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Ep: 169: Bonus: Learning the Importance of the Slow Hustle during a crisis with Leo Chan

In this week’s bonus episode, I speak with Leo Chan who is the founder of Levitate Style. Leo shares how he has been able to create content during the crisis that has been helping his audience cope with the new normal.

Listen Below:

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Debbie:

Hey guys! I am really excited about this special episode with Leo. Welcome back, Leo.

Leo:

Thanks for having me again. 

Debbie:

Thank you for being here. So, I just had you on the show a little while ago and I wanted to get back with you to interview you more. Because you’re a New Yorker,  you’re self-employed, you have your own business with your girlfriend, and this is really an unprecedented time that we are going through right now.

 And I think a lot of us are on the same boat in a lot of ways whether you’re successful or you’re just beginning – we’re all going through the same sort of thing. And I wanted to talk to you about this because you have this successful business that you have now and part of that is traveling. You’re traveling as a fashion influencer.

And now, that, obviously, has halted and now you’re trying to just live your life. And pretty much the biggest city in the world that’s being hit right now.

Leo:

Yeah.

Debbie:

I just wanted to talk to you about this. How on Earth are you feeling, Leo? How is everything going?

Leo:

I’m definitely keeping it together. I think, like, just making it one day at a time,  don’t think about it for such a long period of time. And yeah, I think recently they just announced that it’s going to be another, like, 30 days until the end of the month. But, honestly, just taking it one day at a time. I think it’s much better that way. 

Usually, I’m a very, like, I need to do everything at once, get everything done, super creative guy, but I’m, honestly, just taking this time to relax, to take it easy, go at a slower pace ‘cause there’s no rush right now. 

So, for me, it is a more relaxing time and, honestly, the most important thing I have to do is just to stay home which is the best thing I could do. So it’s really not so bad but still keeping myself busy with different things to do throughout the day.

Debbie:

How hard is that to do though? Because for someone like you who’s constantly going, who’s constantly working, and you have to be productive all the time and then, to halt all of that and just stay home. 

I’ve spoken to a few of my friends about this, especially in the travel industry, and it has been really hard. I mean, in the beginning, it was really great because now you can stay at home, actually, relax, catch up on a lot of things but as weeks go by and then it’s like, “Oh my gosh, what’s happening with my business? Do I start something new? Do I just go through this and just keep going?”

How do you make sure that what you’re doing is right for you and also making it healthy for yourself as well throughout all of this?

Leo:

So, for me, the day-to-day still kind of has some sort of a schedule. Sure, I think it’s slow but there are still a few things I want to get done throughout the day. I still have some sort of a schedule. 

So, I still wake up at a certain time, I check my emails in the morning and in the afternoon, get a quick workout in, and then, work on different projects. Like there’s got to project that you’ve always wanted to work on before that you don’t have time for.

So now is really that time to get into those small projects and see how that works. So, for me, I started as a little merch line before the lockdown. So now I have a little more time to work on that, see how that side of the business works.

And then, doing podcast interviews like this, even just having one interview a week. Having that as my main thing to do that day, that kind of makes the day for me. And so, instead of having, like, “10 things you’re gonna knock out in one day,” now I can do just one main thing and start a schedule around it.

I think it’s just really helpful to be productive if you have a good work from home routine. So, for me, I’m making sure I’m always drinking a lot of water. I’m working at the desk in the morning and then in the afternoon, I work from the kitchen counter. So, like, just switch up your day so that it feels like you’re not just sitting at the desk for, like, 8 hours all day. 

So, like, just switching it up, move around in your apartment so you’re not just stuck in one spot. I think that’s been really helpful. 

Another thing to be productive is I, honestly, just getting dressed. I think the first week was just like wearing my robe, we’re like, “Oh, get dressed.” But now, like, just putting on a sweater, sweat pants, and wearing socks and maybe shoes. Just get dressed and you’ll feel a lot more productive during the day.

