Q&A: Author Jenny Blake on Making Sh*t Happen

November 14, 2011

A blogger, author and life coach, Jenny Blake recently left her job with Google to move full-speed ahead with solopreneurship.

Um, sound familiar?

Blogger Jenny Blake

Yet here’s the biggest thing Jenny and I have in common: we’re both into following big dreams and encouraging others to do the same. That’s why I invited Jenny here to tell us about her new course, Make Sh*t Happen, and the Leaps she’s taken recently in her own life.

If you haven’t already, check out Jenny’s blog, Life After College, or her book by the same name. She’s also on on Twitter as @Jenny_Blake.

Alexis: Excited to have you here, Jenny! You recently launched a course called Make Sh*t Happen. Tell us about it!

Jenny: After people finished my book, Life After College, many had a vision for every area of their life (work, money, fun, etc.) but didn't quite know what to do with it. I created the Make Sh*t Happen course to help people take their “one big dream from improbable idea to inevitable success.”

I want to help people set a vision for their goal, build a support network, work through the dips that will surely come up, and learn how to really celebrate and expand the moment once they reach success. I'm thrilled to be able to work with 36 people for the inaugural group, then open it back up in January just in time for New Year’s Resolutions.

You've made your own sh*t happen recently — publishing your first book, leaving your day job to work for yourself and moving to NYC. What are some of your secrets to success?

One of the best pieces of advice I've received came from a coach who told me not to get bogged down in the “Tyranny of the Hows.” I learned that if I can create a compelling vision for what I want, and if it feels right and soul-stirring in my gut, that I will figure out the how as I go. For example, I didn't know how I would make the whole move to NYC happen, but I started taking baby steps and things naturally fell into place in a beautiful way that I couldn't have even planned for if I had tried.

The other thing I would say comes from Martha Beck, who talks about making decisions or doing things that are “shackles on” versus “shackles off” (in her book Steering by Starlight). She says that if all you do each day is make decisions based on what feels shackles off and freeing, than you'll be well on your way to living a life of joy and fufillment.

You and I have talked about how you figured out financially that you could hack it — aka pay rent — by working for yourself. Can you give my readers some insight into that thought process?

The financial piece was the most terrifying part of the decision to leave Google — I was convinced I'd end up rocking in a corner after making no money on my own.

But when I really thought about it, I realized that I was up for the challenge of putting my creative energy and talent toward earning my own income. I've succeeded and many things before, so why not now? I'm thrilled to report that while definitely a roller-coaster and very unpredictable, I've actually broken even on income to expenses so far.

Did you worry about leaving Google — a super desirable place to work — after five years there? What finally made you decide to take the risk?

Jenny's book.

Definitely — so many people I talked to thought I was crazy to leave. But many of the people I most respected and admired didn't — they could see that I had so much potential beyond my day job.

I had a friend ask me, “How will you feel one year from now if you haven't made any changes to your life?” That REALLY kicked me into gear because I knew I would feel full of regret and like I was being hypocritical as someone who speaks and coaches on following your dreams.

I also asked myself the question, “If not now, when?” I knew I would regret never trying, even if it meant spending every penny of my savings to see if I was cut out for solopreneurship. I'm thankful to report that the fears are still real but MUCH smaller on the other side.

What advice can you give to my readers who are unsatisfied and want to “live big” but are unsure of what their passions are?

Start by making a mind map of everything you love to do and that makes you feel “in the zone.” I got this from one of my favorite exercises, Paul Williams' Pave Your Life Roadmap. Some other books that have really helped me are Finding Your Own North Star (also by Martha Beck) and How to Be, Do or Have Anything by Laurence Boldt.

You often blog about setting big goals and planning for success, but the details of daily life are bound to get in the way sometimes. Do you have any strategies that help you remain focused on your big-picture goals?

It's helpful to have a big, giant 50,000-foot view of what you're working toward, but don't feel like you have to bite off more than you can chew at any one time. Focus on making incremental progress day-over-day or week-over-week. Every little bit counts.

The other thing that really helps me is prioritizing my most important work — eating one or two big “frogs” as Brian Tracy calls them during my best energy windows, then getting into reactive work (like emails) later.

What made you decide to launch Make Sh*t Happen? Can you give us an idea of what that process looked like?

I realized there was a gap between how I was able to help people — the blog and book are accessible cost-wise, but not very personalized to the individual. My coaching packages are very hands-on, but tend to be more expensive. I created the course as a way to expand my coaching and reach more individuals in a way that was affordable and fun.

“Inspiration at scale” is something I really strive for, and this is a way for me to monetize what I'm doing AND help people go after their most exciting dreams. There's nothing I love more! It's so energizing for me — I feel very lucky to do this work.

Give us an idea of what's next for you. What are your goals for the coming months?

Taking a break! I'm really looking forward to slowing down for a little bit — I've spent so long in a very intense building and creating phase (even after leaving Google) that I'm hoping to enjoy NYC for a little bit and take a more reactive stance on my work for a month or two. I actually think that will help me be more creative and productive in the long-run, not to mention healthy and happy!

Thanks so much for doing this interview — and to all of you for reading!

You can read more on my blog, Life After College, and at my book website, LACBook.com.

Thanks, Jenny! Anybody want to chime in about making your own sh*t happen?

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