by Shandi Pace
Leonard Kim endured a troubling family life at a young age, which led to professional and personal setbacks throughout his career. He lived with his grandparents for most of his childhood until his grandfather passed away. Leonard’s life with them was full of love, but he became confused after his grandfather’s passing and wasn’t sure how to handle the grief. He had a large amount of pain that grew over time, which led him to lash out as he searched for admiration.
“I looked for that sense of approval and sense of love that my grandfather gave me, but probably in the wrong areas and not really even being able to find it,” Leonard said.
Once his grandfather passed away, Leonard moved in with his mother. When living with his grandparents, Leonard’s mother visited once or twice a year around the holidays. They would take trips to the store, but they didn’t spend a lot of time together. It felt like moving in with a stranger.
Financial instability is what Leonard remembers most about living with his mother. As his mother grew up, she stopped working random jobs and opening her own toy store. When 9/11 happened, it affected his mother’s business, as most people changed their buying habits. Sales declined each month, to the point that his mother would have to figure out ways to liquidate her inventory to pay their rent. They eventually had to sell all the furniture in their apartment just to make ends meet.
By 2005, Leonard’s mother moved to Hawaii, and he stayed behind in California. During his twenties, Leonard started to make decent money, but he didn’t feel like it was enough. As the economy changed, he tried multiple business ventures that inevitably failed, which led to being evicted from his home. These insecurities led him to move back in with his grandmother.
Leonard spent months on end lying in bed, depressed about where his life had taken him. Life seemed like a dead end. “There was no future for me,” Leonard said.
On November 20, 2011, Leonard sent his ex-girlfriend a letter about wanting to commit suicide. She reached out to talk to him and talked him out of that plan. After breaking his ankle, Leonard didn’t know what he wanted his life to look like. For three months, he looked back on his life and tried to write about private moments he could remember.
In 2013, Leonard turned to writing publicly. He started publishing his writing online, with no objectives or expectations; he just wanted to write. As he read other people’s posts, someone shared one of his articles to their followers. This notice gave him a spark to continue to write. Leonard began writing all the time, during lunch breaks, on the subway, any time he could. He managed to amass millions of readers and thousands of followers on social media. He even became a Quora top writer.
Leonard points to “narrogence” and fear as the two reasons why he struggled to succeed. People are naive and arrogant about what it takes to really be successful in business. The natural tendency with fear is to let it consume and end up not doing anything about it. This toxic combination was what happened to Leonard.
After gaining such a large online presence, Leonard realized he needed to market himself. He set up a website and marketed his own personal brand. These marketing tactics led to expanding his reach by writing for some major news outlets. He ultimately met with a former business partner to start a company to help people build their personal brands, get featured in publications, and grow their social media following.
Leonard is now the co-author of the book Ditch the Act: Reveal the Surprising Power of the Real You for Greater Success and has travelled around the country as a public speaker, sharing his experience with depression.
“You just have to go and do something about it. Like actually take an action and maybe turn off your brain for a little bit. Not actually think about what you’re doing but do the action to actually get yourself out of the fearful event,” Leonard said.
For more information on Leonard Kim, check out his website.
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