PP 024: Leslie Samuel from BecomeABlogger.com

Leslie Samuel and I chat about the best way to build a relationship, the components of a successful mastermind group, and the importance of showing your true self on your website and blog.

.@lesliesamuel & @thekimsutton discuss masterminds and authenticity in #smallbiz: http://www.thekimsutton.com/pp024Click To Tweet

Resources Mentioned

Episode Transcription

KIM: Welcome back to another episode of Positive Productivity! This is your host, Kim Sutton. And today I am absolutely thrilled to have Leslie Samuel from BecomeABlogger.com. Leslie, thank you so much for being here.

LESLIE: Well, thank you so much for having me here. I’m glad to be here with you.

KIM: You’re absolutely making my week. Listeners, you don’t hear me say that very often, but absolutely. Like, I’ve been looking forward to this day all week. And Leslie, we are talking a little bit pre-show about kids. I warned my two older who are home right now to stay out of the office and be quiet. And I have two cats, Fame and Fortune, who listeners have heard about, and they are also separated – because there are some episodes where listeners can hear them going at it during the course of the episode.

LESLIE: Is that really their names? Fame and Fortune?

KIM: It is! Yes!

LESLIE: That is awesome, I love it!

KIM: Because God blesses me with everything I need, and I really don’t need fame and fortune besides in the form of feline, so I decided I would get it that way if in no other way.

LESLIE: I love it, I love it.

KIM: Yeah. But if any podcast listeners want to help me out in that, you know, I’m open to ideas!

LESLIE: There you go.

KIM: Yep. Well, Leslie, I know a bit about your background, and it’s absolutely awesome. But could you share about it with the listeners, please?

LESLIE: Yes, so my name is Leslie Samuel. I am from the beautiful island of Saint Martin, and I came to the U.S. to go to college. I studied biology and then did a master’s in neurobiology, and the idea was, “I’m going to go on for a Ph.D., and then I’m going to teach it up at a university. I’m going to be a university professor. So I did the master’s, and while I was doing the master’s, I realized, “Man, this research stuff, I don’t enjoy it.”

So I gave up on that dream, and when I finished my master’s, I started teaching at a high school, and it was a boarding academy – a Christian boarding academy. So we lived there, the students lived there, and we were their teachers/parents and all that good stuff.

Now, while I was there, I decided to look online for different ways to make some money. And I stumbled onto something that was called “freebie trading”, where you complete offers and you refer friends, and then you get a free iPod. And you can make some money doing that.

So I started that, and then I started a blog, because I learned about blogging and how you could use that as a platform so that people could find you, and you could build your business that way. So I built a blog teaching people about “freebie trading”. It was called “The Freebie Guy”.

And then, after I did that for a while, I realized I didn’t care about freebies. I was more enjoying the concept of blogging, so I started talking more about blogging. And then I wanted to test out this blogging concept on something completely different.

So I said, “You know what? Let me take the same principles and apply them to what I wanted to do.” You know, I was passionate about biology, I wanted to be a university professor. So I said, “I’m going to start a blog and teach what I would be teaching if I were a university professor.” So I started that blog, it’s called “Interactive Biology“, and that grew relatively rapidly. Eventually, that blog landed me a job as a university professor. I taught as a professor for three years, and then I left my job to do this blogging thing full-time, and I’ve been doing that now for the last… maybe two years and four months or so.

And I – you know, I just, I love what I do. I get to create content and put it out there and hopefully inspire others, and in my mind, if you can do that, you have the ability to change the world. And that sounds like a grand vision, but I believe you can impact one person’s life? You’ve had an impact on the world. And you never know what that impact can do.

So that’s a little bit about, you know, what I’ve been doing and how I got to where I am today.

KIM: I love it. All of it.

LESLIE: Well, thank you.