So, that’s been a way to stay productive.

In terms of sponsor work, I think this is a very interesting time also for brands, especially for travel partners. Like if you work with airlines, hotel groups, or whatever it maybe – this is a good time to just check. Not necessarily asking for budget but just to see what they’re doing, how they’re doing, what the strategy is, ‘cause I think brands also don’t know what their marketing budget is, how they can advertise, what they should be doing during this time. 

So, it’s good to check in and see how you can still create content and help each other out. Maybe cross-promote but without money per se on the table and just keep that relationship going. So I think, like, I know for a fact that there are hotel groups out there that still want to do something to engage their audience. , obviously, nobody can visit their hotels at this time. 

So, it’s up to you as a travel creator or fashion creator. Even though you’re at home, figure out ways to create content.  For example: something I did recently with Express the, clothing brand, we did a whole work-from-home, home-style outfits take over. So I style a few outfits where you can still wear them at home. It’s stylish, it’s comfortable.

And you, obviously, have it in mind that you’re wearing this at home, working from home but also those pieces you can still wear outside after all this is done. With that kind of stuff taking over your mind, you could maybe do something like that with troubled partners in the past. 

I think right now it’s very important to keep a relationship going because the budget is a tough time right now as a tough thing. Money is a tough thing but it’s very important to keep the relationships up because once this is over, like, you were there for them when things were down. So I think that’s really important. 

Debbie:

I love that you are mentioning this right now because I actually just did an interview and somebody asked me about this like, “How are you keeping your income going? How are you making sure that your business is still going even throughout this crisis?” 

And that was actually one of the things I’ve mentioned: make sure that you’re also focusing on the current clients that you have now and even the past clients that you have and then, seeing what type of collaborations you can do.

Because I think most of us were constantly looking for brand new clients, brand new collaborations but we also need to make sure that the relationships that we have now were feeding as well and we’re making sure we’re taking care of them in the right way. Because those are the types of people that will give you word of mouth to other clients as well. 

And, like you said, Leo, once this is done they know that you were able to be there for them, even throughout this crisis. And it’s not just about monetization, it’s about creating a really solid relationship. So that’s a really great way to think about it in terms of your current business right now. 

And also have you been thinking of a lot of different avenues of monetizing that you have never thought of before? Whether it’s something that you didn’t plan on doing or something that you just had on the back burner, like, you were talking about your merch or something that you’re just panicking about and you’re like, “I need money right now and I need to do something.”

Leo:

Thankfully we can go without savings but in terms of ways, yeah, definitely. I’m always thinking about new ways to bring revenue ‘cause, honestly, this is like a reality check. What if the world stops? Right now it has and I say, “Okay. What is the real passive way to earn income?” 

That’s not particularly, like, fashion or travel-related. For me, this is a good time for me to get into the stock market. So that’s something I’ve been checking first thing in the morning, like, the Market opens at 10 and closes at 4. That’s something that keeps me busy. 

So it’s a good time to invest because a lot of the stocks and companies right now are basically on sale. So that’s something that I’ve been looking into and learning about it at the same time.

 And then another thing is actually the same topic of just talking with your old brand partners. What I could see happening more and more, which already has been working for us, is Instead of a traditional sponsored post where brands pay you to put this on your channel and talk about this, they might be able to work something out where you’re creating content for them.

Like strictly creating content, shooting content at home, whatever it may be, for them to use. So, it’s not even going to be a sponsored work on my channel. That’s something that we got a project recently like that.

That could work out great because brands, fashion especially, I‘m not sure, like, I don’t think they can just get a whole team of 10-15 people to do a full photoshoot for their catalog, right?

So if you’ve been a good brand partner and they like your image and your work, you might be able to do that same amount of work that usually takes a creative team of 15 people and 2 people can do it now around your home. And at the same time, they can actually use the content on their website, their catalog, and their emails.

