How to Grow Your Business With a $0 Marketing Budget

How do you grow your business if you don’t have a budget set aside for marketing? You can only get to the front page of ProductHunt or Reddit so many times with your core product or service.

One of my favorite strategies for growth is through podcasting. No, I’m not talking about launching your own podcast but instead being a guest on interview-style shows.

In 2015, when I started Oscar Hamilton, my marketing budget was nonexistent. First, I was able to leverage my own personal network and get the first clients. In less than two months, I went from 4 to 12 paying clients by appearing on other people’s podcasts.

Here are a few podcasts that I did:

Whatever niche your business is in, there are thousands of interview-style podcasts out there with massive and highly engaged audiences who would love to chat with you. By doing these podcasts interviews you’ll be able to:

  • Get targeted traction to your business
  • Grow your own personal brand
  • Get connected with interesting and influential people
  • Become the go-to expert in the industry
  • A juicy backlink for SEO purposes

A friend of mine appeared on John Lee Dumas’, Entrepreneur on Fire podcast and after the episode went live, within a week, he was invited to be interviewed for 50+ other podcasts. To this day, he still gets a few a few interview requests a week because of appearing on John’s podcast.

It’s not a coincidence, that entrepreneurs like Tony Robbins, Guy Kawasaki, and Seth Godin do more podcast interviews than TV appearances.

Without further ado, here’s the 5-step process to land podcast interviews and grow your business rapidly with a $0 marketing budget.

Step #1: Put together your one-pager

A good place to start is to put together a simple document that highlights who you are and what you’ve accomplished. This is your sales pitch and ideally, you want to have some sort of narrative, that would spark the interest of podcast hosts.

If you consider yourself very modest and think that you haven’t accomplished a lot of things worth mentioning, think about the stuff that makes you unique.

Think about the experiences, challenges, and life-lessons that you’ve gone through that would interest the listener. There’s only one you, and every single person has a different story to tell.

Here are a few things you could include in your one-pager:

  • Your background
  • Things you’ve accomplished
  • An image of you
  • Suggestions for topics & questions in the interview

Once it’s ready, save it as a PDF and you’ll attach it to the pitch you’ll be sending in a second.

Step #2: Find a partner in crime

In order to land twice as many interviews, you want to find a buddy who is also in the process of building their business.

Every time you appear on a podcast, after the formal interview part, you’ll tell the host about this one friend you have that would be amazing for their show and your podcasting buddy will do the same thing for you. Since referrals are the key in the podcasting world, you’ll secure twice as many interviews with the same amount of work.

Step #3: Put together a list of potential podcasts

Now is the time to find interview-style podcasts that you’ll reach out to. Head over to iTunes podcast section and pick a category that is closest to your niche.

As you scroll down, click on “All Podcasts” and you’ll be able to filter the podcasts by “Release Date”.If you haven’t done a lot of interviews in the past, it’s a good idea to first go after “smaller” podcasts for two reasons:

  • You’ll get more comfortable with doing interviews.
  • You’ll get more social-proof that you can later on use for “bigger” shows.

As you are browsing through hundreds of podcasts, there are three things that you should look at to decide whether a particular podcast is a good fit for you or not:

  1. Amount of reviews: Since iTunes doesn’t publicly show the number of listeners for a particular show, a good indicator for active listenership is to look for the amount of reviews a podcast has. Aim for podcasts with at least 30+ reviews.
  2. Release date: The podcast that you are looking at should have published an episode in the past few weeks.
  3. Is it interview-style show? Skim through the description or sometimes even the title to make sure that the podcast features guests, and isn’t just a one person talk show.

Something to note is that there are some shows with active and high listenership with a low amount of reviews. This is an exception in most cases.

When making your hit-list, it’s a good idea to keep track of everything in a simple excel or a doc file.

Step #4: Reach out

When I was running my first podcast, I did close to 200 interviews with entrepreneurs. I would get pitched daily from people who wanted to be on the show.

The majority of the pitches looked like this:

As you see from the above, it’s hard to tell whether the script was copied & pasted to hundred other podcasters.

