I’m a Free Agent: From Six Figures to Suitcase

Grab a cup of coffee, friends — this is an epically long post. (Update: had to change the link, so the Facebook/Tweet counts started over. Thanks to everyone who shared so far!)

This post has three parts:

  1. Some jumbo news; the biggest in the history of this blog (and my life). No, I’m not pregnant.
  2. A 5-minute reader survey that I would LOVE for you to take. Pretty, pretty please?!
  3. A Q&A with myself for those contemplating a great leap in their own lives. Live big, baby!

1. The big news

There’s this love that is burning
Deep in my soul
Constantly yearning to get out of control
Wanting to fly higher and higher
I can’t abide standing outside the fire.
Life is not tried it is merely survived
If you’re standing outside the fire.
–Garth Brooks, lyrics to Standing Outside the Fire

My heart is pounding as I write this…I’m exhilarated, nervous, and excited to share some big news with you. I’m moving to New York (more on that in another post)….aaaaand…

I quit Google.

After five years at the company and near-daily deliberation during my sabbatical, I’ve made the very difficult decision not to return to Google. Friday was my last day.

I checked all the boxes for my own Life After College, and yet something was still missing. I worked at a start-up, got a job at Google, became a manager, bought a house, bought a car, ran a marathon, and wrote and published a book. I checked every box along the “template” American Dream life that I grew up aspiring to have…and yet, after I turned 27 and saw many of my friends getting married and having babies, I realized I might not fit the mold I had created for myself. I found myself wanting to break free from it all, and move toward a life full of spontaneity, travel, independence and FREEDOM.

So I am walking away from a six figure salary, three meals a day, yoga classes, gym, the best health care money can buy, and 25,000 brilliant co-workers to see if I can hack it as a solopreneur.

For better or worse, my life (and identity) has revolved around Google for many years…and for a long time I was afraid that I wouldn’t be interesting or “valuable” to people if I no longer worked there.

And yet, my heart lies elsewhere. It lies here, with you — with Life After College and Make Sh*t Happen and everything else I’m building.

In the end, I’m choosing to leave all of the perks behind for the uncertain promise of a more passionate future. My co-workers deserve someone who is fully committed to them, and you — my readers — deserve someone who is fully committed to you.

I was supposed to go back today…but I just couldn’t.

I couldn’t knowing how alive, happy and engaged I’ve felt these last three months.
I couldn’t subject myself again to the stress of trying to manage two full-time jobs.
I couldn’t look you in the eyes and write blog posts, coach clients and deliver speeches with integrity if meanwhile I was ignoring my own heart and gut.
I couldn’t continue signing books with “live big!” and “take great leaps!” if I was unwilling to take my own advice.

So here I am, taking the greatest leap of my life.

The goodbye email I wrote to my co-workers sums things up pretty well:

I’ve stepped into life as an author these last three months, and yet — somehow I find myself overcome with writer’s block as I try to find the words to say goodbye.

After five amazing years at Google (on the Training, Career Development and Authors@Google teams), I have made the incredibly difficult decision not to return after my sabbatical. As much as I wanted to come back, my heart was torn; I knew it wouldn’t be fair to Google or to my team if my attention was focused elsewhere. For that reason, I will be directing my full time and energy on pursuing the many ideas I have related to my book, blog, coaching and speaking business — also known (only half-jokingly) as Jenny Blake Enterprises. What was once a side project has become a full-blown love affair, and though I am slightly terrified about how to feed myself in the real world, I am taking my own advice about “living big” and pursuing my passion by making the leap into self-employment.

It’s now Jenny Blake Enterprises or bust — so get ready for a roller-coaster, baby!!!
Stick around for Part 3 of this post for a Q&A with myself about the decision…

***

2. I would love to hear from you!! Click here to make my day :)

If it’s wrong for me to want to change the world with what I got
Let me make my own mistakes,
That’s a chance I’m gonna take
If I’m right, I saw you all,
In my dreams so long ago
Lyrics to All I Want (by Kate Earl)

As the lyrics to this song describe, I saw you all in my dreams a long long time ago (cue sappy music). From the time I was a little girl, I spent my days making worksheets, writing a monthly family newspaper and video-taping myself practicing to be a news anchor.

