Solopreneurship

Year-End Round-Up: Happy Five Year (!) Blogiversary to Life After College

birthday candles - make a wish! This is a long (but juicy!) one, folks! Grab a cup of coffee or tea, pull up a chair, and c’mon in behind the scenes of all things JBE (Jenny Blake Enterprises) and LAC.

We’re celebrating five -- count them FIVE -- years of blogging today, and there is a lot of change on the horizon. Consider this my annual report, all summed up in one mondo blog post.

If you find yourself overwhelmed (or painfully bored), skip ahead wtih these links:

At a glance

As I looked back on the year to gather my favorite blog posts, I have to admit that I was a little bit disappointed in myself at first. I could see that I was more quiet than previous years, less prolific, more introverted. I felt an almost-constant tug-of-war between wanting to completely retreat and to continue sharing.

But then I remembered, that’s okay.

It is most definitely a transition year, and even though these may feel uncomfortable, they are incredibly rich with insight and are important -- if not critical -- in their own ways. We need the transition time (days, months, years) to grow -- and there’s often much more growth than meets the eye. As I shared in 2011, just because you can’t see progress doesn’t mean it isn’t being made.

On that note, I have been cooking up quite a bit this month, back to my usual December work-like-a-maniac hibernation mode.

In one sum-it-all-up sentence: I'm going to be living in Bali for the first two months of the year to focus intensely on writing, launching and facilitating the Make Sh*t Happen course, yoga and coaching; I'm launching a site under my own name; and I'm bringing on a team of two other incredible writers here at LAC.

Thank you. This blog and my business would not be here without you.

In service to you,

Jenny

P.S. If you read no further, I’d be very grateful for you to take this reader survey and let me know how I can be most helpful to you in 2013!

About this post

In these round-ups, I outline my favorite and the most popular posts of the year, give statistics about blog traffic, and share personal milestones and achievements. It’s the best way to get a view of the entire blog on fast-forward and the full year in review.

I hesitate every year to publish these because it seems a bit self-indulgent, but it feels like the best way to honor all the work that goes into the blog. I hope that by the end of this epically long post that you learn something new, feel inspired or catch some helpful content you might have missed.

Previous Round-ups:

The 25 Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned in 1.5 Years of Solopreneurship

2012 truly represents the year of learning how to run my own business -- without a guidebook, but with plenty of ideas and inspiration from my coaching clients, MSH course participants, friends, family and fellow bloggers.

My previous posts, 20 Lessons from 2 Months of Solopreneurship Part One and Part Two still sum it up the best. Here's the condensed version, with a few extras:

  1. On quitting: Fears are so much smaller on the other side.
  2. Readjustment takes time and energy.
  3. The old adages ring true: get comfortable being uncomfortable, and the only certainty is uncertainty.
  4. Monthly recurring expenses can add up VERY quickly.
  5. NEVER count (or spend!) your chickens before they’ve hatched.
  6. Routine is king.
  7. Health and fitness is queen.
  8. Your community are your new co-workers.
  9. Run your business otherwise it will run you -- be vigilant about making time for proactive, strategic work.
  10. However, sometimes you need to start with quick wins.
  11. Building “entrepreneurial resilience” is like building a muscle; it takes practice.
  12. No matter what business you’re in, you’ve got two priorities: learn about sales and marketing.
  13. Plan ahead for building months (as opposed to doing months).
  14. Stay grounded in your long-term vision.
  15. “What gets measured gets managed.” Set up systems to track key metrics, learn which ones are most meaningful over time.
  16. (The right) conferences are major business boosters.
  17. However, beware the many costs of travel.
  18. Peer support is key. It might be your first launch, but you are not the first to launch.
  19. Peer support and bootstrapping is great, but know when to hire professional help.
  20. Be creative with how you structure your time. Focus. Maximize your best energy windows.
  21. Follow your energy: take breaks without apology and ship at your own pace.
  22. Listen to your gut. Learn to "say no to the good so you can say yes to the great" when it comes to new clients and opportunities.
  23. Be authentic in your communication, even when it seems counter-intuitive.
  24. Schedule efficiently as a solopreneur. For example: I work with coaching clients on Mondays and Tuesdays, then take the rest of the days to do behind-the-scenes work -- writing, course building or facilitating, and planning what’s next. I am more likely to take Wednesday and Friday off than the weekends. In fact -- weekends and holidays are my favorite time to work; less input, more output.
  25. CELEBRATE! My words from the original post still ring true: "Despite the challenges (and the many more sure to follow), working on JBE full-time is still the most incredible, freeing feeling in the world. I haven’t looked back for one second. I feel like ME again. Or rather, like I finally have access to the best version of myself that I always knew was hibernating underneath the stress and uncertainty. I feel ALIVE."

