Happy 4 Year Blogiversary to Life After College!

Life After College Book as a Cake - Photo Collage (Jenny Blake and NYC-Angel, Ann) FOUR YEARS. I can't believe that this little project, cooked up on a whim based on a love for writing that started with a family newspaper operation out of my living room at age 11, has turned into the very center of my life and career.

Starting a blog is easy -- buying a domain, setting up WordPress, making a few tweaks. Writing quality content week-over-week, cracking yourself open again and again, coming up with original ideas, and exposing your innermost thoughts for public review and scrutiny, is not. But damn is it rewarding.

About this post:

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

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

Previous Round-ups

The 4 Most Important Lessons I've Learned in Four Years of Blogging

  1. Big projects become successful after thousands of micro-steps taken regularly and consistently over time. Everyone starts somewhere. While some bloggers seem to skyrocket to success over night, I have taken an alternate route with my blog. I have never once had an explicit goal to grow my traffic. Partly because my day job kept me very busy for the first 3+ years, and partly because I don't like to force things or "over-effort." My mission has always been to focus on delivering the best content I can muster as consistently as I can each month. When people look at my blog today, they may not realize that it's has been a four-year process of making micro-revisions, one tiny little adjustment at a time. The first version was a design hack-job I did myself, and it wasn't until three years later that I paid a professional to clean things WAY up. The categories, format, posts, about page -- every single sentence, piece of content, widget and plug-in has been tried and tested and tweaked dozens of times, over time. There is no way I could have done it all at once, and you shouldn't expect yourself to either. Start somewhere. Then fix while flying.
  2. Constantly push yourself to be more vulnerable and transparent than you're comfortable with. This is the hardest lesson to practice, and though it has gotten MUCH easier over the years, I still have to frequently ask myself what I'm afraid to write about and then GO THERE. My most popular posts without question are the ones in which I reveal struggles, flaws and bumps. We bond through shared struggle, and while that doesn't have to be the sole focus of a blog, it is a great service to others if you can allow yourself to open up more.
  3. Make real connections with people. Blogging should really be referred to as an "insta-friend generator." Blogging has introduced me to the most wonderful network of friends and readers -- I am absolutely rich with relationships because of it. However it still isn't a magic bullet; relationships -- online and off -- take work to cultivate. They require setting aside time, proactively reaching out to people, and keeping your commitments.
  4. Don't forget to thank the hand that feeds you. I see some newer bloggers who are hungry to make it big, land a book deal, and/or strike it rich. While those are all nice dreams, of course, that tunnel vision it creates forgets that blogging is really an act of service. It doesn't often pay well, if at all, and the most successful bloggers remember that their readers are everything. At least to me. You are not a means to an end in my life -- you are my life. You are the reason I was able to quit my job at Google and break-even after my first six months of running my own business. You are the reason I got a book deal, and get asked to do speaking engagements and can create meaningful courses and content to help you gain clarity and take action in your life. Don't forget where you came from, and don't forget to thank the hand that feeds you -- whether you are a blogger, an employee, a company, or frankly . . . a living, breathing human being.

Personal Milestones

  • After two years of intense work, the Life After College book was released March 27, 2011! It has 88 reviews on Amazon and has sold about 7,000 copies to-date which is about halfway to earning back my advance (after which point I can start getting royalties).
  • It has been such a joy to hear from readers who are inspired to improve their lives after reading the book -- I am humbled by and grateful for every reader who has helped bring the book to life.
  • I took a three-month sabbatical from Google to go on a self-funded 10 city book tour.
  • As part of the book tour, I spoke at spoke at TEDxCMU (April 2011), appeared on the BetterTV Morning Show (May 2011), and delivered my very own Authors@Google talk on 10 lessons I learned during the publishing process.
  • When it came time to go back to Google, I realized there was no way I could effectively juggle both any more. It wouldn't be fair to Google and my teammates, and it wouldn't be fair to my projects and big dreams. I wasn't willing to give up the latter.
  • I gave Google my two-weeks notice on June 15. It was one of the hardest decisions of my life, but deep down I knew what I needed to do, if only I could overcome the fear of uncertainty and failure.
  • I became an official no-strings-attached solopreneur on July 5, 2011.
  • Seth Godin mentioned my 15-tab Book Marketing Spreadsheet on the Domino Project Blog; it got over 6K downloads in the first month.
  • I moved to New York City on September 11 and haven't looked back since. I document most of my love affair through Tumblr.
  • I launched my first course, Make Sh*t Happen, two days later despite massive fears that no one would be interested and my hopes and dreams as an Internet entrepreneur would be crushed. The course sold-out in less than 24 hours.
  • I decided to slow things WAAAAY down in Q4 by saying no more and only scheduling meetings on one day a week. It has worked out so well I plan to keep things this way.
  • I'm also excited to share that I'm one of Brazen Careerist's 20 Brazen Young Professionals to Watch in 2012 (announced today!), one of eHow's first annual Shift List honorees, and ProBlogger's (!!) 20 Blogs to Watch in 2012. Thank you so much!

My Favorite Posts

The Life After College Book Journey


Big Goals & Finding Your Path

Breakdowns & Important Reminders

My Big Leap

Blog Statistics:

  • Visits - In the last month I received 21,767 visits (45,959 page views) from 134 countries, about double from last year's 11,580 visits (20,532 page views) from 110 countries and 2009's 7,000+ visits (13,500 page views) from 97 countries. The total visits for 2011 was just over 124,821 uniques (365,449 page views) from 180 countries, up from last year's 100,000 uniques (200,000 page views).
  • Top Keywords - In 2010, the keyword “life after college” sent 12,769 visits (up from last year's 8,773 visits). “Jenny Blake” was the next highest search query with 4,793 (compared to last year's 1,199 visits).
  • Quirky question keywords (always fun) – is female and male viagra the same? (I have no clue), is it hard to date after college? (you are asking the wrong girl), is it normal to be lonely after college? (yes, for sure -- we all have ups and downs), is it possible to keep everyone happy? (no!), is it unprofessional to skype interview in your bedroom? (I'm gonna go with...YES), is it worth experimenting after college for your dream? (HELL YES!)
  • Best “Jenny Blake” keywords - how old is jenny blake (28 folks!), jenny blake kickboxing free aerobic lesson (ummm...last I checked I don't offer those), jenny blake millionaire (YES! Where do I sign up??), jenny blake naked (sorry to disappoint...none of that here), jenny blake ninja (::blushing:: I like to think so), jenny gets kicked in the ass (ouch! really?), i love jenny blake (aww, thanks!)

What's on the docket for 2012?

  • In general: to slow down, relax and ENJOY my life. This is not going to be a year of massive striving -- any big leaps or opportunities that occur will be nice surprises. This is my year to practice being fully present, grateful, intentional, graceful and positive.
  • More freedom-- I'm putting the "lifestyle" piece square in the center of my lifestyle business. I want to design a business that is not intended for crazy growth, but rather to allow me to live my days in ways I love (which typically involves reading with a cup of coffee in the morning, going for a run, going to yoga class, doing strategic and/or my best creative work, and hanging out with friends).The parts of my business that I love are speaking, coaching, writing and my new baby, the Make Sh*t Happen course (which will re-launch in January).
  • Building out my store page -- One important part of a lifestyle business is adding products that will help my audience AND allow me to scale myself and my ideas. In addition to offering services that involve trading time for money (ie 1:1 coaching) I'd like to keep building evergreen products that can sell while I sleep. I hesitate to call this passive income because there's nothing passive about the work that goes into them, but they do eventually become self-sustaining (if built with adding tremendous value in mind). On that note, stay tuned for another awesome course that Emily Smith (my MSH Angel) and I are putting together based on my book!
  • My biggest personal goal is to finish my yoga teacher certification and start teaching Geek Yoga classes in NYC for my entrepreneur friends (and anyone else who would like to join!). I've been taking classes 5-6 times a week since I moved here; now it's time for me to stretch outside of my comfort zone (no yoga pun intended!) and TEACH, even though I'm often intimidated at the thought of it. The funny thing about yoga is that I don't know exactly what form it will take in my business moving forward . . . all I know is that it is my rock in life. It keeps me sane, grounded, and true to myself, and I am thrilled at the prospect of sharing that gift with others and creating a place for my community to congregate.

THANK YOU EVERYONE for making this such a memorable, incredible year. I look forward to serving you to the very best of my ability in 2012 and far far beyond. Happy holidays, and see you in 2012!

December Crock-Pot: Links I Love & Belly Laughs

Jenny's Chili Soup It's December . . . have you tried making my mom's chili soup recipe yet?! If not, you're missing out! Click here for a handy ingredients list you can take to the grocery store. I make this every week, which means you know I have a Google Doc shortcut for it :)

Speaking of docs & spreadsheets -- I just created a Moving Checklist Template by popular demand -- if you've moved recently or have a big move coming up, I'd love to hear in the comments if I'm missing anything!

With that, it's time for another Crock-Pot Round-up I'm-still-sad-about-Google-Reader-taking-away-sharing post . . .

Quick reminder: you can follow more of what I'm reading on my Tumblr, Google +1s page, and GoodReads (book reviews). 

