What does it take to be an Entrepreneur? Join us as Jenny Blake shares her Entrepreneurial mindset and an inside glance at her journey of becoming a successful Entrepreneur.
Jenny Blake is an author, blogger, life coach and sought-after speaker who helps others “Wake up, live big, and love the journey.” She has been featured on Forbes.com, US News and World Report, CNN.com and was recognized by Suze Orman as a leader among Gen Y. Jenny has spoken at Google, Best Buy, Carnegie Melon (TEDxCMU) and Columbia University — always with rave reviews.
- “Action is the anti-dote to despair.” ~ Joan Baez
- Jenny has lived the life of an Entrepreneur. She ignored her naysayers, took her leap, and had over 7k lined up for her second month as a solo-preneur. Then BAM… it all fell apart and she made $0… all month! Instead of listening to the doubt monsters that started to lurk in the corners of her mind, Jenny put her head down, worked hard, and believed.
Entrepreneurial AHA Moment
- Jenny gives incredible insight with her AHA moment. I can’t wait for you to hear!
- Jenny loves her current life. She lives in NYC, works when she wants and with people she really likes. Her vision for the future is exciting… listen close!
Small Business Resources
- TripIt: Travel Itinerary – Trip Planner
- Google Docs: Create and share your work online and access your documents from anywhere.
- EverNote: Remember everything.
Best Business Book
- The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau
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John Lee Dumas: Okay. Let’s get started. I am simply ecstatic to introduce my guest today, Jenny Blake. Jenny, are you prepared to ignite?
Jenny Blake: Absolutely!
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! Jenny is an author, blogger, life coach and sought after speaker who helps others wake up, live big and love the journey. She’s been featured on Forbes.com, US News & World Report, CNN, and was recognized by Suze Orman as a leader among Generation Y. She’s also spoken at Google, BestBuy, Carnegie Mellon, TEDx and Columbia University, always with rave reviews.
I’ve given Fire Nation a little overview, Jenny. Why don’t you take it from here and tell us who you are and what you do?
Jenny Blake: Sure. My most recent history is that I had been working at Google for five-and-a-half years, and toward the end it was in coaching and career development. Then my book, “Life After College,” came out last March. So I did a self-funded book tour and had taken a three month unpaid leave from Google. I ended up during that time realizing that there was so much I wanted to do in terms of my own business and my own personal goals, that it really wouldn’t be fair either to my own projects or to them if I went back. So in June of last year, I gave my two weeks’ notice, and now here we are a little bit over a year later, and I’m doing coaching fulltime, as well as, as you mentioned, speaking, and I run a coaching course called “Make It Happen.”
John Lee Dumas: Awesome. Yes. I have just seen some of these speeches that you’ve done online, and they are just really inspiring. I definitely encourage all of Fire Nation to check it out. I will link them up in the show notes. They’re just really great stuff.
Jenny Blake: Cool. Thank you.
John Lee Dumas: So Jenny, we’re going to transition now into our first topic, which is the success quote. At EntrepreneurOnFire, we like to get every inch of you off and rolling with a little motivation, and that is our success quote, to really get Fire Nation pumped up for the content that you’re about to share with us. So what do you have for us today?
Jenny Blake: One of my favorite quotes is “Action is the antidote to despair.” That came from Joan Baez. It reminds me that no action is too small and that sometimes, you can’t think your way out of a problem or a bad mood or total depression. It really requires taking some action.
John Lee Dumas: I love that quote. At EntrepreneurOnFire, it’s just truly about your journey, your story as an entrepreneur. So can you take us down to the ground level and just give us an example of how you actually apply that quote to your everyday life?
Jenny Blake: Sure. There have been times where I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t know what kind of decision to make. There were many moments where I was thinking about when was the right time to pursue Life After College fulltime. Even when I was writing my book in 2008, I was on a roll, totally on fire, and then hit what I call total and utter book block. I couldn’t even open my Word file for almost six months.
It wasn’t until I decided, “Well, my dream of being a writer is on hold right now. Then maybe I’ll go to a Northern California Speakers Association Meeting and try and act as if I’m a professional speaker.” In doing that, I met the author of the book, “How to Write a Book Proposal.” That totally kicked me back into gear. I wrote a proposal, found an agent, found a publisher. So it reminded me that again, just because I was getting so depressed and stuck around my book, that it wasn’t until I decided to take action, even if it was a somewhat unrelated action, that really helped me find my momentum and my footing again.
