How 2 of my Famous New Jersey Buddies Teach You How to Become Wildly Successful Bloggers

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Do you want to see a rainbow? I snapped this shot from our front porch in Savusavu, Fiji.

Do you want to see a rainbow? I snapped this shot from our front porch in Savusavu, Fiji.


I have 2 famous friends. Well at least I think they’re famous, and not only that, they will likely become world-renowned because they’ve cracked the code, success-wise.

I knew them before they became famous.

I went to grammar school and high school with one of these folks (he’s from the next town over from my hometown) and my other friend, well, he grew up a few blocks away from me in NJ.

Both guys are the kindest, warmest, most high energy dudes you’ll ever meet.


Who Are My Friends?


Stephen Marinaro, aka, The Salon Guy, is a wildly successful, well, salon guy, but he’s also a branding superstar, celebrity interviewer, and heck, he’s appeared on Good Morning America. It doesn’t get any bigger than that when it comes to doing things high profile.

Derrick Gordon is a star guard on the University of Massachusetts basketball team. He’s also the first openly gay Division 1 college basketball player and he made headlines around the world a few months ago when he came out.

I’m not only overwhelmingly proud of my 2 guys, I’ve learned a few clear success lessons from them which I’ve applied to my life.


Blogging from Paradise


Both Steve and Derrick were “regular” guys. Each however had the drive, vision and tenacity to make their dreams come true.

I’ve enjoyed watching each dude succeed from afar because I’m also well aware of the struggles they’ve went through to reach this station in life.

Steve went through many trials and tribulations to get his brand out there, on the radar and noticed by the major media outlets. He’s been in that same exact space experienced by many struggling bloggers who simply keep getting up after being knocked down, again and again, to eventually succeed.

He’s succeeded tremendously, having just reached the dizzying number of 50,000 subscribers on Youtube.

He has a flair for the creative and a just dogged tenacity I haven’t seen since I’ve been online.

I’ve fed off of Steve’s persistence, faith and dedication to his vision, to be blogging from Savusavu, Fiji. More on Steve in a bit.

Derrick Gordon is a guy I came to know from his days on the court at St. Pat’s high school in Elizabeth, New Jersey. He was a star guard on teams which featured NBA lottery picks Kyrie Irving and Michael Gilchrist, as well as North Carolina standout Dexter Strickland.

Yes, for you basketball nuts, St. Pat’s had Derrick Gordon, UMass star guard, and guys who played college ball at Duke, Kentucky and North Carolina, ALL on the same high school team.

Anyway, I appreciated DG’s intense style and attacking attitude, as well as his ability to finish around the rim and his lock down defense.

We started chatting after one of his games. It turns out, he grew up around the block from me in my hometown. When I started my “around the world” blogging trip, Derrick and I kept in touch on Facebook and Twitter, and we Skyped too

Derrick taught me how to be tenacious and persistent like Steve, but being the first major Division 1 basketball player to announce he was gay, well, he taught me how to be courageous, and how to be true to you, more than any person that I’ve known.

On to my friends, and on to the blogging lessons they’ll teach you.


Stephen Marinaro



Steve on Good Morning America. He's the dashing dresser to the far right. (left hand in pocket)

Steve on Good Morning America. He’s the dashing dresser to the far right. (left hand in pocket)


More than anything, Steve teaches you 2 critical blogging lessons: how to create a ONE OF A KIND brand, and how to be brutally, doggedly persistent.

He’s the genius behind the Salon Guy brand, and he’s a youtube dynamo too. The guy has attracted over 50,000 Youtube subscribers and everywhere I turn around he’s popping up on Good Morning America, or the TV show TMZ, or he’s on the red carpet of some major entertainment event.


Branding and Steve


Steve’s brand is his. All the way through. I’ve seen stylists who’ve built pretty neat brands but he takes it to another level. SM injects his personality, wittiness and humor into each youtube video, blog post and Facebook status update.

He’s infused the Salon Guy brand with a clear, clean design that’s beyond appealing to the eye. More than any design though, Steve’s injected his positive energy into his brand.

You can see evidence of his branding genius through his huge, responsive, supportive group of friends/aka rabid fans, who inspire Steve every step of the way.


Me and Stephen


Stephen Marinaro and I attended St Bartholomew’s School in Scotch Plains, NJ. He was 1 grade ahead of me. We teamed up on the basketball team – coached by my pops – and also went to the same high school, Union Catholic, also located in Scotch Plains.

