I feel like I’m in high school again, receiving mail from colleges

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I took the GRE not long ago, and now I’m receiving e-mails and snail mail from colleges. It’s pretty wild! I never thought I would experience this again. I guess that means I made decent scores, at least.

There’s the Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications.  They started a Public Diplomacy Program five years ago to “address the growing importance of building positive relationships and mutual understanding across the world.” The dual-degree program is offered jointly with the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. In two years, students in the Public Diplomacy Program receive two master’s degrees – one in International Relations from the Maxwell School and one in Public Relations from the Newhouse School.

That sounds pretty cool.

Then there’s Columbia University’s 12-month Master of Public Administration in Environmental Science and Policy program. The MPA-Environmental Science and Policy is a “dynamic program that combines Columbia University’s hands-on approach to teaching public policy and administration with the Earth Institute’s pioneering thinking about the environment and sustainability, educating today’s environmental leaders for a sustainable tomorrow.”

Also interesting.

Don’t forget Notre Dame’s MNA program:

Notre Dame program

Notre Dame program

And then the Michigan MBA?


I also received a postcard yesterday inviting me to a seminar about business at South University in Savannah.

Good times. I don’t know why all of this makes me laugh, but it does.


Advice about Newspapers, Travel, Launching Your Own Business and Passive Income

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I was mentioned on another blog (Afford-Anything.com) today! As I was building up Navigating Newsrooms followers on Twitter a few days ago, I stumbled on a former journalist who took two years to travel the world, and she wrote a fantastic blog about it.

I was amazed. That’s exactly what I want to do – and what tons of others want to do.

So I sent Paula a direct message.

I introduced myself as a former journalist as well and asked for advice, and she suggested that I interview her! After I submitted several questions on several topics, she posted the answers this afternoon, and I immediately sped through the post. Paula edits and writes Afford-Anything.com, where she gives excellent financial advice with her own personal touch. I’ve read post after post on her site – check it out.

The business and passive income (and even travel) bits tie nicely to “The 4-Hour Workweek,” so I thought it would be wise to put the answers here. I know someone has the same questions I do.

From Afford-Anything.com:


Q: When did you begin planning your trip? What age were you when you left?

I started planning it 5 years before it happened. Sorry — that’s probably not the answer you want to hear!

I was 19 and I had just returned from a study abroad trip to Japan (paid in full by a scholarship). My time in Japan had bitten me with the travel bug, so I set a goal to travel for 2 years without a job or any responsibilities. By the time I was 24, I was ready to launch that dream. (I should add that I was a baby — barely 21 — when I graduated from college and started working my first ‘real’ job.)

Setting a clear goal was important. If I had been willing to work while traveling, I could’ve joined the Peace Corps or taken a job teaching English overseas.

But I had a clear vision of being able to travel freely, without responsibilities tying me down. And for the next 5 years, most of my financial decisions revolved around this vision.


Q: Did you have any hesitations about leaving? When/how did you finally decide, “OK, I’m doing this”?

Yes, absolutely. I’m from an Asian immigrant family with an ethos of “work, work, work.” It was hard for me to “un-do” that conditioning and become intentionally jobless.

Climbing to the next rung on the career ladder inspired me to leap off that ladder. When I was a reporter, I offered a letter of resignation. My boss countered with a promotion and a $10,000 raise.

I gave into temptation and stayed on staff for another 8 months. Then I spotted an opening for an editor position at a wine magazine. The job sounded perfect — travel to vineyards across the world! Sip wine and edit a magazine! I applied, and out of 100 candidates, I made it into the running for the final 2 candidates.

I realized that if I accepted this job, I’d never leave. I’d never see my vision come true — a vision of traveling without responsibility, of seeing where the world would take me. At best, I’d get to occasionally take a business trip to Italy, where I’d have a nice dinner, gather a few quotes, snap some photos, and fly home after 4 days. That wasn’t the type of travel I wanted. But it would be “okay enough” — satisfactory enough — to keep me in the job.

That became the catalyst. I had to get out now, or I never would.


Launching a Biz

Q: When you returned from the trip, how did you adjust to a settled life and decide what to do next?

During the two years I traveled, my friends kept asking me the same question: How can you afford this?

It was actually fascinating to watch their assumptions. Many people try to “let themselves off the hook” by pointing fingers.

