Making a Difference

Why wait until you can change the world to start something meaningful?

Do you know you want to leave your mark but haven’t started because you can’t see how you as one person can do something big enough to make an impact? Well, you don’t have to be ready to solve world hunger or end violence in the middle east to start something meaningful. Making a difference in one little corner of the universe can lead to a bigger movement or at least a greater awareness.

When I was in my early twenties, I had a BIG creative dream. It was the peace, love and groovy post-Viet Nam days when we were all idealistic and knew we wanted to create a better world. (note-some of us still believe we can.) I wanted to start a movement that made the arts the framework for learning beginning in preschool years.

A long detour took me out of the way of that dream but in the course of making a living, I realized I was able to make a difference. No, I wasn’t changing the way children are exposed to and inspired by the arts but my businesses did change lives and YOURS can too.

Typically a social enterprise is based on using business principals to achieve social goals and when someone comes to me for advise on how to create a meaningful livelihood,  we look at the cause or change they want to make and then create a business to drive that change.  Sometimes, though, an established business can be the vehicle to make a difference.

I didn’t get into advertising to change the world and I sure didn’t start a furniture business to create jobs or improve lives and at one point I felt like all I was doing was making money.  I was visiting my dad in Florida and mentioned that I was feeling greedy and unfulfilled that I’d drifted so far from my earlier vision of making an impact.  He pointed out all the ways that my partner and I were improving lives. I realized he was right. We weren’t just selling home furnishings. We had created something that fed over one hundred employees and their families and unlike charity, we had trained them to be self-sufficient. (We didn’t want sales people who had been poorly trained in other retail positions so we hired people who had never held sales or management experience and taught them our way. Many of these employees previously held minimum wage jobs and were now earning high five and some six figures.) We’d also found small cottage industry upholsterers working out of their garages or barns and helped them build up their businesses and create jobs in their communities.

When I was a massage therapist, I had mostly private clientele but after doing some volunteer bodywork at hospice, I realized how important it was to give patients and their families the gift of touch. I couldn’t afford to strictly volunteer but wrote an article about the benefits of massage for a local senior publication and people started hiring me to go into nursing homes and massage their aging parents.

While the above are examples of how an established business can develop a social mission, you can start a business with the intention of making a profit and make conscious efforts from the beginning to drive or support a cause.  The initial purpose of my gallery was to make a living and re-immerse myself in world of art but as I researched the work I would carry, another mission emerged. I became aware of how much of the merchandise available in most stores is imported knock-offs of artists’ designs. In some cases, the artist has a licensing agreement and gets a royalty but more commonly, the artist doesn’t know about it until it shows up on a shelf with a “made in china” label. Sadly, few of those artists can afford to fight a legal battle with the large companies manufacturing the knock-offs, so they do nothing about the theft of their designs. When I started noticing that even in little artist havens, the majority of shops sell these imported knock-offs, I made it a mission for my gallery to support American artists and educate the public so that they become more aware of their buying habits.

If you have an existing business, you can add a social component to it but even if you have a job, you can start something on the side that makes a difference and has more meaning.  If you’re drawn to making a difference with your existing business or on the side if you have a job, I’d love to help you design the vehicle the vehicle to make it happen. GO HERE for more info on Idea Generator Sessions 

Small Steps Change the World

Whether it’s a desire to see a greater effort toward energy conservation, improving literacy or eradicating a crippling epidemic, all it takes to get the movement going is a big vision and a tiny step.  The resistance I  consistently hear from  clients and friends is that they want to do something that makes a difference in the world but feel powerless as one person to make a dent in whatever the issue is. Frequently, a great idea is as far as it gets because they may have a grand vision for social change but are paralyzed by a feeling of overwhelm. True, one person can not change the world without a dedicated tribe of supporters and some of the changes may take more than our lifetime to come about. It’s common sense that nothing will get accomplished if someone doesn’t start it, and that if a lot of people do a little thing, it becomes a bigger thing than the sum of the parts.  Let’s look at the example of polio. If one man hadn’t had the determination to keep trying until he developed a vaccine, many of us would not be walking today. And even though no one person can wipe out millions of cases world wide,  each of us has the power to vaccinate one child for the price of a postage stamp. Continue reading

