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?

Follow Ryan

Ryan Biddulph

Ryan Biddulph is a blogger, author and world traveler who's been featured on Richard Branson's Virgin Blog, Forbes and Neil Patel Dot Com. He has written and published 126 bite-sized eBooks on Amazon. He can help you retire to a life of island hopping through smart blogging.
Follow Ryan