We first connected in the most magical and serendipitous way. It was on the morning of November 14th, 2012, while we were both in line at the post office in Santa Clarita. I had just made the move to live in Santa Barbara half of my time, so I was tying up some loose ends.
Barbara was standing behind me and made a comment about the package I had under my arm. I don’t remember exactly what she said, but when I told her I was sending a few books to one of my clients, her eyes lit up and we went from strangers to acquaintances in a nanosecond.
She patiently listened to me tell my tale of coming online, after working as a classroom teacher for twenty years and longer than that in real estate, until I was called up to the counter, and that could have been the end of the story. But when I had completed my transaction and saw that she was still at the counter finishing hers, I made the life changing decision to wait for her.
Something else I should share here is that talking to strangers has been a part of who I am all of my life, and it was Barbara who pointed that out to me the next time we connected in person.
Anyway, after what seemed like forever, she was finally finished and when she turned around and saw me waiting for her, she smiled widely and I knew we’d made a connection. I gave her my card and invited her to join me at my Rotary Club meeting, but she respectfully declined. She promised to be in touch, and by the time I got home this email message was waiting in my inbox…
November 14, 2012
I love bumping into kindred spirits! Can’t believe I didn’t have a card in my purse, so let me introduce myself. My name is Barbara Winter and I’m the author of Making a Living Without a Job. Since 1986 have been doing seminars around the country and elsewhere on creative self-employment. I also write occasionally for several Web sites, including my own which is http://joyfullyjobless.com.
Would love to have coffee with you sometime. I’m heading to Las Vegas to teach this weekend and, of course, next week is totally crazy with Thanksgiving, but if we’re both around at the same time, I think it would be great to get to know you.
She included her phone number and I immediately picked up the phone to call her. We chatted for less than five minutes, and then she invited me to meet her at a local cafe the following day at noon to pick up where we were leaving off with the conversation. And that is how I got to know Barbara Winter in a way few people would ever have the opportunity to do. We were able to spend a few hours and get to know each other at the Corner Bakery, not far from the post office.
In the post office and also in the email, she had mentioned that she did some type of work that was similar to what I was describing to her about my business. Now that we were seated outside at the cafe, we simultaneously pulled books out of our bags to give to one another. Hers was Making a Living Without a Job: Winning Ways for Creating Work That You Love and I was thrilled to listen as she shared the story of how she had come to write this book and change the trajectory of her life decades before.
Time passed, I joined her email newsletter, and then signed up for her print newsletter, Winning Ways. I still have some copies of these and will continue to cherish them. We became Facebook friends and I thought the in-person part of our friendship had run its course. Not a chance.
By this time I was living more than half of my time in Santa Barbara, while still maintaining my residence in Santa Clarita. She called one day, out of the blue and asked if I was in town. Yes, I replied. I told her I was going back and forth between the two cities (they’re about 80 miles or 120 km apart, and the trip each way takes about an hour and fifteen minutes.
She invited me to join her and a couple of friends and one of her sisters for an art exhibit of John Lennon’s work. It was to be held in a space next door to the Apple Store on State Street in downtown Santa Barbara, with all proceeds going to our local Cottage Hospital’s Children’s Center. I was mentally rearranging my schedule and making notes as to the time we would meet.
It was a wonderful afternoon and everything we experienced that day was meaningful to me on many levels. When we finally went our separate ways on State Street, I asked her to speak at my next live marketing conference to be held in Las Vegas before the end of the year. She declined, telling me she was done with Vegas and would prefer to meet me at an event in Los Angeles.
The following year I moved my twice annual event to Los Angeles, although there were extenuating circumstances that brought me to that decision.
I also had the pleasure of interviewing Barbara for my podcast, and although this is still available on Apple Podcasts, I’m looking for the original mp3 recording so I may share it with you here. I promise to keep looking.
There were two more random encounters with Barbara at the post office. One was during the fall of 2015, when we spotted each other in the parking lot, her just arriving and me on my way out. I was with one of my clients, Maria. She is an American who lives in Milan, Italy half of her time and she was staying with me for a few days leading up to participating in my live event in Los Angeles. Maria couldn’t believe she was being introduced to the Barbara Winter, and Barbara loved Italy and was excited to meet Maria. I imagined her silently thinking: Another stranger to turn into a new friend!
I’m sure I was smiling in an interesting way as I listened to their short but interesting conversation that day, looking back and forth as each of them spoke. I did ask Barbara to come and speak to my event participants during any of the three days we’d be at the hotel, but she said that she had other plans and graciously declined my invitation.
The last time we ran into each other while checking our post office boxes was almost two years later. I almost didn’t recognize her and she explained that she had been ill with a respiratory infection. It would be the last time I would ever see her, and now I’m thinking about everything I would have said to her, had I known this would be the case. But perhaps we had already said everything that was important before this day, and I know she and I had a mutual admiration that couldn’t always be put into words.
Barbara J. Winter was an original. She was loved by people all over the world because she spoke her mind, walked her talk, and willingly and joyously shared her thoughts, ideas, and resources with others. The concept of being joyfully jobless and making a living without a job is an amazing one. I will continue to share Barbara and her work with everyone I encounter, as it is only through these grassroots efforts that our mindsets deepen and widen and we change the world, one conversation at a time.