If you want to stand out from the mediocre pitches, your first email should show that you’ve done your homework.

Here’s an email script that is highly effective:

This pitch is concise, highly personal and it provides all the information the podcast host needs to make a decision on whether you would be a good fit for the show.  Once you already have a few interviews under your belt, make sure to mention them in your pitch for social proof.

Depending on the size of the podcast, you’ll be either communicating directly with the podcast host or with an assistant. For the timeline, bigger podcasts are often booked ahead 3-12 months, while tinier ones, your interview might take place within a few weeks.

Here’s the most important piece of advice – don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back or if a podcast rejects you. Mostly, it’s numbers game.

Step #5: Crush the interview

If you have never done any podcast interviews, it can feel nerve-wracking as the scheduled day creeps closer and closer. Let’s go over important stuff, so you’ll get the most out of this strategy.

Don’t stress about buying a fancy microphone. If you are just starting out, a regular pair of Apple earphones with a built-in microphone will do a good enough job. Just remember not to tap on the table in front of you or touch the earphones during the interview.

In most cases, you’ll get an email from the podcast host about the things they would like to cover. If not, it’s always a good idea to listen to an episode or two, to get a sense of the questions that might come up and the interview-style of the host. This gives you enough time to think through the possible questions and reflect on them before the interview.

Based on my experience, the best podcast guests are:

  • Honest
  • Specific
  • Don’t over-sell their products and services
  • Share personal stories

I once had a guest on my podcast, who connected every single question back to a page in his latest book without actually answering the question. As you guessed, the interview was never published.

So, how do you get the most out of every interview?

Put together a valuable resource

Almost every interview-style podcast ends with the host asking the guest to share a way listeners can reach or contact them. Many guests make the mistake of sharing all of their handles for social media, bunch of different websites, personal email, etc.

A better way to do it is to provide one call to action.

Put together a resource, such as a swipe-file, checklist or some sort of pdf that you’ll share at the end of the interview.

Here’s an excellent example from Bill Widmer that appeared on Entrepreneur on Fire podcast. Bill runs a SEO business, and he put together a free SEO consultation for the listeners.

Whatever resource you end up putting together, publish it on a unique URL ( and share it at the end of the interview.

By using this strategy, you can also assess how effective a particular podcast has been in the terms of traffic/leads to your site.

Ask for a reference

After the formal part of the interview is over, thank the host for the opportunity and ask if there are any other podcasts you should be interviewed for. Podcasters often know each other, and in most cases, you’ll get a good reference.

If the host is unsure or doesn’t have an answer on the spot, don’t forget to send a follow-up email about it.

Mention your friend

You know how I asked you to pair up with a partner of crime? After the interview, tell the host about your friend and how they would be a perfect fit for the same podcast.

Your friend will do the same thing for you, and both of you will be booking twice as many interviews.

Record the interview

This might not be for everyone, but I record all of the interviews (and sales calls) in a raw format. Why? Because then I can later listen to them and reflect on what I could’ve done better.

This simple technique has helped me be more mindful about of such as “mmm”; “like”; and “ee” and avoid them during future interviews and real-life conversations.

If an interview is taking place on Skype, you can use eCamm to record both sides. Otherwise, if Zoom/ZenCastr or any other recording service is being used, I like to put my phone down and record it that way.

Step #6: Keep in touch with the hosts

You already know the value of having a great network, but I can’t overstress the importance of staying in touch with people. It takes just a minute to send a quick check-in email and it can open up some incredible opportunities for you.

I like to block out a few hours every month to send emails to people that I haven’t talked for a while. It’s not a lot of work, but giving people attention is crucial to building a lasting relationship.

Summing it up

If you are struggling with growth and don’t have a budget set aside for marketing, I really believe that doing podcast interviews is a highly effective strategy.

The best part is that when you do a critical amount of interviews, the snowball effect kicks in and you’ll start getting invited to more and more interviews without any extra work.

Put yourself out there even if the idea of doing interviews seems to be scary and don’t forget to enjoy the process.

