One Day at a Time

"Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could; some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day; you shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense." —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Do you want to know how great things happen? Life achievements and big scary dreams? Buying a house, living a healthy lifestyle, making it to your 59th wedding anniversary (like my grandparents) or sticking to your intentions for 2010?

I'll tell you how. One day at a time. Let me say it again: ONE. DAY. AT. A. TIME. Sure, tomorrow is a new year, but today is a new day. Make the most of it. Take a baby step toward a goal. Give a new habit one more chance to stick. Climb one step higher up the mountain even if you are afraid of heights.

Life gets too overwhelming for me when i think about committing to something like good health or a human or a house for 30+ years. I don't know about you, but I find thoughts like that paralyzing, and an open invitation for my saboteur to swoop in and show me all the ways I'll screw it up. So stop scaring yourself out of big things. You don't have to do great things all at once, for the rest of eternity. You just have to give it your best shot on any given day. And that day is today.

"Renew thyself completely each day; do it again, and again, and forever again." —Chinese inscription cited by Thoreau in Walden

I'll skip the "be here now" and "be present" cliches and just say this: whether it's a New Years resolution, a big dream, or some other scary endeavor that leaves you feeling vulnerable, uncertain, and maybe even stupid - the only way you will make it is by trusting your gut and taking baby steps. One foot in front of the other. If something scares you, that just means the opportunity is big enough. And that's a great thing.

Stress is caused by having regrets about the past or worrying about the future. Focus on today, and trust that just for today - you can honor yourself and what you really want in this life. And if you stumble? Get back up the next day and keep going. ONE. DAY. AT. A. TIME. Just do me one favor: please remember to laugh and love yourself along the way.

May 2010 bring you ALL a year filled with joy, love and laughter. Cheers!


If you are looking for books about how to be more present in everyday life, below are some of my favorites:

Goethe on Seeing the Best in Others

“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. Photo Courtesy of Andreas (Flickr)

I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration; I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal.

In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized.

If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

I am fascinated by human potential. I absolutely believe that if we see the best in others, we bring out the best in others - and in ourselves.

How great does it feel when someone believes in you - and genuinely means it - even after barely meeting you? While there are exceptions (I don't advocate blind trust, for example) - seeing the good in someone can be one of the most powerful gifts in the world. Give it freely.

Visual Miscellaneum Book Giveaway Results

Last week I announced that I'm giving away two copies of the prettiest book that's ever graced my coffee table, The Visual Miscellaneum by David McCandless. I loved your comments! Some of my favorites: VisualMisc

  • Mark KS - Linked to Hans Rosling's TED Talk (uses "cool data tools to show how countries are pulling themselves out of poverty")
  • Ryan - "I'm not sure this book would be suitable for my coffee table which currently features Men's Health, ESPN the Mag, and Maxim Magazine. I can't afford for people to realize I'm a dork - that would totally ruin the image I've so carefully crafted" (I don't know Ryan, I think the cat's already out of the bag...)
  • Kristi R - "I think I might die and go to heaven if I'm ever fortunate enough to get people to send me books for free because I blog." (Yes! It will happen - so set up that blog and send me the link ASAP!)
  • David - "You get nerdier and nerdier every day. The nerdiness never ends. It's hot." (Thank you - I take that as the highest compliment!)
  • Elisa - "Is there a chart in there for dating and love? If someone could break that down into a bar graph or something for me I'd be eternally grateful." (Me too! I'd like some dating/love decision matrices that are masked in pretty colors to make the fact that I'm referencing them less depressing.)
  • Royce - "That book is awesome. Is it nerdy if I would open that book up to appreciate the graphs and images, even if I completely ignored the actual content of those graphs? Too nerdy?" (Never! Nothing is ever too nerdy in my neck of the woods).
  • Catherine - "I like lists, I like random facts, I like to organize, well, just about everything. But, to see such things in pretty graphical form?!? Sounds like my version of nerd heaven!" (Mine too - cheers!)

And without further ado - with screenshots from - congrats to Valerie M. and Doniree for winning the book giveaway!

Happy Two Year Blogiversary to Life After College!

Just as babies born near Christmas forever have their birthdays lumped in to holiday celebrations, my blog's two year anniversary happens to fall squarely into the annual "best-of blog" posts and year-end reflection round-ups. But such is life! It gives me a great opportunity to kill two birds with one stone. Or should I use a cupcake? I started this website in March of 2006 as a resource for college grads (and as an excuse to practice my new-at-the-time HTML/CSS skills). After letting it sit painfully unfinished for two years, I added the blog in 2007, revamped the look and feel in January of 2008, stumbled around a bit and now FINALLY feel like I've gotten some traction (and beloved readers!) in the last year of blogging in 2009. (Check-out last year's round-up here).

Personal Milestones:

I'm proud to report that in the last year, I successfully completed the following:

Blog Stats:

  • In the last month, I received 7,000+ visits (13,500 page views) from 97 countries - that's double last year's visitor stats.
  • The top two referring keywords are "life after college" (~600 visits this month, not including the hundreds of variations on that query) and - surprisingly - life checklist template (147 visits).
  • My favorite quirky searches that led to my blog are "I don't date," "dating sometimes you just have to go through the bad ones" and "are Harvard graduates really the smartest people in the world?" No - UCLA grads are, obviously!

Blog Features and Accolades:

My Favorite Life After College Posts of 2009:

I've said it before and I'll say it again: THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart. Your energy, enthusiasm, support and presence here on Life After College mean the absolute world to me. This blog has changed my life, and you are an enormous part of that. Hugs, kisses and cupcakes all around!


