2011: Calling All Dreamers

I feel like I'm on mile 23 of a marathon with the book coming out in less than three months (!!) and now is the time to turn on the burners -- put every minute that I'm not at Google to strategic use. It's a really exciting, motivating feeling to see the finish line up ahead . . . and much to the chagrin of well-meaning great friends hoping to drag me out of the house, nothing will break my focus at this point. I'm also not big on expensive parties or fighting for taxi cabs, so I planned on spending this New Years Eve alone in my condo, working on projects that energize me and that would help set the tone for an uber-creative 2011. Projects that get me so fired up that they don't even feel like work.

I mentioned this casually to a few friends -- New Years orphans who were ambivalent about their existing plans -- and before I knew it, I had four fabulous women in for the count.

Why am I telling you this? Because I have big plans for us in 2011.

Yes, YOU.

Even if you don't nerd-out on New Years Eve like us, I want you to think about a big dream that you might be tiptoeing around, and I want you to join me in 2011 by setting up your own "creative day of greatness." If our New Years bonanza goes well, I plan on hosting many more throughout the year (even virtually).

But you don't have to wait for me, of course. Pick a date and commit to starting that big, hairy, scary project that is crying out for your love and attention. I know you might be afraid, or self-conscious, or unsure if this is the right time or if you have the right idea or if you're the right person to pursue it.

Do it anyway.

Not that you even need it, but I hearby grant you the permission to start even without perfect conditions or all the pieces in place.

Arranging a creative genius day or night also requires properly setting the stage. What would make it the most fabulous, soul-stirring experience EVER? My friend Julie and I brainstormed for tonight and came up with what we think is a great list.

The "Marathon Day of Creative New Years Genius" will entail:

  • Morning yoga session (delivered by moi) for anyone who's here early -- we're planning on starting the festivities around 11:00 a.m.
  • Writing "sprints" throughout the day on our biggest ideas. We'll try a system where we work for 40 minutes, then chat, share, brainstorm and collaborate for 20 minutes - off and on throughout the day. We'll also set a few goals at the outset about what would be most thrilling to accomplish.
  • Piles of magazines & a flip chart to do vision-boarding
  • Doing other cool things like taking symbolic action on something that scares us; emailing an author we really respect (hi Martha Beck!)
  • Fire in the fireplace, great music playing in the background
  • Favorite foods potluck -- pasta, pizza, chips/salsa, green-bean casserole, cupcakes & macaroons -- to name a few
  • Prosecco for midnight; we may very well also put on fancy dresses and throw a dance party for the countdown. Good times!

How about you - what would your IDEAL Creative Day of Genius entail?

By the way, I'm serious. I want you to pick a dream of yours - even just a corner of it - and commit to it. Schedule your jump-start session alone or with friends, and start bringing your big ideas to life. Then send me an email to let me know how it goes!

No matter what you find yourself doing tonight, have an amazing time. Cheers -- to dreaming, scheming and greatness for all of us in 2011! :)


1:1 Big Goal Brainstorming / Coaching / Genius Hours:

If you are hoping to take your first steps toward a big dream in 2011 and you want some extra accountability and support, get in touch with me. Right now I'm offering sample coaching sessions at 50% off - $50 for 45 minutes of bringing out your inner genius.

I want us all to dream BIG in 2011, and I would love nothing more than to help you start taking baby steps toward your biggest goals. As your coach, I'll help you do big-picture visioning, uncover your values, set specific goals, knock out limiting beliefs or barriers to action, and brainstorm ways to make substantial progress -- all supported by assignments for you to work on between sessions. Nothing gets me more fired up than working with you on making your biggest dreams a reality. Learn more here.

Looking for another great way to kick-off 2011?

Join me for a free 60-minute career strategy webinar with People On-the-Go during the second week of January (hint: one of my first e-books in the making!). Here's a brief description:

The Ladder is Out -- How to Manage Your Career in the Age of the App The era of climbing the ladder as a method of managing your career is out. We are now in the age of the app - everything you need is at your fingertips, fully customizable to your unique career dreams and aspirations. Rather than follow a linear path, learn how to explore, experiment and build a strong foundation that suits your dynamic talents and goals. [Read more and sign-up]

HAPPY NEW YEAR!!! Big love and hugs to all of you :)

Happy 3-Year Blogiversary to Life After College!

It's been a great year here at Life After College. Better than great. SO GREAT that I was going to skip doing this round-up post because it feels self-indulgent, and I much prefer to give you thought-provoking new content.

However, my blog turned three years old this month and without my blog, my life dream of being an author would not be realized. So it's only fair that I celebrate this little corner of the Internet!

By the way - I think blogs age in dog years - 3 years feels like a lifetime...in a good way. I can't even imagine my life without this outlet and the friends and readers I've made because of it.

For more "best of" content: see the Happy Blogiversary posts for Year 1 and Year 2, or check out my shiny brand new "New Here?" guided tour.

Personal Milestones: I am humbled by everything that made the items below possible. I still have to pinch myself, and I only hope that I can give back to the world in equal if not far greater amounts for the gifts I've received.

My favorites and the most popular posts of 2010:

Blog Stats:

  • Visits - In the last month I received 11,580 visits (20,532 page views) from 110 countries -- up from last year's 7,000+ visits (13,500 page views) from 97 countries. The total visits for 2010 was just over 100,000 uniques (200,000 page views).
  • Top Keywords - In 2010, the keyword "life after college" sent 8,773 visits. "Jenny Blake" was the next highest search query with 1,199 visits.
  • Quirky keywords (a personal favorite stat) - bad cubicle position, can limerence be broken? (don't I wish!), can you rent a real live jaguar?, do you stop having fun after college?, it's not you it's me letters, I'm too sexy for my cube, limerence is a bitch, running with cupcakes, tell myself I love my job, and possibly my favorite - it hurts to throw away an empty box of Sprinkles cupcakes.
  • Best "Jenny Blake" keywords - jenny blake cover model (I'll take it!), jenny blake engagement ring (looks over both shoulders - none here), jenny blake exercise videos (nope, sorry!), jenny blake sexy (okay I like that one), jenny the cat woman secret lives (damnit, I liked the sexy keyword better).
  • My most popular content in 2010 (according to Analytics) - 8 ways to organize your life with Google Docs (6,054 pageviews), How I Stay Organized (5,869 pageviews), A Day in the Life of My Paycheck (3,096 pageviews), and the Life Checklist Template (2,576 pageviews). I think many of these made it to StumbleUpon, which really helped drive traffic.
  • Most Popular Templates - Four-Step Budget (2,285 users), Professional Development Strategy (2,158 users), Life Checklist (2,255 users), Job Interview One-Sheeter (2,333 users)

Last but certainly not least, THANK YOU.

