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Conversations with Rodion Kirkland

Today we’d like to introduce you to Rodion Kirkland.

Rodion, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
Hello there! My name is Matthew (Rodion) Kirkland, but I go by Rodion. I guess I’ll start off with where I am today. I’m 19 years old and was born on January 28 2002 in Taldykorgan Kazahkstan. I was quickly put up for adoption and lived in “baby house #2.” I was then adopted by my mom and dad and moved to America. When it comes to my origin, there’s almost nothing I know. The only I have to go back on is a birth certificate and an adoption record (which is just 1-2 sheets of paper) and my middle name “Rodion.” I grew up on a farm for about 12-13 years in Missouri and was an only child, so I learned how to keep myself busy and entertained. Climbed the same tree millions of times. Threw a baseball in the air and catch it with my glove. Would shoot hoops, play with action figures. I’d even pop a music disc into my PS2 and just lay down on my bed and listen to it. Basically, I usually found a way to keep myself entertained.

Fast forward and I went through my ups and downs. Went to a private religious school, then switched to public. Had my struggles. Made friends, lost friends. Did some sports, was a good student, the usual. Trained in Hapkido, gymnastics, wrestled for 2 years, taught myself a little bit of fighting, got into basketball a bit, did track and field for about 2 years, started CrossFit at age 11 (I’ve been working out ever since I was about 9 years old), started weightlifting at age 14 (only recreational), even tried hip hop dancing for the tiniest bit.

Go past the sports and stuff and I grew up enjoy gaming, pro wrestling (mainly WWE), music, even did some drawing for a bit (went as far to even try making a SpongeBob comic hahaha), Marvel and DC, Star Wars, Legos, etc.

Nowadays, to put it simply I’m a mixed bag of many things. I do quite a bit that keeps me occupied in life that has slowly built up in the past year and a half (and continues to do so). I’m a podcast host (currently working on the show right now so you can’t find it anywhere but it’ll be published VERY soon), a content creator on TikTok (@noturavgasian), weightlifter in the 55kg Junior weight class for team Strength Works, MASSIVE health and fitness enthusiast, and still a kid just trying out a lot of things and learning as I go.

When it comes to my professional/ work life, I’m a social media manager & content creator (working as an independent contractor with gyms and fitness brands. Always looking to share ideas with new potential clients and make great connections!) and marketing assistant for my gym, CrossFit St. Charles, and work as a kitchen assistant in old north STL for the nutrition meal prep business, Eatful owned by Kenneth Mao (a friend and mentor of mine). So yeah, there’s quite a lot to unpack hahaha. I also guess I should mention that I’m currently not in college and have yet to continue my education past high school, but that’s another story.

Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way? Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
DEFINITELY NOT hahaha, but if it was smooth then it wouldn’t be effective. I’ve tried a lot and much of it hasn’t gone accordingly. I’ve always have seemed to bounce around when it comes to my work and passions. When it comes to work and my career/ job life, much has changed. Ever since I was a kid, I never really had my eyes on the ideal career or work-life path. I first wanted to be a professional wrestler (something many people laugh at or judge you for (both kids and adults) when you’re in elementary school and everyone else is talking about being a nurse, doctor, whatever. I then wanted to get into the music industry as a possible artist for either rap or rock music. Tried being in a band and that was kinda ugly hahaha. Thought about acting a tiny bit (may take some classes in the future). Tried personal training in fitness; which is still not ideal people will say because it doesn’t exactly pay much. Slowly transitioned into being more interested in business and entrepreneurship. I studied investing for a while and thought about working in finance (I even typed up like 50-80 pages of notes on investing I got from reading One Up on Wallstreet and Value Investing Made Easy). Learned that I didn’t have much of a passion or true interest in it after a while. So because of that I thought about owning my own gym and decided to meet some gym owners and trainers in and out of state. Then I discovered social media and TikTok and that’s when I started to get into content creation which is where my head is at now.

The biggest challenges have really been just trying so many things and seeing what does and doesn’t float my boat. Certain things seem to be working out and lining up and then something happens and you have to adjust. But it makes it fun too. Of course, you have personal stuff that happens. I’m a MASSIVE overthinker and worry A LOT. I struggled with depression and bad anxiety when I was a little kid. Got teased for being Asian and being short (got beaten up once on my birthday ‘cause I was Asian, not an ideal present hahaha). My mom at one point kept going in and out of the hospital for health reasons. I re-entered a different phase of “depression” when I was a Junior in high school. But you move forward and you learn that there are great people in your life and you re-learn lessons and learn new ones. A muscle must be broken down to become stronger. The same goes for the human condition.