We’ve since connected a time or 2 on Skype and a bunch of times on Facebook.

The coolest thing about Steve is that he’s not only positive, and a branding wizard, and a talented stylist…he’s also about the most persistent guy you’ll ever meet.

He hustles continually, doing red carpet events to interview the stars, hitting up the latest fashion shows to keep up to date with the trends and most of all, just getting his Salon Guy brand all over the place, all over the time.


Steve’s Blogging Lesson for You


Brand the living stuffing out of yourself and persist like hell.

I received “top billing” endorsements from a NY Times best-selling author, and I have a speaking engagement lined up at NYU, and I was featured on because guys like Steve inspired me to brand me, and to persist like hell in spreading the word.

Your blog must scream YOU, or YOUR BRAND, whatever it is, to stand out from the noisy online world.

Most bloggers try to out-shout the competition. This is akin to kids in kindergarten, screaming for their teacher’s attention. Meanwhile, guys like me and Steve are the kids who calmly walk up to the teacher’s desk with a bright, shiny apple.

Steve has mastered paying it forward, and giving freely, with no strings attached, and evidence of this is due to the fact that he’s appeared on shows like Good Morning America. The guy is *getting* and living his dream because he’s persistent in *giving freely* and building a one-of-a-kind brand.


Derrick Gordon


Derrick being true to himself.

Derrick being true to himself.



Even though Derrick Gordon grew up a  few blocks away from my home, in Plainfield, I didn’t get to know him until he was a senior at St. Patrick’s high school in NJ.

My dad played for the former principle at St. Pats, when he was in high school, and worked for the AD at Kraft Foods, back when he was a young whippersnapper. (My old man eventually worked in the steam ship industry on the corporate side for 37 years; yep, his connection helped me land my security guard job.)

Anyway, we started following the program after I graduated from Union Catholic and my basketball playing days were over because of these connections and because they featured star All Americans and future NBA stars like Al Harrington, Sam Dalembert, Kyrie Irving and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Derrick was a standout player as a freshman on St. Pat’s which was almost unheard of considering the level of competition at the school. His energy was unlimited, and he played with a fire I hadn’t seen down at the school. He was a tenacious defender and his ability to finish at the rim was remarkable.


Derrick and Me


After one game during his senior year I introduced myself to him. I knew he was from my home town but it turns out, he was front the East Side of town, and grew up a few blocks away from me. Neat.

We hit it off. We chatted on twitter and Facebook a few times and of course after his games too. Before Kelli and I left for Bali I met DG at his crib and I wished him the best on his budding college career.


The Blogging Lesson – Derrick Gordon


Well, I could list about 11 lessons when you factor in his:

  • Tenacity
  • Fire
  • Hunger
  • Iron will
  • Persistence
  • Heart
  • Belief in self
  • Creativity
  • Kindness
  • Generosity
  • Humble nature

…but I want to share 2 invaluable lessons for you.


Overcoming Adversity


When Derrick was in high school his twin brother and best friend on earth went to prison.

He’s since had to deal with the agony of thinking what may have been, had things gone in another direction for his bro.  Derrick used this unbelievably stressful situation for motivation and inspiration, and became an All State player – in a state FULL of talented Division 1 players – and scored a scholarship to Western Kentucky University.

He had a great frosh year at WKU but felt the urge to be a bit closer to home. He transferred to the University of Massachussetts.

After sitting out a year he was having a successful campaign when he sent me a message on Facebook. We’d been chatting for a while, checking in, talking about my travels, his season, and school….but I could tell something was up.

Derrick shared with me and a few other folks what the world would soon know.

He told me he’s gay.

I supported him 100%, not only because he was my friend, but because he’s a human being with a preference. I see people as people. Truthfully, I didn’t bat an eyelash because it’s a non issue to me.

Just coming out to me took a tremendous amount of courage on his part, I did know that. Being yourself can be the most courageous decision, in front of 1 person, let alone, in front of the world.

A few short months later Derrick made perhaps the most courageous decision of his life: he went to the media and became the first openly gay major Division 1 men’s basketball player. He history.

He was headline news on,, and a ton of other major US as well as international media outlets.

The response was overwhelmingly positive. After Jason Collins becoming the first openly gay NBA player and Michael Sam coming out as the first openly gay football player Derrick was definitely a pioneer, being one of the first major sports players to inspire other people to go public with their decision.