Personal 2012 Milestones

  • Yoga - I finally finished my yoga teacher certification in January (in a Mayan cave), I took my first big trip and time off as a solopreneur to spend one month in Bali and Thailand (completed a two-week Thai Massage Training in Chiang Mai in May), and taught 28 Geek Yoga classes throughout the year at The Yoga Collective in NYC.
  • Make Sh*t Happen - I ran two awesome classes in 2012, and am super excited to re-launch for a fourth time in January of 2013. This course -- and the participants in it -- is truly one of the highlights of my work. I love helping people come alive through meaningful pursuits, form a community of support and encouragement with each other (often one of the most unexpected benefits people experience), and I love watching them walk away with a renewed sense of confidence and purpose.
  • Speaking - I had the pleasure of speaking at several awesome conferences, including Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship, Cancer & Careers, World Domination Summit, and the closing keynote at Pratt’s Find & Follow Your Passion conference.
  • On a personal level - I’m celebrating over a year of living in my soul-city of New York, almost two years since the day I left my cubicle in March 2011, and am blessed to have amazing people in my life -- friends, family and The Man -- who support me deeply and constantly inspire me to be my best self.

My Favorite Posts

Big Goals:

Tools & Resources:

Uncertainty and Growth:

Yoga:

On writing:

Blog Statistics

  • Visits - The total visits for 2012 was just over 203,210 uniques (502,993 page views) from 200 countries, up from last year’s 124,821 uniques (365,449 page views) from 180 countries.
  • Quirky question keywords (my favorite) – does college make you happy? does it work when you trying to keep everyone happy? (definitely not), does love make you feel crazy? (definitely does!), how does the saying go - those who matter (don’t mind, and those who mind don’t matter), is my turtle sad (hmmm - hard to tell, I’m sure), is it up to you to make others happy (definitely not, but we can all fall into this trap if we’re not careful), why can't i breathe whenever i'm doing a speech (it’s okay, I get nervous too)
  • Best “Jenny Blake” keywords - jenny blake would be my best friend (gee, thanks, I’m blushing), what is the answer to stress? (start with sleeping well, exercise and yoga), is jenny blake greek (nope - sorry to disappoint), how old is jenny blake blogger (29 years old as of October 9), i want jenny blake babies (eek - can’t help you there), jenny blake divide a post it (hell yes, I love post-its -- line down the middle - one half work, one half personal!), life after college by jenny blake txt file (hey now! stealing is bad karma), sexy jenny blake art (hmmm, not happening), who is jenny blake? (a question I am still trying to answer...), "i'm too sexy for my cube" (okay so that’s not JB specific, but high five to whoever searched for that!)

So what’s next?

1. New home underway! Jenny Blake website

It's time folks. I turned 29 this year, and the Life After College blog just turned 5 years old. I've said for a while that by the time I turn 30, I would like to be blogging under my own name. Life AFTER Life After College, if you will.

But have no fear! I'll still be running LAC, I'll just be bringing on two kick-ass writers who will do an incredible job helping me provide content for college grads. I've even given us a pet name: the Three LAC Blogateers! I’m ridiculous, I know. This transition will allow me to grow as a writer, and having a team at LAC will ensure that I'm still providing relevant, insanely helpful content for recent grads.

Once my new site launches, I will primarily be blogging there -- hopefully expanding my content to include everything that's going on in my life -- yoga, travel, business-building, and of course -- more soul searching :). I've been working like a maniac with a brilliant team of people to get the new site written, designed, and amazeified, and I'm aiming to launch it in February. More on that to come...

2. Newsletter Changes

As I mentioned in my most recent newsletter (oops...the first one in three months) -- I get a bit confused about whether to provide tips for grads, organization tools, Day in the Life of Jenny, business-building updates and resources, or all of the above?

To address this confusion (mine and yours!) here's what will happen starting in January: the LAC newsletter will go back to being sent regularly (monthly or quarterly) - score! - and it will be more focused on career tips and helpful resources and tools for life in general. It will also include very short "behind the scenes" updates from me and the LAC writers.

For those of you who want to follow me and my business specifically, I'll be sending a bi-weekly "behind the business" update from the new site, which will include my more personal whereabouts and thoughts on life and business. Get in early here.

