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

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?”

 

A Sense of Place

Barbara Habitats 3 Comments

Three months after my best friend Chris Utterback lost her battle with breast cancer, I moved out of my suburban Minneapolis apartment, disposed of about a third of my belongings, put the rest in storage, and set off on an eight month sabbatical.

I had decided that the purpose of my journey was Creative Renewal. That was about all I knew.

“What will you do when you get back?” alarmed acquaintances would ask. I’d shrug and answer, “I’m going with questions, not with answers.”

One thing I did know is that I was open to change. I would abandon my business, move to a new city (or country) if that’s what I discovered along the way.

My adventure began with a family reunion in Italy. After that, I was on my own.

I had no itinerary and for the first time in my life found myself getting up in the morning and asking myself, “Where do you want to go today?”

Even after weeks of exploring, I still had no clarity about where I would land once my travels were over.

Eventually, I headed to Greece to spend a week with my archeologist sister Nancy. When I arrived, I discovered that Athens was under a heavy cloud of smog which made breathing difficult so I spent my days alone in Nancy’s apartment.

One day I found a stack of Smithsonian magazines and decided to amuse myself with them. Little did I know that an answer I was seeking was awaiting me.

The article that caught my eye was about mobile home parks that were also intentional communities. Some were designed for senior living, others were even more specific, such as the one in Malibu for retired members of the Screen Writers Guild.

The author had interviewed all sorts of people about why they’d chosen this lifestyle. In one instance she said, “For them, a home is not a status symbol. It’s a rest stop between adventures.”

A rest stop between adventures.

The moment I read those words, I knew that was the definition of home that I’d been seeking. I also realized that where that home was located was less important than how it was created to nurture me when I was there.

After all, when we run a business from the spot we call home, it takes on a different dimension than it would if home was merely a place to sleep and store our belongings.

Several years ago writer Michael Shapiro came up with an idea for a book that would  interview travel writers about their lives and careers, but Shapiro decided to conduct his interviews in the writers’ homes.The result is a wonderful collection of stories called A Sense of Place. 

Rick Steves, Frances Mayes, Pico Iyer, Bill Bryson, Paul Theroux thirteen other writers share their inspirations, why they’ve chosen to live where they do, and lessons learned on the road. Their personal visions are as unique as they are, but they each seem to have chosen a hometown that supports their visions and restores them for future travels.

My own definition of home has evolved a bit since I first encountered that description that inspired me. Perhaps it’s because I work from home that I want it to be more than a rest stop between adventures.

Home, for me, also needs to be a place that inspires adventures—whether I’m traveling or not. In many ways, creating such a place is more difficult than being inspired in a strange land.

After I had moved into my latest home, my daughter stopped by to see the progress. I was delighted when she said, “You’ve lived in such different places, but they’re always so you!”

If the place you call home isn’t a kitchen for your mind, how can you change that? And if it is such a place, how did you accomplish that?

I’d love to hear your thoughts.

If you want some inspiration, visit the home office gallery gathered by Judy Heminsley.  You’ll see wonderful environments that bear no resemblance to a cubicle.

What Rick Steves Can Teach Us About Business

Barbara Fellow Travelers 2 Comments

I get excited about small businesses that are run with

passion so that’s what I recommend in my guidebooks.

Rick Steves

Thanks to Rick Steves, there’s a collection of micro-mosaics that I got  to see when I was in  London. Thanks to him, I’ve stayed in some delightful little hotels in Europe. I’ve also instigated plenty of conversations with fellow travelers who happened to be carrying a Rick Steves guidebook.

I’ve been a Rick Steves fan since long before he was so well known so when he landed in my part of the world as part of his public television promotion, I was eager to spend an evening listening to him talk.

During the question period, I raised my hand and said, “You spend 100 days a year in Europe, you manage a staff of 60, and you have a wife and two kids. How do you get all that writing done?”

He looked thoughtful and said, “Well, you’ll notice that none of my guidebooks mention night life.” He went on to explain that even when he’s on the road, he spends four hours a night writing.  In addition to the guidebooks that get updated annually, he also writes the scripts for his popular television series.

This is all impressive, but I’ve been studying his Europe Through The Back Door business and think there are also some great lessons to be learned from this entrepreneurial expert.

In the competitive field of travel writing, how has he managed to build his enterprise?  There are some obvious and some not-so-obvious things that Rick Steves does right.

* Was willing to start small. You can learn the entire evolution of his business on his terrific Web site (www.ricksteves.com). Here’s how it started:

“Throughout the late 1970s I traveled lots and taught my European Travel Cheap class at the University of Washington’s Experimental College in Seattle. Realizing a teacher needs a textbook, I put the lectures on paper, compiled my favorite discoveries, and in 1980 wrote the first edition of Europe Through the Back Door.