Want to stay connected? There are lots of great ways to get in touch with me on social networks: DeliciousGoogle Reader | GoodReads | Twitter | 20 Something Bloggers | Brazen Careerist | Facebook | LinkedIn

The Ultimate Eye Candy Book for Nerds: The Visual Miscellaneum (+ Giveaway!)

VisualMiscLadies and gentleman: I present you with The Visual Miscellaneum - a book I want to cuddle with and keep forever. My blog has actually gotten to the point where I have more publicists offering to send books than I have time to review, which for a book worm is pretty cool! But when I heard that David McCandless of had a book coming out - I emailed them asking if I could have a review copy. Even better? I asked for two extras to give away (more details below).

The Visual Miscellaneum is the ultimate eye candy book for nerds - 255 GORGEOUS shiny, colorful pages with the most incredible info-graphics I've ever seen. I know I'm gushing, but this book is AWESOME.

From The Visual Miscellaneum Press Release:

Every day we are bombarded with facts and statistics that quickly become meaningless sound bites amidst the cacophony of the Information Age. It occurred to David McCandless, an award-winning London-based writer and graphic designer, that the best way to absorb this barrage of random information is by visually “mapping” facts in colorful and quirky ways.

The result, The Visual Miscellaneum: A Colorful Guide to the World's Most Consequential Trivia, is a volume like no other: a simultaneously lighthearted and thought-provoking sourcebook to things both serious and goofy.

For amusement and edification, The Visual Miscellaneum compares coffee and cocktail ingredients, online viral videos, the lethality of cosmetic components, and video game sales. If a picture is worth a thousand words, The Visual Miscellaneum is a veritable library of culture, philosophy, spirituality, ecology, society, technology, history, economics, and pop culture.

Want to win a copy? Leave a comment!

When I like something, I tell people about it. When I LOVE something, I praise and promote like nobody's business. Because I think this coffee-table book makes the perfect gift and I know it's exactly the type of thing my readers (you) would love, I asked the publicist if they'd send me two copies to give away. Lucky for us, they said yes! So leave me a comment about your nerdy love for infographics (or anything, really) and I'll pick two winners using Comments will close at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, December 18.

Excerpts from the Book - Click image to enlarge in a new window:

Timeline of Global Media Scare Stories

Tons of Carbon Per Year

Women's Fashion "In" Colors by Year

Expanding Happiness: On Fear and Bliss (with notes from Dad!)

Do you ever find yourself in a state so euphoric you feel the urge to immediately bring yourself back down? Snap back to reality before reality has a chance to kick you in the ass and disappoint you? I do. I struggle with appreciating, enjoying and expanding happy moments. Sometimes I find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop. Or I immediately remind myself of all the people suffering and why I don't deserve to feel so happy - convinced it will be taken away from me any second now. I'm learning to notice those thoughts and recognize them for what they are - fear. I know I am better than that. My motto is "live big!" - and fear and worry only rob me of that.

I just finished a fantastic book on this subject, The Big Leap by Gay Hendricks, about The Upper Limit Problem - our limited tolerance for feeling good. Hendricks talks about how we shoot ourselves in the foot when we feel ourselves approaching (or God forbid - surpassing) our perceived upper limits of happiness and success.

I'm going to post The Big Leap book notes soon. Today's post actually comes from a place much closer to home - they are excerpts from essays my dad (architect by day, painter/writer/reader/thinker by night) wrote on the subject of Bliss - that wonderful state of transcendent joy, at once elusive and incredibly rewarding. My dad and I had a conversation about The Upper Limit Problem this weekend, and last night I arrived home to find 30-pages of handwritten notes sitting in a manila folder on my doorstep. I'm so excited to share them with you - they are priceless - and no, I'm not just saying that because he's my dad. :)

Jim Blake (my dad!) On Bliss: It takes courage to seek bliss and it takes courage to maintain bliss.

A state of bliss is, by definition, a separation from the norms of social life. It is a standing apart, isolated from the goals of the common, the goals stated and implied of the family, neighborhood, city and nation. Good gets stale quicker than bread. That which is good soon gets old and tired. Don't be surprised when good goes bad. Bliss is dynamic.

Bliss allows you in and takes you for a ride - you want to live with it. Fear is a one-trick pony worth a 15-second glance in a museum - usually over sized - the first trick of missed bliss.

It takes courage to peel away from expectations. It takes courage to maintain a state of blissful separateness, and courage again to share what one brings back from that journey. Harnessing Bliss Take the time to win your private war against your mundane soul. It is a war of daily battles. It is a war won in the trenches With hard work, healthy habits. It is a war won when no one is looking - no one is listening And you have all the time you need to prevail.

The Bliss Crash / The Agony of Bliss 1. It isolates an individual 2. There is always a crash! The agononies and humiliations of loss. The risk of the arena - not knowing the outcome. Bliss is rugged - not gentle. It only looks easy and painless. The price is high (the bliss crash) Loss of bliss - coming down from a bliss state - depression, anxiety, fear, resentment.

The Authority of Bliss People tend to defer to one who has graceful and regular access to the bliss state and it's poetic products - from Joe Montana's superbowl victories to Erik Fischl's seductively superficial brushwork - "they make it look easy" - "they make it look fun."

Unconditional Bliss Find bliss wherever you may be, whatever you are doing, and with whomever you are with. Make the very finest with what you have. You are the sum of your bliss.

I'm running out of cupcakes...

Courtesy of ObsessedWithCupcakes (Flickr) thank you with!

Ryan Stephens just posted his Top 10 Gen Y Blogs list for December, and I am thrilled to say that Life After College is in the number one spot! When my friend Elisa emailed to tell me the news, my heart started pounding. I looked over both shoulders, like "me? really?" and then started jumping up and down like a school girl.

