Live for the Dip


I gave my first talk on goal-setting at a bookstore last week and I bombed. My friends and family might tell you otherwise...and several people said afterward that they really got something out of it, but in my heart and gut I know that I bombed. No amount of excuses - tired, busy, just starting out - could make up for how lame I felt. And by lame, I mean totally and utterly disappointed in myself.

Within 10 minutes of starting, as the camera man was throwing things at the store owner to get his attention, I started sweating and stuttering and wishing I could just quit. Stop mid-sentence and sprint toward the door. How the hell am I going to do this for 45 more minutes? I felt like a bumbling idiot at best and a disorganized motivational hack at worst.

Even after 5 years of training at Google and "faking it til I make it," I've never been more uncomfortable at the front of a room. That feeling usually goes away within five minutes. It didn't go away this time. I was laid out in the bottom of a dip and I knew it.

Live for the Dip...It Means You Are on Exactly the Right Track

"Mistakes are part of the dues one pays for a full life." —Sophia Loren

If you've ever pursued a big goal that took many months (or years) of commitment or tried learning a new complex skill, you have almost surely experienced the dip. The drop in motivation. The feeling of being totally frustrated and ready to give up at any minute. When you're in the dip, you question whether this effort is even worth your time, and whether you are capable of achieving it.

The dip sucks the fun out. It waves the "how bad do you want this" flag and your demons tell you life would be easier if you just quit...that you could avoid all this discomfort by just walking away. But you know that's not true. You know there's light at the end of the tunnel, you just don't know how long it will take to get there.

The dip is usually unavoidable. It doesn't mean you've done something wrong, it actually means you are on exactly the right track. I've started repeating the phrase, "live for the dip" to myself and my coaching clients, because I've realized that hitting the dip is not something to avoid, it is a milestone worth celebrating. It feels uncomfortable, but it is necessary in order to move forward. Seth Godin published a book on this topic, but I prefer to reference a diagram I learned in many years of working in Training and Development:

Levels of Learning - The Conscious Competence Matrix

Levels of Learning - The Conscious Competence Matrix

  • Unconscious incompetence - You don't know what you don't know (ignorance is bliss)
  • Conscious incompetence - The dip! You suddenly become aware of how much you have to learn. You might feel dumb, incompetent, frustrated or discouraged as you realize you need more skills, time or practice in order to move forward.
  • Conscious competence - You've started to master the new skill, but you still have to actively think about whether you are doing it right.
  • Unconscious competence - You don't even have to think about it any more - the new skill comes naturally and/or finishing the goal becomes completely do-able. This is really the fun part, where you are flowing and "in the zone."

This model applies to many different situations. A few examples:

  • Learning a new skill - if you weren't born with it, you almost always have to go through a phase of being a total beginner. You have to crawl before you can walk.
  • Pursuing a long-term goal - when the adrenaline and excitement wear off at the start of a big goal, you'll often get hit by reality where you realize how challenging the pursuit of this goal will actually be.
  • Athletic Events - Marathon runners often hit "the wall" where they simply can't imagine running another 100 yards, let alone finish the entire 26.2 (my wall lasted seven excruciatingly boring miles from 17-23).
  • In relationships - you often have to have your first fight and work through it successfully in order to take your relationship to the next level.

Celebrate the Dip - A Few Words of Encouragement

  • Big goals aren't handed to you. You have to earn them.
  • If it is anything worth doing, you will hit a dip.
  • The dip is the toll you cross, the dues you pay.
  • You will want to give up.
  • You will question yourself.
  • You will feel uncomfortable.
  • You will want to fling yourself back into your comfort zone, but you won't.
  • You will push through it.
  • And as much as it might suck, celebrate as you wade your way through the dip.
  • Live for the dip.
  • Laugh when you can; cry, scream or vent if you need to; and know that you'll emerge stronger on the other side. Dragon slayed. Finish line in sight. Big dream conquered.


P.S. I'm going to be representing Gen Y on an upcoming panel discussion called Generations in the Workplace. The webinar will be held on Thursday, Sept. 9 at 12:00 p.m. PST. Click here to sign-up -- I'd love to "see" you there.

P.P.S. Hopefully I won't bomb this one :)

Reader Q&A: How Can I Finance SXSW (my big, scary goal)?

With South-by-Southwest panel submitters campaigning for the popular vote, SXSWi has definitely been a hot topic of conversation (at least among us online nerds) in recent weeks. A reader sent me an email asking if I had any ideas for how she could make her big goal of attending happen, and I thought others might benefit from the response (which could apply to all goals with a financial component). I also know that my readers (ahem, YOU) are some of the most encouraging, brilliant people I know. If you have extra ideas please share your two cents in the comments!

As a quick aside: please take a moment to support my Big, Scary, Hairy Goal of speaking at SXSW by voting for my panel, "Got 99 Problems But a Blog 'Aint One" (from blog-to-book: how to pursue a traditional publisher) by this Friday, August 27. You do need to create a free account to thank you in advance! I'll be so excited (albeit terrified) if the powers-that-be actually choose my panel...

Without further ado...StacyAnn's Question:

Hi Jenny,

I'm writing to ask about a goal that I have set for myself. I know you routinely give great advice on goal setting. My goal is to attend SXSW in 2011. However I fear this is not a practical goal and Suze Orman would probably deny me since I'm currently campaigning for a new job. How do balance an experience goal vs a stuff goal?  What about balancing feelings that you will have to push your goal back?  Finally do you have any tips on making SXSW more affordable?  I couldn't find any posts on this topic.

Thank you, Stacyann

My Response:

Hi Stacyann,

I think it's AWESOME that you've set a goal to attend SXSW in 2011, and you're not alone in needing to figure out how to raise the money for it (I have lots of blogger friends in the same boat). If you are excited and energized by the goal and it's important to you, Suze Orman would definitely give you the go-ahead, she would just tell you to make smart choices about how you get there (ie don't go into debt). When a goal is really "soul-stirring" (a term coined by Tim Gunn), you can almost always find a way to make it happen. That said, if you end up having to push it back, don't beat yourself up over it.

Here's what I would do:

  • Research: Figure out exactly how much money you would need to attend (hotel, conference pass and daily expenses)
  • Make your goal clear: Write it as a question at the top of a sheet of paper: "How can I raise $X between now and Y-DATE to attend SXSW 2011?" Then brainstorm for 30 minutes -- or until you reach 50 ideas.
  • Get motivated: Make a list of reasons that it's important to you to attend (just part of getting the motivation you'll need to pursue the goal)
  • Brainstorm ways to cut costs: See if you can stay with a friend or a friend-of-a-friend in Austin - that would cut costs way down. Brazen Careerist and 20-Something Bloggers also have sub-groups for SXSW - I'd join those and see if other bloggers are looking for roommates.
  • Cost-cutting part two: Look at your last two credit card statements (I use and see what you could cut between now and next March to save money. If you really want to get serious, set-up a side account and have money direct-deposited every month between now and then (I use INGDirect)
  • Brainstorm ways to raise money: Do you have any ways of making extra income between now and then? Babysitting, tutoring, consulting, etc.
  • Ask for help: Put out a call to your network - consider starting a Smarty Pig account to raise money. You might also ask for contributions for Christmas (or a birthday if you have one between now and then).

Good luck!! I know you can do this -- and you'll have such a blast. Austin is awesome, and the people who go are so smart and so much fun. You'll have to keep me posted on your big goal!



I'd love for you to chime in since nothing beats crowd-sourced wisdom: do you have any other ideas or words of encouragement for Stacyann (or others) raising money for a Big, Scary, Hairy Goal?

I'm Sorry I've Been MIA (& Links Galore)

I feel like I just sent myself to my room: GROUNDED due to blog neglect. And don't come out until you are ready to apologize! So here I emerge, tail between my legs, with a bit of an apology. See, even if you didn't really notice or didn't really care, I know that I've been neglecting you these last few weeks. I haven't been living up to the high standards and twice-weekly publishing schedule I try to uphold on this blog. Because I don't want to waste your time with sub-par content, I end up not publishing anything at all, even though I have so much I want to say and share.

The truth is that I've been overwhelmed (AGAIN). Contrary to popular belief (at least based on a handful of humbling and incredibly nice emails I have received recently), I do NOT have it all figured out. "It" being this magical place where accomplishment AND inner peace co-exist, where I seamlessly balance life's demands while walking a tightrope of my own expectations, and where I pay-close-enough-attention-to-but-somehow-don't-over-feed my crazy emotions that seem to run amok every day.

So I have been prioritizing the book, my day job, my sleep and my sanity over just about everything else. I haven't been writing as much as I would like, responding to emails in a very timely way, commenting on other blogs, tweeting or really upholding my end of the social media bargain. But we all need a break sometimes (or a turtle shell to hide under), and this has been mine.

That is not to say I haven't been thinking about you. Drumroll, please! Enter THE MOST RANDOM POST OF ALL TIME.