Talk about courageous!

Most people are terrified to share even the tiniest little secrets on Facebook, for an audience of 10 friends. Derrick made his announcement to the world, literally billions of people,  knowing full well that there could be a huge backlash from ignorant and unhappy, judgmental people.

I also see him as such a brave, fearless dude, because coming out in the athletic world – a general homophobic attitude pervades this niche – was a flat out ballsy, courageous, bold move.


Being True to You: Derrick’s Blogging Lesson


I’ve never seen my man happier, or more at peace, since we’ve known each other. He’s been a positive spokesman for a great cause and even delivered an inspirational TED speech recently.

Derrick is being true to himself, and he was unbelievably courageous in making that decision. He’s at peace in his own skin. He no longer needs to hide. Whereas once he felt like an outsider on his team, he now is surrounded by loving, supportive friends. His team backed him, his school backed him, and just about everybody in the public eye has offered their support to DG.


Stormy day in Fiji recently. The driveway view shows a stunning mix of clouds, blue skies and lush green mountains.

Stormy day in Fiji recently. Our driveway view shows a stunning mix of clouds, blue skies and lush green mountains.


I’m not only incredibly proud of him, I’ve also been inspired to be true to myself, and to tell my life story, because of Derrick.

I’ve shared my life with you; my victories, and my down times, and I’ve pretty much brought you wherever I’ve been over the past 39 months….from the travel pictures, to the incredibly high, high points, to the low points.


Blogging Lessons from Derrick’s Life for You to Digest


When you are true to you, and tell your story, like-minded people will love you as a blogger. Your blogging story is YOUR blogging story. Nobody on earth can tell that story but you. Just like Derrick was incredibly courageous, and made himself vulnerable, by ceasing to live a lie, and by being true to himself, you’ll need to be incredibly courageous, and vulnerable, to be true to yourself…..but make no mistakes, the world will love you for it.

Like-minded people will find you when you’re simply telling your story, when you inject your personality into your brand, and when you’re being true to you.

Being true to you, as a blogger, means:

  • Sharing your most horrible failures when you feel embarrassed to do so
  • Sharing your most spectacular victories even if you feel like it’s bragging
  • Speaking with your writing voice, and sharing your take on topics even if you’ll be criticized for it
  • Being free

That’s it, that’s the kicker; you’ll be free when you’re true to you. You’ll never try to be like another blogger, your blog will go from bland, to brilliant, and like Mr. Selfie – Me – I’ll expect to see plenty of pictures of yourself, all over your blog…..because your blog will scream……you!

That’s how to become a branding dynamo. That’s how to stand out, so you can inspire others. Tell your story to the world through your blog. Speak your voice. Be true to you.  Don’t hold back. Let your true self out, and paint this essence on your blogging canvas every time you publish a new post.


 Blogging Lessons from My Guys


Ok, now you know to:

  • Brand the heck out of yourself
  • Be brutally persistent
  • Use adversity as a motivator
  • Make a courageous decision to be true to you

My friends include a fast rising celebrity interviewer/renowned stylist, branding dynamo, and the 1st openly gay D1 men’s basketball athlete who’s an aspiring NBA player.

I am blessed because let me tell you; these dudes inspired me through some tough times, and if you get to know them, and follow their careers, I guarantee, they’ll inspire you to plow through blogging and life obstacles too.

Both of my friends are genuinely kind, compassionate, thoughtful individuals. They are eternally appreciative, generous, and heck, I am so blessed to know them.

Where to learn more about my guys…..

Steve Marinaro’s YouTube Channel

Steve’s Facebook Page

Steve’s Blog

Derrick Gordon’s Facebook Fan Page

Derrick’s Twitter Feed

Derrick’s Instagram Account


Your Turn

First off, please subscribe to my blog. Scroll up to find the form on the right side of this page.

Share this post with your friends if you were inspired by it.

Did you know that I was friends with Steve or Derrick?

Have you come across these inspiring guys online?

What lessons did they teach you, blogging-wise and life-wise?

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Ryan Biddulph

Author of the Blogging from Paradise eBook series. Blogger. Coach. Internet Lifestyle Junkie.
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  1. Ken Kai


    Loved playing basketball back at school. Damn I miss it! Great to see your friends doing so well with their careers.

