How to Make the Most of the Last Three Months of the Year

Written by Marisol Dahl

The Sun is setting earlier, the days are getting chillier, and the Halloween candy that has taken up residence in your house is just a hint of all the holiday celebrations to come.

There’s so much going on. And that means it’s really really easy to write off the next three months. Q4 is often considered a “lost quarter” in terms of work and productivity, especially if we have the promise of a shiny New Year just around the corner.

But it doesn’t have to be that way. The key to successful quarterly planning is to not treat each quarter like all the others. It’s important to take into account the time of year, acknowledge where you are in your life/career/business, and gauge your productivity levels moving forward. You have to look at the big picture, and set realistic expectations for yourself.

4 Ways to Make Q4 Awesome

1. Tie up loose ends.

What one or two things have you been resolving to do forever but just can’t seem to finish? Q4 is a great time to clear the decks and wrap up all those projects and to-dos that always seem to get pushed to the back-burner. You’ll thank yourself when the New Year rolls around :) Tying up loose ends is also a great goal for Q4 especially if you are wary of taking on completely new projects.

2. Debrief on the past year.

Jenny and I love having debrief sessions right after major initiatives (like a program or book launch!). It’s a great way to acknowledge accomplishments and identify areas for improvement, and we always walk away aligned on a few solid things we want to focus on for the next few months.

In your debrief, choose an area of your life (work, family, relationships, etc.). Identify three things you did well, three things you’d do differently, and three things you’d like to celebrate. Feel free to add any questions to you debrief process, and repeat for as many “life areas” you’d like to review.

3. Focus on relationships.

This is a great focus for Q4, since this time of year is already very relationship-oriented. Instead of seeing the holidays as time and productivity-sucks, use them as an “excuse” to get in touch and open up opportunities for stronger connection and collaboration.

This is a natural time to check in with your extended family, old classmates, former colleagues, and any other business contacts you’d like to keep in touch with—and it won’t be awkward since this is one of the most social seasons of the year.

4. Do sprints.

If you look ahead at your calendar, you might notice pockets of time that aren’t as conducive to work as others. Maybe you’re traveling, taking time off for a holiday, or have a lot of commitments clustered over a few days.

Use your schedule as an indicator of when it’s time to hustle, and when it’s time to let it flow. Instead of trying to evenly pace your work over the next three months, identify a few periods of time where you can do “sprints”—times where you can kick focused work into high gear and make a lot of progress in a short period of time. When you’re “off-sprint,” enjoy the time to celebrate what you achieved and get much-needed rest.

Join Us for the 5-Day #PIVOTsprint — Starts 10/10!

We’re excited to announce the first ever #PIVOTsprint, kicking off on October 10! This is a 5-day kickstart for you to map what’s next, whether you are pivoting within your current role or business, starting a side-hustle, getting unstuck on a major project, or cookin’ up an even bigger life change.

The week of prompts will walk you through the four-stage Pivot Method in—you guessed it!—four days, with some extra reflection at the start and end. Sign up here to join the#PIVOTsprint, and invite your friends for some added accountability!

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol graduated Yale in 2015 as a Sociology and Education Studies major. A longtime New Yorker, her interests include business, communications, and brand strategy. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.


Waiting for Perfect Alignment

Written by Melissa Anzman ducks

Our fears present themselves in many different ways – procrastination, frustration, anger, excuses, and so on. The easiest way to prolong anything is waiting for perfect alignment. You know, “I can’t do X because Y isn’t in place yet.”

When I was working in the corporate world, it usually looked like:

  • I can’t apply for that job because I don’t match the job posting 100%.
  • I’m not ready for a promotion because I haven’t been at the company long enough.
  • I’m not a leader because I don’t have any experience with people management.

As a solopreneur, my alignment excuses have presented in many ways, recently:

  • I can’t launch my new design because it’s not perfect yet.
  • I am not ready to write a new book because the first two weren’t best sellers.
  • I can’t pursue an exciting opportunity because it does not match my current trajectory.

The funny thing is, I’ve found that we’re all waiting for perfect alignment before we take risks of any kind. Whether we’re using perfection as a comparison tool or as a procrastination method, it’s holding all of us back.

Stop Waiting for Perfection

I wish I had a guaranteed method to walk you through to start bursting through your perfection and alignment ideals, but honestly, it’s hard work – and not a one-size-fits-all solution. But here’s what I know for sure:

  • You are missing out on opportunities while you are waiting on the sidelines.
  • The impact of “failure” or imperfection, is never as bad as you make it out to be.
  • Perfect alignment will never come.

You are missing out on opportunities while you are waiting on the sidelines.

Good piece of advice there, no? A few years ago I was having lunch with one of my friends and we were talking about going out on our own and why some people make it “big” while others don’t. Because they actually put themselves out there to try.”

That conversation and our eventual landing place, has never stopped bouncing around in my mind. Sure there are people out there who may be more qualified, or better equipped, or more experienced, or…. (enter any excuse here). But they are doing it while you just continue to ponder all of the things that can go wrong.

There is never going to be a job description that matches your skills 100%. You are never going to be hired for a job you don’t apply to. Your niche market is not going to be completely untapped. Your website isn’t going to be perfect – ever. But if you don’t apply, or pick a market, or publish the site – you won’t be any closer to your goals.

The impact of “failure” or imperfection, is never as bad as you make it out to be.

We’ve all failed – some more than others. And guess what – we’ve lived to tell the story. Sure it isn’t always easy or kind to our egos, but it’s a big part of learning. “Failure” teaches us what not to do again and forces us how to try again.

If you don’t get the job offer – it’s not failure, but a good indication that you weren’t a good fit with the company (or vice versa). And how awesome is it to know that before you spend your time and energy onboarding?

Perfect alignment will never come.

I used to wait for perfection – for a sign of complete alignment. For completing steps 1 – 4 so then step 5 can be PERFECT. I hate to tell you this, but it has never happened. I spent YEARS thinking and pondering and doing the what-if treadmill.

And I missed out on doing while waiting for alignment. I denied myself the joy of writing because I was waiting for a “sign” that people would want to read what I wrote. I didn’t travel because I was waiting for the perfect mate to travel with.