As you know, we’re big fans of you and your work. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about what you do?

I guess you could say I “specialize” in brand development and influence THROUGH social media management and content creation. I have no degree whatsoever and have yet to spend a single minute in a college class. I do social media management & content creation for CrossFit St. Charles and it’s a pretty awesome job in the end. I’m consistently being challenged creatively when I have to make videos or do graphic design, and it allows me to make a final product that I can be proud of that helps the gym and the community in it. I am looking to sign on one more client that specializes in fitness or is a gym owner though. So, if anyone is out there and wants to discuss some ideas, feel free to email me @ mkirk246@gmail.com or message me through Instagram @rodionkirkland. The profession is more than just making posts and cool videos. It really revolves around developing and showcasing one’s brand through creative ways using technology.

That’s mainly social media management and business talk. There’s a big difference, in my opinion, between specializing in brand development and SMM vs. content creation. Content creation is the other thing I really specialize in. From graphic design to video editing/ production (to the extent of my skill level), to making quick TikToks, a podcast, etc. I haven’t ever taken any classes or courses for any of that. It’s all self-taught. The biggest thing when it comes to this so far is my podcast called “A Touch of Human” where I sit down with ordinary people who do the extra-ordinary and we discuss their lives, passions, perspectives, etc. all in an attempt to help others navigate their own lives. The show is currently out on Spotify and there are over 50 episodes.

However, I’m also known for my fitness. As I said, I started when I was young and haven’t stopped. CrossFit has been the biggest part of it but I’ve done weight training, strongman, a tiny bit of running, and have stayed on top of it for the most part. Also, as I said earlier, I’m a 55kg weightlifter for team Strength Works. I actually just went to Detroit for the Junior National Championships and placed Silver! It was my first time going and only my second meet. Was unlike anything I have ever done and is easily the coolest thing I have ever done when it comes to the sports aspect of my life. But I’m also kinda known for my TikToks.

I think what I’m most proud of isn’t really tangible though. I think what I’m most proud of is always being so-called “wise beyond my years.” I take pride in that cause I feel like it makes me kind of distinct from the average teenager. More recently, I’m proud of the fact that I’m willing to take action on many of the ideas I have nowadays. I’m proud that I built up the nerve to actually go against the societal grains and not go through with college and whatnot. That I kinda decided to dive headfirst into some things and just take the consequences as they come. Trust me, there are some big lessons I’ve learned in just one year after high school that I would not have probably learned in college.

I don’t like sitting back and trying to plan everything really unless I have to do it. I just want to go out and “do it,” and it seems that a lot of people don’t do that nowadays for fear of failure, judgment, etc. There’s a good quote that says “Ships are safe at harbor, but that’s not what they’re meant for.”

That’s not to say that everyone else’s life is boring or that they need to live the way I do, etc. I’m becoming a big believer in the idea that EVERYONE has a different story to tell and something to share that can change us. We’re all going through something or struggling in the end. It’s just that, we’re so used to being taught to take a certain direct and traditional route in life after childhood (and kinda during childhood as well) and I’m proud to say that so far, I have yet to do that. I’ve seen myself go in that direction and still somehow end up doing something completely different. I’m also proud of how well I’ve been able to hold my independence for the most part and meet other people. I literally know people from the east to the west coast that all do something different and are connections.

So, I’m proud of all of that really, which is odd for me to write out right now because I usually don’t take time to reflect on what I’ve accomplished.

Do you have any advice for those looking to network or find a mentor?
Wow, there’s a lot!

I think you first have to network before you find a mentor. When it comes to networking, social media has really helped me. Just following people and replying to their stories, commenting on their posts, messaging them, etc. Just don’t be fake and stuff because people will eventually read through that. You also need to let relationships with these people just naturally build. You shouldn’t force it. I also recommend reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. Classic book and kinda cliche but man oh man is it useful. It takes energy to try and keep your network stable. You’ll have moments where you question how your relationship is with someone and certain ones will really prosper while others may not. You can’t approach relationships as only trying to get a favor or whatnot from another person. You actually have to care and enjoy/ appreciate this other person’s presence.

When it comes to finding a mentor, for me at least, it comes from already having established a relationship with someone and just learning more about them and seeing how they are. It’s keeping in contact with them and, once again, not being fake. Also, ambition goes a long way. A lot of people seem to forget that ambition shows and people love seeing ambition. It inspires them and lets them know how serious you are. People like it when you’re passionate. And when it comes to it all, it’s about the other person and what you can do for them.

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Image Credits
Kjell Pederson

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