Increase Revenue by Personalization with Brennan Dunn

Brennan Dunn is the founder of Double Your Freelancing where he makes $80k/mo selling courses. Learn how he thinks about about business and life.

Some questions I ask:

  • Tell me about the early days of Double your Freelancing?
  • How were you able to build a successful blog?
  • What are some of the things you automate in your business?
  • Out of 100 people who sign up to your email list, how many actually buy the course?
  • How do you pitch your info-product to your list?
  • What advice would you give to people who want to start an online hustle?

Things we talk about:

  • Building an audience through a blog
  • Most important things you should automate
  • Making money from your email list
  • Why you should have all of your content under one domain
  • Importance of side-hustles for your main project

Links & resources mentioned in the episode

Reviewing Site Builders For a Living with Steve Benjamins

Steve Benjamins is the founder of Site Builder Report, where he writes in-depth reviews about site builders and the business is making $40k/mo through affiliate sales. Learn how a failed venture started it all.

Some questions I ask:

  • How to know when to give up on an idea?
  • What was the first step you took to launch Site Builder Report?
  • Do you have to be passionate about the niche you go in?
  • How are you marketing your business?
  • How are you able to outcompete GoDaddy and Wix with some Google search terms?
  • What does your typical workday look like?

Things we talk about:

  • Lessons from building a failed website builder
  • Coming up with  the idea for the initial business
  • Tips on getting your online hustle off the ground as fast as possible
  • SEO advice
  • Why you should avoid advice from online communities
  • How to stay productive throughout the day

Links & resources mentioned in the episode

Benjamin Hardy

Benjamin Hardy is’s #1 writer, PhD Candidate at Clemson University and author of, Willpower Doesn’t Work: Discover the Hidden Keys to Success. With his popular writings focusing on self-improvement, motivation and entrepreneurship, Hardy has spent years inspiring others to obtain success through his work, studies and personal experiences. The dad of 3 personally overcame a broken family afflicted by addiction, discovering that the only way to truly thrive is to proactively shape your environment.


Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

I grew up in Salt Lake City, Utah at the base of a canyon leading to epic snowboarding and many missed days of high school. I’m the oldest of three boys but my parents got divorced when I was 11. Mom was deep in her work and dad was deep in his addiction. It was difficult to feel “at home” either place so I spent most of my days snowboarding or carrying my desktop computer to friend’s basements for World of Warcraft marathons.

Through it all, my biggest fan was my grandpa who believed I could grow up and make better choices. His urging led me to create a radical new environment for myself when I was 19, He loved to share his ideas through writing which probably had a bigger impact on me than I know.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

I’ve had my dark times, like everyone. When I was 16 I was the driver in a car accident that almost killed my mom. My hair fell out from the stress as we were taken to different hospitals. But a more internal dark time was right after my wife and I got married.

We had been married about 8 months and had both just graduated from our undergrad programs with the intent to continue into graduate school. She convinced me that we should take the summer off to do an organic farming work program nicknamed WWOOF.

She organized a three month trip to Ireland working on two different farms. The sabbatical was to celebrate our graduation and transition to graduate school. But, in the meantime, I hadn’t been accepted by any of the schools I had applied to. I didn’t want a sabbatical, I wanted to work harder, longer, and smarter. She convinced me I could do all of that in Ireland. Yeah, that was not the case. Our first farm was on a remote island off the southern tip of Ireland where internet was a hot commodity. We milked goats, cleaned cow pens, and listened to several books in the Ender’s Game Series.

It was idyllic except that I could not let go of the drive I had to keep pursuing my educational goals. I felt helpless watching watching my work in the states go on without me. Insead of finding rejuvenation in Ireland, I became very depressed and resentful of my new wife. The experience was very difficult.

Eventually, I began to enjoy the experience and let go of my former drive. But it was not until we were home and I began jumping back in that I became truly grateful for the trip. Out of the pool, I could see I had been swimming in the wrong direction. It was in getting away that I came home and saw how far I was off my deepest desires.