Stop waiting for everything to align perfectly. It’s NEVER going to happen. Perfection or the idea of perfection, does not allow you to pursue. To create. To explore. To achieve. To be you.

Start doing – take little steps if the big ones seem overwhelming. Stop saying one day and start going after the things you want, even if things aren’t “lined up.”

What are you stalling on? How does perfection alignment present itself in your life? Tell us more in the comments below!

melissa anzman

About Melissa

Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Your Job  where she equips ambitious leaders with practical ways to grow their career. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job. Follow her @MelissaAnzman.

Drifting Away from Your New Year's Resolutions? Here's how to reset.

Written by Marisol Dahl

We’re officially one week into the New Year! How are your New Year’s resolutions going?

If you feel like they’re slipping away, you are not alone. Believe it or not, 25% of us drop our New Year’s resolutions within the first week.

These things happen. The holidays come and we are filled with excitement and hope. We look to the  shiny new year with big plans for greater health, more happiness, big career moves, and stronger relationships. We’ve mind-mapped and reflected for an amazing 2016, and we’ve set some solid resolutions with the best of intentions.

But now that January has hit, it’s all about execution, and this can be hard! It’s natural to feel a little resistance from trying to incorporate a “brand new you” into the normal routine of work, school, and daily responsibilities.

So if the first few days of your new resolution didn’t go as planned, don’t worry. It’s time to hit the reset button.

3 Steps to Reset Your New Year’s Resolutions

1. Reflect on why you couldn’t follow through.

As tempting as it is to simply recommit to your resolutions and try again, you likely won’t see much progress unless you make some strategic changes to your approach. Revisit the resolutions and goals you set. Think about why you let them slip, and be specific.

What’s blocking you from jumping in? Are the goals you set truly in line with the changes you want to make? Acknowledge everything that runs through your mind—big and small. To get to the root of the problem, keep asking yourself why.

2. Re-evaluate and simplify your resolution.

Make “alterations” to your resolution, with an eye towards making it more actionable and easier to achieve. Stay true to the heart of your ultimate goal, but do feel free to transform how you go about achieving that goal.

For instance, your objective might be to get more physically fit, and your first (failed) resolution was to go to the gym three times a week. You might shift your resolution to walking around the block every day. This new resolution is much more simple, and a lot harder to say “no” to.

Sure, walking around the block won’t necessarily have the same impact as working out at the gym, but the momentum of sticking to your new, simplified resolution will motivate more intense physical activities. Focus on little wins and on building that small habit—that’s how long-term change occurs.

3. Remind yourself: the year is not over yet.

No matter how far along in the year it is, you can still make it a success. Don’t give in to the mentality that resolutions can only be made at the beginning of the year, or that your track record predicts your future.

Alexandra Franzen put it best: today is not over yet. Each new moment is an opportunity to get it right—so go for it! What can you do right now to honor your New Year’s resolution?

Go on a Momentum Safari

One great way to get back on track with your resolutions is to join the free Momentum Safari. Each week you will get a series of small daily assignments to complete an action, reflection and/or connection to generate focus, freedom and flow in any area you choose. By the end of the three weeks, you will have a renewed sense of clarity and exploration . . . and unstoppable momentum!

Join us for a webinar on Multiple Streams of Solopreneur Income

Looking to expand your business and diversify your income this year? On Thursday, January 14 at 3pm ET Jenny will be sharing how she built up and manages multiple streams of income. Come with questions! Register for the webinar here.

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol recently graduated Yale as a Sociology and Education Studies major. A longtime New Yorker, her interests include business, communications, and marketing. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

Longing for the Start of School...sort of

by Rebecca Fraser-Thill grad_school_2

When you think of autumn, what springs to mind? Crisp evenings? Shortening days? Earthy scents? Halloween pranks?

Oh come on, you're holding back. Just try to convince me you don't think of school.

And no wonder you do:  after umpteen-odd years of trucking off to pencils, books, and dirty looks at the first drop of a leaf, autumn and school are strongly associated in our minds.

Which is fine and all. Until this association starts making us think we want something that we don't.

The Dangerous Fall/Grad School Link

Let's get this out of the way up front, lest I be labeled an anti-gradschoolite. There are many valid, terrific reasons to attend grad school. For instance:

  • Working toward better placement/career potential in a field in which you have proven and sustained interest
  • Increasing your knowledge of a subject about which you have proven and sustained interest
  • Engaging with the brightest minds in an area in which you have proven and sustained interest

(Sense a theme?)

If everyone were attending grad school for valid reasons, though, I wouldn't see a sudden surge in "hey former prof, I'm thinking of going to grad school!" emails every darn autumn. Which I do. Every year. The onslaught is a-coming.

To understand why the "huh, grad school is sounding good" blitz is a seasonal phenomenon, we must travel back in time to our childhood falls. In particular, to the prelude of our first day at school. (Cue the wavy lines and do-do-do-do music.)

The New-School-Year Scene:  Your mom is ironing the brand-new outfit you’ll wear on your first day, and you’re loading your crisp, clean backpack with all manner of school supplies. Your erasers are pink and four-cornered. Your pencils are sharp and smell like a day in the words. Your notebooks are ripe with blank pages so fresh and new that they stick to one another in their spiral spine.

Can you feel it?

I'll bet you can.

For twentysomethings, The New-School-Year Scene is as irresistible as the (ever so brief) 'N Sync reunion.

Why Twentysomethings Crave Autumns from the Past

Why is the draw of school in the fall so overwhelming to us when we're in our twenties (and perhaps far beyond)? Because those are the years when we're positively unmoored by the lack of what I call The 3 P’s:  possibility, predictability, and purpose.

When we conjure The New-School-Year Scene, those 3 P's become tangible all over again. We remember what it felt like to be poised on the edge of an entire new existence. Life seemed organized, opportunity-filled, and oh-so-beautifully structured.

No wonder, then, when autumn comes lugging its conditioned associations to The New School Year Scene we think:

“Oh! I could have those feelings again! I want that! I think I’ll go to grad school!”

Sorry to break it to you, but once college ends, the days of experiencing an externally-imposed sense of the 3 Ps are over. Period.

The twenties are all about accepting that very point. And then figuring out how to create our own internally-driven sense of predictability, possibility and purpose all the same.

