Jen Bladen

This is a story about all my favorite things coming together for a good cause. A story of heroes and icons, being brave and scared at the same time. It’s a metaphor for my whole life. I’m only exaggerating a little.

Live Like No One Else

When I was getting divorced in 2006, I discovered Total Money Makeover. It was perfect timing. (When people talk about how expensive weddings are, I always chime in about how expensive divorces are! Really. No one tells you that!) 

Upon the recommendation of a trusted friend, I used Dave Ramsey’s Seven Baby Steps to pay off tens of thousands of dollars of debt in just a couple of years. It was the best thing to come out of that awful time. 

I also enrolled (twice!) at Financial Peace University. It’s like a study group, support group, seminar, and accountability group all in one. For a small fee, you become a lifetime member and can re-enroll when you need a refresher course in the Baby Steps. 

In the book and in the FPU videos, Ramsey teaches to start small and gain momentum. The first Baby Step is remarkably doable: It took me less than a week to save up a $1,000 emergency fund. It gave me the confidence to keep going. 

One of the basic tenets is Ramsey’s most famous quote, “If you will live like no one else, later you can live and give like no one else.”

With gazelle-like intensity, I heeded Ramsey’s advice to live like no one else and get a second job. Even now, whether I need it or not, I always have a second job. Ramsey’s go-to example is delivering pizza — I’ve actually never done that but here’s a list of all the side hustles I’ve hustled in recent years. 

Most of all, I recommend you listen to Dave Ramsey’s advice (on the radio, in person, and in his books) if you’re young. You, my darling dears, have such an opportunity to never get into the same financial situation I got into. You, my dearest darlings, have an opportunity to save early and earn more on investments than I ever will be able to catch up to. 

Living like a gazelle changed my life, changed my future, renewed my faith in myself, and ultimately lay the foundation for what was to come next.

Tim Ferriss

My favorite episodes of The Tim Ferriss Show. I suggest starting with #219, but really you can jump in anywhere! https://tim.blog/podcast/

In my last few years as a teacher I developed a deep respect for Tim Ferriss. I read The 4-Hour Workweek first. It was inspiring but seemed very far away for a classroom teacher. Now that I am essentially self-employed, I find myself turning to Ferriss for everything from motivation to shortcuts to inspiration. His newest book Tools of Titans was a gift and it blows my mind every time I open it. 

From Tools, my friends and I found The Tim Ferriss Show podcast. It’s my current obsession and my constant companion. I started out listening to a one episode per day in an effort to catch up on all the ones I’d missed. I quickly got overwhelmed and started listening using what a friend calls the Blue’s Clues Method.

So now I listen to a single episode several times in a row, often gleaning new inspiration from each repetition. I’ve listened to this episode at least 10 times and get something new out of it each time. 

I’m especially interested in Ferriss’s thoughts on learning. Actually, almost everything he talks about is about learning. Specifically, I love it when he discusses language learning. One method he recommends is watching familiar movies with foreign subtitles. I’ve also heard him say that he will watch a familiar movie in one language (Japanese, for example) with subtitles in a language he’s trying to learn (Italian, say). I think that’s fascinating. 

He also endorses reading graphic novels in your topic language. He says it helps learn dialogue — much in the same way a movie does. See more on that below…. 

A particular episode of the podcast I loved was Ferriss being interviewed by Charles Best, the founder and CEO of DonorsChoose.org. See more on my experience with DonorsChoose.org below. It’s really the first time on the podcast Ferriss talks about his own education and it’s a nice primer on Ferriss’s core beliefs about learning. 

Ferriss and his guests never fail to inspire me. Sometimes I’m inspired to do something small — drink more water, skip the bread, smile at strangers — and sometimes I’ll get fired up to take a very big step. 

A Very Big Step

I’m one of those people who says, “That should be a t-shirt!” every time I hear something funny. Peter Parker’s t-shirts in Spider-Man: Homecoming are half the movie for me. Too much good stuff! 

Especially when I’m talking to yearbook students and advisers, I’m listening for repetition and pattern and humor. When I hear something good, I think, someone should totally put that on a shirt.

So one day, I was listening to The Tim Ferriss Show (I think it was my third or fourth listening to #214) and I thought, “Wait. Why not me? Why don’t I put it on a shirt?”

And so my Threadless shop was born. It’s fueled my creative fires greatly, and it’s a quiet source of (very small amounts of) income. 

Late last year, I fell in love with Peanut Parade’s “You Adulted Today” stickers and all those “adulting is hard” memes. It got me thinking about how yearbooking is hard… but it doesn’t have to be. I was thinking about how we can all support each other in making yearbook easy. Easier? Anyway, that’s how I came up with the name “yearbooking is easy.”

Putting my designs “out there” and creating something from scratch to sell to the public was terrifying. But each of my (half dozen) sales has made me ecstatic and grateful at the same time. 

DonorsChoose.Org

The first time I heard about DonorsChoose.org, I kind of assumed it was teachers posting their open house wish lists: boxes of tissues, hand sanitizer, white board markers. What a great idea, I thought, but I didn’t really investigate it further. 

But then, when I started Yearbooking, my friend and fellow gazelle suggested I donate 10% of any money I made to charity. Her exact words were, “You know, Dave Ramsey-style!” 

The more I thought about it, the more I wanted to give back to teachers. I was mentored by excellent teachers. I had the privilege to mentor a handful, as well. Dave Ramsey, Tim Ferriss and Charles Best are all teachers. I work with teachers now who are as generous and supportive a group of people can be. So I now donate 10% of any money I make to DonorsChoose.org.  

My first donation was to a teacher in Tulsa who wants to use graphic novels to teach English as a second language to her students. Kind of seems meant to be.

Synergy

Is that synergy? Or is it coincidence? Serendipity? I’m not sure. But it makes me feel all warm and fuzzy that Dave Ramsey’s advice lay the foundation for me to follow Dave Ramsey’s advice. “Live like no one else so you can live and give like no one else.” I love that Tim Ferriss introduced me to using graphic novels to learn a target language — and then promptly introduced me to a place where I could help a teacher use graphic novels to learn a target language. I love it when it looks like I know what I’m doing!