I was born to fly this plane full-time, and I finally mustered the courage to do it.

The way I see it, I now have all of my energy and creative faculties available to me to try to make a positive impact in all of your lives. And I want to do that over and over again.

I truly believe that’s what I’m here to do.

That’s where you come in. I would *love* to know what you’re struggling with and how I can help. I can fly this plane blindfolded or with help from all of you, and I much prefer the latter!

Please, pretty please — take 5 minutes and share your thoughts in this survey. 1,000 karma points included!

***

3. An Interview with Myself on my Departure

I’m going to share the details behind this decision with you Q&A style. If this bores you to tears, feel free to skip this part of the post, but since Google has been such a big part of my life (and income!) I want to spend some time explaining my decision for others who may be contemplating a big leap of some kind in their lives. (As you get to the end, you’ll see that my gremlin snuck in some questions too.) Those who subscribe to my Inside Scoop newsletter already heard this two weeks ago — but I wanted to make sure I gave all of my co-workers the respect of telling them first before announcing publicly through my blog.

Was it an easy decision to make?
No. This was one of the hardest decisions I have EVER made, and I did not make it lightly. How could I walk away from my “dream” job as a Career Development program manager, where I worked for one of the most innovative companies in the world, where thousands apply and get rejected every day? I struggled with this decision for almost every day of my sabbatical — every day I felt differently than the one before, and the limbo-mode became very tiring.

The thought of going out on my own struck TERROR in my heart — and yet, once I made the decision I knew with 100% certainty that it’s the right thing to do. I’m still scared, but mostly hopeful and excited. Deep down, I knew what I needed to do in January when I declared this year my Year to Fly. I hate to disappoint those of you who saw me as an example of working at a company AND maintaining a successful side hustle, but in the end, I just couldn’t do both for the long haul given the momentum around my side hustle — so I knew (and have always secretly hoped) this day would come.

When did you realize it was the right thing to do?
That’s where you come in. As I said in my Book Tour Best Moments post, you have given me wings. During my 3-month sabbatical I felt lighter, freer and happier than I’ve ever felt in my life. I connected with inspiring people every day. I worked many 14-hour days on my own projects. I started Life After College as a website six years ago, and the blog almost four years ago. I built it during nights and weekends, with whatever time and energy was left over after my intense Google responsibilities were taken care of. I started wondering what I might be capable of — and how I could serve you even better — if I directed 100% of my energy back into my business.

There were also many angels along my book tour who looked me in the eyes and said they saw more for me — and that they would not let me fail if I chose to make the leap, despite my intense trepidation and desire to be fiscally responsible.

So how will you make money? What if you end up in a van down by the river?
As Danielle LaPorte said at The World Domination Summit, “The universe speaks in cash flow.” Here’s hoping!!! There is a part of me that deeply trusts that things will work out, AND a part of me that knows I will have to work my ASS off to meet the Universe halfway. I have a lot to learn about sales, marketing, accounting, health care, and all kinds of other unexpected things. But that’s the exciting part! I’m ready for a challenge, and I trust myself to put every ounce of brainpower and effort available to me into trying to get my business off the ground. And if I fail? At least I know that I tried.

I can only hope that my audience (all of you!) don’t run away in protest once I start offering paid products…which has been a very real fear for me for a VERY long time. After almost four years of blogging, my book was the first thing I ever felt comfortable pitching…and that’s because I put THREE years of work into it! But I know that with my full energy and creativity that I can create things in a shorter time frame that people will love and value. And it doesn’t have to be everyone — many can continue to enjoy all of my free content and templates without ever spending a dime on coaching or courses (except for hopefully the $12 to buy my book :).

Are you going to start telling everyone to quit their jobs and become location independent?
Absolutely not. I was very happy working for a company for many years, and I fully realize the self-employed path is not right for everyone (though I can tell you that I’ve never felt freer or lighter). But at this moment in time it is right for me.

I care WAY MORE that you are following your heart and gut and deepest desires — no matter what those end up to be. I would have felt like a complete fraud if I continued signing books with “Live big!” and “Take great leaps!” while being unwilling to follow my own advice. I’ve known for YEARS that this work — coaching, speaking and writing in service of inspiring others to live their best lives — is what I was born to do; I just needed the courage to do it full-time.

