping yourself down to do it.

Even before Ben & Jerry’s was a big booming business, they found numerous ways to contribute to their community. For instance, they decided to purchase all their milk and cream from Vermont  farmers who agreed not to use bovine growth hormone with their cattle. As Ben & Jerry’s grew and prospered, so did the family farms around them.

Rick Steves, who actively supports organizations working to end hunger, has also made a huge contribution to small family businesses simply by recommending them in his guidebooks.

My personal favorite kind of charity tends to favor organizations that help create self-sufficiency. I’ve been a longtime supporter of the work of Heifer International and Kiva who have done stunning work helping people around the world become entrepreneurial.

Helping others thrive through their own efforts does more than just put food on the table: it builds opportunities for service and satisfaction. Those are not small achievements.

Being a change agent does not require huge amounts of wealth, but it does require caring and commitment. Now, more than ever, we who inhabit the global community need to find ways to solve problems, inspire others, and put our hearts to work in making this a safe and healthy place to live, love, work and create the future.

As Anita Roddick reminds us, “If  we don’t  act, who will?”

 

5 Ways to Cultivate a Bumper Crop

Barbara Postcard from Barbara 1

The small tree in my front yard looked pathetic. I suspected it might be dying.

So imagine my surprise on a spring morning, when I looked out the window and saw it had burst into bloom overnight. Tiny pink blossoms covered the recently barren branches.

I wonder what else I’ve condemned to a premature death, I mused.

Ever since I read Paul Hawken’s marvelous Growing a Business, I have looked for metaphors in the plant world to help me solve problems and find better ways of growing my business.

Even though I never lived on a farm, I grew up surrounded by small family farms and went to school with kids who lived on those farms. I didn’t realize they were teaching me many things that would serve me well as a non-farming entrepreneur.

In most places in the Midwest, spring is for planting, summer is for growing and autumn is for harvesting. I remember noticing that even though side-by-side farms endured the same weather conditions and shared the same soil, they didn’t necessarily produce the same results. The human factor had a great deal to do with a farm’s success or failure.

So what does a farmer do when the crops are in the ground, but not ready to come out? A smart farmer works on growing the business.

Your business may resemble a garden more than a farm, but if you want to see visible progress come harvest time do one simple thing: consistently do something–anything–every day to grow your business.

Here are some lessons gleaned from good farmers that will also work in a small garden.

° Make business a daily practice. Eastern disciplines such as yoga and meditation talk about the power of daily practice.

Paul Hawken says, “Business is no different from learning to play the piano or to ride a surfboard. With most activities there is no presumption of excellence in the beginning, but many newcomers suppose that they should sit down at the desk on the first day and become Superbusinessperson, in full command of the situation.”

Even if you have not made the transition from employee to entrepreneur, having a regular time every day to move closer will bring big results over time.

And if you are years into running a business, be diligent about cultivating new ideas. Complacency is the beginning of the end of even the best business ideas.

° Get rid of the weeds. After a seminar I taught on thinking like an entrepreneur, I received an e-mail from one of the participants, telling me that her first project after the seminar was to get her home office in order. That involved removing nine large bags of trash.

Even if the clutter’s gone, spend time every day pulling a weed or two. Get rid of a self-limiting thought. Refuse to spend time with negative people. Keep your tools in tiptop shape. You get the idea.

° Build a Seed Bank. Like a regular bank, a Seed Bank is a physical place where you store ideas. The best way I know to build such a collection is to constantly be on the lookout for ideas and write them down when they come.

Cocktail napkins should only be temporary; your Seed Bank deserves its own special place. Challenge yourself to see possibilities.

If you faithfully did this for the next 90 days, you’d have more ideas than you could use in a year.

° Don’t be afraid to get dirty. The Joyfully Jobless life is participatory, not a spectator sport. Try things. Be willing to do things badly. Reconfigure. Learn to find creative solutions.

° Keep watering and nurturing. Too many people forget that staying inspired and creating an excellent business requires on-going attention. Know what inspires you and refresh yourself often.

Connect with people who fan your own creative spirit. Once you’ve spent time with a group of creative thinkers, it’s a pleasure you’ll want to repeat.

As Goethe said, “To know someone, here or there, with whom you can feel there is understanding in spite of distances or thoughts unexpressed—that can make this earth a garden.”