3. How I can improve, and what would you like to see from me, Melissa and Paul in 2013?

I would love to hear your thoughts -- if you have a minute, I would be very grateful for you to take this reader survey.

See you in January, my friends!

THANK YOU again -- for everything.

Much love and enormous gratitude,

Jenny

The group photo from the MSH Creative Weekend of Genius in April. Cheers!

Halloween Hodge Podge: October Link Round-up

There's all kinds of fun stuff cookin' for our round-up this month, so let's dig right in! On the subject of cooking -- I am proud to announce that I have come up with a . . . wait for it . . . second recipe for my one-trick-pony cooking arsenal. I do have a handful of others I'm slowly mastering, but this is the next one ready for public consumption :)

Chia Seed Psuedo-Dessert

This isn't so much of a recipe as a concoction, but I'm enjoying it nonetheless! It is inspired by Inna, who sent me an awesome article on the power of Chia seeds.

  • Empty one container of Greek Yogurt into a bowl
  • Mix 1-2 tablespoons of Chia seeds into  yogurt and stir well; let sit for 20 minutes (the Chia seeds need time to expand to an almost tapioca-like state)
  • Optional: mix in honey and/or half a packet of Justin's Honey Almond Butter
  • Add blueberries, raspberries and sliced banana (or fruit of your choice)
  • Optional: refrigerate again so it gets cold (I usually make this before I eat dinner, then have it ready to eat later)
  • Final step: ENJOY! Better than a bowl of Ben & Jerry's amiright?! Okay fine, I hear you, there's no substitue for that. But maybe it will come close.

Fun features around the web

Free ebooks and resources

There's something in the fall air -- in the last month I've noticed quite a few free (awesome) ebooks make their way onto the Internet. Here are a few to check out:

Ignorance is Not Bliss Webinar Reminder

As I mentioned in last week's "Ignorance is not bliss" post on common business mistakes, I’m excited to host Kyle for a free overview and Q&A session this Thursday at 3pm ET to explain the material and answer your questions.

Kyle will walk us through the most common mistakes new small business owners make, then we’ll open things up for live questions at the end. You can enroll for the webinar here — and no worries if you can’t make it — we’ll send out the recording afterward.

Make Sh*t Happen Round 3: That's a Wrap!

We've just completed the third Make Sh*t Happen course and I am beaming like a proud mom over what the amazing crew was able to accomplish.

A few highlights:

In alumni news:

There's much much more happening than what I shared above (which I'm barely doing justice), including some amazing health and fitness progress too. I'm gearing up for a big re-launch in January to kick of 2013 with a bang, so sign-up here to be on the early notification list!

A crazy reminder about identify theft

My brother sent me this article a little while back that talks about the "amazing mind reader" video in which a man uses technology to get all kinds of personal information from unknowing strangers, just from what was sitting in their pockets.

From the article, PSA Uses ‘Psychic’ to Demonstrate Dangers of Sharing Personal Info Online:

Do you really need pyschic abilities to know intimate details about a stranger? Maybe not. A new video from Belgium that hit it big on Reddit and YouTube is proving that, thanks to the Internet and social media, learning a person's deepest secrets and even just mundane info such as his or her favorite color or best friend's name is only a few clicks away.

The video is actually a public service announcement titled, "Amazing Mind Reader Reveals His Gift." It begins with random people being selected from the streets of Brussels. They are asked if they would like to participate in an upcoming TV program featuring Dave, described as a gifted clairvoyant. Once they agree, they are ushered into a white tent to meet Dave. He hugs them and dances around as he seemingly tries to get a sense of the person's energy. As people are seated across from him, Dave tells them random facts about them, from the color of the motorcycle they own to their bank account number and even the types and locations of their tattoos.

As the unassuming subjects become absorbed in Dave's trance and the factual information he is providing, the truth behind his magic is revealed. A curtain drops, and behind it is a group of computer hackers dressed in all black searching the Internet for information about each of the individuals.

See for yourself in the video:

[youtube id="F7pYHN9iC9I"]

Ignorance is Not Bliss: Resources + Webinar for Aspiring and New Small Business Owners

Earlier this year my good friend Kyle Durand and I put on a joint workshop at WDS called "Ignorance is Not Bliss: 5 things every entrepreneur needs to know about setting up a business to save money, prevent headaches and keep the government off your back." It stemmed from my own clulessness about what business structures I needed to have in place, embarrassment about not having taken care of them yet, and hesitation (and fear) about draining my bank account to hire a lawyer. Kyle, a long-time entrepreneur who has degrees in both law and accounting, has also seen firsthand many clients who fell into avoidable businesses situations before working with him -- glitches at best, total firestorms at worst.