“Through my travel classes, I sold all those first editions of Europe Through the Back Door. In 1981, I got a bit more professional with the second edition, taking out the personal poems and the lists of most dangerous airlines. The third edition, even though typeset now, still looked so simple and amateurish that reviewers and talk show hosts repeatedly mistook it for a pre-publication edition.

“Throughout the 1970s I was a piano teacher. By about 1982, my recital hall was becoming a travel lecture classroom, and I needed to choose Europe or music. I chose teaching travel over piano, let my students go, and began building Europe Through the Back Door. “

* Passionate. It’s hard to develop any level of mastery—or success—if we’re lukewarm. Not only does passion keep us growing, it’s also highly contagious, which is a terrific marketing tool.

It’s apparent that Rick Steves loves what he does. He says there was a moment when he knew that Europe was going to be his playground.  “When I’m in Europe,” he wrote, “I’m breathing pure oxygen.”

That passion keeps him coming up with new recommendations and discoveries.

* Makes it look easy. My daughter said she was watching him one day and thought the reason he’s so successful is that he seems so ordinary and unsophisticated. “I  think people watch him and think if he can do it , they can too.”

Like all good experts, he has the ability to give people confidence. His easy going style makes him a great teacher and his sense of humor adds to the fun.

* Understands multiple profit centers. Today ETBD is a business with plenty of diversity. In addition to the twenty-plus books that Rick has written, the company also has a booming tour business, as well as a mail order company that sells travel gear along with books, videos and DVDs. And, of course, there’s that television gig.

* Has a clearly articulated philosophy. Every issue of the free ETBD newsletter contains that philosophy which is carried out in all aspects of his business. There’s a particular kind of traveler that is his customer and they don’t waste time trying to attract folks who lack an independent spirit. His customers are folks who appreciate a Less is More approach.

* Creates a loyal customer base. One popular features of the Web site and newsletter is a section called Road Scholars which shares travel tips from fellow ETBD fans. They also have events for alumni of their tours to meet and swap travel tales. There’s a sense of personal involvement with the company.

If you’re in the business of packaging information of any kind, Rick Steves is a fellow entrepreneur that is worth learning about and worth learning from.

°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°°

Want to see Rick at work? Here’s a short video of him updating his guidebooks.

 

Finding Treasure in the Clutter

Barbara Making it Better 4 Comments

For the past several weeks, I’ve been talking about (when I’m not working on) my big summer project which I call Transforming World Headquarters. I’m not just tidying up, however. This project requires going through files, piles and boxes.

Every book, every file, every note to myself is being examined to see if it belongs—or needs to relocate to a more congenial environment.

One of the more tedious—but eye-opening—parts of the project has been going through stacks and stack of magazines. In many instances, I can’t begin to fathom why a publication was saved in the first place.

My biggest collections are back issues of Ode and Fast Company. I began to notice that  much of the content of Fast Company seemed weirdly dated, even though the issues are less than six years old.

Another thing that caught my eye in both magazines were the full page ads for upcoming conferences and events. There were ads for huge events, with celebrity speakers, for social entrepreneurs, green businesses, alongside spiritual retreats guaranteed to be life-changing.

Grand, lofty undertakings.

That’s where I began to grow uneasy. After all,  I’ve spent that past several months discussing, planning, eating and sleeping the upcoming Joyfully Jobless Jamboree. I don’t know when I’ve been so excited about an idea.

But now I began wondering, “Is it lofty enough?” This event is about celebration and connection. We’re talking about fun and play and creativity. Are we being frivolous?

Doubts were swirling and I began to feel a bit shaky. 

Then I turned a page in Fast Company and saw a little interview with one of my entrepreneurial heroes, Rick Steves. He was talking about his business and why he does what he does:

When I’m in Europe, I’m breathing straight oxygen. I’m 10 years younger, I’m bolting out of bed in the morning, making new friends, learning new things, putting the puzzle together, coming home, and making a lot of money. It’s pretty cool. 

Breathing straight oxygen. Defying gravity. Being joyfully jobless. 

Thanks to Rick Steves few sentences, I was reminded, yet again, that I want to live in a world of people who are doing just that. With nobody left out. 

Most of all, I needed to remember that celebrating how far we’ve come is necessary if we intend to go farther.

