How To Build A Following Of 10 Million: Mrwhosetheboss | E95 | Transcription
Transcription for the video titled "How To Build A Following Of 10 Million: Mrwhosetheboss | E95".
Note: This transcription is split and grouped by topics and subtopics. You can navigate through the Table of Contents on the left. It's interactive. All paragraphs are timed to the original video. Click on the time (e.g., 01:53) to jump to the specific portion of the video.
I was just this lanky Asian nerd who played chess. - Aaron Manie, he's one of the UK's the most successful ever YouTubers. - I was getting some sort of sick thrill out of seeing the numbers go up. So I made one video every single day for at least six months. It drove me to the point where I, one time I just broke down crying on camera. I never published that, but I have a photo which I sometimes look back on to remind me of like, what it took. There's some things about you that you can't fix. And I think you just have to be very mechanical about them and be like, this is me. I have good things and I have bad things, but the bad things I can't change. I'm gonna lean on things that are good about me, fix the things I can fix and the rest is life. Emotionally, physically, just exhaustion, I think is how I'd put it. Very, very tired. It was actually a bit of a pivot point in my career because I sat down like, this isn't actually what I wanted. It was a realization that I've actually, you know, my channels growing, all these metrics are looking up, but this isn't, you know, my brain. Not many people know this actually, but. Aaron Manie, he's a creator and entrepreneur with over eight million subscribers. His story is unconventional. A young kid from the UK that was bullied in school and who's path to escape that reality would turn out to become his dream, his purpose, his meaning. But as Aaron will tell you, he made the critical mistakes for many of us make when we're chasing our dreams. He became obsessive. He sacrificed too much. Things that mattered more. And at some point, that would lead to him having a breakdown. And that breakdown was a moment of inflection. And he's figured out that all important balance of striving while knowing that you are already enough at the same time. And that I guess is the ultimate goal of all of our lives. So without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett and this is the Diaries CEO. I hope nobody's listening, but if you are, then please keep this to yourself. Aaron, tens of millions of followers and subscribers later.
Early Life And Youtube Journey
Your early years (02:14)
When I read through your story and your journey, I could see this real sort of fundamental, obsessive, ambitious guy under there. And it made me wonder, as I was reading through about how obsessed you were with the growth and the scaling of your channel, it made me hypothesize that there must have been something happen in your early years that did that to you, that gave you that bug, that insatiable desire to be successful or something. Have you identified what that is? Yeah, so I probably, I should preface this by saying that I'm very aware I'm a very lucky person. I actually just got off from my brother's wedding a couple of days ago and I was just looking around at the family around me, the friends around me thinking like, damn, this is it. But there was one thing. So when I was growing up, I had a very supportive family that I didn't have a great school life. I was just this lanky Asian nerd who played chess. That was me, basically. And I think there was some part of me that did seek approval. And I mean, all this really happened when my brother got me my first smartphone and that just became my outlet. You know, on one hand, I had this school life that was very, very mediocre. But then I had this piece of technology in my hand that could do all these things and I just became obsessed with it. Like this was my life. You're a site. Yeah, I guess. And I just poured everything into it. I learned everything about this phone and how to do all these things on it. And I think it just got to the point where I was like, let's make a video. - How old were you when you were, you described yourself as a lanky Asian kid that got a smartphone for the first time? How old were you? - 14, probably, yeah. - And the school you went to, what was the, what was the, typically people get bullied? Because what you're relating to, right? I've heard you talk about being bullied, I think in some of the interviews you've done. Typically, people get bullied because the other kids think that there's something to bully them for. - Yeah, there was plenty. I was a nerd. I wasn't very pretty, to be honest. Like people would regularly just call me ugly. I think there's some sort of also subliminal thing about being Asian, not being like a cool thing. It wasn't like a particularly Asian area, if that makes sense. Just, I think a lot of things add up into you just being a bit sidelined. - Was it a predominantly white school? - Predominantly, yeah. I did have Asian friends, but majority of them, yeah. - And so you get given this phone and that becomes your world? - Yeah. - What about your parents, your immediate family? - They're amazing. They, there was obviously a little bit of questioning at the start, you know, when you're sitting in your back garden and you should be revising, but you're shooting earphones and it's like a bit of sun, what are you doing? But as soon as they saw the kind of the potential in YouTube, they've been just like all for it. - Did they understand what it was? - Yeah, yeah, I'm quite lucky. Like my parents are very entrepreneurial. They're very modern, like they've done it themselves. They're also business owners. So like they get it, you know? - And were you an entrepreneur from an early age outside of the obsession with tech? - Yeah, I've done the usual, like, you know, like maybe selling sweets in the playground and young enterprise. I don't know if you know what that is, but I was like the managing director in our school for our young enterprise team and I had this big idea of like we were gonna create a stylus, that we were gonna pitch to Tesco and sell it to them. And we created the stylus, we created the packaging, it was beautiful, it looked like an Apple product. But I think I was the only one