Happy 8-Year Blogiversary to Life After College!

Written by Jenny Blake

I cannot believe it, but this month marks the TEN YEAR anniversary (!!) of the Life After College website, and 8 years of blogging. What an incredible, wild ride! 

In lieu of cupcakes and in keeping with our year-end tradition, this final 2015 post is a round-up of our biggest updates and favorite Life After College content. 

Our Favorite 2015 Posts

I could not run this blog without the incredible team of contributors who have become LAC family: Melissa Anzman, Paul Angone, Davis Nguyen, and Marisol Dahl. Their posts always make me think, laugh, and reflect—and this website is richer for it. Here are some of our greatest hits this year:

What the LAC Team Has Been Up To

Paul Angone—All Groan Up: This year my second book released: All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! And it only took me 10 years to see it happen! :) All Groan Up is basically my full, unedited heart and story on paper, and it's been amazing to hear how it's encouraging and speaking to other people's heart and story. Then my first book 101 Secrets For Your Twenties was translated for Thailand and India, and just recently Cameron Candance Bure AKA DJ Tanner from Full Houseshared it on her Instagram and Facebook pages! Signature Sauce: I launched and took the first group of 50 students through Finding Your Signature Sauce–an online course and community to help you uncover the 10 ingredients inside of you to live where your passion, purpose, and career collide. Check out a free 3-part video course called UnStuck: Crush the Things Holding You Back to get a feel for what the course is like and start doing work you love.

Melissa—Launch Yourself: I'm so honored to be a part of the Life After College community and 2015 was a year of quiet work, change and having an attitude of abundance instead of "no." Around the beginning of Q2, my career/business focus changed dramatically - I was asked to take on a more "corporate-y consulting" role, and instead of my automatic no, I said yes. I've been knee deep in using a different side of my brain and building what will be new in 2016 - MConnected Communications. This year was filled with a lot of launching through coaching and many Launch Plan Accelerators, and lots of web coding. Oh, and I was called a millennial at work for the first time, which is greatly shaping my plans for 2016 and confirmed that I'm exactly where I need to be. 

Marisol Dahl: 2015 has been amazing! I graduated in May and moved back home to New York, still unsure where my immediate life after college would take me. Throughout the summer I steadily grew my freelance business in digital marketing and communications—under Jenny's wonderful mentorship!—and am now doing that full time. I am growing into my own identity as a solo entrepreneur and am enjoying all the big "adult" experiences that post-college life brings. Happy New Year everyone! 

Davis NguyenBeginning Life After College: This year, I became the first person in my family to graduate from college and in the process fulfilled the 25 year American dream my family started when they fled from Vietnam.  After graduating, I used money I saved up from summer work to travel, discovering the world and myself. When my world tour concluded, I settled into San Francisco, started work, and officially started my Life After College. I am excited to make 2016 even better than 2015.

2015 in Review at JBE HQ

  • I'm coming up on five years of self-employment in March! Leaving Google in 2011 (see: From Six Figures to Suitcase Part 1 and Part 2: On Big Decisions and Very Real Fears) was a tough decision to make, but I haven't regretted that choice even in some of my lowest moments of solopreneurship. That said, in 2013, two years in to running my own business (affectionately nicknamed Jenny Blake Enterprises) I still hit another wall of "What's Next?" and struggled mightily to answer the question. That search, and my desire to make it easier on others, has inspired my next book . . .
  • Pivot: Much of this past year has involved deep, behind-the-scenes focus on my forthcoming book from Penguin/Portfolio, set to launch September 2016. In fact, I just turned in the final version, and now we move on to page layout!! In ~14 months it has gone from rough first draft to completed manuscript, and I'm thrilled and where the book has ended up. I am bursting at the seams to share it with you next year!! Look out for Pivot: Turn What’s Working for You Into What’s Next, hitting bookshelves September 2016 :) 
  • Momentum: In April doors officially opened for Momentum, my private community for side-hustlers and solopreneurs. I’m so grateful for the amazing group of founding members and for our exchanges—we share quarterly goals, give and receive business feedback, weigh in on each other's logos and websites, and share our latest-greatest books and tools. I also host private office hours, a monthly webinar with special guests, and answer questions via short audio clips that live in a Q&A with Jenny library. If you're looking for some momentum, community and accountability in 2016 we'd love to have you join us!! 
    • You can also start by joining the free Momentum Safari for 3 weeks of reflection prompts to generate focus and freedom in whichever focus area you choose
  • Podcast: The Pivot Podcast went pro! When I first started the Pivot Podcast, I kept it super simple—using an iPhone headset and uploading to SoundCloud. But this last quarter, I’ve been hustling to take it to the next level: including intro and outro music, using more sophisticated audio techniques, and finally listing it on iTunes. Catch up on past episodes, and subscribe and stay tuned for tons more in 2016! If you like the show, I would be very grateful for a rating and/or review in these early days of getting it off the ground. 
  • Lucent Pivot: In August we sunsetted Lucent as a mobile app, and pivoted to Lucent List, hitting on one of our greatest strengths of curating content related to meditation and mindfulness. Check out our new Tumblr page and subscribe for all the latest in the world of meditation.

Favorite Posts at JennyBlake.me

Onward to 2016!

The entire LAC team and I are beyond grateful for your company this year. Thank you for reading, commenting, and sharing your own life after college adventures with us! 

If you have a quick minute, we’d love for you to fill out our super-short two-question survey, so we can make Life After College better than ever in 2016! We value your feedback immensely and want to make sure we're delivering content you love. 

Happy Holidays and Happy New Year Everyone, See you in 2016!! :)

Much love,

Jenny Blake Signature
Jenny Blake Signature

Would You Punish a Baby for Falling Over? A New Approach to Making Mistakes

Two weeks after starting my own business, I discovered I’d soon be a father. Oh yes, as if life wasn't stressful enough, a little boy would soon rely on me to guide him through this world. As fellow parents know, this changes everything. Life no longer looks, smells, or tastes the same, and my little boy, Kid Turndog (or as his mother likes to call him, George), introduced me to a beautiful new light.

Here's Kid Turndog around the time he took his memorable first steps.


January 2014, shortly after my parents returned from New Zealand, I sensed the big moment was near, but nothing prepared me for the pride I'd feel. Before dinner, he attempted and stumbled, but thirty minutes later he took his first wobbly step.

More followed, until he staggered across the living room and into my arms. I shed a tear or two because I'd seen him fall and bump his head and cry so many times. I hate to see him fail, but it's part of the journey he's on. Every bump's a badge of honour, and I couldn't be more proud of each tiny accomplishment he makes.

He continues to fall and bump his head, and boy does he make silly and ill-advised decisions. As a parent, I have one of two options:

  1. Wrap him in bubble-wrap, ensuring he's safe at all times.
  2. Let him do silly and ill-advised stuff, in the hope he learns and doesn't do it again.

I couldn't imagine the former, so I live by the latter, and each weekend he blows my mind with his wayward ways. Here's a few things he's done in the past:

  • Eat a crayon
  • Touched the living room fireplace
  • Attempted to touch the freshly boiled kettle
  • Eaten a muddy stone (well, he tried)
  • Drank pond water
  • Eat duck food

You may say to yourself, "Turndog, what the hell are you doing? How about you watch your son from time-to-time!”

I do, but he's quicker than me. He's like some stealthy ninja who manages to sneak through my defences, but even though I protect him as much as I can, I know the best form of protection is to let him go ahead and learn for himself.

I can tell him not to touch the fireplace, but it often goes in one ear and out of the other.

Yet here's the thing... the moment he glanced his thumb against it, I knew he'd never do it again (FYI: he hasn’t).

We're human. We make mistakes for a living. 

As a species, we're designed to make mistakes and learn from them. Want proof? Think about how you learn to walk.

Before those memorable first steps, Kid Turndog shuffled around the furniture and wobbled on his knees. A few weeks earlier, he crawled around the living room, but not until he first sat upright.

Before that he laid helpless on his back.

Bit-by-bit, day-by-day, he learned how to roll over, sit up, crawl, stand, wobble, shuffle, until the promise land stood before him and he took those memorable first steps into it. He had to make one mistakes after another though, before he clicked the pieces into place.

We don't punish babies for making mistakes like these because we know each silly faux pas leads to sense and sensibility. As kids get older, we start to shower them with punishments: detention, red-inked homework, poor test scores, no dessert because they tried to set the cat's tail on fire...

From childhood to young adulthood, this only gets worse: we lose jobs for making mistakes, and get fined, and ordered to go to court. Of course, some mistakes require punishment, and we shouldn't glorify failure. None of us set out to fail or make mistakes, but what most of us forget is, it happens regardless.

Just like Kid Turndog had to fall over in order to walk, we, as people aiming to make a success of life, must take a few wrong turns along the way. The thing is is, society and time's ruined us. We're terrified of making mistakes, but our natural instinct is to make them; to learn from them.

You start a business or a new job, and in the beginning you have grand visions. You're excited, but you're also scared about failing. It stops you from taking a chance. It stifles your creativity and your decision-making.

You conform to the tried-and-tested, and attempt to fit into some cookie-cutter mentality. But what the hell does this achieve? At best you become a clone of someone else. At worst, you wander around helpless.

What Interviewing 163 Successful Entrepreneurs Has Taught Me

For my latest book, The Successful Mistake, I've interviewed 163 successful entrepreneurs (Jenny included). Their stories and advice differ each time, but their approach towards mistakes... and failure... and conformity... and fear.... This is what they share in common.

  • They don't see mistakes. They see lessons
  • They understand good ideas sometimes fail
  • But that failure doesn't mean the end
  • They appreciate fear is always there
  • Yet you cannot let it hold you back... EVER!

