Courage isn’t always glamorous. Actually, it almost never is.

After another recent speaking engagement (it’s been a busy month!), someone came up to me and said, “What you’re doing is really courageous. Leaving your job . . . Google of all places, and the safety of a paycheck to start your own company. I want to do that someday.”

She saw my decision as courageous. And don’t get me wrong — I do too.

But more than that, I saw it as oxygen. It’s what I needed to do in order to breathe again. In order to exhale. In order to live the life that was waiting for me on the other side of a seemingly insurmountable, suffocating mountain of fear. I loved Google — but my heart turned elsewhere, even before my mind did.

“Never compare your inside with somebody else’s outside”

When I’m at a speaking engagement, I feel really fancy.

I get dressed up, I actually accessorize, and I do something respectable with my mop of usually wet-and-thrown-into-a-bun hair. I passionately share my thoughts on big goals, pushing through fears, trusting your gut, taking baby steps, and trusting the process even if you can’t see the whole path.

I’ve got to assume that from the perspective of someone in the audience, my courage looks effortless and maybe even impossibly glamorous.

It’s not. It wasn’t. It isn’t. It almost never is.

Courage is earned . . . through tears, fears, heartbreak, and failure. It’s messy. Ugly. Rocky. And you find your courage when you have no choice BUT to trust it.

I start my speech by showing the picture of a woman laying on the floor of an office (shown above), as I share the following story:

A year and a half ago, I found myself rolling around the floor of a Google conference room between back-to-back meetings, dizzy, nauseous and on the verge of throwing up. And no, I wasn’t pregnant. I wasn’t sick either.

I was burned out. Spent. Exhausted.

As Martha Beck — one of my personal idols — puts it, my essential self had been bullied into silence for so long that it was no longer willing to stand by and watch me run myself into the ground…again.

So it spoke up the only way it knew how — by literally incapacitating me to the point where I didn’t have the energy to reach up from the floor, pick up the telephone, and cancel my next meeting.

In the Four-Hour Workweek Tim Ferris says, “The opposite of love is indifference and the opposite of happiness is — here’s the clincher — boredom.”

Are you bored or unhappy? Are you waiting to find your courage, wrapped in a big, beautiful glamorous bow?

If so, stop waiting and start doing. I know, I know — I make it sound so easy. I know it isn’t . . . but as Joan Baez said, “Action is the antidote to despair.”

Courage isn’t always glamorous.

  • Courage is crying — snotty, unattractive, red, splotchy hysterical crying — because you know what you need to do, but you’re scared shitless to actually do it.
  • Courage is going to sleep so heartsick that you couldn’t find the strength to change out of your clothes, but getting up and out of bed again the next day.
  • Courage is not having any answers but taking action anyway.
  • Courage is opening your heart and mind — to hope and possibility — despite crazy mind goblins telling you it’s a terrible idea.
  • Courage is agonizing over a decision for months or years — then making it on your own time, when you are ready.
  • Courage is listening to the whisper in your gut with such a fine quality of attention that it becomes a roar.

Courage is a hot mess. At least in my experience.

What’s that? Yours too? See — we’re all more similar than you think. And we all have a much deeper well of courage than we realize.

What would you do if you had the courage?
What would it look like to start even without it? 

***

On that note, I’ve set the re-launch date for the second Make Sh*t Happen course.

I actually did it while writing this post, because I got really fired up about helping people realize that Making Sh*t Happen is not always glamorous or easy. Once you drop that expectation, the world is yours. If you’re ready for me, I’m ready for you.

Doors open January 10, and I’m not raising the price or the class size — it will be $297 and open to 36 people who are ready to find their courage and change their lives. Sign-up on the homepage to be one of the first to be notified when enrollment opens.

Now go get ‘em, Tiger! :::virtually slaps butt:::

Okay now I’m just getting cheeky. (Punderful!) Signing off before this get’s too crazy… :)

37 comments

Categories: GoalsLife

  • http://www.dcprincessq.com Berrak

    “Courage is a hot mess”

    Yup.