Thank you for:

  • Being here
  • Being awesome - the best readers I could ever ask for
  • Reading, engaging, commenting
  • Making all of this possible

One of my mentors, Chris Guillebeau, often says he gets paid in nice emails. I feel exactly the same way. I am richer every day from amazing reader emails, new friends, community, and gratitude. Thank you from the very bottom of my heart.

A Letter from my Future Self (#reverb10)

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

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

Dear Jenny,

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

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

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

A few reminders:

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

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

Oodles of love and cupcakes*, Jenny


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


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

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

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

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

The fabulous ladies of the cupcake tweet-up

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

Me and Julie at Tortilla Flats:

Jenny Blake and Julie at Tortialla Flats

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

The Personal MBA: Interview & Book Giveaway

I have a confession. When people ask me why I started Life After College five years ago, I tell them it's because I felt lost and lonely at age 20 and wanted to help other graduates get on their feet faster. But there's another reason too. I thought I needed to start a business so that I could get into business school (run my life according to the mysterious admissions office gods...great plan, huh?), so I launched this website two years before it became a blog. I've never told anyone that because I don't want to take away from the passion I feel for helping others, and I'm somewhat embarrassed by the less-than-pure beginning.

I felt like business school would give me some magic credibility, validity and career success. But after I bought 4 GMAT/MBA books that I didn't even crack open ONCE in the span of a year, I realized I couldn't stomach going into $150K of debt just for a degree that I wasn't sure would deliver what I was wanting.

Enter Josh Kaufman and his The Personal MBA project. Josh has a blog and book that provide comprehensive business-education resources to help people "master the art of business without mortgaging [their] lives."

I've had the pleasure of interviewing Josh, and am excited to announce another book giveaway! Leave a comment below by Thursday, 12/23 and I will select a winner using Random.org to receive a copy of The Personal MBA.

Josh KaufmanInterview with Josh Kaufman

Many of my readers are twenty-somethings and recent college grads. What would you advise those who are on the fence about getting an MBA? What about those who don't really feel like they need one, but feel pressure (from parents or society) to get that extra credential?

Save your money - you can do much better by investing a little time learning the basics on your own. Research indicates that getting an MBA doesn't really help you in the long run, and getting an MBA can be enormously expensive, particularly if you attend a top school. On top of the direct expense, student loans restrict your freedom and flexibility in ways that severely limit your options. All told, the very limited potential benefits aren't worth the massive risks - particularly if you're interested in starting your own business.

Getting an education and obtaining a credential are entirely different things. You don't need a credential to do well in business, since there are no legal requirements that force you to get a credential before getting started. Your customers don't care whether or not you have a degree if you can give them what they need or want.  Provide enough value to people who want what you have enough to pay for it, and you'll do quite well, degree or no degree.

You do, however, need a world-class education if you want to do well in business. Fortunately, you can learn what you need to know on your own, without mortgaging your life in the process.

If you're feeling pressure from other people to obtain a credential, it helps to remember that they aren't living your life. You owe it to yourself to figure out what you want, and the best way to go about getting it. Other people may have opinions, but they're just that - opinions. Ultimately, you live with the consequences of your actions, so make your own decisions.

I often use the phrase, "If you're not learning, you are obsolete." How do you hope to change the business-related learning game with this book? Personal MBA Book

My goal is to help people interested in business learn the essentials - the very small set of ideas they need to understand in order to do great work. I call these ideas "business mental models," and my job is to help you learn them as quickly as possible.

As it turns out, the 80/20 principle applies to learning too. Learn the 5% of concepts that provide 95% of the value of business study, and you'll do quite well. Once you know the fundamentals, you can go surprisingly far, whether you're staring your own company or doing great work for someone else. My book is designed to teach those fundamentals.

Most people assume business is complicated, and as a result, they find it difficult to get started. The wonderful truth is that business isn't complicated - it's just not taught very well, so it's intimidating. Business isn't rocket science, but you do have to know what businesses really are and how they really work if you want to do well.  Once you've mastered the essentials, you're in good shape.

If you could give the Life After College community one piece of encouragement or career advice, what would it be? Experiment constantly - there's no faster way to learn. Side projects, diligently pursued, can benefit you more than even the best degree. If you have an idea for a business, figure out how to start making progress on the side, using your own resources. Speed and flexibility are your friends - just keep making little improvement to discover what works.

The Personal MBA started as a side project - I wanted to learn how to do well in business, so I started learning in my spare time. Six years later, I'm a professional business teacher with clients all over the world, I have no debts, I have the freedom to live however and wherever I want, and I've published my first book... all because I decided to start a crazy side project, experimented constantly, and stuck with it for years. Without experimenting, none of these things would've occurred, and my life would be very different.

What has been your biggest failure-turned-success or blessing-in-disguise story (in life or business)? A little over a year ago, I decided to offer my first business course. I thought that bringing a group of people with similar goals to learn and discuss important business concepts via phone would do very well.  I prepared my launch materials, published them, and waited for the signups to roll in.

Radio silence... nothing. In the end, only one person signed up after a week of promotion. My expectations were high, so I was devastated.

After recovering from the disappointment, I tried to figure out why it flopped - so I asked my readers. As it turns out, people were interested in the learning part - they just didn't think they'd be able to commit to meeting regularly at certain times, so they didn't sign up. That was a Barrier to Purchase I could fix.

Two weeks later, I launched the Personal MBA Business Crash Course. It was the same learning material, with a different structure - an online video course that my students could take at their own pace, no matter where they lived around the world.

Almost immediately, over 200 people signed up - far better than I expected.  Since then, the course has developed into a very active and dedicated community of business learners from around the world, and is a cornerstone of my business education company.

Keep experimenting, and you'll inevitably find something that works. In a very real sense, there's no such thing as failure - just experiments that provide you with more data to use in the next iteration.

To enter to win the book giveaway: leave a comment below by Thursday, 12/23 and I will select a winner using Random.org to receive a copy of The Personal MBA.


On a related note: want to network without the pain of small-talk?

Brazen Careerist's Network Roulette is one of the most innovative developments I've seen recently in the networking space. You can sign into Brazen Careerist and get paired up with a new person to chat with for three minutes at a time. If you enjoyed talking to each other, it's easy to send a follow-up note afterward.