How a dire situation sparked a small town’s entrepreneurial spirit and created business opportunities

While I was back east this past winter, my charming little west coast village underwent a major transformation. Restrooms are boarded up and notices declaring a draught emergency are pasted everywhere. Port-a-potties stand behind businesses and along state park beaches.
Many residents save their bath and dish water in buckets to flush toilets and water plants. Some with large gardens have plastic water drums in their yards.
Tourists find it all unsightly and inconvenient but the situation is dire and frightening. It also says a lot about the local residents. While other drought-affected cities continue to water lawns and golf courses and carelessly consume, people here respect this limited resource and the need to conserve to fight forest fires.
The situation has also sparked the spirit of entrepreneurship. In a town without one chain store or franchise, every single business in town was someone’s creative invention. So it makes sense that a whole new breed of entrepreneurs has risen to the challenge. Nearly anyone with a pickup truck or trailer now has a service delivering recycled water and the port-o-pottie business is thriving.

There are some who say that people shouldn’t profit from unfortunate situations but consider undertakers, towing companies and people who make and sell prosthetics. Many valuable businesses are created as a solution to an unmet need. Is it taking advantage of someone with a flat tire to charge them to patch it? Should surgeons put a stint in a clogged artery for free? If my child had learning disabilities, shouldn’t the reading specialist receive a salary to teach her?

Creating a business that answers a challenge is not dirty money. If you see a problem and find a solution, you deserve to be paid well for it.

Can you think of instances when you were in a painful situation and couldn’t find the tool or help you needed or when someone you cared about was suffering? What product or service was lacking? This is often how successful and meaningful businesses are born.

Feeling helpless in the face of children suffering? Here’s what we CAN do

When nearly 300 Nigerian school girls were taken from their dormitory in the night, people around the world felt helpless. Some have tried to get their governments involved, so far to no avail. Other’s don’t understand why it’s our business. Those of us who are other’s daughters or just compassionate humans want to do something.

When my friend Heather Plett announced that she was marking her birthday with a fundraiser to build a school in Uganda, my first thought was how many serious issues we have to address right here at home. Then, because I know Heather and trust her wisdom, I read about her mission.
Yes those of us in developed countries complain about the budget cuts in our schools and libraries and lack of affordable healthcare (yes, it still is for many here in the US). I find it appalling that schools here in north America have cut back their arts programs and that so many high school graduates still can’t structure a grammatically correct sentence.

and then I remembered

Several years ago, at an international service club meeting, a woman spoke of her mission to educate the women in her native country. The girls in some villages were starving because if there was only enough food to feed some of the children, they fed the boys. Why would they feed the male children and let the girls go hungry? Because they viewed the girls as worthless to the community. They had no skills and therefore had no economic value to the village.
Because they weren’t educating the girls, they would never bring money into the community and therefore were viewed as insignificant. Here in North America, the notion of choosing which of your children to feed is unfathomable but in many parts of the world, that’s a reality. In developed countries, we know we must educate our girls so that they are able to earn a living and never be dependent on men to take care of them. We must educate our girls so that they don’t ever believe they have to stay in an abusive relationship because they fear supporting themselves. We must educate our girls because we need strong female leaders to balance the energy and intentions and make a difference in the world.

When Heather said, “I may not have the power to #bringbackourgirls, but I have the power to #educatemoregirls “ I realized that we aren’t helpless.

We can make a difference. We can help to educate more girls by helping
to build a school in a place that’s known terror like the girls in Nigeria.
Read about Heather’s birthday dream HERE



Are you sending the message “I am not a good investment.”?


In a blog post titled ‘The Natural Habitat of Winners’ my friend and mentor Barbara Winter said, “When you are willing to spend your time and money to expose yourself to new ideas, new techniques for doing things, and new people who can add their enthusiasm to your dreams, you’re also sending a strong message to your subconscious mind about your own worth.”

The past couple of weeks, I’ve been receiving emails from readers saying they’d love to attend the Mile-High Mastermind but don’t know if they should spend the money right now.