I just wanted to write a quick post to say thank you SO much to all of you for sticking around, reading my blog, and for inspiring me to keep going. Special thanks to everyone who voted too.

I am humbled to be in great company.  If you haven't already, do yourself a favor and check-out the rest of the blogs on the list - they are all worthy of the top spot. I am lucky to call many of these fellow Top 10 bloggers close friends: OwlSparks, Life Without Pants, Sydney: Unfiltered, Life’s Like a Box of Chocolates, Small Hands, Big Ideas, Ophelia’s Webb, Location 180, The Rest is Still Unwritten & Thrilling Heroics.

Finally, here is the great blurb Ryan put together for Life After College (and yes - he really did call to congratulate me "IRL"):

1.) Life After College – Jenny’s mission is to provide simple, practical tips that help you focus on the BIG picture of your life…not just the details. Find tips and resources for life, work, money, happiness, productivity, personal growth and more.

Admittedly, I’ve been anticipating Jenny’s ascension to the top for few months now. I suspect it was only a matter of time. Quickly becoming famous (in our insular world) for her nifty templates/guides, Jenny does so much more. For one, though I haven’t met her I can assure you she’s real (just read the post).

I don’t know if it’s because she gets to hang around smart people at Google all day, but sometimes it just feels like Jenny knows something I don’t (aside from what a red velvet cupcake tastes like). For about 3 seconds it makes me want to live vicariously through her until I read that I should Stop Audition for Other People’s Lives.” Told you she was smart. Like Sydney, she manages to mix in a few dating posts. But most importantly, she takes great pride in convincing the most charismatic bloggers in the world to guest post for her. (What? My fingers are tired. I deserved that plug!)

Congrats Jenny! And to everyone who made the final Top 10 Gen Y Blog List of the Year (and in this format)! I’m off to call Jenny and congratulate her, seriously.

Virtual hugs and cupcakes to all of you! Thanks again :)

Learn to Love Feedback: It's Your Career Currency

"Never flinch at failure: If you're not making some mistakes, you're not doing anything - not trying to make things happen. Mistakes are part of winning - not dumb mistakes or those caused by haste and sloppiness but mistakes made by intelligent and thoughtful individuals attempting to make something happen."—John Wooden in The Essential Wooden (click here to read my Essential Wooden book notes)

People often seem to feel attacked by feedback, when in reality it's one of the single most effective ways to improve your performance. Wooden's entire philosophy was built around meticulous observation and feedback of the teams he coached. Wooden says, "Perfection is imposible. Capitalizing on imperfection - mistakes - makes all the difference."

For this reason, I think of feedback as career currency - a valuable commodity that can make a big difference in your performance. While feedback can be hard to hear at times, I like to think it shows that person cares about my development - and that's a good thing. I don't want to be the person walking around with proverbial food in my teeth all day, with no one caring enough to point it out.

Your goal should be to collect as many pieces of feedback as you can over the course of your career - from managers AND peers. I believe that the ability to gracefully receive feedback, and subsequently change that behavior, is a key distinguishing factor for star performers. Good feedback will help you improve and adjust to your environment more quickly than you could do on your own - so treat it like gold and grow that bank account!

5 things I've learned about feedback:

  1. Continuous, constructive feedback makes you rich. It accelerates your learning and development and will often lead to improved relationships and potentially faster career progression.
  2. We're often unaware of our own blind spots. For example, imagine yourself as a Starbucks barista: What if you could make a latte twice as fast if someone showed you how? Wouldn't you want to know? You may never have figured out those new techniques without feedback from another observer.
  3. Ask! Let people know that you're open to feedback. Don't argue or get defensive when they do give feedback - just say thank you. You can decide later (on your own time) what you want to take or leave from that feedback.
  4. Give! In the spirit of helping others, practice giving them feedback too. Be specific about behaviors, not just the tasks or the work itself. For example, someone tells you "great presentation!" and another says "Great composure and eye contact during that presentation." Which version would you find more helpful?
  5. Need help delivering clear feedback? Try the EAR formula: Event, Action, Result. For example: During the meeting last week (EVENT), you were biting your nails (ACTION) and the result was that you appeared nervous, which may have left the wrong impression on our clients (RESULT).

How to Start Growing Your Feedback Account

Below is a 4-Step Feedback Recipe from my friends at Rypple (a free web 2.0 feedback service) to help you be more intentional about getting feedback:

  1. Set a goal: what do you want to accomplish or develop? e.g. I want to improve my communication skills.
  2. Build an adviser network: pick a group of advisers who can help you achieve your goal.
  3. Request feedback: ask your advisers short, focused questions, frequently to continuously reveal actionable insights.
  4. Commit to action: ACT on the feedback you get! Sharing those actions with your adviser network will motivate you and keep you on track.

Click here to learn more about Rypple, set-up an advisor network, create a development plan, or start getting feedback!

Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel: Interview with Phil Villarreal

Phil Villarreal, AuthorIt is my pleasure to introduce you to Phil Villarreal - one of the funniest (and most supportive) people I've met through my blog. Phil recently published his book, Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel, after seven failed manuscripts over seven years. I admire his persistence and sense of humor. As one reviewer describes him, "Phil is a devious mastermind. He'd be the Lex Luthor of tightwads if Lex Luthor was hilarious."

Phil is a contributing editor at Consumerist and a reporter for the Arizona Daily Star. His personal blog is called Because I Told You So (Free PORN - Pretty Original Rants n' Stuff).

In this interview, Phil talks about:

  • Wanting to be fired
  • Why he will never be able to pull a fast one on his wife
  • His love of criticism (complete with protesters at his first book signing)
  • How he made his publishing dream happen after seven years of failure
  • How to use aspects of yourself that you are ashamed of to your advantage

Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel: Interview with Phil Villarreal

Give us the 30-second elevator pitch on your book, Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel.