Give It a Twist

Barbara True Stories Join the Conversation!  

For several years I’ve been sharing an idea in my How To Support Your Wanderlust seminars, but suspect I’ve never convinced anyone to try it.

I’ve suggested that a photographer might set up shop near famous tourist spots and take pictures of visitors which they turn into postcards. Not only would this appeal to solo travelers (like me), but lots of tourists would enjoy sending unique postcards with themselves in the picture.

To my delight, someone has finally done something  similar. Michael Lato founded HazelMail.com, a site where you can turn your vacation photos into postcards. Hazel will print and mail your postcard anywhere in the world for $1.50.

Got an idea for a business but think it’s already been done to death? Consider putting a new spin on an old idea. It’s another way to stand out from the crowd.

That’s precisely what Paul Hawken did when he returned from Findhorn in Scotland wanting to import the gardening tools he’d discovered in the UK. Despite warnings from the experts that Americans would never buy gardening tools from a mail order company, Hawken and his partner David Smith printed up their first little catalog, mailed it to their friends and Smith & Hawken was born.

The possibilities for adding a twist to an old idea are endless. For instance, touring famous destinations has been around for centuries. A popular variation on that business is offering tours after dark.

You can take a helicopter ride over the Las Vegas Strip or tour Jerusalem’s Old City after the sun goes down. In London, a popular night time walking tour follows the trail of Jack the Ripper. It just wouldn’t be the same in daylight.

Jim Denevan, an artist, surfer, chef and founder of the Slow Food Movement, has turned the ordinary picnic into a foodie’s delight. His company, Outstanding in the Field, hosts picnics at beaches, vineyards and other outdoor venues.

You won’t find fried chicken and potato salad on his menu, however. Denevan flies in top chefs from major cities to prepare the special cuisine. His company is currently undergoing a global expansion with events planned in Italy, Spain, France and Australia.

Or take your business to the customer as massage therapists, dog groomers and car detailers have done. It’s an idea that’s served Tupperware and Avon nicely and seems especially appealing in our busy times.

Have you uncovered—or started—a business that’s put a new twist on an old idea? If so, we’d love to hear about it.

Opportunities Everywhere

Barbara Catch the Spirit Join the Conversation!  

Without a doubt, my favorite people to spend time with are those who are tuned in to opportunity. My friend Chris was such a person.

Not only was she constantly seeing new opportunities for her own business, she saw great ideas everywhere just waiting for a champion.

When I’d visit her rural Connecticut home, we’d spend time studying the wonderful small businesses that surrounded her. We soon had our favorite entrepreneurs that we’d call on including an innkeeper, an antiquarian bookseller, a gardening book and ornamentation shop and an antique dealer.

Chris wasn’t shy about passing along ideas she had for these entrepreneurs and delighted in seeing how many of her suggestions were implemented.

Developing opportunity awareness, it seems to me, is the best way to build entrepreneurial muscle.  It’s also important to realize that as you become more conscious of opportunity, you’ll see it all over the place—whether it has anything to do with your business or not.

Let’s just consider the two forms of opportunity that directly impact your business.

Summoned opportunities come after we have set a goal or made a decision to do something. For instance, you decide to set up a practice as a personal trainer and get busy finding clients.

As you look for ways to grow your business, you essentially are inviting opportunity to take up residence with you. Everyone who hires you becomes a new opportunity to expand your business, as does every new avenue you pursue to market yourself.

By taking action you’ve drawn opportunity to you.

Serendipitous opportunities appear to be unplanned.

Let’s say you have a client for your personal training business who happens to be a filmmaker and thinks you’d be perfect for a series of exercise videos he wants to produce.

That’s a possibility you’d never considered, but once it’s proposed to you, it is an exciting idea and you start working on the production, planning the marketing and thinking of new ways to share your expertise.

Either sort of opportunity requires that you have opened your heart and mind to the possibility of favorable events occurring in your life and business.

The reason why so many people remain blind to opportunity is that frequently they come disguised as problems to be solved.

“Most successful new businesspeople do not start out in life thinking this is what they want to do,” writes Paul Hawken. “Spurred by something missing in the world, the entrepreneur begins to think about and envision a product or service, or a change in an existing product or service.”

