Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.
Good advice from an expert. This obviously applies to more than just selling things.
There are many things that kids do that confound us. As a parent, I often look at my kids sideways, wondering why they thought it was a good idea to see mud and head straight for it, why they think that dipping cheetos in chocolate milk will make them taste better, or why they diligently avoid the crust of any sandwich they eat.
Today it hit me…
They’re Going Straight For The Flavor
I was standing there watching my daughter eat a bagel with peanut butter, getting it all over her face. After I had wiped her face a couple times, I gave up – waiting for her to finish before I went in with another wipe. As she chomped away, her eyes were focused; she was determined to get to the heart of the semi-melted peanut butter bagel that held her attention like no preschool teacher ever could.
All she could think about in that moment was how good that peanut butter was going to be and again how good it was while she was eating it. Nothing else. She could have had peanut butter from her lips to her ear lobes and she would still be happy.
Which led me to my second realization…
They Don’t Stress The Mess
A couple days ago my oldest had jelly from his pb&j on his ear and either had no idea or didn’t care. His first priority was not making sure he looked good or wasn’t messy, he was enjoying the moment. He wasn’t really avoiding the crust of his sandwich, he was just going straight for the flavor, and not stressing the mess. No inner voice saying “Look at your face man!! You look like you rubbed an uncrustable all over it!”.
He was all in on that pb&j…not a care in the world about the somewhat superfluous things that adults care about.
Two Lessons From A PB&J
Think about those two things.
Go straight for the flavor
Don’t stress the mess
How many places in your adult life do you think you could apply those two lessons? The next time you plan a family fun night…a trip…a kid’s sleepover?
Maybe it’s just me, but I think that as we gain more responsibility, it becomes harder for us to let go – because we know that we have to do the “adulting” on the backend of any event, big or small – sandwich or family vacation. However, thinking about everything you have to clean up or do afterwards often takes away from your ability to enjoy the moment. Hell, sometimes I end up not enjoying it at all…I don’t get any flavor from the peanut butter and jelly of life! That’s no way to live.
So what do you do?
You step back, self-reflect, decide to change, then change. Next time you take your kids out you go straight for that flavor and don’t stress the mess.
I know that I may be stretching my illustration a bit…but I think next time I eat a pb&j…I won’t eat the crust.
Last year about this time I got bit by the vlogger bug. Pretty bad too. As you saw from my previous post, I learned a lot in 40 weeks. That’s solid 9-10 months of vlogging!! It was exhausting and I learned what I was hoping to learn…but in reality, I only learned a tiny piece of what’s out there. BUT it was great.
Now that I’m back up and on my own website, I’ll probably split my time between vlogging, blogging, and doing nothing. One thing I know about myself is that if I feel too obligated to do something, it often loses the sense of fun that keeps my passion running it. However, what I also realized I can do…is blog…about my vlog. It’s all about finding material and content right?
Blogging about Vlogging!
You should always assume that you are not the first one to come up with an idea (unless you can get a .com domain name…like I did here…boom baby!) . And if I am not the first one to write about blogging about vlogging, the PLEASE LET ME KNOW. I would love to read another blogger’s take. There is no better way to get better than to see what else is possible and strive to elevate oneself to a higher bar.
My First Vlog
The above video was my first vlog ever. Not bad in my opinion. I pretty much spelled out why I started the vlog, and it actually reflects why I started it back up after a 6-7 month break.
I want to record my family memories
It incentivizes me to do more with my family
I like the creation process
Learning and using the gear and software is fun
I honestly think that the only reason I didn’t start sooner was I didn’t know it was a thing until recently. (yes…I work too much) But I’m glad that I did because it scratches so many itchs for me. I do look back at my videoing techniques and editing faux pas and cringe every now and then…that’s also part of the fun.
Be Careful Though
One of the things that I discovered when I was vlogging regularly, was that I got sucked in to looking at my metrics. Before I knew it, I was checking the YouTube studio app , which is great regardless of my previous obsession, read incessantly about how to keep my video interactions high…all that stuff.