This process is often termed "becoming an adult." And it sucks. Totally sucks. No sugarcoating there.

Thing is, going to grad school solve the underlying issue of needing to learn how to create for yourself what the world once created for you.

It only defers it.

(Full disclosure:  I write this not as someone who took my own advice, but rather as a recovering Autumn-Allure Addict. Yes, a AAA. As bad as it gets. To avoid facing the fact that my days of externally-derived 3 Ps were over, I jumped into grad school AND teaching. That's right, I'm here to scare you straight.)

The Problem With Going to Grad School To Relive the Fall of Our Childhood

Point number two why grad school is the wrong answer if the idea is only hitting you in the fall:  not only does grad school fail to provide the 3 P's for the long run, it also fails to square with nostalgia.

To see what I mean, please join me again in my time machine. This time we're traveling back to about two months into any given school year.

The Two-Months-Into-School Scenario:  You’re back to wearing hand-me-down clothes that fit awkwardly and get you teased. Your backpack’s bottom has blackened and the zippers have begun to show signs of rebellion. Your erasers have turned into dark, amorphous blobs that are inexplicably sticky. Your pencils are perpetually broken and smell of cheese puffs. And your notebooks? Oh, your notebooks. Once a stack of possibility, they now hold words and symbols you barely care to try to understand and their voluminous ranks have been decimated from notes passed to friends and paper airplanes flown at substitutes.

Had you forgotten that scene? Ours minds are convenient like that, scraping the moderately crapping portions of life from our memories. Hence the onset of Twentysomething School Nostalgia.

This delusional nostalgia is a major issue. I’d wager it causes a good portion of poor-grad-school choices, with desire to impress and social comparisons being the other major reasons. (Or you can be really "awesome" and go for the trifecta like I did!)

The reality is that grad school consists much more of the Two-Months-Into-School Scenario and barely any of the New-School-Year Scene.

In fact, you don’t even get The-New-School Scene beyond the first year of grad school - if you even get that - because you work your behind off year-round. And you’d better be damned sure that you care about the words and symbols that you’re writing in notebooks because you won’t only be jotting them down, you’ll be creating some of those jammies of your very own.

(For the record, the same could be said of teaching, so don’t even go there unless you have a “proven and sustained interest” in pedagogy. Identical urge, different cloak.)

How to Fight the Annual Siren Call to Go to Grad School

So if you now recognize that your sudden desire to go to grad school is born more of the leaves a-changing than your purpose calling to you, how can you fight the insincere urge?

1) Start by accepting what you’re actually craving each autumn:  a return to a life you’ve outgrown. Allow yourself to grieve the loss of the rhythms of childhood and the comforts those rhythms brought.

“Our twenties can be like living beyond time. There are days and weeks and months and years, but no clear way to know when or why any one thing should happen. It can be a disorienting, cavelike experience.” –Meg Jay, The Defining Decade

2) After grieving, create ways of infusing your current existence with hints of seasonality. It’ll take the edge off the false allure of autumn. For instance:

  • Schedule a day-long clothes shopping trip every fall.  Bonus:  take mom with you - nostalgia and financial support in one fell swoop!
  • Go back to using a paper planner and choose an academic year one even though you now live on a calendar – or fiscal! - year
  • Reinvigorate your office supplies every fall with a fresh infusion of pens and desk organizers. And some of those big rubber erasers. Just for kicks.

3) Make a concerted effort to construct the 3 P's – purpose, possibility, and predictability – for yourself. This is, of course, a humongous task. No wonder I've devoted an entire website to the process.

All in all, do whatever you have to do to experience the clear path, opportunities, and “my life is all in order” feeling of your childhood autumns…without jumping into grad school. At least until grad school, not nostalgia, is truly what's calling you. Your wallet, social life, and mental stability will thank you for it.

We’d love to hear from you in the comments below:

What are you going to do to create a sense of purpose, possibilities and predictability this Fall – without entertaining the sudden notion of going back to school?

Fraser-Thill_squareAbout Rebecca

Rebecca Fraser-Thill is the founder of Working Self, a site that helps young adults create meaningful work - that actually pays the bills! She teaches psychology and is the Director of Program Design for Purposeful Work at Bates College. Her work has been featured throughout the media, including on The Huffington Post, The Chelsea Krost Show, and Stacking Benjamins. Follow her @WorkingSelf.

Made Sh*t Happen -- Q&A with Shannyn Allan: From Broke Grad Student to Rockstar Blogger

I've been working like a maniac for the last two weeks to get all kinds of big updates ready for you -- more to come in my mega year-end wrap-up post next week! One of the major projects is getting ready to kick-off the biggest, baddest, most awesome Make Sh*t Happen course yet in January (with the help of launch genius Melissa Anzman). It will be the fourth time I take a group through the course; seeing people come alive through the pursuit of what really matters to them is truly one of the tip-top highlights of my work.

Today I'm excited to introduce you to a long-time blog reader, coaching client, and MSH Alum -- Shannyn Allen -- to share her inspiring journey from broke grad student to successful blogger and speaker.

What I love about Shannyn is her vulnerability -- watching her find her confidence and her true gifts and the courage to share them with the world has been a inspiration to me. This woman is gutsy, brazen, determined and bold -- and is an amazing example of what is possible when you set your sights on something scary, then take the steps to actually make it happen.

Made Sh*t Happen: Q&A with Shannyn Allan

ABOUT: Describe your goal in more detail – what did it involve? What inspired you to go after it?

Shannyn Allen - getting ready to speak at FINCON this yearWhen I started the Make Sh*t Happen course I desperately wanted to make my blog, Frugal Beautiful, the “real deal.” It seemed like an impossible dream to build a blog that was successful like the bloggers I looked up to. They made real money from their blog, and their blog made other dreams (like working from home, travel, etc.) a possibility. I had been blogging for about a year but it felt like it wasn’t as successful as others that inspired me.

I wanted to be a rockstar blogger -- someone who was getting recognition by big brands for ads and sponsorships, who were pulling in $1000+ in extra income a month with extra perks like invites to conferences and fun freebies (like getting test driving cars or staying at new hotels to provide feedback on their blog).

This wasn’t just a matter of pride or ego -- I knew that if I could get my blog to work, it would help me pay my bills and stretch a tight budget. There was a lot on the line and a lot of longing to make it work!