Hawken knows from personal experience that responding to something missing can be the path to success. As a young man, Hawken discovered he could correct his health problems by controlling his diet.

He figured that others were ready to embrace natural foods as a healthy alternative and opened one of America’s first health food stores to provide products not found elsewhere.

Several years later, Hawken repeated this winning formula when he decided to market the gardening tools he had come to love while living in Scotland.

Is there a product or service you want but can’t easily find? Do you ever think, “I wonder why no one has ever…”?

If so, you may be staring at a wonderful opportunity. Chances are if you have identified a need that is not being met, there are plenty of others who share your feelings.

Of course, if you’re a real opportunity spotter, you’ll see far more possibilities than you could ever tackle yourself. As long as you’re acting on the most exciting opportunities, it’s okay to have a surplus. This is partly, after all, an on-going exercise in keeping your creative spirit engaged.

Psychologist William James thought acting on opportunities was critical to personal growth.

“No matter how full a reservoir of maxims one may possess,” James wrote, “and no matter how good one’s sentiments may be, if one has not taken advantage of every concrete opportunity to act, one’s character may remain entirely unaffected for the better.”

A Portfolio of Profit Centers

Barbara Catch the Spirit 1

Steven Kalas is a family counselor with a lively practice. He also plays in a band that’s been busy promoting their new CD, but I know Kalas for a different reason: he writes Human Matters, my favorite column in the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Like many people with multiple interests, he’s found ways to incorporate his diverse interests into satisfying ways of making a living.

Of all the ideas in Making a Living Without a Job, none has ever gotten a stronger response than the notion of incorporating eclectic interests into a unique livelihood.

Many people have felt stifled trying to fit themselves into the Single Occupation mold. There’s often a visible sense of relief when I suggest that it’s possible to create a business from diverse passions.

There’s a practical side to the MPC notion, as well: multiple income sources can level out cash flow. No business, no matter how large or small, is immune from the ups and downs of income.

To everything there is a season, including cash flow.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when planning your potfolio of profit centers.

° They don’t have to all be the same size in order to be valid. Some profit centers will be occasional, some will peak and then decline, some will be major income sources.

° Under one umbrella or separate identities? If your profit centers are completely unrelated (eclectic rather than clustered), you will probably need to have individual identities for them.

You don’t want to confuse your market by clustering things that don’t go together.

 ° If it matters to you, it belongs in your portfolio. If your interests are diverse, you may decide that some ideas aren’t serious enough to turn into a profit center.

More likely, your apprehension comes from the old belief that if it’s fun and pleasurable, it  should remain a hobby.

Nobody tackles this issue better than Steven Pressfield who writes in The War of Art about turning pro. He says, “The conventional interpretation is that the amateur pursues his calling out of love, while the pro does it for money. Not the way I see it. In my view, the amateur does not love the game enough. If he did, he would not pursue it as a sideline, distinct from his ‘real’ vocation.”

° Differing  activities can boost creativity. In the name of efficiency, we’ve turned many of the workers of this world into robot-like machines who show up in the same place at the same time to do the same things day in and day out.

The capacity to think creatively is the first casualty of that system.

Creativity thrives on variety and setting up your profit centers to give you a wide range of experiences is ultimately as good for your imagination as it is for your bank account.

° Take inventory on a regular basis. Many profit centers require a lot of time and attention at their launch, but  become somewhat self-sufficient after that.

It makes sense to review the various projects you’re working on and align your attention with what each one needs.

Sometimes a profit center becomes a noisy child and takes you away from the others.

At other times, you’ll find you’ve grown bored with an idea and it’s time to consider a different future for it.

Every 90 days or so, do a review and make changes where necessary.

° Be wary of multitasking. One way to stay focused, is to assign different days of the week to different projects. When you’re throwing pots, you aren’t writing your pottery seminar, for instance.

° It’s evolution, not instant creation. Profit centers evolve over a long period of time. Ideas morph, new ones show up, old ones have served their time.

The important thing is to create a business that engages your talents and imagination, and pays you to do what you love doing most. As Paul Hawken reminds us, “The business you can succeed with is distinctly and utterly you and yours. It is unlike any other business in the world.”

You have your MPCs to thank for that!

7 Ways to Do More With Less

Barbara Spring Spruce-ups Join the Conversation!  

