10 Must Do’s to Create a Kick Ass Business on Your Terms: The Down and Dirty from Dinner with Leo Babauta of Zen Habits

Written by Scott October 13, 2010

Leo Babauta Life on Your Terms

“Instead of focusing on how much you can accomplish, focus on how much you can absolutely love what you’re doing.”

-Leo Babauta

Average Read Time: 4.2 Minutes

Last weekend I sat down to dinner with Leo Babauta in San Francisco.

Four years ago he started ZenHabits. Within a year he had 26k subscribers and quit his job. Today his follower’s are at over 200k and Time Magazine recently named his blog #1 of 2010. He has since published four eBooks and one print book, The Power of Less (The best guide to simplicity I’ve read). He now fully supports his wife and six kids.

Leo is living life on his terms like few people are.

I first heard about him earlier this year when I started getting serious about taking Reading For Your Success to the next level. Five months ago I joined a blogging group of his, The A-List Blogging Club.

Since then, as a result of the mentorship, writing courses and business model building (and a ton of work), I’ve written for 10 large sites (including a Zen Habits article) grown from 110 subscribers to over 1,300 today, and am mountains closer to having a viable business. He and his business partner Mary Jaksch are incredible teachers. Their guidance makes things happen. Period.

Sitting down to dinner with he, Mary and a few others was a game changer for me. His thoughts on business, simplicity and living on your terms were profound. While they apply directly to the blogging business, they are just as relevant to any off-the-beaten-path Passion Pursuit, so listen up.

10 Keys to a Kick Ass Business on Your Terms:

1. Be authentic. Everything about Leo screamed authenticity. If everyone else is doing it, then he wants to find another way. If they’re marketing message is yelling then he’ll be quiet. If they promote by affiliates then perhaps he’ll stick to word of mouth. Being different is the best way to stand out, as few people have the courage. If you stick true to your authentic self, you won’t even have to worry about it.

2. Focus. When Leo first started he wrote one article for ZenHabits and one for another blog every day. That’s 14 articles a week and he still had a day job and a family of 8 to tend to. That focus is inhuman. Do one thing exceptionally well instead of everything poorly. This is especially a challenge for entrepreneurs always coming up with new ideas.

The power of laser-like focus is often underrated. Leo’s next book is on just that. Know your bandwidth, commit to it, then put your head down and accept no other outcome.

3. Have a powerful story. Everyone has a story. Something that makes them leap off the page. But few take the time to creatively shape and tell it to others. It’s your credibility piece. Your lifeline for getting followers–whether they are investors for your startup or subscribers for your blog. What makes you so special? Every step we take builds our story, and it’s never too early to start telling it. Here’s a sample of mine (halfway down the page).

4. Share how you did it. Whether you’re writing, coaching or building a business, it’s not enough to just tell people how to do something. First qualify yourself. Tell how it worked for you. How you made it real. Then you’ve got listeners. This is your story in action.

5. Be insanely helpful. If what you’ve got to offer isn’t ridiculously useful to others, it’s going to be a tough road, no matter what you’re building. For blogging this is writing something people can directly put to action in some way. If you aren’t helping, you’re not doing your part. The world will notice.

6. Helping another entrepreneur is always a good thing. Helping does not stop at your customers. It’s just as important for others in the space. Very few people are direct competitors. Everyone else stands to learn and help each other to success. Whether it’s blogging or running my investment partnership, I have a rule that if someone is more of a beginner than me and needs help, I am here to give it to them.

But don’t be afraid to help those more successful than you either. It’s an awesome way to connect. In the blog world this might mean offering to write a guest post for them or promote a product of theirs you believe in. It feels outstanding and it always comes back.

7. Know what moves the needle. Be dedicated to it. In blogging, most people come for good content, nothing else. Leo has tested every possible way of building a blogging business. He realized one thing: there is no better use of your time than writing awesomely useful content for your readers.

As fun as it is to waste time messing with widgets and surfing around, each of us knows what’s best for our business. It may be having investor meetings, talking with customers or designing new products. If you’re not sure, usually it’s the most challenging or uncomfortable item on the list. Figure it out and apply unreal focus to it. The rest can and should be outsourced (if it’s necessary at all).

8. Reserve your best time for the most important. Now that you know what moves the needle in your business, figure out your absolute most productive time of the day and do nothing but your core work then. For most it’s early in the morning. Before you do anything, crush at least an hour of your best work–with NO distractions. Then, no matter what, the rest of the day is gravy. (I started writing this at 6:30 this morning, right after I rolled out of bed.)

9. The best product is the one you create yourself. While there are all kinds of affiliate products to sell on the web, the best product is the one you can fully get behind and endorse. Nothing screams this like the one you create from scratch. Leo is a purist here.

10. Don’t be me. This was Leo’s most powerful takeaway of the bunch. While modeling the expert is one of the best ways to reach success in your space, this doesn’t mean becoming a parrot. It goes right back to being authentic.

Leo is the model for success for countless web entrepreneurs, but that isn’t a free pass to copy his blog layout, call it ZenPractices and start running with it. Nor should you want to. There is huge appeal in uniqueness. It’s crucial to get inspiration from others. But you must find your own voice to be successful. Especially if you want an authentic following. Be your category of one.

Being ‘Rich’

At one point Leo casually mentioned “I’m not rich or anything” in response to the success of his business. It made me laugh.

After a few hours with him, it was clear that he is as rich as they come. Rich in the sense that he is doing things his own way. Living life on his terms. And he’s made it work.

If you haven’t figured it out already, true wealth has very little to do with the zero’s in your bank account, and everything to do with the hours you have to spend the way you want.

As Tim Ferriss says, the currency of the New Rich is time and freedom. Most think they need to sacrifice their life to get the money to achieve either one. Only too late do they find out they’re wrong.

I don’t think I’ve spent face time around anyone more rich than Leo. It’s refreshing. An inspiration.

And with the above, it’s possible.

Thanks Leo.

“The way I define happiness is being the creator of your experience, choosing to take pleasure in what you have, right now, regardless of the circumstances, while being the best you that you can be.”

-Leo Babauta

What is the most important focus for your business? What practices have created success? Please tell us about it and join the conversation in the comments below.

Other Resources to Help You Along the Way:

Leo’s book: The Power of Less

Leo’s eBooks:

My article on Zen Habits: How to Summit Life’s Everyday Mountains

Photo Courtesy of: ThePowerOfLess.com

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