ScoundrelBookIt's a parody of personal finance books, filled with terrible advice that would get you in trouble with the law and pretty much rule out any chance of you ever getting to heaven, or laid for that matter.

But it's funny and will make you laugh probably once every other page -- unless you happen to be my wife, who couldn't get past chapter 30, in which case I'd rather you not buy it because you'd be using money from our joint checking account and we have tons of free copies of it anyway, so really, that'd be wasteful spending since we're in a recession and all.

How does your wife feel about your stingy techniques? You ever pull a fast one on her?

She was adamantly opposed to me writing the book from the very beginning, and was convinced it would get me fired, and in her words, "show everyone what a bad person you are for thinking of these things." I thought about that and decided it would be a pretty good deal.

And there is no pulling fast ones on my wife. She is like the Oracle from the Matrix, seeing things before they happen, knowing what's going on in your head and bizarrely being played by a totally different actor in the sequel.

But if I could do it all over again I totally would have tried to pull the legend of the cubic zirconium heirloom on her. That's the chapter about buying a zirconium engagement ring and pretending it belonged to your grandmother. Sure, that would have meant I'd have to have lied to her every day for the past 4 1/2 years, but it would have saved me thousands of dollars and I would use that to buy a giant TV. Secrets of a Stingy Scoundrel has gotten a lot of flack (you even had your own protesters!). I don't know if I could handle the criticism. Do you secretly enjoy it?

I am disappointed that there hasn't been more criticism. Almost everyone who's reviewed it has gotten my sense of humor and said very positive things, but what does anyone remember? The protesters at my first signing. Look at Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck -- almost every sane person in the world thinks they're blithering idiots and enemies of society, but they are at the top of the bestseller lists. I want in on that action but have so far been a near-complete failure.

As far as handling criticism, I've been a movie critic since I was 22, so I have nearly a decade of experience in dealing with obsessive hate mail. It's not great for the ego but after a while it's sort of comforting and I think I'd miss it if it were gone.

Publishing a book has been a dream of yours for a long time, and I know getting this one out to the world wasn't easy. Talk to me.

It took me seven years of constant daily, hourly, minutely failure and seven manuscripts, all of which were either torn apart, laughed at (for the wrong reasons) and dismissed by anyone in the publishing world I showed them to.

Then a miracle happened -- the economy collapsed. So publishers started looking for money books, and my agent was finally able to sell one of my manuscripts to Skyhourse. My success advice is to keep trying until some devastating tragedy befalls society and allows you to take advantage of it for profit.

What advice do you have for Life After College readers about making a big dream like this happen?

As far as general life advice, I would advise never shutting down a part of yourself that you might be ashamed of, instead finding a way to use it to your advantage.

If you're a guy who thinks of inventive ways to kill people, don't be a serial killer, be a crime mystery author. (Or if you do choose to be a killer, at least be a nice one, like Dexter.) If you're too lazy to get off your couch, blog about the movies and video games you spend all your time on.

Everyone has a toolset of positive and negative traits, but they can all be beneficial somehow, some way. I must add this, though: If you're someone who thinks of irreverent, immoral, silly ways of saving money, don't write a book because then yours might be better than mine and then I'd feel bad about myself.

Thank You

Image Courtesy of Betty Crocker (Flickr)

Thank you for being here.

Thank you for: reading. thinking. commenting. challenging. inspiring. engaging. sharing. laughing & encouraging.

Thank you for being awesome and brilliant readers and friends.

I leave you with two things on this beautiful Thanksgiving day: my favorite gratitude poem, Be Thankful, and a delicious-looking Thanksgiving cupcake.

Now I'm off to go eat, watch football and spend time with my dog, Patches, who I am very thankful is still with us at 14 years old!

Stop Auditioning for Other People's Lives

It is said that bloggers, coaches and advice-givers dole out wisdom that they themselves need to hear. Consider this one of those posts. I am learning right along with you. And this post might not be for everyone - so if it doesn't apply to you - kudos! Courtesy of Slider72 (Flickr)

The Message Stop auditioning for other people's lives. Whether it's a job interview, a business partnership or a potential mate, stop focusing the majority of your attention on whether YOU are good enough for THEM. Stop wearing masks and molding yourself into the person you think other people want you to be. You be you. When you are trying to make a good impression, don't forget to genuinely ask yourself - with an open mind - what value others bring to your life as well. Is the job, the partnership or the relationship good enough for YOU? A Personal Example (Not Dating Related!) Earlier this year, a book publisher contacted me. They found my blog a week after I had finished my proposal, which came two weeks after ending a four-month writer's block in which I couldn't even bear to open the Word file with my manuscript. The publisher contacting me was one of those "universe comes knocking" moments. THEY found ME?! I was flabbergasted. I did everything I could to promote myself as best as possible.

I know that the book publishing process is slow, but until I got an update this weekend, it had been months since I had heard anything. Despite knowing they were "very interested" I had no clue if they would commit to working with me. I still don't.

I've had moments of insecurity - is my book good enough? Am I good enough? Could I sell more than two copies (one for each parent)? On one level, sure - this is about the quality and potential of my book. But on another level, I should be auditioning the publisher too. Are they right for me? What do they bring to the table? How much potential does the PARTNERSHIP - the combination of both of us sitting at the table - have?

Life is like Tetris: You may be a "Z" when the other party is looking for an "I" No one is perfect. Life is a matching process. Look for situations in which you and the other party, given that you are both imperfect, bring something to the table. Where you both add value. If it's not a match and someone tells you this or you recognize it yourself - move on.