The most common assumption I heard was what I call the “Someone Else Must Be Rich” theory. My friends assumed my family was rich. My family assumed my boyfriend was rich. And on and on. Everyone pointed to someone they’d never met and declared, “That person is rich and he/she/they are footing the bill!”

There were other theories, too. Some people assumed I went into massive credit-card debt to fund the trip. One close friend from college thought I made a killing in the stock market during the height of the 2006 – 2008 bubble.

I don’t care what people assume about me. That’s their problem, not mine. But I do find it sad that people — people I love — disempower themselves by deciding that their dreams are out-of-reach.

So I decided to start a blog that encourages and inspires. Originally I was going to create a travel blog, but then I thought — there are SO many dreams out there. Why not encourage everyone, no matter what their dream is?

As for the first part of your question — “How did you adjust to a settled life?” — I never settle. I still travel frequently, and when I’m at home, I’m motivated everyday by a higher purpose — helping others through this blog.


Passive Income

Q: What is the best way for a person to generate passive income when starting from scratch?

The two most common roads are dividend investing and real estate. Dividend investing means investing in companies that pay big dividends. The idea is that you hold on to the stock and simply live off the dividends.

For example, if you had $1 million invested in dividend stocks that paid a 4% yield, you could live on $40,000 without selling off any of that stock. Or — more realistically, if you’re just starting out — if you have $10,000 invested, you could collect $400 a year, enough to pay your car insurance. If you have $1,000 invested, you can collect $40 a year and treat yourself to a birthday dinner. (Of course, if you want to reach $1 million, you’re better off re-investing that $40 dividend).

The other method — which I prefer — is real estate. Frankly, I like this method because I understand it better, and to paraphrase Warren Buffet, you should only invest in stuff you understand. Don’t be afraid to shrug your shoulders and say, “Um, I just don’t get it — and so I’m not going to invest in it.”

The key to passive income through real estate is to buy the right property. Find a property in which the water + trash + insurance + taxes + mortgage + maintenance + 1 month per year of vacancy = less than the rental income. In some cities, like Manhattan or San Francisco, this is nearly impossible to find. In other cities, like Atlanta and Cincinnati, these properties are everywhere. I own a 3-unit building in Midtown, Atlanta, that matches this description.

My most popular post, If I Had a Million Dollars, I’d Go Into Debt, outlined both these strategies. And next week I’ll share my story of trying to buy a few more properties — which I’m in the midst of doing right now.

There’s a third strategy, as well, and that’s creating a business that becomes so successful that it produces passive income. This requires a ton of work, and I’d recommend you only try this IF your goal is growing a business. If you’re motivated by money — rather than by pure love for the work — you’ll probably burn out.

Well said. Paula’s post certainly gives me much to consider. Here we go.

Keeping the blog dream alive

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I migrated parts of my Vicariously Jane Austen and Navigating Newsrooms websites to new WordPress blogs so I can add pages and whatnot with ease. It takes a good bit of time and work, but I think it’ll pay off in the end.

I hope this all works. We’ll see. I’ve received some interesting and skeptical questions from friends and former mentors, but I guess I just need to stick with it and see what happens.

I’ll keep this short for now, but as I continue to read The 4-Hour Workweek, this quote sticks with me:

“Are you contributing anything useful to this world or just shuffling papers, banging on a keyboard, and coming home to a drunken existence on the weekends?”

I just found my high school LiveJournal.

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It’s crazy what you’ll find when you start web surfing with a purpose.

Yesterday, I started looking at the Twitter and blogs of Mark Johnson, a photojournalism professor at UGA, when I remembered the blogs that we did for our advanced photojournalism class. Mine was a project on The Life of Dance at UGA. I interviewed and photographed several dance groups and classes around campus.

Crist photo

I had a lot of fun going to those different practices. I wondered why I didn’t dance more and then looked up the practice schedule for Prelude, one of the groups that I featured and found a mention of my blog on their old blog.

Prelude blog

Then I thought about other photo projects I did and remembered the Maymester documentary photojournalism class where we wrote about Georgia-South Carolina water wars and produced videos. I found a few links, but the newspaper has a pay wall up, so I didn’t bother trying to track the videos down for use on my blog.

But I did think of Covering Poverty, which is a site I helped John Greenman to develop for my Center for Undergraduate Research Opportunities research and thesis while in undergrad. We were also mentioned in the Georgia Political Digest for the project.