This month I’m going to be a bit more erratic than usual in posting to this blog, but I do want to encourage you to liven things up in your own part of the world.

Even though I no longer live in a place with dramatic seasonal changes, I still find myself thinking of certain activities that seem to go with certain times of the year. Since spring is busting out all over, it’s a perfect time to spruce up your business as well.

Let’s start with some simple ways to spread the word by using your imagination more and your pocketbook less.

“Too much money, not too little, is a bigger problem for most small businesses,” says Paul Hawken. “In a business, money does not create anything at all, much less ideas and initiative. Money goes where those qualities already are. Money follows, it does not lead.”

Here are a few ways to pump up the initiative.

° Create attention-getting devices. Your business name, tagline, or vehicle call all get you noticed for the right reasons. If you need inspiration, study how the Geek Squad did it.

° Adopt a protégé. Since we learn best by teaching, what better way to sharpen your skills than by helping someone else? The satisfaction of encouraging and supporting someone else’s success is immeasurable.

Ask any teacher who’s had a student go on to do great things.

° Become a media darling. Radio, tv and Internet programs are always on the hunt for interesting people to interview. So are local newspapers. Be one.

Don’t just think of this as a way to promote yourself, however. Offer useful information to the audience. You never know who’s listening.

° Join forces with a bookstore. A friend and I once spent an evening at a local bookstore listening to two women who were feng shui consultants. Although they were not authors themselves, the store had publicized their talk. A nearby table display was piled with the store’s inventory of books on the subject.

Another variation of this came from a career coach who did a reading list of books for career changes printed on her letterhead. The list was placed on a display table at the bookstore along with the recommended titles.

° Add a personal touch. In this noisy, often indifferent world, looking for memorable ways to distinguish yourself can make a huge difference. Use your photo on brochures and your Website, have a trademark color, do something that nobody else is doing…like sending handwritten thank you notes.

° Show up on stage. Give talks to local groups, volunteer to be part of a panel discussion at a conference. You may not get paid for these gigs, but you’ll be creating connections.

° Participate in community events. A dogsitting business expanded their visibility and customer base by marching in a local parade wearing t-shirts emblazoned with their business name.

You might donate a prize to a local fundraiser, volunteer for a community project, talk to a local high school on career day. Opportunities exist whether you live in a small town or large urban area. Look for them.

5 Great Perks Enjoyed by the Self-employed

Barbara Self-employment Rocks! 2 Comments

The other evening, Paula Lucas shared a dream on Facebook. Paula is longing to travel the country pulling one of those adorable teardrop trailers.

Since I got to know Paula at the recent Obstacle Buster Mastermind program, I knew that she has been building a lively business selling at outdoor markets. I heard opportunity knocking.

I jumped into the conversation and suggested she could travel and build her business at the same time. She had, of course, considered that possibility.

“Do you realize,” I asked, “that if you and your teardrop trailer are not just traveling, but also setting up shop at flea markets, it would make your travels a tax deductible business expense?”

I was pretty sure Paula would find that appealing. As do I. Tax deductible travel is one of my favorite self-employment perks.

We’ve all been somewhat conditioned to think that benefits are something that come as the result of having a job. Consequently, logic suggests that not having a job means not having benefits.

Nonsense. Self-employed people have all sorts of benefits—both the conventional sort plus many others that no employer ever offered.

In fact, an important part of planning a successful business is deciding just what benefits matter to you and making sure that you include them. As your business grows and prospers, you’ll want to review your personal set of benefits and make appropriate changes and additions.

It’s also emotionally healthy to remind yourself often of the benefits that are accruing because you’ve chosen to put yourself in charge.

Here are some favorites of other self-bossers:

° Napping. According to a reports on the national news, a few companies are instituting nap time and providing places for employees to snooze during the day. They defend this radical notion by citing increased productivity.

The Joyfully Jobless have known about this perk for years.

° Automobile savings. Unless you drive extensively for your business, you’ll probably enjoy much lower car expenses—including lower insurance premiums—than if you were spending hours in traffic everyday.

And, of course, cutting out a long commute also has stress reduction benefits.

° Improved health. While a growing number of studies now verify the health hazards of a stressful job, less publicity has been given to studies showing the link between satisfying self-employment and healthy longevity.

