Things can get a lot more complicated (Part 1)

My friend Dick used to have this as his email signoff:

“Things can become complicated when you actually try to understand them.”

I’ve always loved that because it’s so uncomfortably true, and because it’s true across the full spectrum of our life and work. It’s ESPECIALLY true for those of us who are on the path of working for ourselves, doing our heart’s work.

And nowadays, with so many people rushing to air their snap judgments on social media—judgments often based on biases, half-truths and hearsay—it gets more and more dismaying every day. Or it can.

There will be people who do not understand what you do, and may even belittle it.

There will be people who do not see the benefit or the worth of what you offer.

There will be people who don’t want to listen or to follow your guidance because they don’t see why it all has to be so hard.

There will be people who don’t understand why you can’t just change your way of working to fit their way of working.

There will be people who do not understand or respect your values, your lifestyle choices, or your priorities.

And there may even be people who speak ill of you in public spaces (think reviews, Yelp, Twitter) because they won’t or can’t take the time to understand.

We all have the occasional day where, in our mind’s eye, we seem surrounded by all these faces frowning at us in puzzlement.

But amid all of those faces (and hopefully outnumbering those faces) there will be the faces of people who get you.

Who are listening and nodding as they read what you write.
Whose curiosity is being spiked by something you said.
Who tell their friends about you.
Who will pay for what you offer because they believe in you.
Who will help you do what you do better.

They’ve taken the time to understand. And now that they understand, they’re on your side.

Look for them. Care for them. Take time to understand them.

They’re the ones you want with you on this crazy journey through life.

(Wouldn’t you know, I just couldn’t stop talking about this. Read Part 2 here >>)

Say no to something today

Derek Sivers woke us up nearly a decade ago with the revelation that decision-making can be a binary process:

“Use this rule if you’re often over-committed or too scattered.
If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say ‘no’.”

The concept here? It’s this: When you start saying “no” more, it frees time for those things that come along which make your spirit and your heart snap to attention and say, “hell yes.” (Think opportunities, clients, partnerships, ideas.)

Want to practice that with me today? C’mon. It’ll be fun.

Say no to something that’s less than “hell yes” today. (You can be SUPER nice about it.)

Something you might have automatically said “yes” to before today.

Just say no.

Trust that the space you’ve protected will be soon filled with a delicious “yes.”

In fact, I can suggest some small-bites actions you can use to fill that “no thanks” space:

  • Two minutes:  Contact a past client this morning, one that you really enjoyed working with. Ask how they’re doing. Don’t sell anything. Just be interested and caring and genuine. Send your positivity out there into the world, and release it without strings attached.
  • Five minutes:  Write down three things you’re grateful for today, and describe them (it makes them come to life in your brain). If you’re grateful for a new client you just got, describe what they do, the moment you first heard about them, how you felt, etc. Think of this as a beacon you’re sending out to the world: Thank you. I’m paying attention. More, please.
  • Thirty minutes:  Sift through things you’ve written or published recently (past year). Find something you feel really gave value to the people you most want to serve in this life. Wherever you published it, find a second place to publish it. If it’s a blog post, publish it to Facebook or Instagram. If it’s an article you wrote, take a piece of it and make an actionable blog post. If it’s a series of emails/posts/etc., ponder making it into an eBook or an online course. You don’t have to figure it all out…just think about it and plant the seed.
  • One hour: Block out an hour on your calendar just for some joyful planning and daydreaming about your business. Brew your favorite beverage, find some music you love (without words), sit in your most comfortable spot. Make it a party just for you and your future.
  • Your choice: Spend some time decluttering your email inbox. Wait — listen for a second. Maybe getting to zero inbox isn’t possible for you right now, but those emails that have been sitting in your inbox forever gathering dust? They are, in their tiny nagging way, pulling energy from you that you NEED for other, more useful tasks. If you can get rid of 50% of backlogged email, you will be amazed at how much lighter you feel. George Kao has a great article on how to approach this with joy:
  • Nothing at all:  There’s no need to fill the space. (Just be clear, be compassionate, communicate, and trust.) But when was the last time you just did nothing?  Quieting your mind, looking at a beautiful image or piece of art, walking slowly around the block and letting your mind stray wherever it wanted, unleashed? A favorite book for me to give me ideas is How to Be an Explorer of the World (or any book by Keri Smith…lovely stuff)

Life is too short to waste our time on things that don’t light us up.


Ten questions for businesses that matter (or businesses that want to)

I ask myself these questions all the time. In fact, I once made a desktop screensaver for my laptop, so I’d be guaranteed to see them at least 50 times each day…how’s that for crazy? I just wanted to be sure I internalized them thoroughly, and that they’re not lost in the crush of day-to-day obligations.

