It was weird to ‘take a week off’, but it gave me some much-needed time to attend to those fundamentals that one should never ignore for long: Where am I really going with this? How can I make the project truly successful? What higher calling does this work mean to serve?
I’ve also been wanting to experiment with new content formats. So I did! In fact, dear subscribers, you are the very first recipients of my first official YouTube video.
If you subscribe on YouTube I’ll love you, btw.
If you’d like to skip to the video, feel to click here [~8 min]. It’s also at the bottom of this page.
For everyone else, below is a quick writeup about how I got to the point of making my first video. It’s less of an essay, more of a collection of field notes. It could be useful to anyone who wants to follow a similar process (maybe you liked Post #6?), or anyone thinking about motivation, skill-development, and scrappy approaches to making new things.
CURZIISM goes to the movies
Two types of difficulty
In Post #1 I wrote about careers with high motivational and low technical difficulty. In general, we could say that difficult actions are either motivationally hard, technically hard, or both.
I like these as clear examples:
Motivational ease, technical difficulty: throwing a tennis ball into the sun.
Technical ease, motivational difficulty: asking someone out on a date, when you’re into them but they might not be into you
It doesn’t matter how pumped you are, or how deep your faith is: you’re just not going to throw a tennis ball into the sun. Sorry bud.
On the other hand, approximately anyone can form the words, ‘will you go out with me’ and emit them, somehow, loud enough for their beloved to hear. But, the motivational aspect can make this seem as easy as throwing a tennis ball into the sun.
When I decided I wanted to try making videos, I realized the major difficulty was likely to be psychological, not technical. Reasonably smart people can probably learn iMovie, camera stuff, lighting, etc - so I could probably learn these things too. But would I buckle up and actually click ‘Post’ once I’d filmed something? Especially if it wasn’t allowed to be perfect???
I started with a small step. For me, jokes and bullshitting were a good way to go:
You see, I had just uploaded my first video. Admittedly, it was a mere 1-frame long, and it wasn’t extremely topical or interesting. But it was something.
Most importantly, it was a useful step in helping me let go of some pointless anxieties around video content creation. If you post a lot of stuff online, you might have this or that fear about your public image being used against you, cancellation, etc. The thing is: a normal picture of your face is really probably not going to be the thing that fucks your life up down the line. This anxiety is totally bizarre. Most people could upload 3000 normal or even weird/bad pictures of their faces today, without significant social consequences down the line.
It can certainly feel ‘dangerous’… But unless you’re a spy or trying to fake your death or something, I think this fear is just fake.
Beating my high score
Okay. I had just uploaded my first ‘video’. Unfortunately it conveyed zero of my juicy & worldchanging philosophical content. I needed to beat my high score.
I thankfully feel pretty good these days about ‘sharing my thoughts publicly’ in a general sense - an intentional side-effect of writing this newsletter for the last 3 months. This made things easier. However, adapting that intention to a new medium has been challenging, and is nowhere near complete.
Once I got a good camera/lighting/microphone setup, I sat down to film. I talked to my camera for hours. I mumbled. I got bored. I got fidgety. I planted my camera on a bottle of scotch because it looked like a robot from Wall-E.
After hours of failed and awkward attempts, I gave up.
So the next day I needed a new approach, and I found one, partially designed to avert my lethargy and directionlessness: recording myself talking to another person.
It worked. It was good enough. I cut out a 2 min clip, and put it online.
A few people I talked to even liked it. Cool! High score achieved.
How could I beat it again?
Content about content creation?
How could I improve my next video? While the idea in the above video was sound, its ‘vibe’, IMO, was better than its ‘clarity’. That is to say: I think some people might enjoy the social energy in the video, but fewer would walk away from the clip having learned something new. So for my next attempt, I wanted the content to be extremely clear.
But I still didn’t know how to get good content to come out of my mouth when I sat down at the camera. I spent another few fruitless hours on this.
I was ultimately able to be a bit more wu wei about it, as soon as I came up with a shortcut: recording a video about my frustrated failure to record a video. Genius!
I was able to hit my goal of a extremely clear takeaway: “Read Impro”. And the result was good enough. While the video is a little weird, I figured it wasn’t going to ruin my life if I posted it. So I did.
Turning the crank
I’d scored a victory, but my victory was temporary. I still hadn’t solved my content creation problem. I could keep making ‘off-the-cuff’ videos like the Impro video without much planning, maybe - but I didn’t think that was going to be sufficient to get my very best ideas across.
So I returned to the strategy of recording conversations. I’m learning that my energy and clarity levels are far better in conversation than when I speak into the void, or to Whiskey Wall-E.
Out of a 90 minute conversation, I snagged ~7 that sounded pretty good by themselves. After several hours in iMovie, lots of Googling, fiddling with sound and image programs, last-minute edits, moustache trimming and uploading problems, I was able to make something I didn’t hate.
So. Here it is! The fruits of my labors.
What I learned at the Mount of Olives
The video develops themes we’ve discussed in prior weeks: uncommon ways of learning from one’s environment, and the potential value (or maybe cost) of engaging with that environment in a psychologically open way.