[quote style=”boxed”]“Wake up, live big! and love the journey.” [/quote]
Jenny Blake is an author, blogger, life coach and speaker who helps others “wake up, live big! and love the journey.” She has been featured on Forbes.com, U.S. News & World Report and CNN.com. Jenny started her blog, LifeAfterCollege.org, in 2005 and translated it into a popular book, Life After College: The Complete Guide to Getting What You Want, which serves as a portable life coach for 20-somethings. Jenny recently took her own great leap by leaving Google after 5 1/2 years at the company (on the Training, Career Development and [email protected] teams) to move to New York City and pursue her passions full-time.
What are you working on right now?
I’m a true “slash” solopreneur, I’m an author, blogger, speaker, life coach and now a yoga teacher! I’m most excited about my online courses, Make Sh*t Happen and Design Your Life, and about starting to teach “Geek Yoga” classes in NYC as a way to create community and bring young entrepreneurs together. Finally, I’m super stoked about launching a fun infographic in collaboration with Mint.com called Your Roadmap to Life After College–an eye-candy CliffsNotes version of my book. 🙂
Where did the idea for Life After College come from?
I took a leave of absence from UCLA at the start of my junior year to help start a company with one of my college professors. The experience of leaving school before my friends (and reading over 200 personal development books on things like money, happiness, organization and time-management to get my life in order) inspired me to start my blog, LifeAfterCollege.org that is now a book. The book is a result of working through my own struggles, crisises, depressions and succeses. I’ve had many peaks and valleys in my twenties (as most have!) and my blog and book are attempts to help others feel less alone in their journeys and to push through their fears to go after what they really want in life.
What does your typical day look like?
I wake up around 7 or 8 AM (no alarm whenever possible), read Google Reader posts in bed as I wake up, then try to go for a run first thing so I start the day off on the right foot. In the late morning, I answer important emails then try to be REALLY disciplined about doing PROACTIVE work since the morning is my most productive and creative time. Around mid-day, I have lunch and/or go to yoga class, then as my productivity wanes in the afternoon and evening I go back to answering emails and doing light project work. I end the day by reading my favorite guilty-pleasure gossip site to wind-down before bed.
I’ve reduced my meeting days to Tuesdays and Wednesdays, which really helps me focus on proactive and strategic projects the other days of the week. My meetings are a combination of working with coaching clients, networking/getting to know you calls, professional opportunities (speaking, partnerships), interviews (blogs, radio), calls with my intern about the courses and calls with my mastermind group. Finally, I’ve been taking Thursdays and/or Fridays as my days off, which allows me to feel productive over the weekend when the Internet (and my inbox) seem to slow down a bit.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I once had a coach tell me not to get bogged down by the “tyranny of the hows.” I bring big ideas to life by focusing on the vision first — getting super clear on what smashing success looks like and very specific about how I will feel once the idea comes to fruition. Creating a compelling vision gives me the ammo and excitement to move forward, and the hows often naturally fall into place from there.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
Early career employees starting their own blogs/businesses/presence online, regardless of whether they have full-time jobs or not. It’s such an empowering way to find your voice in the world and a fantastic way to build community and make friends. I think it’s really helping young people gain confidence to go after what they really want in life, and because of the Internet we have more potential to do that than every before. One of my keynote speeches is, “The Ladder is Out: Career in the Age of the App,” which is all about ditching the linear template mindset and moving toward a model where we each take full responsibility for the “apps” (skills, experiences, hobbies) that make up our careers.
What was the worst job you ever had and what did you learn from it?
The worst job I ever had was selling chocolate bars as a kid in San Francisco. If I sold 2, I’d get 1 for free. It sounded great at the time, but in hindsight, it was terribly unhealthy and a poor use of my talents, even at 10 years old. Pretty soon I started a neighborhood carnival and family newspaper; those were way more engaging, creative and entrepreneurial. That lesson early on taught me to follow my own ideas and energy, not to just be a puppet for someone else’s business.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I started my website 6 years ago and my blog 4 years ago. If I were starting over, I would have set-up a newsletter WAY earlier (I’ve only had mine for a year) and would have started selling small passive income-generating products WAY long ago. It wasn’t until I quit Google that I really started monetizing my blog beyond my book. I can’t imagine where I’d be today if I started that 4 years earlier! Then again, the Google salary was a nice boost for the few years that I was growing my audience quietly and at my own pace without the pressure of having to earn income from it.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Start every day with fresh air + exercise. As an entrepreneur, running and yoga keep me sane. Every morning I lace up my shoes and go for a 20-minute run. No matter how busy you are, you can make time for that. The fresh air and blood flow helps activate my brain for the day (and happy chemicals) and gives me time to think through what my biggest priorities are. Yoga is a life-saver and grounding, too. I make time for that every afternoon.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Becoming a consultant to help coaches and speakers build effective online courses so they can monetize their ideas in a semi-passive (after development) way. After working in training and development for 5+ years at Google, I loved being able to translate those skills into products and services for my own business and would love to help others do the same. I use a platform called Ruzuku for my Make Sh*t Happen and Design Your Life courses and I absolutely love it.