What if you regret leaving? What about all those people that would kill to work at Google? What if you fall on your face and have to beg for your job back?
For the first time in my life, I am willing to go all in on JBE. I am willing to spend my entire savings, sell my stocks, sell my car, and even sell my house if I have to. I will live out of a suitcase and I will go back to “frugality smackdown” mode until I give this a fair shot. At the end of the day, what do I have to lose? I will forever regret it if I don’t try the self-employed thing. I’ve worked at a start-up and now a big corporation; it’s time to go balls-to-the-wall and see what I can do on my own. Going back to Google would not have been fair to them or to me — my heart wouldn’t be in it, and I’d be giving every project the short-shrift by burning out again trying to do it all.

I thought about going back part-time, but at this point, I’m not even willing to spare an hour a week on something that isn’t directly in line with making sure my book and blog are successful. Another factor is that my book still has a loooong way to go in terms of sales if I ever want to get another book deal — with ~2,000 down, I’ve got about 10,000 more to sell.

So what’s next?
Over the next few months I plan on ramping up my speaking and 1:1 coaching, and applying my 5+ years of Training & Career Development knowledge toward building widely accessible coaching products that will directly benefit my audience without costing as much as individual sessions — I like to call it “inspiration at scale.” I’m incredibly excited about spending the month of July preparing to launch the 8-week Make Sh*t Happen course that will take people’s biggest, scariest goal and turn it into an inevitable snowball of momentum. I live for helping people achieve their big dreams.

Speaking of which, how did you come up with Make Sh*t Happen as your next project?
In my work with dozens of coaching clients and interactions with hundreds (if not thousands) of book and blog readers, I’ve realized that just about everyone I talk to has a big giant goal that they are tip-toeing around. These goals are so gigantic that it’s hard to even say them out loud, let alone start taking action.

I put together this program as a natural extension of my book; after people get clear on their ideal vision for every area of their lives, they are ready to pick one or two major areas in which to take meaningful action. Besides, I’m right in the thick of my own “Make Sh*t Happen” goals (including a move to NYC in the fall!!) — so I look forward to participating right alongside with everyone.  This book (and coaching program) will take your goal from impossible to inevitable — and I can’t wait to share it with those of you who are ready for the challenge!

***

If you made it this far, HIGH FIVE!!!

This is the last time I’ll bug you: please take this reader survey if you haven’t already — I will love you FOREVER.

Oh heck, who are we kidding. I love you all anyway :)

{ 159 comments… read them below or add one }

Brandi July 5, 2011 at 10:21 pm

I just stumbled upon your blog today, just as you published what will be a historical post for you and this blog. You are an inspiration-and I intend to rush to my local Barnes and Noble to buy your book as soon as 5 o’clock hits and I can leave my excruciatingly boring 9 to 5 post-college job! Best wishes!

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Pamela Slim July 5, 2011 at 11:18 pm

I am so FREAKING proud of you!!!

Life is indeed short. And you are made to write, speak and coach.

Let’s do this Blake!!!

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 3:10 am

AUNTIE PAM!!!! 

You are a pioneer, a leader, and a total inspiration to me. THANK YOU for showing me the light!!! Just 2+ years after your first Escape workshop :)

Side hustle + flow answers coming your way soon!! 

Let’s do this is right — the “let’s” means so much to hear :)

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Susan Pogorzelski July 5, 2011 at 11:35 pm

This is fantastic, Jenny! Here’s to following your heart and soaring when you dared to fly!

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 3:10 am

Thank you so much Susan!!! Cheers to all of us figuring out how to fly… :)

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Dan Meyers July 6, 2011 at 1:48 am

Congrats Jenny, you’re an instigator and motivator!

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 3:11 am

Wooo! Thanks so much Dan!! I really appreciate your continued support — sounds like exciting changes are coming up on your end too! 😀

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Jeremy Noel Johnson July 6, 2011 at 2:17 am

Jenny, first time visitor to your website here. What you’ve shared is both impressive and inspirational to me. It rings true to me. First, you left a six figure job at Google to pursue what you really want. Judging from the energy and enthusiasm you show, along with the obvious intelligence you seem to have, I don’t doubt you’ll make a mark on the world.