We're sharing the handout from our workshop below, but even better — I'm really excited to host Kyle for a free overview and Q&A session next Thursday at 3pm ET to explain the material and answer your questions. I'll be facilitating, and Kyle will walk us through the most common mistakes new small business owners make, then we'll open things up for live questions at the end (as specific as you want!). You can enroll for the webinar here -- and no worries if you can't make it -- we'll send out the recording afterward.

Getting ready to set-up your own business? Keep reading after the handout for an amazing program by Jeff Unger (a fellow speaker at Mario Schulze's NYC Idea Mensch event) -- his company e-minutes is on a mission to help form 500 corporations -- for free! 

Ignorance is Not Bliss (Handout)

5 things every entrepreneur needs to know about setting up a business to save money, prevent headaches and keep the government off your back

This content isn’t nice-to-know -- it’s must-know material that affects everyone who wants to build a business or even just start selling a product. A few key systems around accounting and law can go a long way to keeping more money in your pocket and Uncle Sam off your back.

1. Make it legal: register your business with with the right government agencies

2. For finances, don’t mix business with pleasure: track income and expenses separately

3. A contract will save the day - and your relationships

4. Keep the tax man happy (and more money in your pocket)

5. Stay healthy: get the right health insurance!

6. Bonus: Assemble your business posse to earn more money in less time

More about the eMinutes Mission to Set-up 500 New Businesses

For nearly twenty years, the lawyers at eMinutes have formed corporations for A-list celebrities, musicians, and athletes. Now, eMinutes has embarked on a mission to form 500 free corporations for first-time entrepreneurs. Free means free. eMinutes is even paying the filing fees.

For first-time entrepreneurs who have not yet formed a corporation, eMinutes will form the company. For entrepreneurs who have already formed a corporation, eMinutes lawyers will review the paperwork, determine whether documents need to be “cleaned up”, and take whatever steps are necessary to restructure the company. All of this will be provided at no charge.

Apply now, or read more about Jeff Unger and the eminutes team here.

Natalie Sisson's $100 Change Project

Speaking of WDS and people I adore, Natalie Sisson has launched a project called $100 Change, with tons of free resources, interviews, product giveaways and mentoring opportunities for aspiring solopreneurs. Click on the image below to learn more.

Imagine if $100 could change your life

I'd love to hear from you in the comments: From existing business-owners, any tips for those just starting out? If you're new to the game, what are your biggest obstacles or questions?

Finding Pillars of Certainty Amidst the Walls of the Unknown

One of my big fears around quitting my job (I gave notice this exact time last year) was the fear of boredom or burn-out. What if I tire of the very things that bring in money . . . then what? The paychecks won't keep rolling in if I suddenly just stop. doing. the. work. At the time, I remember reconciling that fear by saying, "So what? I probably WILL outgrow my business. In fact, surely that will happen, as it is a natural part of evolution. So I will cross that bridge when I get to it."

In a way, that bridge is here.

But it is showing up a little differently. It is not boredom, it is uncertainty (see Jonathan Fields' must-read book on this topic).

It's a big fat question mark around the topic of What's Next ←inter-capitalized followed by "dunh dunh dunnnnh" since this is one of the questions I get most often -- and maybe you too (especially if you're a recent grad or in any sort of career transition). 

The Man and I were talking this weekend about career change and relationships. Oftentimes we pin our hopes and dreams on one specific person or one dream company, and we Declare ClarityI am CLEAR! I know what I want! I want THIS job or THIS person . . . and we narrow our focus into a tiny dot on the map of our lives, oftentimes even becoming obsessed with it.

But as the popular saying goes, "The Universe doesn't give you want you want, it gives you what you need."

How many times have we lusted after The Hot Guy (or Girl) or The Hot Company, only to realize that what we actually need is completely different?

Perhaps what we really need is more depth, more opportunity, more flexibility, more meaning. Almost always, the new surprise is that which will best facilitate our own personal growth. Besides, that new job or person might be perfectly sexy in their own right! See Tara Gentile's related post on finding your passion today, The Danger of Searching for your One True Love

Expand your view

As my dad once wisely pointed out to me, by pinning our expectations -- our "clarity" -- on one fixed star in the sky, we miss the universe of opportunity that surrounds it. We miss the beauty of discovering what it is that we actually need.

