Jenny Blake on Perfectionism, Failures and Authenticity

From the moment I first came across Jenny’s candid blog, Life After College, I wished that I stumbled across it when I was still in high school.  At the same time when Jenny was building a successful career as an Internal Coach and Career Development Program Manager, she was working on her blog and making her big dream of writing and publishing her book happen. After her book tour she realized that she should leave behind her six-figure salary, move across the country to pursue an entrepreneurial career and focus on doing what makes her happy. Jenny was very kind to find time during her vacation to talk to Campus Calm about overcoming perfectionism and living her life on her own terms.

In high school you won the California Journalist of the Year award and went on to become one of the four finalists in the national competition. Going to college on the East Coast was your big dream, but you got rejected from Northwestern’s Medill School of Journalism, Harvard and from every other college on the East Coast where you applied. Please share how you dealt with those rejections and how you overcame the feeling of not being good enough.

Part of it, I really do think that rejection can be a blessing in disguise, even if we can’t see it at the time. It’s important for us to accept and allow that we are disappointed and that something that we wanted isn’t going to happen. At the same time, as cheesy as it is, I believe that everything happens for a reason, and for some reason there is either more for us to learn or some other better fit and an opportunity waiting for us around the corner. For example, getting rejected from Medill School of Journalism I ended up not wanting to be a journalist as my official career and instead going to UCLA gave me other amazing opportunities. Later I was able to bring back journalism through blogging. Even though our past may take a twist or a return that we are not expecting, knowing that there is something for me to learn here definitely helped me to deal with those rejections. It’s allowing for the possibility that there is even a better fit ahead.

That’s a valuable lesson because many people tend to see rejections as failures. On that note, how did your perspective on failures change between your late teens and late twenties?

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is that you have to trust your gut and your intuition and when I don’t do that, that’s when I have a saying, “Change chooses you”. In some ways certain changes are inevitable, like a job or a relationship that isn’t a fit and the intuition might be saying that it isn’t a fit and maybe we are not listening or are not sure what to do about it. Eventually, at some point, change is going to happen one way or the other. It can be more painful when change chooses you, like when you get fired from a job or someone breaks up with you but that pain or shock can be a blessing in disguise. However, that’s not easy to say; for example, people get fired and that can be devastating and very tough financially. At the same time, sometimes that kick gives people a chance to pursue something that they’ve been wanting to do, but that they might not have been able to muster the full courage to do it out of nowhere.

You wrote that perfectionism is crippling because at its extreme it can become a form of procrastination. How did you overcome perfectionism to achieve your goals?

For me there is a difference between having high standards and being a perfectionist, which may not alway be a big difference. Perfectionism gets us in trouble when it becomes terrorizing and starts to hold us back. I experience it all the time and then I don’t want to post something because it’s not of the highest quality, the best thing that I have ever written and the most original idea that has ever been created. We should ask ourselves how can we loosen the reins a little bit to open the door to more creativity because perfectionism can be paralyzing. For example, in the New Year I plan to practice focusing on the routine of writing and quantity of the writing first and then narrowing it down to the things that I like.

You are courageous enough to be vulnerable and to share a piece of your life with your readers even though sometimes you are terrified to admit your feelings publicly. What drives you to allow yourself to live wholeheartedly and be authentic?

It’s really an ongoing practice. It’s more about continually challenging myself to be vulnerable and to understand what is really going on right now and is that something that I want to share on the blog, because of course not everything makes it to the blog. When I feel that my own experience can be helpful for others and it’s important to share, then I’ll do it, although it still fells like a challenge to do it. However, I’ve learned that when I feel scared to post something, those posts turn out to bring the best response. Since I know that it has worked in the past, now I have a comforting feeling and I am willing to take that risk again. I try to keep Life After College balanced. I don’t want it to be just a personal memoir type of writing, that’s not my style either, so it’s allowing myself a little bit of everything: some practical posts, coaching, templates and personal experience.

Your work often focuses on helping people achieve their big dream, but it’s often easier to get what you want than to figure out what you want. How can we gain clarity if we are dealing with pressure to find our passion?

Go for big lists and get it all down to paper. I like to do a mind map with the word passion or idea in the middle. Start testing that “why”. I agree that people often get stuck with “what is the one big thing that I need to do?”. Danielle LaPorte talks a lot about focusing on the feelings that we want, so instead of putting the pressure on how you are going to get somewhere, first think about how do you want to feel when you get there. When you define those feelings, think about what you need to change in your life to feel that way. If you rate your life from 1 to 10, and you rate it as 5, think about what would 10 look like. If you can start to understand the vision, then later the how will come into play and that’s when you can get into creating a plan and going after it. I think the mistake that people make is putting the pressure to have the big idea first when it’s really about the expansive, creative brainstorming and then narrowing it down.

Proactively developing new skills is very important to you, so is there something that you would like to learn? 

I love teaching yoga because it challenges me so much every time I teach a class. I still feel like a beginner even though I’ve been teaching for a year and a half. Teaching yoga continues to be a big skill that I’m learning. Additionally, in my personal practice, there are always poses that I like to challenge myself with. The other thing is learning how to write more, how to have a writing routine and be more personal with my writing. As I prepare to launch JennyBlake.me I want to explore what type of writing would fit on the blog, and what would I want it to be and open the range a little bit from where I am currently with Life After College.

About a year ago you wrote a post What’s Your Happy Place. What does a happy life mean to you and how has the definition of your happy place changed from a year ago?

I’m excited to be going back to Bali. Bali is definitely a happy place for me; it’s sunny, low-key and it has great energy. On the contrary I love New York; it’s busy, intense, the best of everything in one place. A happy place for me is more about who I have in my life, and about my routine and having a flexible work style. It’s fun to have the location be dynamic at this point in my life.

 

More about Jenny

Jenny Blake is an author, career and micro-business coach, speaker and yoga teacher. She shares her experience on career, happiness, goals, personal finances and soul-searching on her blog where she provides practical tips on how to take great leaps. Jenny is getting ready to launch her new website, JennyBlake.me, where she will share her adventures in the future.

 

-Danica,
Lead Her Intern, Campus Calm®

 

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