I work at a leading Internet company as well here in Utah and find myself torn with my job, which is close to six figures. I work for a great company, with salary, bonuses, stock options, premium health insurance, and excellent atmosphere to boot. I also am close to finishing a book – my first, a fiction/fantasy novel. I debate when the right time to leave my job might be and to go off on my own adventures.

Your story gives me increased desire and motivation. I also appreciate very much your transparency. Coming here shows who you are without any question. I can tell very easily you are happy, energetic, and a passionate seeker of exploration and challenges. Kudos to you for taking the leap. You are making a difference and for me, just seeing you here today has made a difference in my life.

Don’t know what else to say, you’re just about the perfect model for success and happiness in the world today.

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 3:16 am

Jeremy — welcome!! I always love meeting new first time visitors — thanks so much for reading this post and taking the time to comment. I’m thrilled that it’s inspirational to you — your comment and kind words have truly blown me away! Thank you for everything you shared….your comment is an absolute “keeper” and made my whole week. 

I wish you the very best of luck in taking your own big leap — and I hope we can keep in touch! HUGE congrats on finishing your book — very exciting :) You’ll know in your gut when it’s time to jump — until then, keep doing all of your great creative work, and keep on making a positive impact in everyone’s lives you touch — you’ve certainly had that impact on mine.

Hugs!

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Marta Spendowska/Rawvolta July 6, 2011 at 3:44 am

Really happy for you Jenny! You’re going to rock it BIG TIME!
~ Marta

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 3:05 am

Thank you so much Marta!!! Cheers to fabulous women rockin’ it 😀 (and yes, that includes you!)

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Justice Wordlaw IV July 6, 2011 at 4:17 am

Congrats on your decision. Your going to do a really great job. 

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 2:57 am

Thank you so much Justice! Thank you for reading and taking the time to comment — looking forward to keeping in touch :)

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Collins Onwochei July 6, 2011 at 9:08 am

Wow!!!

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 2:57 am

Thanks Collins!! Very nice to meet you — thanks for your kind words and your note earlier too :) Have a great week!

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Anonymous July 6, 2011 at 1:54 pm

Congratulations! I left Intel in 2009 after nine years, and I miss the people and the challenges, but not the corporate culture. I’m still working out the kinks in my own path but the happiness I traded for salary was worth more than just money could buy. 

Cheers!

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 2:57 am

Thank you!! AMAZING that you made the leap after 9 years at Intel — wow!!! Fantastic that you’re living your own path and finding your way through all the kinks. So true that freedom is priceless (at least for people like the two of us). Thank you for your support and for taking the time to comment!

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MarkPowers July 6, 2011 at 5:05 pm

Congratulations, Jenny! You have accomplished so much already and I can only imagine the incredible journey that lies ahead of you. Kudos!

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 2:56 am

Thank you so much Mark!!! Still wish we could have talked for longer at WDS — we’ll have to chat on the phone someday soon! Cheers — to being Location Rebels 😀

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Peter Zink July 6, 2011 at 5:31 pm

Wow, great stuff, first time visitor here. I’ll be making this leap next May for better or worse and a lot of the thoughts and feelings you expressed in this post are running through my mind right now as well, but I know that I can’t stay with the status quo. Good luck out there and I’m sure you’ll do great things. 

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 2:55 am

Peter — welcome!! Awesome that you’ll be taking your own great leap in May — very exciting! And scary…and terrifying…I know exactly how you feel (or at least close to it). You will do great, and as soon as you take the leap I know that the universe will return in kind…

Looking forward to keeping in touch!

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Shane Mac July 6, 2011 at 9:00 pm

Good luck out there J Blake and keep kicking ass! 

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jennyblake July 7, 2011 at 2:55 am

Thank you Shane!! Hope all’s well with you — happy belated fourth!!

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Financial Samurai July 7, 2011 at 4:41 am

A HUGE congrats Jenny!  I’m so happy for you and excited for your new stage in life!

