Dixie Darr

Archive for the ‘self-employment’ Category

Top Five Reasons You Don’t Need a Degree to Start a Business

In creativity, Learning, self-employment, work on February 3, 2011 at 9:24 am
  1. Bill Gates

Although no longer the world’s richest man, Gates is still among the list of the world’s wealthiest people. He entered Harvard in 1973 and dropped out two years later to found Microsoft with his friend Paul Allen. In 2007, he received an honorary doctorate from his alma mater, and at commencement, Gates said, “I’m a bad influence. That’s why I was invited to speak at your graduation. If I had spoken at your orientation, fewer of you might be here today.”

2.  Steve Jobs

The founder of Apple and Pixar had to drop out of Reed College after just six months. In a 2005 commencement speech he gave at Stanford University, Jobs credited a calligraphy class he took at Reed College with forming the basis for the typography used in the first Macintosh computer.

3.   Sir Richard Branson

Branson’s first successful business was publishing a magazine called Student, which is ironic since he left school when he was only 16. Today, Branson’s brand Virgin includes Virgin Records, Virgin Atlantic Airways, and more than 300 other companies. When he was just 24, Sir Branson bought his own 79-acre Caribbean island. He was knighted in 1999.

4.   Mark Zuckerberg

Another famous Harvard dropout, Mark Zuckerberg developed Facebook in his school dorm. As Facebook’s became one of the world’s most popular social networking sites, Zuckerberg chose to leave school and relocate his company to California. Forbes named Zuckerberg the youngest billionaire in the world, with a 2010 net worth of 4 billion U.S. dollars. He recently donated $100 million to the Newark, NJ public schools.

5. Michael Dell

Dell Computers is another company founded in a college dorm room. Among top ten wealthiest Americans, Dell dropped out of the University of Texas at Austin to run the company. In 2006, Dell and his wife gave a $50 million grant to the University which he attended but never graduated from.

Find more famous college dropouts at the College Dropouts Hall of Fame.


In Learning, self-employment on January 21, 2009 at 11:46 am

The Learning Business

Jonathan Fields was “the kid with the lemonade stand in 6th-grade, the landscaping business in high-school and the mobile-DJ business in college.”

He went on to be a securities and hedge-fund lawyer before ditching the law to open a yoga studio. That led him to learn about copywriting to promote the business. Did he go back to school to study writing? Nope. He went online and searched for information on copywriting. He found the websites and blogs of several top copywriters, red everything he could find and took notes. He found samples of their work and analyzed it.

Next, he bought and read all the books that his virtual mentors mentioned. Finally, he felt the need for more concentrated and personal information and attended a three-day seminar. “I am not someone who likes to surrender to the notion that I need help,” He explained in his book, Career Renegade. “I’ve always pretty much mastered whatever I needed to master on my own. This experience, though, opened my eyes both to the importance of finding a mentor, seeking out live attention, and copping to the fact that I don’t know everything.”

This leads me to two of my favorite quotes about learning:

I’m not sure who said “All learning is self-taught,” but I agree with the sentiment. On the other hand, I also agree with Harvey Mackay that “If everything a (person) learns over a thirty-year career is self-taught, you can bet some of it is dead wrong.” Maybe the best learning comes from maintaining the tension between those two points of view.

That said, I have just finished reading Career Renegade, the best, most information-packed book on work that I’ve read in many years. I plan to use it as a workbook to grow my own renegade career.

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In Home, Learning, self-employment, work on December 15, 2008 at 1:14 pm

No Snow Day

It’s brutally cold in Denver: Minus 19° overnight and a high today of only about 20°. All I want to do is burrow in somewhere cozy and wait for warmer weather. One of the disadvantages of working or studying at home is that you don’t get any snow days. We didn’t get much snow out of this storm, so nobody’s getting a snow day today, and I thank my lucky stars that I didn’t have to join the rush hour madness this morning.

When I face new students at the University of Phoenix, one of the first things they always ask me about is weather cancellations. They react with surprise when I tell them that we just don’t do them. Denver’s national reputation for cold and snow aside, our weather really isn’t bad. The bigger issue, though, is that dealing with the impossibly full schedules of adult college students is extremely difficult. We can’t just cancel classes and forget about them; we have to make them up within the same week, a Herculean task.

Staying cheerful in freezing temperatures can be an adventure. Yesterday ten people showed up at my church to go caroling even though it was only 5°. We had a good time and maybe even brought a few people a little Christmas cheer.

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In creativity, self-employment, work on September 4, 2007 at 7:36 am

Against the Grain

“I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”
G. K. Chesterton

If you’re looking for an innovative idea to make your business stand out, think about doing the opposite of what everybody else is doing. If the conventional wisdom in your industry is to market products to giant corporations, maybe you could find an untapped niche in the small- or medium-sized market.