One long-term university study found that the single consistent longevity factor in those they studied was a lifetime of rewarding work.

And as anyone knows who has to rely on restaurant and fast food for nourishment, it’s much easier to eat wisely when you’re the cook.

° You don’t have to ask for permission—ever. You can schedule your work around your own particular rhythms and burn the midnight oil if that’s your style.

Or spend six months working intently followed by six months devoted to leisure.

° Tax deductions. There are numerous deductions available only to the self-employed—including ordinary expenses you’d be making anyway, but not subtracting from your tax bill if you held a job.

“The self-owned and operated business is the freest life in the world,” says Paul Hawken. It’s also loaded with wonderful benefits unknown to those who inhabit the world of 9-5.

What are your favorite perks?

Planter or Picker?

Barbara Lessons from the Garden Join the Conversation!  

Years ago a mentor of mine explained that the world, like an orchard, was divided into two groups: planters and pickers.

The planters, he said, see something that doesn’t exist and go to work cultivating thesoil, putting in seeds and plants, protecting their crop from weather, insects and other enemies.

Planters vigilantly nurture their fields despite risks and setbacks. Eventually, this sustained effort pays off as a great reward.

Pickers, on the other hand, arrive after the long months or years of labor and remove the fruit from the trees. Their involvement and financial reward is much smaller.

Pickers are interested in immediate gratification—no matter how meager. Pickers are not suited to the entrepreneurial life.

From the moment I heard this analogy, I knew which group I wanted to join. What distinguishes a planter from a picker? Here are four traits that set planters apart.

See Possibilities

Bugsy Siegel is credited with turning the desert town of Las Vegas into an entertainment destination. In a documentary on the history of that city, the narrator talked about Siegel’s vision and how alone he was in thinking something so unlikely would happen.

“Where others only saw sand,” said the narrator, “he saw a playground.”

Stephen Covey reminds us that one of the habits of highly effective people is they begin with the end in mind. That’s true for any kind of planter. No matter how far away the end may be, that vision is present at the beginning stage of any undertaking.

Plant a Lot

When I was putting in my first garden, my Aunt Agnes came to assist me. After we’d planted rows of vegetables, we still had a large corner that we hadn’t used. “Let’s just broadcast the flower seeds over there,” she advised.

I didn’t know what broadcasting meant, but she quickly explained it was scattering the seeds in no particular order. When my garden sprang to life, it had tidy rows of plants and  a wild flower patch at the end.

That garden was a lot like successful businesses: some parts are tidy and others are wild. The important thing is to keep planting seeds, making new connections, trying out new ideas, using different methods.

The neat and tidy parts will be satisfying while the wild and unruly parts will add surprise and color.

You’ve heard it said hundreds of times: you reap what you sow. In business, unlike horticulture, planting is a perpetual activity, not a seasonal one.

Protect Your Plantings

Cowards abandon their dreams at the first challenge leaving them to wither and die. Maybe they don’t understand that dreams, like seedlings, are fragile things and need protection from the assaults on their growth.

Just as plants need proper temperature, light and humidity for optimal growth, you need to create the conditions that nurture your dreams. You also need to protect them from damaging forces.

When actress Hilary Swank was asked about dropping out of high school at the age of 15,  Swank said that she had several teachers who kept telling her to give up her little acting hobby.

Even those who weren’t so overtly discouraging played a part in Swank’s decision, she said. “I couldn’t get inspired by teachers who didn’t want to be there.”

Recognizing the damaging forces and removing our dreams from those situations is equally important if we expect to bring our own to fruition.

Enjoy the Growing

The planters among us are wise enough to know that each stage of growth is necessary. They don’t look at their seedlings and demand an immediate  bushel of fruit.

Paul Hawken, who once said that all entrepreneurs should study horticulture to learn how to run a business, writes, “I am constantly reminded that plants that grow too fast are not really healthy, and that plants growing too slowly are not thriving, either.

“If you try to speed your business up, you won’t get it right and will have to do it over….Do you want to be a mushroom or an oak tree? Spores beat out acorns every time in growth rates, but never in longevity or durability.”

Then there’s this lovely image from Dawna Markova:

To live so that that which comes to me as seed

Goes to the next as blossom

And that which comes to me as blossom

Goes on as fruit.