    I like that approach of honesty to the blogs. I am going to go through a long story of some of my South East Asian drama’s. Running from gangsters, court cases, being blackmailed over $300,000.. There’s an on going list of experiences I need to write about!

    I’ve always got respect for people who can be open about themselves. Good on him for speaking out. Glad to see he’s doing well.

    You’ve got to follow that rainbow next time though Ryan. See if it leads to a stash of hidden Fijian treasures. ;)

    Cheers mate. Giving it a tweet,

    Ken Kai recently posted…Green Island: 5 Incredible Photo’s You Must SeeMy Profile

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      Hi Ken, wow, what stories! Sounds like a crazy life indeed. I’m looking forward to seeing you share because your life sounds like a movie man. Yep, next time I’m following the rainbow to the source to find the Fijian gold ;) Thanks so much for your support Ken and enjoy your night in Bali.

  2. MSI Sakib

    Hey Ryan,
    I learned about your cool friends Stephen Marinaro and Derrick Gordon. Actually in my view friends are the best gift from the creator. Thanks for sharing your friends and your combined story. Bless you all …
    MSI Sakib recently posted…Comment on 18 Best Ping Sites to Index Your Blog Very Fast – 2014 by MSI SakibMy Profile

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      Sakib, you put it beautifully bro. Friends are the greatest gift from the Universe and I have 2 great ones in Derrick and Steve. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  3. kelli

    Hey Ryan
    Knocked it out of the park again. Not only a great tribute to two awesome people, but as always you were able to link stories to incredible blogging tips to help your readers. I’m sure Steve and Derrick will love reading this!
    kelli recently posted…Get Out of Your Own Way: How We Sabotage Our Happiness Part 2My Profile

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      KC, these guys rock don’t they? You’ve come to know them too over the years if only online and in truth, they are about the most inspiring guys you could ever know. I think they will, and I truly appreciate them. Thanks so much for sharing.

  4. Don Purdum

    Hi Ryan,

    Very, very, very inspirational stories. It’s awesome to read of how people really got to where they are at because too many people don’t understand the true road to success.

    These guys didn’t just one day suddenly out of nowhere end up successful. The struggles, toils, pains, tears, losses… it all goes together.

    I learned the hard way that you cannot achieve success until you fail. It’s really that simple. It’s in failure that you learn, grow, and achieve success as you persevere and endure the hardships.

    I never met a successful man or woman that said their success made them successful.

    I love to study business and business people. All of the great entrepreneurs experienced failure and overcame it. Most of them were bankrupt at least once.

    I have known the pain of failure and it’s forced me to really decide:

    Who I am?
    What do I believe in?
    Do I really believe in my myself?
    Does it matter what others out there might say?
    How committed am I really?
    How far am I willing to go?
    What am I really willing to sacrifice?

    You have to dig deep and ask yourself the honest and brutal questions and be willing to give yourself honest, brutal answers.

    When I achieve my goals, and I will, no one is going to understand what I went through the last number of years nor will they care. Except for those who need the encouragement just as I did at time.

    I so appreciate you sharing these stories. It hit a real chord with me!!! Good for these two men who obviously were faced with challenges and decided to push past them!

    Thanks Ryan!

    ~ Don Purdum
    Don Purdum recently posted…Get More Sales: How a Sales Professional Can Use the Internet to Increase SalesMy Profile

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      Hi Don, I love that list. Perfect. I can see how much you’ve learned from your setbacks. Your current level of success is sensational, so you’ve brought your lessons with you and are practicing what you preach. For me, just gaining that level of clarity, and purifying my intent, was the little itty bitty change that put my new blog into motion. Thanks so much Don :)

  5. Lauren G Reliford (Queen of Forgiveness)

    Inspiring. Thanks for the tips as always.
    Lauren G Reliford (Queen of Forgiveness) recently posted…Lauren G Reliford on BKC.nameMy Profile

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      My pleasure Lauren. Thanks so much for stopping by.

  6. TimothyTorrents

    The 11 lessons that you listed are all gold. It’s all about persistence! Nice to hear about your friends. It’s so important to include personality in your website. I just learned that recently and I’m considering throwing away my website and making something new… I don’t know…

    But I do know from now on, whenever I publish a post, I’m going to throw in as much of my personality as possible, and see what happens. Another thing that I learned recently, and that you confirmed here, is the power of paying it forward. Make the first move. It’s worth it.
    TimothyTorrents recently posted…eBook Complete: Grab a Free Copy!My Profile

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      Timothy that personality point is huge. For me, I had to throw out my old site to align with my personality and true purpose. Letting go precedes growing and paying it forward opens wonderful doors. Thanks so much for stopping by, reading and sharing.