KIM: And this has been an incredible journey for you, though, I know. I mean, the people that you know and have met on this journey – I’m thinking about Pat Flynn and Michael Stelzner. It’s just… wow, you know? Can you tell me how you went from starting your blog to… are you head of training at Social Media Examiner as well?

LESLIE: Yes, I’m the head of training at Social Media Examiner.

KIM: So how did that journey happen?

LESLIE: So what happened was – for me, I’m all about relationships. And you know, when I do what I do online, it’s not just about the information, it’s about the relationships that the information can facilitate.

So I started connecting with a few people online, and it was specifically Pat Flynn and Cliff Ravenscraft that – I was listening to their podcasts, and I interviewed them and just connected with them.

And they were doing a meet up in Chicago, and I live about two hours away from Chicago. So I said, “Hey, if they’re going to be two hours, away I might as well go there and meet them.” And I went there, and I connected with them in person. I think there’s something significant about taking those online relationships offline.

So I became friends with them, and you know, just the way you become friends with anyone, and just trying to provide value to those relationships. And I remember reaching out to Cliff to help him out with a few things that he was doing.

Eventually, they were starting a mastermind group, and they asked me if I wanted to be a part. And I said, “Yeah, definitely!” So it was Pat Flynn, Mark Mason, Cliff Ravenscraft, and I, and we were in this mastermind group meeting once a week. Eventually, Mike Steltzner became a part, and Ray Edwards became a part of the mastermind group, and our relationships kind of grew there. Because you’re meeting with them every week, your relationships are going to grow.

And eventually when I was leaving my job, he knew I was leaving my job, and he offered me the opportunity to come to work with them. And I was the head – well, at that point, I was the senior manager for the Social Media Marketing Society, which was a membership site that they launched.

And eventually, as my business continued to grow, I didn’t have as much time to be the manager over there. So I moved to Head of Training, where I’m just working with the speakers to make sure they do a really good job on their presentation.

So that’s kind of like the short version of the story, but that’s how I got there.

KIM: I love it. What, really, would you say is the biggest key to having a successful mastermind? And are you all still meeting on a weekly basis?

LESLIE: Yeah, we are. We had our mastermind meeting today, actually. I think in terms of having a successful mastermind, everyone in the group needs to be committed. I’ve been a part of a number of different masterminds – in fact, I’m a part of three right now.

KIM: Wow.

LESLIE: And the ones that survive and thrive are the ones where – you know, we take this thing seriously. It’s not a, “Oh yeah, yeah. There’s a mastermind meeting today.” No, that’s on your schedule, and we’re all going to be there if at all possible. There will be some circumstances where somebody can’t be there, and they arrange that in advance. So I think the first thing is the commitment, the respect for others’ time. You know, just not showing up is not an option because we are committed to each other and committed to each other’s success.

So that’s a big part of it. And then, just having a format that you follow. You know, when do we do our mastermind meetings, at the beginning of the mastermind meetings – for the first five, ten minutes, we all share wins of the week. And then, someone takes the hot seat, and when that person is in the hot seat, they share whatever they want to share: what they’re dealing with, what they’re struggling with, or maybe some successes that they’re having in their business. And we’re all there just to feed into each other, to pour into each other.

That’s really – those are some really essential parts: so the commitment, the respect for each others’ time, and the willingness to pour into each other in a way where it’s not about you at that time, it’s about the person that you’re trying to help.

KIM: Oh, absolutely. That was one of the things that Mark Mason and I talked about his episode (listeners, if you want to listen, that was Episode Two). However, we discussed how the strongest relationships are built off of offering value and not necessarily expecting anything in return.

LESLIE: Exactly.

KIM: What is your thought about paid masterminds versus non-paid masterminds?

LESLIE: I think it’s just a different format. When it’s a non-paid mastermind, in my opinion, it’s not a situation where you know – in paid masterminds, there’s usually, like, a leader. And that person is the one that you’re paying. And maybe that person is facilitating the mastermind.