Things I've been wanting to ask/say/share these last few weeks:

  1. I would love your support for my SXSW Panel - I'm pretty much scared shitless to even tell you about this panel (let alone lead it), which is why I know it's important that I do. I submitted a proposal to speak at SXSWi (tech-geek heaven) called "Got 99 Problems But a Blog Ain't One" to help bloggers understand what it takes to get a book deal even without a gigantic platform (much like my inside scoop book newsletters). In order to have a shot at presenting, I need your help -- will you vote for my idea if you think it's a good one (even if you're not attending)?
  2. If I Had Known Just One Thing E-Book - I'm a contributor in the free career-related e-book compiled by Shane Mac called "If I had known just one thing." You can either download the book as a PDF, or navigate through the fancy HTML pages (using your arrow keys). My submission is called "Don't Wait."
  3. Book Photo Voting & Contest Winner - Thank you SO much for the comments and votes. I'm sorry I haven't had a chance to reply to your comments, but I read every single one and appreciated them so much -- you have no idea. I still haven't decided which picture I'm going with; the popular vote seems to be for photo #2, but I might just be leaning toward #1 (both need a closer crop). And (drumroll again) the winner of the first-ever-giveaway of my own book is Sneha -- congrats! The book is in the mail (and by mail, I mean off to the copy-editor for the final round of edits. Eek!)
  4. Career Moxie BlogTalk Radio Guest Spot - I speak with hosts Tiffany and Allison about why you don't need an official mentor (and share what inspired me to write my book). The show is about 30 minutes long, and covers how to create informal mentoring relationships and how to find mentors in unexpected places.
  5. Psychology Today article mention - Speaking of mentors, one of my favorite people, Susan Biali, recently wrote an article for Psychology Today based on conversations we've had recently about time management, saying no, and taking care of ourselves. The article is called, "Shackles or soul-stirring? Decide before you commit." The part where she quotes my email response as "Eeeeeeeeeee!!!" cracked me up. Guilty as charged :)
  6. Hosted Pam Slim for an Authors@Google Talk - I was very excited to host Pam (another role model who blogs at Escape From Cubicle Nation and has a book of the same name), for an Authors@Google event earlier this month. She makes a case for building a "side hustle" (either within your company or outside if it) as a critical part of being successful in the workforce. Check-out the 45 minute video (with a short intro from yours truly).
  7. Coaching update - after 2.5 years, 115 training hours, 100+ 1:1 coaching hours, 9 supervised calls, a written exam, an oral exam, and 2 major 3-month long "I'm not cut out for this" dips, I am now a Certified Professional Co-Active Coach (CPCC)!

Just for Fun:

Blog Posts I've Loved Recently:

Words of Wisdom from a Recent TUT's Notes from the Universe:

You're the only person who knows what's right for you. The only one. And if you already know what this is, commit to it. If you don't, commit to nothing.

Only you know, The Universe

That's it for now...I hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week! I'm off to continue my search for a life filled with rainbows and unicorns. Or just watch some so-bad-it's-GOOOOD reality TV.

I'd love your input: Which picture for the back cover of the book?

Exciting times, my friends! I just got back from L.A. where I took author portraits at my alma mater (Go Bruins!) with my mom's childhood friend --  photographer Mark Hanauer. I am also working on cutting the draft of my book down to 300 pages (from 450), per my editor's request. Next steps are copy-editing and cover design...eeee! Want to know more? Follow more detailed book updates by joining my monthly-ish "Inside Scoop" book newsletter. Back Cover Photo - Share Your Two Cents!

I tend to be indecisive, so I put my two favorite pictures up for a Facebook vote on Friday...but the results were pretty split (thanks to everyone who already chimed in!). I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments -- which picture do you think is a better fit for the back of the book? Both pictures can be cropped in closer. I want to come across as relatable...and telepathically inspire people to actually buy a copy :)

And just for fun, I'll use to pick a winner from the comments and you'll get a signed copy when it comes out next March (that is the first time I've mentioned giving away a copy of MY OWN book...what a trip!). Just make sure you weigh in by Friday, August 13.

Jenny Blake - Author Portrait - Headshot

Jenny Blake - Author Portrait - Headshot

"Behind the Scenes" Videos from Picture Day

Guest appearances (in no particular order) by my brother Tom, his girlfriend Gil, the photographer Mark, and Chantal Moore, the fabulous makeup artist. Note: The videos are awkwardly tall (and unedited) - taken on my brother's iPhone 4.

  • Video 1 - Makeup and an intro to Shaq the dog
  • Video 2 - "Feels like a little slice of heaven"
  • Video 3 - Introductions (how you know you've made it into the inner circle)
  • Video 4 - Walking down Royce Hall for that windblown look :)


P.S. I'm also excited to share the launch of from another family friend, Bob Gordon, a lawyer and fellow Bay Area resident. Bob has been part of a team working on this website for over 15 years. It's super interactive and the purpose is to "enhance creativity, self worth and empowerment among youth" through 8 interactive environments. Artists can upload their own videos to share with friends, and users can download and remix songs they like. Check it out if you get a chance!

A Little Slice of Heaven: 20 Life Lessons I Learned on the Rogue River

If pictures speak 1,000 words, I'll let the first one in this post express the total calm and beauty I experienced on my river trip last week. I loved every unplugged second of it. Great food & guides (thank you Echo!), great people, great yoga, and endless little moments of laughter, connection and perfect weather. But the best part of all was letting myself roam completely free for an entire week. No to-dos, no make-up, no emails, no gadgets, no worries. It was truly a vacation for the soul.

Rogue River - Southern Oregon

Which brings me to this blog post. You know how much I love metaphors as life lessons (some favorites: domesticating jaguars, lifting the oars, panicking during a triathlon & living a sandboxed life); I couldn't help but gather 20 gems from my week-long river rafting trip (with my friend Julie's help during our drive home). I've only just scratched the surface - I'm sure there are dozens (if not hundreds) of other little life lessons that could be gleaned from the experience, so feel free to add others you can think of in the comments!

20 Life Lessons I Learned on the Rogue River

  1. Contrast makes the world go 'round. The crazy, hectic lives we lead back home made relaxing on the river incredibly fulfilling. Also: squatting to pee and finding a dying bee in my mop of river-dreadlocked hair gave me an entirely new appreciation for toilets and warm showers. And this, my friends, is why contrast makes the world go 'round. Highs and lows, happiness and sadness, the comforts of city life versus life stripped to the essentials are what keep things exciting.
  2. It's a lot harder to paddle back upstream than it is to just keep moving forward. No matter how much you may want a do-over for the rapids in your life, you've got to just keep moving. What's done is done. Find your place back in the current and let the river take you forward. And if you are going to paddle upstream, make sure it's for a good reason (like helping a friend), because it's a helluva lot of work.
  3. Sometimes you have to cut your baggage loose to get unstuck. On Day 3 one of the boats got caught in an "aggrivated perch" on a challenging Class 4 rapid where the force of the water held the boat locked against a giant rock. The only way for the two guides in the boat to set it free was to literally start cutting bags loose since they were anchoring the boat in the wrong direction. Finally, after freeing a few big bags and the coffee maker, the guides were able to wrest the boat free from the rocks. What baggage do YOU need to cut loose in order to keep moving?
  4. Sometimes you stand up with a stick in your ass. Literally. Have a good laugh and carry on with your day. This is probably TMI, but after peeing in the woods one day, I stood up and realized there was a stick caught between my cheeks. Stop happens, okay?!?! I had a good hearty laugh and realized it was oh-so-metaphoric for all those days we wake up on the wrong side of bed. You might not have put the stick there, but you do have the power to take it out.
  5. There's no point in suffering from heat-stroke on a hot day if you have an entire river below you. JUMP IN! Sometimes I think we let ourselves get so hot, sweaty and miserable in our lives that we forget the answer to our problems can be right beneath our feet. For a day on the river, there's nothing a jump into refreshingly cold water can't fix. For a day off the river, look for those obvious opportunities to let loose or feel better. They are everywhere if you just open your eyes and look around.
  6. Sometimes the unexpected swim (after falling out of a kayak while going through a rapid) is even better than the ride you planned. Live for the unexpected adventures in your life. Let your mistakes be a part of the fun. Sometimes they are the best part.
  7. In moments of panic, don't jump ship right before a big rock. One of the kids on our trip was planning to go through a rapid on the inner tube. Right as he approached a big rock (that the tube would've bounced off of), his eyes got wide and he panicked. Instead of gripping the tube and hoping for the best, he jumped out and was left to fend for himself as a swimmer through the rocks. Our big goals almost always require confronting big rocks - hold on tight and have faith that things will work out.
  8. Stake out the big rapids in life and plan your course before going through. For the biggest rapids on the trip we parked the boats, hiked up to see what was going on, and went over how the guides would paddle through. A little planning went a long way toward reducing uncertainty and making sure everyone felt comfortable.
  9. On the other hand, sometimes the more you think and plan, the harder something becomes. If you hesitate for too long at the top of a cliff jump (or natural water slide), you'll scare yourself out of it. Just go!
  10. People are fascinating if you get curious. Take the time to get to know people. Ask what they do for fun, what lights them up, what the best part of their day was. People are so much more interesting than the answer to the routine "so, what do you do?" question -- stretch yourself and make the effort to really get to know people. It's worth it.
  11. Itching mosquito bites only makes them worse. As tempting as it may sometimes be, don't engage or encourage unwanted things or people in your life. Let them be.
  12. It's okay to let go sometimes and let someone else do the work. For a good majority of the trip, I sat high up on one of the oar boats in a spot that we dubbed "the princess perch." It was piled high with bags, and I used the inner tube as a pillow. For once, I didn't care that I wasn't the one paddling - I was perfectly happy to relax and let someone else take charge. Mission Relax & Slow Down = SUCCESS!
  13. If you always sleep in the comfort of your tent, you'll miss the stars. I slept outside on the last night under the glow of moonlight with zillions of stars poking through the leaves of the trees, and it was absolutely gorgeous. Sure, I got a few DOZEN mosquito bites, but it was well worth it.
  14. Friends are like life jackets. Sometimes you don't realize how important they are until you fall into the water and they're there to keep you afloat. So be good to your friends even when you don't NEED them. Especially when you don't need them.
  15. Keep your tent zipped if you want to keep the bugs out. Don't get sloppy about who and what you let into your life. Better to keep your tent zipped than to sleep with ants and mosquitoes at night. That said, also be open to letting new people and experiences into your proverbial tent.
  16. Being unplugged - truly, 100% gadget-free unplugged - is like giving your brain a clear, calm beautiful day on the river. Emails and commitments are like little pebbles that pile up in your brain. Obsess over them and they become big rocks that cause big rapids. Make sure you give yourself frequent breaks from the pebbles of your life.
  17. Get the right people on your boat (or your river trip). Whether you're spending a day or a week (or more) with people, the ride will be much more enjoyable (and your paddle crew more effective) if you pick the right people up front. Our trip was awesome, largely because of the people and river guides who were on it with us.
  18. You can do all the planning in the world and you'll still forget to pack your river pants. I had a packing list. I had a checklist. I started packing a week in advance. I laid all my clothes out before neatly packing them in my duffel bag. And guess what? I still somehow managed to leave one of the most important items of the trip at home. Sigh. Thankfully, my friend Julie forgave my stupid error and let me borrow her extra pair of pants.
  19. Getting there is half the fun. The road-trip up to Oregon took about nine hours each way, and my friend Julie and I laughed, vented, shared and played little games (like taking turns listing proudest life moments) through redwood forests, small towns and big curving mountain roads. It was incredible, and I'm so glad we left ourselves extra days to enjoy the ride there and back.
  20. Life on the river is not about what you do, how you look or where you live. It is about who you are, how much fun you're having, and the connections you make with nature, with yourself, and with the people you are surrounded by.