Ryan also recently announced a daily lunch hour (12EST, 9PST) called Community Karma to "make sure everyone gets the help that they need through 3-minute conversations with me and other community leaders on Brazen Careerist." I highly recommend trying a Network Roulette or the daily karma hour - it's a great way to meet a lot of people with similar interests in a short amount of time!

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

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

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

10 Questions to help you stop thinking and start DOING

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

Do you have a topic yet?

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

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

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

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

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


The Anti-Resume - Career Development Video Interview:

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

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

Click here to watch and share your thoughts!

E-Book: You Don't Need a Job, You Need Guts

Ashley AmbirgeI am so excited to share the love this morning for my friend Ashley Ambirge who launched her 127-page baby into the world. A ballsy, audacious, in-your-face, rock-star E-Book called You Don't Need a Job, You Need Guts. Note: I am an affiliate, but I would NEVER promote something I didn't believe in 150% and think would be an awesome resource for all of you. I am very selective with what I share, and this made the cut without question.

As I mentioned in my December Hodge Podge, Ashley is one of the bloggers I most respect and admire. She lost BOTH of her parents and can only rely on herself for support. When I complain about being busy, I forget that there are amazing women like Ashley in the world for whom being busy is probably the very least of her concerns.

TMF E-BookAshley hails from Pennsylvania but currently lives in Santiago, Chile -- following her dreams and working her ass off to make a living and inspiring countless others in the process.

Every time I read one of her posts, I want to stand up and start a slow clap. Then maybe throw a few fist-pumps, then raise a lemon-drop martini to toast Ashley in all her fabulous, brash, no-holds-barred glory.

I bought her e-book this morning within seconds of it landing in my inbox, and I'm already hooked.

A description (in Ash's own words) for those of you who might be interested:


You Don’t Need a Job, You Need Guts is a devilishly sassy digital publication that teaches how to stop surrendering your soul to the rat race and instead, create a meaningful, delightfully unapologetic career based around YOU + YOUR INTERESTS by leveraging the web + harnessing the magnetic power of authentic passion, guts & glory.

You demand more from life. You crave more than a fatally boring routine. You want to do work that feels good. You want to be you, exactly as you are. And, for once, have that be enough. Better yet, you want to get paid for it.

If this gets you as fired up as it did me, grab your own copy for $24.


Love Drop LogoP.S. Speaking of guts and big dreams -- I'm also thrilled to announce that two of my best boys Nate (of ItStartsWith.Us) and J-Money (of Budgets Are Sexy) have launched an amazing project called Love Drop to help people "change lives, one dollar at a time." In their own words:

Love Drop is a micro-giving network of people who unite as a community to help one person or family a month. By subscribing to the team for as low as $1, we make it easy for our members to change lives in a fun and tangible way. Each month Love Drop delivers a unique combination of unexpected financial gifts, personal encouragement and the support of local and online communities.

I'm in. Are you? Click here to join the team!

A Delicious December Hodge-Podge

Grab a cup of coffee, this is a long one! Many of my blogging counterparts have a weekly series where they round-up their work and link to great posts from others: Friday Linky Love, Writing Around the Webb, and Fresh Finding Fridays to name a few. As much as I admire their consistency and commitment, I have fun doing mine completely randomly and giving them a new name every time (Couldn't Have Said it Better Myself, Crock PotsLinks Galore, and Miscellaneous Musings). What I'm really trying to say is that I don't have nearly the self-discipline to post these regularly. And yes, I also have commitment issues.

Change Makers TV Interview - Video Now on YouTube! (~30 minutes)

I was honored to be a guest on Gopi's local TV show -- during which I talk about blogging, the book, career advice, and even my dating life (which led to a guy jumping out from behind a car as I was leaving...alone...at night...to ask me out...after he watched the interview from the sound room...and continued to beg ask as I politely said no at least five times. FML.)

One note before you watch: my book is called Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, not "The Complete Guide to a Perfect Life," which I would not claim to have or advise others to strive for. The real beauty of life is in imperfection, which is also what makes a slight verbal typo perfectly okay with me. :) {RSS/email readers: Click here to watch}

Two interviews with fabulous women: Betty Jean Bell and Tia Singh

Love Your Work Life LogoAudio interview with Betty Jean Bell of Love Your Work Life - It only took five minutes on the phone with Betty Jean for me to feel like I was instantly talking with one of my best friends. Her passion and energy is absolutely contagious! Take a listen to the ~25 minute podcast or click here to download the mp3, where I talk about my blog, the book, the quarter-life crisis, and pursuing big goals. Head on over to Love Your Work Life (and check out her adorable Christmas header!) to learn more about Betty Jean and her network of coaches.

Written interview with Tia Singh for her Live Your Life YOUR Way series - Tia is another coach extraordinaire who I met through Twitter. She literally sparkles (as her Twitter handle suggests), and we have quickly bonded over our emoticon abuse (exclamation mark, anyone?!?!!) and our love for helping others flourish. I was so honored to be featured in her series, and very touched by her wonderful introduction. Read more here.

Both of these ladies are giving a way a free copy of my book, so head on over and comment to enter!

#Reverb10 - I'm participating and have an author prompt on Dec. 21 -- wuhoo!

I'm excited to be participating in the #Reverb10 project with many other bloggers. It's a daily prompt to help people "reflect on this year and manifest what's next." I'm also incredibly honored to contribute an author prompt (author bios here) - look out for me on Dec. 21, baby!

I'll be answering the prompts on my Tumblr so I don't annoy you with daily posts -- here is a sneak preview of my first post:

2011: This next year will be the year of FREEDOM. Freedom from shoulds, cant’s, have-tos and obligations. I want 2011 to be the year of trusting my gut, listening to my intuition, and making decisions that are nothing short of SOUL-STIRRING. {Read more here}

Awesome links elsewhere - most definitely worth checking-out:

A follow-up note to my June post, Serendipity and the Art of Being Alone

Some of you may remember my story earlier this year about spending the weekend alone in New York City after existing plans fell through. While shoe shopping, I met a woman named Ann - an amazing lawyer who had a house built for herself in Italy (with her own hard-earned dream fund).

We ended up going to lunch then dancing on booths together at Bagatelle Bistrot in our new Louboutins -- girl power at its finest! I later dubbed Ann "my NYC angel" and she calls me Jenny From the Rock (as in Alcatraz).

