Friday, March 14, 2008

My Interview With Zenhabits Writer Leo Babauta

I've been reading Zenhabits since July 2007. I first found it by accident when looking for information about GTD. It didn’t take long until I found his other articles on a variety of topics and became a fan of the blog. Leo Babauta writes in a common sense style that people can easily understand and apply to their lives. His blog has over 46,000 subscribers, so a lot of people are following him. I recently had the chance to ask Leo five questions. What follows below is that interview. I would like to thank Leo, for giving me the chance to interview him!


Systems-Overload: How did you end up in Guam? I would love to hear the story.

Leo Babauta: Well, I was born in Portland, Oregon, though my parents were both raised on Guam. My mom is Caucasian, born in Wisconsin, moved to Guam with her parents and seven siblings when she was young because my grandfather was given the job of editor of the local newspaper. My father is a Chamorro, the native ethnicity of Guam, and was born and
raised here.

Growing up, I moved back and forth between Guam and the US mainland (Portland, Seattle, the SF Bay Area), but have lived here on Guam my entire adult life. It's home, and I love it, though I'll probably move to the US mainland in another year or so just for a change of pace.

Systems-Overload: Without divulging too many peronal details, how long ago did you get divorced and what would you say was the impact (if any) on you?

Leo Babauta: BatI was divorced in 2001 after about 9 years of marriage. My first two kids were from that marriage. I don't think anyone can go through a divorce without being changed by it in some way. For myself, it was a time of struggle, but also a time of renewal. It was during this time, following the divorce, that I began to find myself as a person. Not incidentally, I also found my current wife, and things have never been better.

Systems-Overload: When reading your "about" and "my story", I see that you made so many changes in your life, was there any particular catylist that motivated you to make so many changes?"

Leo Babauta: At one point in my life, just a few years ago, I was very overweight, smoking, spending a lot, not making enough money, heavily in debt, inactive for nearly a decade, disorganized ... I just wasn't happy with where I was, personally. I was also overworked with not enough time for my family, and highly stressed. I decided to make a change. I started with smoking, and my success there (after numerous failures) was a breakthrough for me. I learned a lot from that single habit change, and from those lessons I was able to implement one habit
change after another, learning and growing from each success. It began to build up momentum, and soon it was like I couldn't fail. Still haven't stopped succeeding since then.

Systems-Overload: How did you get into blogging and learn so much about how to do it? I know that zenhabits has only been around for a a little more than a year, but you had to have some knowledge about blogging prior to zenhabits.

Leo Babauta: I had been reading blogs for at least 6 months, on and off, before I decided to take the plunge myself. I read those blogs with interest, but without the thought of becoming a blogger myself -- until one day I read a great post somewhere, and thought, "You know what? I could write this!" And it was true -- with all the habit changes I had been making, I could write a dozen posts on a dozen different topics, just from stuff I'd learned and stuff that had worked for me.

So that's what I did. I started writing about what worked for me (I started out with a free Blogger account), and almost instantly, people were attracted to it. I didn't have any blogging experience beforehand, but I did have about 17 years of writing experience as a journalist. Also, I learned quickly because I studied closely the best blogs, and imitated them and figured out what works for them. I applied those lessons to my writing, incorporating the information I
wanted to write about, and experimenting a little to find the right mix for me.

Systems-Overload: I know that there was a lot of work that went into building the subscriber numbers that you have, aside from writing good posts and doing guest posts, how would you advise that newer bloggers reader a larger audience? Keep in mind that many of the biggger more popular blogs don't seem so interested in guest posts or helping to promote our blogs, as I thnk that many of them have been flooded with such requests.

Leo Babauta: I know it can be extremely difficult and frustrating to find new readers, especially when you're a small blog and no one knows about you. I don't know any magic formula, but here are some things that worked for me:

* Write extremely useful content, packed with great info. Create resources that people will want to come back to over and over again. * Study the best blogs, and the most popular posts on delicious ... these are great examples of posts that get a lot of attention. Don't just copy them, but learn from them, and see how you can do something similar with your topics.
* Guest posts. The absolute best way to advertise your writing is to give it away to other blogs. If the big blogs won't take you, aim for the smaller and medium ones. Do guest exchanges.

* Interviews. They're sometimes overdone, but it's a good way to find new readers.
* Comments on bigger blogs. Don't spam them. But a well-written comment, once in awhile, with a link back to a great post by you on a related topic, isn't a bad idea. Don't spend most of your time doing this, however, as it only pays off with a few readers at a time.
* Network with other bloggers. Make friends, link to them, write about them, do guest post exchanges. The more bloggers you're friends with, the better.
* Social media. Digg, delicious, reddit, stumbleupon and the like. They can bring you great traffic, but they're very hard to master, especially early on when you don't have a lot of readers to vote for your stuff. Don't spam the social media sites with all your posts. Just capitalize on a really popular post, especially when you get a lot of traffic from a bigger blog, by encouraging readers to bookmark it on delicious or stumbleupon. Don't shoot for digg until you have lots of subsribers or have a really amazing post that is linked to from a really huge site.


Leo recently had a post where his readers asked him 100 plus questions. This post provides a lot of other information about Leo. Feel free to post your comments about the interview. If you had five questions to ask Leo, what would they be? If you liked this article, please share it on or on Digg and pass it on to anyone that you think might appreciate it . Don't forget that you can subscribe to the blog va you rss reader of choice or via email (look at the top of the site for various options), in addition to stopping by. Thank you. :)

On Deck…

I’ll be publishing…

  • The next in my series of weight loss strategies
  • Organizing your thoughts with wikis
  • A St. Patrick’s Day surprise

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