I needed a hobby. I knew that I was going to continue traveling extensively, but I still wanted something personal. Something creative. Something portable that wouldn’t interfere with the wandering. So I started searching.
Way back in the day, I was deeply into motorcycles. I had a garage all set up with a lift, organized tool chests, and several bikes at any given time. It was probably 30% riding and 70% tinkering. I truly enjoyed those days as they let me utilize my organized self. They fed my need for ‘mechanical’ creativity as well as gave me an huge opportunity to learn something. So I wanted to replicate that with a hobby that I could do anywhere. Enter YouTube.
It’s funny in a way, because YouTube itself will teach you how to YouTube. So I pored over every creator-type video I could find. Made a business and production plan. Got way ahead of myself and started shooting videos with little in the way of skill. Started believing I was an instant Million Subscriber YouTuber, and even began asking other, more established, creators to collaborate. Which was also not so funny in a way, because I wasn’t even on the same planet as they were. I missed Golden Rule Number One that every how-to video preached … to make a few hundred videos to build your skills before you get into anything else. Learn what you don’t know.
Now there were things I did do right. My channel’s look and feel was top-notch, but that’s probably because I do software development for a living. Everything needed to run my channel was tightly organized, but again, that’s because I’m a bit anal. Anything with which I had previous skills to apply arrived with no bumps at all. But the parts I knew nothing about remained elusive. And I kept breaking other basic rules of the road as well.
Aside from “just make videos”, there are some major points that everyone highlights as necessary for success. And I’ve broken them all.
Niche. Everyone says to get a niche and stick with it. And I do think I picked a decent one. Maybe it’s not the largest slice of the YouTube pie, but its a niche that is somewhat under-filled. And one I believe will grow as YouTube’s audience ages and looks there for inspiration.
My problem was that I immediately started over-expanding what was a good idea. Watching so many others (as you’re supposed to do, see two bullet points down) I began to over-emulate. I started creating stories that barely connected with my niche. I started making the videos that I wanted to make, not ones that viewers would want to watch. And the truth is that you have to start with the latter before you can do more of the former. So as of this writing, I’m in the process of doing what I should have done months ago, I’m installing the guard rails that will define my channel for the next year or so. And staying in the lane created.
Reinventing The Wheel. Another lesson was to watch what already worked for the multi-million-plus creators out there and follow their high level formulas. Which I very quickly decided that I could do better than. I started with this idea of recreating Love American Style and making videos with three different stories in a single episode. I was going to build something YouTube had never seen and would immediately shoot to the top. Well … you know.
So I’m back to following the basics. Creating video structures that viewers want to watch. Ones they’re accustomed to. Not what I want them to. Maybe one day if I’m YT-Famous can I start to introduce revolutionary ideas, but to get to that point I need to go where the viewers are. Which, while a blow to my ego, is the absolute right decision to make.
Finding Your Style. This was a revelation that happened last night. I’ve been watching so much Casey and Peter that I started thinking I was them. That new viewers would flock to me because they wanted to see me. Which may one day be the case, but right now I’m not the commodity. One day they’ll come to my channel to see what I’m up to. But for now, videos like “21 Things You Don’t Know About Me” are a complete waste of time as far as growing the channel.
Filmmaking 101. Another thing I’m working on actively. Yes, I have most of the gear now. And knowledge about lighting, sound, and everything else behind the scenes. It’s just that I don’t apply that knowledge. I’m lazy, it appears.
So my biggest goal right now is to go back to Rule #1 … make better and better videos. Quality through quantity. I’ve been on a routine that was not improving anything. So all aspects of making a video must be examined. For each and every video. From hair and wardrobe to lighting to, well, everything.
Which Brings Us One Step Forward
What happens when you put all of these words together?
- Find a niche.
- Improve knowledge and video quality.
- Make videos.
- Be yourself.
Well, it turns out to be “Make ever-improving videos in your niche, while being yourself”. And so my niche on my YouTube channel has solidified. I’m focusing on how to actually make better videos. And I’m finally being who I want to be.
The Sub Epiphany
This was the story yesterday. Ended right at the paragraph above. But late last night I had the final inspiration. And that needs to be shared because it changes everything. And while at the same time, it doesn’t. Let me explain.
I was watching a NatGeo-style show after dinner. The basic premise was using speciality cameras at night to capture wildlife. It was interesting, sure, but for some reason I noticed something else. How the show was put together. And I realized what I wanted to really do. Then later, as I was trying unsuccessfully to fall asleep, the last pieces fell into place as far as what I had written earlier.
Let’s do the reveal in reverse order. It makes more sense that way.
Immediately after writing the first part of this post, before the mini-epiphany, I went to my Trello Board (where I organize stories, etc) and started fiddling with everything to fit into those guard rails I spoke of earlier. Made some minor changes and slapped myself on the back. But last night I realized I hadn’t finished the guard rails. Almost every story I had planned still didn’t fit. Because I hadn’t yet fully refined my niche.
Remember the tag line? Mastering The Second Half Of Life? How I was going to reach out to those who were in my shoes and lead them down the path towards wandering bliss? Well, that’s not working. But what if I flipped it 180 degrees? To what it should have been. I’m the one who is mastering my second half. But the story isn’t about me, it’s about what I’m doing to achieve that. It’s the actual places I visit. The things I see. The life I’m living. Not me. Not me at all. But the life itself.
Remember the NatGeo show from the earlier paragraph? Here’s what I saw … the story started with a small camera crew trekking through somewhere to get to a shot. The cameraman and others were interviewed, as they were trekking, about what they were doing. What they hoped to find and accomplish. We watch them setup and get ready to film, without ever really knowing who they were. They were just the camera crew passing on information. That was the story, until the story became what they were there to film. Then … aaahhhhh! The subject revealed. And it wrapped up with them enjoying their success by watching what they captured. A story within a story, all about a very specific place or thing.
It seems that I didn’t watch the show for the show. Instead I somehow watched it for how it was made. Why did I enjoy it? And in answering that, I knew what I wanted to do. Every story and video I’ve made thus far has each brought me towards this style of talking about myself. It was becoming about me standing in front of something, obscuring it, because I was the point of interest. Well, it should be me standing beside something, pointing you at it instead.
So with that idea, every story in Trello got dropped. Even the ones that are serially in place (like my move to Barcelona). They all end now, on this 18th day of March. No one cares about my move. Only I do. No one cares about my anxiety, my desire to improve my health, or my hairstyle. I do. So those don’t get video time anymore. They will continue to be featured in this blog, because I do love to write about them. And those stories lend themselves well to the written word. But as far as videos, expect to see the niche flipped. Just places and things interesting. My quest to find them and show them off. Me living my second half from the perspective of what I’m actually doing and seeing.
One final thought. I’m not unhappy. For a lot of reasons I think I had to get to this point. I got to practice a lot, in a lot of areas, and maybe I’m ready to actually get started. For realzies this time. I feel like I graduated elementary school and I get to go play with the bigger kids now. I’ll still be little and unwise and all that — but grades k-6 are over. Let’s see where middle school brings me.