While in NYC this week I'm attending Ann's big 40th birthday bash to help her celebrate in style. Living proof that random meetings can turn into beautiful friendships...and a reminder to get out there, be yourself, keep going when life throws a curve-ball, embrace surprises and be open to the beautiful art of serendipity.

Where in your life are you pounding on unlocked doors?

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

...that it was left unlocked.

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

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

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

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

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

A Personal Example:

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Components of Limerence (from Wikipedia):

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

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

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

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

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

Enter the Break-up Template!

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

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

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

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


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

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

Happy Turkey Day!

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

Book off to press!!! Blogger speechless.

Life After College Book Cover I DID IT!!!


Holy shit. (Yes, I just swore on my blog. No, I don't do it often. Yes, it's because I'm still picking my jaw up off the floor.)

In three years of blogging, I have never posted two days in a row. But yesterday's post is 100% trumped by the fact that Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want went to press yesterday!!! And yes - that is the Amazon link to my book!!!

This is crazy.

It has felt exciting, scary and incredibly vulnerable to have an idea that is 100% my own and defend and build that vision from start to finish, page to page, and from corner to every corner of the cover.

Am I using the right words? Am I sharing enough? Is my vision actually what is best for my readers? Will anyone like it? Am I fighting for the right things to keep or change? With every micro-decision there was a point where I just had to take a shot in the dark, listen to my gut, trust myself and decide. And stand behind it.

Now it just feels surreal.

I cannot believe that the project I have developed...toiled over...loved, danced and fought with...worked and reworked into oblivion over countless nights and weekends - is DONE. The book is done.

My focus for the last two years (at least the content creation and editing part of it) is done. My tiny, shy little seedling of an idea is all grown up, and justlikethat I've closed an open loop in my brain that tells me to get back to work to make this thing the best I possibly can. Above all else it feels like my life dream - my purpose - my desire to inspire as many 20-somethings as I possibly can with practical exercises, tips and quotes - is happening.

cupcake thanks

NONE OF THIS would be happening without you. None of it. I don't even have enough words to thank you properly. If you weren't here reading, supporting Life After College, giving me feedback, showing your support on Ryan's list of Top 10 Gen Y blogs, commenting, sticking around, and celebrating with me on Twitter and Facebook, there would be no book. Period.

I hope you know how important are.

To be honest, it doesn't even feel like my book. It feels like our book. I'm so excited I could cry. In a good way this time.


If you want the FULL nitty gritty book details beyond what I share on this blog (including helpful writing-related links and resources) sign-up for my monthly(ish) “inside scoop” book newsletter or click here to read the archives.

Eat. Sleep. Yoga. Part Two: Re-Entry.

Rainbow from White Lotus Re-entering the "real world" after 16-days of actual rainbows and sunshine in Santa Barbara was a major shock to my system, as I alluded to in Part 1:

"I’ve been working harder every day but feeling like I am falling farther and farther behind. I’ve felt exhausted to the core; disappointed and helpless as I watched (mortified and even ashamed at) how quickly the clarity and calm from White Lotus escaped me."

On the first day back I could already feel anxiety pulsing through every vein. My breath was short and I ran around like a maniac all day re-arranging a room in my house (more below) as an avoidance tactic to delay diving into the massive amount of work that had piled up while I was gone.

Ganga and Tracy taught us to breathe - that breath is life - and to treat our whole day as our yoga - but I quickly spiraled into a nervous, compulsive, frenzied state. I wanted so badly to carry that zen, relaxed, peaceful yogini-self with me into my normal life. I wanted to change the way I work and commit to habits that would sustain me over the long-term, especially as I prepare to launch and promote my book next year.

Double Rainbow from White Lotus

By my second day back I was feeling semi totally panicked about how much I had on my plate. I felt like I was sinking faster by the minute in productivity quicksand. Every day I woke up earlier to start working, but every day I ended farther behind. Balancing a full plate at work, the final-final-final edits of my book and drama over the cover (it goes to press any day now) was wearing on me. Without my full emotional faculties, every text message, phone call, email request and social commitment that piled up felt increasingly suffocating.

By last Friday, I was a total wreck. A hot, hot mess. Case in point: I made myself my first coffee in a loooong time so that I could survive the afternoon slump, then ended up spilling it all over the table five minutes before starting to deliver a three-hour training, eyes still red and puffy from crying hysterically that morning as I was getting dressed for work. Feeling guilty but in survival mode, I regretfully cancelled all weekend plans (again) so I could try to get my life in order (again).

I'm not trying to be dramatic - I know that people have it so much worse than I do. I am ridiculously lucky to have the problems I have (and the unwavering support of my friends and blogger BFF Elisa). At the same time, I am determined to start solving these problems for myself and others who get overwhelmed by the big shoes they are trying to fill.

"Our culture has an excess of doing and a poverty of being" - Ganga White

People often tell me to stop doing so much, to slow down, or to go easy on myself. It sounds so easy. But that doesn't change the number of deadlines at work or with the book, or the number of email requests in my inbox. If I knew how to change the situation, I would. But somehow I keep ending up back here.

Here is my pattern (which may be blindingly obvious to long-time blog readers):

  1. Work too hard for too long.
  2. Get overwhelmed and resentful.
  3. Feel as though I've lost myself.
  4. Fall out of sleep and exercise habits that keep me happy and healthy.
  5. Get sick and/or break down.
  6. Force myself to slow down.
  7. Feel guilty about not being able to keep up with all friends in all corners of the world.
  8. Gremlin tells me soon I won't even have friends (or blog readers) if I keep complaining about feeling overwhelmed and ditching everyone to go into "emergency mode." (Gremlin also kicks in to tell me not to publish this post because it's too Debbie Downer).
  9. Promise to change.
  10. Try my very best to actually change and put myself first...
  11. Fall back into old habits.
  12. Feel like I'm lacking the magic sanity-management skillset that others seem to have.
  13. Repeat steps 1-12.

I feel compelled to quote Ganga's wise words once more. This is what I would like to strive for instead of the pattern above:

White Lotus from a pond on-siteSit under the stars with a quiet mind and no goal. Be attentive to all things in life. Honor yourself. Laugh at yourself. Listen to the voice of your own body. Carry joy and light on your path. Listen to the wise, but always question. Truth and love are simple and ever present. —Ganga White, Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice

Even though the first week back was rough, all was not lost.