with the vision and I didn't do a good enough job of getting my team to believe in it. And so like one man can't sell a product to a company like that, especially not like a 16 year old boy at school. - Wow, so you were trying to pitch to Tesco at 16 years old. Your family in terms of money, how were they? Were they? - Reasonable. - Yeah. - You know, when I was growing up, like, it's not like we had everything, like I couldn't just ask for what I wanted, but you know, we had enough. And I can't complain, to be honest, I think there is a benefit to having things somewhat held back from you. Like I think it makes you appreciate when you do have things. I mean, you've had the same, right? - Yeah, yeah. - And so you cite that sort of search for validation as being one of the real driving forces. It's the same with me, it's the same in my life. It's like, I talk about this in my book at tremendous length. I think that feeling like I didn't fit in, created, like it was almost like pulling a spring back, made me fly off into the world as an adult, trying to validate myself through like material things or followers or like, I don't know, some kind of social approval or whatever. You're saying that that's the similar? I think that was the springboard, but I think it's very different to that now. Like, I'm no longer insecure about who I am. I'm confident in myself. And so I'm almost like immune to people telling me that they like what I do or almost. It doesn't even register because I kind of like, I'm internally quite self-aware about it. So now I do things because I want to do them. - So you get given that phone, tell me how that leads to YouTube. - Oh, well, it wasn't a great phone. It was like, it was pretty low-end. And so like, my goal in life at the time was basically to get it to score a certain amount on a benchmarking app. And so I did everything I could to this phone. I was trying to like overclock the processor and all these kinds of things, just to get it to hit this score. Because in my head, that was like, that was the sign you had a good phone. And so it led me to just customize it in ways that people probably wouldn't have gone, like extreme lengths. And that just, through that, I just gained knowledge. I just understood it and I was fascinated by it. - Pretty smart kid if you're playing with like the processor of a phone at 14. - I guess. - So how were you academically? - Pretty good actually. I think without blowing my own trumpet, I think every exam I've sat, I've got the highest mark in. So. - When what sort of topics were you particularly interested in when you were younger? - I was quite mathematical. There was something about, so I did maths and further maths as two of my A levels. And to start with, there was an element of you can feel a bit lost in those presentations when you're getting taught. Because if you miss one line of reasoning, you lose the whole thing. But when it all comes together, when you finally understand mathematics, it's, there's nothing quite like it. Like it's its own rule set. And you can prove things in ways that are completely indisputable. And I just, I love the language. And so a lot of my background is actually economics. I went to do an economics degree. And I think that completely changes the lens through which you view the world. You can see things instead of being like lots of gray areas. You see things in black and white. Oh, this is why that person is doing that thing. Oh, this is the next logical step for my business. - Right. And so you go to university, okay, in the pursuit of what career? - Yeah, so I was about to become a consultant at Price Waterhouse. - Right. - I did like an eight-week internship there at UNI and got the job. But probably the turning point was actually when I turned down that job, I had to write up this little email being like, had a great time, really enjoyed it, but actually, no. So YouTube has been kind of like building up in the background since the age of 14, 15. And throughout UNI, I was still doing it, but it was not at a stage where it was a comfortable career path, but it was an exciting career path. And so I had these two kind of crossroads I could have gone down. It was either the traditional route or the YouTube route. And one side was just fascinating to me. It was, you know, this whole new world, the sky was the limit. And I thought it's got to be that one. - And when was the first time you made a video? It was when you were 14 and you first got that phone? - Pretty much, yeah. - Take me through that growth journey then. So you start, what was the first video? - Oh gosh, it was how to optimize the ZTE blade, which is the phone I was kind of saying. And is that still online? - Yeah. - And how did that video do at the time? I'm sure some people have gone back and watched it now. - Yeah, I think, yeah, if you looked at it now, it probably has a couple of hundred thousand views because of people who've gone back and looked. At the time, I just remember being blown away by the reception. I'm sure if I actually knew now what the views were at the start, it wouldn't be very impressive, but I couldn't believe that even a thousand people were watching it. You know, if I thought about my circles at the time, I was thinking things in terms of single people. And so when you see a number like a thousand, you're like, oh my God. - And how long did it take before you hit that, a point where you thought, fuck, now this is, this is going really well. - I thought it was going really well when my first video hit of 5,000 views, you know, I remember showing my friend at his house and he's like, that's not you. Come on, behave yourself. - That's not you. - Well, yeah, it's in like, there's no way you've got 5,000 views. - All right, okay. - Yeah, so I mean, I was very, I guess, maybe it's part of that whole, I have no validation at school, meant that my bar for what counted as validation was pretty low. You know, like when people said they hit 100,000 subscribers, I'd watch how the YouTube is. I never dreamed of that. Like I never even thought that was an option. I was just kind of doing YouTube to get a few thousand clicks, I guess. - Do you think that your YouTube journey has given you, 'cause you said knowing that you feel like you're a confident person, do you think YouTube has done that?