And I think that can be very effective. With an non-paying mastermind, where we’re just all committing to each other, I think there’s something special about that. Because, you know, we don’t have to do this, but we’ve all made the decision that, “You know what? I want to pour into Mark. Mark wants to pour into me. I want to pour into Mike. Mike wants to pour into me.” It’s a voluntary decision and commitment that we’ve all made. And nobody is being paid to be there, so you don’t have to be there because someone’s paying you.

Now, I say it that way, but that’s not to discredit the paid masterminds. I think paid masterminds can be very effective. But it’s just a different format. It’s a different situation, and I like when a group of people can get together, like-minded, that just want to support each other. I just love it.

KIM: Leslie, I’ll pay you to be a fly on the wall for one of the masterminds sessions.

LESLIE: Unfortunately, that’s not the way it goes.

KIM: I’m just teasing!

LESLIE: I know, I know.

KIM: I was visiting your About page, which I find absolutely fantastic (listeners you can find it at BecomeaBlogger.com/AboutMe). And something that I really haven’t brought up on the Positive Productivity podcast before this episode, actually, is my religious affiliation – which it wasn’t purposeful, I just really haven’t seen the way to bring it in yet.

But I love how you mention how good God has been to you, and then you said – I am just going over there – you said, “I know what you are thinking: ‘I came here to learn about blogging and building an online business, not to be preached to.

One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed about your podcast – and actually just about everybody in your mastermind group – is the fact that you are all very open about your Christian background, and how God does great things in your lives, and how thankful you are. I mean, it’s so refreshing to hear how open you are about your faith and not concerned about how it may affect your business.

Was that a journey for you, or did you ever doubt yourself when discussing your spirituality on your blog or on your podcast?

LESLIE: I’ll tell you the part that was a journey. The part that was a journey was not me saying, “Man, should I talk about my spirituality, or my Christianity, or my beliefs on my blog? Or will people be offended?” That wasn’t my journey, that wasn’t my – that wasn’t a thing for me.

What was a thing for me is coming to the realization that, when someone comes to my blog, they’re not just coming for information. They’re coming to my blog because, if they come and they’re coming back, it’s because they connect with me.

Now, in order for you to connect with me, I actually have to share who I am. I have to share, you know, the way I think. I have to share what I feel. I have to share, you know, the thoughts that are going through my mind. I have to share the struggles, the successes, the joys, the silly things. I have to share my personality.

So, once I realized that it was not just about putting information out there because- man, I mean – the Internet doesn’t necessarily need more information. It’s – anything you want to learn is pretty much out there. But what makes me different is the fact that I am me. What makes you different is the fact that you are you. And we were both created as different individuals.

So once I realized that there was value in sharing who I am, then everything else came naturally. Because it’s – you know, when I say that no matter what I’ve accomplished, it’s because of one simple reason: “God has been good to me”? I’m not saying that because that sounds good. I’m saying it because that’s just the way I feel. So when you read my About page, you read my thoughts, and I’m putting my thoughts out there. And I think we need to be more comfortable with just being ourselves. I think that is the problem – you know I’m, like, ranting – but I think that’s a big-

KIM: Oh, I don’t think you’re ranting at all. I think this is all what a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs need to hear.

LESLIE: Yeah, I think a big part of the problem with social media is that, way too often, we feel as if we have to be a certain way. You know, I have to post certain kinds of things because this is what people want to see.

And I’m not saying, “Don’t take into consideration what people want to see.” But I think, when it comes to the point of you no longer being authentic to who you are, that’s when we lose the power of what social media can be. So for me, it’s about sharing reality. Sharing, you know, my journey, sharing my successes, my failures, sharing the way I think – whether it’s something that you agree with or disagree with – sharing it in a respectful way. I think we should respect each other’s opinions and where they’re coming from.

And you know, I am happy if atheists listen to my podcast – and I know that there are atheists that listen to my podcast – and I’m still comfortable sharing what I share because this is just who I am. Some people are going to like it. Others are not going to like it.