    Thank you for this. I already knew this, and feel it everyday but it helps tremendously to hear you share the same thoughts.

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Thanks Berrak! Sometimes it’s just great to have a reminder that change doesn’t always look or feel glamorous, but that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with us. 

  • http://twitter.com/_CassieLee_ Cassie Allinger

    “The opposite of love is indifference and the opposite of happiness is — here’s the clincher — boredom.” I love this. I’ve been meaning to read that book for a while now, I think it just jumped to the top of my list. I’ve always used the feeling of boredom as a signal that I’m not happy and need to make a change. I thought that was just me; maybe I’m not totally crazy after all! :-) 

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Cassie — it’s a must-read!! I just re-read it and loved it more the second time. I can’t recommend it highly enough!

  • http://www.opheliaswebb.com Elisa Doucette

    “Courage is earned . . . through tears, fears, heartbreak, and failure. It’s messy. Ugly. Rocky. And you find your courage when you have no choice BUT to trust it.”
    SPIRL, I <3 you. That is all.  :)

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Thanks SPIRL — you’re amazing!! <3s right back :)

  • http://www.hope.gr/ Eleni Zoe

    “Never compare your insides with someone else’s outside.” I want to quote that from here on out. Did you come up with it?

    This entire post resonated with me so much. Thank you for writing it!

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      ELINI!!! I just finished reading your book on my new Kindle and I LOVED it!! I’ve been meaning to email you to tell you that — thank you for writing such a great book, and for the humor and heart you bring to the topic of dating and being single. I’m with you on all fronts! 

      • http://www.hope.gr/ Eleni Zoe

        THANK you so much! I’m so glad you enjoyed it!  I tried to find the original source to that quote, but it seems a lot of people quote it but nobody knows who first said it. :)

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      As for the quote — I didn’t make it up — but if you search for it on Google you might be able to find the person who originally said it…it’s such a great line! 

  • http://www.annchingwang.com Annching Wang

    Great post and I feel like I’m in a similar situation! I quit my job like you (although not at Google – I was making barely above minimum wage) and went full time renegade. People have been telling me how brave and inspiring I am. I did it because I had to, because I was dying on the inside doing what I was doing – and yes, I felt the physical manifestations of that just like you did. And what I do now – I love it, but it’s not glamorous at all. I’m in sweats working from home 6 days out of 7. And most days I feel like a hot mess, but it is so much better than the life and job I left behind. It seemed courageous, but really, it was necessary. Not to do it and sticking with what I was doing in my mind is braver, because it requires me to go against my beliefs and wants. To do what we want is sometimes easier than it seems. Such is the life of people born to be entrepreneurs, isn’t it? ;)

    Thank you for sharing!

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Thanks so much for your comment Annching — amazing that you listened to your gut and “went renegade” – I love it! What a great story, and a perfect example of how courage manifests itself when you know it’s something you need to do. 

  • Melissa Davis

    This post is so encouraging! Whenever I see people on the outside I always assume they’ve got it all together, it’s nice to know I’m not the only one. I have to say this is my favorite lines: ” Courage is earned . . . through tears, fears, heartbreak, and failure.” I think sometimes I forget that through all of that, there can be a  good outcome.

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Thanks Melissa! I do the same thing — so important to remember that we all go through our own struggles on the way to whatever next big move we’re making. Have a wonderful weekend! 

  • http://www.andreavlewis.com/ Andrea V. Lewis

    “Courage is a hot mess”. #classic – I hope to follow in your footsteps Ms. Blake.

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Aw, thanks Andrea :) I really appreciate you reading and taking the time to leave a comment!

  • http://www.infosoftware.biz/commission/commission-streamer-review.php Commission Streamer

    post is really good
    many of us face the same problem

  • http://www.infosoftware.biz/localseo/local-seo-crusher.php Local SEO Crusher

    i agree with this post, courage is earned…
    and at last we have no choice but to trust it..