  • Book Worm Confession time: I caved. My brother and I bought a Kindle Fire for my mom for her birthday, and when she decided to return it in favor of an iPad (who can blame her?!) my gadgetlust kicked in and I decided to keep the Kindle for myself. Me, an avid proponent of paper and new book smell -- now have a Kindle. It almost feels wrong. To be fair, it replaced my older MUCH heavier tablet, runs on the Android platform which I love, and still doesn't completely phase out the purchasing of non-fiction books that I will proudly adorn my bookshelf with. But my early reviews? I LOVE IT, take it everywhere, and even spoon it to sleep . . . kind of like this.
  • This video brought tears to my eyes: Zach Wahls Speaks About Family (on equal rights for marriage in Iowa).
  • Torre DeRoche lays down the gauntlet in Chasing the Carrot of Tomorrow with poignant reminders about honoring exactly where we are NOW: "Society puts unrelenting pressure on us to be always on the run, chasing one goal or another. ‘What are you working on? Where are you going? What’s next for you? Where is your carrot? If you manage to catch the elusive carrot, this pressure to keep shuffling forward may prevent you taking a single lick of your glorious prize."
  • In tune with Torre, Seth Godin reminds us that not everything is a calamity or a breakthrough - in fact, most of what we do in life isn't either one . . . and that's okay.
  • Cara Stein, who has quickly become one of my favorite "truth post" bloggers, provides tips on How to get unstuck from 10 Mental Quicksand Pits.
  • Willie Jackson — also affectionately known as Willie Freakin' Jackson (WFJ) — extolls the virtues of Being Selfish (especially when it comes to your schedule and creativity). Willie's blog provides a great dose of brief daily posts that always make me think.
  • Chris Guillebeau released his latest manifesto The Tower (available for free in PDF, iPad and Kindle formats) on urgency and leaving a legacy.
  • New Yorkers: I'm proud to be speaking at the NY Creative Interns' One-Year Anniversary Bash next Wednesday, Dec. 14 at Wix Lounge to help them celebrate an incredible year of kick-ass events. Emily and team helped organize my book launch party which was so outstanding that it seriously replaced any need for me to have a wedding. My friend Ann even turned my book into a cake! But I digress. I'd love for you to help us celebrate next Wednesday if you're in town :)
  • iTunes givewaway winners: Huge thanks to he 62 of you who left comments on the Thanksgiving gratitude post! I loved reading what you all had to say, and it's my absolute pleasure to send the gift of music to the 10 lucky winners (chosen via Random.org): JanaLindsay, Dee, Sarah, Rebecca, Pauline, GinnyRachael McKelvey, Udoka, and Laurel. I've left comments in reply to the winners in case there's any confusion about whether it's you or not.
  • Best of Craigslist: Yoga Mat for Sale: This might be THE funniest thing I've read all year!! Side splitting, belly-laughing hilarity. If you've ever done Bikram (and disliked it as much as I did) or had a crush on an adjacent yogi in class, you'll have tears in your eyes! Big thanks to Elisa Doucette for sending the link :)

Speaking of Yoga, to wrap things up I leave you with the Hey Yoga Girl music video, which also had me dying:

[youtube id="L-8IPDR4Khc"]

Courage isn't always glamorous. Actually, it almost never is.

After another recent speaking engagement (it's been a busy month!), someone came up to me and said, "What you're doing is really courageous. Leaving your job . . . Google of all places, and the safety of a paycheck to start your own company. I want to do that someday."

She saw my decision as courageous. And don't get me wrong -- I do too.

But more than that, I saw it as oxygen. It's what I needed to do in order to breathe again. In order to exhale. In order to live the life that was waiting for me on the other side of a seemingly insurmountable, suffocating mountain of fear. I loved Google -- but my heart turned elsewhere, even before my mind did.

"Never compare your inside with somebody else's outside"

When I'm at a speaking engagement, I feel really fancy.

I get dressed up, I actually accessorize, and I do something respectable with my mop of usually wet-and-thrown-into-a-bun hair. I passionately share my thoughts on big goals, pushing through fears, trusting your gut, taking baby steps, and trusting the process even if you can't see the whole path.

I've got to assume that from the perspective of someone in the audience, my courage looks effortless and maybe even impossibly glamorous.

It's not. It wasn't. It isn't. It almost never is.

Courage is earned . . . through tears, fears, heartbreak, and failure. It's messy. Ugly. Rocky. And you find your courage when you have no choice BUT to trust it.

I start my speech by showing the picture of a woman laying on the floor of an office (shown above), as I share the following story:

A year and a half ago, I found myself rolling around the floor of a Google conference room between back-to-back meetings, dizzy, nauseous and on the verge of throwing up. And no, I wasn’t pregnant. I wasn’t sick either.

I was burned out. Spent. Exhausted.

As Martha Beck -- one of my personal idols -- puts it, my essential self had been bullied into silence for so long that it was no longer willing to stand by and watch me run myself into the ground...again.

So it spoke up the only way it knew how -- by literally incapacitating me to the point where I didn’t have the energy to reach up from the floor, pick up the telephone, and cancel my next meeting.

In the Four-Hour Workweek Tim Ferris says, "The opposite of love is indifference and the opposite of happiness is -- here's the clincher -- boredom."

Are you bored or unhappy? Are you waiting to find your courage, wrapped in a big, beautiful glamorous bow?

If so, stop waiting and start doing. I know, I know -- I make it sound so easy. I know it isn't . . . but as Joan Baez said, "Action is the antidote to despair."

Courage isn't always glamorous.

  • Courage is crying -- snotty, unattractive, red, splotchy hysterical crying -- because you know what you need to do, but you're scared shitless to actually do it.
  • Courage is going to sleep so heartsick that you couldn't find the strength to change out of your clothes, but getting up and out of bed again the next day.
  • Courage is not having any answers but taking action anyway.
  • Courage is opening your heart and mind -- to hope and possibility -- despite crazy mind goblins telling you it's a terrible idea.
  • Courage is agonizing over a decision for months or years -- then making it on your own time, when you are ready.
  • Courage is listening to the whisper in your gut with such a fine quality of attention that it becomes a roar.

Courage is a hot mess. At least in my experience.

What's that? Yours too? See -- we're all more similar than you think. And we all have a much deeper well of courage than we realize.

What would you do if you had the courage? What would it look like to start even without it? 


On that note, I've set the re-launch date for the second Make Sh*t Happen course.

I actually did it while writing this post, because I got really fired up about helping people realize that Making Sh*t Happen is not always glamorous or easy. Once you drop that expectation, the world is yours. If you're ready for me, I'm ready for you.

Doors open January 10, and I'm not raising the price or the class size -- it will be $297 and open to 36 people who are ready to find their courage and change their lives. Sign-up on the homepage to be one of the first to be notified when enrollment opens.

Now go get 'em, Tiger! :::virtually slaps butt:::

Okay now I'm just getting cheeky. (Punderful!) Signing off before this get's too crazy... :)

Are you a victim of "quiet" credit card fraud?

I had the great pleasure of speaking at Mint.com two weeks ago (hi Vu and team!) -- a fangirl dream come true, seeing as I mention Mint in just about every money post. Mint Logo

Seriously, second only to Suze Orman knowing I exist, Mint.com was the number one company I dreamed about partnering with during the book tour. Well now that partnership might just be happening! In fact, I'd love your help brainstorming ideas -- more on that soon.

The day before I was set to speak at Mint, I checked my paper credit card statement. I'll admit -- sometimes I don't check every single line before I pay it. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don't. Well - I will now be diligently checking from here on out.

Someone stole my credit card number, ladies and gentlemen, and though I have no idea how, they could have yours too.

See Exhibit A:

Dirty Rascals!! Jenny's Credit Card Fraud Statement

Quiet Credit Card Fraud

As you can see, the charges were small enough not to raise any fraud alert flags, especially since I travel so often. I can assure you, though, that I am not bouncing back and forth from NYC to Memphis to get my Kroeger's and Walmart fix every other day.

When I talked to Wells Fargo, they said that someone had been manually entering the number (not swiping it). I have absolutely NO idea how the fraudsters got a hold of it -- probably an online payment that wasn't secure. The other strange thing is that this is on my business credit card, which I use far less frequently than my personal one.

I'm calling this quiet because this type of fraud doesn't raise any alarm bells immediately -- your balance doesn't skyrocket overnight, and for all your credit card company knows, one of your online retailers could have headquarters in another state (thus explaining the multiple purchase locations). The ONLY way to discover this kind of fraud is to be vigilant about monitoring your statements. With that...

Important fraud prevention basics:

  • When you finish reading this post, go check every single line of your credit card statement. Make that a monthly habit from this point forward.
  • Beware of services like paperless and automatic billing -- for me, that's when I tend to get careless. It's fine to be notified online and to auto-pay, but it doesn't get you off the hook from going line-by-line through each of your bills every month.
  • Be careful when (better yet, avoid altogether) making financial transactions over non-secure internet connections (coffee shops, open wireless networks, etc.)
  • If you found this reminder helpful, forward it to a friend or two who could also use an awareness nudge

I'd love to hear from you (and help other readers) in the comments: Got any credit card fraud tips or stories to share?


Happy Thanksgiving! An iTunes Giveaway to Express my Gratitude

Happy Thanksgiving to my American readers, happy belated Thanksgiving to the Canadians, and happy Random Gratitude Day to all others around the globe! This quote from the Dalai Lama is one of my all-time favorites -- for two years I had it printed on a piece of paper and taped to my bathroom mirror:

Everyday, think as you wake up, today I am fortunate to be alive, I have a precious human life, I am not going to waste it. I am going to use all my energies to develop myself, to expand my heart out to others; to achieve enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. I am going to have kind thoughts towards others, I am not going to get angry or think badly about others. I am going to benefit others as much as I can.

—Dalai Lama

After every yoga practice when I bow forward in namaste, I give thanks. I pause while my hands are touching my forehead and the ground in prayer-position (bowing forward over crossed-legs) and take a few minutes to cycle through everything I am grateful for.

Today I'd like to share some of the thoughts that come up most frequently:

  • I am grateful for my body, my practice and my health.
  • I am grateful to have all of my basic needs met so that I can focus on doing work that inspires me and others.
  • I am grateful for my wonderful family; for how much they teach, inspire and support me. For their health and happiness.
  • I am grateful for my friends and for this incredible community.
  • I am grateful -- so grateful -- to be working for myself because of all of you and now to be living in New York City.
  • I am grateful to be giving myself the space to stumble, fall, get back up and keep climbing up the steep learning curve of this phase of my life.
  • I am grateful for my yoga teachers who create such an amazing space for me to relax, release, transform, and fly.

A giveaway to express my gratitude for YOU

Thanksgiving Cupcake

Hopefully you all know by now how much I love you. If you forgot, read this post from the day I sent my book off to press.

After almost four years of blogging, you have been my rock. You have been the constant in my life, and the very source of my freedom.

I feel humbly indebted to this blog and to all of you for helping me reach my lifelong dream of being an author/speaker/coach/yoga teacher/entrepreneur extraordinairre.

Thank you for being so wonderful, compassionate, positive and loyal.

As a small token of my appreciation, I am giving away ten $10 iTunes e-certificates (courtesy of JBE!).

Music makes my life go 'round (I've made a seasonal playlist every quarter for the last 10 years), and I'd love to help you refresh your collection -- whether it's for running, car blasting, working, or dancing around the house in your underwear to Mariah Carey's version of All I Want for Christmas is You.

To enter, leave a comment stating something small or unexpected you are grateful for (ie you get a free pass on saying health, friends or family :)


Since I realize you may be in a tryptophan hangover and/or spending precious time with friends and family instead of commenting on blogs, the deadline to enter will be Wednesday, November 30. In the meantime: go grab a water bottle or hairbrush, turn it into a microphone, jump on the bed and blast the following video while singing at the top of your lungs:

[youtube id="yXQViqx6GMY"]

You're invited! December Webinars: Inbox Freedom + Career Trailblazer

Jenny Blake Speaking at the Texas Conference For Women I've been very fortunate to do a lot of speaking engagements this year (most recently at the Texas Conference for Women where I got to tell Martha Beck how obsessed I am with her work), but I always feel like I could do a better job of including all of you. These events don't always capture video, and even when they do it may not be available for months.

