Why Leo Babauta of Zen Habits
Gave Me His Blog


Well, actually Leo Babauta of Zen Habits fame didn’t give me a whole blog, he gave me half of his blog Write to Done in July 2008. At that time I was still a rookie blogger.

Only nine months earlier my son Sebastian said to me:

“Mum, I’ll make you a website for your birthday. But you’ll have to write a blog.”

“A what?”

I had no idea what he was talking about. Shortly after I started Goodlife Zen, the steepest learning curve of my life.

So, why did Leo Babauta give half his blog to an accidental blogger?

In a moment I’ll tell you how it happened. And I’ll outline five steps for you to follow. Because my story is an illustration about how one can build partnerships on the Net. Not that I’m an expert, you understand. I’m still learning. In fact, I’ve enrolled in Partnering Profits in order to learn the secrets of what I stumbled upon by accident.

So, here’s what happened:

When I first started blogging in November 2007, I checked out other blogs in the personal growth field and came across Zen Habits. I liked Leo Babauta’s style and thought, “Yep. That’s someone I could work with.”

It was great to come across someone who is incredibly talented, as well as modest and friendly. But to contact him seemed an impossible dream.

At that time Zen Habits already had over 50,000 subscribers and Goodlife Zen had just 2: my best friend, and my son. I was contemplating getting my cat to subscribe – just to get up to 3!

Nevertheless, I resolved to connect with Leo when the time was right.

Point #1 Earmark possible partners

When you feel an affinity for a colleague on the Net, listen to your intuition and add them to a list of possible partners, no matter how remote the chances appear at the moment. I have big bloggers, such as Leo Babauta, as well as writers who are still quite inexperienced on my list.

There’s even one guy who hasn’t even launched his first blog yet! I don’t care how much or how little experience someone has. All I care about is that they are nice people, and that they have talent.

It’s important to earmark possible partners, because if you don’t, you won’t spot the opportunities to connect with them. And that’s the crucial step: making a personal connection.

Point #2 Wait for the right time

A couple of days ago I visited a friend who lives in a remote settlement by the sea. I wanted to use her dinghy and tried to drag it down to the water. I shoved, pulled, and grunted – the darn thing just wouldn’t move! A neighbor was watching with hands on hips, amused by the antics of a landlubber.

“Hey!” I called out, “Lend me a hand, please!”

He nodded slowly, grinning. “Yeah,” he said , “I’ll help you – but only after we’ve had a cup of tea.” (I live in New Zealand where having a cup of tea is a serious occupation).

By the time we’d finished a cup of tea and he’d told me all about his liver problems and his love-life, a couple of hours had passed. When we got back to the dinghy, the tide had come in and the boat was already half afloat. I was able to launch it with one hand. Easy!

When is the time right?

Try to approach someone you want to connect with when they launch a new venture. Everyone’s anxious when launching something new and appreciates support.

The right time came for me in January 2008 when Leo launched his second blog Write to Done. I’m passionate about writing, so I was delighted to find a blog that would help me grow as a writer. I immediately started commenting. And then I crafted one of my sure-fire pitches and asked Leo whether he would let me write a guest post.

The pitch worked and Leo ran my first article on Write to Done, Juicy Writing: How to Glue Readers to the Page.

So, imagine that’s you. You’ve made contact. Now what?

Point #3 Be helpful – Take responsibility

If you want to partner up with someone, you need to be helpful. Not as a strategic move, but because you truly care. Here is an email I sent to Leo in February of this year:

“Hi Leo, it must be hard work running two blogs AND writing a book. I just wanted to mention a guy who writes excellent articles. I think he’d write a good guest post for Write to Done.”

A couple of months later I wrote:

“Hi Leo, I’m wondering whether you are on overload with your Ebook? I notice that “Write to Done” hasn’t had a new post for a while. Would you like me to write a guest post or two for you?”

You can see how I started taking responsibility for Write to Done, even though there was really nothing in it for me. And I made sure that I delivered on every promise. That’s important. Because this is the stage when trust is built.