John Lee Dumas: I love that, and it’s just such a great lesson for Fire Nation just to know that you never know where you’re going to get your inspiration from. You don’t know what events, what phone call, what blog post, and it’s just such a powerful lesson to keep taking action of some kind, and that can just kick you back into gear, as you said.
Jenny Blake: Absolutely. Yes.
John Lee Dumas: So Jenny, we’re going to transition now into the next topic, which is failure, because again, EntrepreneurOnFire is all about the journey of the entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, you’ve faced failure, you’ve had challenges, you’ve had to overcome obstacles during the course of your journey. You’ve already alluded to one with your book block. I would really just love for you to take us back to some point in your journey where you really came across a challenge or an obstacle that you had to overcome. Walk us through that.
Jenny Blake: Sure. I wouldn’t say there’s some big, massive failure. In fact, I really do. It’s cheesy, but I really do believe that all of those are learning experiences and they happen for a reason. As far as challenge, I would say that working fulltime and trying to manage my own projects on the side, the book and the blog, and then eventually doing the book tour, was very tiring and exhausting, and I remember feeling burnt out at several different periods.
We took a managing your energy course at the time, and they said, “Is the life you’re living worth the price you’re paying for it?” I remember thinking that no [Laughs]. In terms of my own health and stress levels, it really was too much. I knew that it was in service of this broader goal of eventually having my own company, but there is a balance, I believe, and at least for me personally, that there’s no point in running yourself into the ground that really this is meant to be.
The authors of the book, “The Powerful Engagement” talk about how we often run our lives like a marathon, and instead, we should treat it as a sprint from recovery. We’re really good at the sprints. We’re really good at going hard, having the goal, but actually, we’re often not as good at building in that recovery time. So my challenge over the last few years really was figuring out how to build in the recovery time that I need, big and small, in order to keep doing everything that I was doing.
John Lee Dumas: Let’s get specific here for a second. What have you found has actually been very beneficial for you as far as a recovery time? What have you found that you actually do that helps you recover during those times right following your sprint?
Jenny Blake: There are some daily practices that really help me. Running for 20 minutes in the morning helps me get fresh air and start thinking through what I need to do that day. Taking a break and going to yoga class in the afternoon is really helpful and calming as well. Eating healthfully. So generally, just putting my own health and wellness first within a given day, and particularly within a week, is very helpful. So that’s kind of the mini recovery.
Then it’s really important when doing these big events – writing a book, doing a book tour – to have some days off. Really, it needs to be in proportion to the size of what you’re working on. So I just remember that once I quit my job, I had come off the 10 city book tour, and it took me about a month of recovery just to settle back down and get enough sleep and take things slow. So sometimes recovery is about going unplugged for a week or a month, and that’s awesome if you can do that. Sometimes it’s just giving yourself permission to go at 50% for a little while until you feel back up to speed.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! You’ve given us a very broad overview of different challenges and obstacles that you are facing in your current life right now. Can you take us to a time within the past year that you’ve really faced a challenging obstacle and how you overcame that?
Jenny Blake: Well, probably the most challenging was my first month of solopreneurship. I do coaching and I do speaking, and I had almost $7,000.00 of income lined up. I mean that was awesome. That’s a great month. It goes up and down every month. I had a few speaking gigs, I had a few potential new coaching clients. It was all coming together. Then as it was all coming together, it all fell apart. I ended up making zero dollars for the month of August, which was actually my second month of solopreneurship, and I just remember thinking, “Oh God!” [Laughs] Like, “Here we go. This is going to be a rollercoaster.”
I had been working fulltime for seven-and-a-half years, and that’s getting a steady paycheck every two weeks. So all of a sudden, to have this business where I could have all that money predicted, and then have it all go away, was this total wakeup call and a big challenge to realize, first of all, definitely don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Then second of all, have some sort of system where that isn’t going to totally wreck everything. Definitely, I didn’t end up having to use my savings, but knowing that it’s there is really critical for me.
John Lee Dumas: I can totally picture the situation that you were in. I mean when you go out to become a solopreneur, you have all the naysayers saying, “What are you doing? You’re leaving Google. It’s the best job in the world. It’s security. There’s healthcare benefits, there’s this, there’s that. What are you doing?” Then all of a sudden, you hit that first bump in the road, and then all of a sudden, all of these words come rushing back and you’re like, “Wow! Are these people actually right?” and you start to doubt yourself. It’s really during those moments that the successful entrepreneurs put their head down and just continue to drive forward with their plan. It sounds like you were able to do that. You did allude to a pretty awesome lesson, don’t count your chickens before they hatch. Did you pull another lesson out of that period in time?