Why did you choose the area of work you currently do, rather than something else?

What are you finding is the hardest thing about doing it?

What’s the one thing you’re good at that few people truly ARE good at?

What’s in short supply in our human lives, and you’d like to see more of it?

What do we have too much of all around us, and you’d like to see less of it?

Who are the human beacons you pay attention to, and who are the human beacons you want to help create?

What do you fear the most, in terms of working for yourself?

What thing do you wish you had more of?

What do you want people to say when they talk about you to their best friend or coolest colleague?

How do you answer this question? The work I do is creating (will create) more _________ in the world.

There are no rights or wrongs here. But there are sneaky clues. If you find a question hard to answer, try freewriting about it. If there’s one that makes you feel the tug of resistance inside, think about why. If there’s one you can’t answer in 1-2 sentences, there may be an opportunity there to tighten up your mission or your messaging.

In a business that matters, your “why” is just as important as your “how much.”

Feel free to take any of these and riff on it in a blog post of your own. You might be surprised where it takes you.

Happy day to all.

Two quotes, both wise, source not important

Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
—A quote often attributed to Theodore Roosevelt

Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are.
—An actual quote by Theodore Roosevelt

I was in a “pithy sayings” mood today, and bumped into both of these, all memed up and posted all over the internet.

They are both wise, but Mr. Roosevelt only said one of them. 

That part doesn’t really matter to me. In fact, whenever I see some wise saying plastered on an atmospheric photo and attributed to someone, the last part is what matters least, because it’s probably wrong. There’s even a site called Fake Buddha Quotes (“I Can’t Believe It’s Not Buddha!”)  to log all the famous sayings falsely attributed to the Buddha — kinda funny. 

If people want to slap them on a colored background and share them, the more the merrier. Hopefully, they will strike a chord in those they’re meant to strike a chord in, and some good will be done courtesy of the misquote.

Because the fact is, we need all the wisdom we can get.

In the above examples there are two unshakeable truths for people like us. One quote is about operating from the heart, and the other is about the need to be present, resourceful and resilient, and they are both absolutely essential to working for ourselves.

Stick ’em on a post-it. Write ’em on your whiteboard. Go to and make your own meme, print it out and put it on your vision board.

I’m sure Mr. Roosevelt would approve.

You can wait for a sign until it falls on you

The title of this post comes from a catchy chapter heading from a book I read more than a decade ago. It was one of those “how to attract abundance” books that intrigued me back then, as I explored my relationship with money.

Confession? I didn’t make all the way through the book. I’m not cut out for those chatty books written by entrepreneurs who fall into the category I think of as “extraverts-with-a-capital-E who treat every life event as an opportunity to network and sell something, and love it.”

But I found that book as I was decluttering recently, and as I packed it into the library donation box the booked fell open to that page again, and I saw that line again: “You can wait for a sign until it falls on you.”

The funny thing is that I actually DID have a sign fall on me once, giving me a bloody head, a concussion, and a headache that lasted about a year. As I was leaving a small-town grocery store in Australia, a macho-looking dude was trying to show off his muscles for some passing girls, and stretched his arms up to rest his hands on the sign above the door. It was a sign painted on a piece of lumber that was 4″ by 12″ by about 8 feet long, and the sign promptly fell and cracked me in the back of the head.

But that aside, I understand the wisdom of that pithy little statement. How many of us are waiting for
…just the right moment to launch this or that
…an opportune time to sever ties with a client that drains us
…bolt-from-the-blue inspiration to create a new offering for our business
…the elusive “free time” to really think through where we’re going
…that “busy spell” to end before we can start taking care of ourselves?

We’re waiting for a sign. Not just a little sign, like the tent card that sits on the table where you eat lunch. No, a big fat sign, the kind we can’t say no to, the kind that whacks us on the back of the head and says, “Hey! Knucklehead! Are you paying attention? The right way’s over HERE.” And then we will 100% certainty about the wisdom and possibility of it all, and we all live happily ever after.

You will wait a long time, in my experience.

The best ideas don’t always hit you in the head, clamoring for your attention. Oftentimes, the best ones show up to the party unannounced, wearing earth tones, speaking quietly, giving you a side-hug goodbye as they leave. There’s something about them you like, but you can’t quite put your finger on it.

And you wake up at 2:00 am thinking about those ideas. That book that would be SO much fun to write. Or that group you could start which would be good for you AND other people. Or that new class that answers the questions a lot of your clients have these days.

Or that thing you’d rather be doing with your life.

Get up at 2:05 am and write that one down, wouldja? And the next day, future-cast yourself into having done it already. How do you feel? What has it solved for you? Are you smiling?

