Hi, this is Morty Lefkoe with another edition of the weekly podcast, Conversations With Top Personal Development Bloggers. Every week we have a conversation with a blogger who has a slightly different take on personal development. There’s so much valuable material being offered by personal development bloggers. This is the best place to find out which ones might provide you with just what you’re looking for, what’s unique about each blogger, why they started writing their blog, how their personal experiences inform their writing, why you ought to be reading their blog, and lots more. Today I have the pleasure to talk to Jenny Blake who writes a blog called Life After College. Jenny, thank you for being with us today.
Jenny Blake: Thank you so much for having me. I also blog at Jenny Blake dot me which is Systems at the Intersection of Mind, Body, and Business.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay. Well, I’d like to find out, in a just a moment, what’s the difference between the two.
Jenny Blake: Sure.
Morty Lefkoe: Let’s start, where do you live and where am I talking to you from?
Jenny Blake: I live in New York City, been here about three years, born and raised in California but I always had my sites set on the Big Apple. It’s been really exciting … I actually … When I left my full-time job at Google, that’s right around the time I moved to New York City, and it’s been three years. I haven’t looked back since.
Morty Lefkoe: Oh wonderful, well congratulations.
Jenny Blake: Thank you.
Morty Lefkoe: Let’s start at the beginning since we’re talking about your blog, what was the impetus to start writing it? Let me clarify first, what’s the difference between your two, the one that I found was the Life After College and the other one, what’s the word…
Jenny Blake: The other one’s under my own name, Jenny Blake dot me. The time line was that I created my first website … Life After College started as a simple website. I wanted to practice CSS and HTML, my web design skills. That was almost ten years ago that I set that up, in 2005. Then two years later I started to become aware of this thing called blogging and I realized that my website was kind of boring. I had all these resources there but it didn’t feel like this living, breathing thing so I added the blog in 2007 and that’s when I really started to develop community, friends, meet other bloggers in the space. I started writing a book in 2008 and the blog turned into a book that came out in 2011. Life After College is really the original, the one, the blog there now is almost eight years old, and then it was only just in the last year that I decided to launch a bigger umbrella site that I could grow into for the next ten years. That’s looking at Systems at the Intersection of Mind, Body, and Business. This new one is a bit more about entrepreneurship, creativity, travel, pivoting your career or business, navigating big changes.
Morty Lefkoe: It sounds like you have three of them then?
Jenny Blake: Say that again.
Morty Lefkoe: Do you have three of them then?
Jenny Blake: I have two main blogs and now I brought on a team of writers for Life After College.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay. You don’t spend as much time with the first one. You’re now spending more of your time on Jenny Blake dot me?
Jenny Blake: Yeah, that’s about right. I’m kind of … I brought on a team at Life After College partly to help me maintain everything but also because now I’m ten years removed from when I left college so I wanted to also bring in some fresh voices and perspectives as well.
Morty Lefkoe: I got it, okay. The first one was 2005 and the next one was 2007?
Jenny Blake: The website was 2005, I added the blog to Life After College in 2007, and then I launched Jenny Blake dot me in 2013, just last summer.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay, it’s just like a year old. Got it.
Jenny Blake: Yeah, exactly. I’m kind of building from scratch again, which is exciting.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay. What’s your background in personal development? What got you into the personal development field? Why did you do at Google first that was before you did this?
Jenny Blake: Even prior to Google I took a leave of absence from UCLA to work at a start up company when I was still in school, and that experience of leaving school before my friends and feeling … I was the only employee, everyone was much older than I was by the time employees started getting hired, and so I felt kind of lost. I’ve always been a bookworm my whole life, but at that time of major transition my approach was to read everything I could get my hands on; personal development, finance, health and fitness, business books. I read everything. I was so grateful that here was this whole series of books that these authors have poured their time and expertise into that I could learn from, and because I read over two hundred personal development books at that time, that’s what inspired me to consolidate a lot of that wisdom in the Life After College website.
Morty Lefkoe: I got it.
Jenny Blake: Yeah. The very first personal development book, I remember my dad gave it to me when I was just graduating high school, How to Be, Do, or Have Anything by Laurence Boldt. I did some very powerful goal setting exercises as a part of that book, and I remember just being absolutely blown away that a year later, and then five years later, all of that had come true and then some. That’s when I really realized the power of personal development, setting intentions, and I just loved learning and growing. I love challenge and I love seeing who’s gone before me and then carving my own path forward.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay, very good. Are there any particular personal experiences you’ve had that have been useful in writing your blog?
Jenny Blake: Well, it was counter-intuitive to me in the beginning but the times I shared failures or things I was struggling with, those have been the most useful to me and to the people reading. A long time ago, I remember the very first terrifying post was about not being able to pay my credit card bills that month and how was I going to come up with the money? Times I wrote about dating frustration or times where I wrote about how scary it felt to quit my full-time job. People kind of thought I was crazy, what am I doing? Those are the times that really brought people closer. I thought certainly it would send them running away in droves, but it ended up building community and being helpful for me, not just as a blogger, but also helping others to see that they’re not alone and I’m not some perfect person up on a pedestal, but rather walking right alongside everyone. Those are the types of blogs that I most enjoy reading as well.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay. What would you say is the essence of your message? I guess in order to focus in on one, if your main focus now is on Jenny Blake dot me, what is the main focus there, the essence of that message?
