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 :)

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