  • local seo

    nice post
    very inspirationalthanks for sharing

  • http://twitter.com/ElleinLA Nicole

    Just checked out your speaking engagement resume and noticed you were at PIMCO.  I love that company– they are the best at what they do, with a great CEO, and located in paradise (Newport Beach).  I would love to work for them someday.  Hope you had fun!

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Nicole — that’s awesome! I’m very lucky – my brother and grandma live in Newport Beach so I have lots of excuses to go back. It really is a little slice of paradise! Let me know if you ever want me to make a connection for you with my friend at PIMCO – I’d be happy to!

      • http://twitter.com/BelleOfChicago Nicole

        Jenny, that is so kind of you!  I’ll email you.  Thanks.

  • Jennifer Blake

    I just graduated from college and after being rejected from graduate school I am trying to figure out my life. Your post on courage is just what I needed, I am so glad I found you!

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Jennifer — woohooo! Love that we have the same name!! Sorry to hear that you were rejected from grad school…that may end up being a huge blessing in disguise. I’d check out the book “Finding Your Own North Star” — that book was HUGELY helpful for me and I recommend it to everyone I know! 

      You might also like this post on the “Sweet Sting of Rejection”: 
      http://www.lifeaftercollege.org/blog/2010/07/11/the-sweet-sting-of-rejection/

  • http://www.livingtheexpatlife.com Kate

    It certainly takes heaps of courage to live the kind of lives we actually *want* to live.  I have mad respect and admiration for you, my lovely Jenny, for quitting Google, moving across the country, and starting JBE. 

    Funny enough, I realize that my move to Australia seven months ago was exactly what I needed to breathe again.  It certainly took heaps of courage to make the decision, but it’s proven to be one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

    Rock on, girlfriend.

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Kate – so great to hear from you!! Mad crazy respect and admiration for you right back — I LOVE that you are traipsing around the world and that you had the courage to leave your old life behind in order to create a new one that fulfills you. A total inspiration and a joy to watch :D

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  • http://twitter.com/LucindaMassage Lucinda Cracknell

    “snotty, unattractive, red, splotchy”, and lying on a lot of floors incapable of moving – that was me about 2 years ago – after years of being unhappy my body took charge and made me so ill that, as Annching said, it was scarier to stay there than to make a change. Now I do a job I love (massage therapy and teaching) but there are still lots of fears – will I get clients, will I make enough money, will I get everything done? So despair still gets a look in at times, good to be reminded it’s not just me, and it’s not always going to be easy, doesn’t mean it’s not right!

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Hi Lucinda — thanks so much for your comment. Amazing that you found the courage to listen to your body and find a career that you love (massage and teaching are such important vocations in the world!) — and so true that sometimes it gives us no choice, especially if we try to ignore it. Despair comes creeping back in for me too, but the best we can do it notice it, take care of ourselves and move forward. Thanks again for taking the time to write in!

  • http://twitter.com/Yakezie Yakezie

    I was bored for many weekends, since I always got up by 6am, and everybody else slept in until 8-9am.  I decided to take classes and got my MBA on the weekend, and was never bored again! Too much work!

    Blogging has been a great boredom killer.

    Sam

  • Dawn Novotny

    Hi Jenny,

    Always so good to see what you are up to. I feel like some kind of protective mom lurking in the back ground always wanting the best for you.

    My book comes out the end of this month. I will let you know.

    Just keep doing what you are doing. Great job. Hugs to you, dawn

    • http://www.lifeaftercollege.org jennyblake

      Thank you so much Dawn — I love hearing from you!! Amazing that your book comes out at the end of this month — please let me know where/when I can buy my copy. I will be delighted to hold your book in my hands!!

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  • http://www.theoriginallife.com/ Daniel Tay

    Couldn’t agree more. True courage is far from Hollywood-glam, but always a pile of hot mess. Thanks for the reminder, I feel more normal now :)

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