I'm not a smart person, so I've no idea about the psychology of children and the human race. I am rather observant though, and what I notice from Kid Turndog is that he's ruled by his natural instincts.

  • He's creative
  • He's curious
  • He says yes to opportunity
  • He doesn't let fear hold him back
  • When he makes a mistake, he gets back up and tries again

This is the kind of individual I strive to be.

It's Time to Change Your Mindset

Now might be the time you expect to see a list of tips and tricks and hacks, but on this occasion I won't offer any. Instead, I ask you to make a conscious decision to change your mindset, and embrace mistakes like your inner infant would.

After all, YOU, like Kid Turndog, once stumbled along the furniture and touched a hot fireplace because… well, why the hell not? How else are we supposed to know what it feels like?

This article and the book I write isn’t designed to glorify mistakes or failure. It’s to point out that things don’t go according to plan all the time. Good intentions often manifest into mistakes, and this is fine so long as you accept them and move on.

  • Don’t fear mistakes - Accept them
  • Don’t beat yourself up or feel guilty - Take a step back and breathe
  • Don’t panic and make things worse - Go for a walk and make the right decision
  • Don’t move on and pretend it never happened - Ask yourself what you can learn

Above all, consider how you can turn it around and develop it into something bigger, better, faster, and stronger. With this approach, you don’t make big mistakes because you constantly learn from the little ones.

I remain scared of mistakes and failure, but I’m in a far better position these days. After all, 163 successful entrepreneurs cannot be wrong, right?!?


About Matthew

Matthew Turner (aka: TURNDOG) is a writer and storyteller hell-bent on sharing inspiring tales. For his latest book. The Successful Mistake, he interviewed 163 successful entrepreneurs about their biggest mistake and how they transformed it into success. If you're the type of person who likes to grow and better yourself, you may like to Join The Journey and be part of Matthew's book-writing journey (wink-wink - a free copy of the book awaits you).

Fake It 'Til You Make It: The Link Between Somatics, Body Language and Brain Chemistry

Written by Jenny Blake Did you know that just the way you sit might be causing anxiety? Or that by straightening your spine and scanning the horizon you can calm your central nervous system, just as deer in the savannah do?

For example, if you furrow your brow, try to think happy thoughts (it does not work). If you smile, try to think of something negative (it is very difficult). If you curl your body into a tight ball (or even sit hunched over), try to think of something exciting—notice how you start to feel very tense. Conversely, if you widen across your collarbones, sit up straight, lift the crown of your head and lengthen your spine, see if you do not feel instantly lighter and calmer.

According to positive psychology research, if you hold your arms outstretched in the air, open to the sky, tilt your head back and smile—and hold this position for at least two minutes—you cannot feel depressed.

In one of the most widely viewed TED Talks of all time (approaching 30 million views), social psychologist Amy Cuddy revealed that “power poses” that mimic confidence even when we are not feeling that way, can lower our stress hormones, and even lead to improved performance.

Stacy Sims, founder of the True Body Project, is an expert on somatics, or how our physical and psychological bodies relate to one another. “Oftentimes we are trying to make change, but we don’t think about how to restore and bring our bodies along for the changes we want to make,” she said. “People who have dynamic lives have dynamic motion. It is important to have movement in the body to match the intensity of the mind.”

Try These 3 Body Basics

These exercises will help you get sense for your body, and how it relates to your mood and well-being. As Stacy says:

“If we want to change our thoughts and emotions, we have to understand our own body patterns. Good alignment allows the body to do the work of the body with the least amount of effort. Thought, digestion, respiration. Once things get out of alignment, it is way more work which takes way more energy, which means we probably can’t comprehend, innovate, and activate.”

1) Face & Forehead — Lightening: Most of us unintentionally sit with furrowed brows as we read or work. Take your thumbs, and starting the space just above your eyebrows in the middle of your forehead), and with a nice amount of pressure glide your thumbs in opposite directions across your forehead, stopping at your temples and ending by making small circles on each temple. You can also rub your hands together to create warmth, then place the palms over each of your eyeballs. Do you feel anything lighten by doing this?

2) Stomach — Centering: We often unconsciously suck in our stomachs almost all day long. This shortens our breath, sending it up into our chest and throat, and sending our thoughts spinning right along with it. Settle into your seat, place one hand on your belly, and as you inhale deeply, fill up your belly like a balloon, using its full capacity for breath. Tighten slightly up and in on the exhale. After doing this for at least three breaths, do you notice a sense of calming or centering?

3) Feet — Grounding: What also tends to send us too far into our monkey minds is that many of us forget our feet. To feel grounded, it helps tremendously to move (point, flex, rotate) and awaken the feet, then to plant them firmly on the ground (if you are sitting, place your feet hip-width, legs at 90 degrees). Optional: close your eyes. Do you feel your thoughts dissipate at all? Can you feel a sense of being more grounded?

Pivot Podcast with Stacy Sims

For a deeper take on the science behind tips like these, take a listen to the recent Pivot Podcast interview with Stacy on how our physical and psychological bodies relate to one another. I had the great fortune of stumbling across her workshop in Bali when we were both there in 2013, and we have kept in touch since.

In this podcast Stacy shares her story of recovering from alcoholism through body awareness and movement practices. She describes why if your body is holding stress—even just sitting in a certain positions that visually mimic those of tension, fear or depression—your emotions and thoughts will create a story to match.

Take a listen to our hour-long chat on iTunes, SoundCloud, or Overcast:

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About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career Strategist Jenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book Pivot. She is a career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in its 8th year!) and at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

How to Get a Better Deal On Your Rent

Written by Davis Nguyen 

After graduating college a few months ago, I moved to San Francisco to start a job I am truly passionate about. As excited as I was, I knew that San Francisco has the most expensive median rent in the United States. I had to figure out a way to make the post-college life I wanted work with the budget I had.

To save on rent, most new graduates will use cost saving measures such as turning all common spaces into a room, sharing a room between two people, living further away from downtown, or living in not so safe/quiet neighborhoods.

My bedroom is 140 square foot, sits on a safe and quiet street, is located between two popular streets in San Francisco, and only 15 minutes from where I work in downtown. I have 3 housemates, but everyone has their own room and we have a common space.

Typically, median per-person rent for a place like this is $2,500.

My rent is only $1050.

If I can negotiate rent in San Francisco, I am certain no matter where you are living or moving to, you can negotiate, too. Just use the strategies my housemates and I used.

How to Get a Better Deal on Your Rent

1. Make a Good First Impression

Our first open house tour was a disaster. We expected to show up, see a few people, sign an application, and wait to see what happens. We arrived and saw about 40 other people (and it was only the first hour!). Competition was intense.

So, we decided to change our approach. Seeing that the landlord or agent had 40 or more applications to read, interview, and background check, we decided to make it easier for them.

We would arrive at every open house with a "Get to Know Us" packet that included a personalized cover letter; a generic application I made with a short biography of each of us, where we came from, and why we were each moving to San Francisco; our resumes; our job offer letters; our credit report and score; our bank account statement; and a list of reference of previous landlords.

2. Leave Yourself Enough Time

When you are in a rush to sign a lease, you are happy to sign almost anything even when other cheaper and better options are available if you continued looking. I flew to San Francisco four weeks before my work was supposed to start, where I wasn’t making income and couch surfing between friends a few days to a week at a time.

Though I wasn’t making income, I saw my four weeks as an investment to find an affordable place. If you wouldn’t take the first job you happen to get an offer for, why would you do the same for a place you will be spending the next few months or years? Leave yourself time to search, and view the money and time spent as an investment.

3. Have Your Non-Negotiables

When we started looking for a place to live, we made a list of things that were absolutely not negotiable. Our list included: rent under $1800 per person, a safe and quiet street, and no more than 30 minutes from work. Everything else was a “nice to have,” like big rooms, furnishings, a washer/dryer, and being near foody streets.

When we had our non-negotiables, we knew which houses we were willing to view and which we weren’t. This made it easy to say no to open houses and offers, because it was not worth our time.

4. Remember: It is NOT about you, it is about your landlord

The landlord only cares about two things: if you will pay your rent on time and if you will make her life easier. She doesn’t care if you have the money today (other people will have money too), she doesn’t care how beautiful you think her kitchen is (she wants to know if you will care about it).

When I found a new posting on reddit or craigslist, I would immediately call the landlord. Instead of “selling myself,” I would ask them what type of tenant they are looking for, what problems they had with past tenants, and how they moved to San Francisco.

After each 20 minute call, I would take the notes I took during the call and made sure my rental application reflected what I learned. If a landlord had a problem with a past tenant being loud, I mentioned how we don’t plan to host parties; if a landlord was looking for tenants with stable jobs, I mentioned how our contracts were for at least one year.

Using this tactic alone, we ended up getting offers from every house we applied to even when the landlord had more than 2 dozen other applications to choose from. This is all because we took the time to get to know the landlord and his or her concerns.

After we found the perfect place to rent, my new landlord Amy and I spent a week talking about how we could be “no problem” tenants. She offered to lower our rent from what she was planning to charge. This was all possible because I started asking, “How can I help my potential landlord?”

I'd love to hear from you in the comments: What strategies have you seen or used to help you find a place in a new city?

About Davis

Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.

How to Look Forward to a Meeting You’re Dreading

Written by Ben Fanning The-Quit-Alt_3D_no-background1Maybe you've fantasized about quitting, but you're not ready to give up your steady paycheck, 401k, or insurance?