I had been running a rat race and making little progress, after the time out of the race, after letting all that go, I could see what I really wanted to accomplish and how to accomplish it.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

My kids. They have been a forcing function. In the beginning of my second semester in graduate school, and my wife’s first, our application to be foster parents in the state of SC was approved and we had two amazing children in our care. It was a very difficult transition for us all, but within that first year, we managed to have their older brother move in with us from a group home. Within my first year of grad school, we were the foster parents of three siblings ages 3-7. I couldn’t live the typical graduate student culture with a wife and three kids depending on me. I quit my minimally paying graduate assistantship and began writing full time. Now, my PhD is still in the works (slower than I would like) but I’ve been able to build my writing and in February we adopted our three kids.

What is your morning routine?

  • Wake up between 5 and 6 without an alarm
  • Throw on my gym clothes
  • Drive to the gym parking lot
  • Say a prayer for inspiration
  • Open my journal
  • Write in my journal for 10-15 mins about my goals and the day
  • Put on my headphones and listen to an audiobook while I workout for 40 mins
  • Go home and do my most important work for the day
  • Eat breakfast and check my phone about 3 hours after waking up

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Journal writing. I began writing my journal when I was 20. One day, I started writing in a journal and I never stopped. That habit has formed the foundation of my past, present, and future.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Taking the time, first thing in the morning, to put myself in the right mental and emotional state. This is the purpose of my entire morning routine.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?
I say a prayer, write in my journal, and exercise. If all these fail to refocus me, I’ll occasionally just abandon my work day and refocus the day on my family. I’ll get my kids from school, take them to a park, and spend some genuine time with them.

Thanks again for this opportunity and please keep me posted on when you think this might run!

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

As a Man Thinketh by James Allen: In real estate it is all about location, location, location. For books, it is about timing, timing, timing. The books with the greatest impact on me and the ones I read at times when I was most receptive to change. As a Man Thinketh was a gift to me from someone who really cared about me. I was 19 years old and my life was at a pivoting point. This book pivoted me to making huge changes from my snowboarding, video game playing environment to one focused on mastery and service.

The Art of Learning by Josh Waitzkin: This is just a cool book. I love the language and the style. It is a really high level intelligence book where I feel like I am in the mind of a genius. It inspired me as I began my writing to write the best work that I can. In the book, Josh talks about learning martial arts. While most students would spend their practice time fighting people on similar or lower levels to themselves, Josh sought out the best competitors who would completely floor him. He learned quickly how to rise to higher levels. Reading this book is like confronting a very intelligent competitor and it inspires me to rise to a higher level.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

  • “Good timber does not grow with ease: The stronger wind, the stronger trees; The further sky, the greater length; The more the storm, the more the strength. By sun and cold, by rain and snow, In trees and men good timbers grow.”—Douglas Malloch
  • “Lose an hour in the morning, and you will spend all day looking for it.” — Richard Whately
  • No other success can compensate for failure in the home” – David O McKay

Marc Fitt

Marc Fitt is an entrepreneur, inspirational speaker, photographer, videographer, philanthropist and fitness columnist, this young man from Montreal has quickly become a world-renowned fitness figure. From slim teenager to fitness icon, Marc conquered his fans by disclosing every step of his journey. His rock-solid assiduity and his extremely inspiring talks make his followers constantly crave for more – his videos have garnered more than 50 millions views!


Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

I was born in Montreal, Canada and we moved out at an early age to the north shore of Montreal. I could say I had a nice childhood in general. Sport wise, it’s been quite intense as I was playing at least 6 times a week hockey and eventually it even got to more between the age of 16 to 20 (9 times/week).

Sport taught me a lot about life and I could say my life has been around physical activity since I was 2-year-old.

It would be really hard to sum up my childhood and to really go across in an article/interview but let’s just say I grew up with a lot of pressure to perform and it shaped who I’m today.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

Appreciate time more, don’t waste it as we are dying every second Death is motivation for me to develop myself and cherish every second.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

THE IIFYM bro science of people switching any type of carbs for another type of carbs.

Processed food will never be like organic food. You cannot cheat the system of being healthy just because you hit your macronutrients in a day.

It has to be good source of food, it may sound boring, but it’s no game here as your life and longevity depends on it.

Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it  and what you learned from it?

When I was young I was lacking self-confidence as it was based upon my worth on what others were telling me to be and the way to do things.

I stopped listening to my personal instinct and when you do so you do not feel empowered.

Because of this, I didn’t feel the need to be here or even be myself. I wasn’t good enough.

How I came out of this is because of my mom who really gave me a good speech at some point when I was punching myself on the head because I wasn’t able to do something.

I just remember she told me that I could be anyone I wanted and do anything I wanted and that I had to listen to the little voice inside my head that told me what I should be doing and how I should be doing it.

It’s not a really clear story in my head as I only remember some moments but I would say that having someone who supported me right way was the tipping point to change my behaviors and feel more empowered.

This can be translated today as having friends  who support you in your journey and goals.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

I work hard and I’m consistent on developing myself every day.

The sentence above is over simplified but there’s no other way to put it, I’m the hardest worker you would know, and I’m just a savage at finding ways to do things better and to be better. I’m simply obsessed and overly passionate about what I do. I’m really fortunate and grateful I found what I was born to do at an early age and I wish everyone could live that way as there’s no day I feel like what I do is working. I just create and do what I want.

I really strive to create the best businesses I can while inspiring the world, no shortcuts here, just creating good things and be good with people.

What is your morning routine?

I usually wake up between 5:30 and 6 am.

I hop right away in the shower, wash myself and set my intention for the day (how I want to feel today).

Then I go downstairs and make breakfast or just a coffee (depending if I fast for the beginning of the day or not).

I take my daily planner and set three things I want to accomplish today, why not more?

I’m talking about 3 major things I can do today that will bring my business to the next level or myself.

For sure I’ll do more than 3 things in a day, but it’s not on the meaningful things I set for myself to accomplish today.

Then I just get on with my day.

Depending on the day I might go to the gym as soon as I set my plan for the day or I might go right to work and go workout after around 10-12 hours of work. It helps me start back my energy and go for another stretch of work.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

As mentioned before I’ve always done sports and physical activities in general. But I always performed sports with a team, I had never trained alone before and I think it’s been huge for me.

For sure I’ve learn how working with a team can bring phenomenal results, how to work with others, communication, leadership, etc

But training alone was something new, if you are not putting in the work, you won’t get results you expected. There’s no one that will catch up your mistakes, you will have to face your fears and you will have to adapt to be where you want to be. You are the only link in the chain of results.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

You cannot be a soldier on the battlefield all the time to be effective, sometimes you have to become the general to see the overall view of the war.

That means, you have to get off the grind and plan the smartest moves and go back to work only when you targeted and plan the next wave of attacks to win the war (Achieve your goals).

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

I take time for myself, one of the most effective way to get back a clear vision and be driven again is to have an insane workout or to have a good 20-30 minutes sauna session.

I love doing this to be back in the game quick. It gives me focus and energy.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

The Daily Stoic from Ryan Holiday. The main reason it influences me is because this book helps you think in all type of directions, to stretch your beliefs and how you approach life. It’s not a book about just one topic, but about many as each page is a piece of wisdom you can read daily.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

Never Retreat, Never Surrender!

I think there’s something powerful happening when you set your mind to do something no matter what happens. Being prepared mentally to accomplish a task and to know already in advance you won’t stop no matter what helps achieving whatever you set to do.

Learning To Say No

One of the entrepreneurs I truly admire is Derek Sivers. He started CD Baby in 1997, which was an online CD store for independent musicians. He ended up selling the company for $22 million while giving most of it away to charity. He once wrote a blog postwhere he said, “If I’m not saying ‘Hell Yeah!’ to something, then I say no.”  

Even though it might be a bit radical approach, it’s a great starting point for people who are over-committed or too scattered.

In college, I was asked to do a big keynote speech on entrepreneurship, and it was the first time I was ever in front of a big audience. I definitely wasn’t “Hell Yeah!” about it, I was more like “This is scaring the crap out of me”. I ended up doing the speech, facing my fears because I knew it would benefit my professional career in the long-run.