It can be incredibly hard not to take a mismatch personally - not to dwell on what is wrong with you and what you need to change or improve. Coming from a girl who loves reflection and growth, trust me - I get it. Of course there is value in being honest with yourself about your areas for improvement. But there is also value in cutting your losses and chalking it up to a TWO-WAY mismatch in which your needs would probably not have been met from the relationship either.

Honesty is worth the risk The matching process requires honesty to be successful, which involves taking risks. It can be scary to put yourself out there and say "This is who I am. Take me or leave me, as I am." It is scary because you are putting the real you out there to be accepted or rejected by the other party (and them by you). But it's worth it - because when two parties are a fit, it works. It really, really works. And it's a wonderful feeling to be on the same page, clicking and "in the zone" with another person, job or team.

Listen up! A Final Note: You deserve to be in mutually beneficial situations and relationships. You deserve to be surrounded by people who appreciate you and light you up. You - exactly as you already are. Because life is too short to be putting on a show.


For a great post on a similar topic - how to live in alignment with your true self - check out Jonathan Mead's De-Compartmentalizing Your Life and the Extinction of Boundaries.

The Blogger IS Real...But Even Better IRL

Don't know what IRL means? Don't worry. I'll explain. There's been a lot of buzz in the blogosphere about Mindcrushes and Blogcrushes and whether what you see is what you get with either one. Is the infatuation with bloggers who speak to our soul just a passing fancy based on projected images of perfection? Are the recipients of our affection real and worthy? Or as many of our less tech-savvy friends and family may wonder, are they just mysterious constructed "others" swirling around a crazy Wild Wild West Internet vortex?

I propose that the Blogger IS real

Just not the way you picture him or her. First, the caveat stated so eloquently by Derek Shanahan in his post, The Blogger is Not Real. Derek describes the fallacy of thinking you know someone from reading their blog. He says, "We, as authors, bloggers...we are not who our blogs say we are. We are not what the reader sees." I agree wholeheartedly. No matter how much I reveal here, how many pictures and videos I post, how often I tweet - you won't really know me until you meet me in person.

But here's what I do want you to know: despite the fact that you can't truly "know me" without meeting me in person, I am real! I sit here typing and darting my fingers around my keyboard just like all of you. I have feelings, insecurities, and identity crisis' with the best of 'em. And who is to say that people we interact with everyday truly "know us" anyway? I feel more seen and understood by people - especially other bloggers and tweeters - than I have in my whole life. There are many times I actually feel more ME on the Internet than I do at social events in real life (abbreviated as IRL for those of you still wondering).

Take a Leap! Talk live or meet in person when the opportunity strikes

I feel incredibly blessed when I meet or talk to people I've met online in real life - whether in person or on the phone. During my recent trip to New York City, I had the great fortune of meeting up with six (count them, six!) blogging friends. We had cupcakes at Magnolia bakery, breakfast at Google, coffee at Starbucks and danced on a bar in the Meatpacking District (videos are NSFW and thus will not be posted here). My co-workers looked at me a little sideways when I told them I was meeting up with "strangers" after work (their word, not mine). I loved every minute of it.

Is the blogger as you know him or her real?

Not the version you've constructed. But are your connections real? Hell yes. And when you get the awesome opportunity to meet one in person, will they be different from how you pictured? Always. But hopefully in that fun, exciting 2D-comes-to-life kind of way. You're probably sick of me saying this, but meeting in real life (over a red velvet cupcake) is how I met the hilariously fabulous Jamie Varon (look At, I didn't describe you as lovely!) - who is now one of my closest friends...wait for it...IRL!

The message I tweeted earlier sums up my feelings well: all these amazing connections give me the sudden urge to run around the internet hugging people I've never met in real life. So to those of you still reading: come in for the real thing!

Templates Galore! New to the Team: Wheel of Life - Coaching Exercise

Q: What do you get when you cross a Googler, a life coach, an organization freak and a tech nerd? A: More templates! And me, of course :)

Thanks to many of you, my Google Docs template empire is off to a great start. Some fun stats on how many people have used each one: Professional Development Strategy (820 people), Life Checklist Template (791), Four-Step Budget Template (616), and the Job Interview One-Sheeter (598). Thanks - and I hope they're working out for you!

New to the Team: Wheel of Life Coaching Exercise Template

Background: 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. Your wheel of life is constantly in motion – it is unlikely that you will always feel like a ten in every area. This template will help you identify areas of your life where you feel disconnected or unhappy, then prompt you to reflect on ways you can work toward greater balance and satisfaction.

Normally clients have to complete the exercise on paper then scan and send to their coach, or do the exercise in a fancy flash page where they don't get to keep their answers. And THAT, my friends, is where this new template comes in.

How it works: The template is pretty straightforward - you'll rate how you feel about each area of your life, then answer questions for areas where you want improvement. The part I'm most excited about is the conditional formatting (nerd alert!): as you fill in values for Column B, the cells will automatically change color so you can quickly assess the general state of each category: red for values 1-4, yellow for 5-7, and green for 8-10.

Final Note: The wheel is more like a square in this template...shh - I won't tell if you don't. :)

Click here to preview the template if you're reading via feed reader. As always, rate if you like it!

Access all of my templates from the top navigation of my site or click here.

A note of compassion for those pesky things called FEELINGS

I posted last week about my dating (or more accurately non-dating) frustration. Normally I wouldn't post twice in a row on the same topic, but I've felt unsettled this week. Like I'd left something unsaid in that post. It's the part about feelings. About FEELING things. About being annoyed or frustrated with myself when I'm feeling sad, or lonely, or anything less than jumping up and down with joy.

And last night, with unwelcome no-clue-where-the-hell-they-came-from-or-how-to-make-them-go-away knots in my stomach, I had a moment of compassion for myself. A moment where I stopped and appreciated the fact that I do have feelings. I care about people, and I care about myself. I care about living a full life. And when it comes to dating and relationships, I have a big heart. A really big heart. And I care when I'm not sharing it with someone. I have a sinking suspicion that is called being human.