How difficult was it to make the choice?  As you say, earning $100,000+ and having all the benefits you could ask for is great.  Do you think that you will appreciate it more once you go out on your own?  It’s just so hard to know how good we really have it until we leave.  This is something I’m very worried about myself.

Do you have any income targets and project time frames you are shooting for?

Best, Sam

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Thank you so much Sam!! It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made BY FAR — especially since I’m a personal finance nut like you! I will always appreciate Google, but I never want money or healthcare to be my primary decision-factors. Also, having it so good gives me the motivation to bring my own business up to that level…a huge challenge, for sure!

Income targets: I’d like to make twice the money in half the time within two years :) But for year one, $100K would be a DREAM. Barring that, just being able to cover my cost of living would be great (~$4K/mo). 

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Vivek Mayasandra July 7, 2011 at 6:45 am

Jenny Blake. I’m proud of you. Now that I’m finally back at my laptop after reading this blog post on my 13 hr drive from San Francisco, I’ve finally managed to get down to this comments section.

I am so so so so incredibly excited for the changes happening for you. Since I started reading your blog and then finally MEETING you in Seattle last month, you’ve really been a massive inspiration. You have nothing but warmth and genuine value to offer to people and its unbelievably easy to see that this is your calling. You are going to kick ass.

I’m so happy we met up and I’m thrilled at the possibilities ahead! Congratulations :)

Thanks for all that you do, all that you’ve done and WILL do with all the upcoming awesomeness headed our way from JBE!

-Vivek

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm

THANK YOU SO MUCH VIVEK!!! Your comment totally makes my day — thank you for saying such nice things. I’m so happy that we met in Seattle, and I look forward to following along with all of your big leaps too! 
Let’s definitely continue to keep in touch!!! 

Have an amazing week 😀

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Jason July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm

Congratulations and YOU CAN DO EET!!

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 3:58 pm

LOL – thanks so much Jason!!! You can do eeeet — hahaha, saying it out loud over here :)

Have a great week!

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Kelly Byrd July 7, 2011 at 9:58 pm

Congratulations, Jenny!

I am so happy for you and inspired by you, once again, and I wish you all the best.

Thank you for sharing your thought process and plans so candidly, as always.

You won’t regret this decision.

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Thank you Kelly! I really appreciate your kind words and comment — have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Samantha July 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm

Congrats Jenny! What a huge and awesome accomplishment/change :) I wish you the best!

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 3:59 pm

Thanks Sam — I really appreciate it!! Have a wonderful week :)

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Jen Gresham July 9, 2011 at 10:49 pm

So excited for your news, Jenny!  I’d wish you luck, but you don’t need it.  You already know how to Make Sh*t Happen!  LOL

Hugs!

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Thank you so much Jen!!! Hugs right back ‘atcha 😀

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Jean-Marc Dedeyne July 10, 2011 at 1:21 am

Congratulations
Jenny. Whatever is beautiful, whatever is meaningful, and
whatever brings you happiness… May it be yours in the months and years to come.
“The future depends on what we do in the
present.”Mahatma Gandhi (1869 – 1948)

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Thank you Jean-Marc!! I love that quote :)

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Hugh Kimura July 10, 2011 at 6:37 am

Congratulations Jenny, I was wondering if you would go back.  I guess not!  Best of luck, it is very exciting…

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Thanks Hugh!! Yes, I was wondering that too 😉 Feels great to finally have made a decision — thanks so much for being here and for your support!

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Laura July 10, 2011 at 6:51 pm

Hi! I just went through a similar process with my “day job” leaving to pursue my so call side business (although it was easily full time hours) full time again. For me the hardest part was leaving a job that I knew I could do well and enjoyed but did not have the time or energy to give it my all. There was nothing wrong with the job, in fact I was quite lucky to have it!  But.. it wasn’t my passion. I can’t wait to hear what your new life brings; don’t be scared… you have proven to yourself that you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to, so this WILL be no different!

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 4:59 pm

Hi Laura — congrats on leaving your job as well! It is hard when so much about the job is “good” — but you know deep down it isn’t your GREAT work. Sounds like you’ve made the right choice for you too — I’m so thrilled for you! Thank you for stopping by and for your encouragement and support — it really means a lot to me. Have a wonderful rest of your week!