Today, many interesting opportunities come my way and saying no is exceedingly difficult. In order for me to say “yes,” I have to be either “Hell Yeah!” about the opportunity or it has to advance me personally or professionally.

It’s a simple approach, but it does the trick most of the time.

Once you start saying “no” to most things, you’ll see that it actually gets you ahead.

  • Saying no frees up the time to do stuff you actually enjoy
  • Saying no gives you more time to spend time with people that you love
  • Saying no keeps you focused

Life is too short to be on an autopilot and say “yes” to everything that gets thrown our way.

Surround Yourself With The Right People

We all have met people who discourage us, complain about everything and suck up our energy. Sometimes it’s our friends, co-workers or even family members.

Most people are a direct reflection of those around them. Back in the day, Jim Rohn already said that we are the average of five people we spend the most time with. 

If you feel stuck, take a look at around and see who you spend your time with. You want to surround yourself with people who hold you to a higher standard than you hold yourself. One of the most prominent examples of that is Paypal Mafia. It’s a group of former PayPal employees and founders who later founded some of the biggest tech companies.

Mentioning all the members and accomplishments would take up too much space, but here are some notable examples:

  • David O. Sacks: Geni
  • Elon Musk: Tesla, SpaceX, OpenAI, currently working on multiple other companies
  • Steve Chen, Chad Hurley And Jawed Karim: YouTube
  • Reid Hoffman: LinkedIn
  • Russel Simmons, Jeremy Stoppelman: Yelp

It’s astounding, that all these people come from a single company. Besides having hundreds of millions and in some cases billions of dollars in net worth, they have helped other mega companies like AirBnB and Facebook get off the ground.

You don’t need to be part of PayPal Mafia to crush it in life, but you need to be mindful of the people you surround yourself with. Connect with people who inspire you to be better. Spend time with people elevate your thinking and energy.

Jeff Alpaugh

Jeff Alpaugh is the founder and owner of Jeff Alpaugh Custom, a company that makes custom formal clothing for men and women.


Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

I was born in Toronto, Canada. I moved to Vancouver at a young age. Overall it was good, had a brother and sister and my parents still together. I think the moving forced me to adopt more than maybe I would have liked and I think that has been an asset.

I think an important part of bringing a product to market is understanding just how different people are and I think those moves really helped me understand that people in different areas think very differently.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

  1. How to budget and build a financial model.
  2. That there are lots of con artists out there. And many of them prey on new entrepreneurs. I learned some tough lessons early on because in the pack animal mentality of The Army I didn’t deal with many bad actors. I have become significantly more street smart since start JAC.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

A lot of “Just go for it/quit your job” without a lot of testing and trialing prior.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Understanding people and understanding why people actually buy clothes. That understanding comes from a general curiosity, liking people and listening.

What is your morning routine? 

  • 6 am = Wake up
  • 6-7 am Drink coffee, read, think
  • 7 am = Leave for gym
  • 7:30 am – 8:30 am = Gym
  • 9-9:30 Breakfast

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Fitness / exercise. It’s very grounding.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

Planning time ahead. Schedule everything! Anything that does not have a time slot, will not get done.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

  • Shoe Dog by Phil Knight. In his will be the book I recommend on my Podcast. I have read it 4 times and I am currently reading it again. And it has been out less than 2 years. This is the most human telling of an entrepreneur’s tale I have ever read. It’s the story of a guy who took his own advice and just did it.
  • Gates of Fire by Stevan Pressfield. In his book is about the Spartans and the Battle of Thermopile (Think the movie 300). But I think it contains a lot of really amazing lessons about culture and fostering winning attitudes in a collective. (Have read twice)
  • Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey. A story about a hard-nosed logging family in Oregon in the 60’s and their trials and tribulations. Lots of good lessons about how to face unglamorous adversity with valor and dignity and mindset that will set the conditions for success.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

This was part of Theodore Roosevelt’s famous Citizenship in a Republic speech. I can recite from memory and often end speeches with it or use it to motivate myself during tough workouts.

