Riley is a sophomore at the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism pursuing a degree in strategic communications and entrepreneurship. Riley’s unlimited drive began in high school when he founded two non-profit organizations that, to date, have collectively raised over $100,000 in domestic and international benefit.
The Springfield, Missouri native was propelled into his career at 17 years old when he wrote his first book, Life’s not always written in Times New Roman, now published in 5 different countries. In addition to being a full-time student and now two-time published author, Riley continues to travel and speak about the importance of self-awareness and the challenges faced by young adults. He has been featured in The Huffington Post, USA Today, and on CBS News.
As a keynote speaker and mentor, Riley’s purpose is to inspire a generation of millennials, both the under-appreciated and the over-coddled, who are too easily discouraged by the world we currently live in, and activate them to overcome their fear of stepping up to change it. As a result of working with Riley, students around the world have experienced significant shifts in confidence.
Give us your “elevator pitch”:
My name is Riley de Leon. I’m a full-time college student at the University of Missouri, and a two-time published author and speaker from Springfield, MO.
Tell us about your recent published works.
My first book, Life’s not always written in Times New Roman, is a collection of stories from millennials who have overcome some kind of adversity in their lives. It was inspired by my own personal adversity and zest to someday write something meaningful. The objective of my first book was to help junior high, high school, and college students overcome their fear of the unknown during times of transition.
My second book, Driven, is a “millennial manifesto” of sorts. The book distills what I think are the biggest challenges faced by the millennial generation — from self-awareness and being more present, to leaving a legacy and the fear of failure. In it, I share lessons learned from my own personal experiences in philanthropy, business, relationships, and more.
What’s been the hardest part about writing your own book(s)?
I think the most challenging part about writing both books has not just been putting pen to paper, but doing so in a way that’s relatable to people of all backgrounds and identities, rather than just based in my own experiences.
When feeling stressed or overwhelmed, what do you do to unwind and refocus?
When I need to recharge my batteries, I typically take a long drive in my Jeep with the windows down and the roof back. It’s one of the only places I truly feel at ease.
What resources have you found helpful in blazing your own trail?
One resource I’ve found to be particularly helpful to me is the content produced by Gary Vaynerchuk. It’s inspiring in a way that not a lot of self-proclaimed “hustlers” or “entrepreneurs” are. I also try to read as often as I can, but most beneficial to me are those I surround myself with. I learn something new from everyone I cross paths with.
If you could spend one day with any famous person, who would it be and why?
My close friends know this, but I’m pretty sure if I could spend one day with anyone it would be Kenny Chesney. Not only did I grow up listening to his music, I lived it. There’s a lot of raw emotion in every lyric, and it truly is a medicine to me when I’m facing something bigger than myself. What I wouldn’t give to sit down with him at a bar somewhere South and ask him these same questions.
What’s currently on your radar? Tell us about your latest project.
Right now, I’m really invested in making sure that my university is a place where every student can succeed. I was very fortunate in the sense that I knew I wanted to study journalism at Mizzou since I was 12 years old. Coming here and living that dream has helped me realize that it’s my job to leave this place I love knowing it’s an ecosystem where everyone is celebrated and everyone gets a fair shot.
What advice do you have for today’s millennial professional?
I think the best advice I can give to millennials is to take every chance. There are a lot of incredible people I’ve met and incredible things I’ve had the privilege to do because I didn’t say no. It’s easy to say that we should all “network” with each other, but the reality of the situation is that today’s millennial professional isn’t going to network without their own agenda. Go out there, learn about other people and other cultures, find out how you can have impact, and don’t hold back what you think you have to offer.
How can our readers connect with you?
All of my friends call me a social media whore, because I’m always plugged in. But, I love connecting with new people and hearing their stories.
People can find me on Facebook @rileydeleon, Twitter @rileythlion, Instagram @rileydeleon, Snapchat @therileydeleon, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. They can also always learn more about my work at rileydeleon.com.