I LOVE workshops and live interaction, so I'm thrilled to announce that I've got two great online events lined up for December! Read on for more details...

Inbox Freedom: 2-Part Webinar Series (hosted in conjunction with People On the Go)

This is a topic near and dear to my heart. As many of you know from my 12 Mini Confessions post, email and I have a love/hate relationship. I absolutely love interacting with friends and readers, and email is a major part of my job and how much of my work gets done.

However, I hate the feeling of constantly being behind; of sinking deeper and deeper into email quicksand for every day that I spend away from the computer. I am a slave the little "ding" notification on my phone, and yet I don't turn it off. I check email when I wake up in the morning, all day long, and until I go to sleep at night.

There has got to be a better way. 

This webinar series is my way of helping us find it. Email isn't going anywhere, and for the most part, our work benefits greatly from the convenience, speed and reach it can allow -- if used properly.

Email is a skill just like any other, and this webinar series will help you take your email habits from ad hoc to intentional and focused. I've taken a deep, introspective look at what gets in my way and have done extensive research on tips and tools from others so that I can share the very best of the best practices with you.

The Inbox Freedom series is an interactive workshop composed of two 60-minute sessions:

  • Session 1 - The Bigger Picture: Addressing how/when email fits -- assessing your overall email "health," understanding the three A's that typically plague us when it comes to answering email: attitude, avoidance, and (lack of) awareness; an overview of The Results Curve, strategies for how to keep email from consuming every waking minute of your day (and most important work), and an exercise to help you outline your broader priorities.
  • Session 2 - Email as a task: once you have email in it's proper place of your day-to-day workflow, we'll examine the anatomy of the email task, how to recognize and prioritize emails based on what is actually urgent/important, and share online resources to help you process more effectively.

You will leave this series with:

  • A handle on how email fits in to your broader workflow and priorities
  • Strategies for reducing email overwhelm and dealing with "big frogs" that you tend to avoid
  • An abundance of helpful resources and tactics to help you process email more efficiently and effectively
  • The ability to focus on what really matters to you

Day/Time: Session 1: Thursday, Dec. 1 at 1pm PT / 4pm ET; Session 2: Thursday, Dec. 8 at 1pm PT / 4pm ET Cost: $29 for an individual; companies: special discount of $99 for teams of 10 who sign-up Enroll: Sign-up here

Trailblazer Webinar with Jonathan Mead: How to craft your offer to the world in a way that makes customers flock to wait in line to work with you, and gets you paid to do what you love

Jonathan Mead is someone I've looked up to for as long as I've been blogging, and I'm thrilled to be co-hosting a webinar with him about his incredible work, which is helping people find what they were born to do and then...drumroll please...actually get paid for it!

Here's a description of the webinar from Jonathan:

Your offer is everything.

When you get this right, everything lines up. Opportunities materialize, people are interested, and they’re hungry for more.

Get it wrong, however, and all your effort, all your hard work amounts to… little or nothing.

Personally, I can’t stand seeing this happen. So I’m on a mission to help people get this right from the beginning, so the seed you plant grows into something beautiful.

On this webinar you’ll discover…

  • The one thing you can do to immediately transform your chances of success right now
  • Reveal the truth about the “unfortunate lie” that is holding most people back from succeeding (most people don’t even know they’re spreading this)
  • How you can finally make this “getting paid to be who you are” thing a reality, now (and what a simple shift you can make has to do with it)
  • Why the seed you plant from the beginning is everything: if it’s infertile, nothing grows; if it’s strong and hardy, it can withstand anything
Day/Time: The Trailblazer webinar will be held on Tuesday, December 6 at 5pm PT, 8pm ET
Cost: Free!
Enroll: Sign-up here

I look forward to (hopefully) hanging out with you at one of these events!


P.S. Thanks to Alexis Grant, I am quoted in the U.S. News and World Report magazine this month...the paper one! I snatched up five copies at the airport, and couldn't resist sharing a few snapshots with all of you. Read the full article here.

Jenny Blake - Quote in US News & World Report

On Not White-Lying by Omission: 12 Mini Confessions

"Shh" - Image Courtesy of Raquel Camargo (Flickr)Bloggers, particularly of the personal development variety, really have to be careful about white-lying by omission. If we don't make an effort to share the ugly, dirty underbelly of our lives, you might assume that everything we touch is covered in glossy gold perfection, and that perhaps there is something wrong with you if you can't achieve that same nirvana.

I speak for myself on this, but I don't white-lie-by-omission to you on purpose. Sometimes I need the introverted time to process what is happening. And sometimes I don't share on the blog because I'm not even ready to admit to myself what my little ugly truths are.

I'm not revealing anything earth-shattering today. But I am going to exercise my own version of confessional and search for 12 things that I have been otherwise resisting saying out loud. If you're feeling brave, I'd love for you to join me (at least with one or two) in the comments. It will help me feel like I'm not standing all alone on my island of embarrassing quirks :)

12 Mini Confessions

  1. There are some days -- more than I'd care to admit -- where I cannot bring myself to work, no matter how large my to-do list grows. I spent last Friday watching all seven episodes of Revenge in bed. (For the record, that show is my new guilty-pleasure addiction.) Sometimes I wake up and I just feel flat out depressed for no good reason. I think it's the change in weather and daylight -- but I could just be making that up.
  2. Sometimes the more my email inbox grows, the more days I spend avoiding it. I've even signed on to teach a second round of the Inbox Freedom webinar series because I'm hoping it will motivate me to tackle my own overwhelm. Join me if you're feeling overwhelmed too.
  3. As much as I try to be all "zen and sh*t" about my dating life, there are many moments where I can't help but feel frustrated and sad. For years people have said things like, "When you finish the book...when you leave Google...when you move to New York...when you exhibit the qualities you'd want in a partner..." Check. Check. Check and check. No more outside advice...no more paradoxical cliches...once again I search for some peace of mind in my Open Letter to Love.
  4. My coping mechanism for dating frustration is creating snarky Someecards that are not really appropriate for the front page of my blog and sending them to my #SPIRLBFF Elisa Doucette. Here's the latest creation.
  5. Sometimes I feel like I am losing my mind to limerence! How can such a logical woman spiral in circles about a guy she barely knows? I simultaneously love the fantasy and feel tortured by the thought that I'm making it all up. I know, I should just ask him out already. But I'm too chicken. Says the girl who quit Google.
  6. I should write about dating on my blog waaay more often than I do. But I'm worried that you'll analyze me or try to give me advice or that I'll feel stupid. I know, it's ridiculous. To fix this, I might start a 20-minute "Dating in the Digital Age" podcast with the guy I met online who ended up filming my book trailer.
  7. Sometimes during yoga class I pretend I'm on stage performing. Gah! I'm a yoga teacher! I should know, more than anyone, that yoga is about turning inward; not comparing yourself to others or trying to impress (which holds true on and off the mat). But sometimes I imagine that I'm the world's most graceful practitioner and the thought that I'm performing helps me extend through every limb. Is that so bad?
  8. I get a notification from every person who unsubscribes from my blog or newsletters. Each time it sends a little pang of hurt, but I don't turn them off. I like to think it provides feedback...keeps me on my toes...but really it's just masochistic. I think it's an inner critic tactic -- grasping for evidence that whatever I just sent was total crap.
  9. For the most part, I dislike Skype calls and won't normally agree to them unless I do them all on the same day. Most days I'm working in my sweats with no makeup on, or still in sweaty clothes from going on a run. I only do something presentable with my hair if I'm leaving the house...for something other than errands. So when people say, "Let's Skype!" I imagine the 45 minutes of effort I'd have to put in, and I ask if they're okay chatting on the phone instead.
  10. Even though my Four-Step Budget template is one of my most popular downloads, I'm in desperate need of a spending overhaul! I still haven't really changed my spending habits since leaving Google, and I know I could be saving more than I am. This is even MORE important now that my income is unpredictable from month-to-month -- and yet, I can't seem to resist indulging all my food, shoe and clothing whims in New York.
  11. My last Make Sh*t Happen (MSH) newsletter had a MAJOR typo in the subject line. It said "10 Tenants for Any Quest;" I used the word Tenants (renters) instead of Tenets (principles). It went out to over 600 people, but thankfully only a few noticed...or told me that they noticed. Hey -- at least they were paying attention! I felt like a complete idiot. Unlike blog posts, you can't update an email subject line after the fact.
  12. The MSH course wrapped up last week and I have been so blown away by the people in it and the fact that IT WORKED that I got overwhelmed and haven't shared anything with you on the blog. Partly because the participants and I promised each other that what happens in the course would stay confidential, and partly because I don't want to be the annoying salesy-braggy blogger type. At the same time, this is what puts food on the table now! So I will post some love for the MSH course soon...when I can motivate myself to stop watching shows on Hulu and start getting back to work. In the meantime, check out this Q&A with Alexis Grant for more about the course.

I'm now laughing out loud in the middle of Starbucks. Have I made myself sound totally batshit crazy yet?!

How about you? What are one or two "truths" that you've been itching to offload? Share in the comments -- it might just provide some much-needed relief. . .

And when all else fails, make an ecard.


P.S. I am absolutely in love with this video, and the song that goes with it (We Don't Eat by James Vincent McMorrow). It makes me so grateful to be living in New York:

November Miscellaneum

If "Plan A" didn't work, the alphabet has 25 more letters. Stay Cool.

I love this image! Who ever said we have to stop at Plan B? Life and big goals are always changing...we have so many more opportunities than we realize to learn, adjust, try, fail, get back up and keep going. The beauty is in the mess. Now just remind me I said that when I'm looking at my morning reflection after rolling out of bed :)

Exciting news from New York City: we had our first snow over Halloween weekend! I've never lived on the East Coast before, so for the first 30 minutes it was cute and fun and breathtaking -- then it quickly turned cold and slippery. Just about once a day someone here says, "Ooooh, you're from California? Good luck! We had a BRUTAL Winter last year." I have no idea what to expect...if I fall off the blogosphere for three months it's either because my fingers froze off or I've become a hermit and haven't left the house to socialize, eat or find things to write about.

A Short Google Reader Rant: I don't know about you, but I'm a little distressed that Google Reader is now gone...at least in the form I had gotten nice and cozy with. I used to LOVE sharing posts and seeing friends' shared posts; it was how I got exposed to new blogs and new ideas -- the best of the best as voted by my Reader friends. Now I have to sign into Google+ and get lost in the entire stream, which I don't want. Just show me the posts!

