I read a lot of blogs and twitter feeds of very successful people.
Frankly, it's exhausting.
It seems like everybody always has advice on what to do, how to make money, what you're doing wrong, etc. Reading a couple of these is a good way to learn something, maybe get some ideas. Reading a lot of them is a good way to start hating everybody and thinking there is something wrong with you.
It's not that I disagree with what they have to say necessarily; it's just that I typically haven’t felt like it applied to me. They were encouraging and supportive giving “life hacks” and “pro-tips” for everything from running a business to how to live your day. But part of me couldn’t help but think, yea that's great for you, but what about somebody who doesn't want to do any of those things?
I didn't need motivation, stimulation or a cheerleader. I just needed a frigging idea to start with.
“Successful” people on soapboxes have become so ubiquitous it sometimes feels like they outnumber people who don’t have it all together.
I wanted to be like those successful people... in some ways. I love writing but I didn't necessarily want to be in a position to tell people how to be successful, achieve life goals, etc. Even just thinking about that feels disingenuous to me since, looking back on my twenties, whenever I thought I was running, it now appears I was just stumbling at a great pace.
I had ideas of grandeur for my own life, aspirations, and goals, lists on lists on lists of what I wanted to do. So what then? How was I going to do it all? How was I going to achieve financial independence? How was I going to free myself from the workplace chicken coup? How was I going to do, ya know, stuff?!
It wasn't that I had a lack of ideas. Hell I had a wealth of ideas. Tons of ideas. So many ideas I didn't know what to do with them all, so I naturally tried to do them all at the same time.
That is not what one would call a "monetization strategy."
But it was the only thing I knew how to do, and since I had no other ideas, being as creative as I could as often as I could was the only currency I cared to trade in.
A funny thing happens as you get older and start paying attention more, if you are lucky enough to have the former follow the latter. You start to recognize patterns. Understand how your own life seems to work. And if you are lucky, and industrious enough, you can kind of manifest those patterns in your life for the better.
Like this year, I knew there was a conference I wanted to go that had changed other peoples' lives. I wanted to be one of those peoples. I wanted to be the one singing the praises of this tremendous affair. It was terrifying because I knew going in I was putting an ungodly amount of pressure on this conference. But it was hard not to. I wanted a change. I was looking to explode.
And something happened there. I couldn't have planned it. I couldn't have subjected myself to it if I tried. And that's what makes it so wonderful. It happened in three stages.
But before that a little background.
I mentioned that I wanted to do my own thing. I wasn't somebody who was going to build a startup. I wasn't somebody who was going to get Angel investors and pitch venture capitalists. I knew I had skills and abilities. I just didn't know how to monetize them. And that was the word that kept popping up in my head, monetize.
So by the time I got to this conference I didn't know what to expect, I was just expecting everything.
So what were these three stages?
1. I let my friends introduce me to new people. I didn't know very many people going into the conference. That's not usually too big of a problem for me since I love meeting new people. But having somebody introduce you is really interesting because not only does it give you an instant connection to a stranger, but it also allows you to see how that person views you. One of my friends kept introducing me over and over again in the same way. She kept calling me, among other things, an actor.
And I usually bristle when people call me that. Not because I find it offensive, but because I have worked with, written parts for, and directed very talented actors, people so committed to the craft that it's magical to watch them. I might enjoy playing; acting once in a while, but I don't consider myself that talented.
So I wasn't offended when she called me an actor. I was just, caught off guard. But it kept happening.
2. I started paying attention attention to the people around me. Not just who they were but how they got there. Whenever I meet somebody really successful the one phrase always stuck in the on deck circle behind my tongue is “But how? How did you do it, really?”
Usually you get a similar answer, some combination of hard work and good fortune, one always-helping spur on the other.
What I realized at this conference however was that the people weren’t all super entrepreneurs or CEOs; they were somehow smaller, yet still successful. Talking to these people who had somehow all managed to find each other in the same location for three days in July, I kept hearing the same sentence in different iterations:
I just realized I didn’t need to work in an office to make a decent salary.
And it wasn’t obvious skill sets that I was observing. People had figured out how to turn a variety of skills into really phenomenal lifestyles. They called it lifestyle design, location independence, and other such titles. And it wasn’t that I wanted exactly what they had, but elements of it sure were attractive.
But I was still stuck at how?
3. Once the conference ended I headed to the airport and settled into a horribly uncomfortable chair to pass the time until my flight. I pulled out a book called The 100 Dollar Startup. It was written and given out by the founder of this conference Chris Guillebeau. I was only on page 3 when I came across this magical sentence.
You already have the skills you need – you just have to know where to look.
And I had it. A full body, head to toe sensation that I had stumbled upon something brilliant. The dominos fell into place with a clarity normally reserved for movies. Actor. No office. Skills. I could hear the sentence in my head:
I was going to teach people how to make online videos.
And it began. The inability to sleep, hands and a brain both moving so fast they were regularly out of sync, and a feeling in my chest that if I didn’t somehow make this happen soon I was going to miss out on something.
I was focused wholeheartedly on making this happen while time passed at an impossible pace in my periphery.
I read every article. I used every skill I had, exposed every weakness, and I very much willed my idea into existence.
And four months and ten days after the thought kicked me in the chest for the first time…
MakeBetterVideos.com was born.
Now, it is fair to say I have no idea what the future holds but I know what the present does.
I am going to spend every ounce of my energy showing people that you don’t need experience or expensive tools to make good online videos. The site will concentrate on showing users how they can self-teach and I will offer my services as a coach and consultant for those wanting a bit more hands on.
And in the meanwhile I will continue to freelance, creating videos for brands who want to do videos, event recaps, “what we do” videos, and any other kind of short form video they want to create.
So that’s where I am. That’s why I left my job. And it’s terrifying, and it’s exhausting.
But I’d rather be exhausted from stumbling through my own experience, than just reading about somebody else’s.