MF 077 : How 🎉Leonard Kim🎈 Went From Living on His Grandmother’s Couch to Inspiring Millions
Updated: Jun 17
🎉Leonard Kim🎈is a brand strategist and managing partner at Influence Tree and author of The Etiquette of Social Media. Leonard has been a contributor and/or featured in some of today’s most prestigious publications, including: Inc., Fortune, Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, The Huffington Post, GQ and many more. Today you will learn Leonard’s secret to building a brand and a following by simply telling your backstory (the good and the bad) and sharing it with others.
August 2017 Update:
Check out Leonard’s TEDx at UCIrvine: ‘Why You Should Let Your Fears Guide You‘
Successes at a glance:
Managing partner at Influence Tree.
Named top ten personal branding expert by Red Letter Resumes.
Contributor and/or featured in some of today’s most prestigious publications (full list at Leonard Kim):
Author of The Etiquette of Social Media.
100k+ social media following, including 90k+ on Twitter.
Connoisseur of great hamburgers, cupcakes and advocate of balloons (seriously, check out his website, Leonard Kim: it’s a really happy place! 🎉🎈).
How Leonard gets inspired to conquer the day:
During Leonard’s journey of ups and downs, he became familiar with James Altucher’s work. Here was a highly successful entrepreneur who had lost a lot of money, made a lot of money, had huge setbacks and failures as well as huge comebacks to success. A practice that Leonard learned from James was to recognize and appreciate five things that you are grateful for every morning (read James Altucher’s gratitude piece here). At first it may seem like a silly practice but consider that Leonard has experienced more turmoil in his life than most of us. Several times, he nearly hit major success only to find it all crumble within reach. He was in a job where despite his hard work, paid him so little, he couldn’t afford to drive so he had to take the bus. For many of us, naming 5 things or even 1 thing to be grateful for would be the last thing on our minds when hitting a low point. But as Leonard put into perspective, he was riding the bus with time to think, so he had nothing to lose. Moving Forward listeners, Leonard has achieved a rare kind of success with 11M+ readers and 100k+ social media followers and has been featured in some of the top publications today. Yet, Leonard continues to practice this gratitude exercise, something he started when he was broke and riding the bus to a job that didn’t inspire him. Start thinking about the 5 things you are grateful for right now, at this very minute. Whether you’re rich and successful or at rock bottom (especially if you’re at rock bottom) – if you can come up with 5 things you’re grateful for, who knows where this may lead you tomorrow, next week, next month or next year. Besides, as Leonard says, what do you have to lose? This practice won’t cost you any money and may give you that little uplift that can spark a great pivot for you to move forward.
Setback or failure that led to pivot and shift:
Leonard’s story has been full of setbacks and failures. Unlike many individuals who inspire others with stories of their success, Leonard has in a sense, reverse engineered failure as a catalyst to inspire 11M+ readers. Leonard was in a thankless job in corporate America where despite being a high performer, he wasn’t being recognized for his contributions. Leonard was also in several start-ups that went bust: he worked in real estate and investments right as the market crashed. At one point, things got so bad, Leonard couldn’t afford to pay his electric bill and had to charge his phone in the hallway of his building. Eventually, Leonard had to move in with his grandmother. On top of that, Leonard was still reconciling with the loss of his grandfather, who passed away from Alzheimer’s. Not only was his grandfather a father to him, he was someone Leonard admired and loved deeply. Leonard reflects back on this time and admits he was stubborn, cocky and even a little obnoxious. As Leonard started writing and finding his voice, much of the arrogance went away. However, with fame and attention came a lingering self-doubt. Leonard questioned whether he was worthy of the success that he was finding, suffering from a bad case of “imposter syndrome.” This got to a point where a girl (“Sally”) that Leonard was dating broke up with him, leaving him with the realization that he lost someone he cared about because he couldn’t acknowledge and accept what he had achieved. James Altucher, who Leonard got to know, told Leonard to stop discounting himself. Moving Forward listeners, we talk a lot about the fear of failure and overcoming that. But Leonard shares an equally important reality. Success can be scary too, especially when something you’ve put out there has resonated with so many people. Moving forward isn’t simply about getting over your failures and setbacks and forgetting about them. It’s also realizing that what you carry with you can sometimes weigh you down even when you find success. Recognize that and as Leonard has done, internalize the successes you achieve, be they big or small. Don’t let imposter syndrome take away from the great thing you do today or tomorrow. Finally, I think we can all appreciate that Leonard has shared his failures and setbacks with you so you don’t have to repeat them. The greatest gift that you can share is your story, so others can pivot and keep moving forward.
Resource or cultural experience that inspired Leonard to move forward:
Vanilla Sky (Blu Ray | Instant Video): Leonard’s favorite movie. The line spoken by Sophia Serrano (portrayed by Penolope Cruz): “every passing moment is a chance to turn it all around,” especially resonates with him. For Leonard, the protagonist (played by Tom Cruise) had an opposite life and yet they shared a common unhappiness from not living their life’s purpose. The Serrano quote reminds us that no matter how old or young you are, how much or little experience you have, there are moments and opportunities we all have to turn things around and move forward.
Listen to Leonard on James Altucher’s podcast (“The 10 Steps To A Sale”).
Purchase Leonard’s book The Etiquette of Social Media.
How Leonard stays organized and manages his time:
Admittedly, Leonard doesn’t have a system for managing or organizing his time. This results in piles of emails on the weekend and sometimes getting booked on too many podcasts in one day. While, this doesn’t seem to have hurt Leonard’s success, it’s something he will probably need to work on as the demands on his time and expertise are increasing everyday!
Favorite app / website / resource or productivity hack:
Make sure your cover photo is clear and represents who you are.
Make sure you microbio (140 char) represents you, is credible and has a little of your personality in there.
Make sure your website links to the right place.
Make sure your pinned post represents your branding.
Make your content engaging and don’t be afraid to share a little of yourself; make it conversational because that’s the only way people will get to know you!
Support the Podcast:
The Corporate Cliches Adult Coloring Book: makes the perfect stocking stuffer or white elephant gift.
Try out Audible (affiliate link).
Try out Amazon Prime (affiliate link).
Leonard’s Advice for you to Move Forward:
First, believe in yourself or at least pretend to believe in yourself until you get to where you need to be. Second, take action – do something and see where it leads you. Leonard’s journey started on Quora. It took him almost 20 posts to get to his life story and share his most vulnerable parts. But he did it and today, he is featured in some of the top publications in the world with his content having been read by 11M+ readers. It all starts somewhere. Moving Forward listeners, what is holding you back? Do you believe in yourself? If so, then proceed to step 2. If not, pretend to believe in yourself, then proceed to step 2. You’ve heard it from so many guests but Leonard’s story really captures what can happen when you take action, even when you’re starting at rock bottom. Start that first post, that first tweet, that first blog, video or podcast. Take action and start moving forward today.