One video, article or side project can change your life
by Tobias van Schneider
One piece of work, 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 do in the future.
But the problem is, we don't do these things. We usually sit here planning, strategizing, overthinking and coming up with excuses for 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 titled "No alcohol, no coffee for 27 months." I finished the article in one sitting. It took me less than 15 minutes to write, 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 dozens of big online magazine and translated into more than 10 languages across the world. It still gets thousands of views each week, seven 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 didn't even bother to edit or correct typos in the original version, and couldn't have cared less about whether it reached an audience or not. But for some reason, it was that article that got my writing 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 particularly special about this video. It's a good video, but is it one of his best? Especially at this point, I doubt it. I assume even Casey can't tell you why this video exploded compared to any of his others (which are all excellent). I don't know whether this video changed Casey's life, but it did continue to reach far beyond his subscriber base, giving his channel and all his other videos exposure.
We can analyze it and maybe find something in retrospect, but I'm pretty sure Casey wasn't prepared to see this video explode. Sometimes we can feel it. We can see the stars aligning and sense something is going to be successful. But most of the time 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 a company called Crew, was almost forced to shut down his company. He had three months worth of cash left and needed to get his shit together.
At the time, the team was working on a new website for Crew. While searching for some good stock photos to use for their website, they found they 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 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.
I assume most of you know what happened. Unsplash blew up 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. Ultimately, Unsplash served as the number one referral to Crew, helping Crew to survive and gain the exposure they needed. Years later, and people have uploaded literally billions of photos to Unsplash. It is still one of the top 2,000 most-visited websites in the entire world.
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 create a completely new one. Much less, that this company would grow as big as it did.
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 expectations.
It's about having an idea and acting on it. Making something and showing it to the world. One day only one person will appreciate it (and that's OK), 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.