Jenny Blake: One of the biggest things was a mindset. I remember telling myself exactly as you said. It would be easy for all those fears to [reach in]. “I told you you weren’t going to be successful. Who do you think you are?” I found it very empowering to realize that everything is a learning experience. If I lost this business, there’s something to learn. I was working on making it happen at the time, and I remember when the launch was coming up. I was going to be so devastated if it didn’t sell. But then I thought, well, you know what? If it doesn’t sell, then I need to learn about sales marketing. So it was a very empowering mindset that these failures and these challenges are teachers for us absolutely and they teach us where we need to beef up our skills.
For anyone listening to this interview, I can almost guarantee that the problem will not be that you’re incompetent or incapable of doing whatever you want to do. It’s that you may have a skill gap and need to learn more and need to talk to people who’ve gone before you. That’s a very different thing than just sitting there kind of beating yourself up. It’s like what do I need to learn, and okay, duly noted, universe [Laughs].
John Lee Dumas: Love that. I love that, and we’re going to use that to transition to our next topic, which is the aha moment. You’ve been so generous sharing with us part of your journey, which are the different challenges and obstacles and failures that you face and overcome. The other end of the spectrum is that beautiful aha moment when those light bulbs go on. As entrepreneurs, on a lot of levels, we have these aha moments every single day. These little light bulbs go off, they inspire us, they propel us forward into new and exciting directions. But every now and then we do have that one big aha moment where the clouds part, the sunrays burst through and the angels are singing. Have you had an aha moment on that level, Jenny?
Jenny Blake: I would say that I’m fortunate to have had several. I have been doing coaching since 2008. I love it. It’s a joy. One of the aha moments came when I launched Make It Happen. I had the first class in there and they started bonding with each other. That, for me, was like, okay. I have found a zone of genius for myself. As Gay Hendricks writes in The Big Leap, that we have a zone of incompetence, competence, excellence and genius.
I often felt like I was in my zone of excellence at Google. I was successful, I got good reviews, but I wasn’t always tapped into the zone of genius. When I created the course, I realized it was helping me mix my love for technology and my love for coaching and my love for learning and development, and for building community and bringing people together.
So that moment, I would still say I’m not really sure what format the course is going to take, how I’m going to keep it going, but it helped me realize as an entrepreneur, that there are ways to combine all of my various skills and interests, and all it’s going to take is some creativity and experimentation, and the ups and downs, no doubt, as you’ve mentioned, but that “Ah, this is truly what I’m meant to be doing,” and I’m just looking forward to continue to experiment and play and find more things like that.
John Lee Dumas: That is exciting. What are some specific actions that you have taken after you’ve had these aha moments, and specifically the one that we were talking about?
Jenny Blake: Part of it is constantly checking in and asking what about this is awesome, and then what about this is not in my zone of genius that I don’t enjoy as much or that is not really serving me or that might not be delivering the full value to my community. So for me, there was this process of reflection. This goes back to creating recovery. It’s also having enough flex and time in my schedule that I’m not working and building all the time. Sometimes it really is about getting quiet and listening and taking feedback. I haven’t created anything new for at least a few months, if not six months or more, but I’m okay with that right now because for me, I’m in this for the long haul, and I don’t want to rush to always be creating. I want to also take time to really listen to my own inner voice and to that of my community of what would have the most impact.
John Lee Dumas: Jenny, have you had an I’ve made it moment yet?
Jenny Blake: [Laughs] I’m pretty proud to have been living in New York for the last year. I quit my job and picked the most expensive city to live in. So when I hit my one year anniversary, I felt like, “Okay. I have made it one year. I’m not living in a van down by the river. I haven’t had to collect out my savings and all these fears that I had.” I am very proud of myself for being able to make it to a year, to feel happy and healthy more so than I ever have in my life, to have great friends and relationships, and to be doing what I’m doing. I feel incredibly fortunate.
It’s still nerve wracking because no one can make any guarantees about what will happen in the future, but it feels pretty good to have made it a year out of the gate.
John Lee Dumas: That is so refreshing, Jenny, because as entrepreneurs, we’re always setting these high, lofty goals for ourselves, and then we’re just striving to the fullest of our abilities to reach those goals. Then once we reach those goals, oftentimes, we’re just merely putting that bar to the next level and putting our heads back down and driving forward.
