One video, article or side project can change your life
by Tobias van Schneider
One piece of content, one little thing you create or publish, can change everything you do in the future.
One article you write and publish can change your life.
One video you upload and share can change your career.
One little side project you create and publish can change the course of everything you will do in the future.
But the problem is, we don't do these things. We usually sit here overthinking, planning, strategizing and coming up with excuses why we can't do it. I do this all the time myself. I come up with ideas for little articles, I write them, and then I delete them again thinking no one cares anyway.
Let me give you an example:
In 2015, I sat down and wrote an article with the title "No alcohol, no coffee for 27 months". I finished the article within one sitting. It took me less than 15 minutes to finish, nothing special. I just wrote it for myself to reflect on my personal experience. I hit the publish button and moved on, because who cares anyway?
Apparently, a lot of people did. It was by far one of the most-read articles I've ever written with millions of views. It got syndicated to pretty much every big online magazine and translated into more than 10 languages across the world. It still gets thousands of views each week, five years later.
In retrospect, I can see why people liked this article. But the moment I published it, there was nothing special about it. I've never written an article in less than 15 minutes, and couldn't have cared less about its potential to receive an audience. But for some reason, it was that article that got my writing and experience around the world.
I learned it once again: Don't think about it too much. Just fucking do it.
Within the following months, this video got more than 18 million views on YouTube alone, making it his second-most watched video of all time (at least at that time). There is nothing in particular special about this video, it's a good video, but one of his best? I doubt it. I assume even Casey can't tell you why this video exploded, or why in specifically this video compared to any of his others (which are all excellent).
While this video probably didn't change Casey's life, it's still one of his most-watched and shared videos. Which means, it's the video that reaches far beyond his subscriber base, giving all his other videos exposure. It's the video that reached more people than any of his other videos (at least that's true at the time I am writing this).
We can analyze it and maybe find something in retrospect, but I'm pretty sure even Casey Neistat wasn't prepared to see this video explode. Sometimes we can feel it, we can feel when the stars align and something is going to be successful. But sometimes it happens for the strangest reasons. All we have to do is hit publish on a video called "Crazy German Water Park."
“What one does is what counts. Not what one had the intention of doing.” ― Pablo Picasso
Years ago, Mikael Cho, one of the co-founders of Crew was almost being forced to shut down his company. He had three months worth of cash left and needed to get his shit together.
At the time, he was working on a new website for Crew. While searching for some good stock photos to use for their website, the team noticed that they just couldn't find anything worth using. So they ended up hiring a photographer instead to shoot some quick pictures in a coffee shop. Since they only needed one picture and had a couple extras left, they decided to simply share them online for free to download.
Three hours and one quick Tumblr theme later, they put up a website called Unsplash with download links to these extra photographs. Then the team moved on with their day. I mean, they had a business to save.
Long story short: Unsplash blew up on the Internet. It received millions of visits and downloads within the first year. More people wanted to share their extra photographs, and they eventually did it through Unsplash. And on top of it, Unsplash served as the number one referral to Crew, helping Crew to survive and ultimately gain the exposure they needed. Now, it's one of the most-viewed websites worldwide.
All this happened just because the Crew team decided to share their extra photographs on a quick and dirty Tumblr page. I'm pretty sure no one at the Crew team knew at the time that this little side project will ultimately save their company and ultimately create a completely new company, which is what Unsplash is today.
In the end, it's about just doing it. It's about hitting the publish button. It's about not thinking about perfection, it's about zero expectation.
It's about walking the walk, doing the thing. Making something and showing it to the world. One day only one person will appreciate it (and that's okay) and the other day it might be thousands. It is worth it, either way.
I can probably come up with many more stories like these, and just reflecting on this myself today makes me motivated to do even more in the future. Keep going, keep running and have fun.
Often the things I create with zero expectations turn out to be something that impacted my work or career the most.