Here are some positive changes I have made:

  • I've gone coffee free (in an effort to get my natural energy back) - I've only had coffee once in two months (to give me a boost for my 5-hour drive back from Santa Barbara). I started cold turkey when I did the Clean Program cleanse about a month ago, and have been really focusing on letting my body return to it's natural energy rhythms. It feels great - I can already tell I am way less tired in the afternoons.
  • I have been eating mostly vegetarian, and significantly reduced my dairy intake. This change was inspired by White Lotus where we ate delicious vegetarian meals every day and watched Food, Inc. (an incredibly powerful and shocking movie from Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation). I also recently read and was encouraged by Michael Pollan's Food Rules: An Eater's Manual. His core principle: "Eat food, not too much, mostly plants." Pollan has two other great books worth checking out: In Defense of Food: An Eater's Manifesto and The Omnivore's Dilemma.
  • On my first day back, I gave away my TV (for free!) - I knew it was now or never -- and was curious to see if I could survive without a TV...another seemingly impossible feat. I figure without TV I will be more likely to read, write and think -- all things I could definitely use more of. If I were smarter I would have waited until after football season, but hey -- this might also encourage me to actually leave the house!
  • Taught my first (private) yoga class - I am excited about finishing my certification, which means teaching 20 group classes and 5 private sessions (I'll gladly take volunteers if you're in the area!). I successfully fumbled through teaching my first class last weekend, and I know it will only get easier from here. I also really want to make time for my own yoga practice every day - even if it's only 10 minutes. Now if only I could figure out what my recurring dream/nightmare about teaching an unruly yoga class means (twice now I've dreamed about teaching a class that rebels and stops paying attention to me).
  • Created an "essential self" sanctuary - this is the change I am most excited about. While at training I found myself longing for a dedicated yoga space. In an "aha moment" I realized that I've used my dining room about once in the last year. I never cook and I never work at the table, so it seems ridiculous to have a whole corner of my house go unused 99% of the time. So on my first day back I spent the whole day re-decorating to create a yoga/reading room with books, magazines, candles and all kinds of zen paraphernalia. I also bought a gratitude journal to keep in there -- before leaving the room, I make a point to write something in it.

BEFORE (the dining room I never used) . . . and AFTER (the yoga zen room!):

BEFORE: The dining room I never used.After - The Yoga Zen Room!

All of the great art on the wall is my dad's - online portfolio here.


My friend Julie is writing a book on this very subject - navigating work in a 24/7 world. We would both love to hear from you:

What is your biggest challenge in managing your work in the global, digital age? What related problem/s would you want help solving?

Eat. Sleep. Yoga. Part One: White Lotus

I waited a week after returning home to write this post in hopes that putting my experience into words would be a little easier. If anything, it feels harder. The sixteen days felt simultaneously like a lifetime and a fleeting moment. This post feels like a karaoke rendition of my favorite song - there is no way I will do the experience justice, but I'm going to grab the mic and give it a shot anyway.

"It has been said that the highest learning comes in four parts: One part is learned from teachers; another part from fellow students; a third part from self-study and practice; and the final part comes mysteriously, silently, in the due course of time."

—Ganga White (a very wise, humble and hilarious teacher and yoga legend) in his book, Yoga Beyond Belief: Insights to Awaken and Deepen Your Practice

I went skidding into the White Lotus Teacher Training program at 100 miles per hour, tired and burned out, desperate for some quiet time to think and reflect and soul-search.

White Lotus delivered. I am pretty sure I died and went to heaven for 16 days. Studying yoga from sun-up to sun-down, napping, hiking, "cartoon sweating" during intense practices (hi Polly!), dancing to Black Eyed Peas with Ganga and Tracy (our teachers) or doing Intuitive Yoga during others; dedicating an entire afternoon to learning the mechanics of triangle pose or downward dog, eating delicious (mostly vegan) food prepared with love, and forming a yoga family with 30 other kindred spirits -- it all rocked my soul to the core...in the best possible way (my girl Sarah did an awesome job recapping everything).

Three trees (balancing on a rock on the edge of a cliff is harder than you might think):

Jenny - Tree Pose Jenny in Tree Pose

For those of you who know me well, you know that I don't miss an opportunity to turn major experiences into metaphors for life (see: river rafting, triathlon and marathon). The life lessons I got from yoga teacher training were reminders -- gems that deep down I already knew but that had gotten rusty amidst the whirlwind of life. Below are five of the countless lessons I will take with me from White Lotus.

Five Life Reminders from Yoga Teacher Training

1. Comparison is a losing game - I've said this before, but it bears repeating. Yoga (and life) is not about who can do what better. It is about how you feel on the inside. It is about feeling graceful and powerful; about feeling energy radiating through every pore, shooting out from fingertip to fingertip. All bodies are different. All lives are different. Focus on your lines, your practice, and living with integrity in your own life. Look to others not as a yardstick for comparison, but as an instrument for inspiration - you might be surprised to find you have those same qualities within yourself.

2. "Yoga doesn't 'take time' -- it gives time." This quote is from Ganga's book and it is so true. The things we love don't take time, they give it. Don't "make time" to do the things you love. Do the things you love, and you will find time in new and unexpected places for everything else.

3. The hard work is not in your to-do list. The hard work is in fiercely committing to things that energize and replenish you. Sometimes I feel like I am WORKING SO HARD (a weightlifter on steroids comes to mind) to get everything on my to-do list done. And yet, if I put half as much energy and attention into doing yoga, meditation, and carving out quiet time, I would be so much better off - so much less strain in my life. Feeling happy and balanced takes WORK - it is not easy. I want to focus my "hard work" on the things that really matter in my life - and trust that it will only help the smaller tasks to get done with more clarity and creativity.

4. Pain is an information system. This gem also comes from Ganga who taught us to listen to our pain, which is only trying to help us. Does pressing through the pain make it better or worse? What are the contributing factors? Without pain, we would have no warning system to stop destructive behavior, habits or diseases. What is your pain trying to tell you?

5. Our teachers are all around us. I learned so much from Ganga and Tracy, but also from the 30+ people I spent those 16 days with. I learned from the weather, from the land, and even from my crazy dreams (I was mortified one day after loudly jolting up with a gasp during Savasana while everyone was laying down...I had fallen asleep and was convinced that that a spider was crawling on my face. OOPS.)