That can help him out a lot because it’s really hard for brands to gather 15 people at this time to do something like that. So that could be a very interesting way. It’s really important to just talk to your brand partner, see what you can come up with and how you can help them. 

I think we mentioned this in the past, like, got to get on Tik Tok. Maybe some people don’t have a blog, like, maybe you do need a blog. So, not all your content is on your Instagram, put in links, monetize, and things like that.

Debbie:

Talking about content, creating new things, how are you making sure that what are you creating right now is appropriate? Because, obviously, we don’t wanna cross that line because there are a lot of people suffering. There are a lot of people depressed right now, in a panic.

And we also don’t want to just be saying, “You need to be productive all the time. Be happy, you have more time.” And a lot of people are not in the headspace. But how are you guys making sure that, obviously, the content that you have is fitting into the current state that we have now, but also fitting into your brand as well?

Leo:

Yeah. So, I think, the first week when it first started everyone still had that whole mindset like, “It’s fine. It’s all good.” Definitely, so much has changed in the past, like, 3-4 weeks now. So, for me, with our content strategy, I want to say two things during this time. 

So, one is I want to let my audience know that I’m staying home, I’m doing the right things, I’m actively looking for news, and I’m actively looking for Charities and initiatives to help the medical professionals and local businesses. Like I want to let people know that this is what I’m actively doing to be part of the solution even though I’m at home. 

The second thing I want to tell my audience is that I’m stuck at home just like everyone else and I’m going to have fun with it. Like I’m going to take this chance and still be positive to have light-hearted content. So, if you want to escape, you can still come to my channel. I’m still going to post things relating to fashion and travel, but I’m going to do it at home because I can’t be outside. 

And so, I think, having those two things in mind that have been driving my strategy. 

So how have I been balancing my content? If you go to my Instagram most recently is, say, I post a video on Monday, the next day on Tuesday, I post a photo. So, I’m balancing photos and videos.

The videos are usually funnier, lighthearted stuff that’s more like on Tik Tok. So just, like, fashion, a little bit funnier, a little bit more lighthearted. And the photo could just be photos I’ve taken in the apartment. So, still inside but higher-quality, more professional, still more aesthetic. 

Professional photos, I’ll talk more about the serious topics. Like, “Guys this is where we need help. You can donate to these Charities. Stay home, you can still be productive doing this but take it easy.” And on the videos – just having fun. 

So, I think, for me, I really want to have that balance in my content.

Debbie:

And it’s all of those things that are really making that balance with everything. Because you are here making sure that you’re helping, you’re making sure that if people want to forget about things, you are there too. 

And, really, that’s what you’re here for and a lot of us are here for is to give people, obviously, I am not a professional, I can’t give you medical advice. We only know what we’re being told by people who are actually doing this and who are out there trying to save other people’s lives.

What we can do is make sure that when people are at home, they’re not going insane because they have someone like you, Leo, who is creating content that will be able to kind of get you out of that mindset. Because otherwise, oh my God, all of us will be depressed if we keep going the way we’re going. 

That’s the only thing we could do right now, honestly.

Leo:

Yeah. Just having fun with it, I mean, it’s just balance – that’s very important. Like there’s just so much help the medical professionals need when it comes to PPEs, the masks, and all that stuff. , honestly, when I see my friends sharing Charities that you can donate to them, I’m donating, I’m helping, that’s the most I can really do being at home.

And then, just spreading that news so people know what I can do and then, on the other hand, it’s just like the funny stuff like, “Oh yeah, that’s funny.” I think it’s so important right now to have both. 

Debbie:

What would you say has been the best thing that you have done to be able to handle this crisis? Like mentally-wise and not just about business because you live at home in New York City with your girlfriend and I’m. that’s really stressful. And also making sure that you, guys, are doing good, your business is doing well. And you’re also business partners,

Leo:

I think still having some sort of a scheduled routine helps. So, it’s not like everyday you wake up, you’re scrambling like, “What are we doing today? What are we doing today?” So, I think, I noticed that and I’m like, “Okay, Saturday night is date night,” like we’re going to order takeout and we were going to watch a movie.