In this age of globalization, some companies make a distinct regionalism work for them. The Buckhorn Exchange restaurant in Denver is one example. It is our oldest restaurant, in continuous operation since 1893, and holds Colorado’s first liquor license. Thumbing its nose at political correctness, the historic building unabashedly displays hundreds of hunting trophies, Native American artifacts and Wild West memorabilia. The menu features buffalo, elk, pheasant and pot roast. People come from all over the world for this unique dining experience.

If you wrote a business plan today for a restaurant like this, funding agencies would probably laugh you out of the office. Much like Hollywood producers, banks are looking for the sequel to McDonald’s, not something completely different.

If your idea flouts conventional wisdom, chances are good that you will be on your own. That’s okay, because it also means that when you hit it big, you will reap all the profits. The thing about conventional wisdom is that it is so frequently wrong.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, self-employment, work on August 21, 2007 at 9:47 am

The Entrepreneurship Boom

“The biggest temptation is . . . to settle for too little.” Thomas Merton

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the ranks of the self-employed aged 55 to 65 rose 33 percent in 2006, while the number of self-employed 25- to 35-year-olds fell 2 percent.

In a related quarterly survey by outplacement firm Challenger Gray & Christmas of its clients — mostly managers and executives — the number starting firms or turning to self-employment rose 29 percent in the first quarter of 2007 over the first three months of 2006. Of those, a staggering 88 percent were 40 and older.

A number of reasons might account for these statistics. Older people have a harder time finding a new job when they leave an old one, so some people may turn to self-employment as their last choice. Workers in their 50s and 60s may have lower living expenses, with a paid-off mortgage and grown, independent children. They may qualify for early retirement pensions that give them more financial freedom. All of these situations leave them freer to explore things they may have always wanted to do, but found impractical or impossible at an earlier age.

Articles about this phenomenon always refer to “aging baby boomers,” and while it is true we are getting older, I’d like to point out that everyone on the planet is aging, not just the baby boom generation. The possibility of starting a small business is one more reason to look forward to our later years.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, self-employment, work on July 11, 2007 at 9:53 am

Time to Create, Part II

“All of man’s troubles stem from his inability to sit quietly in a room alone.” Pascal

In our helter skelter, rush-around world, time is our most precious commodity. And time—time spent alone, time to think and tinker and play—is the one ingredient that is absolutely necessary for creativity and innovation.

An article in this month’s Inc. magazine, Creative Control: Even Bosses Need Time to Dream, analyzes the need for entrepreneurs and CEOs to make time for idea generation because:

  • “Companies need new ideas to thrive.”
  • “Staying cretive is among the healthiest tings a CEO can do personally and for the company.”
  • “Idea generation may be the CEO’s strongest suit, and consequently a company’s greatest asset.”

Paul Budnitz, founder of Kidrobot, is one CEO who hasn’t given up his creative juice for the more mundane tasks of business life. “He came up with 53 original items last year alone” because he forces himself to make time for idea generation. During a recent trip to China for a week of crisis management, he took time to “sit in a room and think about new toy ideas.”

Travel can be a great opportunity for creative thinking, not only because a change of scenery gives us a new perspective. Time spent waiting in airports and hotels and on airplanes can be used for creative incubation.

Take a hint from Erik Djukastein, president of Contech Electronics, who recently turned the management and finance functions of his company over to somebody else and gave himself the title of chief innovation officer. I’m hoping that title catches on. It will definitely appear on my next business card.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, Learning, self-employment, spirituality, work on July 7, 2007 at 7:19 am

The Nap Manifesto

Working at home allows me the luxury of indulging in to my natural tendency to nap. Mine are not the 20-minute “power naps” people boast about. My naps like to last about an hour and a half, which, it turns out is the time it takes to complete one cycle of sleep.

Of course, I don’t take a nap every day, although I’d like to. I’ve attended enough meetings and taught enough seminars at 1 p.m., right after lunch, that I know it’s a deadly hour. It seems to me that the cultures that have a general siesta in the early afternoon have the right idea.