As I've said before, I AM living a big, full, happy life. AND there is still a part of it open for a romantic relationship, just like there is always room for dessert after an incredibly satisfying meal (at least for me there is!).

Will all of my problems be solved when I meet someone? Of course not! Do I expect the next relationship to last forever? Not really - there are no guarantees in this life.

Here is what I do know: I am grateful for the 10 percent (plus or minus on any given day) of myself that wants to be with someone. That longs to share things like Monday Night Football and holiday parties and how was your day conversations.  I'm not even talking marriage (though I wouldn't complain if the FH popped up out of nowhere). I'm just talking switch-it-up-a-little from the single life.

And this is where the compassion comes in: I am grateful for the part of me that can't wait to laugh with someone, to support them and encourage them and have them do the same for me. Instead of feeling ashamed by that, or like there is something wrong with me for not intellectually rationalizing away my desire for companionship, I am going to embrace it as a strength. A strength that represents one of my core values of connecting with people. Connecting on a deep level to grow and help make each other's lives better (in a don't-worry-we're-totally-whole-to-begin-with kind of way).

So maybe the knots do serve a purpose - they are teaching me to treat myself and my feelings with respect and compassion - as I would for any friend, or any one of you. I encourage you to do the same.


P.S. For those of you tired of me whining about my dating life, I promise to bring back some very handy templates and tips...ASAP!

Dating is a Roller Coaster (hint, hint: metaphor for life)

Courtesy of Kevkev44 (Flickr)

Dating is a roller coaster.

Bad dates. Good dates. Damn, if only I could get A date.

Good nights. Bad nights. At 26, am I already older than everyone in this f*@!#%g bar?! nights.

Total, unshakeable "I'm fabulous" confidence (fellas: fill in the equivalent manly descriptor). Vulnerable, I'm not good enough, what am I missing, what am I doing wrong doubts.

Relaxed and calm. Sad and frustrated.

Single life ROCKS, soak it up baby! GAAAAHHHH ifiseeonemorecouplecuddlingi'llexplode. I started this post as a follow-up to my "Dating: Do you go for Quality or Quantity?" piece in August, then quickly realized you could replace the word "dating" with relationships, marriage or life - and it would still probably be true.

Life is a roller coaster. Dating is no exception. How am I doing since my post in August? Great!!! Most of the time. This week was tough. It was tough because I felt those pangs of loneliness that I'd built such a great wall of "Single! Fabulous! Loving it! I'll totally meet someone! I'm not even looking! I'm so patient! Dating? What's that?" around myself. This week I realized that while part of me is completely calm, clear-headed and having a blast, part of me is still emotional and FEELING. God forbid I let myself FEEL things.

Here's a message for both of us (that's me and you, reader): it is perfectly okay to feel your feelings. You don't have to be happy and positive all the time (or at least I'm learning to give myself permission not to be). Venting is good. There is value in paying attention to emotions that show up - positive and negative - just make sure you don't give negative thoughts more air time than they need in order to work their way out of your system.

The key to the roller coaster - in dating or life - is not getting stuck in the highs and lows. When you become attached to an expectation or your mind starts spinning stories that aren't helpful, get off the ride. Cooking up some elaborate story about why I'm single and asking guy friends to confirm it doesn't serve me. And who am I to analyze? My job is to go with the flow and enjoy the ride. Badum-Ching! </end cliche, carry on with dating and non-dating and everything in-between>.

Something is Better than Nothing

Do you ever get that paralyzed feeling when you're overwhelmed by so much to do that you freeze and don't do anything? Perfection or bust? All or nothing? Photo Courtesy of Koalazymonkey (Flickr)

As I lay my head down on my pillow Monday night after a long day and weekend full of errands, guilt started to creep in about all the remaining tasks I had left undone. I thought about the two blog posts I hadn't written on Sunday (my usual routine). I thought about the pile of laundry I didn't fold and the emails I hadn't responded to.

And suddenly, brain still wired as I lay in bed trying to sleep, it hit me. Something is better than nothing. I've often used this phrase to get me to the gym; when it comes to exercise, something is definitely better than nothing.

But this is also an important reminder for me when I catch myself falling prey to the perfectionist's curse in other areas - the all or nothing, gung-ho or bust mentality - that if I can't do something well (or up to my high standards), I shouldn't do it at all. If I can't write two blog posts, I shouldn't even start one. Or if I can't spend an hour on emails, I shouldn't even open my inbox.

Sure, there are times when something is not better than nothing (replying to spam or publishing a really crappy post, for example). Ultimately it's about examining the size and importance of the task or goal and asking, "Is there something small I can do to chip away at it to make progress?" If not, or you choose not to for the time being, that means you've made the decision to rest and can let go of the guilt associated with your deliberate non-doing. Give yourself a break until you're ready to pick it up again or until you decide to write it off completely. Life is a balancing act. Sometimes we will choose not to get every task done for the sake of our sanity, and that's okay too.

On that note - I'm still getting acclimated to my new job, and the next three weeks are going to be pretty busy for me. This week I'm excited to be completing the Myers Briggs Type Indicator training for facilitators - and next week I'm headed to New York for a planning summit with the new team. I also start coaching certification in three weeks and am going from two regular clients to ten! I'm going take my own medicine whenever possible, but wanted to let you know that I may be a little less frequent and responsive than usual when it comes to tweeting and blogging over the next three weeks.