Special thanks to Susan Fox, an incredible life coach and yoga teacher, who organized the trip and led two daily yoga sessions with the group. There is something magical about doing tree pose while staring at a river bank lined with lush green trees, moving into triangle and looking up to see a bald eagle soaring across the blue sky, flipping into waterfall pose (a backbend) with the sound of rushing water in the background, then later ending with savasana (corpse pose) by relaxing onto the hot rocks warmed by sunlight as we finished our practice. The yoga (and entire trip) was truly a little slice of heaven.

Namaste. :)

River Rafting - Group Photo


P.S. Hat tip to Grace Boyle for recommending the AWESOME book I started reading on the trip. Shantaram is a 900+ page door-stopper novel/memoir about a recovered heroin-addict who escaped over the front wall of an Australian prison (after being committed for armed robbery) who then fled to Bombay where he set-up a free medical clinic in the slums and started working for the Indian mafia. Crazy, right?! Grace also sent me an overview video from the author, Gregory David Roberts, a fascinating man whose book is a total page-turner must-read about life, love, regret and redemption.

P.P.S. Two great (free!) e-books came out while I was gone - check 'em out:

Gone Fishin'

I just read an awesome book, The Back of the Napkin: Solving Problems and Selling Ideas, and it inspired me to post this next update as a doodle:


That's right - starting tomorrow I am going to be UNPLUGGED for eight glorious days. My friend Julie and I are going on a road-trip to Oregon for a 5-day yoga/rafting expedition.

No gadgets, no computer, no email, no phone, no chargers. I will be officially detoxing from all things tech. See you all when I return the week of July 26!


P.S. Life After College now has a Facebook page - give 'er a like if you want to!

P.P.S. Gen Y'ers: My friend Lauren needs 30 more survey respondents to reach her goal of 1,000 for a Bowdich Research Study. Help her out if you can :)

The Sweet Sting of Rejection

I love chocolate-covered pretzels for their salty-sweet deliciousness. Rejection has similar contrasting qualities for me. At first it feels like salt in an open wound, then it almost always turns into something sweet later down the line. Don't get me wrong -- I don't love getting rejected, but I don't hate it either. In fact, part of me kind of likes it. If I get rejected, I know I tried. I put myself out there. I know I can stand tall and later say, "their loss!" (you know...the classic heartbreak recovery line).

"All great innovations are built on rejections.” −Louis Ferdinand Celine

A Few of My Favorite (hah - I only say that now) Rejections

The examples below are three of my most memorable rejections. Badges of honor. In one sense I am still baffled by them, but in another I know that they helped me get to know myself better and make other plans, proud that at least I put myself out there. (My friend Srinivas Rao wrote a post recently called "8 Failures that Have Led Me to Where I'm at Today" - a great read along similar lines)

  • Colleges - My senior year of high school, after I won the California Journalist of the Year award (and made it as a national finalist), I got rejected from Northwestern's Medill School of Journalism. I also got rejected from every East Coast school I applied to. So much for my dream of being a journalist and/or moving across the country. I absolutely loved UCLA (it led to the start-up that led to this blog), but a part of me still feels incomplete never having lived outside of California.
  • My book - it got turned down by 27 different publishers before I got an offer. They all had their reasons, but the most popular were: my topic was too generic and had no "hook," my platform wasn't big enough, my audience doesn't buy books, it won't sell past graduation season, and the "after college" market is too competitive. Each rejection stung a little bit, and the compound effect of hearing about rejection after rejection was discouraging, but not nearly as bad as I thought it would be. I kept the faith because I knew that it would just take one offer. And I couldn't be happier with the one that I got.

My dad has a dating theory that men should get rejected once per day - it means they are doing their due diligence of putting themselves out there. Just like the saying "do something each day that scares you," maybe we should all risk rejection in some way at least once per day.

Stings So Sweet: The Bite and the Aftermath

In the first few moments (or more), rejection stings. It sucks. My stomach drops. I feel overcome by disappointment. Sometimes I feel embarrassed, or I question my abilities and my worth. I wonder if I was crazy to think whatever I was going for had a chance of success. I wonder if I should have even tried in the first place. A mini-dream is deflated.

But then things turn around. I start to chalk it up to eliminating one more bad fit. I might even smile a little bit. I am one step closer to finding the right path, the one I am meant to be on. I get another "I tried" badge, and I have more stories to tell. Maybe the rejecting party knows something I don't about why it wouldn't have worked out. Or maybe they screwed up and couldn't recognize a good thing when they had the chance. "How could this happen?" turns into "YOU want to reject ME?" which leads to "I'll show you..." -- and it gives me even more motivation to succeed.

The Bottom Line:

How boring would life be if we got everything we wanted all of the time? Look how well that worked out for Veruca Salt.

So lift a glass (or a cupcake) and let's celebrate. To any rejections you've racked up - past or present - CHEERS!


P.S. Congrats to Hayley who won the Suze Orman Road to Wealth book giveaway!

Video: Suze Orman Book Giveaway

I know you are all probably out barbecuing, soaking up the sun and generally unwinding - or so I hope - but it's book giveaway time again! I am giving away a copy of Suze Orman's The Road to Wealth (this one is the size of a door stop - it covers everything money-related you could ever want to know). Watch the video below for instructions on how to enter (hint: it's related to my money manifesto). The deadline is Friday, July 9, at which point I will pick a winner via

I am headed to Brazil to deliver coach training for a group of managers next week...wish me luck!

Happy Fourth of July weekend, everyone!


P.S. If you're in the mood to watch another short video, check out my thoughts on digital literacy - a submission for George Haines' video project. George is an elementary school teacher in New York working on an awesome video compilation about technology for his students:

Freedom: My Money Manifesto

This post is a submission for the 20SB Blog Carnival on Friends & Money. The blog carnival is sponsored by Charles Schwab, which happens to be my long-time bank. I've been "talking to Chuck" since I first started fumbling through my finances as an independent adult; Schwab has helped me save and invest and cash-out for big purchases, always with great customer service.

20SB is an awesome community of 20-something bloggers with a membership of 12,000+ strong - I highly recommend checking it out. If you are already a member let's be friends! Check-out the new 20SB Cafe Press Store too...I just bought myself a nice little tank top for summer.

Freedom: My Money Manifesto

I've talked before about how we all have different motivations when it comes to money; that money is merely a means to an end. My end is freedom (by way of independence) - and it is based on two core principles:

  • I made a promise to myself a long time ago - before I ever started collecting paychecks - to never stay in a job or a relationship because I can't afford to leave.
  • When I was in college my mom told me that even if I get married someday, I should always know how to support myself. I should always know where my money is going, how to bring home a steady paycheck, and how to pay the bills if anything ever happened (like death or divorce).

These two ideas drive almost every financial decision I have ever made. Since the day I started earning money consistently in college, I have always had a second source of income on the side. Whether it was getting paid to take lecture notes, babysitting, doing web development tutoring, coaching or most recently the book - I have always had my main paycheck and my "hustle" check.

Both fund my independence. Independence from credit card debt and from the fear or not being able to pay my bills on time. It is important to me that I'm not waiting for or depending on another person to fund my financial goals. Of course I look forward to dreaming with the person I eventually marry and to making big things happen as a team, but I won't go into a marriage expecting him to save me or to pay for things that I couldn't pay for myself.