There is a quit alternative. Transform your current job into a job you love by engaging with its full potential, marshaling the resources around you, and seizing the opportunities that are there for the taking.

A Simple Shift to Get More Out of Routine Meetings

A great way to start transforming your current job is to simply shift how you approach routine meetings…especially those you dread.

I’ve studied how people show up to meetings, and there’s good news. You can actually practice showing up differently to these routine meetings and get more out of them.

Those meetings you’ve dreaded are actually a big opportunity for you to practice a career-saving, business-shifting, mind-blowing skill that will transform those meetings and the ways you habitually perceive the people and activities around you.

Show Up “Differently”

A few years ago I was exhausted from the litany of meetings and conference calls on my calendar. They were absolutely killing my work mojo. Then a friend suggested I show up differently.

The concept is to show up as someone who doesn’t dread meetings. Think of someone whose way of being you’d like to express in place of dread.

I had nothing to lose, so I chose someone who embodies the spirit of adventure and excitement for me—Indiana Jones.

What was it like to be him in tough situations? How would he walk into the situation?

Indy never loses hope and always keeps his sense of humor and readiness to go for a new approach, especially when things look bleak.

Achieve New Results in the Same Old Meeting

I relished my first meeting as Indiana Jones. I asked questions differently, thought differently, even walked differently.

The results were far better and I had much more fun!

Clients to whom I’ve offered this approach have had positive results calling on:

  • Rosie the Riveter, for toughness
  • A father who stood up for what he believed in, for courage
  • Coach Nick Saban, for empowerment

What my friend didn’t say was that when I showed up differently, I would perceive not only myself but everyone and everything around me differently. I would see opportunities where all I’d seen before were closed doors.

Choose a New Persona for Your Next Meeting

Pick a meeting or another activity that you’re dreading.

  1. Consider which mood or essence you’d like to bring to the moment, i.e., empowerment, excitement, passion, curiosity, focus, or lightness.
  2. Who embodies this?
  3. Be that persona at your meeting.
  4. Write down how it goes.

Taking on a new persona will open your eyes to possibility, I promise. Try it and notice the difference.

Get Your FREE Digital Copy of The Quit Alternative! 


This article is an excerpt adapted by Ben Fanning from his forthcoming book, The Quit Alternative: The Blueprint for Creating the Job You Love….Without Quitting. Ben will be giving away a limited number of digital copies at launch time. To get notified when they’re available, sign up here.

Pivot Podcast Goes Pro!

Written by Jenny Blake PivotPodcast_3-300x300One of my biggest goals this quarter has been taking the Pivot Podcast pro. Ladies and gentlemen, that time has come!

For the last year, I have been sporadically recording episodes on my iPhone mic and uploading to SoundCloud—the bare bones basics. I knew if I didn’t start somewhere, however scrappy, I would never make anything happen. As is, I’m incredibly late to the podcast game!

But I am working on making up for lost time. In between book edits over the last few months when my editor Natalie was reviewing the manuscript, I spent my weekends watching tutorials, choosing intro and outro music, writing opening and closing scripts, teaching myself rudimentary Garage Band, mixing the music with my voice, getting tips from fellow podcasters, learning audio leveling software, setting up RSS syndication, upgrading equipment, creating the initial thumbnail icon, and troubleshooting broken feeds. The result?

The Pivot Podcast is now in iTunes!!! And several other directories (full list here, along with show notes). I finally feel like I am skiing downhill on this thing, and am excited at all there is left to learn and improve upon. But you gotta start somewhere! :::she reminds herself when cringing at choppy edits during playback:::


1. I take requests, so send ’em my way. And if you want to record a concise question for me that might make it onto a future show, send a voice note to sayhi [at] jennyblake.me through Vocaroo.

2. Pop over to iTunes to listen to the first 10 episodes! I cover how I work with my virtual assistant, the book proposal process, how I organize and make time for writing, personal cyber security, how to push through the dip, bouncing back from zero financially, how to find your zone of genius, the upside of being invisible, business systems, and a whole lot more.

3. It turns out the first 8 weeks are when iTunes will judge if a podcast is New and Noteworthy. If you have gotten value out of any of the episodes I have recorded in the last year (pardon my cheap mic on early shows!) I would be so grateful for you to rate and/or review the show. Here’s how to leave a rating from your phone. Thank you, and this is only the beginning!

4. One feature I want to play with is giving book recommendations (something my IRL friends come to me for often). Are you looking for a non-fiction book rec to address a particular life/business question or challenge? If so, let me know in the comments and I’ll answer on a future show!

If you want some shortcuts for the podcast set-up process and access to my 50+ item to-do list (as well as my collection of tips from others) I encourage you to join us in Momentum, where I’ll be leading a call soon to share everything I’ve assembled these last few months.

I am very grateful to all of you here reading for giving me the constant motivation to write, speak, listen, and learn. My promise is to continue creating content worth consuming!

About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career StrategistJenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book Pivot. She is a career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in its 8th year!) and at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

Join Us for NaNoBlogMo 2015: Project Edition

Written by Marisol Dahl

It’s been a couple months since I officially stopped the traditional job search and moved into freelancing full-time. And I love it. My clients are great, and I am engaged in the work that I do. I feel truly, truly grateful to start my post-college life in this way.

But! The work-life balance—it’s tricky, and we all know this. It’s especially tough when you work from home and dictate your own hours.

I often find myself fighting the guilt whenever I’m not doing client work. Rationally, I know I put in an appropriate number of hours each day, and I keep to work deadlines. But I end up feeling uneasy about stopping work and moving on to other things, like personal projects, hobbies, light reading, and even time with family and friends.

It’s the same tension I felt in college: why would I start reading Gone Girl when I have mountains of sociology reading to do? Why would I work on my own writing when I could get ahead in client work?

The guilt is real. Raise your hand if you’ve been there.

It’s even more confusing, because this guilt is not totally in line with my values. While I value dedication and full-engagement with work, I am also a fierce believer in taking time for oneself.

We can’t do our best work when we aren’t healthy and whole.

We can’t be the best people we can be when we’re not creatively inspired.

We cannot truly serve others when we don’t even prioritize our own well-being.

It’s time to stop seeing personal time as the enemy of our work and careers. It’s time to dedicate sacred time and energy to the passion projects that truly excite us—even if it means stepping away from more immediate distractions and responsibilities for a short time.

Join Me in NaNoBlogMo 2015: Project Edition

All over the world tens of thousands of people are gearing up to take part in National Novel Writing Month, a challenge to write a 50,000-word novel throughout the month of November. If you know anyone who is participating, then you know this time of year is brimming in productive energy.

The excitement is contagious, so let’s capitalize on it! While I personally won’t be writing a novel, I’m looking forward to devoting time every day in November to working on a personal project that always seems to be put on the backburner: creating a new website for my business and revamping my old blog.

Want to join me? These challenges are always more fun with friends, and if Jenny’s NaNoBlogMo challenge last year is any indication, they’re more successful.

Here’s How to Join:

1. Pick a personal project you’re excited about and truly want to make time for.

This can be anything! Do you want to train for a marathon? Start an Etsy shop? Study for the MCAT? Write a book? Think about a project or goal that would make a big impact, that’s personally fulfilling, and that would make you super proud to complete.

2. Declare your project or goal in our handy dandy Google spreadsheet.

Add your name to a blank row of the spreadsheet, and each day we’ll track the number of hours we spent on our projects. The spreadsheet is a great tool for accountability, and we’ll get to see what others are up to as well!

3. Dive in! Your project awaits.

Since this year’s challenge is open to a diversity of projects and not just writing, we’ll track time spent instead of words written. À la Robin Sharma, I set the goal of 90 minutes each day, with more time devoted during the weekends. That’s a grand total of 50 project hours!

Are you ready? Sign up today.

[Tweet This] Signed up for @jenny_blake’s NaNoBlogMo: Project Edition. Join us as we tackle our biggest projects: http://bit.ly/nanoblogmo #NaNoWriMo

I’d love to hear from you in the comments: What big project or goal are you excited to take on in November?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol recently graduated Yale as a Sociology and Education Studies major. A longtime New Yorker, her interests include business, communications, and marketing. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

Networking Systems for Introverts and Busy People (Part 3)

Thank you written on a memo in a officeWritten by Jenny Blake

In Part One we talked about ditching the “spray and pray” networking approach, instead identifying clear goals for a small set of people that you are most excited to connect with this year. In Part Two, relationship-building expert Michael Roderick shared his daily GATE strategy: Give, Ask, Thank, and Experiment.

Today’s post covers The Art of the (Creative) Thank You, particularly when building relationships with mentors, or people a few steps farther ahead in their career.

John Muscarello is a master of the unique, memorable thank you. He had taken one of my online courses, then we met in person for a coffee. Later in the mail, he sent me a book called The Millionaire Messenger with a personal inscription on the inside cover:

April 29, 2012

Dear Jenny,

This is an amazing book, and I think it can really help you spread your message. It covers the dreaded sales process, ways to maximize revenue, and most importantly how to help tons of people. I hope that you enjoy the book. You deserve nothing but the best!

—John (with his business card paper clipped to the cover as well)

I thanked him at the time, then two years later, when I revisited the book, I sent him another thank you note. John wrote a blog post about our exchange, explaining why books make the best thank you gifts and how this practice originated with his grandmother:

Gift cards run out of money, fancy pens eventually run out of ink, and notebooks usually get filled up and put aside. When was the last time you threw out a helpful book? The key to making it memorable is writing a note with a date on the inside cover.

I picked up this technique from my grandma. We shared a love for reading. Every time she gave me a book she wrote a note on the inside cover, and put the date at the top. Even to this day, when I pick up a book I think of my grandma and remember what was going on in my life.