Here's a 1-minute video tour of Yurt Village from the first day:

Here is a 1-minute video of me describing a typical day (you may need to turn your volume up - lesson learned that Flip cams have a hard time picking up my 6am whisper voice):

The first week of the rest of my life

I spend so much of my time online, hunched over my desk, buried in computers at Google and at home. Yoga helps me unwind, destress, and connect with myself again. It helps me stand tall and exhale. Becoming a yoga teacher was something I have secretly wanted to do for a long time, but for a while was terrified to admit out loud (for fear of not being ready...or good at it). I can't describe the elation I felt after delivering my 10-minute class (our "final exam") and realizing that I have just kicked a new door of my life wide open.

I'm thrilled to have a way to share the yoga gift - the ongoing, ever-changing alignment of mind, body and spirit - with others. I love having another way to unwind and express myself and physically amidst all of the "brain work." I'm hoping to start teaching workshops for teen girls, and maybe even incorporate yoga classes (and cupcakes!) as part of my book tour. This training came at a perfect time in my life (albeit a busy one), and I can't wait to see where the path will lead.

Stay tuned for part two of this post, where I discuss re-entry after being largely unplugged for two weeks.

Sneak preview: jumping back into the chaos of managing a full-time job at Google while catching up from being gone and balancing the last and final stages of the book project absolutely KICKED MY ASS. Up, down and sideways. I've been a hot emotional mess, working harder every day but feeling like I was (am) falling farther and farther behind. I've felt exhausted to the core; disappointed and helpless as I watched (mortified and even ashamed at) how quickly the clarity and calm from White Lotus escaped me. So more life lessons to follow soon in Part 2...


Two more pictures just for fun:

Jenny & Keith - Partner Yoga

Video Post: Headed out! See you in November...

Happy Fall everyone! First, thank you for the incredibly thoughtful birthday comments on how Life After College has helped or inspired you. I am so humbled. Those comments really were (and continue to be) like little presents landing in my inbox! Reading them all at once brought tears to my eyes, as if the Internet - friends old and new - just reached out and gave me a giant bear hug. I am so lucky. Thank you! A Bon Voyage Video (I know, I'm so dramatic - it's only 16 days)

Starting October 16 I will be living in a yurt, totally unplugged (and that includes coffee) while completing Yoga Teacher Training at the White Lotus Foundation in Santa Barbara -- a major item on my life checklist (blank templates here if you want to create your own.) Below is a short 2-minute video and book update.

Video side note: I meant to say I can't remember the last time I've been unplugged for 16 days in a row. Last time I was gadget-free altogether was for the 5-day yoga/rafting trip in July (see 20 Life Lessons I Learned on the Rogue River).

Quick book update: we're in the home stretch!

On Friday I shipped my full set of (hand-written) edits on the design proof back to Running Press. In case you missed the pictures on Facebook and Twitter, you can get a sneak peek of some of the inside pages here. Next steps are finalizing the cover, and the inside/back cover copy. It is crazy to think that after almost 2 years of working on this book I am in the last 2 weeks of having a say on how it turns out.

It terrifies me a little bit to be away from my email, phone and laptop for so long, especially when I'm in the final two weeks of book edits, but that's exactly why this trip will be a much-needed getaway. I'm as excited about learning how to slow down as I am about deepening my yoga practice and learning how to teach (hoping to work with teen girls someday soon, just like my girl Doniree).

Want to know more about the book process? Read about my fears, insecurities, general neurosis and exciting developments in my Inside Scoop book updates archive -- there is a box to subscribe on the left.

Join the Life After College Party Train

While I'm gone, consider connecting with me elsewhere! Here are lots of great ways:

See you all in early November! Watch lots of football, carve a few pumpkins, drink coffee, crunch some leaves and eat lots of yummy cupcakes for me while I'm gone. :)


P.S. Please help my awesome friend Elisa land a writing gig with your vote! You don't even need to register or sign-up :) Since I will be away from my computer, I can't support her with votes every day the way that I would want to. Would you sub for me by voting here? Thank you!

Twenty Seven + A Small Request

Happy Birthday CupcakeTwenty-seven, y'all. Not twenty-one (woo! Vegas!), not 25 (hello quarter-life crisis), but twenty-SEVEN. And yes I am still blogging about life after college, because I hereby grant that term an extension to include the rest of my life. I don't usually make a big deal out of my birthday, so I feel a little silly about posting something today. But I'd like to put together a rotating testimonial blurb, inspired by my genius blogger-turned-BFF friend Elisa, and I'm wondering if you can help. (I also just couldn't resist posting this adorable picture.)

If Life After College has inspired or helped you in some way, would you leave me a comment describing how? Specific stories, big things, small things, you name it - l love it. I saw Ramit do this on his blog, and I immediately knew it would be the best birthday gift I could ever ask for.

Let me also take this chance to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for being here. You are all rock stars, and I'm lucky to get to share this corner of the Internet with you. Cupcake cheers all around! :D


To celebrate I'm taking a burlesque dance class (first time - can't wait!), then headed off on a weekend getaway with two of my closest friends. Might take me a little while to reply to your comments, but as always - I read and cherish every single one.

Overwhelmed by Your Inbox? The Case for Email Parties

This is a re-post of an article I was recently featured in, written by my friend and productivity guru Pierre Khawand at People OnTheGo.

“People get out of balance when they see their value as being able to respond quickly. If I see myself as a machine for answering email, then my work life would never stop because my email never stops. If instead I see my value as separating the important from the unimportant and making good decisions on the important, then I can go home at a reasonable hour, spend time with my family, ignore my email and phone messages all weekend long, and make sure that when I return to work, I am in the right mood to make the good decisions.”

Peter Norvig, Director of research at Google (Interview in Your Value Is In Deciding What’s Important, Not Answering Email, Lifehacker - Sept 2010)

Do you find the e-mail overload "suffocating"? An e-mail "party" can help and the 5 ingredients to get you there

Julie & Jenny, both very active and in leadership roles at their company and both having to deal with loads of e-mail messages constantly pouring into their inboxes, get together regularly not just to have friendly chats, but for something more drastic which they refer to as an e-mail "party." It is a get-together that is focused on processing their e-mail messages, but only after creating the right atmosphere to make this a fun activity. "Fun?" You might ask. Well, keep on reading.

"The party usually starts with venting" said Julie, and sometimes it might involve some wine but it certainly has to involve chocolate, she indicated later. "E-mail is a suffocating activity " she added, so doing it alone may not exactly be motivating or even possible, however doing this with a friend while enjoying some treats and nice exchanges seems to turn this activity into one that is digestible or even enjoyable!