So it’s really refreshing to hear that you’re able to kind of step back, look at where you’ve come the past year in New York City, in Manhattan. You’re still living very well, you have great relationships, you’re appreciating that moment. That is so key to be able to really see where you’ve come, take a deep breath and enjoy it because again, this is about the journey.
Jenny Blake: Well, thank you. I find this is something I talk about a lot with coaching clients too. That we’re oftentimes worse at celebrating than we are worrying. I find that a lot of people, just like you said, want to skip right over their accomplishments or their small wins and move on to what’s missing, what’s broken, what’s next. So the ability to stop and acknowledge where you’ve come I think is very important and it makes it more fun. It makes the whole journey more fun and it cultivates that good energy around doing more. I think of it like training your subconscious and saying like, “Good doggie!” You celebrate and you give yourself a treat or a reward, whether it’s monetary or a nice meal with friends. It doesn’t really matter. It’s so important to honor the process. So I’m really glad that you said that.
John Lee Dumas: Great! Well, I’m really glad that you put an exclamation point on that.
Jenny Blake: [Laughs]
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs] So Jenny, we’re going to move forward to our next topic, which is your current business. You’re rolling along now, you’ve made the move to New York City, you’re living there, you’re loving it. You have a lot of exciting things going on in your business. What’s one thing that is really exciting you right now?
Jenny Blake: One thing that’s really exciting me right now, somehow, someway, even though my marketing on my website has a lot of room for improvement, most of my coaching clients are working on a blog, book or business, and it’s so fun for me to help them build these things. I realized that I could easily be in the business of doing “life crisis” coaching. My blog is Life After College, and that could be a clear niche to take. Instead, people are coming to me for these microbusinesses and I get to be their thought partner and create plans with them and really help these projects come to life. So that is just one of my greatest honors and my greatest joys, and I’ve, from a behind the scenes standpoint, consolidated my coaching days to Monday and Tuesday and my meeting days. So that leaves me five days of the week to really build as I want to. Sometimes I take Wednesday and Thursday off, and that’s my weekend, and I work over the weekend when everyone’s out and the streets are really crowded.
So I’m also excited about the flexibility in my schedule. It doesn’t mean that I want to live out of a suitcase, which I actually feel like I do half the time, but it just gives options for me to really optimize my best energy windows for my clients, for my blog readers and for myself.
John Lee Dumas: Thank you for sharing that insight. Now, Jenny, the word “entrepreneur,” it really is a mystery to most people. I mean you allude to the fact that you have this flexibility. You sometimes take the midweek off, and then you’re working on the weekends. People kind of have this aura of mystery sometimes around the word “entrepreneur.” At EntrepreneurOnFire, I love to pull back the curtain and kind of give Fire Nation a peek inside the life of our spotlighted entrepreneur. Can you share with us two tasks that do seem to occupy a good portion of your days?
Jenny Blake: Sure. Email is the number one. I love interacting with people and I’m always so grateful for emails that I get from readers or other bloggers, and it takes up a pretty significant portion of my time. Then the other one, I would say it really depends. If you don’t count coaching or interacting with the Make [Expletive] class as a task, then I would say the other task is getting things done for the blog, whether it’s a partnership that I’m putting together or the next blog post or answering interview questions for someone. There are still a lot of tasks for you related to the blog that come up.
Both the things that I mentioned – the email and the blog – I think of those in some ways as reactive for maintenance mode. So that’s different than if I’m working on building a course or writing another book, which I’m not yet, but I try to keep it balanced between doing strategic, proactive work, and then reactive work.
John Lee Dumas: So Jenny, what is the vision that you have for the future of your company?
Jenny Blake: Probably within the next year, I’m going to move over to jennyblake.org for my own personal blogging, and I’m going to keep Life After College fully up and running. I probably will have a few curated guest writers who help contribute content because I’ve had Life After College now, for the blog, almost five years, and the website for seven. I’m turning 29 in two weeks, and then 30 next year, and I feel like it will be really nice to have a site that is more of an umbrella. That Life After College is one component of what I do, but it’s not necessarily the full story anymore. So that’s really where I’m headed.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! So Jenny, we’ve reached my favorite part of the show. We’re about to enter the Lightning Round. This is where I provide you with a series of questions, and you come back with amazing and mind-blowing answers. Does that sound like a plan?