We’ll stream a new movie ‘cause they’re new movies that I don’t think even hit the theater so they go straight to streaming. It could be  a brand new movie so I’m like, “Alright, we’re going to do a movie and we will do dinner, Saturday night.” 

We’re not trying to do TikToks everyday ‘cause TikTok everyday will also be tiring. So we pick Friday or Saturday during the day. Like, “This is what we’re doing during the day, we’re just gonna shoot  videos together just for fun.” So that’s like things were doing together.

 And then, I think, both of us have different personalities: I love to play video games and watch TV shows during the day now and for her, she likes to play the piano, she likes to paint, and she likes to read. So, I was like, “Okay, if we don’t have a lot of things going on like this, what would we do without free time?” 

So,  she can be in the room., I can be in the living room. It’s okay to have separate time and just let each other do their hobby and just enjoy it. That’s the kind of downtime I don’t think we ever had before. It might just be like once a week maybe for a few hours but now you definitely have a little bit more time to do that. 

I was saying earlier that It’s helpful to know your personality, so I highly recommend taking the Enneagram personality test. It’s only, like, 10 minutes, t I think it’s really helpful to understand that your partner is not a certain way just because.  It is because of their personality, that’s, honestly, how they are, sometimes they can’t help it. 

So, I think, get to understand why they act a certain way; the good and the bad. So, you’re not blaming this person but it’s really their personality. They can’t help it or that’s how they cope with certain things. So, it’s good to understand each other. 

I’m a personality Enneagram 3, so I usually want to get everything done, like, super productive. Even for me, it’s like watching TV shows, this is my first time watching shows like Breaking Bad and Peaky Blinders. Like these shows are like really, really good I’ve never had time to watch this is all my to-do list. 

So I was like, “I feel productive watching the shows. I feel productive playing video games,” ‘cause it’s like, “This is what I want to do.” And so, like, don’t beat yourself up. If you can get everything done but find a balance of business things and also hobby things you want to do an hour at a time everyday. It’s a good way to make the day pass. 

To me, honestly, right now just go through day-to-day, one day at a time when we get time, and then hopefully, we’ll come out of this quicker.

Debbie:

That’s true.

Leo:

That’s how I feel.

Debbie:

Well, that’s a really good way of doing it. I was on a message with one of my friends who lives in London and she texted me today and she was like, “How do you measure productivity during this time?” Like, “How are you feeling about that?” 

And I told her, “Well, this is actually what I used to do even before the quarantine.” And even now, I make sure I do two things every single day. If I know I’ve gotten two things a day, then I feel like I’m productive. 

Now, I usually balance that with one of those activities or one of those tasks. It’s like a big project and then another one that’s small. And even if it takes me just an hour or two hours to do those things and if I finish and I don’t do anything else the entire day, I always feel like I’ve done something at least for my business.

And I’m going to take your advice Leo where I’m going to add things that are not business productivity and more, like, self-care productivity. Because I always feel like we think productivity always has to be about your job or your business but being productive with yourself, like, self-care, taking care of yourself, especially during this time, should be added to that.

And, I think, in a lot of ways it’s as important and sometimes even more important than just business and your job productivity as well. 

Leo:

Yeah. I literally make a list now if. I think it’s so easy to feel like you’re wasting time or yell, “What am I doing?” But just make a list and just write things out that you want to do: business and not business, and just slowly. It’s okay, there’s really no rush. There’s no rush right now. Its really just up to you. 

Especially if you’re a  super competitive person like, “What is this person doing? Don’t worry. Trust me, no one is doing the most right now. I, honestly, just wrote out the fact that coming out of this. 