John says you can do the same with the “OWLS formula.” Here’s how:

  • Order 5-10 copies of your favorite book on Amazon, so you have them when the occasion is right.
  • Who in your network has recently helped you or would enjoy the book? Make a list of 5-10 people.
  • List the reasons why you’re sending the book. Write a little note why you are sending the book. It could be as simple as “I knew you would love this book, because….” Include a way the person can contact you. I always put my email address.
  • Ship the book. People love to get packages, especially when they are not expecting them. If you can’t find their home address, send it to their office.

Thank you notes are great, but one of the best ways to thank a mentor is to follow-up on her advice (when it resonates).

Beyond a simple thank you note, which should be a no-brainer, following up on your mentor’s advice lets her know that you are paying attention and focused on taking action. Seeing your incremental progress will be rewarding for her as it is for you, and hopefully you will even be able to return the favor in other meaningful ways down the road (making connections, sending articles, applying your unique skills to an area she needs help with).

Who do you respect or admire that you already have loose ties with, where you would like to develop that relationship further?

I suggest brainstorming around the following categories:

  • Strongest Ties: Connection is already “warm”; very likely to be responsive and willing to help
  • 50/50: Might respond to an email or request for a phone call
  • Long Shot: To quote Lloyd from Dumb & Dumber, “So you’re sayin’ there’s a chance!”

What strategies have helped you build relationships with people you admire? What strategies have worked best when people reached out to you? What made you most likely to say yes?

This article was sponsored by University of Phoenix.  I’m a compensated contributor, but all thoughts and ideas are my own.

About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career StrategistJenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book The Pivot Method. She is a career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in its 8th year!) and at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

Networking Systems for Introverts and Busy People (Part 2)

shutterstock_141838129-2Written by Jenny Blake

In the kick-off post we talked about setting clear relationship-building goals: who are your people? Who is on your wishlist for friends, career contacts, and groups? How do you prefer connecting with new people, and recharging afterward?

Once you have narrowed down who you are most excited to connect with, it is helpful to have a systematic approach for reaching out on a regular basis, in a way that is authentic to you. I focus on providing expertise, generous listening, and encouragement.

Michael Roderick loves solving problems and connecting people. He spends his days helping others create authentic relationship-building strategies. Michael believes “the keys to all of the doors that you need opened are in other people’s pockets,” and the way to find those keys is by making consistent effort over time.

Michael created the GATE Strategy as a way to do exactly that, by systematizing his relationship-building efforts.

Every Day, Open and Close the GATE

Michael says, “Every day the idea is to open and close the G.A.T.E. by making the commitment to:

Give: The most important point about this is that you give a true gift. Something you provide with no expectation of return. You find someone who you want to help and you help them in the best way you can.

Ask: Make a commitment every day to ask for something that you need. There are people in your life who are waiting to help you. Take the time to let someone know about a challenge you are having or something you could use insight on. Acknowledge what you still need help with and reach out.

Thank: Take the time each day to identify someone in your life who has done something for you and give them a clear account of how they have helped you. Say thank you in a meaningful way and make sure that the other person understands the value they added to your life. All too often we thank people in less than three sentences. We can do better.

Experiment: Every day look at your existing social systems and try something new. This could be as simple as choosing to use a different location for your one on one meetings or changing the language you use when you greet someone. In all of our social interactions there are hundreds of variables. Experiment and find new ways of interacting.

At the end of every day, close the GATE—Michael suggests taking the time to reflect on how things went:

  • What was the result of the gift you gave?
  • How did things go when you asked for something?
  • How did the person respond when you sent that meaningful thank you?
  • What did you learn from your experiment?

Over time you will start to notice patterns and be able to optimize your process. Doing this creates data you can track and use over time.

For a more in-depth look at Michael's awesome relationship-building strategies, check out this one-hour workshop that he did on Accelerating the Ask for the Momentum Community in July.

Ongoing Mastermind Groups

Some of my most cherished relationships from the last few years of being in business for myself are more structured relationships: peer mastermind groups I set up with one or two friends at a time. We schedule weekly or bi-weekly calls, and it provides a consistent through line of support, brainstorming, encouragement and celebrating. Setting up a mastermind is easy and it is free. I will never not have one.

For tips and resources on how to do this, check out the Momentum guide to Mastermind Groups.

Looking to join a tight-knit community of smart, creative people building businesses? Learn more and sign-up to get notified when the doors re-open to join Momentum.

Stay tuned for Part Three, where I’ll share creative “thank you” tips!

This article was sponsored by University of Phoenix.  I’m a compensated contributor, but all thoughts and ideas are my own.

About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career StrategistJenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book The Pivot Method. She is a career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in its 8th year!) and at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

Having a Reason to Wake Up Every Morning

Written by Davis Nguyen 

Two months ago, I found myself watching a 5:30 sunrise from a white sand beach in Vietnam.

It was the type of sunrise that I dreamt about waking up to when I started planning for my post-graduation trip two years ago.

But when it finally happened, I wasn’t happy. I felt empty.

I was three weeks into my post-graduation/pre-work backpacking trip; I had worked the previous two summers saving up every quarter I could for it. Since I was 12 all of my summers were dedicated to either getting into college or working a job. But not this summer. This summer, I would wake up each morning with no agenda—just an entire day to myself to do what I want when I wanted.

The first two weeks was what I imagined: beginning my day with a sunrise, continuing with either a slow boat ride on a nearby river, a trek up a mountain, or a simple day of sightseeing. With each day came more $1 smoothies and a gigabyte of Facebook worthy pictures.

Somehow by the third week I was no longer happy. I woke up, but didn’t want to get up. I wasn’t tired—I just didn’t feel a reason to move from my bed even for this sunrise, but I did anyways and spent the rest of the day seeing the Cham Towers and having more $1 fruit smoothies.

In the evening, as with every night I was in Nha Trang, I returned to my hostel at 9 to have dinner with one member of the hostel staff, a group of six college students and recent graduates who give the hostel its friendly culture. I made it a routine to get to know the staff of all the hostels I stayed at, if anything to hear the stories of travelers who have passed by.

Tonight I was having dinner with Tiffany, the afternoon receptionist. During the week I was in Nha Trang, Tiffany and I had dinner on two other occasions so I knew she was a student at a local university studying hospitality and working two jobs—one at my hostel and another at a five star hotel about 10 minutes away. At our last dinner, I learned that Tiffany’s dream was to own her own tour boat company, a cafe where local Vietnamese can go to practice English, and a hostel just like the one we met at.

To make progress on her goals, she begins her day at 5:15 am and goes home around 1 am. She can’t remember the last time she took a day off.

At dinner I asked Tiffany a question I often ask many of my friends back home: “If you had a billion U.S. dollars, what would you do?” I imagined she would say retire and travel instead of balancing school and two jobs. Instead she said, “I would get a bigger boat for the tour, a bigger space for the cafe, and a better location for the hostel."

I asked her why she doesn’t just use the money to stop working and start doing more leisurely activities like traveling.

She responded, “Because I love what I am doing. Creating memorable experiences for travelers who come to Vietnam is pleasurable. I have a reason to want to get out of bed.”

Tiffany’s dream of creating world-class experiences for travelers to Vietnam gives her a reason to wake up every morning—something I hadn’t had on my trip.

I thought that the ultimate freedom in life was getting to travel endlessly with no obligations and no responsibilities. But this isn't true.

After starting my day with an empty sunset and ending it by hearing about how passionate a hostel receptionist was about her dreams, I started to see why many people are dissatisfied with where they are in life and want to leave their current lives and jobs behind. For many of us, it is because we don’t have a reason to wake up in the morning. There is no force that is pulling us towards wanting to live the life we currently have so we look for opportunities to escape. But even in our escapes, we are never truly free of the problem: lacking a reason to want to wake up.

Many people call this not knowing your passion, but you don’t have to know your passion to have a reason to want to wake up.  I don’t think my immigrant family is passionate about doing manual labor every day for 12 to 14 hours at a time, but they know the reason they do it is to allow their children to have opportunities they themselves did not have growing up. They have a reason to want to wake up in the morning, a reason that allows their children to have a life better than they know.

For the remainder of my trip, every city I traveled to, I started finding opportunities to do more than just sightsee and drink $1 smoothies. I volunteered at one of my favorite NGOs in Laos, translated a hostel owner’s signs into English in Thailand, and helped a local woman market her business in Sapa, Vietnam. These small things eventually added up, and each morning I felt a reason to want to get up every morning. I felt happy again.

I learned that, instead of trying to escape my life, I needed to  find a reason to want to live my life. Just watching sunrises and eating cheap street food eventually gets boring.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments: What is your reason to want to wake up each morning?

About Davis

Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.

Birthday Business Bundle: Pay What You Want for Systems Ninja

Desk1_SystemsNinjaWritten by Jenny Blake

Lots of exciting learning opportunities for solopreneurs and side hustlers this Fall! We are in the thick of back to school mode, so sharpen your pencils—and your marketing and systems skills—with an awesome suite of offerings :)

  • In honor of my birthday on Friday, I'm giving you a present! Pay-what-you-want pricing for my 5-day Systems Ninja course from now until midnight on Friday, October 9. What's a fair price? The live course was $179, the recorded bundle is $97, or you could pay $32 since that's how old I'm turning—but you can get it for whatever you want to pay, even if that's zero dollars! Sign-up here to get your systems ninjary on :)
  • I'm excited to be participating in a giveaway this month for Ramit Sethi's Zero to Launch course. For one lucky winner, he's giving away 20 fully-paid coaching sessions with a great group of entrepreneurs, authors, and business strategists. Get all the details and enter to win here
  • If you are thinking of creating courses as part of your business strategy, check out Ruzuku's Roadmap to Earning Your First $5K. I use their platform for hosting all of my courses (for 5+ years now) and love it!