When I had my last retail business, my friends with neighboring shops used to complain about slow business and asked why I was doing so well. I cited fresh, timely merchandise and well-trained, well-paid staff as reasons I had more customers and better sales. Of course, these merchants would complain that they didn’t have enough money to purchase merchandise, hire employees or attend trade shows to keep up on trends because business was slow.    This thinking made no sense to me as I watched many of them go out of business. When things are slow, that’s when it’s most important to spend time, money and extra effort to make them better.

“In times of change,” said Eric Hoffer, “learners inherit the earth, while the learned find themselves beautifully equipped to deal with a world that no longer exists.”

While those who use lack of funds as a reason to not invest in themselves are still stuck in unsatisfying careers, even in what the media calls a weak economy,  weekend workshops with price tags of $3000. are full with hundreds of attendees.  (Mile-high Mastermind, by the way, is only $579.) I’ve met entrepreneurs at those high-priced seminars who  said they “couldn’t afford the tuition but couldn’t afford NOT to attend.” It’s no coincidence that the following year, those same entrepreneurs who knew they were worth the investment were back with stories of prosperity and satisfaction.

Not investing this way also sends a strong message. As author Sondra Ray says,  “When you say, ‘I don’t have enough money to go to that self-improvement seminar or buy that book, it’s almost like saying, ‘I am not a good investment.’ The best way to make money is to invest in yourself.

Are you worth it?

Barbara knows, “If you truly want to join the winner’s circle, take advantage of every  resource you can find. You never know what might happen if you do. You could be sitting in a roomful of strangers and suddenly meet yourself.”

learn more about Mile-high Mastermind HERE


Find your Life Purposes or Callings in Your Life Theme

My own birthday was never a big deal to me but because one month from today I will turn 60, there’s a bit of “am I doing enough with my life” going on for me right now.

Because I help people create livelihoods that make a difference, I naturally attract clients who talk a lot about finding their life purpose. Sadly, what I hear too frequently is that they are either afraid of not identifying their true calling or they don’t see how they can make a big enough impact to make a difference, so they do nothing.  My job, and I believe this is my calling but not my sole life purpose, is to show them the possibilities, that they aren’t limited to a single calling and that making a difference in their own community or even a change in one life may be one thing they are here to do. Not everyone, in fact almost no one, was truly born to change the entire world.

Life purpose needn’t be about identifying your calling and doing one thing for the rest of your life.  I believe we can and do embrace our purpose in many different ways that evolve over a lifetime. Those of us with many interests have struggled with this at times because, particularly  for scanner types, we experience each new passion as “oh, I am really in my element.”

It’s only recently that I’ve recognized the different shapes that my own purpose has taken over the years. Reviewing a mental inventory of my life portfolio, the common thread has been the call to teach and to help people to see their potential and recognize their options. I like to think of this as my life “theme”.   I know now that in many different roles as a sister, friend, mother, wife, daughter and employer, I have been embracing my calling to educate and inspire.

Until my early twenties, I manifested the call to teach in a more traditional sense. As a young child, I loved to help my little sister navigate the world and playing school with my friends was one of my favorite after school activities. As a teen, I was a camp counselor. In college, I majored in Art Education with the dream of having my own creative arts school to inspire and encourage creativity. Then in my twenties, I got sidetracked by a challenge to create businesses. In each new business, I believed i had found my calling. In advertising and home furnishings, I had a knack for teaching people who were uncomfortable with marketing how to sell authentically. When I had an art and contemporary craft gallery, I enjoyed and was good at teaching artists to market their work but I don’t see my life purpose as sales training. When I went to massage school and then started a body work business,  clients told me I was a gifted healer and I began to believe that was my calling. Then I fell and broke my hand so couldn’t do any bodywork for two months.  My colleagues began asking me for help building their healing arts practices so I developed my “Full Practice Formula” and wondered if my purpose was in fact teaching people to see the possibilities, value their art and market their skills.  It wasn’t until my fifties that I recognized how all these seemingly unrelated endeavors, from advertising, to retail, body work, home furnishings and art were just different forms of fulfilling my calling to educate and inspire.