FEAR/DOUBTS: What were your biggest fears, doubts and insecurities before starting? What barriers (real or imagined) were in your way?

I was scared that if I committed my money and time to becoming a problogger that I could fail, and fail hard. I was worried that I would have wasted money on a professional designer or that I’d feel like a loser if people ignored my posts or my ad pitches.

My biggest fear about trying to be a problogger was emulating the people that inspired me. Before I truly, honestly committed to the goal of being a rockstar problogger it was easy to feel inspired by other bloggers that had books published, started their own businesses or made enough money on their blogs to work for themselves, but after I started trying to emulate them myself it made me feel vulnerable.

For the first time in my life, after taking action to become who I wanted to be, I was worried that if I failed, I was an honest failure. I feared if I confronted the character of success and didn’t win, I would have lacked the grit to be a success. I feared I would discover I was nothing like my heroes and never could be.

COURAGE: How did you build the courage to actually do it? How did you know it was time?

I had seen that other bloggers were building a business for themselves with ad revenue, products, book deals and were getting noticed by big brands to bring in sponsorships and freebies.

They made a living doing what I loved -- blogging! Not only did the money appeal to me (as a broke grad student) but I wanted the perks and lifestyle though I knew it would hard work. The turning point came when I was tired of being mediocre, or “hobby blogging” and wanted more for myself and my blog.

SUPPORT: Who held you accountable to your goal? Were friends and family supportive, or did they think you were crazy?

Most of my family and friends didn’t understand my goal to make money from my blog -- they thought it was just a hobby. I knew from the MSH course that it was vital to enlist the help of others.

I made blogger friends, reached out to others via email and attended any conferences I could. I realized that if the support wasn’t there when I started, then I would have to build those supports myself if I were to succeed.

THE DIP: Was there ever a moment/period if time that you felt you had hit a dip (felt like a failure and/or wanted to quit)?

Uh, YES! There were off-months when my ad revenue fell through or traffic sucked. Then, when I decided to make my first product to sell, it was so overwhelming -- trying to figure out how to write it, how to edit video, what marketing techniques I should use, setting up a site, etc. that I wanted to give up numerous times -- I would work on a post for hours that got zero comments or I would write up a great marketing proposal for a major brand to find that they’d changed their mind or no longer had a budget.  There were times I would take the dips personally, and since blogging is our personal creation, if the site didn’t succeed, I wasn’t succeeding.

The biggest dip was consistently facing down the potential for failure in both small and big tasks. Each time I faced potential failure I had to enlist the support of others to remind myself it wasn’t the end of the world and it was an opportunity to learn and grow -- that no failure is definitive.

Now, my traffic has doubled, I finished my very first product to launch, I’m running my own social media consulting gig as I figure out the next steps, and my blog successfully scored me some big-ticket sponsorship to travel and have fun! It was worth the work and the dips, no doubt.

ADVICE: What advice would you give to future Make Sh*t Happeners?

1. Start a blog and commit its purpose to align with yours: It doesn’t matter what you blog about, the right blog can bolster your goals by giving you some fun money, a community of supportive readers and friends and a place to jot ideas down and keep track of your goals.

2. Be brave and tell your story: I was afraid that being too personal on the blog would get me laughed at. I was afraid that marketing my blog to advertisers would get me rejected (ouch!) or that I wasn’t good enough. People love compelling content -- tell your story and make connections around it!

3. Reach out and stretch out: If you want to make money from your blog, get famous or have a blog that’s book-worthy, whatever your goal -- tell people about it! Go to conferences, ask to talk to major brands/publishers/sponsors to get their support. It’s uncomfortable to ask for support, help or funding but you have to do it!

4. Hire a professional: If your blog isn’t getting the traction you want, hire a designer. I also advise anyone to read up on great books by Seth Godin, listen in to Pat Flynn’s Smart Passive Income Podcast and take any online courses by Corbett Barr...all of these helped me get to where I’m at.

When I started MSH I was terrified to admit that my big dream was being a problogger and having a brand of my own -- I thought that was a silly goal, but it was mine. Then, when I admitted it to the world, it seemed impossible, but now that I have my first product coming out, my blogging business has come full circle. Jenny & my MSH community really pushed me to embrace the challenge and go all in.

Whatever your big dream -- start today. Push, push, push. When you turn around, you will not believe the amazing sh*t you made happen in a few months time!

More about Shannyn

Shannyn AllenShannyn started Frugal Beautiful when she was a broke and struggling grad student in a new city. Eventually, this little blog lead her to quit a job, change careers and start her own social media consulting business, Cake Mix Media, to supplement her work as a blogger. Her first product, Rockstar Blogging, is geared to help any blogger get their first $1K in free products, sponsorships and direct ads to supplement and fund their passions no matter where they start.

In addition to Shannyn's Rockstar Blogging guide, those of you interested in starting a blog might also be interested in Corbett Barr's Start a Blog That Matters, Dave Ursillo's Literati Writing Group, and Make Sh*t Happen of course! No matter what, for more details and a jump at early enrollment, sign-up to be notified when the MSH doors re-open in January.

Inner Critic Incarnate: 6 Lessons From Negative Reviews (Hint: They Don't Kill You!)

It was early 2009 and I felt like my book was being suffocated by fear. Scratch that -- I was actively suffocating my book WITH my fears. They had the Microsoft Word file in a choke hold for almost six months and they weren't letting up. I remember going for one of my weekly walks with my dad and I told him I thought my book was crap. A pile of meaningless clichés. He swiftly corrected me, saying that even if I didn't finish it -- even if I published it that very day -- it would help people. And that I would be crazy to give up on it. At the time, about five percent of me knew he was right. So I clung to that five percent like my life depended on it.

My fears around putting my ideas out to the world seemed insurmountable. Somehow they ballooned in my mind to an alternate reality universe where as soon as my book hit the shelves, people would start pointing and laughing at me, calling me a motivational hack who didn't know anything and who had no right to write a book.

Inner Critic Incarnate

Much to my amazement and delight, when my book finally did come out in March of last year it was celebrated by friends, family and all of you, and strangers started to hear about it too. Glowing reviews poured in on Amazon, and the next year Target picked up 15,000 copies for their stores.