Behind the Business: Lucent

  • Check out the recently revamped Lucent List Tumblr! We pivoted to curating content related to meditation and mindfulness instead of maintaining the app itself. Our strengths as a team were in having our pulse on the best content, but the app was too much to handle as a side project for all of us (and there are some other powerhouse meditation apps that can serve you well!). With Lucent List, we sift through the noise to bring you the latest research, articles, courses, and events related to meditation.

Blake thinks having “daily reflection” and an “evening wind-down routine” can help people make their days more energizing and exciting. She encourages success journalers to ask themselves these questions: “When did I feel the most in the zone? What type of work recharged my batteries? What work drained them?” By doing so, “That can also help people understand what to do more of and what to do less of, and how to structure their day,” she says.

5. See the positive in every day

“There is the Native American story of the grandfather speaking to his grandson,” says Jenny Blake. “The grandfather says, ‘We all have two wolves fighting inside us, good and evil. One is joy, and the other is fear.’ The grandson asks, ‘Which one lives and which one dies?’ And the grandfather says, ‘The one you feed.’”

Blake continues, “It’s so easy at the end of the day to focus on what didn’t go well, what we don’t know yet, why we’re still confused. All this stuff is creating anxiety. And that anxiety tends to be more consuming than the small, joyful moments. So creating any kind of gratitude or reflection practice feeds the joy. And it’s really important to do this, because it is not our instinct.”

Finish reading this month's full October Coffee Talk on all things Mind, Body, Business and Books »

About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career Strategist Jenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book The Pivot Method. She is a career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in its 8th year!) and at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

Fulfillment: The “F” Word You Should Say Loudly and Often

Written by Anna Davda

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it.” —Steve Jobs

Most of us work 40 hours a week, and it's fair to say that some of us even work more than that. Further, when we're not working, we’re often thinking about work, or talking about work. With all this time spent on work, it becomes a big part of our identities. So, it’s especially sad to read statistics that up to 80% of people are dissatisfied with their work.

I’ve seen the discussions on this topic fall into 3 categories: idealistic, “how not to lose,” and resigned. Each is problematic.

The idealists continue to perpetuate the notion that we each have a “true calling”—all we have to do is find it. Sounds so easy, doesn’t it? Just find it! Unfortunately, this leaves most of us doggedly searching for something that we can’t control—if it even exists at all. In the meantime, we put tons of pressure on ourselves and make ourselves miserable in the process.

“How not to lose” focuses on what not to do (e.g. don’t focus just on the money). This is somewhat useful, but not enough to get us to where we need to be. Imagine if you tried to learn how to play a sport by only being told how not to lose, rather than how to win.

The resigned seem to have forfeited the game, believing that maybe work doesn’t have to be fulfilling at all. It’s just a means to an end, and life truly begins after 5pm on weekdays.

I’d like to offer my own approach—try bringing intention to your life and your career. Intention can help you make progress—whether you are looking for a job, are in a job you don’t like, or are in a job you do like but are not progressing at a rate you’d like to.

4 Steps To Become More Intentional In Your Career

1. Reflect.

First, find time to reflect. Reflection time should be time set aside, away from your phone, away from others, and preferably somewhere outside of your normal routine.

During this time, assess your values. What’s truly important to you? Is it family, financial success, time to pursue hobbies, helping others? You can find a list of values to consider here. Pick about five that are the most important to you, and rank them in order of importance. This will really help you for the inevitable point in your career where you’ll have to make a difficult choice that pits one value against another.

Now, think about your daily life. How much time do you actually spend on activities that reflect these values? Is there anything surprising about what you find? I recently did this exercise and discovered that though I value vision (setting vision and strategy, personally and professionally), I was doing very little of this at work because of my other responsibilities.  

2. Act.  

Talk with a trusted colleague, a mentor, a friend or partner, and eventually, your manager. Discussing what you’ve found in your reflection can help your manager understand the ways you want to have impact, and the skills you want to develop. This will allow the two of you to have an honest conversation about what’s possible in your current position. My manager and I had a conversation about my desire to spend more time setting vision and strategy for my team, and found a way to adjust my other responsibilities to make time for this.

3. Remember & Revisit Regularly.

This sounds simple, but it’s far from it.  A couple of years ago, I took on a challenging project. I knew the learning curve would be steep and that the project would take long hours and hard work. I intentionally stepped into this project after considering my values, and noting that at that point in time, my value for challenge and learning was exceeding my value of work-life balance. After revisiting my values, I realized I was willing to give a little on work-life balance to get more challenge and learning.  

4. Reassess periodically.

Reflection is not something you do only once. Set a regular schedule—at least once a year, or a few times a year is even better. A few months into the project I described above, I found myself getting frustrated when I worked late, almost resenting the project. I sat down to reflect, and realized that my values were still the same, and if I weren’t working late, I would have wanted to spend those extra hours learning and challenging myself somehow anyway. I immediately felt better, but it took reflection for me to realize that I was, in fact, exactly where I wanted to be at that moment.

My passion for intention is what drove me and two colleagues from Google to create our own business around helping others bring intention to their career. We coined our own word for the business: Intentify. To us, Intentify is a verb meaning ‘to bring intention to, to make or become intentional’.  

I'd love to hear from you in the comments: What will you do next to Intentify your career?


Anna Davda

About Anna Davda

Anna Davda is a Leadership & Diversity Learning Programs Manager at Google, and co-founder of Intentify.  In addition to her passion for being intentional, she’s passionate about running, yoga, meditation, travel, and serving her community.

I Was Called a Millennial at Work…

Written by Melissa Anzman Last week, I hit my ceiling for drama tolerance at a company I’ve been working with. Over the past several months, I tried troubleshooting, I asked for guidance, I talked to all of the people I could to get some traction, I elevated my concerns, I did… everything to improve the situation. And absolutely nothing changed.

This is pretty typical at a large organization, we’ve all experienced it. But what I finally realized, was this was simply the company’s culture. I talked with a few people who were having issues in other areas, and they agreed – they felt like they were screaming from the roof tops and no one cared except for them.

And that’s when my limit was reached. I knew that it was not going to be a long-term “culture” fit for me – it wasn’t worth the consulting dollars, the fun projects, the connections, etc. I couldn’t get over a culture that…

… doesn’t say thank you to their hard-working employees

… doesn’t take action when there are serious issues

… doesn’t prioritize people over (insert many things here: path of least resistance, how it’s always been done, etc.)

So I let them know that it was time for me to move on. And that’s when things got super weird.

The head person wasn’t made aware of my decision (she is a key stakeholder) for a week after the discussion. I went an entire week with radio silence, reinforcing my impression that as a worker bee, I wasn’t valued and my concerns continued to multiply. I had had an entire week of stewing, reinforcing my outlook on the situation, basically being done.

But what shocked me even more, was what happened when she found out. I got a phone call – which was very nice, and very kind things were said, but there was one comment that stuck out for me. The response to me outlining in a very professional manner, what the issues were:

“I want to share your experience with the other leaders. We all need to do a better job at learning how to manage Millennials.”

Um, WHAT?!

There are so many things wrong with that statement I don’t even know where to start. How about the fact that I’m barely considered a Millennial? Or perhaps that instead of acknowledging the culture or issues, creating a blanket statement to sweep the issues under? Or what about all of the hard work, time and effort, I’ve put into my career to get me to the place I was in? Why am I being “stereotyped” into an entire generation at work?!

Why is this being labeled as a millennial problem?

I’m not sure if I’ve ever been more offended at work through a conversation. And trust me, I’ve had some zingers thrown my way in the past. It was insulting because we are all so much more than our generation indicators – and I can’t imagine this same scenario being said about a Baby Boomer.

Part of what’s so frustrating with this experience, and likely similar experiences that you are having in the workplace every day, is that managers really don’t know how to “manage” the new workforce. They don’t get it and by extension, they don't get us. So everything becomes a generational problem instead of a culture problem; or a work distribution problem; a communication issue; or simply, a bad fit.

This is where the good stuff, but hard work, happens. It’s up to us, whether we identify as Millennials or not, to start educating the people we work with and reinforce that we are more than a generalization. “We” may have some odd quirks that Gen X’ers or Baby Boomers didn’t have, but trust me – “they” had their own quirks too when they entered the workforce.

Instead of accepting the stereotype or brushing off situations as a Millennial issue, let’s use each of those opportunities as a learning moment for the other person, and reinforce our humanity in the process.

Have you been called out as a Millennial at work? Tell us more in the comments below!

melissa anzman

About Melissa

Melissa Anzman is the creator of Launch Your Job  where she equips ambitious leaders with practical ways to grow their career. She is the author of two books: How to Land a Job and Stop Hating Your Job. Follow her @MelissaAnzman.

5 Secrets to Living a Significant Life

Written by Paul Angone Why do some people live a life full of significance, impact, and meaning – basically a life of their dreams?

While the rest live a ho-hum life – full of potential, but with no real purpose?

For the last 10 + years,  I've searched for the answers to those two questions. On this journey I've done years of research, wrote hundreds of blog posts, published two books, traveled the nation speaking, completed a master's degree, and interviewed countless influencers. And if I boiled down the secrets to living a significant life down to five things, here's what they would be:

5 Secrets to Living a Significant Life

1. Master the small, daily, underrated core habits.

Sometimes I think we view people who are truly successful as somewhat mythical beings who must have some big secret that has produced a short-cut to success.