Thus I had to back off…I was enjoying it, but it started eating at me a bit and I would get frustrated if I didn’t “have content” to make videos…when really I just need to take a day or two off. So I took a few months off – ha!
All That to Say…
I’ll be blogging about some of my vlogging.
Topics I’m considering:
technical lessons learned
how I picked my gear
why I picked the gear I did
technique lessons learned
how to get comfortable talking to a camera you’re holding
how to explain to your family what the hell you’re doing and why
If any of these interest you, let me know and I’ll cover that one first. That way you can say you contributed to the next installation of ‘blogging about vlogging’.
I learned some valuable lessons about vlogging in 2018. Some I liked and some I didn’t. These lessons range from the art versus science aspects, to the external versus personal – sometimes very personal.
I don’t know what gave me the vlogging bug at the beginning of 2018. It was probably the fact I had started watching more YouTube in general…discovering creators out there that inspired me, or that I wanted better keepsake videos of my kids and family events than 1 random iPhone video with no context, and still perhaps some subliminal YouTube message seeped in to my brain; but I got bit and bit hard.
Below I’m going to share with you 7 lessons I learned from creating and posting 40 vlogs in 40 weeks.
Jason Koertge is one of my favorite, what I call, accidental YouTubers and probably my biggest personal inspiration because of how he vlogs with his kids in tow. Now it’s no accident that he currently has over 41,000 followers because he checks all the recommended YouTube creator boxes:
He has “niched” down
He consistently posts videos
His thumbnails are almost always killer
oh…and his content is really good (I thought he was a professional editor at first)
I call him an accidental YouTuber because I don’t believe he intended to try and build a following on YouTube. He found something he was passionate about (his 4Runner & Overlanding), that people are interested in (like me), then he made a ton of really good videos about that…and he posted them to YouTube.
The YouTube algorithm ate his stuff up and wanted more.
#1 Consistency is Key
There’s a reason that I am putting this as #1. In my opinion this is THE MOST IMPORTANT thing you can do if you want to create a following on YouTube. I even created a video about just that…but if you’re reading this, I would only watch it if you have 4 minutes and 31 seconds to watch me tell you what I just told you here. (and you can learn what my voice sounds like I guess)
All the big time YouTubers do this 1 thing extremely well. At least they used to…Casey Neistat is a more recent exception to this rule…but he has hundreds of videos out there circulating the interwebs and was incredibly consistent for years.
#2 Content Over Gear
This was a tough lesson for me to learn and it wasn’t fully realized until my very last vlog of 2018. Like a lot of people, I went a little crazy, spent a bunch of money, and got nice but not professional gear. More than I ended up needing.
I reveled in all the Amazon price hunting, the box opening, gear organizing, learning, and more. I got a pretty nice lens for my Canon 80D along with some other nice to have/less expensive lenses…and guess what, a year later I have just sold the majority of it.
You’re probably shaking your head right now and telling me that I’m an idiot…even a non-YouTuber could tell you that Scott! Well, this lesson is about how incredibly easy it is to fall right in to the rabbit hole of camera gear and enjoy the wonderland of better images, video with more bokeh, wide angles, better audio…the list goes on.
Why did it take so long to learn this lesson? Why wasn’t this realized on vlogs 1-39? First, I saw a Casey Neistat video where he said that for a long time, almost 50% of the content for his vlogs were filmed with his iPhone. Second, on vlog 40 my expensive lens was acting weird and I used my “cheap” lens. Vlog 40 turned out to be my favorite video I created, got some gorgeous shots, and the resulting video almost made me cry when I finished it. (don’t worry…sentimentality is in the eye of the beholder…me)
Somehow, due to this “restriction” to using the less expensive lens made me focus on everything else and the result I will cherish forever.
#3 Story Matters Most
No one will watch your high quality vlog if it’s not interesting.
This is why major Hollywood productions flop. The story line sucks, people can’t identify with the character, no flow, etc. Think about your storyline before you start filming for the day and you’ll be much more likely to have a good end product.
This was the steepest learning curve for me, but once I got the hang of it, it made all the difference.