Covering Poverty websiteThen I just searched “Carolyn Crist, Mark Johnson” and found several mentions in Mark’s blog, as well as one by Josh Weiss, a Red & Black friend. Though I knew about and even commented on the posts at the time, I had completely forgotten about them. It’s nice to go back and relive those memories, in a way.

Josh Weiss photo of me and Waites

And back to LiveJournal. As I sat down to write this post, I wondered if that 2004/2005 chronicle was still around. Sure enough, it is. I’m not going to disclose my username so you can find it, but I’ll let you savor these snippets:

Jan. 2, 2005: “The New Year…so a lot of people list what went well and some people (like me) actually think about regrets. I’ve had a few regrets lately that have been bugging the hell out of me.

-Finding out about 4 days before we got out of school that I wouldn’t have a class this semester with a certain someone. I was kinda sad b/c I realized that it would be nice to hang out with this guy during the holidays. I poured on the charm, but of course nothing will happen b/t 2 people in just 3 days, so I think I lost out on that one.”

December 26th: “by far the most interesting. I went to my granny’s house and my aunt, great aunt, and DAD were there. It was awkward with my dad at first (like i said, hadnt really seen him in 5yrs) but he has been sending me letters lately and expects us to grow a lot closer? psh idk. But he was funny and cool to see again. I know it won’t go anywhere though…too many broken promises and I have done fine w/o those visitations for what, 14 years? ’nuff said.”

July 6, 2004: “i hate being jealous of someone who has something i had the opportunity at but let it slip away”

Judging me yet? I’ve had quite a few laughs myself. Does this one help?

June 22, 2004:

my livejournalHa ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Stepping off that annoying corporate ladder

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OK, folks, it’s time for me to admit that I need your help.

This blog is all about one thing – getting away from the corporate/world ladder I started to climb.

climbing the ladder

Not what I want to be doing.

When I created this a little more than a week ago, I treated it like a grown-up version of the LiveJournal/DeadJournal/Xanga/whatever online diaries we used in middle school and high school. I vacillated between talking about my new business ideas and my personal ideas without getting too personal.

Well, that doesn’t work. It’s time to get personal. It’s time for you to join me in the risky idea of starting my own business and trying out Lifestyle Design, a newish concept of creating passive income so you can free yourself financially and find time to do what you want to do. That doesn’t mean becoming lazy and doing nothing. It means getting over that mentality of “work for work’s sake” for 40+ hours a week and finally doing all the things you’ve always wanted to do but always made the excuses not to do.

My list so far? Road trip the U.S., travel and blog about Europe (and more), learn how to play the drums, learn how to surf, become conversationally fluent in Spanish and Arabic, jump back into learning contemporary dance, write a novel, run a half marathon, and take up some crafting and decor skills.

Sound ambitious? My dreams always have been, but I was pointing all of my energy into areas that were making me successful but not necessarily happy. Even if “happy” is a nebulous word to define, then I certainly wasn’t excited, pleased or content.

I was succeeding in the areas that I believed I wanted to pursue or that I knew others would want me to pursue. I certainly didn’t think that at the time and I’m definitely glad that I had those experiences, so even now it’s tough to reflect and feel satisfied that I’m choosing to do something different. It’s difficult to dedicate so many years to one goal and then realize that’s not the goal at all.

Many of us make the same mistake, and I’m trying to step away while I have the chance. Right now, I’m fortunate enough to have the time to take a breath, rearrange my priorities, and start over again. Tonight, I picked up a book that I read in February and and decided to start re-reading it again with the idea of implementing even more changes. It’s Timothy Ferriss’ “The 4-Hour Workweek” about Lifestyle Design, automating your income and finding the time to do what you want.

Do I know how I’m going to be successful with this yet? No. Am I going to make mistakes with the ventures that I decide to try? Yes. Is it going to help me to hide it from you until I’m successful? Absolutely not, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do the past few weeks. If I’m going to fail, I’m going to fail right in front of you, and I’m going to stop being embarrassed.

Consider this a renewal. I intend to blog daily about Lifestyle Design or my goals, not mere status-update posts about what I’m eating for breakfast.

Care to join me?

a man falling of a corporate ladder

Join me. Don't be this guy.

I’m writing about writing.

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Though I have plenty of topics and links tucked away on a Google Doc (next tab over), I still feel at a loss for what to write today. I think it’s because I have so many ideas zooming around in my head about what I want to do and read and research tonight, other than watch Vampire Diaries with my roommate, of course. Yes, Vampire Diaries.