I'm also proud to report that I am now earning royalties, which many books never do. My first $10 check came in last month and I couldn't be more proud. I had the honor of being the closing keynote at Find Your Passion conference at Pratt this past weekend, and was overjoyed to meet several readers who said the book really helped them through a tough time.

I've had a few throw-tomatoes-at-me reviews, but thankfully not many.

The other day another one-star review came in . . . and it bore an UNCANNY resemblance to the very same negative reviews I was giving myself during the great writer's block of 2009.

Many people would probably advise me not to give it the time of day by airing it out on the blog -- but this one taught me some important lessons that I would be remiss not to share.

First, for your (re)viewing pleasure:

If you've never thought about anything ever this book is for you I got 300 pages of what seemed like listening to a complete moron talk about how stupid they are (my interpretation). Seriously, 90% of the advice this woman gives is completely laughable as I would expect anyone who's made it through college to already know these things. Her advice on dating and relationships are embarrassingly naive; they sound like a self-important 14 year old girl talking to her 8 year old sister about love. Please. What's more, it's shocking someone with so many problems is a life coach. This woman is crazy, like the type of person you just try to have little to nothing to do with because of her stability issues (I wouldn't be surprised if she lies crying on the ground for hours after reading this review).

The idea of a review like this TERRIFIED me back then.

But imagine -- if I had walked away from my book just to avoid a review like this -- nobody would have read it. No one would have benefitted. For every one review like this, there are 20+ emails or interactions that share what a positive impact the book did have in someone's life. And you know what? This reviewer has EVERY right to hate my book! I will be the first to tell you that it's not for everyone.

If I had shut myself down because of fear, I would have given away all of my power. I would have never finished (or even started) my book. I would have caved to cowardice.

I would have said that a future negative reviewer's opinion of me is more important than my own. And I am better than that. We all are.

I'm not here to rip this reviewer apart. I appreciate him more than he probably realizes. Nor am I crying in a ball on the floor (though I will say it stung). I am actually celebrating.

Here's why . . .

6 Things I've Learned From Negative Reviews:

  1. They show that you've DONE something. You've created something. You've pushed through your fear to ship something that matters to you.
  2. Your work has spread to a wide enough audience to get real, honest feedback from people who aren't on your payroll (friends, family, people who love us no matter what).
  3. Negative reviews will come in, but guess what? THEY DON'T KILL YOU! Shocking, right? Our inner critics would have us believe the world will come crashing down, but it doesn't. They might sting, but that's it. It's no gaping wound.
  4. It's an opportunity to re-examine what you DO like about your work AND what you don't. The review can't hurt unless you agree with it on some level. Use that information to make your work better next time. Is there anything you would do differently?
  5. Negative reviews are a sign that you've done something different enough to piss someone off. Points for creativity!
  6. I am LUCKY to have the "champagne problem" of a few negative reviews. Of reviews at all! I am very grateful my work is out there, and that it has garnered as much interest and support as it has.

So, I'd like to say thank you to the people who have taken the time to give me a review at all. To read my work and care about it enough to talk about it to others; out of 108 reviews, 4 one-stars 'aint bad.

If we spend our lives just avoiding criticism, then we're not living much at all.

As one of my former Google colleagues David Kim often reminded me, "Don't let compliments go to your head, or let criticism get to your heart."

I'd love to hear from you in the comments: how do you handle negative reviews? Anything I missed in terms of what we can learn from them?

Made Sh*t Happen: How Devin Termini lost 85 Pounds and Changed His Life

I got a message this weekend that dropped my jaw to the floor. Longtime LAC reader and two-time Make Sh*t Happen alumni, Devin Termini, had triumphantly reached his goal of losing 85 pounds (!!!) in just ten months. Check out this amazing before-and-after photo:

Beast mode indeed!! As part of the course, I provide 50+ case studies of people doing amazing things -- big thanks to Devin for graciously agreeing to make his public! I hope you enjoy the interview below and following his journey as much as I have :)

Before we jump in: the Fall Make Sh*t Happen course is still open for enrollment until Sunday, August 5 (or until the 50 spots fill up). If Devin's story resonates and you've got a big idea of you're own that you'd love to activate, I would be thrilled to have you join us!

Interview with Devin Termini: How I Lost 85 Pounds in 10 Months

ABOUT: Describe your goal in more detail - what did it involve? What inspired you to go after it? During my time in Make Sh*t Happen I declared that I would lose 85 pounds in ten months. My milestone for the end of the MSH course was to lose 30 pounds in eight short weeks.

COURAGE: How did you build the courage to actually do it? How did you know it was time? A favorite nugget of Jenny Blake wisdom is that so much of confidence (and courage) is a choice. For so long I was waiting to be "ready" to take on this goal. I would tell myself that I'd lose weight when if "felt right."

For me, I had to make peace with the fact that there is no right time. It will never feel right. I had let myself go and there was no easy way to climb out of the hole I had dug for myself.

VALUES: Why was this goal important to you? What purpose did it serve? What underlying values did it honor? I've always known that achieving this goal would be the catalyst to a larger life change. I want to live vibrantly, loudly, and confidently. Most of all, I wanted to increase the amount of happiness and fun in my life. Unfortunately, none of these things are directly measurable in my opinion.

To make these changes I decided to work on an area of my life that I let get wildly out of control. My weight and overall health. I believe that different aspects of our selves, that are seemingly separate, are actually tightly connected. In my case by focusing on improving health and wellness my confidence and mood will improve.

I weighed a slovenly 275 pounds, and since I've already argued that pieces of ourselves are so tightly connected, I'll let you draw conclusions on my confidence levels, mood, and overall satisfaction with life. I was barely surviving, not thriving. Mild physical activity such as climbing stairs was exhausting. I felt weak and tired on days that ended in y. I knew that my diet and lifestyle were draining what little energy I had.

I recall averting my eyes when I'd catch my reflection in mirrors. Shopping for clothes was painful. To make matters worse, every now and again I'd have to upgrade to a larger size. To be honest, I didn't really care to be around people most of the time. Being around people typically breeds conversation, and conversation that challenged me wasn't something I wanted to hear. It was easier for me to go home and eat to make myself "happy."

