If you don’t know who Yitzi Weiner is, you must not be paying attention to article bylines. As an award-winning writer, Weiner is not only the most active freelancer on the internet landscape, he’s also founder of the Thought Leader Incubator, a consultancy that uses powerful media tools to guide successful executives and founders to become recognized authorities and thought leaders in their industries.
After publishing over 1500 articles for his “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me” series, Weiner continues to be a featured writer on Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, Buzzfeed, Huffington Post, Thrive Global, and serves as an editor for Authority Magazine on Medium. Today, Yitzi shares 5 things he wish someone told him before he started writing.
1. There’s really a thirst for meaningful and uplifting content. It’s a cliche but so much of the content you find on the news is anxiety-producing, even though it may be true. The response that I’ve gotten from my series has shown me that people are really uplifted and do appreciate positive and meaningful and inspirational stories.
2. Everyone has a story. I’ve interviewed so many people and everyone, literally everyone, has a great story to tell. It’s so easy to just focus on people that are high-profile but even people who aren’t well-known have great advice that the world can learn from.
3. Interviewing people is such an amazing networking tool. A year ago I never would have imagined that I’d be talking to such amazing people, and it’s not because I’m a great interviewer, but it’s really because people have an urge to be able to tell their story and be listened to and be understood.
4. Interviews don’t require that much work at all. I believe I won close to 20 awards as a writer on Medium and on 4 different verticals. Whenever that happens I laugh at myself, because the truth is that I barely write at all. I simply ask questions that are “story containers” and the interviewee shares the story. People often tell me that my article is so interesting but the truth is, it’s really the storyteller and the story speaking for itself. It’s not my writing.
5. I’m surprised to learn how much time people spend on my interviews. For me, I simply send the questions. Some people spend days and days or weeks and weeks agonizing over the answers. Had I known how difficult and time-consuming it would be for people, I would be much less cavalier about posting the articles.
Among all the CEOs, thought-leaders, celebrities, politicians, and influencers that he has interviewed, Weiner says it’s hard to single out a particular person “because truthfully all of them are very interesting.” However, his recent interview with boxer and UFC featherweight champion Frankie Edgar impressed him. “People don’t usually associate a boxer with being a thoughtful, articulate, intelligent person,” says Weiner, “but Frankie and his insights were really profound and the lessons that he was able to extract from his boxing experience to business and life in general were fascinating.”
What inspired Weiner to start the series? He found that the most profound lessons are the ones people learn from the “School of Hard Knocks.” As the cliche goes “you learn much more from adversity than from University.”
The concept of the “5 things I wish someone told me” series came from Weiner’s realization that only through our experiences do we learn so many important lessons.
“When somebody thinks about the things they wish they were told,” says Weiner, “what they’re really saying is ‘this is the lesson that I’ve learned from my experience and that’s why I think it’s important for you to know.’”
“I think a reason why it is popular is because it acts like a equalizer,” he adds. “People see that even high-level CEOs or high-level celebrities have the same struggles that all of us do and it allows us to connect and relate to each other in a way that’s normally not very easy.”
Interestingly enough, Weiner is also a Rabbi. “Rabbi means teacher, and I still am a teacher. I also see my writing platform as a bit of an opportunity to continue my teaching,” Weiner says.
He contends that media is extremely powerful and influential. “So much of the information that comes through media is often similar to the literary equivalent of junk food and it’s my hope that my material is more like whole grain at Whole Foods: nourishing and uplifting.” And that’s exactly why he’s often referred to as a “positive influencer.”
Weiner notices through his writing that there is a common theme, even among powerful leaders and celebrities, and that is the art of embracing failure as a learning experience. “Often, we try our best at all costs to avoid failure but the truth is failure is often the most valuable learning experience. Almost everyone I interview talks about this,” he says.
Today, Weiner receives between 100 and 200 pitches per day.