The more I study and speak to successful people, the more I've realized:

Successful people's profound secret of success is that they don't have a profound secret. They aren't searching for that big, secret shortcut. No, they are focused on mastering the small.

Their life consists of discipline within crucial core habits that add to their life, instead of drain it.

Examples like: Getting up early. Exercising. Eating healthy, identifying the foods that drain them and removing those from their diet. Then as well, not eating too much.

Mastering the small core habits can make a big difference.

Our bodies are our gardens – our wills are our gardeners.” – William Shakespeare

Studies are showing that consistently exercising actually can increase your IQ, specifically creating "an increase in the irisin molecule levels in the blood which activate genes involved in learning and memory."

Don't get me wrong, I don't write this while at my standing desk, pumping out the article while wrapping up a half-marathon on my treadmill below. Discipline in the daily is not always my forte.

Yet, for the last year I've made a more consistent effort, especially when it comes to eating smart, and I can't tell you how big of a difference it's made in my energy, performance, and mental health.

Simply not over-eating at lunch and slipping into a carb-comma at your desk at 1:30, can give you two more productive hours a day for an extra ten hours a week.

Crush your day by being consistent at the core elements that can make or break your day.

2. Have goals that are built and based off what I call your unique Signature Sauce

Mastering the core habits is so much easier when you have a vision and goals that you're working towards. Then your discipline and hard-work has context, purpose, and a point.

You're not mastering your day as an exercise in discipline, you're mastering your day so that you can exercise your purpose.

I'm realizing more and more that when I'm feeling the most anxious in my life it's because I don't have any clear, identifiable goals.

People who are living a significant life, their goals aren't created out of context either. They create goals as a culmination of who they are, what they believe, what they're good at, where they want to go, and most importantly, why they know it's important.

Too many of us focus all our time trying to figure out what we're going to do and how we're going to do it, instead of first truly understanding "Why" we feel and think it's important.

The more you know your why, the more flexible and adaptable you're going to be in your what and how.

Defining, refining, owning and honing your unique Signature Sauce becomes a framework where your passion, purpose, and career collide, which is why I'm creating a new online course to help you uncover your Signature Sauce.

Remember: the greatest danger you face in the world today is that you're replaceable...Your only salvation is to mine your uniqueness, to combine various skills that set you apart. No one can do what you do. That's your endgame." - Paul Graham

3. Do "Relationshipping" really well

Stop networking like a machine. Start relationshipping like a person. That's what successful people do well.

Too often networking is about us, our needs and pain points that we're trying to alleviate. When "relationshipping" is about authentically building relationships not just when you "need" them.

Relationships aren't a means to an end, relationships are the meaning.

4. Care more about learning than you do about your ego

Want to know a simple test on whether or not you care more about learning than you do about your ego --  How do you receive feedback?

Honestly, receiving feedback graciously hasn't always been a strength of mine. Still isn't.

But more and more I'm realizing if you're able to receive constructive feedback from a boss, parent, spouse, or teacher and then implement what's needed to do it better the next time, you care more about learning than your ego.

If the moment you smell feedback you attack it like an angry buffalo charging a tourist who has ventured too close, then your ego (and the insecurities it's protecting) is probably a little too sharp.

If your ego keeps charging at everyone who tries to help, then people are going to stop helping.

5. Care more about learning than you do about the possibility of failing.

Want to know a simple test on whether or not you care more about learning than you do about the possibility of failing -- when you're given a big project does the enormity of it make you excited?

Or do you start visualizing the end outcome and become overwhelmed with fear that you're not going to be able to accomplish it?

Does pursuing your dreams feel overwhelming? That means you're onto something BIG. If it didn't feel out of reach, why would you stretch?

People who are living a meaningful life care way more about learning and failing forward, than they do about the fear of looking stupid. The frustration of being complacent and comfortable far outweighs the fear of failure.

As I write in my new book All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!

"Fear makes self-preservation a top priority. It makes "don't get hurt" the rule to live by. But our instinct for self-preservation will get us killed–a long, slow death. We'll sit there enduring drips of water on our forehead, one after another, day after day, until we snap and throw our computer through our boss's window and wear nothing else but Hawaiian shirts for a month. And I mean nothing else."

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

Which one of these secrets of living a significant life resonate with you the most?

Paul-Angone-All-Groan-UpAbout Paul Angone

Paul Angone is the author of All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!, 101 Secrets for your Twenties and the creator of AllGroanUp.com, a place for those asking "what now?" Snag his free ebook on the 10 Key Ingredients to Finding Your Signature Sauce and follow him at @PaulAngone.

Two Questions that Guided My Journey from Poverty to Yale

Written by Davis Nguyen

I will always be grateful for my mother, who raised my little brother and me without a man in the house, who taught us to value our education despite never finishing elementary school herself, and who never let being paralyzed stop her from caring for her two sons. My mother made living on food stamps and growing up in one of poorest and crime-ridden communities in Atlanta a bit more bearable.

When I walked the halls of my high school, I saw pregnant girls barely 16 bragging about their delivery dates and young men boasting about how many classes they had skipped or the easy money they made the night before. These weren’t the types of lives I wanted for my mother, my brother, or myself.

Knowing the circumstances of my upbringing, no one would have predicted when I was born that, two months from now, I would be graduating from Yale with a 3.9 GPA with no debt.

My journey from living in poverty to graduating from Yale didn’t require me to be a genius or to have access to anything others didn’t. My journey began each morning by asking myself two questions anyone else could.

Two Questions That Guided My Journey From Poverty to Yale

1. What kind of life do I want for myself?

Asking myself this reminded me of my goal to graduate at the top of my high school class, attend a top university, and one day give my mother and brother a better life. My answer gave me a purpose, a reason to wake up every morning despite the environment I was living in. As the famous psychologist and Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, wrote, “Those who have a ‘why’ to live, can bear with almost any ‘how’.”

2. Is what I’m doing today going to get me closer to the life I want? If not, why am I doing it?

Asking this reminded me to keep on the path I set for myself when the temptation to stray was all around me. Even poverty could not take away my power to wake up every morning and decide what I wanted to do with my day.

Asking these two questions every morning, even if I woke up with no electricity, motivated me to avoid the choices I saw others make around me while working towards building the life I wanted.

Pain is temporary, regret is forever 

Every day, these two questions pushed me to study a bit more for the SAT when others were getting into bed, to wake up and work on my admissions essays when others were still asleep, and to apply for one more scholarship despite already being rejected by over 180 others.

On the days I felt stuck, when my SAT scores showed no improvement, when my essays were trashed, and scholarship foundations would continue to reject me, those two questions reminded me to keep going on my path. Those two questions reminded me that my pain and agony were temporary, but if I quit, I would live with regret forever. Instead of stopping, each day I got closer and closer to my goal.

Eventually, studying while my friends were at the movies, waking up while my peers were still in bed, and knowing the type of person I wanted to be while others didn’t, paid off. In March of 2011, I was accepted to Yale and Harvard and earned scholarships to graduate debt-free from both.

You might not have the money, the social connections, or the physical ability today to take 100 steps every day to creating the life you want, but just the fact that you are reading this right now means that you have the power to take at least one. And that is one step closer than you were yesterday.

I'd love to hear from you in the comments: What type of life do you want for yourself? What is one thing you can do today to get closer to achieving this life?


About Davis

Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.

Systems Ninja Live 5-Day Course: Starts Monday!

Desk1_SystemsNinjaWritten by Jenny Blake

As the lull of summer starts to wear off, we enter our September Sprint: the final crazy months of 2015. Work tends to reach a frenetic pace in September and October before slowing down again for the holidays. If you are starting to feel overwhelmed, or like you are the bottleneck preventing your business from moving forward, have no fear! Your systems guru is here. :)

Some of the questions I get asked most often from solopreneurs include:
  • What tools should I use for this upcoming product/launch/book/project?
  • I have all the tools, but how should I organize my process for creating the project?
  • How do you keep up with the latest technology? How do you stay on top of everything?
  • Who should I hire, and where can I find them? What do you actually delegate, and how?

Simply telling you what apps to use (as I have done with my free Toolkit and 30+ templates) is a bit futile in terms of ensuring long-term success. It is like giving you a fish—it feeds you for a day, but not a lifetime in an ever-changing technology landscape, given that tools and best practices so quickly become out-of-date.

What you really need is a deep-dive on how to think about systems in the first place. To do that, and address the questions above along with any other systems related quandaries you may have, I am opening up my business kimono in a five-day Systems Ninja course.

I will be teaching you how to think smarter—how to teach yourself to fish—for long-term systems success.

Here is what we will cover:

I will customize the content each day based on what you are most interested in learning, but here is an outline of topics I will start each day's session with:

  • Day 1: Bottlenecks—Identifying and busting barriers in your business.
  • Day 2: Delegating—What do you need to let go of? Learn why delegation is one of the most important things you can do for your life and business, and how to figure out what to delegate in the first place.
  • Day 3: Hiring—What are you optimizing for? We will cover how to get the right team in place so you can focus your energy on what is most important to you, and the work that only you can do.
  • Day 4: Investigating & Launching—How to use stress as an opportunity to improve your systems to alleviate stress and help creativity flow. I will also share the most helpful tools for planning and executing a launch of any kind.
  • Day 5: Deciding—Dismantle big decision roadblocks & Open Q&A: Sometimes what holds us back isn't systems, but uncertainty. Learn how to take a scientific approach to reach a decision on any big conundrum you might be facing. And if you have any final systems questions about your projects and business, today is your day to fire away!

