“Learn from the masters” when writing a book that sparks a movement, an interview with authors Sara Connell & Leon Logothetis

Learn from the masters: One of the most inspiring stories I’ve read about is how Nelson Mandela invited his jailers to his inauguration once he was free and about to become president of South Africa. Here is a man who was in prison for 27 years and he decided to hold others over his own […]

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Learn from the masters: One of the most inspiring stories I’ve read about is how Nelson Mandela invited his jailers to his inauguration once he was free and about to become president of South Africa. Here is a man who was in prison for 27 years and he decided to hold others over his own ego. I would tell writers to never stop learning and learn from the masters.

As part of my series about “How to write a book that sparks a movement,” I had the great pleasure of interviewing Leon Logothetis.

Leon Logothetis is a global adventurer, best-selling author, motivational speaker, and internationally renowned as “The Kindness Guy.”

His life wasn’t always this way. As a former broker in London he felt uninspired and chronically depressed. Profoundly influenced by the movie The Motorcycle Diaries, Leon decided to make a radical life change and in 2005 gave it all up for a life on the road.

He began his journey traveling with nothing but the clothes on his back and $5. By relying on the kindness of strangers, Leon traveled from Times Square to the Hollywood Sign, and later across Europe, an experience he documented in his hit book and National Geographic International’s TV series Amazing Adventures Of A Nobody.

In 2015 he produced a series that streams on Netflix and published The Kindness Diaries about his experiences circumnavigating the globe on his vintage yellow motorbike ‘Kindness One,’ giving life-changing gifts along the way to unsuspecting good Samaritans. On the second season he travels from Alaska to Argentina in his vintage yellow VW Beetle, ‘Kindness Two.’

His fifth book Go Be Kind: 28 1/2 Adventures Guaranteed to Make You Happier now available.

Thank you so much for joining us! Can you share the “backstory” about how you grew up?

I was born in London and as a kid, I always loved storytelling. I would imagine being in magical faraway places I had never been and reading about adventures I someday hoped to take. I was also bullied in school by teachers and peers alike. I carried that negativity with me well into adulthood and it left me feeling depressed, angry and disconnected. At my lowest point I said enough was enough and I decided to quit my day job to travel the world searching for human connection. I haven’t looked back since.

When you were younger, was there a book that you read that inspired you to take action or changed your life? 

The earliest book I remember having a profound impact on me was The Drama of a Gifted Child by Alice Miller. It’s a book about making sense of the decisions we make as adults and how they root from our experiences as kids. For a long time, I didn’t know why I couldn’t get over that hump in my life that stopped me from doing what I loved. This book was the catalyst for my healing journey. A journey that continues to this day through my writing and adventures…

What was the moment or series of events that made you decide to bring your message to the greater world?

I often write about feeling truly “seen”. The first time I felt this was when I met an after-school tutor named Mrs. Mann. She was the first person in my life who I felt truly believed in me. Those words “I believe in you Leon” helped me believe in myself. I knew I had to help others feel as empowered as Mrs. Mann made me feel. Years later I stumbled upon the film The Motorcycles Diaries, which is a romanticized version of Che Guevara’s travels in South America. I left the theater and I got the idea for my first adventure, going from Times Square to the Hollywood sign on $5 a day. This led to my first book and my first step to sharing my message with the world.

What impact did you hope to make when you wrote this book? 

My hope was that my book would inspire others go out into their communities spreading kindness, have life changing adventures and become better (epic) people from it. The book is a journal of sorts that asks you to live outside of your comfort zone and interact with those around you in a positive way that creates real change. Readers can track this change and progress as they try to become a happier, more fulfilled people.

Did the actual results align with your expectations? 

I do think the results aligned because I was able to do the adventures in the book and felt the positive shift when I was done. I’ll tell you a funny story I was on Good Morning America with Michael Strahan and Sara Haines and they decide to do one of the adventures in the book live on the air. They did something called “Kindness Cell Phone Roulette” where you pick someone random on your phone and tell them how they have made your life better. Sara ended up calling Joy Behar, her old co-host from The View, by the end of the call they were both saying how much they loved each other. It was such a surreal moment that something I wrote was being played out to millions of people. If this can happen in a studio in New York I know it can happen anywhere in the world.

What moment let you know that your book had started a movement? 

I do a lot of speaking events at schools and kids often come up to me after my speech. A kid came up to me and said “DJ Marshmello was my hero. But after reading your book you’re my new hero.” I was stunned because when I was a teenager my dream was to be a DJ. I dreamt that some day I would be famous, and people would worship me as their music hero. I’m exaggerating (sort of) but my point is when I was this young chap’s age, I never would have picked The Kindness Guy over a DJ. Now here I was at a small school in California hearing just that. It was a small way I knew this book was making a difference.