You can see what an individual has recommended by clicking on the +1s column of their profile -- see an example of mine here.

In an ode to sharing quality content from around the web without Google Reader (:::pout!:::), I've put together my own list of must-reads that have knocked my socks off this month. I've also been Tumblr-ing more at Jenny Unplugged.

November Round-Up:

Jenny Blake Graphic (Drawn by Sarah Peck)

Welcome Stepcase Lifehack Readers!

Quick update before we jump in: my book is finally out on Kindle - woohoo! Order your copy here. Not sure if it's for you? Check out what 77 fabulous reviewers had to say. I'm very excited to have my first post up on Lifehack.org today -- a site that has inspired my own thoughts on organization, lifehacking and providing useful content for readers for as long as I've been blogging.

My Lifehack post is about how doing a cleanse (and subsequently "going Paleo") changed my life -- and business -- for the better. It's not necessarily the fastest, magic bullet-iest (new word!), or sexiest lifehack (or maybe it is?); it requires dedication and tough choices, but I've found the rewards to be exponentially positive. I've included an excerpt at the end of this post.

Here are some related posts (a virtual welcome mat, if you will) for all the new readers this week -- hopefully this serves as a nice recap for the veteran readers as well!

On Health & Fitness: 

On Side Hustles, Leaving Google & Solopreneruship:

On Lifehacking & General Organization: 

My latest greatest (pen and paper!) organization strategy:

Jenny's Weekly OrganizerI've tried everything for daily organizing - Todoist, TeuxDeux, Evernote, Google Docs, Google Calendar, my own Weekly Activity Tracker - the list goes on.

And then I discovered the one...the only...Post-it Weekly Organizer! It's simple, it helps me map out my week, and the best part is that I can SEE it all day while I'm working.

This has also helped me ensure that work, people and health get equal billing in my life. No one category takes priority, and I made it a point to list the daily health goals first. At first I resisted only having five lines for each category, but now realize that it helps me stay focused and prioritize the most important tasks.

Intro from tbe Lifehack post: The best decision you can make for your business -- that has nothing to do with money

Imagine two people starting identical companies with the exact same resources, network, and time at their disposal (gender randomly assigned for brevity’s sake):

  • Person #1 wakes up every day with anxiety, stressed about his mounting to-do list. He immediately buries himself in reactive work -- striving to please everyone else but himself by responding to emails, taking meetings and delivering what others ask of him. He gets whipped around by his moods -- one minute he’s happy and excited, the next he’s tired, anxious, unmotivated and depressed. His productivity on any given day is completely unpredictable -- sometimes he wakes up excited to work, and on other days you couldn’t pry him off the couch with a forklift.
  • Person #2 starts her days with purpose. No matter what her mood is upon waking up, she laces up her running shoes and gets her blood pumping with a 20-minute run. She uses that time outside to reflect and plan her day, and the resulting endorphins and morning shower give her energy to launch into her best work. She works diligently on her most important projects first, while she’s feeling sharp and creative. She takes a break in the afternoon by heading to yoga class, which centers and grounds her. By the time she attacks her inbox in the afternoon she already feels accomplished -- the emails no longer assault her plans, they support them. Person #2 ends the day feeling calm, happy, confident and empowered.

Both of these people are me.

I quit my job at Google two months ago to pursue my passion as an author, speaker and coach, and during my first month of solopreneurship I was Person #1.

I wasn’t running my business, my business was running me. And as 100% of the company, the opportunity costs of operating at half-mast were extremely high.

Continue reading the full post on Lifehack.org, which includes 4 key tips for growing your business or big goal, and improving your life by putting your body first.

Guest Post: How to Take a Career Break to Travel

Intro from Jenny: One thing that has always been important to me is sharing a variety of career perspectives on this blog beyond my own personal choices. Not everyone wants to work nights and weekends on a side hustle or quit their job to become self-employed -- nor should they feel the pressure to! That's what I love about Alexis Grant, today's guest poster. Alexis advocates taking a career break to travel, which can sometimes feel as nerve-wracking to ask for as giving your two-weeks notice (perhaps moreso because you have more at stake if you don't plan on leaving).

Alexis interviewed me for two US News & World Report articles when my book came out (Treat Your Career Like a Smart Phone and Can I afford to take a sabbatical?) and we've kept in close touch since. I'm thrilled to share her work here at LAC today for any of you contemplating how to take a travel break without completely uprooting your career.

How to Take a Career Break to Travel (by Alexis Grant)

When I left my job to backpack through Africa, friends and colleagues often said to me, “I wish I could take a trip like that.”

Yet they didn’t follow that phrase with when they planned to go or where they would visit. Instead, they almost always followed it with a sentence that started with “But.”

  • BUT I can’t leave my job.
  • BUT I don’t have the money.
  • BUT I have a mortgage.

The truth is, we all have our own BUT. It wouldn’t be a BIG, HAIRY, SCARY GOAL, as Jenny calls it, if it didn’t include at least one. Without the BUT, it simply wouldn’t be a dream.

My BUT was my job. I was working as a reporter at one of the country’s largest newspapers, the Houston Chronicle. I got to write stories about flesh-eating bacteria and rodeo cowboys and Death Row. It was the job I’d wanted all through graduate school, and I knew other journalists my age who were stuck covering board meetings for the town weekly would take my place in a second. How could I leave that behind?

I made the jump because I feared my desire to travel might not last forever, that riding in a crowded bush taxi would lose its appeal as I got older. I worried that if I didn’t follow my travel whims in my twenties, I might never do it.

So after three years in the workforce, I headed to Africa, where I traveled through seven countries in six months – and then got a new job when I got back. I socked the hell out of my BUT. And yet, I totally get it when a wannabe traveler feels trapped by seemingly unbeatable obstacles.

That’s why I wrote How to Take a Career Break to Travel. Because no matter how many BUTs you have, it’s possible to overcome all of those obstacles if you really want to make travel a priority.

In fact, this applies to more than taking a career break. It applies to any dream: landing a new job, publishing a book, taking any part of your life to the next level.

So when you find that three-letter word stopping you in your tracks, ask yourself: How can you work around that BUT? Or how can you face that challenge head-on?

In my new guide, I break down several major BUTs that keep wannabe travelers from seeing the world.

Chances are, even if your dream isn’t backpacking through Africa or museum-hopping in Europe or buying an around-the-world plane ticket, these BUTs have still forced their way into the picture. In some way, they’re probably infringing upon your Big Dream.

BUT: Career Common obstacle: But if I leave my job, I won’t be able to find one when I get back! How to work around it: Use your trip to enhance your resume. Rather than bumming through Latin America, give yourself an objective, like learning Spanish or volunteering with a non-profit or growing an awesome travel blog. If you gain skills during your travels, you’ll be a more marketable, more desirable worker when you return home, one employers would be foolish not to hire.

BUT: Money Common obstacle: A career break is so expensive! How to work around it: If you travel frugally, it will probably cost less to live on the road than it does at home. But since you won’t have a full-time paycheck coming in, you’ll have to save money to make this work. This is probably more doable than you think. Rather than minimizing your expenses to squeeze out savings, focus on maximizing income through your Side Hustle.

BUT: Housing Common obstacle: But I have a mortgage! How to work around it: Rather than thinking of this as a dream-stopper, approach it as a challenge, and think outside the box. Could you sell your house without taking a big loss? Don’t get sucked into the old-school rule that you have to own a home if you’re an adult. Plenty of us rent housing instead to give ourselves the flexibility we crave. If you can’t sell, could you rent out the property during your career break? Becoming a landlord can be a hassle, but it can also bring in some nice cash.

These BUTs aren’t actually as powerful as they look. They may feel intimidating, but once you check them out up close, you’ll see they’re not nearly scary and hairy as they appear from afar. Here’s my trick for wading through the scary and hairy: divide and conquer. Break those BUTs down into manageable bits, and tackle them one by one.

This tactic can work even if your BUT is something entirely different than a career break. If what you want seems totally undoable, how can you chip away at that goal, little by little? How can you get it within your reach?

My favorite tool for getting goals within my reach is one you might use already: the to-do list. 

You probably have to-do lists for your apartment (do laundry, fix the television, throw out the expired milk). And maybe for your job search, if you’re looking for a new job, or for your wedding, if you’re preparing to get hitched. We create to-do lists (and litter our desks with Post-Its) because they help us get that big thing accomplished.

So why not have a to-do list for your Big, Hairy, Scary Goal?

Get it all down on paper (or Evernote or Google Docs or whatever note-taking tool you prefer):

  • What tasks stand between you and this goal?
  • Can you break down those tasks even further, creating a to-do list of totally doable mini-tasks? (Hint: the Google spreadsheets Jenny’s mastered work super well for this.)

Rather than writing off those BUTs as impossible to overcome, break them down – divide and conquer – and be creative about answering the “how.” Before you know it, your Big, Hairy, Scary Goal will be more achievable than you thought.

What BUT gets in the way of your Big Dream – and how can you conquer it?


Alexis Grant HeadshotAlexis Grant is a journalist, social media strategist and author of the eguide, How to Take a Career Break to Travel. She is writing a travel memoir about backpacking solo through Africa and serves as managing editor of BrazenCareeristIf you liked this post, sign-up for her newsletter, which will help you take that Big Leap you've been waiting on. Follow Alexis on Twitter @AlexisGrant.

On Habit Change and The Itchy Scratchy Art* of Saying No

*If this is an art, my current skill-set is that of a five year old with crayons . . . but hear me out. Three things before we jump in:

  1. HUGE thanks to all of you for helping me max out Jeremy's DonorsChoose.org page on my birthday last Sunday -- we did it!! We weren't the only ones to contribute, but by the end of the day he had raised the remaining $448. It completely warmed my heart and his -- makes me so proud to have a community of readers like you. THANK YOU!
  2. I was honored to be chosen as one of 100 women for eHow's first annual "Shift List" -- check it out here.
  3. I am going to be speaking at the Texas Conference for Women on November 17 -- if any of you live in the Houston area, this will be a don't-miss conference with a huge line-up of incredible speakers (including one of my idols, Martha Beck) -- the registration fee is a very reasonable $140.


The Itchy Scratchy Art of Saying No

"Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts." --Arnold Bennett

If you recall my New York, New York post, you'll know I had every intention of taking things slowly this quarter so that I could leave the house and spend time in this great city rather than remain chained to my laptop by emails and meetings. You were all very understanding, and it really felt possible!

You have to crawl (and fall) before you can walk

The month of September went as follows: I kept telling my coach, "I'll slow down next week -- this one just got really busy." Then next week would come, and I would do nothing differently.

My first homework assignment was to take a four-day weekend off given how hard I'd been working after the Make Sh*t Happen launch.