For some reason (for which I am very grateful!), the "keeper" emails, tweetsbook reviews, and even coaching inquiries have really been rolling in since I returned from my trip.

I'm humbled and incredibly grateful . . . and curious.

I know without a doubt that my purpose is serve you (all of you -- not just twenty-somethings!) and yet I'm not sure exactly how to define it, beyond sitting in the middle of this uncertainty and telling you about it when I can find the words.

In a way, my fear of not knowing what's next for my business is here.

I'm finding it hard to commit to much of anything that isn't directly tied to what I love (like coaching and Make Sh*t Happen).

But you know what? I'm loving it. Most of the time, save for a few sporadic breakdowns here or there :)

Sure, sometimes sitting in the dusty pit of uncertainty sucks. But if you can be with your uncertainty from a place of feeling grounded in your most important guiding values and principles, you can keep the faith that it will all turn out okay.

Finding comfort in pillars of certainty

Even though I don't know exactly what the next year will bring in terms of my overall message, products, services, etc -- I know that I wouldn't change a damn thing.

I haven't regretted, even for a minute, my decision to quit my "dream job" at Google, as much as I love and greatly respect the company.

In the past year, I have built -- and am now standing within -- a few key pillars of certainty that are providing the space for me to sit with the questions and the unknown of this present moment.

Those pillars are my values and my highest ideals for my life and business: freedom and autonomy, flexibility and travel, meaning and growth, health (mind, body, spirit), fun and service.

Because I am clear on those pillars, the uncertainty within the walls is okay -- it's manageable, interesting, and even enjoyable as I'm starting to say no to anything that doesn't feel like "essential bliss."

How does this apply to other areas?

  • A job search: what are your must-haves for your next job? What principles must the company, location and responsibilities adhere to, even if you don't yet know the specifics of the role you want? You may even still end up with The Hot One, but hopefully with a greater sense of clarity on what it is you want and need -- not just because that's what what would generate the most external approval for your ego. Check out the Plan Your Next Career Move template to help articulate your thoughts in this area.
  • In a relationship: what are your must-haves for your significant other? What type of person would light you up and add to your life? What qualities of the relationship (e.g. honesty, trust, deep conversation, chemistry) must be present? Relationships are as complex as the people in them -- surely your partner will not be perfect. So what bigger pillars will make the bumps in the road, the slow reveal of their imperfections and those of the relationship, manageable and even catalysts for growth?
  • Overall values: Check-out the Wheel of Life and Wheel of Aliveness tempaltes to gain clarity on the environment, people and circumstances that bring the most joy, growth and fulfillment to your life.

One more thing: expect disappointment . . . and welcome it

So you broaden your view from one star to the entire constellation. You expand your search from THE HOT ONE to a range of potential jobs or mates that are best suited to your values and goals. Then what?

Expect to be disappointed.

Expect to get the job and have it not live up to your ideal. Expect your new job (or mate) to drudge up your insecurities, weaknesses, resistance, and self-doubt.

Expect to meet someone, start a relationship glittered with gold dust, and soon realize you are both flawed (shocker!) and that your relationship will ask you to walk right through the valley of your deepest fears.

On this subject, John Welwood, author of Perfect Love, Imperfect Relationships, is my new guru -- again thanks to The Man for the heads up on Welwood's brilliant work - you can read some free articles here.

Before you write me off as a total curmudgeon:

I'm only saying this to help you -- all of us -- remember that hitting the dip, feeling that bubble burst a little bit -- is not only okay, it's not only perfectly normal, but that it is INHERENT TO THE GROWTH PROCESS.

So, when we reach disappointment in a new job, uncertainty at a crossroads in our career or business, divergent views within a relationship -- GOOD! Celebrate! That information is just as valid as the hopes and dreams that preceded it.

As my dad put it in response to Martha Beck's fantastic article, Enjoyment in the Waiting, "When your dreams get crushed - make dream wine! And get dream drunk and create some marvel from outta the wreckage."

While all-consuming disappointment would surely be a red flag, a taste of it is a sign that we're doing something right:

We're living, we're growing, and we're asking the big questions.

***

Life After College goes Korean

In exciting news, the first copies of the Random House Korea edition of my book arrived this week! Here's a picture of the interior….now if only I could read it :)

Life After College Book in Korean!