 

 

 

Once You Know This The Rest is Easy

Barbara Closing the Gap 1

 

Several days ago, I recorded a podcast with FreelanceAdvisor.co.uk. One of the questions I was asked was about how we go about finding the essence of our livelihood. Here’s part of what I said:

 

You know, that was also a huge learning for me: learning the difference between essence and form. Essence really starts by becoming aware of when you feel the most creative and the most powerful and the most inspired, and what are the situations that lead you to feel that way. Finding the essence often is about looking for the intangible quality.

 

As we identify those kinds of things that really enhance what we’re doing, all of sudden, the possibility starts to explode because it goes way beyond just a single way of making that happen. And we realize, for instance, that the essence of what I love to do is help other people. Or the essence of what I love to do is inspire other people. Or the essence of what I love to do is teach other people. And then we can start asking ourselves the question, “How many different arenas can I create for doing that?”

 

As if to confirm my thoughts, a mailing arrived today from Rick Steves who is best known as a travel expert. However, I once read that when he’s asked to fill in his occupation his answer always is “teacher.” So here’s a bit of his story:

 

I’ve always taught what I’ve loved. 

 

I spent my high school years as a piano teacher. I was well known among parents in my community for taking kids with tear-stained cheeks to my piano bench, starting them out with boogies and pop songs…and eventually getting them turned on to Bach and Beethoven. 

 

Eventually, I had my own piano studio with a recital hall. In 1980, while I was teaching a piano lesson, a truck dropped off 2,500 copies of my first guidebook — Europe Through the Back Door. During that year’s Christmas recital, parents sat on boxes of travel guidebooks while their kids banged out carols, boogies, and Bach. 

 

By the following Christmas, I’d let my piano students go. People were still sitting on boxes of books, but now that recital hall was a travel lecture hall filled with eager students preparing for their European adventures. 

 

From that point on, I would be teaching European culture off the keyboard…to otherwise smart people who assumed Toscanini was a pasta and Botticelli was an intestinal problem. 

 

For twenty-five years I led our tours while apprenticing hand-picked tour guides. Before long, they would apprentice another “generation.” We carry on that personal-passion-for-teaching tradition to this day.

 

Do you know the essence of your ideal livelihood? If not, that’s your next assignment. It’s so much easier once you know.

Why Would Anyone be Joyfully Jobless?

Barbara Questions and Quests Join the Conversation!  

Every Wednesday my suburban newspaper shows up in my mailbox. I always look forward to reading it since the editorial staff seems to think that the most fascinating folks in our community also happen to be joyfully jobless. 

This week there’s a story about a woman who decided to turn her parents’ home into an art and music center, rather than renting or selling the house. There’s another about a man who became an artist at the age of 68. His creations are built out of pieces of wood attached together to tell a story. One is called Out of the Box and represents his lifelong desire to work out of the box as an artist. His works, which sell for $250-$1000, are currently being exhibited at a local gallery.

The front page of the Summerlin View is dominated by a story about Jordan Kelley, 22, and Lawrence Vaughan, 24, who started a free Internet job search Web site called Jobbi.com. Under the large color photograph of the smiling pair is a story of how they saw a need and set about filling it. But it’s the sidebar quote that got my attention.”We like to innovate and create. We didn’t want to be in a cubicle,” said cofounder Kelley.

In the introduction to Making a Living Without a Job, I said, “I became an entrepreneur because I was curious about what I could become. It was a curiosity not shared by any employer I ever had.” Not surprisingly, I’m also curious about why others have chosen this lifestyle. Here are a few reasons that others have given.

I really love to go places and see new things. Even opening the door to a new hotel room has a feeling of anticipation. I just love it. I could spend my life arriving each evening in a new city. ~ Bill Bryson, travel writer

To me the desire to create and have control over your own life was very much part of the human spirit. What I did not fully realize was that work could open the doors to my heart. ~ Anita Roddick, Body Shop founder

See,my trick in life is to get away from having a job. That’s been my guiding light. ~ Paul McCartney, musician

I get excited about small businesses that are run with passion so that’s what  I recommend in my guidebooks. ~ Rick Steves, travel teacher

I wanted to make my store something a corporate mind would never dream up and that a large company could never sustain. ~ Collette Morgan, Wild Rumpus Books

I became an entrepreneur when I discovered there was not barbed wire surrounding my cubicle! ~ Pat Blocker, Peaceful Paws dog training

But for those who think that an eternal escape from work would be paradise, don’t forget that we all need a playground, and your own company is one of the best playgrounds of all. ~ Derek Sivers, musician and serial entrepreneur

I come from a long line of people who run little businesses to support their art.~ Sophia Coppola, entrepreneur and film director

I became an entrepreneur because I didn’t want to be beige. ~ Maureen Thomson, Memorable Ceremonies

Seems to me that many folks choose the Joyfully Jobless Journey because of a vision of a more congenial life. Along the way, they discover rewards they hadn’t even anticipated. What about you?