Our society thinks nappers are lazy. Now science has the evidence to prove the case for napping. In her fascinating book, Take a Nap! Change your life, Sara C. Mednick, Ph.D. proclaims that napping “is free, it’s nontoxic and it has no dangerous side effects.” Instead, it will:

  1. Increase your alertness
  2. Speed up your motor performance.
  3. Improve your accuracy.
  4. Help you make better decisions.
  5. Improve your perception.
  6. Fatten your bottom line.
  7. Preserve your youthful looks.
  8. Improve your sex life.
  9. Lose weight.
  10. Reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
  11. Reduce your risk of diabetes.
  12. Improve your stamina.
  13. Elevate your mood.
  14. Boost your creativity.
  15. Reduce stress.
  16. Help your memory.
  17. Reduce dependence on drugs/alcohol.
  18. Alleviate migraines, ulcers and other problems with psychological components.
  19. Improve the ease and quality of your nocturnal sleep.

Oh, yes. It also feels good. Right now, if you know what’s good for you, close your browser, find a comfortable spot and catch a few zzzzs.

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In self-employment on June 13, 2007 at 9:06 am

Something Happened

“For a moment, nothing happened. Then, after a second or so, nothing continued to happen.” Douglas Adams

Sometimes being self-employed feels like nothing continues to happen no matter what you do. You have to keep marketing and developing products and expecting to happen and, suddenly, something does.

So far this week has been like that for me. After a long dry spell when I sent out proposals, went on interviews and submitted writing samples, I’m beginning to get some results. Monday, I got a new teaching assignment, and yesterday the training company that I work with called with an opportunity to teach a workshop at a conference. I can hardly wait to see what happens today.

I breathed a sigh of relief, but I know that I can’t let my guard down. I need to continue putting myself out there. I have plans for a monthly newsletter/press release to help establish myself with the media as an expert in creativity. Since I can’t find a graduate certificate program in creativity here in Colorado, I plan to develop my own. And I’m thinking about joining the Professional Speakers’ Association.

As best-selling author and career counselor Barbara Sher said, “Perhaps the best reason to plan is that following a plan gets you out into the world. If you go to the library and look up articles, call people, join organizations, go to appointments, something can happen to you.” On the other hand, beloved western author Larry McMurtry pointed out, “If you wait, all that happens is that you get older.”

© Copyright 2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, Learning, self-employment on May 2, 2007 at 9:02 am


“The human passion to carry all things everywhere, so that every place is home, is well on its way to homogenizing our planet.”

Barbara Kingsolver

“I really like your purse,” Maureen told me at our last Joyfully Jobless meeting.

“It isn’t a purse, it’s a yoga bag,” I said.

“Why do you call it a yoga bag?”

“It’s made to hold all your yoga gear.”

“Do you do yoga?”


“Are you planning to take up yoga?”


“Why do you have a yoga bag?”

Before our conversation turned into an Abbot and Costello routine and while she examined all the various zippered compartments, I explained that my sister-in-law takes yoga and asked for a yoga bag for Christmas. When I looked at ebags, I found that the black bag she wanted also came in purple, so I had to have that one.

Although I may never use the straps on the bottom meant for a rolled-up yoga mat, the bag works for me when I need to carry books or folders but don’t want to carry a briefcase.

Maureen says I’m her purse guru. She learned about the healthy back bag from me, too. (I have three of them.) If I have interesting purses, it’s because I’m a little obsessed with cornering the market on purple purses and also because I haven’t yet found the perfect purse, one that is compact, light-weight, organized, but big enough to carry my various books and notebooks. It would be nice if it also changed color when I change outfits because moving my stuff from one purse to another is a drag. I always seem to leave something I need in the old bag.

Usually we talk about our businesses: how things are going, what we need help with. When you work at home alone, it’s nice to have a colleague to check in with occasionally.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved

In creativity, Learning, self-employment, work on April 18, 2007 at 10:55 am

Calling Future Rock Stars

“Be your own rock.” Prudential slogan

Paul Green wanted to be the best. Since he couldn’t be the world’s best guitarist, he invented something new so he could be best at that. What he invented has grown into more than 40 locations across the country and was the subject of a critically acclaimed documentary in 2005. An after school program in Philadelphia established in 1999, The Paul Green School of Rock Music trains kids aged 7-18 to be rock musicians.

Students receive private lessons on the instrument of their choice and also participate in weekly rehearsals to prepare them for the main event, THE SHOW! Past shows have included tributes to Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Queen, and the Beatles. The movie details the preparations and performance of shows featuring the music of Black Sabbath and Frank Zappa. The goal is to make the students into amazing musicians.

It looks like they’re succeeding. The movie, Rock School, is a hoot, although the harsh language Paul uses with some of the kids is a bit shocking. Seeing 12-year old prodigy CJ playing Santana’s Black Magic Woman on the guitar is well worth the price of the movie rental.

Green says he’s a natural teacher, who teaches all the time. We all have a gift—something we’re better at than almost anybody else. Finding a way to build our lives around using our gifts is a worthy goal.

©2007 Dixie Darr. All rights reserved