The Format:

  • Each call will be 60 minutes via live Google Hangout
  • I’ll spend the first 30 minutes on instruction, then open up the second half of the call for coaching or Q&A around your specific situation: including tool recommendations and troubleshooting tips
  • You can submit questions the day before in case you’re unable to make the call live
  • Each session will be recorded.
  • Each day’s workshop will come with a template or worksheet
  • The course will be hosted through Ruzuku, which means you can return to the materials at any time

Registration (and Early Bird Discount):

  • When: The course runs for five days from September 14 through September 18
  • What time: Live workshops are 3pm to 4pm ET each day (they will be recorded in case you can’t make it)
  • Cost: I have extended the early bird rate of $129 until midnight Thursday 9/10; after that it is $179
  • Enroll: Click here to sign-up! 

Momentum: September Enrollment Open

The Systems Ninja course is free if you join Momentum—my private community for side-hustlers and solopreneurs, where you will get ongoing access to all of my current and future courses, tools and templates.

Doors for Momentum enrollment are open again—for the second (and final) time this year—and close on September 30.

We have about 80 awesome solopreneurs and side hustlers in the crew now, and I have loved working with them to bring the community to life these last five months. I have personally found it so helpful for tracking quarterly focus areas, sharing successes, and asking for feedback on important projects.

Click here to learn more and enroll »

Private coaching with me is currently $1,500/month, and I am only taking on a handful of clients as I work on the book.

With Momentum, you will get access to the JB Kitchen Sink: all my tools, templates, courses and resources, as well as live monthly workshops with me and other experts, the ability to ask me anything, sign-up for private 1:1 office hours calls, and collaborate with others by joining mastermind groups and asking for feedback from the group anytime.

Momentum costs just over $1/day, billed quarterly, with a full money-back guarantee if you look around and don’t like what you see.

When you sign up, you will get instant access to every course I have ever created ($500 value) and these awesome bonuses:

  • Free access to my upcoming live 5-day Systems Ninja Course ($129): This  course will help you audit your current systems set-up, figure out what your biggest bottlenecks are, bust through sticky decisions, and delegate more effectively.
  • A private live webinar on Oct 1 with Dan Blank on How to Take Back Your Creative Time. Dan will be sharing 3 simple actions for making creativity a priority, how to tackle big challenges using simple habits, and how to take back hours of time.
  • 130+ Item Momentum Launch Checklist, detailing every single step that transformed Momentum from an idea to a reality. Get an inside look at exactly how Marisol and I built Momentum over the last six months, with checklist sections for platform selection and set-up, content creation, sales materials, launch week breakdown, ongoing communications, and more.
  • Detailed overview of the 21+ tools that we used to execute the launch and build the community site. You will get a complete breakdown of what we used and how in the following categories: Workflow, Momentum Safari Course, Countdown & Sales Pages, Logo & Design, Payment, Registration, Referrals, and Community Platform.

I look forward to working with you for Systems Ninja, Momentum, or both!

About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career Strategist Jenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book The Pivot Method. She is a career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in its 8th year!) and at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

Networking Systems for Introverts and Busy People (Part 1)

NetworkingForBusyPeople1Written by Jenny Blake

Networking. I know, I know. The word itself makes you shudder. Me too.

My blogs are the most public thing about me; I’m a closet introvert, preferring to spend vast amounts of time alone. I live alone, I work from home, and to recharge there is nothing I love more than reading in the morning, and doing handstands in the park in the afternoon. Alone!

That said, I enjoy great conversation as much as anyone and try to schedule a handful of coffees, lunches and dinners each week, along with group fitness classes like yoga and pilates. But overall, engaging with others usually initiates my 1:4 recovery ratio—for every one hour I spend connecting, I like to give three or four back to myself with privacy and quiet.

Why am I telling you this? Because in spite of my reclusive ways, I love people! I really do.

I love working with coaching clients one-on-one, I love the private Momentum community, and I love teaching and public speaking. Building high-quality, authentic relationships are the foundation of my business, and the reason I am now celebrating over four years as a solopreneur.

Today’s post kicks off a three-part series on the systems and strategies I use to stay sane when building relationships.

Whether you’re introverted, busy, or introverted and busy, this series will teach you how to build friendships that benefit you and others, without being sleazy, cheesy, or obnoxious.

A Note on Mindset

“Networking” title aside, the purpose of all this is really about making new friends, specifically of the professional variety. I don’t network with people I wouldn’t want to hang out with in real life.

My key philosophies on relationship-building are generosity, and quality over quantity.

I can’t stand being on the receiving end of someone’s “spray and pray” campaign, where I can see that I am just one target in a vast strategic effort for them to get somewhere or get something.

So don’t do that either! The year is now half over; now is a great time to spend a little time reflecting on who you want to meet and connect with over the next four months, and how.

People-Related Goals and Preferences

Identify your preferred approach to building relationships for where you are at this point in your life and career by answering the following questions:

  • Who: What types of people do you want to connect with? Anyone specific in mind? Brainstorm a few exciting options for each of the following categories:
    • Friends (local, global)
    • Business/Career (local, global)
    • Groups (professional, recreational, fitness)
  • What: What are your goals? What can you give? What are you hoping to receive? (Support, advice, friendship, etc.)
  • Where: Do you prefer to meet in person, over the phone, or connect through social media?
  • When: What time of day and what types of events do you most enjoy talking with others?
  • How Often: What is your natural, enjoyable limit within a given week of meeting/connecting with new people? Socializing with friends?
  • Recharge: What helps you decompress after social interactions?

Networking is never about how many people you can reach, but about being smart and strategic with your time and energy.

Upcoming Webinar: Connect with Influencers

I’m excited to be co-hosting a live webinar with John Corcoran on How to Cold Email Any VIP on August 26 at 3pm ET.

John will cover the 5 things you must do if you want your emails to be read and responded to by VIPs you admire, how to go from getting your email opened to building a genuine relationship, and how to go from relationship-building to generating income. John will also share 5 of his best email templates you can use to connect with the VIPs you want to meet.

Sign-up and download the free workbook here!

Stay tuned for Part Two, where I’ll share how to create routines around reaching out to others.

This article was sponsored by University of Phoenix.  I’m a compensated contributor, but all thoughts and ideas are my own.

About Jenny

Jenny Blake Headshot - Author, Speaker, Career StrategistJenny Blake is the author of Life After College and the forthcoming book The Pivot Method. She is a career and business strategist and an international speaker who helps smart people organize their brain, move beyond burnout, and build sustainable, dynamic careers they love. Jenny combines her love of technology with her superpower of simplifying complexity to help clients through big transitions — often to pivot in their career or launch a book, blog or business. Today you can find her here on this blog (in its 8th year!) and at JennyBlake.me, where she explores the intersection of mind, body and business. Follow her on Twitter @jenny_blake.

3 Resolutions for Life After College (+ Free workshop!)

Written by Marisol Dahl

Three months ago today, I graduated college. And as summer is winding down and that back to school season kicks in, it’s really hitting that I won’t be returning to the wonderful comforts of college dorm rooms, courtyards full of students, and 24-hour libraries.

There are a lot of changes that come with finishing school. We enter the world of full employment, glaring finances, and finally learning how to make dinner ourselves (goodbye dining halls!). We have to make big decisions about whether to go to graduate school and where to live. It’s a new and exciting stage in our lives.

To celebrate this new season and start off on the right foot, I’m making some resolutions.

3 Resolutions for Life After College

1. Take it one step at a time, and listen to your intuition.

I had one great job offer back in March. On paper it was perfect, and I was ready to pack my bags. But something in my gut was saying, this isn’t it. I hated saying no to the company, because it was rationally reckless! I didn’t have any other offers, and I wasn’t sure I would get as great a job package anywhere else. But something in me didn’t jibe with this path.

I turned down the offer, and ended up graduating without a traditional full-time job and not nearly enough freelance work to go “full time.” While my fellow unemployed peers panicked as they picked up their diplomas and packed their bags, I felt calm. I didn’t know where I would be next week or next month, but I trusted that everything will work out. And while it’s only been three months and things are far from completely “worked out” (are they ever?), I’m amazed at how slowly but surely the pieces come together.

Here’s the thing: for most of us college graduates out there, this is the first time in twenty-something years in which our future is completely, utterly open. There are fewer things than ever that are truly compulsory. We have this beautiful blank page.

But despite achieving this new level of freedom, we hardly take the time to wonder at it all. We feel that we have to take the job offer, because who knows when another one is coming? We have to go to grad school, because how else are we going to keep up in this world? And gosh, what about those student loans?

These pressures are all too real, but I’m making a point to slow down with my decision making. There are many great opportunities ahead, and while it’s tempting to pick a path and stick to it, we’re better off taking it one step at a time and listening to your gut.

A big thanks to Jenny for inspiring this shift in the way I think, especially her pieces on going with the flow and practicing intuition. :)

2. Keep learning.

College taught me many things. I learned why some social movements succeed and others fail. I learned the difference between an opportunity cost and a sunk cost. I learned how to do laundry without having to separate whites and colors.

But one of the most important things I learned is the absolute joy in engaging with new ideas. There is a true satisfaction in having the difficult conversations, questioning your long-held beliefs, diving into a book on a subject you know absolutely nothing about. These are the moments that exercise your mind and challenge your identity the most. This is how you become a better person and achieve greater work.

I don’t want that to end. I don’t want to get into a rut, involved only in my own little world. And so, I will keep learning.

3. Take chances. Meet new people. Make life interesting.

I’m not quite sure how to articulate this particular one, but it’s the most important to me. In essence, it is Jenny’s “live big” philosophy (ahem, check out the mission statement of Life After College).