Vampire Diaries

So writing it is. I’ve started thinking about creative writing again recently, and I just spent the last hour pouring through notebooks in my room where I’ve written down numerous ideas but never expanded the story. With National Novel Writing Month coming up, I think I’m going to pick one and finally write a novel.

This will be my first year of NaNoWriMoing – trying to write 50,000 words (approximately 175 pages) during the month of November. I did attempt my own novel-writing month last December after I was diagnosed with ITP (a bleeding disorder – another blog post, another time) and left a three-day stay in the hospital. I bought the first season of Vampire Diaries (here we go again) on DVD and a journal and began writing about my ITP adventures and how I felt each day. Then I started on the novel, which turned into a first-person account of being in a secret society on a college campus. Yes, it was fiction.

But I didn’t make it far. I zoomed through the first few chapters and then got stuck in the rising action. I couldn’t figure out how to move my heroine through one of the obstacles, and I stopped. With several special sections coming out at The Times and the big Nathan Deal inauguration around the corner, I didn’t have much time anyway.

Then I was burned out on writing – pretty much all of it – for a good bit. I’m ready to return, in all forms. I’m hitting up my websites, this blog and now the creative writing idea.

So my new debate – do I post excerpts here? Am I ready to do that? Or should I merely write to get words on the page and update you about how I’m feeling? Anyone else doing NaNoWriMo (or just currently writing a novel) and want to be on my support team?

I’m still choosing which story idea I want to flesh out, too.

Carolyn's notebooks

Yay for pretty notebooks. But what to write?

Also, in case you wondered, this is the WordPress Daily Post topic below. I didn’t feel like writing about it because without electricity, you can’t exactly have the others. Let the arguments begin.

“Topic #270: With the passing of Steve Jobs yesterday, the web is filled with remembrances of a pioneer and industry legend. It’s a sad day indeed. But it’s also a good day to look back and consider the history of innovation. And how all the inventions and creations of the last 100 years have impacted us. As a specific topic to write about: How would you compare the importance of electricity with the invention of the internet? Or the cell phone? Can this kind of comparison be made? If you had to lose one of these inventions, which would you keep? And why?”

Blankets made from old T-shirts … also, what is freedom?

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It’s that time of year (fall) when I start thinking about Halloween costumes and Christmas presents. When you’re living on a budget, you try to think of an inexpensive but fun way to look good in a costume or tell someone you care.

Today, I found this as one of my @VicariouslyJane Twitter updates:

A blanket made from old T-shirts

And I thought, “Hey, I could totally do that. I have a bunch of t-shirts I like but don’t use anymore … ”


I think I'll make one for myself!


But I don’t know if I would make one for a present. What are your thoughts?

Also, the topic on today’s Daily Post seemed interesting –

Topic #269: “What is freedom? When do you feel most free in your job? In your day? Least free? When is it better to not be free?”

For me, I’d say freedom is being the master of your time, which is what I’m trying to do by launching these niche websites. The idea is to eventually build up enough readership to do a newsletter/book/product thing and work for myself. Some people need structure, but I’d prefer to be in charge of my day. I can think of nothing better.

I feel most free when I am productive, interestingly enough. That seems to work in direct contrast to my time commitment phobia mentioned above. Yet, I feel trapped when I have nothing to do and I’m forced to “waste” time. There I go, valuing time again.

When is it better to not be free? Hmm … I suppose when you want to tell someone that you already have plans. Yup, I just skirted that question.

What’s your idea of freedom?

Please, sir, can I have some more social media?

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I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed by all the social media options out there, and I’m just now taking the time to discover some of them.

Klout.com: The Klout score (1 to 100) measures influence based on your ability to drive action online. The Klout score uses data from social networks in order to measure:

  • True Reach: How many people you influence
  • Amplification: How much you influence them
  • Network Impact: The influence of your network

My Klout score for Navigating Newsrooms Twitter (paired with my Facebook account) is 44, which isn’t bad. That’s labeled as a “networker.” I haven’t checked all of the levels yet, but I’ve moved up from conversationalist to socializer to networker, which is cool. The Vicariously Jane Twitter itself pulls in a score of 39, which is also a “networker” label. I signed up last week and am just now discovering how intense people are about their Klout scores. Crazy!