I remember reading a review of my podcast where someone was just totally disgusted by the way I – well, maybe “disgusted” is a strong word – but so turned off by the way I start my podcast. They said I sound too excited and fake! And you know what? I’m just being me. And if you don’t like it, great.

I actually – when I see those kinds of things, it doesn’t bring me down. It actually makes me kind of excited, because I feel as if, “Man, I am just authentically being me. And I know I’m doing that because it’s turning some people off.” Everybody isn’t going to like me, and that’s OK.

KIM: When I had my first hater on a Facebook ad, I actually cheered.

LESLIE: Exactly!

KIM: And to talk about your podcast… And it’s “Learning with Leslie” – that will be in the show notes for listeners. And listeners, just so you know where you can find the show notes, it’s there at TheKimSutton.com/PP024 for Episode 24.

When I listen to your podcast, I absolutely love the beginning of every show. I mean, when I start listening, I get this big smile on my face. I love how you’re laughing the whole time, your energy is contagious. I can be listening at 10:00, 11:00, 12:00… Listeners, I know I talk about going to bed at a decent hour, but when I’m listening to Leslie I tend to stay up a little bit later.

LESLIE: I apologize for that! No, I’m just joking.

KIM: Well, your energy is just so contagious. And I have to tell you, the first couple episodes with your beautiful wife singing your dial and number. I was honestly thinking, “What’s up with this.

But then when I got to know the story – and I love how you share it, that this is your wife, because some people won’t even share that little nugget of information with their listeners – I became even more attached. And it’s, every single episode is more and more. So bravo to you for just being so authentic.

LESLIE: Well, thank you.

KIM: And, sorry I didn’t mean to just keep on rambling.

LESLIE: No, no, that’s fine.

KIM: When I opened up my About page on my business site – which is SuttonStrategicSolutions.com – when I actually stopped trying to fit into the cookie cutter, a lot more people started contacting me. I mean, I actually put on there that we are Christian, and this is the motto that we live by – which is Philippians 4:13, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

You’re right, not everybody is going to appreciate it, but the fact of the matter is, we’re not putting down any other religions. We’re just sharing little gems that we have in our own, and some people will appreciate them, and others will not, and hopefully they’ll find nuggets and other episodes that they can take and do greatness with in their everyday life.

LESLIE: It’s all about sharing who we are. I think people connect with the person. They don’t connect with the information. And yeah, there is a level of connection with the information, but like I said, they can get that information anywhere. So, if you can share what you believe in a way that the right person connects with you, I think there’s so much power in that.

And when I say power, I don’t mean, “Hey, look at me I’m all-powerful” or anything of that sort. But I think it gives you the ability to influence people. And if you have pure motives where that’s concerned, in terms of the type of influence that you want to have on people, I think we need more of that. There’s so much out there that we don’t need, that – we need that, you know, shining light coming from people like you and people like me. Because this world needs it, man.

KIM: It definitely does. Leslie, what have been some of the most – I want to change this question up a little bit. What have been some of the most funny times in the running of your business since you started it? Do you have any hilarious moments that stick out in your mind?

LESLIE: Hilarious moments! Wow, let’s see. There’s nothing that comes to mind right now in terms of hilarity. You know, the truth is this: I have fun with my business. And I think the most fun I have is when I actually take my business offline, when I go and I attend events, and it’s not necessarily about the business that we’re hanging out and talking – we’re just being silly.

You know, I remember once – actually, this is probably the most hilarious moment right here: I went to BlogWorld in New York, and I met some friends there, and we went walking around, just having some fun. And you know, we went to a restaurant and got some food – and I mean, it was just hilarious. We were having a blast! And to this day, those relationships are some of the best relationships that I have with anyone that I’ve met online, because we just had so much fun together. We were just walking down the streets of New York – and we encountered some really strange things that we don’t talk about! But it did something to really connect us together, and I just love that.