Misa Chien

Misa Chien is the co-founder of Praisewortthy, a company that focuses on empowering and training front-line employees through customer feedback. They are currently working with thousands of stores, ensuring millions of happy customers a year.


Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like?

When I was three years old, doctors diagnosed me with dyslexia. And so, right from that age, I knew that I learned differently, and I had that experience in school with being a much slower learner, and having more challenges in school compared to my classmates. That’s something I struggled with for quite a bit of my life.

I’d say, up until now there are still some challenges I have. I think it’s actually made me much stronger today, and it’s been a huge blessing, but for a while it was a struggle.

What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?

Something that I do is that I really like to try to just follow through with the majority of the things that I pursue. So even if I don’t fully enjoy it, I try to, at least, somewhat, finish it. You know, if you are not working hard, if it’s not super challenging, you know you have to make it a little harder. I kind of enjoy the challenge.

What do you think separates world-class/top performers from everybody else?

I would say “grit” and “perseverance” are a big, big thing. Definitely when running my previous business ‘Nom Nom Truck’ that was a huge challenge, and going through an experience like that, and having a failing business like that has really shaped me to be the person I am today. I wrote about Nom Nom Truck’s roller coaster of a journey in an article I posted also on LinkedIn, so if you want to learn how I did it, pay the article a visit.

What is your morning routine? 

Since my co-founder’s also my husband, we have a routine together. By 7 A.M., we either go out to eat, or most days, he goes and makes eggs, and we kind of have a present moment in the morning; we don’t look at our phones, we really stick to spending some time together before we start our work. It’s great to have that routine in the morning, and really enjoy it, and live in the moment because each day is a blessing.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently? weekly plan?

On average, I work from 8 A.M. till 4 P.M., and usually try to stop after 4 P.M. unless I have a business meeting. By keeping it to that, I can really stay focused, I can stay very efficient, and I use the Pomodoro Technique that really has revolutionized the way I work, and the way I focus, and I’ve got a lot less burned out as a result. I also use Calendly to book business meetings, which has been a huge help to our sales process.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Something I do every year is, at the end of the year I reflect on the previous year–what I’ve learned, and sometimes I even write a newsletter that goes out to close friends and family regarding what I’ve learned. A lot of people thank me for that newsletter because it has some lessons in it, and it’s a great way to reflect back on the year, and take a moment and pause and learn from how you’ve grown over the last year.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

I think that the biggest thing I’ve learned is that what society or advertising tells you what the huge majority of the people do isn’t necessarily what makes the human psyche happy. So for example, a huge portion of the American workforce has a very, very long commute of at least 40 minutes, and that’s proven to not make people happy–to have to commute that long.

So, what I’ve realized is that, by not following ‘herd mentality,’ and what the majority of people are doing is actually a path to your own happiness. And sometimes, also, what makes other people happy doesn’t necessarily make you happy. So each person is their own individual self, and you have to find your own path to happiness.

What brings you joy and makes you happy?  

It would have to be spending time with close family, as well as my husband and co-founder, and friends as well, that makes me extremely happy. So, I try to keep a balance of that because it’s important, so important, to not get burned out from work. I love working, but I’ve learned that it’s very important to have that balance.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often? 

I’m reading this really great book called “Grit,” and there’s this quote by Henry Ford that says, “Whether you think you can or think you can’t, you’re right.” And it’s really all about the fact that you are you’re own person. Your hard work and your psyche can determine your destiny, and manifest how you live your life.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

It’s really this “Grit” book I’ve been reading. It’s “Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance” just has been revolutionary to me because it’s answered a lot of questions about entrepreneurship and why certain entrepreneurs succeed and others don’t. And it values perseverance and grit much more than just success in general.

Joshua Spodek

Joshua Spodek is author of Leadership Step by Step and host of the Leadership and the Environment podcast. An adjunct professor at NYU and leadership coach and workshop leader for Columbia Business School, Joshua currently lives in New York City.


Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?

When my first venture nearly went bankrupt in the early 2000s recession, the investors squeezed me out of the company I co-founded. I had little experience in business.

What brought me out of it was that I needed to pay my mortgage and eat, so I had to get a job. Eventually, I realized I preferred starting projects, so went to business school to improve my business skills.

