If You Don't Know Jessica Murnane, You're Blowing It
I actually spend most Saturday mornings with today's interviewee, Jessica Murnane. I wake up, throw on clothes, and make the mile-or-so trek to my local café—all while listening to Jessica banter with fascinating friends, new and old on her One Part Podcast. Each of her interviews flows freely, a comfortable dialogue between two people who share a common understanding: that passion and creativity are essential to a fulfilled life. Jessica is sort of the funny, smarter, wiser friend you've always wanted.
From the first time you listen to one of her podcasts, you know she's masterful at making people feel at ease. She draws each of her interviewees out through real talk and quick banter until, suddenly, you feel like you're hearing stories they've never told anyone before. And that's probably because you are. Each episode is real, raw, and consistently cathartic. And it's this approach, Jessica's deep commitment to honest dialogue, that will keep you coming back to listen week after week.
But the podcast isn't the only thing Jessica does. Because I mean, that would be boring, right? In fact, it's just one part of the One Part Plant mecca that Jessica's built slowly but surely.
To get to know Jessica's work is an experience, not a ten-minute read. There are her plant-based recipes. Newsletters. Real talk about her struggle with endometriosis and resulting lifestyle changes. Then there's that pretty great Instagram feed. And early next year? Jessica is publishing her first cookbook, which you can pre-order right here. It's a busy, plant-filled life, but somebody's gotta do it. Jessica does a pretty, pretty good job.
Her Starting Point
What did you want to be when you grew up? Did you always have a sense that you’d work in a creative field or for yourself?
I always wanted to be a dentist. I pictured myself having my own dental studio with my name on the door. It wasn’t until I realized that I’d actually have to look inside people’s mouths all day, that I decided to go to school for something else. I think it was having my own business/name on the door that became the driving force behind that career...not filling cavities.
Growing up I was always doing things a little different—the way I dressed, fixed my hair, the music I listened to. I don’t ever think I thought of myself as “creative," but I think I had it inside me (creativity) without knowing how to identify it.
What did you study in college? Did those experiences contribute to where you are today?
I started out as a photography major. But then I took a graphic design class to fill a requirement and thought “Wait, WHAT? This is a thing?” I had been cutting out type and images and making collages my whole life, I just didn’t know that was an actual career.
I had been cutting out type and images and making collages my whole life, I just didn’t know that was an actual career. I applied to the design program as soon as I could (even though that meant an extra year in school!) and thankfully was accepted.
You wouldn’t think studying graphic design would have led me to a career in food and wellness, but every single job you have, person you meet, and experience you have can lead you somewhere you’d never expect.
What was your first post-college job? What did you learn there that you couldn’t have learned in school?
After graduating, I interned at a design studio and waitressed at night. It was a rough couple of years. After college, you think that you’re going to land a job with an insane salary, ball out, get a whole new wardrobe, and pay off all your student loans. That didn’t happen. I quickly realized that rarely happens to anyone. My first full-time job after the internship was at a paper store (Paper Source) designing wedding invitations.
The biggest thing I learned from that first job is that you have to be open to whatever opportunities come your way. I would have turned my nose up at a job designing wedding invitations in design school. I thought I wanted to work for a cool magazine or super fancy design studio. But I ended up loving invitations and did it on and off for the ten years. Just because you try a job doesn’t mean you have to do it forever.
Before starting your podcast, you ran one of my favorite blogs: So How Was Your Day? (Seriously, though!) Now you interview all sorts of interesting creative and entrepreneurs for your podcast. What do you find so appealing about the interview format?
Thanks! I loved doing So How Was Your Day? so much, but I really wanted to take it to the next level. I started noticing the features I got the most feedback on were the ones where the days weren’t so perfect. The podcast format really seemed to lend itself to having more real conversations about the good and bad and not-so-perfect days. We need to hear and see less “perfect."
There’s something comforting knowing the people you admire have struggles too. That’s why I love what you guys are doing here. You’re showing that sometimes the road can be little bumpy on along the way...and that’s OK. You’ll still get there.
Her Big Break
Your work with One Part Plant began in response to personal trouble: you were diagnosed with endometriosis (more on that story here), which forced you to rethink your relationship with food and approach to living well. What’s the number one takeaway you’d like your readers and listeners to get from One Part Plant?
Real food (whole plant-based food) completely changed my life, and all I want to do is help others change theirs too. I don’t think good food is necessarily a cure to all of our problems in life, but it’s an incredible foundation to start with.
From my experience, I know changing your diet can feel impossible and zero fun. I had such a hard time, there was a point I thought getting a surgery would be easier than eating vegetables. I had to take it slow and that worked for me. I learned it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Take one meal at time, and do your best to shoot for at least one plant-based meal a day (One Part Plant!). One meal might lead to two and two might lead to three. All of sudden you’re doing that thing you thought was impossible.
With One Part Plant, you run a website, have a cookbook coming out in Spring 2017, newsletter, and a popular podcast. And then of course there’s your For Reals Meals series. How do you manage all the moving pieces? Do you have any tips/tricks/apps/hacks you’d recommend for busy women trying to run a business?