Find Five: Weekend Excursions

Barbara Find Five Join the Conversation!  

There were so many stories about the Joyfully Jobless this week that limiting it to five seems just wrong. Since that’s the May theme, I’m sticking to it.

My local paper had a story on  Sunday about Jani Mae Den Herder, a photographer who is a model of how to build a strong business. I thought it was one of the best things I’ve ever seen about doing it step by step. You’ll also notice multiple profit centers were involved in this story called Passion for Pictures Makes Entrpreneurial Photographer Tick and Click.

Mason Hipp of The Ultimate Freelancer has an insightful article called 12 Practical Ways to Become More Creative.

For years I’ve noticed that when people get honest about the work that they love they often end up far away from a desk. One of the most forwarded stories this week at the NY Times was The Case for Working With Your Hands. It’s a long article, but worth the time it takes to read it. 

Besides being a popular travel writer, Rick Steves is also one of my favorite entrepreneurs. The current issue of Time magazine has a terrific piece about him and why his advice is particularly appropriate to the current times. 

Speaking of travelers, housesitting has long been a favorite of nomads and other restless types. Here’s an article from Lea Woodward’s Location Independant blog that is loaded with advice on how to do just that.  How To Live Rent-Free While Becoming Location Independent

If stories come to you, care for them. And learn to give them away where they are needed. Sometimes a person needs a story more than food to stay alive. ~ Barry Lopez

Weekend Excursions

Barbara Travel Gear Join the Conversation!  

Didn’t you find it comforting when the evening news included a headline about the White House organic vegetable garden? If that was one of the major happenings on Friday, it was a fine contrast to the other stories of the day that weren’t nearly so positive. If you’re a gardening enthusiast, check out Growing a Gardening Business for thoughts on turning your passion into a profit center.

Earlier this week I mentioned that I was reading Twyla Tharp’s The Creative Habit. It’s an eloquent reminder that daily practice is essential for mastering anything. Tharp has dozens of exercises that are also exquisite. I urge you to add this treasure to your library.

An interviewer recently asked me what one piece of advice I’d give someone thinking about making a living without a job. “Stay curious and keep your creative spirit well-exercised is not only the key to success, but also the key to growth,” I replied. I think the interviewer was expecting me to suggest taking an accounting course, but how-to skills are useless if our creative muscles have grown flabby. 

Left-brained thinkers find that a little scary, I know, but Steven Kalas, my favorite local newspaper columnist, has some terrific insights on creativity in his column last Sunday. “Creativity is not something that is done. It is more experienced, recognized and then released.” I urge you to read his entire article.

“After art comes business,” declared Andy Warhol, “and the art of doing business is the best art of all.” Warhol wasn’t the first entrepreneurial artist, however. Not by several centuries. Newsweek’s The Merchants of Venice Art introduces us to three Renaissance painters who knew a thing or two about promotion. 

Like thousands of other people, I’ve become a fan of Peter Shankman’s Help a Reporter mailings. Yesterday was the first anniversary of HARO and Peter shared his amazement with what’s happened. He wrote:

Here we are, one year later. We’ve posted close to 25,000 queries, to almost 70,000 sources, from over 10,000 journalists around the world. HARO has been mentioned in over 500 blog posts or articles in newspapers, and magazines. We’ve been featured on Good Morning America. And most importantly by far, we’ve connected thousands and thousands of sources to journalists that otherwise would not have gotten the media attention they deserve, while making thousands of journalists’ lives easier.

It’s been a pretty insane year… A year ago, I was running a PR firm with clients all over the world, as I’d been doing for ten years. I’d just sold AirTroductions, and was working hard, but not too hard. I enjoyed the work, and HARO was a thought that popped up one day when I was trying to figure out how to help a reporter who called me on deadline. That’s how these things happen, you know. I never, ever imagined it would be this big. Ever. Ever.

A year later… 75% of my time is spent traveling, for speaking engagements, teaching companies about social media, and attending conferences.

If you’re not on his mailing list, I urge you to join AND be willing to spend a few minutes scanning his three daily mailings. Even if you aren’t interested in getting publicity for yourself, it’s a terrific way to keep an eye on trends. For example, there’s been a surge of requests for tips on being thrifty. If you are interested in sharing your story, this is the easiest way I know to connect with writers you’d never have encountered on your own. Moments after I posted Time Away With a Purpose on Inspiration Station, I saw a request on HARO from a woman who is writing a book about sabbaticals. I promptly e-mailed her and it looks as if my story may find its way into her book. 