Klout VJA 39 score

Here's the Vicariously Jane Austen score.

You check-in to entertainment with GetGlue – movies, music, TV, authors, whatever. You can connect with Facebook, and apparently I have 11 friends who currently use it. I’m not sure if I want to get sucked in or if it’s worth my time. You can unlock stickers and discounts, so maybe there’s a benefit.

Storify.com: By tracking tweets, Storify can essentially put together a story about a given topic. It’s gained a big following from journalists and was created by a journalist. It’s pretty nifty. Check out the Storify tracking for Live from Cupertino: @dsarno tweets Apple’s announcement.

Speaking of, who else really wants an iPhone 4S now? I know I do. I was looking at the iPhone 4 this weekend, but I think I’ll wait now …

Etsy.com: Simply, you can sign up and sell your craft items here. The social media aspects include creating communities with other crafters and finding your favorite artists to visit again and again. I just signed up to sell Pearl Pendants, so we’ll see how that goes. I need to load the items!

Scribd.com: This is the world’s largest social reading and publishing company. You create an account and then share entertaining, informative and original written content across the web. I just remembered today that I have an account, and I’m interested to see what my Facebook friends have been reading …

TwistedSifter.com: Just discovered this one today. It has three goals:

1. Provide content that is interesting, creative, or funny
2. Use BIG pictures whenever possible
3. Keep our readers up-to-date with what’s popular online

Craftgawker.com is like etsy but has a fun and user-friendly way of displaying user-submitted photo galleries. I want to start one so I can post this on my blog!

my craftgawker gallery

Craftgawker is teamed up with WeddingGawker.com, DwellingGawker.com and FoodGawker.com. I want to find fun things on all of them!

Do you have more? I want them!

I sign up for all of them, and then I drown in postings and trying to maintain each … and I find tons of interesting pages that I want to read. I’ve e-mailed myself so many links that I want to read later (a.k.a. after work) that it’s no longer effective. I’ve sent too many e-mails to myself with about 10 links per e-mail.

For instance, check out the TwistedSifter post on 15 Beautiful Libraries Around the World.


This is the Trinity College library at the University of Dublin.


They’re pretty awesome, but I only took a second to glance at them before moving on to my next tab. Speaking of, I always tend to have way too many tabs open as well.

So what do you do? Do you have an effective pinboard site? Do you manage your tabs in an interesting way? Or do you ignore most of these sites and posts? How do you stay info or social media savvy?

Then there’s the question of pushing out your own thoughts. I created this blog for my own amusement, but I’m definitely trying to make something out of the Navigating Newsrooms, Vicariously Jane Austen and Pearl Pendants ideas. NN and VJA have decent followings on Twitter, but how do you pull people to your website? I can get some good mentions and RTs going, but I’m not sure many people are actually joining my sites as members.

I read an interesting article on Inside Facebook today that talked about how third-party applications such as Twitter, Tweet Deck and HootSuite can actually decrease Facebook feedback because of the way the Facebook filters operate. I guess I’ll start posting manual updates instead of through Twitter. Do you find a difference between the number of “likes” and comments on Facebook with manual versus auto input?

Tell me!

Should everything be done in moderation?

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This was the question posed today by the WordPress folks who are running The Daily Post challenge. It’s a yearlong motivation to post once a day or once a week, and they give topics each day for bloggers to respond.

I signed up yesterday, and now I can proudly display this badge as I try to hold true to the promise of talking to you all each day.

Post-a-day badge

So my input: Although moderation sounds nice, I realize I don’t live my life this way. I work hard and play hard. I stress much or I don’t stress at all. I love much and I care much. I don’t hate much, but I don’t really tend to hate at all, so that’s also not moderation.

For instance, I’m plugging away on my websites without moderation. Today, I updated most of this blog by adding static text and photos to the Navigating Newsrooms, Vicariously Jane Austen, Pearl Pendants, Purchase Page, Travel and Writing Creatively Tabs. I promise to get to the Writing News bit tomorrow.

OK. I’m slowly tackling the pieces I want to change on each of my websites, and I have plans to teach myself about search engine optimization and all that jazz. So much to do!

At some point, I’ll also post some bits about my weekend travel to North Carolina. I created a video for it, so I need to edit that. Ha. I also want to talk about signing up for the National Novel Writing Month contest, training for a half marathon and trying on some ballet moves.

Here we go!