Jenny Blake: For me the essence is how to really optimize your time and your systems to live a really full life. The people who I speak to are really motivated and hungry to make meaning in the world and make an impact. They want to create things. My message is that, yes, absolutely, live big, dream big, and start small. This can be done, but everything starts with one step. That’s kind of a cliché at this point, but I love helping people to feel empowered, that their big aspirations are possible, and to give them very specific systems, tools, shortcuts, templates that will help them start taking those first steps.
Morty Lefkoe: Your focus is now, at any rate, not only on personal life but on business life, career too?
Jenny Blake: Right because I see them becoming increasingly more integrated. Now that people are working remotely, many more people are starting their own businesses. There’s a study that estimates forty percent of American’s will be freelancers or contractors by 2020. For me, I’m noticing this big theme in our economy that it’s much more fluid now. Work blends with life, blends with business, side hustles, and blogs, and everyone can have a voice but part of that can be a little overwhelming. I love helping people think about the intersection of, not only their business, but their health and wellness, and their career, and their creativity.
Morty Lefkoe: Got it. Do you have any demographics on your new site, what your typical audience is, who they are, male, female, countries, ages, anything?
Jenny Blake: It’s really a range. I would say the age range … Most of the people reading, I would say, are between twenty-five and maybe forty-five. Countries, over a hundred eighty countries but primarily in the United States. Yeah, that’s about it. I think the male, female split is pretty even. It was always important to me that I be gender neutral. Even though I’m a woman and I’m in business I really don’t segment only for women in business. I love working with and speaking to everybody.
Morty Lefkoe: Well you beat me by a few countries. I’ve had people in a hundred and fifty-four countries. You got up to one eighty-two. I’ve got twenty-six to go to catch you.
Jenny Blake: Wow, that’s amazing. You’ll get there in no time.
Morty Lefkoe: It’s fascinating how in the last twenty years we’re able to reach people that we wouldn’t have been able to dream of before. I very often lead workshops with twenty people and I have eleven, twelve different countries, all over, every time zone you could imagine, everything from almost every continent, South America, Asia, Europe, so forth. It’s amazing to be able to reach people all over the world the way we’re able to today with a message.
Jenny Blake: Absolutely. It’s really inspiring and really … I’ve just been … I think one of the things that has made blogging so priceless for me are the people that I’ve met and been able to cross paths with that I probably never would have or it would have been much more difficult to cross paths with them prior to all of this.
Morty Lefkoe: Absolutely. How often do you post on Jenny Blake?
Jenny Blake: That’s about once a week and then I have a newsletter that I send every two weeks. On Life After College I post once a month and the newsletter goes out once every two weeks.
Morty Lefkoe: What’s the different between the newsletter and the posting? Is there something different in that or is it just the link to the post?
Jenny Blake: For me it is. I do … Someone can subscribe to get blog posts by e-mail but the newsletter is different. The newsletter is my behind the business, peek behind the curtain at what’s going on. At Jenny Blake it’s really what’s happening, maybe I’m talking about sending my book proposal to my agent or rounding up … In both of them I round up the latest what I’m watching, reading, listening to, kind of like the coolest tool that I found in the last two weeks. Those are meant to be kind of a more detailed look behind the business.
Morty Lefkoe: Got it, okay. To the extent you’re familiar with other personal development bloggers, what would you say is unique about your blog?
Jenny Blake: What people seem to appreciate is that a lot of the templates that I provide are very, very detailed. I have over thirty. I’m very open, I’m very transparent. I think people appreciate seeing exactly how I work with my virtual assistant or I just did one, how I work with my communications director. When my book came out I did a fifteen tab book marketing spreadsheet to organize my overwhelm. Seth Godin ended up featuring it on his site and now it’s had over seven thousand downloads. People seem to like that. Once I’ve gone through something I can kind of create a template and a set of shortcuts that will help them smooth the process the way forward.
Morty Lefkoe: Very good. You mentioned Seth, do you have any mentors or people that have been particularly influential in your life, and particularly in writing your blog?
Jenny Blake: Absolutely. Susan Biali is a former practicing doctor, now a flamenco dancing speaker and life coach extraordinaire.
Morty Lefkoe: Oh boy.
Jenny Blake: She reached out to me way back when probably it was just my parents reading and she just was so generous with her time and expertise. She’s been a mentor to me ever since, probably since 2008.
Morty Lefkoe: What’s her name again, Susan who?
Jenny Blake: Susan Biali, B-I-A-L-I.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay, good.
Jenny Blake: Then Pamela Slim has also been a big inspiration and a mentor to me over the years. Her books are Escape from Cubicle Nation and Body of Work.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay. Great, okay. So you’ve had a couple of mentors for a while?