Jenny Blake: Alright. I’ll do my best.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs] What was the number one thing that was holding you back from becoming an entrepreneur?
Jenny Blake: Fear.
John Lee Dumas: What is the best business advice that you ever received?
Jenny Blake: On the topic of fear, it was when someone asked me the question, “What would you regret more?” and also, “How would you feel one year from now if nothing has changed?” because that often helps me figure out what to pursue or making a big decision like when to leave my job.
John Lee Dumas: Yes. What is something that’s working for you or your business right now?
Jenny Blake: I recently started working with an assistant who used to have her own blog and she reached out to me. I love it. I will never not work with her, if I can help it. I would cut out every other expense before stopping working with her. It is bringing me so much sanity and productivity. I absolutely love it.
John Lee Dumas: Now, how did you go about finding your assistant?
Jenny Blake: She reached out to me, actually. I had thought I was going to go find someone in the Philippines or one of those task services in India. Instead, I got halfway through those processes and was not resonating with it at all. She’s a stay-at-home mom and reached out to me. Her name is Andrea. She just said, “I love what you’re doing. I want to help you. I want to be a thought partner for you and for your business.” I was nervous to hire her at first because I was worried. Would I be able to pay her consistently? Now I can just see that that’s the absolute best thing that I spend my business funds on and it’s so helpful to just feel like I’m not carrying everything by myself.
John Lee Dumas: That is a great weight that has been lifted off your shoulders.
Jenny Blake: Yes. Huge.
John Lee Dumas: So do you have an Internet resource such as an Evernote that you are just in love with that you would like to share with Fire Nation?
Jenny Blake: Well, it’s funny you asked. I just posted a blog post called “90 Tech Tools to Help Manage Your Life” because there was a ton of great stuff in that. I swear up and down by TripIt for travel and Google Docs. I use Evernote a lot, and then I’m trying to think if there’s any other – there are so many that I use, but I would say TripIt absolutely saves me for travel.
John Lee Dumas: Now how do you use TripIt for travel?
Jenny Blake: It automatically pulls in flight and hotel itineraries from Gmail and it keeps all your flights and upcoming trips in one place so when it’s time to check in or check what time your flight is or see where your hotel is, it’s all in there.
John Lee Dumas: Wow! I guess you do live out of a suitcase.
Jenny Blake: I do, right now.
John Lee Dumas: [Laughs] So Jenny, what’s the best business book that you’ve read in the last six months?
Jenny Blake: That is a great question. I read a lot of business books for a time. Chris Guillebeau’s $100 Startup is actually a great one. It’s fantastic if you’re just starting your business. If you’re somewhere let’s say where I am, I still dog-eared five or six pages with great ideas. So I feel like anyone can get something out of that book.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! We will link that up in the show notes. So Jenny, this is the last question. It’s my favorite, but it’s kind of a tricky one. So take your time, digest it, and then you can come back with a great answer.
Jenny Blake: Okay.
John Lee Dumas: If you woke up tomorrow morning and you still had all the experience, knowledge and money that you currently have right now, but your business had completely disappeared, forcing you to start with a clean slate, which many of our listeners find themselves with right now, what would you do in the next seven days?
Jenny Blake: I would listen. I would sit, I would meditate, I would get quiet, I would go for walks, I would listen to myself, to my gut, and I would also have conversations with people who are close to me in my life or my network and ask them, have they ever been in this position? When they look at me, what do they see as my greatest strengths and talents? So I would start to really listen to my gut and to what it was telling me about where my energy is for what’s next.
John Lee Dumas: Jenny, you’ve given us some great actionable advice, and we are all better for it. Give Fire Nation one parting piece of guidance, then give yourself a plug, and then we’ll say goodbye.
Jenny Blake: Sure. Well, first of all, thank you all for listening. My parting piece of advice would be to experiment and start small. Don’t be like you have to do this all overnight. Figure out what you need in order to experiment safely. If that means staying at your fulltime job for a while, great! There’s no set prescribed path for how to do any of these stuff. You’ve just got to start and adjust as you go.
For my plug, if you want to find me online, my blog is LifeAfterCollege.org. I’m on Twitter @jenny_blake. I would to hear from any of you, so feel free to reach out any time.
John Lee Dumas: Awesome! We will link all that up in the show notes, Jenny. Thank you so much for your time. Fire Nation salutes you and we’ll catch you on the flipside!
Jenny Blake: Great! Thanks so much, John, and thanks everyone.
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