Some people imagine that a joint venture starts with a pitch, or with a contract. Wrong!

A joint venture starts when you take responsibility.

So, let’s imagine that you’ve made a connection with a possible partner and have started lending a hand. This is a point in the sequence where many people get unstuck. Because your potential partner may now offer you money for your work. Don’t take it!

Point #4: Work for free

“But, I’m trying to make a living!” you may protest. Even if you are hard up, say ‘no’ to the money. Why?

Because if you accept a fee, your potential partner will regard you as an employee and not as an equal partner. You need to forgo short-term gain in order to reap real rewards later on.

Point #5: Put forward a win-win proposal

At some stage you will get a sense that the time is right for a partnership proposal. Before you start writing a proposal, consider the principles you are going to apply.

Here are the two principles I came up with:

  • Have one’s cake AND eat it.

This principle avoids ‘either-or’ thinking and allows you to find win-win solutions.

  • Harness the power of synergy.

This principle highlights the fact that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

When you start crafting a proposal, focus on your partner. What does he or she enjoy doing? What’s a hassle for him or her? What benefits could your partnership bring?

Here are the benefits I listed for Leo:

  • You retain an interest – both creative and financial – in WritetoDone
  • You don’t have to kill off a beautiful brainchild
  • You get ongoing income from WTD
  • You can delegate all the drudgery of running a blog, whilst still retaining some enjoyable creative work

I sent off the proposal and sat around, biting my nails. Then the answer came:

What a great solution! I’ve been giving it a little thought and I really like this idea. I’d like to go ahead with it if you’re still interested. Leo

This is how Leo gave half his blog to an unknown and accidental blogger.

But wait…

You see, when I put that particular proposal to Leo, I already had another plan for a joint venture in mind. So, what did I do? Yes, you got it! I started at point #2 and bided my time. I wanted Leo to get to know my style before putting another project before him.

The new project?

Ah – I’m very, very excited about that! It’s still under wraps, but I’ll lift a corner for you to take a peek.

Next year we’re going to launch A-List Blogging Bootcamp, an interactive training program for people who want to become top bloggers. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime chance to be personally guided to success by Leo Babauta.

But wait…

Yes Leo, I have another plan for a partnership with you (that’s why I joined Partnering Profits).

But I won’t mention it to you just yet…

About the Author: Mary Jaksch is an author and Zen master who loves dancing tango in skimpy dresses. She is Editor of Write to Done and writes her blog Goodlife Zen.

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Reader Comments (45)

  1. says

    If the internet’s the new gold rush, allow me to draw a parallel. Those miners with shivering knees, knee deep in the river could only hope to gather so much gold, no matter the size of their claim. The real fortunes were found when people got together, using each of their talents to tap deeper in the mines. Land surveyors, demolition experts, and so on. Now is no different. Sure, a blogger can be successful on their own; they may even find the mother lode, but there is no way they could ever extract the gold all on their own.

  2. says

    Interesting and original post. I particularily like your focus on ‘benefits':

    ‘Here are the benefits I listed for Leo:
    You retain an interest – both creative and financial – in WritetoDone
    You don’t have to kill off a beautiful brainchild
    You get ongoing income from WTD
    You can delegate all the drudgery of running a blog, whilst still retaining some enjoyable creative work’

  3. says

    Thanks for your encouraging comments, guys!

    I just want to stress that integrity is really important in all of this. For example, if you offer to help, do it from the heart and not because you’re angling for some future benefit.


  4. says

    Hey Mary,
    Nice seeing you here! I really enjoyed what you’ve shared in this post and I appreciate the great work you’re doing at Write to Done. Your hard work is obvious and I wish you all success with your Blogging Bootcamp.

  5. says

    Hi guys … as the topic of this post I thought I’d chime in … Mary is good person and an excellent blogger, so forming a partnership with her was ideal from my perspective as well. :)

    I think Mary’s sincerity and genuine willingness to help was the key to us working together.