I barely took four hours, let alone four days. So we adjusted our expectations and my homework the following weekend was to take Saturday and Sunday off. Once again, even with the best intentions, I bulldozed right over what should have been time untethered.

Then you hit a breaking point, and something has to change

Niagara Falls from the Maid of the Mist Boat

My first true days off since I've been here were the week of my birthday, when I went to Niagara Falls with my mom and grandma. I left my laptop at home (shocking!!) and spent time reading, reflecting, and relaxing.

Correction -- I was trying to relax. But requests and emails kept pouring in. Shockingly, they followed me to Niagara, even though I was on a break. Funny how that works! Over two days, I received 8 requests for my time (outside of coaching calls) -- Skype chats, networking, interviews. I felt my anxiety bubbling to a boiling point. Taken individually, no one request was a big deal. One was even just 10 minutes! But taken as a whole, it was just too much.

Enter nature: the great sorbet for the soul.

Niagara Falls is an incredible sight to see, and call it cliche -- but I had an epiphany standing there on the Maid of the Mist boat, water raining down on me, staring at this great landmark with it's gorgeous, powerful water spilling and crashing everywhere.

*I* have to change. People cannot read my mind. If I don't learn to say no, and learn to take time off, NOTHING will change.

It sounds so obvious in hindsight. But I kept waiting for "next week to be better" when deep down, being the self-help junkie that I am, I knew that "next week" had to start NOW.

Changing a well-worn habit is like turning a giant ship around.

It takes TIME. Patience. Self-love. Compassion. Discipline. A little bit of failure.

I've got to say . . . this mission to slow down in Q4 has been very humbling for me. It's humbling because I normally respond quickly to goals I set, but in this case I felt like such a failure. I literally did not know where to start, and I found myself continually overwhelmed week after week.

You can't just wait for things to change, then get frustrated when they don't.

New habits, especially one as sensitive as saying no (at least for all you people-pleasers like me), are scratchy and difficult. That is why they are new. That's why they matter. It's frustrating, but you're in the trenches now. You've got to fight, learn, and fail your way through.

We can't expect to turn the entire ship around in two seconds.

10 Important Reminders for Habit Change and the "No" Business

  1. It's not enough to hope for habit change. Actions have to follow desire -- this is not easy. There WILL be a dip when you are learning a new skill.
  2. Habit change starts with one tiny aspect at a time. In yoga, the teacher might give the most subtle correction: don't collapse the arches of your feet during standing poses. That alone will take me months of concerted practice and repetition to correct! And yet those nuances are part of the fun. It's a champagne problem to have (in yoga or life) to be in the business of refining, not just survival.
  3. What got you here won't get you there. This is a popular business book that also applies to habit change. Sometimes the very habits that have made you successful (working around the clock) are not the ones that will help you create sustainable success over the long-term. At a certain point you have to evolve, particularly as your life, goals or responsibilities become more complex.
  4. Any big goal usually comes with new habits. How will you make room for them in your life? If your goal is to lose weight, what new eating and exercise habits do you need to develop? If your goal is to start a blog or write a book, when will you set aside the time to write?
  5. You may will probably fail at first. Remember learning to ride a bike? It's scary. Wobbly. Crashy. It requires support from those around you. But, after concerted practice, one day it will become second nature.
  6. Habit change starts TODAY. Not tomorrow, not next week. Snap out of your procrastinator's paradise (more like purgatory) and make the tough decisions to change and improve your life TODAY.
  7. Saying no -- especially to people you care about -- can be very challenging. Root your response in truth and values -- share your conflict honestly. Let them know that normally you would love to say yes, but right now you're taking a much-needed break (or insert other authentic reason) and that you hope they understand. They might even relate and admire your no-wielding courage.
  8. Priortize. What is most important to you? If you are clear on your priorities, it will be easier to say no. One of my mentors Susan came up with a great checklist: Are you healthy? Do you have enough time for yourself? Do you have enough time for your friends and family? Do you have enough time to get your own work done? If yes -- and ONLY yes to all of the above -- should you then start entertaining others' requests. Make your own list -- what should come first before saying yes?
  9. If it's not one exception, it's another. Don't let exceptions wiggle you out of your commitment to habit change. We've all played the "just this one time" game. When is it time to make yourself the exception?
  10. When all else fails, get outside! Nature has this amazing way of bringing clarity and a sense of grounding. If you're frustrated about a habit you can't break, frame up your challenge as a question and go for a walk, a hike, a bike ride, a run -- anything that will shift your thinking through the power of fresh air and connection with the great outdoors.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments:

What helps you turn the big habit ship around? Got any great tips for saying no, even when you're conflicted and want to say yes? 

28: 2 Small Requests and 8 Pearls of Dad Wisdom

Jim Blake Art -- Jazz Club Dancers Happy Sunday, Everyone! Today is my 28th birthday and I'm thrilled to kick it off by celebrating with you :)

Last night my friend Nick graciously hosted a bunch of blogger friends on his rooftop terrace for BBQ, dancing, mojitos and yes -- cupcakes -- and it struck me how grateful I am to have a vehicle that allows me to meet and interact with so many awesome, incredible people on a regular basis.

I feel awkward wishing myself happy birthday on my own blog, but I'd like to use this opportunity to ask two small favors of you -- and share some gems from my dad, Jim Blake, on going after big goals.

Two Small Requests:

  1. Help me blow-up my friend Jeremy Orr's DonorsChoose.org request for laptops for his sixth grade class.I've known Jeremy for over 10 years but we were never all that close until he discovered Twitter. Twitter reconnected us and served as a catalyst for finding one of my now closest friends.Jeremy is humble, kind, and would never ask me to do this -- it was hard for him to even ask his friends in an email for some help. He is a teacher, and in the last year his car was stolen, his storage locker was broken into (and all the computers he used in his classroom were stolen) and he was pink-slipped from his job because of a stupid California lottery system, not because of anything to do with his abilities (I happen to think he's one of the best teachers on the planet). Jeremy is now back teaching sixth grade and loves using technology in the classroom -- last year he had his students Skype with entrepreneurs, and had various blog friends call in from all over the world for National Reading Day.So here's what I would LOVE to happen: Jeremy has currently raised $622 from 12 donors, with $448 remaining to purchase laptops for his class. If 200 people give $2, he'll be all squared away with replacement computers for the year. If you can give just $2 -- that would be amazing. $5 and you're a rock star. Any more than that? Jeremy and I will surely love you forever! It would be the best birthday gift to me to know that we've helped a friend and dedicated teacher -- and awesome if by the end of the day (or week) his DonorsChoose page was maxed out.

    Update: WE DID IT! Jeremy's page was successfully maxed out by the end of the day :) You all made my day -- and his -- I cannot thank you enough!

  2. If Life After College (the blog or book) has inspired or helped you take action in some way, would you leave me a comment describing how? I asked this question last year and was so grateful and moved by all the thoughts people shared. Even if you don't comment often, I'd love to hear from you and say hello!


8 Pearls of Jim Blake Wisdom

The other day in an email my dad wrote, "A question: What would be your TOP 5 all-time single sentence words of wisdom for goal seekers?" I came up with a few nuggets that I share often in speeches and with clients:

  • Live/dream big but don't be afraid to start small
  • Ditch "all or nothing" or "if then" thinking -- start today, even if the conditions aren't perfect
  • You're capable of so much more than you think you are
  • Expect doubters -- of course they don't see your vision -- that's what makes it YOUR vision!
  • The bigger the goal, the bigger the fears -- take them as a great validator

Then he promptly blew me out of the water with his list!! I feel very fortunate to learn from him and with him on subjects near and dear to my heart, most recently on Making Sh*t Happen. Without further ado, my dad's reply on some gems he's been honoring while working on a screenplay (these often come to him during his 16-mile nightly walks):

  1. You are the starting quarterback of your own life - practice like you're first string every day. Every game is the big game.
  2. Your dream is a palm tree waving in a gentle sunset breeze on a Hawaiian island. Learn to respect and treasure the endless volcanic eruptions it takes to get from the depths of the darkest ocean up to the sunlight.
  3. Live free of the psychic burden of the fears of past generations. Strive for the freedom to think and feel fresh thoughts-your own thoughts. Don't despair - re-calibrate.  Allow yourself to visualize and enter a new, friendlier world.
  4. Build a strong stage for your dreams (fundamentals) so that your dance of creation can proceed without the stage collapsing.
  5. Develop  rituals in support of your big dream. Make them as elaborate as those you would engage in for any religion.  They symbolize your faith and strong commitment to your  vision. For instance, borrowing from the Pope,  make a little bead necklace or charm (dream) bracelet where each charm is a motivational thought - run through your charms every morning. Find a favorite smell from an aromatherapy shop that, when you smell it, means you're going all-out for 12 hours. (Use this like the Catholics use incense: to kick your ass into thinking about Jesus)
  6. Practice your strength at remaining un-tethered from convention. This is a set of muscles that serve all creative minds.
  7. Do something for one to four hours every day that clears your mind of the mundane and allows you to softly listen to your own new ideas as they come rising from the depths of your consciousness.
  8. Create a deck of ten cards with your favorite words of wisdom on each one. Read them every chance you get. Program your own mind for greatness.

You can read more of my Dad's thoughts at his blog (and book of the same name), The Bliss Engine, and check-out his amazing art work at JimBlakeArt.com.


Contest Winners from Last Week's Book-a-Day Giveaway:

Thank you all for the AWESOME comments on last weeks' question prompts, and for sticking with me through daily posts! I'm very excited to announce our winners (chosen via Random.org) -- if you're name is below, please send me an email at jenny [at] lifeaftercollege [dot] org so I can get you your shiny new book!

Guest Post: How to Allow Your Passion to Organically Evolve

One of the struggles I hear most often from new readers is that they have a gnawing feeling of bordom when they think about their future. Many are a few years into their career and know it's time for a change, but have no clue where to start. They feel directionless, foggy and tentative. The age-old "follow your passions" advice is not helpful for those who don't even know what their passions are. Theresa Schwenkler Headshot Enter today's guest post from Therese Schwenkler;Therese writes for the young & confused at TheUnlost.com, proving that good advice doesn’t have to be boring or uncool. Her mission: to bring more & better direction to today’s mainstream. Find out why she’s getting naked for 3,737 people or Take Therese’s hilarious happiness quiz hereTherese tweets at @tschwenkler

You want to find your life’s calling— the work that you’re deeply, madly, insanely passionate about. 

You’re sick of staring out the window and watching the clock. You’re sick of that listless feeling in your soul and that dragging feeling in your step. You just can’t get the thought out of your head that there’s got to be more than this.