During a major stress meltdown early in my career, someone special in my life told me: “Don’t stress yourself out. You always get it done”. He was right - I always figure out how to get it all done. Worrying and stressing only slows down your work-flow.
But I also think sometimes it’s OK if you don’t get everything done. When I started writing my cookbook, I decided early on to prioritize. I wasn’t going to be able to do everything, so I scaled back. I didn’t release as many podcasts. I didn’t post as much on social media. My website took a backseat. I really focused on my book, because that is what was going to be the most beneficial to my business right now. Guess what? The world didn’t end. I didn’t lose followers. People still went to my site. Do your best to prioritize your tasks in terms of your long-term goals. You’ll learn pretty fast that Instagramming your lunch usually isn’t at the top of that list.
We know that especially for multi-hyphenates, outlining your daily routine can be hard (every day’s different), but can give us a vague So How Was Your Day?-style breakdown of your workday?
The last two weeks were pretty much the exact same day, Groundhog Day style, as I finished my book! I usually fit in workouts, some meditation, but it just didn’t happen the last two weeks. Here is a typical day for my last two weeks, actually, this is exactly what I did every day.
- Wake up and drink/eat something that involves almond butter and greens.
- Debate about working out. Do I have time? Should I go? Waste 20 minutes debating it and then end up going.
-Walk to a cafe and write for a good two hours (I make a point to not log into the Wifi for zero distractions).
- Walk back home while listening to the latest Jalen + Jacoby podcast.
- Get home and sit in the kitchen and start going through all the recipe testing feedback (every recipe in my book was tested by someone different). Adjust the recipes or even retest based on the feedback.
- Eat lunch (usually some leftovers from recipe testing).
- Bike over to another cafe. Get a kombucha and green tea. Sit in the window for many more hours and write.
- Answer emails.
- Write more and then think about how many more emails I have.
- Answer more emails.
- Dream about turning the book in, so I can start plotting next season’s podcast guests.
- Meet up with a friend to have a drink, eat dinner, and plot our next business moves.
- Go home and write some more.
- Thank my husband for believing in me for all these years (I try to do that as often as possible).
- Return the texts I’ve been neglecting all day.
Did you make any mistakes along the way? What did you learn from them?
Oh, hell yes! But I don’t regret any of them. The biggest thing I learned from the mistakes I’ve made is when you F up royally and feel like it’s the worst possible thing you could have done...that feeling will pass. That mistake will end up making a really great story down the road, and you’ll probably even be able to laugh about it too.
In this crazy world, when you work for yourself, how do you turn off?
Having phone-free weekends is my jam. I love leaving my phone at home and being 100% with my friends, family, and even just myself. I decided awhile ago to stop answering emails on the weekend. It sets boundaries and gives you room to breathe. Sometimes I’ll throw on an auto responder for the hell of it - so there is no question if I’ll be responding or not.
I definitely recharge having alone time, so I make sure to take it whenever I can and NOT feel guilty about it. I’ll go to a bookstore and look at stacks of magazines, head to a movie, watch 30 for 30s, or take a Kundalini class. I’m definitely an extrovert in an introvert’s body.
What’s your best piece of advice for someone thinking about starting a solo creative endeavor? What about a podcast specifically?
We definitely live in a generation of women telling each other “YOU GOT THIS!” (insert a muscle or fist emoji). Which is very sweet, but not always very helpful. A lot of us are left wondering, “Ok, HOW do I actually do this?”. Positive mantras and inspirational quotes are awesome, but you also have to educate yourself and put in the work to actually make it happen. When I started my podcast, I’d spend hours at a time on YouTube teaching myself how to edit, record, and what type of equipment to buy.
I have a list of all my favorite resources on the FAQ page of my website (so you won’t have to spend as many hours).
I would say my biggest tip for podcasting is that big/famous guests don’t always equal big downloads. Start with guests that you know will share the episodes with their audience to help build your own. Celeb guests will definitely get you more more “cred”, but they generally don’t share as much because they are usually promoting lots of other things (movies, books, or clothing lines).
Did you have any mentors along the way? What’s the most important thing they taught you?
My pops is for sure my biggest mentor. From an early age, he told me to write down what success meant to me: money, fame, something entirely different? He taught me that if you never define what success is to you, you’ll have no idea when you achieve it. I’m constantly revisiting the idea of what “success” means to me. I’m much more clear on it now, but it’s soooo different than what I used to think it was.
And finally, what do you wake up looking forward to? What’s next for your career?
I cannot wait for my cookbook (One Part Plant) to get out in the world. When you work solo and do your own thing, it feels so incredible to finally get to work with a TEAM. A team that collectively wants to succeed together. I still can’t believe how lucky I am to work with the people I get to work with and have such a great publisher.
I’m also dying to tell you who wrote the foreword to my book. She’s pretty special and one of my favorite writers. Last week she sent me the foreward and my editor sent me a preview of the book cover...and I cried a little. It hit me that it was ALL coming together after a very long road of jobs and careers to get here.