Tell us a secret.
I still wear a retainer to bed. It’s zebra print. I also still sleep with a teddy bear; the same one I’ve had since I was 6 years old. He somehow always ends up in the coveted inner spoon position. 😉
What are your three favorite online tools and what do you love about them?
- Evernote: Can’t live without it! It helps me track ideas and tasks across all my gadgets. I have a notebook called “Watch/Do/Read” that serves as a nice bucket for things I want to come back to later.
- Google Docs: I’ve created 15+ templates to organize every are of my life. Check out http://lifeaftercollege.org/templates/ to grab any that seem helpful to you!
- Droplr: Awesome for easily sending screenshots to people; anything from music playlists to image grabs.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Maximum Achievement by Brian Tracy, a hidden gem of the personal development world that talks about all the mindsets one needs to be extraordinarily successful and happy in life. It’s an awesome book. And if you haven’t read his more popular book, Eat That Frog, stop everything and purchase a copy right now! That book completely revolutionized the way I structure my day.
What’s on your playlist?
I make a mix for every season (been doing that since I was in high school), so the playlist tends to change with the weather. For the winter, I’ve got lots of Adele, Bon Iver, Florence and the Machine and anything else you’d hear on Alternative Nation (satellite radio). In the summer, I tend to lean more toward the Vegas/party mixes with pop and rap–anything that gets me dancing, singing or walking through the streets of New York City as though I’m the star of my own movie, listening to a rockin’ soundtrack.
If you weren’t working on your coaching, speaking and blogging, what would you be doing?
I’m really loving having yoga teaching in the mix. Even though I can’t yet see how it fits in business-wise, it just feels right and it’s such a great balance to all the “heady” computer work I do most of the time. I also LOVE the idea of sharing my “medicine” with others and doing it in a way that’s fun, not intimidating and helps connect people (another passion of mine). My big dream of the moment is to do Thai yoga massage training in Thailand and visit my friend Elisa in Bali. I know I *can* do it, I just need to bite the bullet and book my flights!
One person we should follow on Twitter and why?
@williejackson: Killer, short and thoughtful blog posts; always posts helpful links and funny commentary.
When was the last time you laughed out loud? What caused it?
As I was completing this interview, I told my roommate that once I answered the email, I would have achieved the equivalence of a solar/lunar eclipse with shooting stars in every direction and unicorns bounding through the sky: the mythical Inbox Zero that I’m lucky to reach once every 2 years. We had a good chuckle picturing all that fanfare — especially over something as seemingly silly as an email inbox. 🙂
Who is your hero?
I am fortunate to have many heros, but the one that stands out is Susan Biali, one of my mentors and now good friends. She has been an inspiration to me since day 1. She’s an MD turned flamenco-dancing life coach, author and speaker. She is so poised, wise and generous with her time. She’s been incredibly supportive of me, even before I had any momentum from my blog. Susan has been with me at every step of my process — getting the book deal, learning the art of being a professional speaker and learning how to stay healthy, happy and sane in the midst of it all. She has demonstrated what’s possible for me in this field and has done it with such grace and courage.
At 25 years old, you said you went through a quarter life crisis that sparked your drive to create Life After College, what happened?
I’ve been an overachiever my whole life. It’s a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that I’ve done a lot of things; I have big goals and achieve them. And yet the curse is that for a long time, I just went from achievement to achievement–always driving, better, faster and more. By the time I was 25 and again right before I quit Google, I was utterly exhausted. For about 6-8 months afterwards, I felt completely stuck. I knew that I would get through it, but it took time.
I realized that no matter what I felt like I “should” be doing to please my manager, parents or society, the most important thing was that I honor myself and my body, accepting that I am a valuable person beneath the shiny veneer of achievement. Now that I’m on my own, I’m still very goal-focused, but I put way less pressure on myself to be successful by external measures and much more weight on feeling happy and healthy instead.
What words of wisdom do you find most valuable?
Two of my favorite sayings are, “action is the antidote to despair” and “you can’t cross the Grand Canyon in two small leaps.” Don’t be afraid to dream big! I like to tell people to “live big and start small.” Even the biggest dreams have a first step you can take even when you can’t see the full path. Start there, then the next step will reveal itself, and the next until you eventually have a snowball of success on your hands. Stand tall and shine your light in the world. When something is right, the universe will roll out the red carpet for you; lean in and let serendipity help do the work (balanced with intentional effort too, of course).