But there’s one big, fat problem standing in your way: you haven’t a clue what your passion might be.

A few years ago I was faced with the very same problem.  I made a ton of mistakes before I finally realized that there’s a better way to figure things out— a method that, for some odd reason, isn’t talked about a whole lot.

Almost every passionate person I’ve met has used this method, whether knowingly or unknowingly, with great success in discovering their life’s path. It’s in fact quite simple: rather than trying to jump straight to the endpoint, these people allow their passions to organically evolve.

In other words, they don’t try to decide upfront what it is that they should end up doing. Instead, they kindle many small fires, allowing those that spark their interest to naturally progress until they evolve into full-fledged, passionate pursuits.

Let me show you what I mean by this and why it can be so effective. In three simple steps, I’ll break this method down for you and show you exactly how to do it. I’ll also weave in examples from my own story—i.e., how I went from being an unfocused and passionless college student to finding a pursuit that I’m desperately, madly, passionately in love with (and strangely enough, my pursuit does not involve stalking Brad Pitt).

How to Allow Your Passion to Organically Evolve -- by Therese Schwenkler

1. Try lots and lots and lots of stuff. Sometimes finding your passion is like shopping for jeans: you’ve got to try on a lot of pairs before you find the right ones. Why? Because no matter how much you window shop, you often can’t (& won’t) know beforehand which pair will actually fit your sexy a**. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about.

Jeans aside, this is exactly why you’re likely to fail if you try to choose a pursuit upfront without having prior exposure— for example, by declaring “I want to be a doctor” or “I want to be a graphic designer” without truly having been exposed to these pursuits. Again, you can’t always know beforehand whether or not something will interest you.

On the flip side, there are certain things that you might normally have disregarded from the get-go, but that you might actually end up enjoying if you gave them a chance.

So here’s my advice: unless you’re absolutely positive that you’ll hate something, throw out all your preconceived notions and just try it. It won’t kill you at all; in fact, exploration is an essential piece of the organic method.

For example, you could do any of the following:

  • Attend local events in the community or on college campuses
  • Keep an eye out for people in your social networks or in your community who are doing cool things, then ask to meet up with them and talk about their experiences
  • Talk to your friends, acquaintances, or professors (or ex professors) about their pursuits and ask if they know of any interesting projects or events that you might want to participate in
  • Take a class, attend a workshop, or read books and blogs to learn more
  • Ask to shadow someone at their job or pursuit
  • Anything else you can possibly think of

2. Implement the “spark test.” Each time you try something new, ask yourself if it sparked your interest in any way. If your answer is no, then you can cross it off your list. But if the answer is yes, then…

3. Follow up. This is perhaps the most important step in this method and it’s where 99% of people fall short— in fact, I ignored this step for years at my own peril. I had found several things that passed the “spark test” such as writing, marketing and psychology, but I never followed up with any action, and as a result my newfound interests led me absolutely nowhere. If you pay attention to just one thing today, let it be this: discovering an interest will do you absolutely NO good unless you follow up.

This simply means is that once something sparks your interest, you should actively pursue (or create) opportunities that will expand upon these interests. This could include any of the following:

  • Offer to contribute to a related organization in some way. Can you help organize an event or add something to a project or (fill in the blank) here?
  • If you encounter an interesting company or an interesting individual, offer to work for free, allowing the potential for paid work down the road
  • Start your own project or team up with someone to create a new endeavor
  • Anything else you can possibly think of

In my own case, I began following up on my sparked interests in several ways:

  • I started my blog, The Unlost, which spins timeless wisdom and advice in a way that appeals to young people.
  • I volunteered to write a weekly column for the Boise State University newspaper and I began contributing guest posts to sites like Jenny’s.
  • I’m scared sh*tless of public speaking, but I’m submitting a talk for a local event and could end up speaking in front of 500+ people next month.

Each of these pursuits builds upon one or several of my sparks, and I can’t even pretend to know where they’ll end up leading me.

Therein lies the beauty of the organic method: the more that you follow up on even the smallest of sparks, the more they begin to grow into promising new opportunities— opportunities that you couldn’t have possibly dreamt of or conceived from the get-go.

So go on, start kindling some fires and watch as your spark grows into an insanely intriguing, wildly passionate, absolutely unstoppable pursuit.

Got questions? Comments? A story of your own? Lemme know in the comments— I wanna hear it all.


Discover Your Career Calling Retreat in Bali with Adrian Klaphaak

Speaking of finding your passion and career calling, my great friend and very first coach, Adrian Klaphaak (the awesome guy quoted on the cover of my book!) is hosting a Discover Your Career Calling Retreat in Bali in December. Adrian is my go-to guy for career coaching; in fact, when new clients reach out to me specifically for career guidance, I often end up referring them to him if my slots are full.

This opportunity won't be for everyone, but I couldn't resist passing it along in the event that it's right for some of you -- Bali is at the top of my travel life list -- I'd be there in a heartbeat if I could!

More about the Bali retreat (in Adrian's words):

This is a transformational retreat for people that want to make a career change into an entirely new career and/or rejuvenate their existing career with meaning and purpose. If your work is feeling stagnant and you know it's time for a change, this retreat will help you find your calling and re-inspire your career.

Our career coaching process blends your quest for meaning with the practical need to get results and build a successful career. This retreat will guide you through a process of discovering your gifts, passions, values, and purpose and how to translate the uniqueness of who you are into a concrete direction in your career.

In addition to guiding you through our career coaching exercises, activities and assessments, we will draw on the fresh perspective and soulfulness of Bali by incorporating cultural activities, walks through the rice fields, and little adventures throughout the week.

Logistics: The retreat will be held in the beautiful town of Ubud on the Island of Bali, Indonesia from Sunday December 11th - Friday December 16th 2011.

Early Registration Discount: Register by October 21st and receive a BIG discount. Space is limited. More information is available at http://www.APathThatFits.com/Bali.

If this is something you are seriously considering, I'd be happy to put you directly in touch with Adrian -- just let me know in the comments or email me at jenny [at] lifeaftercollege [dot] org. Have a wonderful week ahead, everyone!

Final Book-a-Day Giveaway: Blind Spots by Alexandra Levit + a Bonus Book!

Happy Friday, everyone! Your responses to yesterday's prompt (what life skill has been most important to your success?) have been brilliant -- I'd highly suggest going back and reading through them for some great personal development inspiration! It's been a challenge blogging every day this week -- but there was something refreshing about making it part of my daily routine without the procrastination that usually sets in from "What day should I post? What should I write about? Is my draft ready yet?"

Before I share our last giveaways (plural!), a few more links to my thoughts around the web:

A recap on what I’m up to this week: September is one of the big months for book publishing, and as a thank you for being such great readers I’ve got some awesome books to share with all of you! I’ll post an entry each day this week (bear with me, email subscribers!) and you’ll have until Friday at 6pm ET to enter to win a copy of each book by answering that post’s question prompt. I’ll choose the winners via Random.org early next week.

Giveaway #1: Blind Spots by Alexandra Levit

Blind Spots by Alexandra LevitAlexandra Levit is one of the pioneers of the after-college book market -- I remember reading her first book, They Don't Teach Corporate in College, and thinking "Wow -- if I could only have half of her success as an author and speaker in this market I would be thrilled." Alex has been gracious and generous with her time since I first reached out almost two years ago, before I had an agent, a book deal, or even a book.

Her latest (SIXTH!) book is called Blind Spots: 10 Business Myths You Can't Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success. From the book website:

Don't let blind spots push you off the path to career success - especially in today's pared-down, back-to-basics business world, where the rules have radically changed.

In Blind Spots: The 10 Business Myths You Can't Afford to Believe on Your New Path to Success, Alexandra Levit reveals what's different about the post-recession world and dispels popular business and career myths - like "any visibility is good visibility" and "do what you love and the money will follow" - that were never true to begin with.

The job market is more competitive than ever, and you can't afford to waste time. Throw away the myths and learn the timely - and timeless - truths that will send you to the top speedily and safely, making the most of your journey along the way.

Giveaway #2: Life After College by Me!

Okay, okay, I sort of cheated -- but it's been a long time since I gave away my *own* book and I was inspired by all these others to send one of you a copy!

While we're at it, I have this silly thing with round numbers...

I currently have 74 Amazon reviews (huge thanks to those 74!) -- if you're feeling generous and you've read my book, would one of you take a gander at being review #75?

My original goal was 100 within launch week, and even though that passed -- I'm hoping to get there by the end of the year :) Thank you SO much to everyone who already left reviews -- sometimes I read through them when I'm having a rough day. It means so much to me to know how my book has impacted people -- a result I often fantasized about but never knew would come to fruition in such a beautiful, out-of-this-world way.

To enter to win a copy of either of these books (they will go to two separate winners), answer the following question in the comments:

What are three features of your ideal day? I know this isn't directly related to the books -- but it's one of my favorite questions :)

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Book-a-Day Giveaway: The Education of Millionaires by Michael Ellsberg

Hidey, ho good neighbors! It's Thursday, which means it's time for our fourth giveaway this week. It also means that we're one day closer to Friday :) And yes, even though I no longer work in an office, I still look forward to Fridays!

The Education of Millionaires - by Michael EllsbergToday's book is a game-changing one. I've already shared the impact that author Michael Ellsberg had on my life a few months ago -- it's thrilling to see him release those same ideas and calls-to-action with the world in his latest book, The Education of Millionaires: It's Not What You Think and It's Not Too Late.

My blog started as an exploration of life after college (it still is, of course) -- I read countless business and development books to help me navigate feeling lost and confused as the only entry-level employee at the start-up, teaching myself dozens of skills that I never learned in college.

Ellsberg's book is a referendum against the notion that higher education is mandatory for self-made success (in fields other than law and medicine that require highly trained professionals). The book comes at a critical time as more and more graduates find themselves buried in debt but without jobs to show for it.

Through dozens of in-depth interviews with movers and shakers, Ellsberg uncovers what he sees as the seven key self-education categories for career success -- that they DON'T teach you in college.

The millionaires he interviews are self-taught and self-made -- and their stories are inspiring for anyone who is looking to rely less on others (school, teachers, managers, companies) for career success and more on themselves and their highest creative faculties.