I was stuck in a terrible cycle. It was time to change.

FEAR/DOUBTS: What were your biggest fears, doubts and insecurities before starting? What barriers (real or imagined) were in your way? I did have some anxieties when starting on this goal. What nutrition plan should I follow? What will I do if the diet doesn't work? What happens if I don't hit my milestone? Is my weight loss goal even realistic? Will I fit in at the gym?

Even though all these crazy thoughts raced through my head, one of the things that set me up for success was that I was more afraid of staying fat and unhappy than I was about any of my anxieties. This served as an incredible motivator for me.

As an added bonus, those little anxieties almost completely went away for me the moment I started to take action on the goal. Another Jenny Blake-ism -- action, no matter how small, can quiet an inner critic.

SUPPORT: Who held you accountable to your goal? Were friends and family supportive, or did they think you were crazy? Weeks before I committed to this goal I had recently relocated to Southern California to start a new job. This was both a definite advantage and disadvantage. I was almost entirely cut off from any existing support system but I also had a fresh start. I could form new habits and mingle with new people who shared similar goals. I told some old friends about my plan, and they thought my long term goal was a bit extreme, but they agreed that I needed a change.

I had the full support of Jenny, my triad, and the MSH family to help me achieve this goal. Every week I would report to the triad and wanted to share a win with them. Some weeks were better than others, but hearing their encouragement really helped me when I was just getting started.

Also a trainer at my gym took an interest in my journey and would check up on how I was progressing.

THE DIP: Was there ever a moment/period if time that you felt you had hit a dip (felt like a failure and/or wanted to quit)? I felt the dip hit me like a freight train right on cue about the same time that Jenny presented it in the MSH course. I had some significant initial weight loss, but that slowed down to a near halt within several weeks. I was doing everything "right" and it was a lot of work to keep my diet and exercise were in check. I felt like I was putting in so much effort and getting nowhere. I was sore, tired, and I wanted to stop.

Was the diet wrong? Too much food? Too little food? Was I exercising too little? Too much? A myriad of questions, doubts, and frustrations filled my mind.

Fortunately, all I needed was some fortitude and patience. Within another week or so things started clicking again. I began getting stronger and leaner.

SUCCESS! How did you feel after accomplishing your goal? What did you learn about yourself in the process? What are you most proud of? I accomplished this goal exactly as I said I would. I lost 85 pounds in exactly ten months. However, I didn't always think that I would finish. In the beginning I hoped to lose the weight. I thought if I picked a big enough goal and only got a quarter of the way there, then I would have accomplished something, right?

It was only at the END of MSH then that I realized that I could actually achieve this goal. It changed from being a hope and a dream to something real and tangible. I now had the skills and fortitude to see this through to the end. At the time I had lost twenty four pounds and recall thinking to myself "only sixty one more pounds, no problem." Holy f*cking shit, did I just believe in myself again? This felt so incredibly empowering and gave me exactly what I needed to see this through.

In my opinion, the most important resource we have is belief.

Completing this goal has been the hardest thing I've ever done in my life. Accomplishing this allowed me to prove to myself how much power I truly have. If I can do this, I can do ANYTHING! I feel powerful, vibrant, present, and alive.

ADVICE: What advice would you give to future Make Sh*t Happeners? What would you say to those who are afraid to start or afraid to fail? What advice would you give to others in pursuit of a similar goal to yours? During my journey I kept a fairly detailed nutrition and exercise log. I had to make many adjustments to my routine in order to find what works and here's a few things I learned along the way. These are in order for a reason.

  1. Do not decide to lose weight, gain muscle, or improve performance. That will come later. Decide to change your life. As an active individual your entire life must be able to accommodate this new you. Make the appropriate changes to operate in this way. Get more sleep. Join a gym close to work or home. Buy tupperware and cook tomorrow's meals tonight. Spend the extra cash on good running shoes. Decide that today you are an athlete. Whether you're 50 or 500 pounds, you're an athlete. Want to look like an athlete? Act like one.
  2. You are what you eat. Literally. Within 7 years every cell in your body is replaced. Bones and all. From what sources does your body renew itself? Food. Lean meats, vegetables, nuts, seeds and some fruits should be the mainstay of your diet. People will argue with me here, but as long as your diet focuses on whole and nutrient-dense foods you'll be off to a great start.
  3. Less alcohol, more water. Don't drink calories. If you absolutely must drink alcohol, stick to spirits. Beer is the worst. Sugar, yeast, calories, gluten. No good.
  4. Dedicate yourself completely. Lots of people say "I've tried every diet and none of them work!" This is bullshit. All diets work. You just have to do them right and put in the effort. There are no shortcuts or any magic pills for weight loss.
  5. Measure yourself. If you're doing a diet and exercise program right you'll see measurable results in a few short days. DAYS! Buy a good scale and measuring tape to help you visualize your results when the scale stops moving. If you can get your body fat percentage measured, do.
  6. Exercise. This will account for about 20% of your results. If you aren't making the dietary and lifestyle changes no amount of exercise will make any significant changes. Find something that you truly enjoy and do it every day. Running, weight-lifting, baseball, crossfit, tennis, yoga, whatever. Work hard at it. Very damn hard. You will want to quit. You will sweat. You'll bleed. You'll cry. But you won't quit, right? Set new performance related goals here.
  7. Get back up. You will fall off the wagon. You'll miss workouts. You'll eat a piece of cake when you shouldn't have. Shake it off and keep working. It gets easier, I promise.

I'm not sure I could have done this alone. The MSH class and community gave me the encouragement and support I needed to get started with this goal. My life is truly changed. From my deepest self, thank you.

Now it's time to go make more sh*t happen.


Standing ovation

I am so incredibly proud of Devin and grateful that he was willing to share his story in such detail -- if it resonated with you, please let him know in the comments! 

MSH Enrollment

As I mentioned above, enrollment is open through Sunday. Read more about the program here or if it's already calling your name, grab a spot before the class fills up!

A few reminders: 

  • You'll receive 10 weeks of guided content: weekly videos, 5 live group Q&A calls with me, 100+ pages of reading material, reflection exercises, and group discussion prompts. You will also be assigned to a triad of three people to help you reflect on your progress and hold you accountable week-by-week.