Courtesy of Danil (Flickr)

If you send me an email, you'll see the following note at the end of my OOO reply (borrowed from a very wise coach of mine!): "E-mail is such a funny thing. People hand you these single little messages that are no heavier than a river pebble. But it doesn't take long until you have acquired a pile of pebbles that's taller than you and heavier than you could ever hope to move...But for the person who took the time to hand you their pebble, it seems outrageous that you can't handle that one tiny thing. "What 'pile'? It's just a pebble!"

Mann's quote makes me laugh - we've all got piles of pebbles we're dealing with - they just take different forms. Here's to us embracing the pile, processing the pebbles at a pace that won't drive us nuts, and practicing patience with those who are still figuring out how to do this gracefully. :D

Book Notes: Zen and the Art of Happiness

I read a lot of books (connect with me on Good Reads to keep up!), and I'm working on my next list of Ten Books that Changed My Life. I wrote the last one almost two years ago and my life has changed A LOT in that time. Until I publish the next round, consider these notes for Zen and the Art of Happiness a must read. This book is short and small, but really packs a punch. For me, it was more digestible and engaging than any other book I've read on on happiness, zen, the way, being present, being here now - you get the point. Even if those topics are too "woo woo" for you (wow that's a lot of rhyming!) - you'll still benefit from this simple approach to happiness.

As usual, these book notes are looong! Make sure you click on the title of the post (or the link at the bottom that says "read the rest of this entry") to see the full version. If you want to print the notes, there is a little icon at the bottom of the post that says "print this post." Enjoy!


Book Notes: Zen and the Art of Happiness By Chris Prentiss

The Way

“Zen is simply the state of centeredness which is here and now.” –Alan Watts

  • The Zen of doing anything is doing it with a particular concentration of mind, a calmness and simplicity of mind, that brings the experience of enlightenment and, through that experience, happiness.

We Are the Authors of Every Next Moment

“All that we are is the result of what we have thought. It is founded on our thoughts, it is made up of our thoughts.”

  • Your personal philosophy determines how you respond to events that come into your life. It is completely responsible for your state of happiness and well being.
  • The answers are never “out there.” All the answers are “in there,” inside you, waiting to be discovered.
  • You are like a railroad switch. Every time an event occurs you channel the activity onto the positive or negative track. Even though the event hurt you or took something away from you, you are still in charge of channeling it onto a positive or a negative track. You determine its future outcome.

The New Experience

“Every day is a good day.” –Ummon

  • To reach the goal of happiness, act as though the following is true: “Everything that happens to me is the best possible thing that can happen to me.” (tape these notes around the house and your desk)
  • Everything comes at the appointed time.
  • It’s not necessary to have all the ingredients of a project in hand at the outset. They will come at the appointed time. Its only important that you move forward with the project until that appointed time arrives. With the energy you create by moving forward as if you had the ingredients to start, you actually put into motion a stream of events that lead to your success. Your actions create an “energy vortex” that draws in the necessary ingredients for your venture.

“If you really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile? Smiling helps you approach the day with gentleness and understanding…Smile with your whole being.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

  • Smile. Imagine the situation turning out wonderfully for you. Affirm what’s happening is going to be of tremendous benefit to you.
  • The Universe doesn’t make mistakes. Everything is happening just as it should.

The Inner Road

  • Neither happiness nor unhappiness is contained in the event itself.
  • What determines each person’s state of happiness or unhappiness is not the event itself, but what the event means to that person. All the events of life work like that. It is the way you look at things and the way you relate to them that determines your state of happiness or unhappiness, not the things themselves.

Cause and Effect

Your worst enemy cannot harm you As much as your own thoughts, unguarded. But once mastered, No one can help you as much. --The Dhammapada

  • You can feed yourself new information by choosing new ways of looking at and interpreting the events of your life.

“The highest nobility lies in taming your own mind.” –Atisha

A curse or a blessing?

  • Each incident in life, even a painful experience, basically provides you with only two choices: you can either curse it and call it an “accident” or you can call it “good fortune.”
  • Character is the bow from which we shoot the arrows of the future.

Adapting to Change

“Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free: Stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate.” –Chuang Tzu

  • Change is a constant – we can count on that.
  • A situation only becomes favorable when one adapts to it.

“Embrace simplicity…be content with what you have and are, and not one can despoil you.” –The Tao Te Ching

  • Happiness comes from our response to the conditions of our lives.
  • How you conduct yourself along the path that is your life determines how your life unfolds. You are the doorway through which your life unfolds.
  • A strong personal philosophy does more than sustain us through the tragedies of life. It also sustains us daily in everything we think and do. It gives us optimism and hope. It frees us from the tyranny of events.

“When you can be calm in the midst of activity, this is the true state of nature…When you can be happy in midst of hardship, then you see the true potential of the mind.” –Huachu Daoren

Stress and Your Imagination

  • One of the greatest obstacles between you and happiness is stress. By stress I mean a feeling in your mind of fear, anxiety, distress, worry, unease, or foreboding caused by using your mind to imagine a bad outcome to a past, present, or future event or situation. Nothing else causes stress.
  • Stress comes from the way you relate to events or situations.
  • Neither stress nor happiness is contained in things, events, or situations. Things are just things, events are merely events, situations are only situations. It’s up to you to supply your reaction to them. You get to choose.
  • The tricky part in eliminating stress is controlling our imaginations to envision a happy outcome rather than a poor one.
  • If you stay in control of your imagination, its impossible to feel fear or stress.
  • One of the reasons any obstacle is in your life is so that you can grow from it and become strong.
  • You’re only as strong as your area of greatest weakness.
  • The Universe always strikes at your weakest point because that’s what most needs strengthening. Your challenges are, in effect, hand delivered by a loving Universe to make you stronger.
  • It is by working your way through the problems that you will gain strength, wisdom and knowledge.
  • Realize also that the goals you seek aren’t the be-all and end-all of life, even though you may think you are. It’s the path itself that’s the be-all and end-all. Reaching for your goals and searching for answers is what is leading you along the path you’ve chosen for this lifetime. The path itself is where the truth is to be found, where your destiny manifests itself, and where your happiness lives.
  • Events are the language of the Universe.