When you identify a gift, that doesn’t mean it is your calling. Maybe it’s part of a much larger theme. For example, some young friends of mine call me “the baby whisperer” because I can pick up a baby whose been screaming for hours and instantly he’ll settle down. I don’t see my life purpose as calming colicky babies, but do see it as part of my larger theme which is sharing things that come easily to me with others so that they see the possibility in themselves.

I believe most people are living their life purpose in one or many forms but may not recognize it or haven’t yet identified the joy and greater purpose in it.

If you feel like you are still searching for your calling, I suggest this exercise to help you identify your purpose or life “theme”:

Write down the different rolls you’ve played over the course of your life so far. Not just professionally but as a child, as a student, a friend and a parent.  Don’t simply list the skills you used or the tasks you performed. Really think about where the joy was in each of those circumstances. What were the “ahah” moments for you?  Where did you touch someone’s life? This could be when you helped your little brother learn to tie his shoes or the way you decorated the table for your parent’s bridge party.  Maybe you were the one who always knew how to convince the teachers, parents, other kids that something was a great idea. Even if you feel stuck in a boring job right now, you are probably doing something that is in some way manifesting your purpose. Are you always the one to bring order, humor or calm to a situation? Sometimes it’s not obvious but if you spend time really looking and listening, there are probably some similarities between the gifts you bring to your present life and the pieces of your past that brought you joy or made a difference for someone else.

What are the common threads in your history that may be a key to your life theme?

Your Buying Habits CAN and DO make a difference

As someone who makes art of any kind, you can appreciate how frustrating it is for other artists to see their work knocked off, made oversees and sold for much less than the original..
Whether you bake, sew, throw pots or blow glass, your buying habits can make a difference.
Wherever I travel, I always try to identifying indigenous craft and support local artists. On a recent trip to New England, I scoured the shops for a handmade birthday gift to bring back to a friend. With the rich heritage in the Northeastern US, I felt confident that it wouldn’t be hard to find some unique local pieces. From my years shopping the Buyers Market of Contemporary Craft in Philadelphia, sourcing for my own gallery and others, I knew that the buyers on the east coast were discriminating and valued Made In America.

So, imagine my disappointment when all I could find in the local shops were imports. I shouldn’t have been surprised, since in so many areas of the country, the shops feature gift items imported from China, imprinted with the names of local destinations.  I finally found one shop that had exclusively American made items. I purchased a pair of earrings made by a New England metal smith and a couple of small prints by a local artist. There was only one other shop in the seaside village that carried hand-made work but as I read labels, I learned that much of the inventory was imported.

I do understand the reasoning behind the shop keepers decision to carry imports. The mark-up is huge compared with the small profit margin on products made in the US. I also understand that most buyers don’t read labels and even if they do, they don’t want to pay the higher price for something that is made locally, when something that looks similar costs less. I think there is also a common misconception that if something is in a pricey boutique, it is not made in China. (If you believe that, check the labels on designer pieces in Nordstroms.)

If you want the American public to continue supporting you, it’s your duty to make it a point to buy hand made in America and to educate your friends and family because chances are, they are buying the cheapest items unaware that they are supporting companies that will eventually put you and your artist buddies out of business. MOST PEOPLE JUST DON’T THINK ABOUT IT. But you, as an artist yourself, want others to support your work so PLEASE don’t rationalize abut buying imports because they are cheaper.

How can you tell? First, check items for a label. If you don’t see anything identifying where it is made, ask the shop keeper for the name of the artist. If it’s in fact handmade, they will have that info. Don’t assume that everything at a craft fair is made domestically, either. Only juried shows control where the items come from and you’d be surprised how many mass produced pieces show up at craft fairs.   If you have difficulty finding locally made gifts, seek out an artists’ co-p. These are generally owned and operated by a group of artist and you can frequently meet the artists and even watch them at work.

Remember, if you want the public to buy your work and support you, commit to buying handmade when you have the choice.

Why consciously seeking your calling might keep you from succeeding at anything

Marilyn is a renaissance woman or what Barbara Sher terms a scanner. A multi-talented creative with as many certificates and degrees as she has interests, in the four years I’ve known her, she’s “almost” started twice that number of businesses. Just as something is beginning to take shape, she panics and asks, “What if this isn’t my life purpose? What if I put all my time and energy into this and then discover it’s not my true calling?”