Jenny Blake: Yeah, but I’m really big on what I call one off mentors. I don’t think that people need to go out of their way and find someone and say, “Will you be my mentor?” and without that you’re screwed. I really think … And what has worked well for me, I’ve been blessed to have people like that that I talk to consistently over time, but one thing that’s been extremely helpful for me as a blogger and author is just reaching out to peers and saying, “Hey, I’d love to get to know you better. Want to set up a thirty minute call?” and doing these one off sessions, whether it’s someone I admire who’s maybe done something that I want to do or a peer who’s in a same space as me. These one off mentors, there’s no pressure. It doesn’t have to turn into anything at all. That conversation alone is already helpful in itself, but if there is a genuine and authentic connection we can always keep in touch over time as well.
Morty Lefkoe: Great, okay. Thank you. Do you have a long-term goal for your blog, something you’d like it to achieve at some point?
Jenny Blake: For me the blog really is … it’s rewarding in itself of course but it is also my full-time business now. My broader aims are really to keep writing and sharing ideas. My next book will be talking about how to be more agile in life and work, and this idea of career pivots. To the extent that my blog gives me a platform and an audience to be able to write the next book, share that book, and do consulting and speaking, those are the activities that I really, really enjoy.
Morty Lefkoe: What else do you offer other than your blog and your book? Do you do coaching or consulting, or do you have courses?
Jenny Blake: I do a little bit of all of the above. I do have courses. I just did a Speak Like a Pro, a week long virtual conference for how people can improve their confidence and public speaking skills. I do some one-on-one coaching, though probably in the fall I will transition a bit out of that to make room for writing the next book, and then consulting with companies and speaking I also really, really enjoy. I do speaking both for companies, manager and leadership level, and also millennial employees and at universities, like MIT and UCLA.
Morty Lefkoe: When you say speaking what kind of speaking? What is your basic message?
Jenny Blake: The biggest keynote that I give is about career, How to Think of Your Career Like a Smartphone, Not a Ladder. The career is no longer this very fixed, linear, predictable path, instead it’s up to you to download apps for the different skills, experiences, and education that are going to round out your phone and help you feel more fulfilled.
Morty Lefkoe: Oh great, okay, thank you. Do you accept comments on your blog?
Jenny Blake: I do.
Morty Lefkoe: Do you generally respond to them?
Jenny Blake: I try to. If I’m particularly busy that week I can’t always get to them, but in general I feel like if someone has gone out of their way and taken the time to leave a comment then I always like to respond when I can.
Morty Lefkoe: Great. What would you say is the single most important thing you’ve told people that’s made a difference in their lives?
Jenny Blake: That … I would say it’s kind of that motto I mentioned earlier, now I say Build First, Courage Second. Don’t expect that you’re going to feel so courageous and then you can make this big choice or start in on the big project or thing that you want to build, rather start building and you’ll notice that the confidence and courage follows. The thing that I really say to people, “Yes, you can do this. Don’t expect to see the whole path up front, just get started.”
Morty Lefkoe: Okay, very good, thank you. Do you have a mission in life, a vision for your own life that your blog, writing your blog contributes to?
Jenny Blake: For me the broadest mission is to be of service. I really feel … I know that’s vague, but I feel that I’m put on this planet to be helpful to others and to help teach, guide, share, and inspire in some way. I don’t feel that that purpose has to have a specific topic, like as far as what I feel born to do, but as long as I’m doing work in service of others and in service of helping others then I feel completely aligned with my purpose.
Morty Lefkoe: Great. The writing the blog then, obviously, is just whatever topics occur to you that you want to write about?
Jenny Blake: Yeah, people are sort of following along with my evolution as well. When I was twenty and twenty-two that’s when I was writing about life after college and now I’ve been running my own business and sharing that stuff. For me, my writing and my blogs, it’s less about one fixed topic or super specific niche and more about life, and transitions, and getting from one place to the next.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay. Your passion, and your excitement, and your exuberance certainly comes through in your voice and what you say.
Jenny Blake: Oh, well thank you so much. I appreciate that.
Morty Lefkoe: It’s pretty clear. The final general question is, is there anything else you’d like our audience to know about you or your blog that we haven’t yet covered? Is there any reason why people should be interested in you, listening to your voice, or following you that you haven’t yet told them about?
Jenny Blake: I would just say I have tons of templates that can make your life easier in just about every dimension. Feel free to go to Jenny Blake dot me slash toolkit and you’ll see a ton of them there, and there’s also a bunch at Life After College dot org.
Morty Lefkoe: Got it. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today. It sounds like you’ve got a very interesting blog, actually two of them, where people can get some really useful information and I think a lot of people ought to check them out. Your voice, and your approach, and what you have to say might be just what a lot of people are looking for so hopefully we can expose you to a lot more people who don’t know about you and a lot of them will say, “Hey, she’s the one that I want to find out more from.”
Jenny Blake: Well great, thank you so much Morty and thank you so much to everyone who’s listening to this podcast.
Morty Lefkoe: Okay. Thanks, have a good day.
Jenny Blake: Okay. Bye, you too.