take me outdoors podcast episode 16: how to become a rad creative with semi-rad creator brendan leonard
“To do creative stuff, most people just need permission. And they just need to give it to themselves. They’re afraid to suck, so they don’t do something. My career has contained a lot of suck, but I was trying and wasn’t afraid to fail.”
Contrary to popular belief, the American Dream of landing your dream job doesn’t come quickly or easily. But if you give yourself permission to try and if you channel enough grit, you will get there. Or so believes Brendan Leonard, a climber, ultra-runner, blogger, author and gritty guy behind the hilarious, highly popular website semi-rad.com, which serves a tribe of adventurers who are super passionate but not the best.
A pillar in the outdoor community, Brendan constantly works, creates, and networks to fuel the get-outside stoke. Like his ceaseless creative quest, his journey to everyday adventurer icon wasn’t easy. Brendan toiled away at a full-time job, sent countless pitches to outdoor magazines for four years, and squeezed in launching his website during after-work hours before finally getting his big break.
The mastermind behind viral sensations like the Pooping in the Outdoorsflowchart and Why I Hate Running (but why you should try it), Brendan has also written six books. His most recent creative foray into filmmaking, Chocolate Spokes, will premiere this month at the 5Point film festival.
A guy who would “rather spend Sunday doing sh*t than sitting down watching somebody else have fun,” Brendan insightfully, humorously speaks to the everyday adventurer. And he successfully marries his passions for writing and adventuring into an unconventional, fulfilling, full-time job. Whether you are looking to follow in his footsteps, enhance your own career path, or simply want a laugh, Brendan provides solutions and limitless, real-life enthusiasm to get after it.
After graduating from college with a BA in Marketing, Brendan earned a master’s degree in Journalism from the University of Montana so he wouldn’t have to work in marketing. (Although both degrees now prove useful in marketing himself, his website, and his six books!)
Brendan wrote his master’s thesis on peak bagging, the activity of trying to reach mountain peaks.
Brendan is the creative mastermind behind semi-rad.com, his hilarious portal for the everyday adventurer.
But creating a hit website and becoming a respected author didn’t happen overnight. Brendan hustled in the journalism and marketing industries for eight years, working a few newspaper jobs while delving into outdoor adventures on the side. After realizing he wanted to write about adventure, climbing, and the fun things he was doing on the weekends, he slowly tapped into the outdoor creative industry.
Brendan faced a lot of failure, pitching to publications like Climbing and Backpacker Magazines for three or four years before any of his work landed in print.
He earned about $40 from his first year of freelancing, thanks to an article on peak bagging in Oklahoma Today.
Brendan launched semi-rad.com so he wouldn’t lose touch of his outdoorsy side while working from home writing marketing content for a software company.
Brendan didn’t go into blogging thinking he wanted to build a brand, but it ended up happening. The moniker “semi-rad” works for people: it lends for short social media handles, and is vague enough to enable him to explore and write about all of his interests. It also appeals to most people, who aren’t crushing that hard, but are invested in the outdoors and need quality gear.
Brendan’s new book, The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide, epitomizes this ethos. Illustrated by the talented Seth Neilson, the book humorously answers questions for people just getting their feet wet in the outdoors. It tells readers everything from how to put a kayak on your car, to whether it’s okay to drink your own urine. (Short answer: this is a free country!)
Trade shows and film festivals have proven instrumental in his success, both for networking and demonstrating that if you want to do something, you can.
Brendan’s first film, Chocolate Spokes, will release at the 5Point Film Festival.
The most highly trafficked topics on his website are dating and poop, preferably via flow chart.
Brendan’s two biggest pieces of advice for people trying to break into the creative outdoor industry: 1) give yourself permission, and 2) have grit!
• Semi-Rad.com, Brendan’s website
• The Great Outdoors: A User’s Guide, Brendan’s newest book
• Website of Seth Neilson, illustrator of The Great Outdoors
• Chocolate Spokes, boutique bike shop
• 5Point Film Festival, where Chocolate Spokes (film) will premier