I have a list and I’ve done, like, 10 podcast interviews the past few weeks, I’m working on my collection slowly, I’ve been donating to Charity, helping when I can where I see fit, I’m investing in the stock market, I’m watching TV shows. 

To me it’s like a big list, it’s like, “Guys, I finished all the Breaking Bad episodes.” To me, that’s a huge accomplishment. Like I would have never had the time to do that. These shows are just so long, right? I can list the movies and the games I play.

To me, coming out of this, I feel like that’s my accomplishment and it’s good. It’s still good to have a schedule when you watch the shows, when you have dinner, when you play video games, when you work on the business. Like a skit to just have a schedule for all those things. 

Debbie:

So, going off of that, once we come out of this, because we will, what would be the most important thing, I guess, that you have learned about yourself and your business and even your relationships that you came out with?

Leo:

I think, more than ever, is the ability to diversify. And, I think, diversify early on, like, don’t wait until something happens to start something else. Thinking back, the fact that I started the YouTube channel around 2 years ago and then, starting on different projects.

It’s so important to start the project when you want to, when you have an idea, don’t wait until something like this happens. And then, scramble and work on new things. Start building ideas as it happens, that’s been really helpful, I think. Because we have a lot of different things going on before all this happened.

Coming out of this, I mean, I’ve always been, like, carpe diem, seize the day kind of guy, but now I’m like,” I’m just gonna do everything to the fullest ever now,” just ‘cause you just never know with these kinds of things. I always preach to people like, “You just never know what happens.” 

So, if you ever wanted to travel – do it! Don’t wait until you’re 65 because you saved up enough money and now you travel. Guys, it’s easier to travel now more than ever, like, go, do, and see the things you want to do because things like this can happen. I mean it’s a really sad reality check.

People, obviously, have weddings, trips planned and then, boom – my clients are canceled. It’s just a really tough reality check but things like this can happen. Anything can happen, so if you want to do something – do it now, do it quick.

So, I think, coming out of this, once all of this is settled and it’s over with, I hope everyone travels. I hope everyone goes out and lives life to the fullest. 

Debbie:

Yeah. It’s interesting if you think about it in that way if you really want to be all profound about this. This is kind of like what it would feel if we died, right? Because right now we really can’t go anywhere, we can’t see a lot of our friends and family. And we are craving to even hold them and see them in person.

And this is a really great time to have a wake-up call in terms of like, “What have you been dying to do?” Because now, we can’t travel, when you die, you can’t do that, we can’t really hold our loved ones. Some of us are with our loved ones but what about the rest of them? 

That’s a really great perspective of this and I hope we come out of this more appreciative of the people who are really there for us. And I think that this is the time when we really see who those people are. And, hopefully, we’re there for them as well and not just them on our end.

I know everyone’s kind of panicking and everything. And It’s really hard to check up on other people when you’re not feeling the best yourself. But, also, perspective on a lot of things and what people are actually doing to sacrifice even themselves for us to make people healthy and to do all of those things. 

So, yeah, it’s a really interesting time. I mean, this would probably, for me, would be the nearest thing to dying and still being alive. 

Leo:

That’s interesting. I haven’t heard of that perspective, that’s a good reality check. I think it’s just such a huge reality check on our society, our government, the whole world. The only positive side to all this is that the pollution is gone and the air is clear and the water is clean. It’s just like wow, that’s how much harm we were doing to the world.

That’s like one and then two is our government – how prepared are they to take care of their people. In America, the healthcare system is, obviously, not working. And then, a huge reality check on who are the essential workers. 

In the past, we, obviously, take all of them for granted but now, man, whoever’s working right now, like the grocery store, transit workers, doctors, nurses, everybody. We need them so much in a society ‘cause everything else is shut down but if they down, that’s the end. So, like I said, a huge reality check and to remember how much we need them and how much we need to appreciate them. 

Yeah, there’s just so much, like, you can talk about your job. I’m sure a lot of people that can’t work from home, they’re working from home now and it’s just like, “Okay, do you love our jobs?” It’s tough to think about. 