Building confidence & practicing gratitude (12:02)
- Yes, but only if, only because I've been quite proactive about it. So YouTube is, it's a really incredible thing in the sense that like, in no other career path, can you get such immediate feedback? Like when I post a video within one minute, there might be 10,000 people watching it. There might be a thousand comments or 500 comments. And every single one of these data points, how many likes and dislikes has got, that is a piece of data that tells you how you're doing. And so like, you can grow so quickly as a person, as well as a channel, if you know how to harness that data, companies would kill for it. - It sounds like emotionally dangerous. So for the crowd to be giving you feedback on who you are. - Potentially, you develop a thick skin, I think as you go through it, providing you have the right mindset. And I think as long as you can filter out the negativity, there is data hidden in those comments. Like you almost have to strip away a layer and just kind of take what's useful. - Is it, it sounds easier said than done to avoid the negativity. I mean, like most of the guests that I've had on the podcast, when they speak about negative comments, and these might be super successful celebrities in their own field, they still admit to being triggered more so than they should by just that one, that 1% negativity versus the 99% blowing smoke up ass. - Yeah, so I think it depends on if it's something you're insecure about. So if I'm insecure about, I don't know, let's say the shape of my face, and so I'll make some nasty comment about the shape of my face, it's gonna sting, it's gonna sting a little. But like, because I think over the years, I've grown confident about most aspects of myself, I think I stopped worrying about the negative comments because I'm okay with who I am. - Yeah, I did a question tag on Instagram this week. I said, if I could write a book for you, what would it be about? And one of the most popular things was confidence. So what advice would you give to people listening that are low in confidence about how to build, build their confidence? 'Cause telling, you know, I was thinking, I'm telling them all to build like a 10 million sub-YouTube channel is probably not, probably not attainable for everybody, but... - I think you have a very similar opinion to me on this, which is that you need to make it input-based rather than output-based. You can't pin yourself to a certain number of followers or anything so that you are confident. You have to make internal peace with yourself. And I mean, I look around on the street, like all the fans that come up to me and they're like, oh, can we get a photograph with you? You're incredible, I love your videos. I look at them like, you're incredible as well, look at you. Like, what are you doing? You know, you've got a camera, you're snapping photos of buildings. Show me, that looks incredible. I think everyone has their own story and their own great things about them and people struggle to see it in themselves, but they can see it in others. - Mm. - And I can't, like, there's no person on this planet who I would look at and couldn't see good in them and couldn't see something great. - Mm. If you were that young kid again, that was lacking in confidence of 14 years old and say I couldn't give, say you couldn't do YouTube, say it didn't exist, what else might you have done? Knowing what you know now about how your confidence has been built, what else could you have done to reach the same outcome? - Oh, yeah. - I'm really trying to get to like, what is it that made you come to peace with yourself? 'Cause it sounds like it was a lot of people being nice. After some weren't so nice when you were younger. - Hmm. - I think I'm quite a proactive person. So if there's something about me that I don't like, I will try and fix it. So a lot of people, not many people know this actually. So when I was younger, I used to have like a crooked nose and it bothered me a lot. I used to like only sit at certain angles from people and, you know, I'd hide myself in the corners of rooms so people couldn't see the other side. And eventually I was just like, this is a solvable problem. Why am I worrying about this? So I just got, I got surgery done and fixed it. And I think there's some things about you that you can't fix. And I think you just have to be very mechanical about them and be like, this is me. I have good things and I have bad things. But the bad things, I can't change. I'm gonna lean on things that are good about me, fix the things I can fix and the rest is life. - So on that point of having a good or bad nose, and this is me just going with the wind now 'cause I find the super intriguing, something I've thought a lot about. Who was to say that your nose was bad? - People would love at me. So I guess others. - It's interesting. So Sienna, he says, you know, this is not good about you. Is there a risk in then changing to please them, do you think? Because I feel like that might be a slippery slope. - Yeah, yeah. It is a slippery slope, but you just need to know your limits. You just need to kind of like set the boundaries. Maybe that's easier said than done. - Yeah. Yeah, 'cause I really wonder that a lot about Cosmetics surgery these days just generally and about the, I'm always, I'm always like, if someone gets one thing done, then you're like, I'm not gonna do that. I'm always, I'm always like, if someone gets one thing done, then there's always a, there's now a new most, like there's now a new worst thing about me. And why don't you then go and get that thing changed? And that thing changed. And I wonder if it's a slippery slope. I have no data that's dated to back this up. But just anecdotally from seeing some of my friends who've got one thing done, they typically then go get another done. And then I've seen it too. I've seen it too. You're right. But there's also an element of like, if something bothers you to the extent where you're having to have this hole or the layer in your mindset of like, oh, I can have a conversation with this person, but I'm gonna do it from here. And you can fix it fairly easily, then you should do it. Like if the next thing then becomes, oh, well, I'd quite like my chin to be longer. You're not really solving a fundamental problem. You're just, you know, having fun. That's personally where I would draw the line. 