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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!

A Letter from my Future Self (#reverb10)

This month I am participating in the #Reverb10 project with 4,000+ other bloggers (read the archive of my entries on my Tumblr); a daily prompt to help people “reflect on this year and manifest what’s next.” I’m also incredibly honored to contribute as an author - today's post is a response to my own prompt:

Future self. Imagine yourself five years from now. What advice would you give your current self for the year ahead?

Dear Jenny,

I am so proud of you. You've worked really hard to get where you are, and I want you to relax now. You have so many good things coming, you don't have to work as hard as you think you do. Enjoy your life and watch things unfold, all in perfect time. Time to square your shoulders back, hold your head high, and keep moving through your life with grace and ease. And don't forget to smile!

From my perch five years from now, I can tell you that you will not remember all those little tasks, deadlines and emails you worry about. You've got the small stuff covered. You've accomplished every goal you've ever set and then some. I hope you are as proud of yourself as I am.

Amidst all the external definitions of success, please don't forget to look inward.

A few reminders:

  • Take care of yourself. Eat well. Exercise. Get outside. Get plenty of sleep. Rest and remember to spend plenty of time alone. Put yourself first so that you can share your best gifts with the world.
  • Be nicer to yourself. Weighing ten pounds less does not make you a better or more interesting person. Weighing ten or twenty pounds more does not make you unloveable. For every day or every moment you criticize yourself, you are cheating yourself out of your fullest joy.
  • Face some hard truths. You will hit rough patches. You will have more "lowest moments of your life." Again you will find yourself feeling dark and depressed. Again you will find yourself going to sleep fully clothed because you cannot muster the emotional energy to get undressed. These moments always turn out to be your best teachers. These are the moments that will help you serve others in new, extraordinary ways.
  • Let people in. You will know when the time is right. When it is, let go. Let yourself love with abandon. You don't have to protect yourself so much. You will still be able to take care of yourself if and when these relationships end, and they will have given you new perspectives on life.
  • Forgive yourself. It's time to stop carrying all that guilt. That you could have been nicer, more accommodating, more supportive, more generous, more selfless; that you could have given more time and attention - or even more love. The past is in the past, and you are doing the very best you can. The very best does not mean perfect. It is okay if you aren't perfect -- none of us are.
  • Live your life on your own terms. Stop looking for everyone's approval. Stop living in fear that if you say or do the wrong thing, you will lose people forever. If that happens, it wasn't meant to be. Stop auditioning for other people's lives and embrace yourself, exactly as you are.
  • A note on judging others. It is so easy to do - we all do it. But be careful who you judge, what you turn your nose up to, and the opinions you rally behind without questioning. They almost always come back to teach you a lesson by giving you the very experience that you were so quick to judge. Treat others with respect, compassion and an open-mind at every possible moment.
  • You are capable of so much more than you even realize. We all are. You have infinite power at your fingertips and it's just waiting for you to engage it. Take those risks you are afraid of taking. Trust yourself. You've gotten yourself this far in your life -- keep going. Even more greatness lies ahead if you can just take the leap, even in those moments where you can't see the other side yet. Dream even bigger! Reach for the stars - they are waiting for you.
  • Soak it up, baby! Whew - this is heavy stuff. Remember not to take yourself too seriously! Lighten up, laugh, have fun, be young, sing and dance your heart out. Celebrate! Be thankful for all of your gifts and blessings. Honor them by letting yourself experience bliss at every opportunity. Let the bliss grow and expand. Sprinkle gold dust around everyone and everything you can see.

I know you know this, because you've said it before -- you already have everything you need. Time to stop chasing and start embracing. I have no doubt you will do it with flying colors. You already have.

Oodles of love and cupcakes*, Jenny

---

*P.S. Yes. That is ACTUALLY a picture of a french-toast bacon cupcake.

---

P.P.S. Pictures and highlights from the recent trip to New York City:

I had the absolute time of my life in New York City last week, and plan on returning as often as I possibly can in 2011. Highlights: singing at the top of my lungs to "All I Want For Christmas is You" with my friend Julie in Toritilla Flats while watching Monday Night football, doing Yoga at 4am with a new friend in the Standard Gym, Wednesday's cupcake tweet-up (see below), meeting up with Gabrielle Bernstein at The SoHo House for coffee and her wise author wisdom, celebrating Ann's 40th with all of her wonderful friends and family at Cuba, and buying the 12-cupcake sampler pack from Crumbs for immediate consumption in The Standard Lounge one snowy afternoon.

Here are a few pictures that capture some of the fun:

Cupcake tweet-up at Eleni's in Chelsea Market with amazing blogger ladies (so fabulous that a random passer-by asked for my business card because we "were so inspiring!"). From left to right: Top row - Monique Johnson, Chloe Tashjian, Teresa Wu, Me, Sam Karol, ChaChanna Simpson; Bottom row - Lissy Carr, Allie Mahler, Ginny Becker and Diana Antholis.