It’s not just old people, young people are affected by the virus so, it’s like, “What if tomorrow is your last day and you haven’t done XYZ?” I think travel in mind is such a big thing, right? Like, “What if you never traveled to the one place you wanted to and tomorrow’s not promised.” 

So, it’s now a huge reality check like, “Guys, use this time and you stay home. Make a list of all the things you want to do like travel, paint, or something – I don’t know what it is. It’s a good time to reflect.

You don’t have to do it right now. I don’t think it’s the time to motivate yourself to do it but make a list. And when you come out of this, look back at it and be like, “Okay, I need to get these things done.

Debbie:

Yeah. Especially when we’re at a time where we don’t have a lot of choices with our life. And that’s really what I’m taking away from this, like, we’re so lucky. Also, the fact that we have the opportunity to be able to work from home for those of us who are able to. And there are other countries out there that don’t have the luxury that we have

It’s like we don’t have the problem of, “If I don’t go to work, I may not be able to feed my family. If I go out there, I may catch the virus and give it to my family.” So in a lot of ways, I think, it’s so much to think about and so much to be grateful of. 

And I’m not just saying, don’t feel bad, everyone has their own story and you can feel bad about what’s happening right now but also be really grateful. I think there’s a lot of things to be grateful for and I also didn’t know how much we relied on our delivery people, okay? 

I was like, “I didn’t think how essential they are to us until this whole thing happened.” Because I was like, “Yeah, I get the doctors and the nurses but I didn’t realize how much we need the delivery workers that we have.” They’re so essential to us right now.

Leo:

Yeah. I mean, before this, I rarely used my Instacart but now I’ve been using it just to be safe. We’re not even going to the supermarket just because chances are there’s going to be a lot of people there. And, just in case, we don’t want to spread it, we don’t want to get it either. 

Instacart has been so helpful even though it takes like a week. The man is there but we’re very thankful we can still get essential needs even staying at home. So yeah, it’s crazy to think about. 

Debbie:

Big thanks to everybody who’s been really helpful – oh my goodness. And I’m sure there’s a lot of parents out there who are really thankful to the teachers that are still teaching their kids and keeping them seeing a little bit of light.

Leo:

That’s tough too. Thinking about the delivery and stuff, one perspective I have is, thankfully, I’m in the position where we have some savings. I am thinking business, like, “Okay. I’m still gonna make sure I’m tipping really well. I’m still going to make sure I’m donating because I can always make money again later.”

Right now, these people are in need. So, even if I’m dipping into my savings, it might hurt my pocket a little more but I know everybody needs it right now and I can just make my money back later. It’s not like now or never.

I just think, like, more than ever, now, if you can, you have to give and help. 

Debbie:

Yeah. And this is the time. This is really the time to do it. A lot of us are sometimes thinking, “What can we do? We’re at home. I’m not a nurse, I’m not a doctor. I don’t want to do deliveries. I’m not a teacher.” This is how we can do it. Even the small things, they all add up to something. 

Well, thank you so much, Leo, for speaking with me. I hope that we’re going to meet each other soon and in person. 

Leo:

Soon!

Debbie:

When all of this craziness is gone.

If our listeners want to know more about you, where can they find you?

Leo:

You can find me on all social media platforms: Instagram, TikTok, YouTube, my blog – it’s all @levitatestyle. 

Debbie:

Perfect. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it. And I appreciate you, man. 

Leo:

Thank you, this is so nice.

Debbie:

I know, It’s like, “Hopefully, we could all meet together again in person.”

Leo:

Yeah. Sure.

I’m going to be hugging everybody after this, I’ll be like, “Oh my God. I missed you. I don’t even know you but I missed you.”

Leo:

Yes.

Debbie:

Thank you, Leo. 

Leo:

Yeah. Thank you.


Show Credits:

Audio Engineer: Ben Smith

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