So I bought myself a condo, a diamond ring and a new car (paid in full). I max out my 401(k). I am still paying off my student loan, but I don't have credit card debt. I scored 95/100 on Charles Schwab's Financial Fitness Check-Up Tool. According to the quiz, the only thing I'm missing is a will (I'll get on that soon, Suze, I promise!). I realize that some people might feel suffocated or tied down by these purchases - the exact opposite of freedom - but for me, they create a sense of comfort. I'm not sharing my financial report card to make you feel bad - and I really hope I haven't. I'm sharing because it's important to me that I put my money where my mouth is.

My mouth is on freedom and independence - on always being able to support myself. I bought those things because they helped me feel free. And if there is anything I want to tell or show my friends about money, it is that you can get a handle on it too.

It is important to note that we are all in different places - some have high paying jobs, some do not. Some don't have jobs at all. Some have families who can help out, some do not. I am incredibly fortunate to have had a steady paycheck for the last six years, and a family that is willing to help me out a little bit when I stretch to make big purchases.

Friends and Money

This post is supposed to be about friends and money. I try to stay out of my friends' business when it comes to money, but I find that a lot of them come to me for help, advice, or even just a little inspiration.

In the last two years, two of my friends got divorced. One was married for 15 years, and met her husband when she was 20 years old. The other was married for 10, and has a young daughter to support. When they couldn't see the other side of their financial picture, I helped reassure them that it would be okay. That they could get their finances figured out. That they could learn how to pay bills and rent on their own, even though for many years they had shared those responsibilities with another person.

I wanted to show my friends that they could stand on their own two financial feet even as they walked through heartache. I was living proof that you can be a single woman, manage your money, and still find ways to be fabulous. They looked to me and I told them it would all work out. That I would be right here. And that they could do it. And they did.

It's Never Too Late

It doesn't matter whether you are 25 or 45 years old, it is never too late to start getting a handle on your money. If you are looking for a place to start, I suggest the following three things:

  1. Admit your fears and flaws -- what are you afraid of? What are your biggest financial weaknesses? What do you avoid when it comes to managing your money? Check out my previous post: The Emotional Side of Money.
  2. Raise your Awareness -- what is your current state of affairs? How much money do you have in the bank? How much debt? What is your monthly income and outflow? Check out my Four-Step Budget for help getting this figured out.
  3. Start somewhere -- At the very least, sign-up for so that you know where your money is going. Next step? Set-up a short-term savings account (I use ING Direct), and start having $50 automatically deposited every month for an Emergency Fund. To see how I distribute my money, check out A Day in the Life of My Paycheck.

My Hope for All of Us

What I want most for myself, for my friends, and for all of you is to see money as a source of freedom, not imprisonment. Of empowerment, not guilt or shame. Of conscious choices, not feelings of frustration or ignorance. No matter where you are starting from today, I know that you can do it.

Forget for a minute about how much money you have in the bank. I wish I could look you square in the eyes, but for now just hear me when I say: you are worth a million dollars, no matter what your bank statement says. You are smart, creative and resourceful. There is nothing you can't figure out. Even this. Especially this.


For more Schwab resources: check-out their new site aimed at young adults. They have also recently launched Money Mondays, a series of weekly money tips, and a Twitter account @schwabmoneywise. To submit a post for the 20SB Blog Carnival, post drop a link to your post here by midnight on June 30th, and tweet with the hashtag #$friends.

Disclaimer: This post is part of the 20SB Blog Carnival: Friends & Money, sponsored by Charles Schwab. Prizes may be awarded to selected posts. The information and opinions expressed in this post do not reflect the views or opinions of Charles Schwab. Details on the event, eligibility, and a complete list of participating bloggers can be found here.

Success Demons…and a Signed Contract

I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. Partly because of the book deal, but partly because I got propped up by a small army of support these last two weeks by having all of you celebrate with me. Every tweet, text, email, call, facebook note, hug and high-five just filled me to the brim with gratitude. This book finally feels real -- thanks to you. Enter the Success Demons...Right on Cue

Just like clockwork when I feel that warm-fuzzy happiness wash over me, I immediately start hearing my success demons knocking at the door. These are different than my inner critic. My inner critic is good at hitting me when I'm down: "Of course you're lonely, you aren't lovable." BAH! I get angry just typing that! Because I know it's not true. But it happens.

My success demons, on the other hand, are new - and I'm only just discovering how pernicious they can be. The success demons come out the minute I start feeling relaxed and joyful. They say things like:

  • You don't deserve to be happy
  • You have it too good - the other shoe is going to drop any minute.
  • Be careful, when things are THIS good, someone you love could get sick or die or you could lose your house or job
  • You just got lucky. What are you celebrating for?

Life is a roller coaster - OF COURSE bad things could happen at any minute. But it is such a shame to let these angry, ugly demons rain on the fun parade without reason. I never used to understand the quotes that talked about people being more afraid of success than failure. But now I do. Because with success comes the fear that it could all disappear at any minute. And the fear that somehow it's too early - or too much - to be celebrating.

Mind Like Water

When the success demons come roaring, particularly the one about bad things about to happen, I remind myself of a popular zen saying "mind like water," which means the following: when you throw a stone into a lake, the lake ripples in proportion to the size of the stone. It doesn't start rippling BEFORE the stone hits (nervous anticipation), and it doesn't ripple for long AFTER the stone hits. It just reacts, then returns to it's normal calm state. Stress comes from regrets about the past or worrying about the future - so if I can just come back to what is in front of me TODAY, it usually helps.

Two books that have been tremendously helpful for me in this area: The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks (which talks about the upper limits we place on ourselves) and Taming Your Gremlins (a book with a lighthearted, exercise-based approach to dealing with your inner critic) by Rick Carson.

Success demons be gone! I have one more celebration to share

Here's another example of a success demon: I signed my book contract on Wednesday after months of nervous anticipation, and it was one of the happiest, proudest moments of my life. Seeing the words "Author: Jenny Blake" on a legal document brought tears to my eyes. I've dreamed about this since I was a little girl reading in the Green Apple Bookstore every day after school, dog-earing pages because I knew I'd be back the next day.

But when it came time to share this monumental moment on my blog I thought, "People are so sick of hearing about your success! Give it a rest already." Ouch! So I debated whether to say post the video or the pictures my friend Julie took to commemorate the event. Then I realized those are just more success demons rearing their ugly heads. Because even if someone out there is sick of me, someone might be happy! And as Marianne Williamson says, "your playing small does not serve the world." So here I go...

Video #1 - Signing my book contract! (42 seconds long)

Video #2 - An outtake, just for fun :)

The "million dollar signature" - up close and personal signed book contract

Thank you. For just being here. For letting me celebrate, and for celebrating with me.

LAC Book: Crowd-Sourced Wisdom for College Grads - Join in the fun!

THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart to those of you who participated in the epic two-hour #u30pro chat last week - we had over 1,300 tweets (transcript here) and 180 participants! I am honored and incredibly grateful for all of the excitement, replies and ideas; the book definitely just got 1,000 times better. If you missed the chat but still want to submit tips for the book, now's your chance!

Here's how to submit a response:

    Twitter Bird

  1. Read the questions below.
  2. Send me an @reply on Twitter (I'm @jenny_blake) or tweet with the #LACBook hashtag (both if you have room).
  3. Make sure you include the question number
  4. I would really appreciate if you could retweet, share on Google Reader and send this post to your friends - the more tips and opinions, the better :)
  5. Submit as many replies as you would like before the deadline: Fri. June 18
  6. Please also make sure you are following me - if your quote makes it into the book, I'll need to DM you a release form (help me get a head start by filling it out now)
  7. Example tweet from the lovely Grace Boyle: gracekboyle Q10: Blessing in disguise was starting my blog. It unexpectedly led to my job, friends, roommate, and new life in Boulder #LACBook

Quick background for any new visitors: I'm working on a book for college graduates to be published next Spring by Running Press (a division of Perseus). The book is a compilation of tips, quotes, advice, exercises and recommended reading for every area of someone's life after college.

There are 10 chapters, and each will contain "crowd-sourced" wisdom from Twitter. If you want to follow the book's progress, sign-up for my monthly(ish) “inside scoop” book newsletter or click here to read the archives.

Twitter Questions for the Life After College book

  1. Life - Finish this sentence: When I graduated from college I wish I had known...
  2. Money - What's your philosophy when it comes to saving and/or spending money? Best tip?
  3. Work - What is the best career advice anyone ever gave you?
  4. Home - How can someone make the most of their living space? Any tips for living with roommates?
  5. Organization - What's one technique you use to stay organized and/or manage your time effectively?
  6. Friends & Family - How do you keep in touch and make time for friends and family after college? Strategies for meeting new people?
  7. Dating & Relationships - What's the biggest lesson you've learned from past (or present) relationships?
  8. Health - What diet, exercise or health habits have helped you stay healthy after college?
  9. Fun & Relaxation - How do you make time for fun & relaxation after college? Any tips for doing both on budget?
  10. Personal Growth - What has been your biggest blessing-in-disguise life experience since graduating from college?
  11. Extra Question: What general advice do you have for recent college graduates?
  12. Extra Question: Finish this sentence: Life after college is...