    I’m also excited to be working with her to create the A-List Blogging Bootcamp, which will be a hands-on course for bloggers to take their blogs to the next level — everything from the basics to proven promotion techniques that I’ve used at Zen Habits. It’ll be great!

  6. says


    Thanks for setting out your experience here. I loved the analogy under the paragraph about waiting for the right time and your emphasis throughout on following your instinct.

    Jives perfectly with my own instincts (and past experience)!



  7. says

    Well done Mum, another great post from a truly great writer. I knew you’d be awesome at this, just like everything else you put your heart into.

  8. says

    Very nice post and good information sharing. I am wondering if the bootcamp will be interactive. It was reading zenhabits in the first place that got my daughter to create a blog for my writing. I am just loving this world, but am not learning all the ropes fast enough…I get impatient and then I signed on to a Junk program and wasted a great deal of time and energy.

    I could use a partnership – some one to talk or chat with because I don’t really have anyone to connect with and I need to talk sometimes until I can find an answer. I have read Problogger and read Barbara’s Blogging without a Blog material and Cath Lawson, I tried to connect with Liz on SOB but I could not understand her many times (though I am indebted to learn the F5 buttons use in a chat)

    I can not pay a lot yet…I am going to hire Writer Dad for an evaluation of my blog in the new year and Blogger Dad is helping me set up a blog for my husband’s Christmas present so I feel like I have come a long way…but am still not comfortable yet…but I understand what I read here…so it seems right?
    I really connected with what you wrote here and what actions you took to be successful…I am always alone…being in partnership sounds good to me

  9. says

    I just love these stories of people who come out of nowhere and rocket into the stratosphere. Partnering Profits’ own Jon Morrow offers another amazing story of talent + service solutions + tenacity = A-lister attention > success. Such inspiration offers hope for those of us just entering this vast frontier -that even little lights can sparkle, then explode into stardom. So the bright can be brilliant!

  10. says

    Hi Patricia!
    Oh yes, the A-List Blogging Bootcamp is definitely going to be interactive! I think we learn best when we are part of a community of like-minded people who inspire and encourage us. And we grow fast when we get direct feedback from people who really know what they’re doing. I’ve seen some of the stuff Leo wants to teach in this course and I’m totally excited! He knows how to rev up a blog from zero to 80 thousand :-)

  11. says

    Hi Mary,

    Your post is really nice to hear ! I’ve subscribed to the partnership program and, I should say, the book of Jon with Brian “partnering+profits” , by itself, worth the 97$ (I’ve already went through the book several times and I will sure look to it again: there are so numerous tips given that it’s hard to digest in one shot ! Amazing work guys). I’m still surprised to this ridiculous price regarding the golden mine of information it contains. And the forum will soon open… So let’s go, learn and go to action !
    If you permit me, I will add at the first place:
    Be driven by passion : Passion breaks the walls (and we feel it in your writing)
    Regarding point 2. Wait by being alert : Opportunies can come at any time and be ready to receive it with honor !

    I hope to hear from you about your experience in this partnering profits training as I can’t consider starting a new business without partnership in mind.

    PS: Still on the way to improve my english writing !

  12. says

    Hi Bruno!
    Oh, great to hear that we’ll be studying together!

    I think you’re right: passion is the magic that makes dreams come true.

    And there is another factor: drive. It’s similar to passion but not the same. After all, you could be passionate about something without actually getting off your backside, couldn’t you?

    Drive means taking steps towards our goal – even if they are baby steps.

  13. says

    Hi Sonia!
    You mention sucking up. I think that a lot of people are hung up about that. Straight-up, heart-felt praise is always good. If you really like something, or agree with something – it’s good to say it.

    Ok, so let’s say there’s someone you would like to connect with, and you sincerely like what they do. Go ahead and tell them what you like! No matter who they are.

    Just tell it straight.

