Goins, Writer

On Writing, Ideas, and Making a Difference

Interview with Leo Babauta, Author of Zen Habits

Today, I’m interviewing one of my favorite bloggers Leo Babauta. Leo is a productivity guru and author of several books and blogs, most notably of which is Zen Habits, one of the 50 best websites of 2011, according to Time Magazine. Here’s my interview with Leo:

Leo BabautaJeff: So, Leo, what are you up to these days?

Leo: I recently wrote a book called, The Effortless Life, which I plan to publish soon.

I wrote it publicly — people could watch me write it live, and help edit, via Google Docs.

It was a lot of fun.

Jeff: I love hearing how bloggers got their start. How did you begin Zen Habits? What was the purpose?

Leo: I started it in 2007 as a log of some of the changes I’d been making, and a way to share the things I’d been learning about changing habits and changing my life.

Jeff: You know, the way you approach blogging is different from other bloggers. You don’t blog about blogging, like Darren Rowse or even Chris Brogan. You talk about productivity and life and inner peace. Why?

Leo: Readers come to Zen Habits to read about improving their lives, not about blogging. I started an online course about blogging so that I could help other bloggers, but I learned early on not to write about blogging for people who didn’t care about it.

Jeff: You’ve made a living off of blogging and selling eBooks. Is there a secret to becoming a full-time blogger? How did you do it?

Leo: It’s not a secret. Create very useful content that helps people solve problems they really want to solve, and do only that. On a regular basis.

This is the only thing I do, and I do it as consistently as I can.

Jeff: Interesting that you bring up content. Where do you stand on the whole “content is king” debate? Is it true or just a cliche?

Leo: Content is the only thing. Everything else is just distraction. This is why Zen Habits has almost nothing but content — and a few links in the side to help you find the best content on the site.

Jeff: I am always interested by what others are finding interesting. What fun and exciting things do you see happening on the Internet these days?

Leo: For writers like me, there’s never been a more exciting time. Blogging, Twitter, Google+, and all the other social media all amount to the same basic thing: you can publish easier than ever before, and get feedback instantly like never before.

This has been, and continues to be, revolutionary.

We have more freedom, and the instant feedback helps us to hone our writing in ways we could never do in the vacuum that used to surround us.

Jeff: Do you have any new projects on the horizon?

Leo: I’m going to finish publishing The Effortless Life and see what happens. I don’t usually plan very far in advance.

Jeff: Cool. Lastly, what advice do you have for someone who wants to write and sell an eBook (as you’ve done)?

Leo: Have a lot of fun doing it. The monetary reward is nice, but the fun of writing and publishing it is more important.

Be sure also to focus on the reader problem that you’re solving with the ebook, and do nothing but help them with that problem.

* * *

For more about Leo, read his blog and check out his book Focus, an excellent manifesto for a distracted generation (there is a free and paid version on his website). Also, check out his latest: The Effortless Life (affiliate link)

About Jeff Goins

I write books and help writers get their work out into the world. I am the best-selling author of four books, including The Art of Work. Each week, I send out a newsletter with free tips on writing and creativity.

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  • “The fun of writing is more important” = excellent advice. Thanks, and great interview!

  • “Have a lot of fun doing it. The monetary reward is nice, but the fun of writing and publishing it is more important.” 

    I think we all need to be reminded to have fun every once in a while. But really, I love this quote. If you don’t love what you’re doing, (especially when it comes to something creative, like writing) why do it? 

    I understand sometimes you don’t have much of a choice, with bills needing to be paid and all, but I feel like nowadays a backlash is starting against hating your job and dreading going to work every morning. All the money in the world won’t make you happy if you hate what you’re doing with your life. 

  • Moe

    Fantastic interview. I’ve been a big fan of Zen habits for quite some time. I love his perspective about content:

    “Content is the only thing. Everything else is just distraction”

    What a way to look at things. 

    • yeah, that was good. deeeeeep… 😉

      • So is content king or is it not? I like Leo’s perspective on it. I think deep down I want to believe content is king, that there is a “quiet way to build influence”, that everything else is just a “distraction.” It sounds nice and all, but is it really true? 

        I remember reading some articles on copyblogger that content is no longer king. Or that it is not quite king, with either clarity or context being the new king.  

        Some clarity is needed on this subject once and for all. While the debate is not really affecting how I do things (I’m focusing on tribe building), I’d still like to here everyone’s thoughts on this. 

        Who thinks content is king? Does everyone agree with Leo here? I’d like to know. 

        • I like what Sonia Simone says: “Content is king; relationships are queen.”

  • Nice!  I like that he is all about helping people.  We live in a messy world and live messy lives.  If we can figure out this thing called life together, it is worth the effort.

    • yeah. being helpful is such an important way to build trust.

  • Thanks for the interview!  I look forward to following Zen Habits now, too.  My life could surely use some good habits.

  • Awesome interview, this really helps and encourages a new author/writer like me to focus on the content and not worry about the money.

    • yeah, Leo’s awesome, and he’s definitely made it work.

  • Nailed it as usual Jeff.

    I’d give a triple thumbs up … if it weren’t for damn genetics.

  • Dude. 

    That is all.

  • Enjoyed this short interview.  Leo’s answers are simple and meaningful, but that’s not really surprising as the author of Zen Habits.

  • Hi Jeff, great interview. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    • thanks, dude. my pleasure. thanks to Leo for doing it!

  • He sure is one of my favorites too Jeff! 

    I love his simplicity and the way he reaches out to all of us, and so very different from the others who are in a rush to make money or contacts etc. And this is what has made him reach where he is today!Awesome interview, and it sure inspires and motivates us all Jeff. I was part of his Google Doc project too while he was writing his new book, and was amazed at the very idea of going  public- the way he did. I did think it was very innovative, different, and reached to the masses as well!Thanks for sharing with all of us 🙂

    • That’s cool that you got to be a part of it.

  • Nicely done, Jeff. Entertaining and enriching!

  • I think the fun factor is the most important. I don’t know that I’ll ever make a living writing/blogging (it would be nice), but it’s not my goal. I write because it is so much fun and I get a little adrenaline rush every time I click “publish”.

  • Pingback: Six Ways to Ask Better Questions in Interviews | The Write Practice()

  • Matt

    Great content consistently that solves problems – simple advice, but powerful if applied!

  • A great article, I do not think I read it only once.