Thank you so much in advance - I already can't wait read all of your replies!


And thanks again to Lauren, David and Scott for letting me partner with #u30pro to launch this campaign. If you're interested in joining future chats, they run every Thursday from 8-9EST.

Ladies and Gents we have a BOOK DEAL!!! Want in? Read on.

That's a random picture of me looking really happy (slash weird) in San Francisco. Crazy wind! I type this post with almost as much excitement as the time Suze Orman said my name. Oh, who am I kidding?! I CAN BARELY CONTAIN MYSELF and I've been bursting to tell you this for weeks:

We have a book deal!!!!

Important note: the contract has NOT been signed yet, which is partly why I was waiting so long to update you. It could take a few more weeks, but the process is moving forward. Let's hope this blog post doesn't jinx anything!

Running Press - it's got a nice ring to it, don't you think?

After the handful of meetings I had when my literary agent sent out the proposal in March, Running Press, a division of Perseus based in Philadelphia, made an offer to publish my book by Spring 2011. SPRING 2011! A book! A real one! In less than a year.  A huge thank you is in order to my agent Sarah for helping make this happen.

If you want the FULL nitty gritty details (including helpful writing-related links and resources) sign-up for my monthly(ish) "inside scoop" book newsletter or click here to read the archives.

The manuscript draft is due July 1, which is just three short weeks away. Nothing like a little (okay HUGE) deadline to light a fire under your ass, right?! Thankfully I have most of it written - except for one major piece of every chapter. That's where you come in.

Want to see your name in print?

My book is a compilation of tips, quotes, advice, exercises and recommended reading for every area of someone's life after college. The chapters are: Life, Work, Money, Home, Organization, Friends & Family, Dating & Relationships, Health, Fun & Relaxation, and Personal Growth.

Each chapter of the book will contain crowd-sourced wisdom from Twitter, and I've partnered with #u30pro to launch the campaign tomorrow - wuhoo! (HUGE thank you to Lauren, David and Scott who run the chat).

Here's how it will work:

We will be asking questions for the book during the #u30pro chat tomorrow from 7EST-9EST (4PST-6PST), and you should join! After all, who better to advise college grads than all of you brilliant, beautiful people? (Lauren suggests using TweetChat to follow the conversation).

If you know you are going to participate, it would be great if you could fill out this release form. Otherwise I will follow-up with you afterward if your tweet/s get selected.

If you can't make the chat tomorrow, don't worry - I'll post the questions early next week to give everyone else a chance to reply.

Want to do me a huge favor?

Spread the word and rally the troops - and thanks in advance for what I know will be a ton of great additions to the book! I'm a big believer in The Wisdom of the Crowds - this book just won't be the same without all of your input and ideas.


Serendipity & The Art of Being Alone

This just in: the woe is me cloud from two weeks ago lifted this past weekend and I've never felt more myself. Wuhoo!

On a recent trip to New York City for work, I followed all of your advice and I slowed down. Way down. So much that I didn't even tell anyone I was going to be there. Sorry to any New Yorkers I didn't get a chance to see!

I selfishly left the weekend wide open for myself to just be me - to traipse around and do whatever I felt like at any given moment. No plans, no commitments.

Actually, I did have a plan for the weekend, but it didn't work out. When Plan A failed I was determined not to let it ruin my weekend. So I quickly moved to Plan B: enjoy Manhattan and be FABULOUS. Get dressed up just for fun. Spend time alone without cramming my weekend full of plans and see what happens. And let me tell you, the Universe delivered.

Dancing, Dining and Shopping Solo

I'll spare you the diary-like entry of exactly what transpired over the weekend and just give you the highlights of my time alone:

  • On Friday night after Plan A didn't work out, I had dinner by myself at The Standard Grill. The Food & Beverage manager sent over dessert and champagne on the house. We became friends and he took care of me for the rest of the weekend.
  • On Saturday morning I went to yoga class outside overlooking the Hudson River with a view of the Statue of Liberty. Heavenly.
  • After yoga I put on my favorite dress, walked down to the Christian Louboutin boutique, and checked a big splurge purchase off of my life checklist.
  • I met an amazing woman at the Louboutin store and we became instant friends. We went to a two-hour lunch at The Collective, then she snuck us into the Bagatelle Bistro (a famous brunch spot with a daytime DJ), where we spent the rest of the afternoon dancing on booths and sipping champagne. (Here's a great article that describes the experience)
  • When I got back, I started breaking in my new shoes by dancing around my hotel room before Saturday night's solo dinner. Fabulously fun.

So those are the highlights! Sure, there were lows. But for each one, I quickly picked myself up. I made the effort to look my best (even if I didn't always feel my best at first) and go out alone. In return I made new friends, had great new experiences, and most of all - rediscovered my sense of freedom and confidence. I felt proud of myself again.

I was reminded this weekend that when you honor yourself and make (what can be hard) choices to slow down and spend time alone, the Universe takes care of you. Thank you Universe for taking care of me.


P.S. New York City, I love you. I hope I see you again soon.

P.P.S. On a completely unrelated note, my friend Kevin Smokler is looking for two unpaid interns to work at this summer. As Kevin says, "The internship is technically unpaid but we fully intend to shower said interns with free books, gift baskets, good will and career advice/introductions." Sounds awesome! If you're interested read more here.

Guest Post: How I Outsource My Life to Over 13 People (by Gopi Kallayil)

Note from Jenny: When my friend and fellow Googler Gopi Kallayil first told me he outsources his life to over a dozen people, my jaw dropped in awe. I'm having a hard time figuring out how to outsource to one! (An unpaid intern if anyone is looking for a cool gig. And by cool, I mean I need your help to even figure out how to help). So I asked Gopi how he does it, and he replied with an email summary of his outsourcing tactics. I was absolutely blown away! Talk about priorities - Gopi has figured out how to employ dozens of people to make his life easier - and let me tell you - it works. Gopi is one of the kindest, happiest, most generous, and energetic people I know! His enthusiasm for life is contagious, which you can see for yourself in his award-winning Toastmasters speech, My Cup Runneth Over.

Even if we are all at varying places in our lives to afford this kind of outsourcing (though some would argue we can't afford NOT to), I hope you'll get a kick out of seeing how Gopi manages his life.

How I Outsourced My Life Away (by Gopi Kallayil)

There are some things that are perfectly egalitarian on this planet. Birth and death for one. And the fact that in between we all have 24 hours each day of our life. President Obama gets 24 and I get 24. But as our lives get busier and there are more choices for us it becomes difficult to do everything we want to in 24 hours. So we lead frenzied, busy lives, lurching from one commitment to another under the tyranny of schedules.

That is when I stumbled upon a concept that shifted my paradigm. You can BUY time in a free market capitalist economy and as a result have 28 or 32 or 36 hours in a day. I first read about it when A.J. Jacobs tried personal outsourcing and wrote an article in Esquire titled "My Outsourced life" which has done its rounds around the Internet. His point was that corporations were outsourcing so individuals could do likewise. Rock stars and Hollywood celebrities have assistants. So can regular folk like me.

My inspiration came from Timothy Ferriss, author of the best seller "The 4-Hour Work week"  when he spoke at Google (video). His compelling logic is as follows: Take your annual salary and divide it by 2,000 hours which is the number of hours people in America work on average. The resulting number is the economic value of an hour of your time based on your current compensation. Let us say that number is $40 for example. If there is something you need to get done but it is not your passion and someone else can do it for you for less than your hourly cost ($40 in this example) then you should give it to them and use that hour to focus on your passion and joy.

Simple! So I read his book, followed through and did much of the outsourcing he does, plus some more I have invented. It is likely, you may assume, that this is the lifestyle of the rich and the famous. I am discovering it is not and that you could get help as little as $4 an hour or even $0.

Here is what I have done to outsource my life:

  • Personal Assistant — I have a personal assistant in India through Getfriday. Her name is Nancy. Nancy sits in Bangalore but can handle anything that can be done on the phone or web. For example, if I am going on vacation she will stop my mail and all my subscriptions. Once my car got broken into and my navigator was stolen and she arranged for a repair shop to come in to my office in the San Francisco bay area and replace the glass before ordering a new navigator on the web. She saved me so much money by calling around and finding the best provider that with one transaction she paid for her fees for the next two months. In addition it may have taken 45 minutes of my time which would be difficult to find on a work day. So the problem would not have been resolved for several weeks.
  • Personal Organizer — There is stuff that accumulates around my house - books, mail, photos, CDs, bills, etc. Stuff that keeps piling up on my desk and kitchen counter and dining table. Erinne is my personal organizer and she comes in for a few hours on some weekends. We work together around my home office and in two hours my study is clutter-free and all my to-do items are in two small folders labeled "Urgent" and "Medium Priority." The psychic energy of having a clutter-free office is tremendous.We execute as a team for a few hours and I am done with home office work for another two weeks till things pile up again. But thanks to this system I can find find things when I need them such as a favorite CD, book, that picture from my reunion or the receipt for the music system I bought two years ago and need for warranty repairs.
  • Webmaster — I have my own website where I am interested in writing content but not in dealing with the technicalities. So I found Viggie in Madurai, India to maintain my personal website.
  • Housekeeper — Alma my housekeeper comes in a couple of times a month to tidy up, She is fantastic and does a terrific job. Thanks to her expertise and my own effort to keep it so in between her visits my house feels like a home. It is a haven for me.
  • Personal Chefs — I like entertaining but lack extensive gourmet culinary skills. Through Craig's List I found a few excellent personal chefs. When I host a dinner party we do menu planning together; one of us does the shopping, and we cook and get the place ready as a team. In this case I am not technically outsourcing to a caterer; however, since entertaining is something I enjoy (but don't have all the expertise) I am using an expert to complement my meager skills in this area.
  • Interior Decorator — As I mentioned before my home is my haven and sanctuary. I want it to look and feel that way. Kulvi my designer and I work closely together on the aesthetics. It is primarily my self-expression but Kulvi layers on her ideas. Other advantages including getting furniture from some show rooms that are open only during business hours (so hard for me to go) and open only to designers. And special prices only available to designers.
  • Editor — I love writing but need a skilled editor to polish my articles. My friend Nicky in the UK does a fantastic job like she did here.
  • Speech Coaching — I am a competitive public speaker and very active with Toastmasters. There are experienced toastmasters like my coach Henry who take me under their wing and provide the coaching when I am in competitions.
  • Graphics Artist — When I need very sophisticated graphics for my presentations I reach out to my long time graphics artist Kathy who I know from my McKinsey days. She takes my rudimentary designs and magically transforms them.
  • Bike, Run, Swim Coaching — I am a member of the Silicon Valley Triathlon Club which costs me around $5 a month. For that nominal fee I get free biking, running, and swimming coaching by some extraordinary athletes.
  • Handyman — Scott the handyman takes care of all the stuff around the house that need fixing and does a much more professional job than I could if were installing garden lights on my own.
  • Gardener — I have only indoor plants as the property association takes care of the ones outside, but historically there has been cultural herbicide at my place. Plants readily shrivel and die under my care. So Louis helps me pick the right plants from nurseries and keep them alive despite my efforts. I have him come over about once every three months.
  • Wardrobe consultant — Now you are all laughing real hard. So I will stop here. But I do I get some help from a friend and from a professional; both of them have a good taste in styles and labels, which saves me the trouble of dealing with the bewildering experience that clothes shopping is for me. Jenny doubts if it has made a difference. (Note from Jenny: Not true - Gopi always looks amazing!)

But don't you need a fortune to live this way?

Now I am sure you must be wondering how one affords all this if you are not a rock star or the Sultan of Brunei, which I am not. The well keep secret that I learned from Timothy Ferriss is that you can take advantage of free market capitalism, labor market arbitrage, and currency exchange rates and get all this for some relatively inexpensive rates.

For example, my website designer is $4 an hour and spends about 5 hours a month on my website, so that is a $20 bill. The triathlon club fees are about $5 a month and for that you get free coaching in three sports 2-3 times a week. Toastmasters dues are $3 a month and experienced members are always happy to be mentors. A personal assistant can be as low as $10 a month and for a 5 to 10 hours of their time you pay a nominal fee but get lots done.

More importantly, what do I do with the time that I've freed up? Focus quite exclusively on five things that are important to me and I want to spend most of my time on. Those five are:

  • Personal growth and spiritual practice
  • Family and friends
  • Physical, mental, emotional, financial health
  • Professional passions, which currently is my work at Google doing marketing
  • Personal passions, which includes global travel, yoga, public speaking and live music

Here is an example of the kind of trade-off I am making: I teach free yoga lessons and have done so ever since I trained to be a yoga instructor in India. This is my gift to the world. I am consciously choosing to pay someone to take care of tasks that are not my passion so that it frees up two hours a week when I can teach yoga for free.

How successful am I with this concept? Modestly successful, although this is still a work in progress.

Good luck if you choose to go down this path.


About Gopi: During the day, Gopi Kallayil works as a marketer at Google. He also teaches yoga, travels the world, speaks, writes, sings, lives freely and joyously. At other times he espouses radical ideas like outsourcing your life and can be a general threat to orderly, civil society. Visit his website or follow him on Twitter.

What if I was just myself?

The last time I was in Las Vegas with my high school friends, I sprung up from a six-hour stint of lounging in bed to write a blog post titled Stop Auditioning for Other People's Lives. I was hit with a wave of inspiration, as so often happens when I travel and get out of my daily routine. This time in Las Vegas (Bloggers in Sin City FTW!), I came to a similar conclusion through the amazing love and support of a blogger I met there; an instant soul-sister and a wise, wise woman. If you don't already subscribe to Chelsea Talks Smack, do so immediately. She is an absolute rock-star (literally), and inspired this week's thought:

What if I was just myself?

  • What if I let myself feel my feelings instead of stuffing them down and pretending they don't exist?
  • What if I stopped measuring myself by my accomplishments and productivity and number of emails sent per day?
  • What if I told you all that I don't have it all figured out? If you haven't already noticed ;-)
  • What if I let you see the fun, crazy side in addition to the professional one?

I'll tell you what: I'd have more fun, for starters. I wouldn't burst into tears the minute someone asks me about dating and relationships. I'd be a clean-burning fire, and contribute positive, cheerful energy to a room the way that I know I can. I'd sprinkle my "gold dust" around and I would lift people up.

I would take care of myself so that I could be there for others. So that I could be truly happy for them and celebrate their successes even in the areas that I feel most stuck. I would relax. And feel a little happier...a little more joyful.

The Grace in Falling Apart

Pam Slim wrote a fantastic post today called The Grace in Falling Apart. For the most part, I have my shit together. Look! I swore on my blog! Letting loose already! But there is a part of me that desperately wants to fall apart. And I would like to let her. She's been cooped up long enough.

Don't worry, falling apart doesn't mean running away or doing anything drastic. It just means admitting that I actually have FEELINGS (and letting them out), which isn't always easy for me to do. 

Denial: The Busy Person's Answer To Feelings

According to my Enneagram type (I am obsessed with personality tests and The Widsom of the Enneagram book is amazing), Achievers tend to suppress their feelings by staying busy (Sandboxed Life, much?). They avoid intimacy because they can get more done and keep up the success mask that way. Their basic fear is of being worthless outside of their achievements.

Achievers fear that "closeness will allow others to see that they actually do not have it all together." So rather than risk rejection, "they will typically try to pull themselves together and achieve more so that others will be satisfied with them."

Their motto? "Feelings are like speed bumps - they just slow me down." Tell me if that doesn't sound exactly like the ecards I made five months ago! (Rule: if you click on the links you're supposed to laugh).

I'd make a terrible robot

As another wise teacher (who gave me the courage to actually hit "publish" on this post) told me recently: "The most beautiful part of you is that you are vulnerable. That at your core you are a normal, sensitive girl...even though you hide it with an extraordinarily hard shell. Hiding any insecurity or fear is just plain silly because everyone has insecurities and fears. That's what makes us humans and not bots. People will love you regardless of any shortcoming you may think you have."

So that's my assignment this week (and beyond). To stop hiding, to keep sharing and to keep feeling. And to just be myself.


P.S. Now someone please crack a joke, because all this feeling talk is making me uncomfortable! Time for a good laugh! Or a cupcake. Or another trip to Las Vegas with 70+ awesome bloggers. Is it time for #BiSC 2011 yet?

May Mash-Up: Random Thoughts, Quotes, Advice & Links

I'd like to take a quick break from my regular programming to bring you another hodge-podge post in which I just throw out random links, features, quotes and tips. Take what you want and throw out the rest! A Personal Update: It's not quite the beach, but it's a start! Headed to Las Vegas, Baby

I'm writing this post at the San Francisco airport, en route to Las Vegas for what I already know will be an awesome weekend with 60+ bloggers for the second annual Bloggers in Sin City trip, organized by the fabulous Nicole Antoinette.

I wrote a post a while back called "The Blogger IS Real...But Even Better IRL" - I'm so excited for this trip because I love meeting fellow bloggers offline. Read Elisa's post, "How Blogging Got Me a Best Friend" for a great story how it brought the two of us together!

For a little insight into what I'm like when I'm not buried in my laptop, read the "Introducing Jenny" post from the BiSC blog, in which I talk about my love for dancing on stage. As Nicole joked in the comments (but is actually serious), "Advance warning: this trip will contain a lot of 'Oh yeah Jenny? THIS is life after college, huh?' references." What can I say? Fun is DEFINITELY part of life after college. So you better believe I'm going to be having some!

Awesome Reader Re-Connection: Interview at Brand-Yourself

Now this is a cool story. Katharine Hoffman, from, reached out a few weeks ago to interview me for their blog. I didn't realize until the post went up today that I actually coached her two years ago! In her intro she says, "Although she may not remember this, I had actually spoken to the fabulous Jenny Blake two years ago about my quarter-life crisis.  Even though we only talked on the phone for about an hour, it was one of the best hours I had spent because she really gave me some great advice and inspiration on how to move forward."

Katharine was one of the earliest readers and commenters at Life After College (thanks for sticking around!), and it's just so amazing to reconnect (and know that I made even a small difference in her life). Click here to read the full interview, in which I talk about coaching, blogging, and dealing with the oh-so-lovely quarter-life crisis.