  • There are 50 spots open, available on a first-come first-serve basis. I'm deliberately keeping the class small so that we can create a tight-knit, awesome community. The course starts on August 6 and will complete at the end of October. Enrollment ends on Sunday, August 5 or once the 50 spots are taken (whichever comes first).

  • Finally, as an MSH course participant, you'll receive lifetime access to the MSH Alumni group on Facebook, and will have the opportunity to audit the class for free during any future sessions.

  • I recently conducted an hour-long Make Sh*t Happen Crash Course Webinar -- even if you don’t take the full course, this recording will give you a feel for what we cover and to formula for how to bulldoze your barriers to go after your biggest dreams.


Make Sh*t Happen: Fall Enrollment Now Open! + Free Crash Course Webinar Next Week

Jenny - 5-Minute Speech at WDS WDS Audience (click to enlarge)

WDS group of 13 who told stories (click to enlarge)

I completed a major sweaty-palms-heart-leaping-outta-my-chest life-checklist item this past weekend in Portland, Oregon: I was one of 13 WDS attendees chosen to share our story with the entire conference audience -- an auditorium of 1,000 people!

I wanted to make the most of my five minutes, so I treated it like a mini-keynote. Nicole and I spent our final moments backstage pacing, rehearsing to ourselves, reassuring each other, and saying "FEEEEL this!" as we placed our hands on each others' thumping hearts. I reminded her of my go-to public speaking tips: deep yoga breaths and clenched fists to give the adrenaline something to do.

I'm grateful and humbled to report that the speech delivered laughs and tears (and one impassioned f-bomb) -- a definite success! And a reminder to keep doing things that scare the sh*t outta us :)

Speaking of which . . .

Despite all of my soul-searching and MIA-ness of late, I've realized one very important thing during this past week as I got ready to open up the next round of the Make Sh*t Happen course:

Making Sh*t Happen is about doing things in an authentic way that resonates with the very core of you are -- not who society or anyone else wants you to be. You can either Make Sh*t Happen for your ego and for others -- as I did for many, many years -- or you can Make Sh*t Happen for YOU.

While it's true that I'm a little uncertain about the direction of my overall business beyond the Life After College "brand", I know that I've never felt more alive. I'm loving the process of figuring it out, one small step at a time.

The Make Sh*t Happen course is about taking a stand and pursuing the goal that whispers to you in quiet moments.

It is about pursuing that ONE thing you are tip-toeing around, that one thing that would most bring you alive to pursue -- for the very process itself. It’s about acknowledging your fears and moving forward not just in spite of them, but because of them. Because the bigger your fears, the bigger and more meaningful the growth opportunity.

On that note, I am thrilled to open the course doors for enrollment this week, with the next round of Make Sh*t Happen kicking off in August! I could not be more excited to walk this path right alongside those of you who are ready for it.

Save the Date: Free MSH Crash Course Webinar

If you read no further: note that I’m hosting a free Make Sh*t Happen “Crash Course” webinar on Tuesday, July 17 at 3:30pm ET for those of you who would like the CliffsNotes version of the 8-steps to Making Sh*t Happen and creating a snowball of success for any big undertaking. At the very end I will answer any questions you might have about the program or my business -- nothing is off limits!

Register here -- the webinar will be recorded if you can't make it (you'll need to enroll to receive the recording), though I'd love to hang with you live in the chat if you can swing it :)

MSH Enrollment: Course Basics

After running this course twice, I can undoubtedly say that it works if you're willing to put in the time and effort. Our 60+ alumni have started businesses, built blogs, gotten knee-deep in writing books, quit their jobs, and one even lost 60 pounds! Beyond all the surface-level stats, we've created an incredible community that loves, supports and encourages each other at every step.

  • You'll receive 10 weeks of guided content: weekly videos, 5 live group Q&A calls with me, 100+ pages of reading material, reflection exercises, and group discussion prompts. You will also be assigned to a triad of three people to help you reflect on your progress and hold you accountable week-by-week.
  • There are only 50 spots open, available on a first-come first-serve basis. I'm deliberately keeping the class small so that we can create a tight-knit, awesome community.
  • The course starts the first week of August and will complete in September. Enrollment ends on Sunday, July 29 or once the 50 spots are taken (whichever comes first).
  • The first 10 people to enroll will receive a private 30-minute 1:1 coaching session with me (this alone would normally cost $250). I am committed to your success, and know how powerful just one pivotal conversation can be!
  • Finally, as an MSH course participant, you'll recieve lifetime access to the MSH Alumni group on Facebook, and will have the opportunity to audit the class for free during any future sessions.

Read more about the program here or if it's already calling your name, grab a spot before the class fills up! You can also review the Frequently Asked Questions here

Not sure if the course is for you?

Check out what past participants had to say on the MSH website. From our most recent class, I was particularly touched by C.J's story -- perhaps you can relate:

"I used to ignore how much I wanted to be a writer and musician. I didn't even realize that hiding my passion, as though I was ashamed of it, would make me feel so inauthentic. And that translated to every situation even slightly outside my comfort zone where'd I feel inferior to the people around me.

It was hard to tell my goal to the group and even harder to stick it on the wall and make it visible. The first weeks helped me identify why my goal was important and what exactly I wanted it to look like. And it stopped feeling like a hobby. It's a difficult moment when you acknowledge a huge part of yourself that has been left tucked in a box in the back of the closet, and you have to forgive yourself for wasted years. 

My goal is particularly ambitious and I knew I wouldn't get it in 8 weeks. But even in the first week I started to feel lighter. I had people at work read my writing. I talked about songwriting...I welcomed that lost part of myself as the best part of who I am. Fast forward 8 weeks and I feel like the new model of myself. 

I didn't realize how inauthentic I felt about my life and who I was until I started to really embrace who I was and where I wanted to be. I have more confidence in unrelated situations like work, more alpha wolf than fleeing rabbit. I introduce myself as a writer first to strangers, something I'd never done and would have felt stupid doing. The course has done more than just give me tools for accomplishing my goal or being the backbone of support to get me closer. It helped me rediscover the magic about who I am. And celebrate my victories when my usual response would be to criticize the parts I missed. Taking action was a big part but I don't know how I would have made the mental shifts without the course. 

