Pivot ~ Jenny Blake


Where was this book when I needed it???

Pivot is a book about making a change in your life–in your job, in your career, in your calling. It’s about reassessing your choices, your path, and putting key structures in place to continue to grow and expand.

Jenny Blake, the author, suggests that the word “career” itself may be dead, and outlines for the reader ways in which we can trade calculated risk and uncertainty for flexibility and freedom. Bliss.

Who the hell is Jenny Blake, you might ask, and where does she get off telling me what to do?

Well, she’s the girl who left Google.

Yeah, she LEFT Google.

Two million people try to get into Google each year, and she left.

Just upped and left. My kind of crazy.

Jenny has made a habit of this (leaving, that is, not crazy), putting UCLA on hold for a year (or three) to move up to the Bay Area to work for a startup at the young age of 20. While there, she wore many hats and learned many skills–writing, business, and even a little programming, and eventually found her way to Google, pivoting internally there as well before finally leaving.

Why? You’ll have to read the book to get the story in its entirety, of course, but she realized she wanted something more, something different. So she took a chance and left.

Now I’m a good two generations removed from the millennials, but there is something about the way they live life that I’m strangely drawn to. I’m not quite sure what it is or how to frame it exactly, but it’s as if they place their trust in the universe, that everything will be alright. I want some of that.

I want to be able to pivot periodically, to change course, make adjustments, and rest assured that I am still heading North, that my instincts, the tides, my expertise will keep me on course towards greater learning and creativity and contribution.

Sometimes, though, I get stuck in what Jenny calls “inactivity” or “reactivity.” I’m either paralyzed by fear and unable to move forward, or I just tread the well-worn path and keep doing the same old thing. I want to be “proactive” and “innovative.” I want to move forward with curiosity and beginner mind. I want to create and innovate and push myself in new directions.

Pivot offers many inventories and actionable information that helps readers to not only take stock of where they are and what they want, but also to map out some next steps to take to achieve those outcomes.

One of my favorites is the activity where she has the readers name three people they admire and list three adjectives for why they chose each person. Then she has readers list what they want more of in their lives, what they want less of in their lives, and so on, until they come up with a list of values they hold sacred–values that would be useful in thinking about their next steps.

When I did this activity myself, here’s what I came up with:

1. Name three people you admire and list three adjectives for why you chose each person:
Oprah – smart, independent, empathetic
Liz Gilbert – creative, adventurous, unique
Frida Kahlo – maverick, artistic, passionate

2. What do you want less of in your life?
Struggle. I want to go with the flow of the universe. I’m tired of struggle. I also want less stress. I want to be happy, to get along with people, to do my job and get out. Drama–fewer highs and lows. I want to live life on a more even keel.

3. What challenges are you currently facing?
How to craft a beautiful life that allows me to do meaningful work but also allows me to have lots of time off.

4. What do you want more of in your life?
Pleasure, creativity, independence (time and location), meaningful work.

Doing this exercise made me realize that none of the big three were on my list: fame, fortune, success. Okay, so to be fair, Oprah has all three (and so do Liz Gilbert and Frida) but that is not why they are on my list. When I look at this list on a values level, what I am really seeking is pleasure/adventure, independence, and creative work.

Wow. Who knew.

I’ve spent so much of my life chasing something else–intellectual and professional achievement, financial security, social stability–that I lost sight of the real pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. I mostly spent my time chasing my tail in the rain.

No really, I’m a smart woman, yet I could not see the forest for the trees. Not even in my own life.

Get this book if you’re struggling with figuring out the next step. Get it if you just want a good read. But most certainly get it if you think to yourself, “my life is crap, and I am never going to get out of this hell hole.”

‘Cause what they hey, it ain’t as if you’re leaving Google!


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Who might enjoy this post? –Β People looking to make a career change.



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3 replies

  1. I’d like to pose question #5: Now that you determined the answer to #4 what are you going to do about it? πŸ™‚

    • I’m doing it right here, right now! πŸ˜‰

      Pivots often involve incremental changes–mine involves creating some momentum around my creativity by writing more. For me pleasure comes in the form of travel, and food, and meeting new and interesting people, and I’ve certainly upped my game in that area–I met you! Still working on the time and location independence. That will be a longer process of incrementally replacing some of my face-to-face teaching income with online teaching and possibly speaking income.

      TMI? You asked for it! πŸ˜‰

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