The seven key success skills Ellsberg highlights are:

  1. How to make your work meaningful and your meaning work
  2. How to find great mentors and teachers, connect with powerful and influential people, and build a world-class network
  3. What every successful person needs to know about marketing, and how to teach yourself
  4. What every successful person needs to know about sales, and how to teach yourself
  5. How to invest for success (the art of bootstrapping)
  6. Build the brand of you (or, to hell with resumes!)
  7. The entrepreneurial mindset versus the employee mindset -- become the author of your own life

This book is a page-turner and a must-read -- I read my advance copy on one cross-country plane flight, then immediately gave it to my brother and said "do not pass go until you finish this book." As I shared in my book endorsement (currently up on the Amazon page and the first one in his actual book!):

"This book is a masterpiece. Gripping and whip-smart, The Education of Millionaires will forever revolutionize your thoughts on the connection between education, career success and prosperity. Ellsberg is careful to avoid 'motivational fluff' and instead provides mind-blowingly sharp (and humorous) brass-tacks advice on how to profit handsomely by becoming a lifelong learner."


A recap on what I’m up to this week: September is one of the big months for book publishing, and as a thank you for being such great readers I’ve got some awesome books to share with all of you! I’ll post an entry each day this week (bear with me, email subscribers!) and you’ll have until Friday at 6pm ET to enter to win a copy of each book by answering that post’s question prompt. I’ll choose the winners via Random.org early next week.

To enter to win a copy of The Education of Millionaires: It's Not What You Think and It's Not Too Late, answer the following question in the comments:

What life skill has been most important to your success? Or, If you could tell a recent graduate to focus on just one skill to develop, what would it be and why?

Book-a-Day Giveaway: Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields

Have you ever let uncertainty hold you back? Have you let fear stand in your way of doing something important in your life, or of creating something meaningful? I'd be shocked if the answer was no. I know that I've wrestled with uncertainty countless times -- I'm sure we all have -- which is why I'm so excited to share Jonathan Fields' book, Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance, with you today. Jonathan is a blogger and thought-leader I really admire -- he is deep, thoughtful, humble, and an extraordinarily powerful quiet leader.

Danielle La Porte summarized his book quite well:

Jonathan's thesis on innovation can be boiled down to this:

a) Uncertainty is not just useful in creation and innovation, it’s mandatory.

b) Certainty is a dream-killer because it stops us from exploring the possibility that we don’t know everything, and that we might be able to create something better.

So of course I, and dozens of journalists are asking him this: If ambiguity and uncertainty get us to our creative crux, then how can we lean into those states? His answer:

Optimize your workflow. Most of us work in ways that are actually fairly destructive to our ability to not only do great work, but feel great doing it. Simple changes to workflow, like pulsing and refueling, single-tasking and selective ritualizing can change not only how well you create, but how you feel along the way.

A recap on what I’m up to this week: September is one of the big months for book publishing, and as a thank you for being such great readers I’ve got some awesome books to share with all of you! I’ll post an entry each day this week (bear with me, email subscribers!) and you’ll have until Friday at 6pm ET to enter to win a copy of each book by answering that post’s question prompt. I’ll choose the winners via Random.org early next week.

Uncertainty by Jonathan Fields (Check out the Uncertainty book website for some awesome bulk purchase deals)

If you have a minute, watch Jonathan's moving book trailer video about the uncertainty he experienced after signing the lease on his first yoga studio one day prior to Sept 11:

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Below are some of my thoughts on uncertainty (written for Nick Reese on his Art of Blog interview with 8 other bloggers) -- How to Overcome (And Even Harness) Uncertainty:

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is, and insecurity is the only security.” –John Allan Paulos

Fighting uncertainty is futile. Uncertainty is truly the only certainty we have in life, so rather than fight it we do best to embrace it. If you get quiet enough in moments of uncertainty, you’ll hear your path whispering to you. You’ll hear your gut, you’ll become aware of new information, and you will move forward in beautiful ways that you couldn’t have even planned for if you tried.

I’ve had a lifelong goal of moving to New York City. After a gorgeous snowy trip last December, I decided it was time. I had no idea how I would get here, where I would live, or what to do with my condo back at home. But step by step, I embraced the uncertainty and leaned into it. It’s so easy to turn uncertainty into unnecessary worry, but if you just trust in yourself, your resourcefulness, and the power of serendipity, you will figure things out.

My other favorite quote is “That which you can plan is too small for you to live.” Take uncertainty as a sign that you’re doing great things in your life — celebrate, invite it in, and enjoy the beautiful chaos of it all.

To enter to win a copy of Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt into Fuel for Brilliance, answer the following question in the comments:

How do you handle uncertainty when making big decisions or embarking on creative endeavors?

Book-a-Day Giveaway: The Big Enough Company

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I like getting to say hello to you every day :) Today I'm excited for two reasons:

I have a guest post up on one of my all time favorite blogs, Think Traffic by Corbett Barr. The post is called From Blogging to Published Book: The Nitty Gritty Pros, Cons and Considerations. I detail numbers and experiences behind my book publishing process to help other bloggers assess whether it's worth it for them.

SF Blogger Meet-up

Corbett is someone I have looked up to for a long time for his blog- and business-building prowess, and had the great fortune of meeting him in Portland earlier this year (and at a SF Blogger meet-up we co-hosted upon returning). Corbett's new assistant, Caleb Wojcik, is an awesome go-getter who attended my Seattle book tour stop -- and has since quit his job to work with Corbett, moved and gotten married!

Second, today's book giveaway is for The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business that Works for You from the lovely Adelaide Lancaster (and her co-author Amy Adams). I met Adelaide at the Book Breakthrough NYC conference in July and we immediately hit it off. She and her co-author have created a co-working space in NYC for female entrepreneurs, and focus on helping small business owners create a business that works for their own lifestyle goals -- with the notion that not everyone has to be the next Google. I've included their book trailer and an interview with Adelaide below.

A recap on what I'm up to this week: September is one of the big months for book publishing, and as a thank you for being such great readers I’ve got some awesome books to share with all of you! I’ll post an entry each day this week (bear with me, email subscribers!) and you’ll have until Friday at 6pm ET to enter to win a copy of each book by answering that post’s question prompt. I’ll choose the winners via Random.org early next week.


The Big Enough Company -- Interview with Adelaide Lancaster

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Adelaide Lancaster HeadshotAdelaide Lancaster is an entrepreneur, speaker and co-author of The Big Enough Company (Portfolio/Penguin). She is also the co-founder of In Good Company Workplaces, a first-of-its-kind community, learning center and co-working space for women entrepreneurs in New York City. She is a contributor to The Huffington Post, and a columnist for The Daily Muse and The Hired Guns. She lives in Philadelphia, PA with her husband and daughter.

What was your first brush with entrepreneurship? 

I never set up a lemonade stand or sold things door to door. But I have always believed in my ability to make things happen. Even when I was younger I had a hard time taking no for an answer. I often joke that my first brushes with entrepreneurship were actually my (successful) attempts to bend the rules in high school and college. For example, despite extremely rigid rules at my boarding school, I managed to arrange legally getting 20 kids signed out to the same town in North Carolina for the weekend and chartered a bus to get us there. The school was annoyed but we weren’t technically breaking any rules.

These escapades, which clearly involved exploiting loopholes in the rules, made me responsible for establishing three new rules between my high school and college handbooks. So I guess I was quite enterprising, although it admittedly wasn’t for the best reasons – at least at that age!

What inspired you to start In Good Company, and how did you find the resources (time, money, energy) to do it?

My partner and I already had a consulting practice working with entrepreneurs to start or build their businesses. We heard the same complaints over and over again from our clients. They were isolated. Many worked from home and spent much of their time by themselves, except when they were with clients. They also had pretty small networks as many of their former colleagues still held traditional 9-5 jobs.

Aside from being lonely, this isolation had a huge impact on their businesses. Our networks give us access to ideas, resources, suggestions, feedback, inspiration, motivation, etc. We could tell that our clients needed more of all of this. They also experienced some logistical challenges by not having an office. They didn’t have a professional place to meet clients and they also had pretty weak boundaries between their work and home lives.

We began to imagine a place where our clients could work when they needed to. Since we knew most of them didn’t need full-time offices, we were instead crafting a shared workspace solution (which has grown over time to include full-time space as well). Our thought was that having a physical location would also serve as a home base for a larger community and network. In Good Company would be the place for women entrepreneurs to work, meet, and learn.

Some people didn’t get it - it was in the days before coworking had become main stream, but most people did. We scaled back our practice to make time for the startup mode. We also held lots of focus groups to get feedback and also to cultivate the community. It was a fairly capital intensive business to start so we did raise money, in addition to invest a lot ourselves.

What has been your biggest failure-turned-success or blessing-in-disguise story (in life or business)?

When it came time to graduate from my Counseling Psychology program at Columbia I couldn’t find the kind of job that I was looking for. I wanted to be a career counselor for women who were deciding what direction to take their career. Since I couldn’t find the job I wanted, I decided to create it and started my own career counseling practice.

However, I was still ambivalent about my choice. I felt like I needed a backup plan. I decided to also apply to the PhD program at my graduate school, thinking I could do my practice in conjunction with getting my PhD and then have even more credibility, choices, and experience once the program was over. It seemed like a great plan until I didn’t get in. At first I was devastated but it turned out to be a huge blessing in disguise. Because I wasn’t tied up in a PhD program I plunged myself completely into entrepreneurship, building my practice and learning everything I could about small business.

That practice evolved over a number of years and through several iterations to later become the business I have today. I love being an entrepreneur and love the opportunities it affords me. I have the ability to create work that is meaningful and rewarding on my own terms.

The truth is that today I do much less counseling and consulting work. Instead I spend a lot of time doing things I enjoy just as much and often more such as determining the strategic direction for my business, cultivating our brand through social media, writing content for our blog and my columnist positions, designing programming and curriculum for each season, managing the operational (finances, billing, bookkeeping) side of the business, networking, and making myself available to our members for brainstorming etc.

I love the variety and I love that our business is always evolving. I know that had I done my PhD I’d still be an entrepreneur but I probably would have made choices that resulted in a much more traditional counseling practice, which I know would be much less rewarding for me.

If you could give the Life After College community one piece of encouragement or career advice, what would it be? 

Two pieces, I can’t help myself!

You need to take small steps to get almost anywhere. It’s so easy to get overwhelmed by your own big plans, dreams, and ideas! But nothing happens overnight and don’t underestimate the amount of work that goes into every success story you know. No matter who you are or what you want, the path is likely going to involved small, incremental changes. Embrace it, let it help pace you, and keep moving!

Don’t be afraid to admit you don’t know something. As a new entrepreneur I remember believing that it was my job to know everything, especially when it came to my business. While I was always grateful for the good ideas that others gave me, but I would also think self consciously, “I should have thought of that.” I also believed, foolishly, that it was important to have clear and resolute answers and to never say “I don’t know.” Boy, was I foolish.