Introducing Molly Hoyne's Coaching Program - The Joy Equation

Speaking of coaching and navigating quarter-life crises (how on earth do you write that in plural form?!) - Molly Hoyne, the inspiring woman behind (which also has an awesome blog), recently re-launched her Joy Equation program. The Joy Equation is a 30-day guided program that helps you "tackle the quarter-life crisis, gain confidence in yourself and love your life." The best part? You pay what you can afford - there is no set cost. Learn more here.

A Heartfelt Thank You for the Amazing "Sandboxed Life" Replies (and some follow-up advice)

So many people reached out after my post on Monday with words of support an encouragement - thank you. It absolutely means the world to me. I hope they don't mind, but I wanted to share a few of their great words of wisdom for anyone else who finds themselves in a stressed or overwhelmed state:

  • From David: "When you make room for yourself, you make room for other things/people in your life. Things/people that may actually help you relax more by doing less…which translates to less stress and more happiness. So remember to breathe.Some ways to put time back into your day:
    • Keep social networking, e-mailing and blogging to a bare minimum.
    • Surround yourself with people who energize you, but don’t try to compete with their energy.
    • Find something, and/or someone, that calms you at the end of your day. You need to get your stress out and you need someone to lean on.
    • Laugh more. Worry less. (And cuddle a Bulldog every night.)
  • From Ryan: "We all have times where it seems too much, but it's within those times that you find that second gear, or you quit.  Just like running your marathon, I'm sure you wanted to quit a few times in there, but you didn't, and you finished...The day we figure everything out is a sad day because that means we've stopped growing."
  • From Eve: "Just be selfish.  Take care of YOU, because no one else will.  At the end of your life, you will not regret any of the choices you make, as long as you listen to what you know is right.  And you do know what is right, you just may not know that you know it."
  • From Alex: "I handle stress/panic in a few ways. I have two people I call... they are like my lifelines. I also know to stop doing whatever is making me anxious, take a walk or just get up and move around, chug a bunch of water and take deep breaths. Yoga has helped a lot. I also allow myself to feel anxious or upset in the moment. I don't hold in my emotions. This has taken my entire life to learn, but if I need to cry, I cry. Something so simple makes a huge difference."
  • From my Dad: "Think of yourself like a great pyramid of Egypt with a very broad and strong foundation of love from many, many circles of family and friends.  There may be a bit of a dust storm at the top of this magnificent, bold and strong structure but it is composed of thousands of blocks of solid achievement on many many levels and in many many realms."
  • Thanks also to Stanley for reminding me about the 80/20 rule (for "ruthlessly cutting the fat"), Jason and Vidya for sending such helpful links, and to everyone else who reached out, commented, retweeted, or just sent brainwaves of happy thoughts!

Quote of the Week:

I'm a little embarrassed to admit that I subscribe to SIX daily quote newsletters. But they send out some gems from time-to-time that really get me thinking! This one is from Positive Quote of the Day:

"Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things." −Robert Brault

A Little Music for Your Weekend

If you like mash-up music (not just random catch-all blog posts), do yourself a favor and download Bootie's Best of 2009 CD (free). It's one of my favorite workout/dance CDs.

From time-to-time I also share random tunes I'm listening to on It's another random Web 2.0 service I don't quite understand (Formspring, anyone?), but what the heck! If you're on there, add me :)

My Sandboxed Life

"Is the life you're living worth the price you're paying for it?" —Quote from a Managing Your Energy class I recently took

If you bear with me on a ridiculously technical metaphor, this post will count as two credits toward your Geek 101 terminology education.

I live my life in sandboxes. Not the kind you find at a playground or in someone's fancy backyard (though I'm sure there are applicable metaphors in those too). Sandboxes as in computer security. Huh? I said bear with me! I'll tell you what that means in a minute.

Universe (to Me): How Many Times Do I Have to Tell You?! Go to Your Room. And Don't Come Out Until you Learn to Slow Down

I had a moment two weeks ago when I threw my hands up in the air and literally shouted "What do you want from me Universe?! I'm listening!" On a random Wednesday after finishing a few coaching sessions, I suddenly found myself curled miserably on the floor of a conference room at work. There I was, lying on my back after almost fainting 15 minutes earlier. I felt like I was going to throw-up just from sitting up to pick up the phone to cancel my next meeting. Sexy, I know. Almost as sexy as the eye twitch I'd been rocking that week.

You can probably see where this is going. I was feeling overworked and my body was worn-out. Because I had done nothing to change that, my body and the universe had been (and maybe still are?) in cahoots to keep smacking me upside the head until I started listening.

I've felt this way before. After I posted "Motivated by Achievement: A Blessing or a Curse?" one friend emailed to tell me she had the feeling I was like a house of cards ready to crumble. Ouch! That hurt, but only because I had a feeling she might be right; her statement was something worth looking at.

So what is a sandbox and how does it relate to my life (and maybe yours)?

After reflecting on what it means to slow down (something I generally have no concept of or capability for), I realized that I live my life in a carefully manicured, structured, sandboxed existence. What is a sandbox? From Wikipedia:

In computer security, a sandbox is a security mechanism for separating running programs. It is often used to execute untested code, or untrusted programs from unverified third-parties, suppliers and untrusted users.

The sandbox typically provides a tightly-controlled set of resources for guest programs to run in, such as scratch space on disk and memory. Network access, the ability to inspect the host system or read from input devices are usually disallowed or heavily restricted.

If my life is like a computer, then my time and activities are like carefully sandboxed programs. Every aspect gets a set amount of resources, all separated and fenced in, not allowed to interact with each other. Everything has a place, and that place does not change from week to week. I have set times for working out, for eating meals, for working, for blogging, for walking my dog, and even for having fun.

Do you know when I give myself the freedom to have fun just for the sake of fun? Saturday afternoons. Weeknights (including Fridays) are for rest, Saturday nights are for friends, and Sunday nights are for work. It's exactly the same every week unless I'm traveling. And I wonder why I'm not dating! Apparently I left the dating sandbox out altogether.

Take me to the beach!

"At the beach, life is different. Time doesn't move hour to hour but mood to moment. We live by the currents, plan by the tides and follow the sun." −Unknown

I want more room to breathe. I want to loosen the reigns a little bit. I want to slow down, and even though I don't know how (and the thought of letting go of anything terrifies me a little bit), I want to.

I want to create more space in my life for ME. To just be me. And room for someone else to be there with me - without feeling like they are restricted to an assigned sandbox of my life.

I have no idea how to do this. But I'm saying it out loud. When it comes to slowing down and creating space, I'm committing to doing the best I can. Or not doing. I think that's actually the whole point.

Or as Andrew Norcross said, "instead of having a bunch of sandboxes, just go to the beach."

8 Ways to Organize Your Life with Google Docs

This is a re-print of a guest post I did last week for the Google for Students company blog. They're hosting a series of guest posts from Googlers who blog, and I was lucky enough to kick off the series! If you read Life After College regularly you've probably seen many of these templates already, but hopefully this will still serve as a nice re-cap. Important note: if any of the previews don't show up, you can still use the template. Google Docs has been picking some technical fights with me lately, and we haven't reconciled yet!

8 Ways to Manage Your Life After College with Google Docs

Life after college can be confusing and chaotic. As a veteran Googler, life coach, blogger, and productivity geek, it might not surprise you to know that I run my life with Google Docs. I’ve created templates to help organize almost every aspect of life after college, and I’m hoping they’ll help you get a handle on things too!

The great thing about using Google Docs & Spreadsheets is that they are easy to edit, accessible anywhere (any computer or your mobile phone), and you can share them with friends for added accountability and feedback. So without further ado...

1. Prepare for job interviews with the Job Interview One-Sheeter This template condenses nine key questions into a one-page "Cliff’s Notes" for your next job interview. Quickly articulate and refer back to your answers on nine key areas, including: strengths, goals, work-style, ideas, challenges you've overcome, questions for the interviewer and an answer to that dreaded "weaknesses" question.

2. Set career goals by creating a Professional Development Strategy To succeed in your career you need to take an active role in your learning and professional development. No one else will do it for you. This template will help you set a strategy around your professional development goals by walking you through three areas: Your Vision (short and long-term brainstorm about your desired impact, and what you want to do & have), The What (skills, knowledge, education, experience), and The How (quarterly benchmarks and resources).

3. Track conversations, professional contacts and potential mentors with the Networking Tracker Use this networking spreadsheet to track names of people you meet that you want have follow-up conversations with. The template eliminates the need to refer back to business cards - people's information is easily accessible online (and stored in one place). The tracker also makes it easy to skim through your list of contacts every few months and drop people a note if you haven't talked to them in a while.

4. Get your finances under control with the ever-so-simple Four-Step Budget Template Most budgets are too cumbersome to be useful (in my humble opinion). Check-out this handy four-step budget: After filling in income, must-have expenses and nice-to-have expenses, you'll get a "monthly allowance" for you to spend on discretionary items as you'd like, with the peace of mind of knowing that your main expenses are taken care of.

5. Have some fun! Dream big by creating a Life Checklist The principle of the life list is simple. You list all the things you want to do in life - big and small - then cross them off as you do them. This template will help you create a life checklist of your own. To see an example of my life checklist, click here.

6. Take an overall temperature check of your life with the Wheel of Life The Wheel of Life is a commonly used coaching exercise. It can help you examine each of the areas of your life and determine where you want to focus your attention. In this template the wheel is clearly a square :), and the cells automatically change color based on the values you enter (1-4=red, 5-7=yellow, 8-10=green).