You know, for me, I’ve left my full-time job. I enjoyed my full time job. If I leave a full-time job ,where you know I was a university professor and really enjoying that, to build a business? I really need to have fun with what I do. Because then it’s not worth it, I think, for your work to be boring? It’s kind of sad. But if you could actually enjoy the work that you do? Man, you’re going to want to wake – I mean, when Monday comes around, it’s not, “Man, I have to go back to work”, it’s “Aw, man! I get to go back to work!” You know? I just really love that.

KIM: I love that too. And actually, I was talking to my husband about that earlier this week. As parents of five, some days are just like, “Ugh,” you know?

LESLIE: Oh, I believe that.

KIM: But I reminded him that, we don’t have to do this. We get to do this.

LESLIE: Exactly.

KIM: We had a case of the Mondays, I won’t deny it. And yeah, some weekends – as I already told you before the show, if you ever want a couple more, I’m not that far from Chicago, and I’ll be glad to drive them right up to you!

So, what are – I know you’re doing a lot more traveling, and that you do more traveling now running your own business than you did when you were employed full-time. What are some of your “do not miss” events that you attend during the year that you would recommend to other entrepreneurs who are interested in blogging or social media or podcasting?

LESLIE: Hands down, Social Media Marketing World. If I only go to one event every year – and this is going to sound a little biased, because now I work with Social Media Examiner – but if I were to only be able to go to one event? That is hands down the event that I’m going to. And I will feel as if, you know, I will be satisfied with that because the quality of the event, the quality of the speakers, it’s a little on the pricier end, but what you get for what you pay? I mean, it is just the… I’ve been to many conferences. It is the best organized conference I have ever experienced.

And you know, just as an example, one of the things that they do is they have networking ambassadors. And their job while they are there is to help you connect with the people that you want to connect with. And they are so heavy on networking, that they do all kinds of things to help make networking easier. So even if you’re an introvert, you’re going to be networking because they make it so that you almost have to, and you’re actually going to enjoy doing it. So that’s the number-one event for me every single year.

Besides that, the other events that I go to is just based on, you know, whether I’m speaking at an event or anything of that sort. This is the only one that I’ve 100 percent committed to. There’s another one that was called Digital CoLab that’s a much smaller event, usually about 100 people. And I really enjoy that one, but I don’t know that they’re going to be continuing after this year – at least not in the same format, so it’s not one that I can recommend. But those are the two that, every year I just go to those. And whatever else comes up, then I go to those as well.

KIM: When you started your business, did you have any intention of being a speaker.

LESLIE: When I started, no I didn’t even – I didn’t know that I would be doing what I’m doing now. I started this side thing giving away, I mean, working with freebie web sites. I mean, how does that lead to speaking at events?

It wasn’t on the itinerary, but as I started learning more about blogging and started teaching about blogging – you know, I’m a teacher. So you know, now that I’ve left my job, I’m still a teacher, but I teach in a different format. And for me, teaching in person is something that I just love doing. I will never get rid of that “teacher” part of me.

So when I first started? No. But as things evolved, it became very clear that that is something that’s going to become a bigger part of my business.

KIM: I am beginning my journey into trying to start speaking, so I’m really fascinated by that. But to be respectful of your time, I would love to jump into one more topic. And that is your family life because as a husband and as a father of two, right?


KIM: I would love to know how you balance – and personally, I don’t really think that work-life balance is necessarily possible.

LESLIE: Uh-huh.

KIM: But how do you balance, as best you can, your business and your family?

LESLIE: So, that’s a tricky question that has evolved over time. Because when I was working, there was absolutely no balance, because I was – before I left my job, I was a professor in a doctoral program. I was working on a Ph.D., because that was one of the requirements – they were paying for me to do a Ph.D. I was running my business on the side, my wife was at home, so she was a stay-at-home mom, and she’s still at home today.