I learned that entrepreneurship is all about being a work in progress. You spend more time deciding where you want to go next then you do arriving there. It turns out that pretending to know everything comes a tremendous cost. Not only does it make the business of being an entrepreneur much harder than it needs to be, it also cuts you off from the most valuable resource you have – the ideas and experiences of others. Thankfully, I wised up and started to listen – carefully.

What are a few fun items on your life checklist?

I have three that I’ve had for a really long time:

  • I want to go on a hot air balloon ride over a really cool landscape.
  • I want to own a little pet goat – and the country house to go along with it. (Right now I’m a city dweller)
  • I love 70 degree weather. It makes me so happy. I have this idea for a 70 degree world tour. Either for retirement or as a sabbatical I’d love to take a year to travel to 10-12 locations that are seasonally 70 degrees. For example Iceland in July, Istanbul in June, Johannesburg in September.


To enter to win a copy of The Big Enough Company, answer the following question in the comments:

If you could start any company, what would it be and why? What qualities would your ideal company have, and how would it fit your ideal lifestyle? 

Book-a-Day Giveaway Week! Lead Without Followers by Dave Ursillo

Thank you all for your wonderful comments on last week's post! As a thank you for being such a wonderful community of readers and friends, I'm hosting a book-a-day giveaway this week...get excited! September is one of the big months for book publishing, and I've got some awesome books to share with all of you. I'll post an entry each day this week (bear with me, email subscribers!) and you'll have until Friday at 6pm ET to enter to win a copy of each book by answering that post's question prompt. I'll choose the winners via Random.org early next week.

Lead Without Followers - by Dave Ursillo

Dave is an incredible man and writer -- deep, thoughtful, heart full of gold -- and his road to publishing has been a long winding one. He, more than anyone I know, has demonstrated unwavering fortitude, resilience and committment to releasing his ideas into the world.

After over 200 rejections from literary agents between 2008-2010, Dave decided to self-publish his book Lead Without Followers (be sure to also check out his post 16 Reasons Your Literary Agency Shouldn't Hire Me).

I really admire the drive it takes to self-publish a book -- you're a lone ranger managing every single aspect of the process -- writing, editing, designing, printing, selling -- so I'm thrilled to be able to support Dave's launch this week. A few words from the man himself:

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Download a free sample chapter, and check out Dave's website for more details on how to purchase the book. Update: Dave is also doing a special live video event on Vokle tonight at 10pm ET, and I'll be making an appearance! Would love to see you there :)

To enter to win a copy, answer the following question in the comments:

What qualities do the leaders you most admire exhibit? How do you strive to be a leader in your own life? 

New York, New York + Personal Updates

NYC - Times Square

“I’d known since I was a child that I was going to live in New York eventually, and that everything in between would be just an intermission. I’d spent all those years imagining what New York was going to be like. I thought it was going to be the most exciting, magical, fraught-with-possibility place that you could ever live; a place where if you really wanted something you might be able to get it; a place where I’d be surrounded by people I was dying to know; a place where I might be able to become the only thing worth being, a journalist.And I’d turned out to be right."

—Nora Ephron, I Remember Nothing

Why New York? 

I get that question all the time, and I don't have a great answer. To me, it has never been a question. As Ephron said, I've known since I was a kid that I wanted to live in New York.

Every time I'm in the city, from the first moment I smelled the distinctive subway air at nine years old, I've felt ALIVE. I visited something like 15 times prior to moving, and each time I'd feel like I was in a movie while walking down the street -- iPod blasting, smells wafting, people zig-zagging as I smiled, observed, and soaked it all up.

I always felt a little disappointed in myself when I'd tell people I was born and raised (and still living in) California. I loved being close to my family, I owned my condo, I owned a car, and I had a great job. Would I ever find the motivation to leave it all behind and try living life on the opposite coast? Was I cut out for it, or was it a dream meant only for others, an itch I'd never find the courage to scratch despite my frequent Jealousies?

I'm so thankful that I found that courage, and that the path to moving here has unfolded in such a beautiful way. I don't know how long I'll stay and I don't care -- right now I'm just living in the moment and taking in every single sensation of it. On that note...

An Important Announcement

Last week was a rollercoaster.

I arrived at midnight on Sunday, spent all day Monday preparing for the Make Sh*t Happen launch, and sold the course out in less than 24 hours on Tuesday. By Wednesday morning I felt happy, grateful and proud, but also exhausted and completely spent.

On Thursday, I found out that my dog Patches had been put to sleep just shy of 16 years old, a few short weeks after I kissed her on the nose to say goodbye, knowing deep down that it might be the last time I'd get to see her. By Friday, I didn't want to get out of bed.

I have been building and creating and working and GRINDING for five years (if not my whole life) -- most recently between Google, the blog, the book, and my course. When I quit Google, I thought time would magically open up before me and to a certain extent it did -- but I felt so much pressure to earn income to prove to myself that I'd made the right decision that I never really took a break.

It's time for a break.

I'm going to take Q4 off from building. I'll still be blogging, but I'll be slower to reply to emails, comments and requests. I may not take as many meetings (as much as I wish I could say yes to everyone and everything).

I won't be creating something new unless it's so exciting that I jump out of bed to work on it with glee. I am going to focus my energy on my existing coaching clients and on helping my kick-ass inaugural Make Sh*t Happen crew find smashing success. I'll be taking a very reactive approach to everything else so I can prioritize my health, happiness, and rejuvenation -- which will allow me to serve you even better in 2012 and beyond.

I hope you'll stick around.

I might be quieter, but I'm not going away. I just need to exhale a little bit...to remember that it's okay to relax and to learn HOW to do that over a sustained period of time. I'm going to work less and get out more -- New York City is a great catalyst for that. I don't want to be inside 24/7 when I have so much excitement waiting right outside my door.

To Patches

Patches post-swim on one of her weekly walks

The greatest dog I could have ever asked for. To a dog who lived a long beautiful life, who loved her weekly swims in the Google fountains and running free around the parking lot afterward.

To a dog who hung out in the living room only when we were eating dinner and there were scraps to be had, who jumped in the driver's seat of the car if she thought we'd be leaving without her, and who sat quietly at my feet and joined me many days this summer for walks around the block while I was staying at my mom's house in-between book tour stops.

To a dog with a huge heart, baby face, and childlike spirit all the way until her last days. After 16 joyful years, we will miss you tremendously and remember you forever.

A Parting Video for the NYC Move

In lieu of Jay-Z and Alicia Keys' Empire State of Mind, I leave you with this video instead:

[youtube id="exmwSxv7XJI"]

A Recipe for Fall that Even *I* Can Cook

You may not know this, but I have the cooking skills of a fourth-grader. Probably worse. Much to my mom's chagrin and semi-frequent prodding to learn the important life skill of how to cook, I've been spoiled these last ten years.

I ate dorm food during freshman year of college, I lived in a sorority for the next two years (three meals a day), then I lived at home while working at the start-up and benefitted from mom's home-cooked meals, and THEN I worked at Google for 5+ years where I ate three meals a day -- and dated a chef for a year and a half (survival instinct kicked in on that one, I tell you).

So here I am, turning 28 in October, with absolutely ZERO clue how to cook. None, zero, zip. I toast and I microwave, and even that is pushing it on the effort scale.

But alas, I have been on a health kick lately AND trying to save money as a newly-minted solopreneur, so I am PROUD to announce that I've learned how to cook SOMETHING!!!

The recipe, shared by my mom, is a popular chili soup.

It's AMAZING. It  tastes delicious, it's as healthy as it gets, and serves as lunch and even dinner for an entire week!

If I can cook this, a troupe of monkeys can too, which means you'll knock it out of the park! I can't find the exact recipe the way that she makes it, so here it is:

Chili Soup (that lasts all week!)

Meat: 1 pound lean ground turkey or lean ground beef (2 lbs if you're really going for protein) Base: 1 can of pumpkin or butternut squash, 1 can of diced tomatoes, 1 box of chicken or beef broth Veggies (diced): 2 yellow squash, 2 zucchini, 1 box of butternut squash, 2 bell peppers, 1 box of sliced mushrooms, 1 onion, 1/3 bundle of celery (slice directly across the stalks), optional - 1 can black beans / garbanzo beans / kidney beans (or all three!), and anything else that sounds good! Seasoning: 1 packet of spicy chili powder, garlic or seasoning salt (optional), flax seeds (optional) Directions: On medium, brown the meat, then drain. Add in the base, followed by the veggies and seasoning. Let cook on medium for ~30 minutes -- eat! Turn off the stove and let the soup continue to simmer until the pot cools, then refrigerate. Serves: ~12 bowls Cost: ~$60 if you have to buy all of the ingredients from scratch

Update: click here for a handy shopping list you can take to the grocery store.

Best online recipe boxes:

My friend Ben Tseitlin, whose Tumblr is one of my "must-reads" for awesome pictures, quotes and titdbits, recently reblogged "5 Best Online Recipe Boxes" for those of you who are interested. If not, check-out Ben's blog and gourmet handmade chocolates - he's also hosting a chocolate-making class for any of you living in the SF Bay Area on September 19.


Update on my August Health Challenge:

I'm writing a longer guest post for Forbes Woman on the health challenge that I will share with you soon, but for now, suffice it to say that I feel like a NEW person. I've decided to make my health challenge journal public for any of you who are curious about how things progressed over the last 30 days. Grab the template version here

You don’t have to do a crazy cleanse like I did (though I highly recommend Dr. Alejandro Junger’s Clean Program if you are interested); see what experiments you can run in your own life that work for YOU. Now that I’m in maintenance mode I’m adding some coffee back in (can’t skip those deliciously foamy lattes forever!) and 1-2 cheat days per week, borrowing from Tim Ferris’ Slow Carb Diet and The Paleo Solution: The Original Human Diet (a GREAT book I just read by Robb Wolf).

Here's an excerpt of my post:

During the first three days, I had complete monkey-mind -- craving coffee, sugar and TV like the addict I was -- unable to focus because I was thinking about them every five minutes. But on the fourth day and every day thereafter, I started noticing something incredible.

I felt clear-headed. Creative. Confident. Energized. Productive. HAPPY.

I was getting more done in one week than I had completed in one month. I was no longer experiencing crazy mood swings or unproductive days. I started sleeping like a rock. I was in a great mood, glowing and energetic at conferences and razor sharp during my coaching and speaking engagements. I was on a roll and I stayed there.

I used to scoff at the countless magazines that preach healthy eating and exercise -- get over yourself! Until I experienced, firsthand, the insanely powerful impact it had on my business’s bottom line (not to mention my actual bottom, which now fits nicely back into my best jeans).

Do you have any health tips or observations to report? Got any so-easy-a-monkey-could-make-this recipes you can share (ideally that will last for longer than one meal)?