7. Hold yourself accountable for strong health habits with the Fitness & Activity Weekly Tracker We all love checking things off a checklist, right? Use this template for tracking your weekly fitness activities (or anything else you want to track). You set the target goal for each activity (ex: run twice per week, strength training three times per week), and the spreadsheet will give you a countdown as you check-off various activities. It also totals your minutes per week, with a column for keeping notes and a place for tracking your weight.

8. Set-up a system for managing appointments with the Simple Appointment Tracking Spreadsheet If you do not have a place to keep track of recurring appointments (medical or otherwise), you will always be scratching your head trying to remember when you are next due – or forget about making the appointments completely. Set up a simple spreadsheet to track all of your recurring appointments and the relevant contact information in one place, then schedule reminders to actually make the next appointment one month before you are due.

I’d love to hear what you think after trying these - and please get in touch if you have requests for future templates!

Guest Post: Avoid Becoming a Health Cliche

Jenny's Note: This is a guest post from Matt Gartland, an awesome blogger I met at SXSW. Matt blogs at Healthy Lifestyle Design and Untemplater - and I love what he stands for. Matt's mission is to "make the world a healthier place by inspiring others to 'healthify' their help others design euphoric, meaningful, and remarkable lives through bold & uncompromising good health." I love it! So without further ado...

How to Avoid Becoming a Health Cliche (by Matt Gartland)

"There's no such thing as a free lunch." "Misery loves company." "All's fair in love and war."

Ah! Good ol' clichés - how we love them! But what is a "health cliché," why should you care about it, and how do you avoid becoming one? Fantastic questions! This is important stuff. So let's get some answers.

Clichés 101: A Crash Course

To comprehend a health cliché you should first understand the origins and evolution of clichés in general. Take this excerpt from Wikipedia, which I discovered via Seth Godin.

In printing, a cliché was a printing plate cast from movable type. This is also called a stereotype. When letters were set one at a time, it made sense to cast a phrase used repeatedly as a single slug of metal. "Cliché" came to mean such a ready-made phrase. The French word “cliché” comes from the sound made when the matrix is dropped into molten metal to make a printing plate.

This definition tells me that clichés are dull and unremarkable crayons used by those passionate about fitting in, detesting change, and coloring their blasé lives well inside the lines. But clichés aren't just boring. They're insidious promotions of broad generalities, narrow views, and tempered creativity. Alas, clichés reinforce the status quo and inspire many to be remarkably average. How lame.

So what is a health cliché?

Health clichés are potent propagations of these effects because they attack your most precious asset and energy source - your health. Here's how:

  • "I need to run a marathon to get healthy, and I don't like running."
  • "Becoming healthy is hard and expensive"
  • "My new year's resolution is to lose weight"
  • "I can't become healthy because I'm too busy"

Do you see the big picture tragedy here? The tragedy is all the people that sell their own health - and thus life - short because they believe in these pernicious and illegitimate health clichés.

Why should you care about health clichés?

Because we - those of you reading this - don't accept being unremarkable, being average, and being apathetic. We're bold, assertive, passionate, and tenacious. We're in the business of changing the world.

And yet, our monumental energy is typically applied to our professional careers, personal branding, income generation, networking, relationships, etc. We also haven't grown up in a society that has consistently and meaningfully advocated wholesome nutrition, the importance of regular fitness, and the adoption of wellness behaviors.

The result is profound - our collective health sucks. Please, don't take my word for it:

Our world is becoming less great because of our declining health. That's why we should all care. And that's where we can make a difference and change the world.

How do you avoid becoming a health cliché?

Good news! The secret to avoiding health clichés is dead-simple. As Seth Godin says, "The effective way to use a cliché is to point to it and then do precisely the opposite."

True, this Jedi mind-trick won't make you an overnight health sensation. But it will put you on (and keep you on) the path to becoming one. Want to see how this tactic works so effectively? Let's retaliate against the health clichés from above.

Health Cliché: "I need to run a marathon to get healthy, and I don't like running."

  • New Mindset: Running (especially a marathon) isn't the only way to get healthy. So, I'm not going to run and instead choose healthy pursuits that I enjoy - like hiking.
  • Practical Tip: Choose the physical activity you most enjoy and do that. Next week, do more of it. The week after, do even more, or add another fun physical activity. And invite friends and/or family to join in! (Note from Jenny: Try the Weekly Activity Tracker template to help with consistency and accountability).

Health Cliché: "Becoming healthy is hard and expensive"

  • New Mindset: Becoming healthy will be fun, liberating, and empowering when I define my own unique health plan. And being healthy isn't expensive because I'll reduce my unhealthy opportunity costs, reduce my food waste, and make smart buying decisions.
  • Practical Tip: Visualize and list-out all the life value you'll gain from defining and adopting a healthy lifestyle (e.g. I'll have more energy to spend with my kids or friends).

Health Cliché: "My new year's resolution is to lose weight"

  • New Mindset: My resolution today is to lose 8% body fat before July 4 and keep it off as part of my plan to design a unique, euphoric, and persistent healthy lifestyle.
  • Practical Tip: Specificity rules! Be clear, concise, and measured (e.g. dates & metrics) when setting your healthy lifestyle goals.

Health Cliché: "I can't become healthy because I'm too busy"

  • New Mindset: I will create and devote ample time to becoming healthy by eliminating busy work, minimizing my non-essential obligations, prioritizing my goals, and doing only what's important.
  • Practical Tip: Check your email less often, turn off auto-distractions, adopt regular media/technology fasts, delegate minutia, don't let people abuse your time, just life hack!

Great! Got it. What's next?

What's next is up to you. You're in control. You make the rules. You break the rules. You. And that's what designing a healthy lifestyle is all about. It's about you discovering the passions that inspire you towards greatness and designing a healthy lifestyle to get you there. Don't let health clichés get in your way.


About Matt: Matt Gartland is a healthy lifestyle geek extraordinaire, blogger, world traveler, lifestyle entrepreneur, coffee fanatic, web techie, and more. He writes at Healthy Lifestyle Design (HLD), where he unleashes his passion for remarkable and unconventional living propelled by amazing health. Follow Matt on Twitter and join the HLD Tribe on Facebook.

Promotions: 10 Tips for Moving Up the Corporate Ladder

I recently had the honor of being the featured guest on ChaChanna Simpson's BlogTalkRadio Show, A Stellar Day with ChaChanna. The 45-minute show, "Movin' on up in your company," covers how to have promotion conversations, tips for moving up the corporate ladder, and common promotion pitfalls to avoid. Listen here, or for those of you who don't have the patience to listen to audio (like me!), I've summarized my talking points below. Summary of my key points - 10 Tips for Moving Up the Corporate Ladder:

  1. Don't just focus on promotion as an end in itself - It's like losing weight: you can either focus solely on the number on the scale or on getting healthy overall. Getting healthy has many more fringe benefits. Similarly, don't just focus on the promotion itself. Focus more on the competencies, expectations and behaviors that will lead to a promotion; you'll be better off in the long run and most likely get there faster.
  2. Build your career like a pyramid not a ladder (Carol Bartz) - Don't be afraid of horizontal moves. Focus on finding work that is soul-stirring (as Tim Gunn would say) and make adjustments along the way. Much better (for most people) to focus on finding work that is a great fit rather than just on getting promoted. Sometimes you have to make a lateral move, but if it leads to greater happiness and productivity, it's probably worth it in the long run.
  3. Have the right conversations - ask your manager: what does success look like? In 3-6 months, what would you love to see me doing? What should I be doing to operate at the next level?
  4. Be an observer - Pay attention to people who have been recently promoted or who work in the level above you. What skills, experiences and attitudes do they have?
  5. Save the entitlement - You may think you deserve a promotion (and you might be ready) but also be aware that much of the time people think they deserve promotions earlier than their managers might think so. Be willing to compromise and navigate this through open, direct conversations. Also remember that it often depends on many factors outside of your job performance alone (the economy, other people in the company, etc).
  6. Networking is key - Often there will be more people involved in deciding whether to promote you than just your direct manager. Try to get experience working on projects that involve other leaders within the company.
  7. Want a promotion? Ask for more responsibility instead - In many companies, you pretty much have to already be operating at the next level before you get promoted. Keep this in mind. Keep asking for more responsibility.
  8. Stand out - Make yourself indispensable by being proactive, having a positive attitude and being a flexible "team player." Come up with ideas, solve problems before your manager asks. Do what it takes to be their right hand.
  9. Don't sacrifice your sanity just to work toward a promotion - It's not worth it! You'll get angrier and angrier if the promotion doesn't come right away, but mostly because YOU are giving too much. Keep the balance and remember to have fun, even as you're trying to move up the ladder.
  10. Focus on impact, not just output - As you are taking on more and more responsibility, focus on delivering quality work that makes an impact. Be able to show that the work you are doing is improving the company in a material way (for example: increasing sales, making processes more efficient, making programs more effective).

What did I miss? Any other tips for moving up the corporate ladder?


While you have your headphones on:

For those of you social media newbies out there, I also recently delivered a 40-minute webinar for People OnTheGo called "Accomplishing More with Less: 4 Social Media Tools You Don't Want to Live Without." I cover the basics of Google Reader, Delicious, TweetDeck and WordPress. Take a listen: Part 1 and Part 2.