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Who is Leonard Kim? And What’s Surprising About Him?

Leonard Kim interview by Ryan Foland

It’s not what you do, it’s who you are that’s really important.

If you’ve never heard of Leonard Kim, you might be in for a surprise. He’s attained over 10 million reads on his writing within the first 1.5 years of publishing content online. He’s been named the top marketing influencer by Forbes and received a few other accolades from other top tier magazines.

He’s been invited to speak at events across the world, even though in my opinion, he doesn’t speak that well.

One of the great things about Leonard and what made him so successful, isn’t really what he does. No one cares that he does marketing. No one cares that he’s out there typing away on social media. What they care about though, is who he is.

Leonard Kim is a real person who is not afraid to show that he is vulnerable.

That’s the secret ingredient that has opened up the doors to opportunities.

Opportunities like being featured in major media publications in print, online, TV, you name it.

He’s been everywhere, including speaking on the TEDx stage at UC Irvine.

And his talk, was named number 2 by Inc Magazine’s top 10 TED Talks about fear.

Leonard Kim at TEDx UC Irvine

But what got him up there and why did that happen?

Let’s go into the philosophy behind Leonard’s path. Honestly, he’s not that great of a speaker, he’s not even that great of a friend, but there’s something really unique about him.

That secret sauce is…

Who he is.

These are the 5 core elements that make Leonard so unique and the reason all these opportunities come his way.

1. He doesn’t like to answer the question of what he does.

Ryan Foland illustrated quote

Have you ever had someone ask you what you do? Do you really think that they care what you do? Or are they just trying to be polite and start conversations? By default, most people will ask you what you do. But Leonard, doesn’t like this question. In fact, he hates this question. And if you’re ever around him when someone asks him this question, guess what he says?

He says exactly what he’s doing at that moment.

If you ask him when he’s hanging out with a bunch of puppies and he’s petting the puppies, he’ll say, “I pet puppies.” If you happen to catch him when he’s at McDonald‘s eating his favorite meal, which is a quarter pounder with cheese, and you ask him what he does, he’ll tell you he eats McDonald’s.

If you’re seeing a pattern, there is a clear one. The rationale for not answering this question as asked, actually has a very rational point behind it.

When you see someone and you ask them what they do and they answer with what they do for work, you immediately put them into a box. Once they are in that box, you begin to judge them.

For instance, let’s say you are a designer. If you respond with saying that you’re a designer, the person you are speaking with will attach their own preconceived notions of a designer to you.

When Leonard says what he is doing at that exact moment, it builds curiosity within the other person’s mind. They want to get to know him more. So they start asking them other question like what he does for fun. This leads to Leonard and the people he is speaking with building a real connection that has a better chance to lead to a genuine friendship.

The next time somebody asks you what you do, try to get past the question of what you do and onto the conversation about who you are because that’s way more important.

2. You can always serve as an example, whether it’s good or bad.

When Leonard was growing up, he had a great role model, his grandfather, as you can see in this TEDx video here.

Leonard’s grandfather, Robert L. Landis, was his shining light. In Leonard’s early days, his grandfather guided him on the right path. But as time went by, Leonard started hanging out with the wrong crowd.

He started becoming selfish, and seeing life from the other side.

In life, there’s two different ways to go. You could either go on the right path or you could be on the wrong path. Sometimes, you could be on one or the other and you won’t even know which one you’re on until the very end. And more often than not, you realize that you were on the wrong one all along. Now the good thing about this is no matter what path you’re on, it creates for a great story.

Leonard is a storyteller at the end of the day. He has found success through sharing the stories of how he was a bad example. This might surprise you, as most people who have success of this caliber are sharing stories about success. This should be exciting though, because we all make mistakes and each of us can serve it as bad example. But not all of us can always serve as good examples all the time.

What makes Leonard unique is his brutal honesty with situations in his life that most people wouldn’t want to talk about, write about, or even discuss on social media. Especially when things don’t go right in your life.

When you know that there’s good and bad examples out there, or you know that no one’s absolutely useless and that everyone can serve as an example, you have to make a decision. Are you the example that you want others to follow and are you living that way? Are you living the other way, where you’re a bad example and others should avoid what you’re doing? Either way, you can leverage your back story to help determine what type of position you have in this world.

So own the good and the bad. Use it as a chance to self reflect and always try to move forward in a more positive way, but leverage where you’ve gone wrong to help make your story one that people can learn from.

3. Really understand who you are.

You brand is who you are, quote by Ryan Foland.