I learned a lot about trust and the importance of understanding people as individuals, not just counterparts to business deals. What motivates them? Why? Things like that.

I also grew closer to my family, especially my mother.

I launched the Leadership and the Environment podcast to address the hopelessness I feel and see arising from the gap between what people say they value in the environment and what they do. Everyone wants clean air, land, and water, but almost no American meaningfully reduces their pollution.

I created the podcast to lead people to live by their environmental values, not just talk. Too many people stop with awareness, education, tips, and other things that don’t reduce their pollution. They throw up their hands, saying, “If I change but no one else does my actions won’t matter.” Abandoning your values, following nobody in particular, is the opposite of leadership.

What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?

People read and recommend more books, video, and other passive or analytical approaches to improving their leadership skills. I see that advice like advising people to read books to improve at playing piano or a sport.

If you want to develop physical strength, reading and watching videos about lifting weights won’t do it. If you want to develop the social and emotional skills to lead yourself and others, reading and watching videos on leadership won’t do it.

Have you ever noticed how many TED talks there are on leadership, yet none on how to play piano? That’s because we know how to teach piano—by practice. We didn’t know how to teach leadership, hence people grasping at straws. I wrote my book to change that.

What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?

The importance of experience and activity in learning, as opposed to reading, listening, analyzing, and other traditional educational techniques.

Great leaders and other successful people—by whatever definition of success you want—rarely emerged from following the worn traditional academic path, which I followed through to a PhD.

Greatness and success tend to result from activity based on solid social and emotional skills, not just intellectual knowledge.

What is your morning routine? 

I wrote up my morning routine at length here.

What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?

Beyond the value of any habit is the sidcha, which stands for Self-Imposed Daily Challenging Healthy Activity. A sidcha is more than a habit. Brushing your teeth and reading the paper are habits. They don’t change your life.

A sidcha changes your life. My sidchas include

  • Twice-daily calisthenics (over 100,000 burpees so far)
  • Writing to my blog every day (almost 3,000 posts so far)
  • Getting out of bed and making it within one minute every morning
  • Cold showers
  • Picking up a piece of litter from the street each day
  • Avoiding packaged food

Each practice has improved my life, but I think of them more as implementations of the sidcha concept.

What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?

I wish I were more efficient and productive. I don’t think I waste time less than the average person.

When you feel overwhelmed or unfocused, or have lost your focus temporarily, what do you do?

Feeling overwhelmed or unfocused tends to happen when I have a lot to do. I tend to make lists, as many people do. When things get difficult, I try to figure out the most important thing on the list I can do.

I won’t lie, though. When I feel most overwhelmed is when I procrastinate the most. I wish I didn’t.

What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?

The Tao Te Ching led to many changes in my views and behavior. I’ve never been able to explain why. Few books are like it. It’s part poetry, part prose. I can read the whole thing in a couple hours, yet spend years on one section. I read it and find that it influences me by provoking thought, but not by explaining things or presenting facts or argument. The main results are improving leadership and influence while creating calmness, understanding, and empathy. I recommend Ron Hogan’s translation for its accessibility.

I have to mention Leadership Step by Step, my book. Nearly every other book, video, and resource on leadership is “leadership appreciation.” If you want to become an artist, art appreciation courses only help you appreciate others. You have to practice to become an artist.

Same with leadership. Most people reading these words want to lead, not just appreciate others’ leadership. You have to practice leadership to become a leader. Leadership Step by Step leads readers through exercises to become leaders. I developed the course it’s based on because I saw nothing like it. I wrote the book because of the results my students got.

Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?

The great dancer and choreographer Martha Graham’s description of mastery applies to leadership as well as dance:

The dancer is realistic. His craft teaches him to be. Either the foot is pointed or it is not. No amount of dreaming will point it for you. This requires discipline, not drill, not something imposed from without, but discipline imposed by you yourself upon yourself. Your goal is freedom. But freedom may only be achieved through discipline. In the studio you learn to conform, to submit yourself to the demands of your craft, so that you may finally be free.