Unlike “bright shiny object syndrome” this isn’t about being sidetracked by each new opportunity. It’s actually based in unreasonable fear that “if I do this and then realize there’s something bigger calling me, I’ll have wasted all that time doing the wrong thing.”


No life purpose or calling is going to disappear just because you’ve put your all into something else. In fact, you’ll never “waste time” working towards something you’re passionate about.


You might not want to hear this but maybe you aren’t meant to do one thing for the rest of your life. Maybe the project or career you are pursuing now is what will guide you to a path that will call even louder. Changing course doesn’t mean you’re a dilettante. It means you’re growing and you can’t grow if you live in fear of doing the “wrong” thing and do nothing.


What if the purpose that’s calling you now isn’t meant to be your life’s work? What if  your callings are numerous? Maybe you are meant to do several possibly even unrelated good works? Even Mother Teresa followed several callings.


Consider this: most people find their greatest work when they stumble on an obstacle while pursuing something else. I promise you that if you put your whole heart and self into whatever is calling you now, you will not miss out on your life purpose. What you’re feeling drawn to at this moment is likely to lead you to discover your next meaningful work.

Your worst life experience may be the key to what gifts you can bring to the world.

This morning a client was asking for guidance on how she could turn one of her hobbies into a meaningful business. As I listened, I realized that she wasn’t speaking as passionately about her many interests as she was about what she had learned from dealing with a recent tragedy. As she talked, it became apparent that the most terrible experience in her life had prepared her for a meaningful new career. She’d recently helped her life partner through the long course of a terminal illness. The ways she compensated for the lack of compassion, resources and communication she experienced in dealing with the medical community had prepared her to do patient and family advocacy. Her need to raise money to pay for her partner’s medical bills had given her the experience of planning fund raising events, soliciting donors and raising public awareness. Like many people who’ve had to be innovative during difficult times, her creative solutions to a crises situation could meet the needs of a whole population facing similar challenges. My friend found it hard to believe that people would pay her to do for them what she had figured out how to do for herself, but as we reviewed all the time spent researching and implementing creative solutions, she realized this was a viable business that could help people solve an urgent dilemma.

Sometimes the best business ideas come from something we’ve found lacking . While no one wants to think of a tragedy as creating opportunity,  sometimes  the skills or wisdom we gain during a crises prepares us for a career helping others deal with a similar situation.

After our phone conversation, I thought of John Walsh, host of “America’s Most Wanted” and of the horrific experience of losing his six year old son to abduction and murder. Determined to not let Adam’s death be in vain,  Walsh began a lifelong career helping to apprehend over 1,050 dangerous fugitives and bring home more than 50 missing children in the past 22 years. He’s authored best-selling books and DVDs on stranger safety and internet safety, and has been instrumental in getting stricter laws passed to crack down on sex offenders,  all as a result of the most horrendous loss a parent could face.

What experiences have forced you to create solutions that  others might also benefit from?  Have there been times when you wished there’d been a product or service to help you deal with a situation that felt nearly overwhelming?  Did you ever wish someone had written a manual to guide you through a difficult time in your life? What did you learn from handling and getting through some of life’s toughest challenges?  How could that be turned into a service, manual or “roadmap” to help others? The answer to those questions just might be the key to your more meaningful career.

For more ideas on how you can make a living and a difference in the world, go over to the right of this page and sign up for one of the gifts. You’ll then receive periodic updates and articles on finding more meaning in your work.

How to Scale your Business when you’re already booked solid and more people want your expertise.

This is a repost of an article I dug out of the archives in response to a comment the lovely Pam Slim posted on Facebook about being too busy to write a post on being too busy to serve more clients. 

Many years ago, my partner and I started a furniture business in Tucson. We were successful right off the starting block and paid for our first shipment before we ordered more inventory. We loved to travel and didn’t want to be in one place all the time so we hired and trained a manager and staff, then moved on to open store number two and three in Phoenix. We also knew we wanted to live on the coast eventually so we opened store number 4 in San Diego. Then things got tricky because with us out of state, 2 of the 3 store managers in Arizona got lazy and didn’t maintain the level of integrity we’d hoped. We knew we couldn’t be in more than one place so we basically cloned ourselves by training the best Az manager to supervise the others and promoted him to district manager. We continued with this scalable model as we built the business throughout California and it enabled us to take extended family vacations and continue to earn even when we weren’t present.