  7. Rohan Bhardwaj

    Hi Ryan,

    Yet again you borrowed the lessons from your own great vision. Life lessons and blogging lessons sometimes goes hand in hand. One needs to be ready to accept their truth and go for it.

    The success is only a courageous step ahead. Just we need to take that step.

    It takes time, skills and a lot of pushing.

    It’s not the most difficult situations that makes the most awesome personalities develop. Nice post.
    Rohan Bhardwaj recently posted…All Eating And No Exercise Makes Jack A Fat GuyMy Profile

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      Hi Rohan, taking that brave step sets all into motion. Steve and Derrick both took a series of brave, bold steps to live their dreams. Evidence of this is their life, their results and their burgeoning fame as they inspire so many folks to live their dreams. Thanks so much Rohan, appreciate it.

  8. The Guy

    Hi Ryan,

    As I am non-American and also not a lover of basketball I had not heard of either of these guys until today. However after reading your article they have very impressive CVs and are undoubtedly achievers, winners and inspirers.

    It is great that you’ve seen them from their early beginnings to where they are today. Like you, they have a dedicated determination and persistence to succeed. Stand out from the crowd and make a difference. Did they put some magic juice in the water in NJ?
    The Guy recently posted…Scottish Independence And How It Can Affect Us TouristsMy Profile

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      Hi TG, Hahaha….honest to goodness, NJ has more big name celebrities per capita than any state in America, and outside of Brooklyn, I think that there’s no smaller area on earth with more famous people who’ve called it home. 10 million folks squeezed into a tiny area. Guys like Frank Sinatra, Jack Nicholson, Danny DeVito, Michael Douglas, and so many world class athletes, and entrepreneurs, it’s quite amazing….maybe if Derrick and Steve keep at it (and myself?) we’ll reach their level….either way, it’s an interesting area for sure. Thanks so much for your comment and continued support :) Enjoy your weekend.

  9. donna merrill

    Hey Ryan,

    Thank you for illustrating how these two guys inspired you in your life. What a read! I was in awe with Derrick’s story. How he overcame adversity in his life. What a fine example he is to us all.

    I learned early in life when I was a teenager getting into some trouble lol…my mom wrote me a letter and at the end she quoted “To thine own self be true.” I gave that a lot of thought and became a leader instead of a follower. She might have saved my life with that quote, but I’ll never forget it!

    Being true to ourselves is a must! Sharing it with the public is also a must do! If we share an experience that was just awful and how we overcame it we are showing others they can do it too. And what a great gift that is to people!

    So Jersey boy, this was such a wonderful way of illustrating how we can all be persistent, find that drive within us, and do just about anything we want to do.

    I loved this and will share it to inspire my friends and followers!

    donna merrill recently posted…Stick To Your Niche?My Profile

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      Hi Donna, I love the note your mother wrote you, it’s perfect. When you are true to you, your life will be magical. When you’re not, life is either miserable, boring, or full of problems for us. Sharing is so key; love that point. The sharing inspires others to do the same. Thanks so much Donna :)

  10. Emebu

    Hi Ryan,
    I usually tell people that you are what your friends are; friends has enough power to influence you most especially when you don’t know where you are headed in life.
    I am very happy for you and may your two friends Stephen Marinaro (The Salon Guy) and Derrick Gordon be engraced the more to influence you in the positive and you in turn influencing others.

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      Emebu, what a true statement. We are pretty much the collection of the friends around us, so you better choose wisely. Surround yourself with great people. Thanks so much buddy for reading and commenting.

  11. Pingback: 34 Things You Probably Didn’t Know about Me (Plus Fun Fiji Pictures and a Blogging Lesson for You) - Blogging From Paradise

  12. Sanjay Sajeev

    The 11 lessons that you listed is a great inspiration to me. And you mentioned about overcoming adversity, that is the key lesson that everyone should learn. Thank you for sharing this inspirational post.
    Sanjay Sajeev recently posted…16 Approved On Page SEO FactorsMy Profile

    1. Ryan Biddulph (Post author)

      Yes it is Sanjay, thanks so much for sharing.


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