The e-mail party seems to involve these main ingredients:

  1. Companionship: Having someone with you. Creating the feeling of togetherness. You are not alone in this!
  2. Conversation: It is not just about being together, but also sharing observations, insights, and even "venting" as Julie put it.
  3. Immediate gratification: The wine, chocolate and bad reality TV definitely help. Brainstorm whatever makes you comfortable and willing to undertake the challenge.
  4. Focus: It sounds contradictory to be having conversations and rewards and yet be mentioning focus. However, the e-mail party does have one core purpose, and that is going through and processing e-mail. The rest is designed to help stay focused on this purpose.
  5. Clear destination: The goal is to have an empty inbox and feel good about it. Not to mention stay on top of things, give people the answers they need, and help move important issues forward.

What an innovative way to turn a task that can be challenging or mundane into something to look forward to and enjoy! Maybe it is time you try it. Stop looking at these hundreds of messages in your inbox and dwelling about them and have a party!


P.S. I made my first TV appearance last week! It was a 30-minute interview for my friend Gopi's local TV Show, Change Makers. (Gopi wrote the guest post here called "How I Outsource My Life to Over 13 People." I will share the video when it becomes available; in the meantime, here are some behind-the-scenes pictures of the taping:

Jenny Blake and Gopi Kallayil on the Change Makers set

Gopi's set on the left; green screen on the right (Jenny Blake on the far left)

The Control Room

Are You Living For Vacation? 5 Tips to Improve Your Life *Now*

Are you living for vacation? I was. At least I was until last week, when I realized I either had four weeks to be miserable until my next vacation or four weeks to do something about the fact that I was spreading my low energy and bad moods around like an infectious disease.

In three weeks, I will be headed off the grid again for a 16-day yoga teacher training program in Santa Barbara. I'm excited about this for more reasons than I can count, but at the top of my list: deepening my yoga practice, learning how to teach yoga (I would love to work with teen girls one day), and taking 16-days to myself as I live in a yurt, unplugged, eating well and taking care of myself.

You might think I'm crazy for signing up for this amidst everything else I have going on (and wiping out all remaining vacation days), but to me it's one of those soul-stirring things that I felt compelled, deep in my gut, to pursue. (The decision itself was featured in a great post from the fabulous Susan Biali in Psychology Today: Shackles or Soul-Stirring? Decide Before You Commit.)

Signed up...and Ready to Run

As soon as I paid the deposit, I started desperately counting the days until I could run away again. Shut down my computer and my to-do lists and the pressure to say yes or no to things, and just go on my merry yurt-living way. I watched my energy tank drain itself empty, day after day, as I fell off the workout wagon, ate more desserts than I care to admit, and could barely find the motivation to get dressed in the morning. I wasn't sleeping through the night any more, and I had almost no energy. I kept desperately screaming to myself, "THIS YOGA TEACHER TRAINING CAN'T COME SOON ENOUGH!!!" and wondering why it still felt so. damn. far. away.

And then it hit me. I could either live like a zombie until vacation, or identify the benefits I was expecting and find a way to start doing them before even making it down to Santa Barbara.

A quick aside: I realize that I am lucky enough to have this problem. I am lucky to have cool things keeping me busy, a job in the first place, and lucky to even have a vacation on the horizon. But I still learned a few things that I hope you can benefit from.

Living for Vacation? 5 Tips to Improve Your Life Now

  1. Make a list of the expected benefits of your vacation. In my case I want to feel more relaxed, eat healthier, move my body more, study something I am passionate about, unplug, and have an "excuse" to say no to all of the things I don't want to do (even though I know in reality I shouldn't need one -- see tip #4).
  2. For each benefit, brainstorm five ways you could achieve that effect between now and your vacation. You might even split a piece of paper into two columns - listing the benefits on the left, and your brainstorm for each one on the right.
  3. Take a weekend off. I had the most glorious day on Sunday because I had NO plans. I hid away in my condo and just read the newspaper, sat on my patio, read books, did some writing, and did some work. I had nowhere to be until 6pm and I felt so relieved not to be bouncing around chasing after various plans and errands. Even if you can't take a vacation (or your next one isn't for a while), create space for a little staycation day or weekend.
  4. Ask yourself: What am I avoiding? What are you hoping that vacation will fix or give you an excuse for, that you don't feel permission to do now? In my case it's saying no to things. I keep waiting for vacation so I can say, "Sorry! I'm out of office!" but in reality I need to start saying no NOW to being over-committed.
  5. Give yourself a short-term goal and set-up a reward to look forward to when you complete it. What is one thing you can aim for this week to start improving your life now, even before any upcoming trips? Maybe it's getting back to the gym, or maybe it's finishing a big project at work. Your goal doesn't have to be huge or overly difficult - it just has to give you something to work toward in the short-term. And don't forget to reward yourself when you complete it! After all, indulgence is half the fun of a vacation :)

So how have I changed since my aha moment last week? I'm on Day 8 of a crazy-sounding cleanse (no coffee, no alcohol, no wheat, no dairy, no beef, no SUGAR (!!), no eggs) -- something I used to think would be more impossible than running a marathon -- and I've never felt better. I'm going to bed earlier, I'm working out again, and I'm saying no to most requests between now and my trip.

By the time I show up for training in Santa Barbara, I won't NEED it so much. I will actually be able to enjoy it.


So how about you? What do you do when you find yourself living for vacation?

The Holstee Manifesto: This is Your Life.

This image, taken from the Holstee company manifesto, is making its way around the Internet and I love it so much I couldn't help but re-post here. Apologies if you've already seen it a few times...but then again, it seems like the kind of message that we can never hear too much. Holstee Manifesto


And now for last week's contest winners (drumroll please):

  • The Art of Non-Conformity book giveaway - congrats to Akhila who won the random drawing! To everyone else - I highly recommend buying yourself a copy - at $7.99 on Amazon, it's a steal.
  • PrintRunner.com business cards - (with five sets of 500 to give away and 26 comments the odds were good!) Congrats to...

Life After College Giveaway Week (Part Two)

Thanks to everyone who commented on Tuesday's post to win a free copy of Chris Guillebeau's book, The Art of Non-Conformity. I've been really energized by reading about everyone's big goals - kudos for sharing them with me and the world!

Speaking of big goals, you might remember Stacyann who wrote asking for advice on how to fund her big dream of attending SXSWi next year. Since that post she has set-up a SmartyPig Account (social savings) and started working on her side hustle by joining a focus group. I admire her willingness to put a big goal out there, ask for help, and immediately start taking steps to make it happen.

