Hey readers, I have a special treat for you today: I’m interviewing Leo Babauta of the wildly popular Zen Habits!
Leo’s blog gives practical advice to its readers on how to bring more simplicity, peace, and joy into their everyday lives. Zen Habits has been named one of The Top 50 Websites in the world by Time Magazine and these days you can’t go a week without coming across Leo’s name somewhere in the blogosphere.
Leo has really reached “legendary” status among bloggers and writers for also making a living off of his blog and helping others do the same through other great sites he’s founded like Write To Done and A-List Blogging Bootcamps.
Leo’s blog has impacted many lives around the world, including mine, and that’s why I thought he’d be the perfect person to talk to about how writers can make a real, positive impact on their readers.
So, without further ado, here you go:
Ollin: First of all, thank you so much for doing this interview. I’m ecstatic to have possibly the most popular self-help blogger on the Internet today on the C2C.
Leo: Thanks for doing the interview.
Ollin: So let’s get right to it: Because of your huge popularity in the blogging world, everyone always asks you how to get more subscribers for their blogs, or how to make money from blogging. But what I want to know is this: How have you’ve managed to change people’s lives on a daily basis? What’s the formula that writers can follow if they want to have a deeper impact on their readers? (An impact that you can’t easily measure with numbers?)
Leo: There’s no way to ensure you’re going to change anyone’s life. There’s no telling what will happen if you put your best writing out there: it can have an amazing impact on thousands of people, it might change one or two people, or it might dissolve like a whisper on the wind.
What I find more important is help yourself. Find ways to address the things you face in life, the problems you need solving. Then share how you’ve done that with the world, and see what happens. Often others will find use in your solutions.
Ollin: Many writers today are trying to achieve various “end goals,” like trying to secure the publishing contract, or trying to earn millions of dollars, or trying to get the most subscribers for their author blog. Do you think that this is the right approach, or do you think writers should set out to achieve something more meaningful at first, and then wait for the rewards to manifest later?
Leo: You cannot control those outcomes. You can do your best to get a publishing contract, or make a million dollars, or get 100K subscribers, but in the end they are all in the hands of others. You are tying your happiness, then, on something you don’t control and cannot know you will achieve.
Instead, focus on the things you can do: you can write amazing things, you can find your voice, you can share the things that have changed your life, you can enjoy the process of writing. If you focus on these things, you will find satisfaction. The results are then irrelevant.
Ollin: Do you think our culture’s obsession with “end goals” (acquiring wealth, status, titles, and popularity) is part of what is hurting us?
Leo: Our obsession with attaining prevents us from finding contentment. We strive to attain wealth and status and possessions, but there is no end to that desire to attain. It never ends. We’re never content. And so we strive for more, and never find enough. This has led to huge waste, huge inequalities, bad health, and a culture where we look out for ourselves and not for each other.
Ollin: I’m curious: what do you think is the difference between an act of good motivated by achieving and acquiring “things” versus an act of good motivated by the simple desire to do good in this world?
Leo: Both have good effects on the world. The difference is in the doer–if his mindset is in acquiring things, then that will carry on beyond the act of good. That will carry on to other parts of his life, and lead to unhappiness. That ends up hurting the world when people are never content.
Ollin: Do you think wealth, status, and fame guarantee happiness? And if not, then why do you think so many of us try desperately to achieve these things?
Leo: No, they don’t lead to happiness, because the same mindset that led to acquiring those things doesn’t go away once you have them. You are never satisfied. The billionaire doesn’t stop trying to make money, the politician doesn’t stop trying to run for office, the celebrity doesn’t stop trying to get more acclaim.
Why we try to achieve these things is tied into our very real human social needs to look good in the eyes of our peers. This is real, and we cannot ignore this need–we need to do good in the eyes of the social group. But this need has been twisted in our culture into weird ways to achieve this status–we achieve this “status” through earning lots of money or acquiring possessions or big houses or cars or achieving powerful positions … instead of doing good things for society. This is backwards.
Ollin: Do you agree with me that more attention should be paid to the good writers do that cannot be measured in page views, tweets, and dollar signs? And if you do agree with me, how do you propose we change a writer’s initial motivations when they set out to become successful in this world?
Leo: I agree completely.
You cannot change another writer’s motivations, but you can create a counterculture by joining together with other writers who feel the same way. Lead by example, praise those who are also motivated by their impact and not their numbers, and encourage others to do the same.
Ollin: I always like to end with this question: what do you do to keep your head up when the going gets tough? Any last words of encouragement or inspiration you can give my readers as they pursue their dreams—writing dreams or otherwise?
Leo: I try to stay in the moment. In the moment, there is nothing but you and what is happening right now, and every moment can contain happiness. For those pursuing their dreams: focus on enjoying what you’re doing, every moment, and you’ve already accomplished something great.
Ollin: Thank you so much Leo.
Leo Babauta is a simplicity blogger & author. He created Zen Habits, a Top 25 blog (according to TIME magazine) with 200,000 subscribers, mnmlist.com, and the best-selling books focus, The Power of Less, and Zen To Done.