When you live day to day and you don’t take any breaks, it’s so easy to see three years, five years, or ten years of your life just pass you by. When life goes by so fast, sometimes we forget to reflect back on all the things that happened. When you’re forgetting to reflect on your life, you’re skipping over the lessons you have learned. You’re skipping over the memories that could bring meaning to others. You’re skipping over all the important things that could help to build compelling content to share with others.

In Leonard’s TEDx talk, he discusses that fear often times kept him back. One of the main messages is to overcome your fear and really understand who you are so that you can be the best version of yourself possible.

What scares you? What gets you going? What’s your most memorable moment?

You have to really understand everything that you care about, even your flaws. What are your biggest flaws? What’s your biggest weaknesses? What’s your best strength?

Once you really are able to develop an understanding of exactly who you are, you have the foundation to really go out there and change things. Maybe if you don’t like where you are today, using that foundation you can see everything that you’re doing wrong. If you’re doing everything right, you know what to do more of.

Focus on your life lessons learned and be brave enough to share those stories with the world. These type of stories are what resonates with people. It’s a big reason of how Leonard has gotten 10 million reads on his Quora content.

4. Even if you’re not the best, get up on stage.

All great speakers were bad speakers at first, quote by Ralph Waldo Emerson.

I’ve known Leonard for a little bit of time and I really got to understand the method behind his madness. If you look at Leonard Kim, he’s not really the best at anything, but he still is able to find massive success and inspire people all around the world. When Leonard first started sharing his story, he did it through writing. Like he’s said in his TEDx, he got Cs in high school. He sent girls love letters and they all rejected him and said, “Ew what are you sending me?” He didn’t believe in his writing himself, because no one else did. But that didn’t stop him. He kept writing because he knew that he had a message and he wanted to share it with others.

When his articles started getting read by millions of people, he was really surprised. That’s because even though he wasn’t a good writer at first, he continued at it. He wrote every moment he had, from when he was on the bus to his bathroom breaks. He wrote so much that he ended up getting good at writing.

And a similar thing happened with his TEDx talk.

Leonard is not the best public speaker. But I helped coach him and I saw vast improvement from when he started his practice to his final speech. But that’s the point. He got up on stage, he made the effort to get up there, and the talk turned out great.

One of the key things that happened when he got up on that stage is that he was just himself. He knew he wasn’t the best speaker. He even mentioned it in his talk. If you listen closely, you can hear his voice shake a little bit at certain times. You could tell he was super nervous at points, but he still did it anyway.

He had his story to share, and he shared it. You don’t have to be the best writer to write, nor be a great speaker to speak. Own your own story and be like Leonard, share it with the world!

5. Your story is all that matters.

Own you own story, quote by Ryan Foland

What happened when you were zero to one years old? You might not remember, but you could talk to your parents and they’ll tell you plenty of stories. What happened when you were one to two? Your parents surely have more stories for you. When you were in kindergarten, you could probably recall a few stories from then, right? In high school, in junior high, and all throughout life, guess what, your whole life is a series of stories. Think of it like one big long story with a lot of chapters with it.

Your story conveys everything.

And guess what. You could have the boringest life. You could have the craziest life. No matter what, you’re going to have a story that others can relate to.

Now what do you do with these stories? You have to get up on that stage, just like Leonard did. You have to go out there and share your stories.

People don’t buy into Leonard because he’s a great writer.

People don’t buy into Leonard because he’s a great marketer.

People don’t buy into Leonard because he’s a great speaker.

They buy into Leonard because they buy into his story.

They see similarities of his life and their life, and they’re able to connect and bond with him on an emotional level, even if they’ve never met him before.

The only reason this happens is because of his story.

With the power of sharing your story and resonating with people, Leonard is able to share a picture of rocks and get more engagement than most people get on all of their social media combined.

That’s what’s surprising about Mr. Leonard Kim.

Knowing this …

What are you going to do with this information? Do you have a TEDx talk that you want to give? Do you have a story that you want to share? Do you need a platform to share your good and bad examples? Well if you do, you’re in luck because Leonard teaches people all of these things in his personal branding course at InfluenceTree.com.

About the author

RYAN FOLAND

RYAN FOLAND

Ryan Foland coaches leaders worldwide on the art of simplifying spoken and written messaging for greater impact. Foland has been recognized by Inc. Magazine as a Top Youth Marketer in 2016 and named by Entrepreneur Magazine as a Top Personal Branding Expert in 2017. Ryan’s company, InfluenceTree, specializes in helping individuals and companies discover, communicate and grow their brands. To learn more about Ryan visit his website RyanFoland.com.

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