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Raphael Cousineau Morin July 11, 2011 at 6:15 pm

 First, sorry about my english ; I’m french. Also working as a career program developper, I want to congrad you for this article that really shows that there are a lot of aspects to consider in career choice. I wish people could show as much self-awareness (is this the right expression??)

I don’t want to comment your decision : this is yours. That said, I wish you the best (accomplishment, hapiness, succes, etc.) on that new projet.

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 4:58 pm

Hi Raphael — thank you so much for your note!! I’m very impressed that you left a comment in English even though you speak French — I’m honored! It’s wonderful to meet you — thank you so much for reading and commenting here :)

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Raphael Cousineau Morin July 13, 2011 at 6:57 pm

 You know, when you live in such a small french place (I’m from Québec, Canada), in a huge english continent, you often have to make the offert to speak english! Especially when you’re ambitious about career!!!

I first saw you in your TED conference, wich really impressed me! What did really impressed me was to learn all you’ve done at such a young age. I’m working in a financial institution as a career dev, and I’m often being told that I’m too young to know/talk about career  (I’m 22).  But you know, a physician can cure a disease he never had!!

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jennyblake July 14, 2011 at 1:48 am

Thank you for watching the TED talk!! And don’t let people tell you you’re
too young…that means you have your own fresh perspective to bring. People
told me I was too young to be a life coach at 24, but I didn’t care. I’m so
glad I did it!

Keep on going — you’re going to do amazing things, I know it 😀

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Vavreck July 12, 2011 at 3:40 pm

WOW!!!!!

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 5:00 pm

LEEEN!!!! So fun to see you comment here :) I will reply to your email soon! Miss you tons!!

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Jodi Glickman July 13, 2011 at 2:10 am

Congratulations Jenny, you are an inspiration to everyone!  I can’t wait to see where your journey takes you and hope our paths cross soon.  let the fun begin…

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jennyblake July 13, 2011 at 4:57 pm

Thank you so much Jodi!! It’s great to hear from you :) I hope our paths cross one day soon too — in the meantime, that you so much for your encouragement and support!

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Caleb Wojcik July 13, 2011 at 5:02 pm

I’m not worried in the least bit about whether or not you’ll make it. 😉

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Parris Whittingham July 14, 2011 at 4:56 pm

Hi Jenny,

Congrats on the news! We met super briefly at your book party in NYC. I gave the book to a friend who recently graduated and she was thrilled. NYC is a great place to call BS on yourself + strengthen your hustle. Being raised in the city, I often forget how MUCH opportunity exists here….if you seek it out. 

I quickly learned to appreciate this mecca of creativity, the arts, business and culture through travel. There is simply no city like NYC. Be great to meet up when you arrive :) 

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jennyblake July 15, 2011 at 12:31 am

Thank you so much Parris!! It’s great to hear from you — I hope all is well
:) Yes — we’ll definitely have to get coffee or cupcakes when I’m all
settled! Thanks for your continued support…and for sharing the book with
your friend! You rock :)

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Marian Schembari July 18, 2011 at 10:29 am

YES! Congrats. This is awesome news – it sounds 100% right for YOU. Big hugs across many ponds.

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jennyblake July 18, 2011 at 11:24 pm

Thanks girl!! Hope all is well with you across the many ponds 😉 BIG
SQUEEZY HUGS RIGHT BACK!!!

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cosmetic surgery for men January 17, 2012 at 6:56 pm

It was very well authored and easy to understand. I also found your
posts very interesting. In fact after reading, I had to go show it to my
friend and he enjoyed it as well!

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Financial Samurai February 2, 2012 at 8:14 am

Great to re-read this article again Jenny!  Inspiring, and something I’ve been contemplating myself.

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Helen July 24, 2013 at 2:01 pm

Hear hear! You are an inspirational touchstone for me. I’m so glad you’re sharing your journey.

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jennyblake July 26, 2013 at 1:15 pm

Aw, thank you so much Helen! It’s so great to hear from you — gorgeous profile picture!! Have an amazing weekend :)

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