Felix Schlater is a vastly under rated YouTuber who actually started as a video editor who came to vlogging. You can see it immediately and has a great series he’s making that covers the process of video making, vlogging etc.
You can overcome (sometimes) the lack of a planned out storyline with good video editing…if you have enough footage to work with. Sometimes this means that your video ends up going in a completely different direction, but you salvaged it.
#5 The Flow is Fun
I really enjoyed making these vlogs. It was challenging but very rewarding. It forced me out of my own comfort zone, prompted me to shoot video when I wouldn’t have previously, and I now have 40 videos of 2018 that I can cherish forever.
#6 I am Not a Full Time YouTuber
2018 was the year of vlogging and YouTube for me.
There is an amazing community of vloggers you can discover out there. I saw some creators start the year with only a couple hundred followers that are now over 50 thousand, some create literal movements, and some that I purely enjoy for enjoyments sake. However, just like all the “How to Write Everyday” posts you find on Medium, the one thing you will figure out by making vlogs every week…is if you enjoy the grind.
I am very satisfied with my vlogging experience and I will still make more. I learned a new skill, made some memories, and get to keep those memories. 40 vlogs with hundreds of hours of video footage, many afternoons and evenings editing video, and getting comfortable talking at a camera in public is not easy. Nor did I expect it to be…and that’s ok.
I tried it and it’s fun, but not my current profession.
#7 If You Decide to Try Something, Give It Your Best
It doesn’t matter if it’s vlogging, blogging, exercising, or eating healthier for a new year, new you. Give it your best shot…don’t hold back…and you will learn more than you ever imagined.
Take another look at this list…but this time, in your mind, replace the terms video, gear, or YouTube with whatever project or new practice you have taken up.
Consistency is key
Content over gear
Story matters most
Editing is where the magic is made
The flow is fun
I am not a YouTuber
If you decide to try something, give it your best shot
What is better than the anticipation of a big climb?
A question that can probably be answered a thousand different ways by a thousand different people. Yet in my experience there is a specific kind of anticipation is unique to climbing.
As a long time gymnast, I competed all through high school and even had the chance to compete a few times at the collegiate level. The anticipation before a meet was always a shaken, not stirred, mix of excitement and fear. Fear that I would miss the execution of a skill or fall on a landing. Fear of letting down my teammates, coaches, and mostly fear of disappointing myself. However, if I had prepared correctly, physically AND mentally, then I could calm those fears the moment I saluted a judge and prepared to perform. The calm and focus that comes with competing in that setting is very similar to the zone climbers get into when they set out on a long time project or difficult red point.
But the anticipation of a climb (more specifically for me…a big wall climb) is much more joyous than the anticipation of competition.
If you’re climbing for the right reasons, there isn’t any pressure or fear of not summiting. You’re there for the journey and the experience – whether you complete the climb or not. There is no performance that is being judged or score that you get upon completion. You climb or you don’t…it’s simple.
That doesn’t mean that I’m not nervous, obsessively checking my gear and food list, looking up the weather forecast multiple times a day, practicing setting up my portaledge, or texting my climbing partner about how excited I am. What it does mean is that I won’t be crushed if for some reason we don’t summit, are rained out, or have to come down for some reason.
El Capitan isn’t going anywhere.
I feel I must confess that I have summited El Cap twice before (Salathe Wall and East Buttress), so that does relieve a lot of possible pressure for me. My partner on the other hand has not and, like many climbers, it has been on his tick list for a long time. However, he and I have tried and failed together in the past only to come back and complete what we had previously started. (Half Dome) So I’m guessing he didn’t feel a ton of pressure either.
Because failure can be a good thing.
Once you’ve failed at something you expected to complete, often times that fear of failure goes away on future attempts of climbs at similar scale. For me this was my first go at Half Dome, I was crushed the first time we went up there and came down after 6 pitches…my previous 6 months had been devoted to training for that climb. But when my partner got hurt the decision was clear that we had to come down…and I am better for it.
Anticipation without the fear of failure is a wondrous feeling and one of the reasons I love climbing so much. Don’t be afraid to fail…you’ll be better for it.