With that, giveaway week continues!

Giveaway #3 - 5 sets of 500 Business Cards from PrintRunner.com

Thanks to a giveaway on Kristen's Ramen Noodles, Rent and Resumes site, I won 1,000 free business cards a few weeks ago. I asked Grace at PrintRunner.com if I could transfer the prize to one of my readers, and she said no need! She'll donate 5 sets of 500 cards to the Life After College fun cause.

  • How to Enter: Pretend you get to quote your favorite movie line on the back of your business card. Leave me a comment by Sunday, September 19 with what the line would be, and I'll pick five winners via Random.org.*
  • My lines: "You're so money baby, and you don't even know it" (Swingers - YouTube Clip) or "MOM! THE MEATLOAF!" (from Wedding Crashers, for no good reason other than that scene always sends me into side-splitting laughter)

*Official rules/legal jargon: one entry per person, open to U.S. residents online, must be 18 and over and not an employee or relative of an employee of PrintRunner LLC, no purchase necessary.

Giveaway #4 - Free Health & Nutrition Consultation with Megan Serow

Megan is a co-worker and former coaching client who is now kicking-ass and building her own side hustle. Megan is finishing up holistic health counseling certification, which takes into account total wellness in mind and body instead of focusing solely on nutrition. Her goal is to do 20 free health consultations in the next 3 months. She also started a blog that provides recipe and wellness ideas for busy 20-somethings and cooking novices.

That's it for now -- have a great weekend everyone!

Life After College Giveaway Week FTW!* (Part One)

I'm excited today. I have free stuff to give away to you wonderful people this week, and that just makes me really happy! I also want to express a very heartfelt thank you for all of the love you poured into this corner of cyberspace in response to last week's Open Letter to Love post. I published on Tuesday night (waking up to nervously edit at 3am) thinking I'd want to hide under the covers all day dodging verbal "you're gonna be a crazy cat lady!" stones (okay, so that's a slight exaggeration but I was feeling quite vulnerable). Instead, you completely lifted me up once again and reminded me that I have the best readers on the planet.

And so, my friends, I am thrilled to share some free stuff as a token of my appreciation! So let's get it on. Err, get on with it.

Giveaway #1 - Drawing for a copy of Chris Guillebeau's new book, The Art of Non-Conformity: Set Your Own Rules, Live the Life You Want, and Change the World

"When faced with uncertainty about taking a leap of faith, take the leap. You'll regret the things you didn't do much more than anything you did, so you might as well try new things." —Excerpt from Chris's book

Note: This book review is going to be VERY biased, because it is hard for me to put into words how much Chris means to me as a friend and mentor.

Two years ago, when my parents and friends were my only blog subscribers and I had no clue how to ask for a mentor, Chris (whose blog was one of the first I ever followed) sent me a note and told me he wanted to be the founding member of the Jenny Blake Advisory Board.

I (figuratively) looked over both shoulders and thought...who, me?! I was so blown away that I barely knew how to accept his generous offer. Many "big fish" will kindly help or advise when you ask them to. Few go out of their way to proactively make it happen the way Chris did.

Since that time, Chris has been a great resource and supporter for me and countless others. His generosity and commitment to his "small army of remarkable people" is unwavering. After I signed my book contract, I came home to find four-dozen cookies delivered via UPS, addressed to "Author Jenny Blake." He makes himself available for book questions in the middle of his ridiculously awesome book tour, and continues to be a model for authentic, kick-ass living.

Chris's book, which shot up to #8 on Amazon during its debut last week, delivers straightforward and inspiring advice to help you "live on your own terms" and "embrace life as a constant adventure." As the very smallest token of my appreciation, I bought an extra copy of Chris's book to give away to one of you.

Giveaway #2 - Free 60 Minute Coaching Sessions with the Fabulous ChaChanna Simpson

ChaChanna is an inspiration to me and one of my first friends in the blogosphere. She runs Twentity.com, is the author of her own Life After College book, and is in the process of completing coach training.

ChaChanna is working on a goal to do 50 free sessions over the next three months (ambitious and awesome!) - and I couldn't be happier to help out. The way I see it, it's a win/win - ChaChanna gets closer to her goal, and you get free coaching! She says, "If you are willing to stretch yourself to create the life you want, the relationship you want, and the career you want, I can help you close the gap between the life have and the one you really want."

  • How to sign-up: If you're interested in signing up for a free 60 minute coaching session, email chachanna@twentity.com

Stay tuned for two more giveaways in Part Two of this post...coming later this week!


*FTW means "For the Win" in geeky Internet speak. Incidentally, it does not mean a triumphant "F*** the World!" as I used to incorrectly believe.

An Open Letter to Love: It's Not You, It's Me.

Dear Love, I think we should take a break.

I find myself bumping into you in all the wrong places. I know people and books say you are everywhere, but for some reason I keep wanting what I can't have. And I don't want that.

It's not you, it's me. I just want to relax and appreciate the fact that I am single and have the freedom to do whatever I'd like. I'm tired of wondering why I am not in a relationship and wishing things were different, but then getting scared when I think they might be. Please just let me love my friends and my family and my dog and puppies and the sky cam...and let that be enough. Enough.

I'm also tired of people troubleshooting, advising and analyzing me (I'm as guilty of this as anyone). Single is not a disease that needs to be cured. It is not a problem that needs to be fixed.

I've read book after book after book after book on dating and relationships, and they are driving me crazy. It's like self-analysis and dating experts are competing to see who can drive me insane first.

While I appreciate the wisdom behind it all, I am tired of the endless stream of paradoxical clichés:

  • You will find someone when least expect it or when you aren't looking / You have to be proactive and put yourself out there
  • You have to appear available / Don't come across as desperate
  • You have to get clear on what you want / Maybe you shouldn't be so picky
  • You have to look inward, fix your issues, and love yourself completely / Nobody is perfect. Don't be so hard on yourself.
  • You're too busy; you have to make room in your life / Get out there and do activities you enjoy, pursue things you are passionate about
  • And on....and on....and on.

So with all due respect Love, I would love if you could just give me some space. Let me enjoy my time alone without looking for you.

Here's to being single & fabulous & perfectly lonely, Jenny


“We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand.” —C.S. Lewis

This post was a tough one for me to hit "publish" on -- I feel all exposed and sort of want to run for cover, but my desire to be honest with you has won out. That said, for fear of over-analyzing things too much I may not reply to every comment (though I really value what you have to say and will read every single one). I hope you understand.  :)