This is a resolution to take the wheel and step on the gas. I am a firm believer that you are responsible for your own happiness, well-being, and excitement in your life. If life is feeling a little too comfortable or mediocre, you hold the answers to shaking it up again.

So this resolution will manifest in many different ways. It’s the intersection of intuition and adventure—take the time to listen to your cravings, your wildest dreams, your sudden and exciting impulses. Then go for it.

Living up to this resolution won’t look the same day to day, person to person. For me, right here right now, it looks like: picking up the guitar (again), starting a conversation with a stranger, and cold emailing someone I admire.

Upcoming Webinar: Connect with Influencers

Life After College is so excited to be co-hosting a live webinar with John Corcoran on How to Cold Email Any VIP on August 26 at 3pm ET.

In this webinar, you will learn:

  • The 5 things you must do if you want your emails to be read and responded to by VIPs you admire
  • How to go from getting your email opened to building a genuine relationship
  • How to go from relationship-building to generating income
  • [Bonus] John will also share 5 of his best email templates you can use to connect with the VIPs you want to meet.

Sign-up and download the free workbook here!  See you then! :)

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

If you could connect with any influencer you admire, who would it be? What is keeping you from reaching out to them right now?

About Marisol Dahl

Marisol recently graduate Yale as a Sociology and Education Studies major. A longtime New Yorker, her interests include business, communications, and marketing. Marisol started her blog in 2011 as a way to document her college years and beyond. She can be reached on Twitter at @marisoldahl.

Don't Be Scared to Leave the Tour Boat

By Davis Nguyen The boat would depart in 20 minutes and we were on the opposite side of the island separated by a mountain and a torrential rain storm. We knew we couldn’t make it in time and if even if we made the trek back to the other side of the island, the rain would have already wiped away the trail markers we laid out making it likely for us to be lost.

Less than 3 weeks ago, I started my four month backpacking trip from Vietnam. A week ago I reached Nha Trang, a beach resort town in Vietnam. I started my backpacking journey to immerse myself in the culture of the cities I found myself in, so I wasn’t a fan of touristy resorts like Nha Trang. But after 2 weeks of trekking the countryside and walking in rivers with water levels up to my knee, I thought three days in a beach resort wouldn’t be so bad.

The girl who checked me in recommended I go island hopping and immediately booked my boat ticket for the next day. The boat was a boat targeted at foreigners, so I knew we would only stop at white sand beaches with entrance fees and restaurants that sold food for twice as much as I could get from street vendors. There would be no interactional with locals of the various islands, but I figured one day of an organized tour wouldn’t hurt.

On the bus ride that picked me up from my hostel to Nha Trang’s boating dock, I met a fellow backpacker named Janet who was also in Nha Trang for a few days to take a break. She had spent the last month in Nepal volunteering with the relief efforts and Nha Trang was a stop along her eventual journey to Korea.

The tour boat went from island to island with about 30 minutes of travel time between each and an hour or two depending on the island for the passengers to leave the boat. For some reason I didn’t feel happy, and I could see Janet felt the same way.

The last island we stopped at was another tourist destination: a two dollar entrance fee gave us access to a beach and tons of bars and food stalls.

Janet and I decided to explore the area more. Within 4 minutes we reached the back of the park and we found a dirt trail. With about 2 hours before our boat departed, we decided to leave the tour group and walk up the unmarked trail. As we walked, I would place trail markers so we could find our way back to the boat.

About 30 minutes later we reached a cemetery—where there is a cemetery, there must be a town nearby. So we continued forward until we eventually saw what looked like a small town. We descended from the elevated area and found a way to what seemed like the main street of the town. We noticed that locals were not used to tourists on this side of the island as every local we walked pass stared at us and kids would come up, smile, and follow us before their parents came to grab them.

It then started to rain—hard. Each minute that passed the rain got heavier and heavier until we saw locals using brooms to sweep the rain away from their pouches and save their homes from being flooded. We knew we had to make our way back to the other side of the island before our boat (the last boat of the day) left without us.

We started to retrace our steps, except this time we were fighting against the rush of water coming down the hill we descended from. Knee-high in rain and sewage water, we continued until we could no longer see that path. But then four local women stopped us. “Too dangerous,” one said to us as she raised her hand to block me from walking past her and up the trail.

“Our boat is leaving,” I told the locals in my accented Vietnamese. The women would not let us pass. We were at a standstill until another woman who had overheard my conversation walked over and said she can help us. Not knowing what to do, we followed her. As we followed her, she pulled out her phone and made a call. We eventually arrived at a pier.

The woman explained that she arranged for us to take a boat with some locals who were also headed towards Nha Trang. Luckily for us, they were leaving once the rain settled down.

We laughed at how stupid it will seem to the others on our tour that we left the safety of the park, hiked to the other side of the mountain, and walked into this small town that isn’t used to seeing tourists. But we didn’t’ care—we had the time of our lives!

To pass the time we spoke with the locals as much as we could to learn more about what they do and what it is like seeing foreigners.

Eventually our boat arrived and we made our way back to Nha Trang with our new friends still wanting to know more about us.

Sometimes you can’t start living until you get off the guided tour.

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

What frightens you about leaving your “guided tour?”



About Davis

Davis (@IamDavisNguyen) graduated from Yale University in 2015. He currently lives in San Francisco and works at Bain & Company. When he’s not helping CEOs transform their companies, he is helping recent graduates figure out the type of life they want for themselves and helping them get there.

5 Pitfalls to Avoid in Your Twenties

Written by Paul Angone There are so many well-hidden suckholes that can stop all momentum, growth, and success in your twenties.

And you can fall into one of these pitfalls without even realizing it, and then stay stuck well into your 30s, 40s, 50s...you get where I'm going...

Now that I've successfully freaked us all out, lets talk about these pitfalls and how we avoid them.

Pitfall #1: My Circumstances are "Who I Am" 

If you start believing "well this is my lot in life and I can't do anything about it," then you are more than stuck.

Really this pitfall makes all other pitfalls non-existent because you never walk far enough forward to even have a chance at failing at anything else.

Don't be cemented in your circumstances. They change all the time. Too many people are settling in Sucksville because they don't believe they can leave town.

We all have crappy subplots we need to work through. Don't let them become your whole book. Failure doesn't ruin your story, failure helps you write it. 

It's really hard to step into your future if you don't believe you have one.

Your twenties set the course for the rest of your life. If you start settling for a life that's a "3 out of 10" now, it might not magically become better later.

Pitfall #2: Becoming Bitter, Instead of Better

You might be feeling good about life. Maybe you're even at the grocery store, with an actual list, buying things like kale and argula.

You're crushing this whole adulthood thing.

And then you jump into the line at the checkout and start checking out Facebook or Instagram, with the glaring AMAZINGNESS of all your friends buying a new BMW, having a new baby, traveling to Istanbul to take pictures for American Express, and suddenly you want to replace your kale with a box of wine and three jumbo bags of M&M's.

The new OCD I have coined -- Obsessive Comparison Disorder has a way of heightening any discontent to "I only want to drink wine from a box" levels.

Don't become bitter. Become better. Don't smack yourself with some yardstick you're not measuring up to. You do you.

Keep creating instead of complaining.

Strive to find solutions, instead of marinating in all the problems.

Pitfall #3: Never Committing to Anything

Find something you enjoy, that gives you life, and commit to it. It doesn't have to be what you want to do for the rest of your life to give a little of your life to it.

Your twenties are about what you plant in the ground, not about what you harvest.

We can’t keep pulling our seeds out of the dirt before it has time to grow.

As you commit to something and begin to walk forward, paths and opportunities will open up that you couldn't see from where you started.

Pitfall #4: Doing Life Alone

We are made for community. We thrive in relationships. Your friends are struggling right next to you to find their purpose and place.

Call a friend. Be honest about what you're going through. Seek out mentors. Ask them to coffee. Call your mom. Find a counselor if you feel you need one.

Don't do twentysomething life alone.

To blow up this lie that you're all alone in this twentysomething struggle is one of the main reasons I wrote my new book All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job! It's why I'm so honest about my own hilariously embarrassing, yet slightly brutal, failures that lined my twenties.

This "groan up" life is anything but easy and straight-forward, and we need to talk about it.

If you try to do life in isolation, it will be very difficult to feel alive.

Pitfall #5: Failing to Clarify Your Signature Sauce

I believe you have a Signature Sauce – a unique mix of ingredients that gives the world a flavor that no one else can.

No, I'm not talking about some sort of magical marinara.

I believe that defining, refining, owning, and honing who you are, your unique tailor-made-ness, your personal Signature Sauce, is the absolute most important thing you can accomplish in your twenties. It's the key to not only finding your passion, but living it for the rest of your life.

Don’t expect anyone to hire you for your passion if you can’t explain what it is. 

The people who are the most successful know who they are, what they believe, and why they are pursuing what they're pursuing.

Don’t get me wrong, this discovery process is not always simple and straightforward. This is why I’m working on an intentional program and community to help you own, hone, refine and define what your Signature Sauce is.

You have a unique Signature Sauce that the world needs.

It just might take some time, strategy and intentionality to figure out what it is.

We'd love to hear from you in the comments below on this article: 

Are you stuck in one of these pitfalls and is there one thing you can do this week to begin your climb out? 

Paul-Angone-All-Groan-UpAbout Paul Angone

Paul Angone is the author of All Groan Up: Searching For Self, Faith, and a Freaking Job!101 Secrets for your Twenties and the creator of AllGroanUp.com, a place for those asking "what now?" Snag free chapters from both his books and follow him at @PaulAngone.