Consider not waiting for the sign to fall on you. It might not even be the right sign.

Those first small business steps–they’re not carved in stone

Oh, I know, there’s supposed to be a rigid formula you follow when you start any sort of business:

  • A concept, tested by research and proven viable
  • A set of offerings – product, services, knowledge, etc.
  • Knowing your ideal client – the person your offerings are best suited for
  • Setting up your business “stuff” and hanging out your shingle
  • Doing marketing according to all the formulas available online
  • Networking like a maniac, even if you hate networking
  • Getting your first client(s)
  • Learning from the experience and then
  • Lather, rinse, repeat

And yet I know so many great people who did it all “wrong”:

My friend Sharla dreamed up a set of services that made life easier for local business owners – things she loved doing and was good at, and it seemed like lots of people needed them. She gave away some free sessions first, and completely blew people away. Soon she had her first word-of-mouth client, learned from the experience, went back and re-tooled what she wanted to offer, did a little research, then started marketing.

A pal in California has been coaching clients for years and still doesn’t have a business. He’s making enough money, healing the world, loving life, and thinks maybe next year he’ll print some business cards. Just to see.

Matthias, a designer I met in Mexico City, has had a steady stream of design clients since 2002, when someone in a cafe saw the doodles in his journal and asked if he could please help their nonprofit make a brochure. That client told the next, who referred the next, who referred the next. He’s far too introverted to turn people down, so this steady-supply kind of business works perfectly for him . . . he doesn’t want to be swamped with requests and doesn’t want employees.

As for me, well, I got my first client before I even knew I wanted to start a business. It was a friend of a friend who needed web design help. She became the blueprint for my ideal client. Some time around my third or fourth client (many months later), I made my own logo and website. I officially developed service offerings a year later and started marketing . . . somewhere around my tenth year.

For all of these people, the keys to beginning were very different from all of the ones recommended by the big gurus. They were firmly rooted in three basic actions:

  1. Visualize a person/population who you might want to help, someone for whom you have genuine empathy and respect.
  2. Brainstorm some ways to help that someone’s life be easier, happier, healthier, more connected, or more fulfilling.
  3. Find one person who fits your focus and your product/service, and approach them with an open heart and an authentic desire to help.



Have you been waiting to really move forward with your work, or struggling to keep going? Do you keep following all the popular advice and it really doesn’t feel right? If you’re afraid you’re not following the right dance steps, not stepping in the right footprints, maybe it’s time to ditch the one-size-fits-all programs and let your heart lead you to something more authentic, more solid.

Shake it up. Do it another way—a more personal way.

You might really be surprised. And you might have fun.


Rekindle Your Fire

Affordable, compassionate guidance to help you recalibrate, re-energize, reimagine, or restart your heart-based business.
Oh, those times when you’ve done your best and just can’t seem to get where your heart wants to go. You’ve read every book, followed every guru’s advice, tried every tactic. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone in your life who “gets you” and can help you unravel what’s happening, and make it all fall into place at last? Let’s talk >>


Benefits of the baffled mind: Why so many people end up choosing self-employment these days

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,
and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.
The mind that is not baffled is not employed.
The impeded stream is the one that sings.

Copyright ©1983 by Wendell Berry, from Standing by Words.

A friend sent this to me over the weekend, in response to something I’d written about a personal challenge. (My best days often start with someone sending me a poem in response to an issue that seems unsolvable except by mental gymnastics. Life is good.)

It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

I ended up in self-employment because I didn’t know what else to do. There was something pretty fundamental that I couldn’t figure out: How can I earn a living without feeling like crap every day?

I was literally sick ALL the time. I developed pancreatitis from extreme stress and anxiety. I commuted through clouds of carbon monoxide and angry drivers. I had eating habits that created neverending inflammation in my body. All of them a result of trying to serve the needs of my ultimate customers: rich men struggling to get richer.

There seemed no option. This is simply what you DO when you have a mortgage and dental insurance and credit card bills to pay. Right?

I didn’t know what to do.

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

I blame the red-haired videographer who came to our office one day to interview our CEO.

First, she shows up barefoot. No kidding. She was dressed in expensive turquoise and denim, with not a shoe in sight. She hauled up her own equipment, hefting the heavy cameras and other props like they were made of balsa wood. She wore no makeup, just a Mona Lisa smile, a suntan, and hip-length russet hair slung over one shoulder.

I talked to her as she set up. She’d started her own company because she wanted to choose the people she “helped with her work” (the first time I’d ever heard that expression). Originally it was just her, then she hired a couple of other people to help with admin and marketing. She made her own hours, chose her own clients, and won lots and lots of awards for her work.