Healing Your Past

Do not pursue the past. Do not lose yourself in the future. The past no longer is. The future Has not yet come. Looking deeply at life As it is in the very here and now, The practitioner dwells in Stability and Freedom --Bhaddekaratta Sutta

  • Forgive yourself for the things you regret having done to others, forgive others for the things they did to you; acknowledge the rightness of the events that you thought did not benefit you, and, more than that, acknowledge that each event was for your benefit or will turn out to be for your benefit.

“The present moment is a wonderful moment.” –Thich Nhat Hanh

  • The moment we call now is all that exists.
  • When we live in the now, keeping our awareness and concentration on the present moment, as zen encourages us to do, we rein in our runaway imaginations – not dwelling on the past, not worrying about the future, not judging events as they come and go.
  • Meditation does not have to be long or complicated for you to receive its benefits. Start with five minutes a day. Follow your breath in and out – if you start to think of something other than your breath, gently pull yourself back.

The Secret and the Smile

  • “Be Happy” means choosing to be happy whenever you have the choice. It is not a mindless happiness, but a mindful happiness because it is based upon the knowledge that whatever happens to you will benefit you – and benefit you greatly.
  • Most of the time, we respond to life without taking a moment to choose the way we want to think and feel about a particular event or situation. It takes work to make the choice.
  • The hardest work comes when the situation is hurtful or has taken something from us.

Author’s Note

I acknowledge you for your marvelous effort. I respect you for persevering on your path toward enlightenment. I bow low to you for your greatness of spirit, your warrior’s heart, and your search for the truth of your existence. May you attain to greatness, may your life be long and happy, and may you mount to the skies of happiness as though on the wings of six dragons! –Chris Prentiss

Miscellaneous Musings

Too many ideas in my head this week! Instead of a series of smaller posts, I bring you a compilation of assorted musings, findings and random thoughts instead:

  • Book / Decision-Making Framework: I stumbled across Suzy Welch on Twitter and noticed she wrote a book called 10-10-10. Curious about the meaning of the title, I found the following description on Amazon: "When you're facing a dilemma, all it takes to begin are three questions: What are the consequences of my decision in 10 minutes? In 10 months? And in 10 years?" This seemed like a helpful shortcut for wrestling with big decisions (or processing something upsetting). Something tells me I don't actually need to buy the book to fully understand this strategy (but by all means, correct me if you've read it and I'm wrong).
  • Generosity: I feel very lucky to have had several conversations with people I admire recently. Each one of them asked me, "How can I be most helpful to you?" at some point during our chat. Each time, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of that question, and felt immense gratitude to be on the receiving end of it. These people are all busy, with incredibly full, rich lives (hence, my admiration!) and yet they still took time to put an open-ended "let me know how I can help you" offer on the table. It speaks volumes to me about their generosity of spirit, and reminds me to do the same for others as much as I can.
  • Technology & Communication: The Wall Street Journal ran an interesting article yesterday: Why Email No Longer Rules (and what that means for the way we communicate). As someone who often feels overwhelmed by my email inbox (apologies if you've ever waited two weeks for an email from me!), I wonder about whether multiple short communication streams (Twitter, Facebook, Blog comments, etc.) make correspondence easier or just add to the deluge. On one hand, the article says "People overused email - now they can use the right tool for the right task." (Agree) On the other hand, "We get lured into wasting time...and we will no doubt waste time communicating stuff that isn't meaningful, maybe at the expense of more meaningful communication. Such as, say, talking to somebody in person." Or writing a blog post about miscellaneous musings??
  • On Being Busy: Danielle LaPorte, of White Hot Truth, posts today with a great reminder: We Know You're Busy. Now Shut-Up About It. Danielle says, "Even as a well-intended social pleasantry, 'Sorry, I've been busy,' has a little victim ring to it...Whatever is on your plate got there because you said yes to it - in the fullness of ambition and desire and wanting to eat life whole. Busy can be good. Busy can be bad. Busy is most often a choice." So what to do about our tendency to use busyness as an excuse? Danielle says, "Report on life rather than whine about it."
  • Conditioned Consumer: I am officially a wussy Californian when it comes to the weather. Today marks our first rain of the season and I acknowledged this occasion by oversleeping, skipping my morning workout and stopping by Starbucks on the way to work. Nothing says "comfort me to make up for the dark-grey-pouring-rain weather" like a double nonfat mocha with 1.5 pumps of chocolate and whipped cream. And no, my high maintenance drink orders are not an indication of my dating habits. I SWEAR.
  • Fun: I've seen this video before, but it never fails to make me grin uncontrollably from ear-to-ear. If you haven't watched "Where the Hell is Matt" do yourself a favor and go check it out.

As a final note, thank you so much for all the birthday wishes last week! I had a fabulous weekend with friends in San Francisco (and if you had ANY doubt, yes I bought myself a red velvet cupcake to celebrate). The article I referenced in my video is WiseGeek's "Why Do Snakes Shed Their Skin?" and I'm still waiting for a Personal Branding Expert somewhere to give me a citation for comparing myself to a snake.

The Master of Living

The Master of Living The master in the art of living draws no sharp distinction between his work and his play, his labor and his leisure, his mind and his body, his information and his recreation, his love and his religion. He hardly knows which is which.

He simply pursues his vision of excellence at whatever he does, leaving others to determine whether he is working or playing. To him, he is always doing both.

—James A. Michener