Whether you have a brick and mortar business selling physical items or you do individual or group coaching or consulting, you will find yourself in the same position eventually. More people want what you have than you can service by yourself. You either hit a maximum earning power, raise your rates according to demand or figure out how to serve more people. Since there are a finite number of hours in a day and you have a limit to how much energy you can expend before you need to recharge, the scalable model is the best solution. But how do you do that?

Let’s say you’re a coach or consultant. The first step, if you haven’t done so already, would be to document in detail everything you do to help your clients. This will become your training manual. Now, find people who have the personality type AND experience you possess but may not have the organizational or marketing skills. Work closely with them for long enough that you have complete faith in referring your overflow to them. You can charge for training or “certification” or take a percentage of the revenue from clients you refer to them.

NOTICE I said EXPERIENCE and PERSONALITY, not skill-set. There are lots of coaches out there who are doing certification programs simply to get the fee but you should NEVER refer your valuable clients to someone who has never done the work themselves that you are “certifying” them to do. 

Let’s look at a couple of other examples. Do you do a particular modality of body work that is your intellectual property? Your clients are so happy with what you do that they refer their friends and suddenly, you have more people in need of your services than you can physically serve. I recommend you go to a massage therapy school and find those graduate therapists who have the quality of touch, presence and energy that your modality requires and then teach them your specific techniques. You can certify and refer clients to them. Again, you can either charge a training and certification fee or accept a percentage of the revenue from clients you send to them.

Do you make a craft, say jewelry or textile art,  that is very popular and there’s demand for more product than you can produce on your own? A great way to scale that would be to find some stay-at-home moms who can create their own cottage industries doing piece work for you. There are lots of tips on leveraging your income from your craft at

Regardless of what kind of work you do, you can expand beyond what you can do on your own by leveraging the power of teaching others to serve in the same way you do. And always, always be sure to choose people who you feel absolutely confident about representing YOU.

Have you done this in your business? If so, please do share with us here in the comments below.

If you’re trying to find work-life balance, maybe you are in the wrong business.

What is all this talk about “work-life balance” anyway? If you are a corporate employee who spends your days dreaming of the weekend, OK-I get it-you’re stuck. Or you’re holding onto that JOB because you need the income while you start-up your dream livelihood, kudos to you. But the self-employed seeking work-life balance?  I don’t understand it. Here’s why: if you are feeling like all you do is work and you need to find more time for fun, YOU ARE IN THE WRONG BUSINESS. Period.
Once, only once, in my decades of self-employment, did I consciously dream of time off. I justified intense times of stress and long hours in business with the knowledge that my work was footing the bill for frequent lavish vacations. But you know what? That level of work/play balance was not sustainable. Because my heart wasn’t deeply connected to the greater purpose in my business. There wasn’t enough personal meaning in what I was doing to keep me fully engaged.
Are you feeling that way? I’m not talking about taking enough time off. If you have to tell yourself to keep your office door closed on the weekend and not take work on vacation, then the truth you must face is YOU ARE IN THE WRONG BUSINESS.
Sure, if you aren’t making time for your fitness routine or you’re gobbling fast food at your desk, you do need to re-think your time management. But if you spend all your at-home hours holed up in your office and ignore your family, it isn’t work-life balance you need to address. It’s work-love balance because if you are truly, completely in love with your business and you are in your right livelihood, you engage your family and your enthusiasm is contagious.
Do your kids know what you do for a living? Do they talk about it with their friends?
Do you talk about your work at social and family gatherings?
Do you find yourself on vacation coming up with ideas for your business? Or taking field trips to other businesses that inspire you?
If you answered “yes” to the above questions, then you are likely in your right livelihood but if you find yourself disappointed when it’s time to get back to work,  it’s time to do some serious soul searching about what your business means to you.
Is your business just about making a living or are you making a difference? Do you feel connected to a deep purpose in your business? Or are you searching for more meaning?
As always, you are invited and encouraged to share your experience, thoughts and opinions below.