    Avoid cringe-making phrases, such as “You’re so awesome; I dream of you every night!” or, “You’re so amazing…sigh. I bet you get told that a lot by forgettable bloggers like little ol’ me…” :-)

  14. says

    This is an excellent example of why giving is ultimately the most effective way to make progress in the blogging world. Thanks for sharing your thought process behind your climb 😀

  15. http://resourcesandmoney.blogspot.com says

    That was a very inspiring story. I hope i can be as successful as you. And hope you will have more success too.

  16. says

    Nice Mary.

    I like your focus on congruence and integrity.

    You laid out your story very well, and boiled down some nice prescriptive guidance for others.

  17. says

    Great ideas – it seems that all things in life come back to relationship. When you build a relationship then you build opportunities.

    Thanks for the tips.

  18. says

    Hi Sonia,

    Lovely word as suck up, I appreciate. To just specify my view, I’m a aeronautic software engineer. I don’t enjoy my job so I’m looking for building my own job since a few years in which I can invest my energy. Defining its own passion job is a tough work, and you all know that. I have enough incomes for material life, but does it worth it if I’m not just living my life ? I see so many people around me with no goals in life, it just scares me

  19. says

    I love what I am seeing here. Not only building good fortune, but good community.
    My favorite words:

    “He nodded slowly, grinning. “Yeah,” he said , “I’ll help you – but only after we’ve had a cup of tea.”

    Are you sure you’re not from New Orleans? Course it would maybe be a different beverage….

  20. says

    Mary, thanks so much for sharing this case study! I was a follower of Write to Done before you became editor. In fact, I’d sent a guest post to Leo at one point (not sure if he actually received it!) and I was thinking of doing what you did — offering to edit the blog.

    Then lo and behold, the Write to Done RSS feed was suddenly active again, telling me you were editor.

    So well done on getting in there when the time was right: I clearly dithered too long! (It took me months of blogging to start feeling confident about pushing myself out there and ASKING to help out on other blogs, rather than just hoping work would fall in my lap).

    You’re doing a great job with Write to Done, and I think Leo made a great decision in handing it over to you.

  21. says

    Hi Ali!
    Thanks for your kind words about WritetoDone! Subscriber numbers have grown by 2000 since July. And I’m really happy that Leo has written some of his best stuff for Write to Done since since I started as Chief Editor. An example is his post on Branding 101. I think that leaving the stress of running the blog to me has freed up his creativity.

    BTW, I’m always interested in having a look at guest posts. How about sending it to me?

  22. says

    thank you for the story about the tide and looking out for the right time. Your neighbor knew more about the environment than you did and gave you a reason to stay. It makes me think about those who are willing to help but in my stubbornness attempted to drag the boat to the sea rather than waiting for the sea to come to me. That story did it for me….thanks again.

  23. says


    Impressive, thanks for sharing the details. :) Way to go! I’m sure many found your story to be inspiring. Some folks are afraid to contact potential mentors or partners because they think they’ll never respond or that they might untouchable. Your story proves otherwise. :)

  24. says

    Thanks for a very informative post. I was tipped off to your blog by the Web Success Diva, and I’m so glad I came along. I will be looking forward to implementing these strategies as the year goes forward!

  25. Mark2 says

    I really enjoyed reading this post. I thought the most helpful part of this post really applies to more than just partnership blogging, but any kind of endeavor with another person. “When you start crafting a proposal, focus on your partner”. I have found that anytime you want something from someone else, to them, it doesn’t matter what you get out of it. The most important part is what THEY get out of it.

    Your story could not have proven this more. You really wanted to partner WTD but he would have seen no benefit to him in the beginning. It wasn’t until he got bogged down in other things that he really needed help.

    Thanks for this Mary. I really appreciate the help you are giving us.

  26. nano says

    Yes, surprising as it may seem to you, the moment we start sifting through the dust of our inner dunes, we find sparks of truth. Revelations are just exciting beginnings, once we realise why we are here, awe turns into inspiration, surprise into conviction, and thoughts into action. Good Luck! What makes Leo special is not what he says, but what he does. If only people understood ‘that’, anyways.. lets leave it at that.. : )

    Wish you the best progress in the near future.

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