Being accountable to someone other than me was a big help. Checking off each activity and posting responses helped me see I was doing the work, but also that I wasn't alone in having a big goal and trying to achieve it. Reading how other people were doing and getting inspired by their accomplishments was a huge booster in motivating myself and seeing how other people drop kick the obstacles in their way. It was a lot easier for me to stumble in places because I knew I wasn't alone and I knew there were people around the world who had stumbled as well.

In just two months I feel like I've gone from being a little girl who didn't think anyone would listen to a woman who can say "I know what I'm talking about."  

—CJ, MSH Alumni - January 2012

I'm so proud of C.J.

It takes tremendous courage to take an honest look at where you might be holding yourself back and proceed anyway.

This course reminds me that we are all beautiful in our imperfection; that our fears are shared AND surmountable, that our support networks are there to hold us up when our light dims, and that our successes -- big and small -- are absolutely worth celebrating.

10 Questions to Help You Stop Thinking and Start DOING (with template!)

Chimpanzee ThinkingThis post is going to be absolutely worthless to you if you don't actually take action (hence, the title). If you're busy or not interested in taking at least 10 minutes to reflect and answer some questions about something you care about, feel free to skip it, star it, or come back later. For those of you still with me: start by grabbing a pen and paper or use the handy template I created for this post.

Now for some context: this is a re-post from Elysa Rice's December’s Top Tens in 2010 Series. There are tons of great bloggers submitting posts on everything from de-stressing to reasons you don't need a new job. I highly recommend you give GenPink (and the series) a visit -- especially since Elysa is an all-around awesome person and GenY blogging pioneer.

10 Questions to help you stop thinking and start DOING

Close your eyes for a minute and think of a problem, a tough decision or a big question that you are weighing and would like an answer to. Set aside 15-30 minutes to reflect on the questions below, either in your head or on paper (I use Google Docs — and even created a template for you). You might also focus on one question each day or week – let each one ruminate over time, then jot down notes as various responses pop up.

Do you have a topic yet?

You might be tempted to just skim this post and pretend you have a topic, even though you know it’s fuzzy and you’re just sort of going through the motions (we all do it). Before you keep going, really think of something. Don’t keep reading until you have a topic or idea in mind that is so-big-it’s-scary (but also exciting).

Now for the fun part - let's get to work!

  1. When you think of [topic], what are you most excited about?
  2. How does this [topic] fit in with your vision of your highest self?
  3. What is your goal in this area? Now double it. What is the version of the goal that is so big you are afraid to admit (even to yourself) for fear of failure?
  4. What’s holding you back / What are you afraid of?
  5. What support do you need to move forward?
  6. What one next step would make the biggest impact to move your forward (or help with your decision)?
  7. What would achieving this get you?
  8. Close your eyes and ask each major decision-making system for advice: What does your head say? What does your heart say? What does your gut say? How can you reconcile the three? (Okay so I cheated and combined four questions in one)
  9. Dig even deeper. What do you really want?
  10. What are you waiting for?

After you’ve reflected on the questions above, take a minute to answer the bonus million dollar question:

Based on your answers above, what are you willing to take ACTION on in the next week? Leave your answer in the comments below!


The Anti-Resume - Career Development Video Interview:

Mike Krass is hosting a great interview series on his blog, The Anti Resume, in which I discuss career development tips and pitfalls. Some of the questions covered in the ~15 minute video (full transcript also available):

  • Given your work with the website and what you have done professionally at Google, what is your take on career development?
  • If you don’t have a team or are in between jobs, how can you guide the goals you want to set to help you take steps to get where you want to go career wise?
  • As to what you have done professionally and with your personal work, what is one piece of advice that you would give to positively influence someone’s career choices?
  • What is one piece of advice that would negatively influence someone’s career decisions?
  • What is one great tactic you would suggest to use to successfully build relationships?

Click here to watch and share your thoughts!

Where in your life are you pounding on unlocked doors?

It's as if you're pounding on the massive doors of the kingdom of your wildest dreams. At first lightly, even respectfully, then, losing patience, louder and louder. You pray. You plead. You beg. You ask. You cry. You wail. And just on the other side of the door, your faithful, adoring subjects silently writhe, some quietly crying, all intensely feeling your frustration and loneliness. Yet they remember all too well how, on the day you left, you made them swear not to ever open the door, so that you might discover for yourself...

...that it was left unlocked.

I hate when that happens, The Universe (Mike Dooley of Tut.com)

I read this quote in Dooley's book, Manifesting Change*, earlier this week and I haven't been able to forget it. After sharing this note, Dooley asks, "What doors have you been pounding on?" Which got me thinking about some questions for all of us.

I urge you to take five minutes to close your eyes (well, after reading) and really think about the following:

  • Are you missing the obvious - the unlocked door - in any problems you are facing?
  • Where in your life are you trying to force changes that you might not be ready for?
  • Where are you straining with all your might without getting any results?
  • Where might it be time for a different, softer, more trust-based approach?
  • In what ways is the door - the world you so desire - already here, in front of you?

It might take you a few days (or weeks) to answer these questions...but start by becoming aware of the doors you might be (unnecessarily) pounding on and let me know what you find out.

A Personal Example:

I can definitely say that ever since I posted the Open Letter to Love, I've felt completely free and clear of relationship worries. I immediately felt the weight of the world lifted -- I became so relaxed and happy, and I haven't looked back since. It feels so good to openly declare to the world that I am going to stop straining for something that just isn't meant to be right now.

In fact, I would be hard pressed to even commit to a relationship if one came around! After I posted the letter, one friend was concerned that I was just giving up, but my decision to walk away from trying to "law of attract" a relationship (bleh) has helped me embrace my own life and dreams more fully than I ever have.

The minute I stopped pounding down the door o' looove I found true FREEDOM. I let out -- as my yoga teacher says -- "a loud sighing AHHHhhhhhhhhhh." I get a big smile on my face just thinking about it. :)

Your turn for a public declaration - what unlocked doors will you stop pounding down?


*I don't really recommend the book if you're looking for "starter" self-help - it's a little too out there in parts - but I love (and always get a great laugh out of) Dooley's daily Notes from the Universe emails. For a list of my favorite development books, check out my fancy schmancy Amazon store or follow my reviews on GoodReads.