But I had to make sure that we would eat. And my job wasn’t giving us enough money to pay all our bills and do all of the things that we needed to do, so I had my business on the side. So I was constantly going, and that was part of the reason why I ended up leaving my job.

Now, when I left my job, now I needed to hustle, right? I needed to really work to help this business survive, and then eventually thrive. So when I initially left my job, once again: still no balance. Now if you fast forward now two years, now that the business has grown significantly and I have more time on my hands, and I don’t have to be running around like a chicken with my head cut off – this is how it looks for me right now:

In the morning, I wake up. I go to the gym. I exercise before anyone wakes up, and then I come home, and I make breakfast for the family. And then my son wakes up around 8:00, and between 8:00 and 10:00, I’m just with my son. And my wife, when she wakes up she’s with our daughter, and we’re kind of spending some time together. We eat breakfast together, and then I take my son to daycare.

And then it’s time to work, so I go to work from after 10:00 to between 5:00 and 6:00. And then at that point, it becomes family time. So I hang out with my family, we eat dinner together at around 6:00, and we’re with them until 8:00 when they go to bed.

So I get to spend time with them in the morning, I get to spend time with them in the evening, and then I get to spend time with my wife at night. And sometimes I work a little bit at night, too, depending on the day. But that’s kind of how I do it right now. On Saturday, it’s no work we’re all family on that day. On Sunday, I do work – and we’re negotiating what that looks like on Sundays – but that’s generally how we do it.

For me, the big thing is this – and this is something that we’ve been really trying to work on more, because what used to happen is, yes, I’m with my family, and I have my phone. And any time a message comes in, I check that and all that good stuff. Now what we’re doing is: once it’s family time, that’s it. If we’re eating together, the phones aren’t even in the room, it’s just us there. And for me, it’s about being intentional with the time when you’re with your family.

So that’s how we try to balance it out right now, and it’s – quite frankly, it’s working better now than it has ever worked since I started my online business.

KIM: That’s so fabulous. I guess I’ll find out how many clients of mine listen to the podcast when I say that – I’ve actually been making my Skype make me appear as though I’m invisible or not signed on on the weekend, even though it’s still on.


KIM: But I think I love what you’re doing, is just removing yourself from the phone. And that’s something that we need to get better at, even around dinner.

LESLIE: Yeah, it’s tricky. I mean, we were literally having that conversation three days ago. So this is not, “Hey, this is what we’ve been doing for the last year, or anything of that sort.” Three days ago, we decided, “Hey, let’s just not have the phones in the room at all. And you know, just be there.” And that’s what we’ve been doing for the last few days.

Before that, my phone might be in my pocket, and I’m still with my family – but once in a while, I might be tempted to kind of sneak away and look at why my phone just vibrated. So now we just remove the temptation, and I really like that.

KIM: Absolutely. Leslie, this has been such an honor to have you here. Where can listeners find you online and connect and all that great stuff?

LESLIE: Yeah, definitely. So my blog is at BecomeaBlogger.com, and you can find quite frankly everything I do there. If you wanted to get started with with a blog of your own, or you want some support as you build your blog, I have my Become a Blogger Coaching Club that they can try out for free for 30 days, and that is at BloggerCoaching.com. And they get my courses, they get to get on coaching calls with me and ask questions and all of that good stuff. So they can check that out at BloggerCoaching.com. Those are the two places.

KIM: I wish I had asked about that earlier, because that sounds so fascinating. And now I’m going to have to go check it out!

LESLIE: Yeah, sure!

KIM: BloggerCoaching.com, listeners. That again will be in the show notes, which you can find at TheKimSutton.com//PP024. Well, thank you again Leslie. This has been fantastic, and again a highlight of my day, and I’m just so happy that you were not interrupted by kids or cats from my end!

LESLIE: Well, thank you so much for having me on here. It was an honor.