We’ve had some fun posts at Where in the World Do You Work, but would love to have more. Here are some unusual workplaces that might inspire you.

In his April travel news, Rick Steves says, “I’ve never met anyone who traveled smartly and regretted their investment in experiences that would enrich their lives for the rest of their days.” I totally agree.

That’s also true about participating in events like Follow Through Camp which will impact your business for years to come. Imagine two distraction-free days to create a fresh plan for bringing your dreams to life. 

Alice Barry and I are envisioning little carpools of participants driving to Dodge City, KS and predict that friends who share this experience will have a lively Ideafest on their drive back home. If you want to join us, it’s time to round up your friends and let us know you’re coming. You can save $100 if you take advantage of the Early Bird Discount.

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.

How Much Good News Can You Stand?

Barbara Inspiration Galore 1

Trader Joe’s was in a festive mood this morning. There were balloons and flowers everywhere and the employees were in costume. Alas, I arrived too early to sample the chocolate-dipped strawberries. I’m a raving TJ’s fan and not just because I love their food: I’m fascinated by the atmosphere. The other day, I was checking out and I asked the always-cheerful man helping me how he was. “Fantastic!” he replied. I pointed out that he always seemed to be fantastic and he said, “Having open heart surgery will do that.” Then he shared a bit about his philosophy of optimism.

Two other entrepreneurs that I love are Tom & Ray, the Car Talk guys. As I was heading home from the post office this morning, they were talking to a woman who called in for advice on buying used cars for her college-aged sons. She mentioned that she was also going back to college. Later in the conversation, they asked what she was going to study and she said business. Immediately, Tom lectured her about her decision saying, “But you’re an artist. You’ll be bored to death. After a week you’ll want to gnaw your leg off. Don’t do something just because you think it will make more money.”

My kind of guys.

They’re not the only self-bossers that I’m crazy about. My new love is Zappo’s founder Tony Hsieh who just made Fast Company’s list of the 50 most innovative companies in the world. Here’s a look at the foundation on which this company is built, in Hsieh’s own words:

At Zappos, we have 10 core values that act as a formalized definition of our company culture. Our core values weren’t formed by a few people from senior management that sat around in a room at a company offsite. Instead, we invited every employee at Zappos to participate in the process, and here’s the final list  we collectively came up with:

1) Deliver WOW Through Service

2) Embrace and Drive Change

3) Create Fun and A Little Weirdness

4) Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

5) Pursue Growth and Learning

6) Build Open and Honest Relationships With Communication

7) Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

8) Do More With Less

9) Be Passionate and Determined

10) Be Humble

The cool thing about the Zappos core values is that  I’ve used them as my own personal values as well. So it makes tweeting really easy for me… Whether I tweet about something personal or something related to Zappos, if I’m living my life through these 10 core values, it all goes towards building the Zappos brand while shaping me personally as well.

I urge you to add to your Valentine weekend celebration by viewing this Zappos’ video on What is Love? .

This week’s My Turn piece in Newsweek is by Ann Banks and is called Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One. She’s talkiing about traditional storytelling (as opposed to the way I talk about it in the Compelling Storytelling seminar), but it’s a wonderful reminder of the power of storytelling. She ends by saying, “We need again to imagine a future that is meaningful in the face of difficult circumstances. Listening to each other’s stories may grant us a sense of common purpose that money can’t buy.”

I’ve been wondering how I’ll explain to my grandchildren what it was like to take pictures before digital photography. Thanks to Bill Geist, I realize there’s a much longer list of things to show them that are new to our world. Last week on CBS Sunday Morning, he did a delightful piece in honor of the show’s 30th anniversary. Geist introduces his toddler granddaugther to everyday things that didn’t exist 30 years ago. Take a look. 

I’ve always liked Rick Steves’ philosophy about travel being an opportunity to be a voluntary ambassador of world peace so I was happy to read that he received a Citizen Diplomat Award this week.. 

He wrote about the experience on his blog and said, “NCIV promotes citizen diplomacy with nearly 100 community organizations throughout the United States. Working for the US Department of State, their mission is to welcome and enrich the experience of people (mostly education, business, and political leaders) who visit our country…There’s always something uplifting about getting committed, caring people with the same passion together in the same room. I enjoyed giving my Travel as a Political Act talk, and they seemed to gobble up the ideas. Even though I may have been preaching to the choir, there is a powerful, intangible value in such a pep rally (for me, as well as for my audience).” 

Finally, if you have unrequited wanderlust, read this story about Anne Estes who has become an international petsitter. 

Love makes your soul crawl out from its hiding place. ~ Zora Neal Hurston