It took a couple of years to convince myself that her journey could be my journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

Self-employment, I discovered, is an endless ebb and flow of bafflement followed by a clarity that vaults us forward. We don’t have the safe, bland routine of company life; we solve myriad problems, improve the way we do things, explore different ways of earning money, explore different ways of helping.

I am still frequently baffled. And it can be uncomfortable. How to show up as myself in the world. What to offer my clients, and for what cost. Why a particular promotion didn’t work. Where to go next. But it’s not the helpless bafflement of figuring out someone else’s vision. It’s the empowering, mind-expanding bafflement of a puzzle or a mystery novel.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.

If you’ve ever spent time sitting next to a stream that’s full of rocks and riffles and logs and waterfalls, you know that song. The obstacles give the water its music. (Conversely, the eerie quiet of a stream moving slowly through a sandy channel seems abnormal to me.)

It’s the obstacles in our work that make it interesting. Each little bump helps us grow bigger and better. Visiting the moving water of other peoples’ work—our clients, for example—can be just as good, and sometimes our eyes can follow the twists and turns of the water better than they can, having become so used to its shape. We can hear what they’ve long relegated to “white noise” and point it out to them, providing clarity and a way forward.

It’s a good life, isn’t it?

Be baffled. It’s the way to your real work, your real journey.


Excitement, orphaned: When so-called “rational thinking” extinguishes inspiration

I had an exciting idea pop into my head in 2010, like an excited 5-year-old bursting into the kitchen and then trying to get my attention. Mom. Hey mom. Mommm. Mom. Mommyyyyyyy.

The idea? What if I started writing books as part of what my business offered. My child-thought sold it this way: Look, people have all different incomes and needs, right? So you should offer helpful things in all price ranges so that everyone can see what you’re like and why you’re so fun to work with. Little stuff and big stuff and in-between stuff. Right?

Right!  I was thrilled. Why hadn’t I thought of that sooner???

I scribbled a list of book topics down in my notebook. I looked at my calendar and speculated that I could spend the first two hours of every day writing if I got up just a little earlier. I went on to see what business books were selling well, and how much they were selling for. I was going to be an author! Whoohoooooo!

Then I started looking at things like “how to write a book people actually buy” and how many new books were flooding the market. About how hard it was to get published, and why you should/shouldn’t use an agent, and the costs of things like editing and cover design. Slowly the life of an author didn’t seem so easy anymore. I wrote “Research book publishing” on a Tuesday in my calendar, a month down the line. When that time came, I ignored it and went back to what I was doing.

It wasn’t until 2018 that I finally published my first book. Eight years later.

Ever see this pattern in yourself? Excitement, “rationality,” abandonment.

Somethings pops into mind that gives you a little frisson of “wow.” It hits a chord and you get a little flushed with excitement. You want to give it a try. You think, “I think that would just be amazing.”

Then you start to think about the odds of it succeeding.

You start to wonder if it’ll work.
You can’t remember any of your well-dressed online gurus ever talking about it in glowing terms.
You start convincing yourself you don’t know enough to pull this off.
You notice there are dishes to be done, laundry to be folded, or rush hour traffic to be beaten.
You can’t handle that right now, so you table it or calendar it or just figure you’ll come back to it later.

And it floats away.

I was so sad to have lost those eight years. I could’ve written a shelf load of books in that time. Not big, ten-years-of-research tomes, but just short, punchy books that teach my self-employed clients how to do something super-helpful in their work and life.

If only I’d listened to that excited kid, and stopped listening when all the doubts and “what ifs” started crowding into the kitchen. Well, not “stopped listening.” It’s good to hear them out. But instead of letting them in the kitchen, asking them to leave their card in a basket by the front door, and I would deal with them in my own time, in small doses that wouldn’t overwhelm me.

Listen for those first exciting moments this week. Something moving through you that seems to want to be brought to life. Something you can do for YOUR clients, or for your community, or for the world, that is undeniably beautiful and right.

When you start to feel the first quiet objections rise, send me an email at

Tell me what you’re excited to try. Explain it to me. (This is all confidential and will never EVER be shared with anyone else, and of course it’s free.)

Tell me about the goodness it may bring to both you and to someone else.

Tell me what excites you about it.

Write it down, click Send.

Cast it out there before the tiny seedling of it can be mowed down by so-called rational thinking, like a message in a bottle. I will answer as soon as I can, and be the excited little kid in the kitchen that feeds your excitement and helps you find a way to bring it to life. I’ll also be the wise counsel that shows you how possible it is, and why it’s worth punching through doubt to accomplish.

It’ll be fun for both of us.