What kinds of things did you hear right away from readers?

At first, I received messages from people telling me how the book helped them connect with others. A lot of educators also connected with me about how they are going to use the book in their classroom. People often tell me their kindness stories and why they connected with the message of the book.

What are the most frequent things you hear from readers about your book now? Are they the same? Different? 

The messages have stayed the same and they remind me of the impact one book can have on so many. The wave of kindness will hopefully continue long after they have read the book.

What is the most moving or fulfilling experience you’ve had as a result of writing this book? 

It’s a simple story but it pulled at my heart. I received a social media message from a little boy in the UK. He couldn’t have been more than 5 years old and he was standing in his flat. He said, “Hi Leon, when your kind it makes me be kind.” It gave me hope that more kids would feel like him and when the choice arises on being kind or not, they choose to be kind. It goes back full circle, starting as a bullied child who set out to change people’s lives, to empower them. Now here was the proof in this little boy.

Do you feel there are drawbacks to writing a book that starts such colossal conversation and change? 

Like everyone in the world I have bad days and bad things happen. When you write a book you put yourself out there, you’re vulnerable. There is always going to be people that don’t like your writing and they will voice it. You must take the good with the bad and understand that anything worth doing is not going to be easy. If you’re going to try to change the world through writing you have to be willing to shake things up with your message. To challenge yourself and deal with any consequences that may come with that.

Can you articulate why you think books in particular have the power to create movements, revolutions, and true change?

Books become your friend of sorts. They introduce you to people and adventures you could only dream of. They also show you the power we have as humans. We can read about Nelson Mandel, Mohamed Ali and Winston Churchill and see how in the face of adversity they did what they thought was right to help others. This is the power of books, to empower us with knowledge and examples of real people making real changes.

What is the one habit you believe contributed the most to you becoming a bestselling writer? 

Perseverance is the one thing that has helped me get through the ups and downs. I follow the words of Winston Churchill and I recommend anyone who writes do the same: Never, never, never, give up. When I first started people told me that kindness won’t sell. You can’t be successful and be kind. I didn’t get offers to publish my book or to air my shows, but I never stopped. I would take the feedback, learn, adapt and try again. Over and over until finally someone noticed and helped me spread my message.

What challenge or failure did you learn the most from in your writing career? 

I’ve had many challenges and failures in my writing over the years. Mainly people not believing in my writing or being told I wasn’t good enough. Like I mentioned the most important thing I did was never giving up. That’s it. I kept going and eventually people started to connect with my message. I stayed true to who I am and what I believe.

Many aspiring authors would love to make an impact similar to what you have done. What are the 5 things writers needs to know if they want to spark a movement with a book?

Write with your heart not with your head: On one of my adventures I met a homeless man named Tony. I was trying to get around the world relying only on kindness. Here I was doing a social experiment asking a homeless man for a place to stay or some food. He ended up feeding me, giving me clothes and letting me stay with him in his encampment for the night. He taught me to always come from your heart. If a man with nothing gave me so much why couldn’t I do the same.

Have a message you believe: I was once working on a project and I decided that I was going to solely concentrate on the adventure and not tie it around a casue of kindness… It ended up being a complete disaster and it made me realize that kindness was my cause. If I don’t have a message I believe in, behind my projects, I lack the drive it takes to make it a true success.

Have passion in what you do: There have been so many times during my adventures that I wanted to give up. These are the experiences that eventually lead to my books. If I gave up, then I wouldn’t have things to write about. But my passion always pushed me through. Have passion and you won’t talk yourself out of what you’re meant to do.

Learn from the masters: One of the most inspiring stories I’ve read about is how Nelson Mandela invited his jailers to his inauguration once he was free and about to become president of South Africa. Here is a man who was in prison for 27 years and he decided to hold others over his own ego. I would tell writers to never stop learning and learn from the masters.

Be kind to yourself: I was always so hard on myself for not writing as many pages as I needed that day, but I found that forcing myself to write or being anxious about not writing enough lead to uninspired writing. Don’t be so hard on yourself and you will get the best results.

The world, of course, needs progress in many areas. What movement do you hope someone (or you!) starts next? 

My hope is that one of these kids that sends me messages about how they love kindness or that one of the students at my speeches creates the next kindness movement. One the pales mine in comparison and creates such an impact that it lives on long after I’m gone.

Thank you so much for these insights. It was a true pleasure to do this with you.

Follow Leon @thekindnessguy on InstagramFacebookand @LeonLogothetis on Twitter.

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