The fabulous ladies of the cupcake tweet-up

Here's a picture of me and Ann (my NYC Angel) before her birthday party:

Me and Julie at Tortilla Flats:

Jenny Blake and Julie at Tortialla Flats

Can't wait to see what those of you participating in #reverb10 reply to today's prompt! And much love and gratitude to the #reverb10 team: Cali, Kaileen & Gwen.

On Limerence...and - wait for it - a break-up processing template. You heard me.

Yep, I've gone and templateized getting over someone. Don't judge me. More on that in a few minutes. First, a lesson and some thoughts on a crazy emotional love-related roller-coaster called Limerence. What is Limerence? Hint: if Love and Lust had a baby...

If Love and Lust had a baby, they would name her Limerence. Limerence is a little crazy. She is wildly optimistic, hopeful, and obsessive. From Wikipedia:

Limerence is an involuntary cognitive and emotional state of being infatuated or obsessed with another person, typically experienced involuntarily and characterized by a strong desire for reciprocation of one's feelings but not primarily for a sexual relationship (although it can further intensify the situation). The term was coined by psychologist Dorothy Tennov to describe the ultimate, near-obsessive form of romantic love. Limerence is sometimes also referred to as infatuation, or is colloquially known as a crush, but in reality it is something much different.

Does that sound familiar? Have you ever experienced limerence? Reflecting on that question was like asking myself, "Do you breathe?!"

Earlier this year, my dad could see that I was love-struck over a boy I couldn't really have. Instead of lecturing, judging or advising, he simply wrote the name of a book on an index card. That index card and book, Love and Limerence: The Experience of Being in Love by Dorothy Tenov, changed everything for me.

This is your brain. This is your brain on Limerence.

When we fall in lovelikelust (aka limerence) with someone, it's almost like our limerent brain becomes a form of the lizard brain. If the lizard brain's currency is fear, the limerent brain's currency is fantasy. Sometimes we have fun living in fantasyland...but not when it becomes a torture chamber representing everything we want but can't have.

It is inherent to the definition of limerence that the object of our affection - the romance of our dreams - is unattainable. Which is what makes limerence very different from love. Love is shared and reciprocated and eventually grows and develops into something real. Elisa breaks down the limerence experience beautifully in a post called Limerence and Licorice.

Components of Limerence (from Wikipedia):

  • Limerence involves intrusive thinking about the limerent object.Other characteristics include acute longing for reciprocation, fear of rejection, and unsettling shyness in the limerent object's presence. In cases of unrequited limerence, transient relief may be found by vividly imagining reciprocation from the limerent object.
  • Feelings of limerence can be intensified through adversity, obstacles, or distance. A limerent person may have acute sensitivity to any act, thought, or condition that can be interpreted favorably. This may include a tendency to devise, fabricate, or invent "reasonable" explanations for why neutral actions are a sign of hidden passion in the limerent object.
  • A person experiencing limerence has a general intensity of feeling that leaves other concerns in the background. In their thoughts, a limerent person tends to emphasize what is admirable in the limerent object and to avoid any negative or problematic attributes.

What if you are Limerent and it is making you miserable, but you can't move on?

Tennov doesn't really answer this question in her book. She essentially throws her hands in the air and says, "beats me!"

I think the only way to counter the limerent brain's pining is to ask, "What is REAL?" over and over again:

  • What are the FACTS?
  • How do I actually FEEL, averaged out, over the course of recent days and weeks and months?
  • Finally, how can I act from a place of inner integrity based on TRUTH, not based on what-ifs?

Enter the Break-up Template!

My next book will clearly be a "quit the CRACK that is limerence" how-to manual. You know, just as soon as I learn how to conquer that crazy beast in its strongest moments.

This template is an exercise from my upcoming book (mark your calendar for March 29, baby!). If you are going through a break-up or still trying to get over someone, the questions in this template will help you sort through your thoughts, mourn your losses, and start to see your situation more clearly.

Download the template here (and forward to a friend or give 'er a rating if you like what you see!).

I want to hear from you. If you found this template helpful, would you let me know? Did I miss anything? How do you handle break-ups? Any limerence-busting tips?

***

All You Need is Love E-Book - Now Available!

Speaking of Love and Limerence, my dear friend Elisa just released her free "All You Need" e-book, a compilation of posts in which 28 bloggers pontificated on love (myself included) back in February. Download your copy by hopping over to Elisa's latest post here.

Happy Turkey Day!

To all of my American readers -- have a wonderful Thanksgiving!! For those living in other countries, I promise to eat a few extra cupcakes for you :)