'Cause obviously I don't think I have the perfect face or the perfect-- - Good looking guy. - Oh, thank you very much. - Great Asian hair. - Great. - Yeah. - As blacks don't have it the same way necessarily. - It's a little bit more difficult. - People like beard. - Yeah. Just no effort on my part. It just happened. - Yeah, it's strong. - Thank you. - Very strong. - I was gonna say, one of the reasons I was asking that question about confidence and how you build it is because I reflect sometimes on a lot of the stuff that I say. And I think I put out there, especially my book and my podcast, that I like did this internal work and suddenly I found my confidence and the insecurities faded away. But I can't get away from this idea that I did also make myself mega rich and successful and get millions of followers. And that might have played a role in me being able to like shrug off the insecurities easily. So I'm wondering if like, and what awful advice it would be to give to a 16 year old kid to have to say to him, oh, you're lacking in confidence. We'll just go and build a multi-million pound business and get 10 million subscribers on YouTube and then you'll be fine. - Yes. - So that's what I'm trying to unpack. Is it the achievement and the validation from the achievement that helps the insecurities fall away? Or is it some other type of internal work? - I think I think actually gratitude plays a big role in it. I spent a lot of time recently trying to wake up each morning and just remind myself. I feel like we are hardwired to focus on the bad things because I mean, what pre-historically those used to be the more urgent matters. And I think gratitude fixes a lot of these insecurities 'cause it's like, okay, yeah, I don't have Beth the best skin. I've got acne everywhere, but hey, I can breathe. That was incredible. So that is something I've been doing a lot of. And I think a lot of the personal growth I've seen has come since then. - What does that look like practically in terms of practicing gratitude? - So one thing I do is when I wake up, I told myself I was gonna write down a few things, but I end up just thinking them. But that's enough. So I think of three things that I'm just grateful for in that moment. And oftentimes you end up saying the same things again and again, but that's actually, that's okay. It's fine. You don't need constantly changing mechanisms to keep you happy. - I found that recently with some of my friends that have been not so well, I've just had this tremendous gratitude for my health, watching one of my friends that's younger than me be have a really serious illness. And it's crazy. They say this in a lot like hospital wards. If you walk through a hospital ward, you'll suddenly feel this tremendous sense of gratitude for your health. And how do you practice that on a daily basis without having to have someone fall ill or go to the hospital, I think is increasingly difficult, especially in a world where everybody's like, status signaling every time you open your phone. - How do you go about doing it then? - It's really interesting. I make a conscious effort. That's the first thing, but I don't remember to do it every day. And then music does it for me sometimes, which is really strange. And I'm very fortunate that I think naturally I have these like waves of gratitude that come over me. I'm very aware that I am current. And I said this in my live show, The Diaries See Alive. I said, the vast majority of this audience, you're currently living a dream that you once had, but you're not appreciating it because your current self is telling future you that you'll be happy when you get three times more than you have now. That's typically up and down the income and wealth spectrum, what people say they need to become a 10 out of 10 happiness. It's three X what they have right now. And it's that idea of like, you'll never therefore be happy because you're always, so for me that really centers you and says, fuck me, like 18 year old Steve, this is what he, and I want to say, get goosebumps again, like, this is what I dream for. Like, I wanted to be financially free so that I didn't have to steal Chicago time pizzas and nick chicken bones from takeaways. And look at me, I'm 28 years old and I'm free. And you know, like, yeah. So I try and sometimes that that plays out in my head naturally. - You get this a lot on YouTube like because of how numerical the platform is. Like I distinctly remember moments where I'd look at my sort of like statistics and be like, oh, imagine a hundred thousand subscribers, imagine 500,000 subscribers. I would dream of those numbers.
Playing out your dream to the detriment of myself (22:38)
And you almost don't quite realize as you total pass those numbers in reality because you're already ready for the next thing. You're so focused on like making it even bigger, even better, getting that phone even earlier before launch and all these things. You have to stop yourself. - Do you stop yourself? Be honest with me, are you successful in that? - I'm really happy. I'm a really, really happy guy. So I'd like to think yes, I didn't used to be. Even three, four years ago, I didn't used to be. When I graduated, I had this pent up energy from YouTube. Because I've been doing it throughout, but I was also juggling it with my studies. And I wanted to get a first. And I also didn't want to have a terrible social life. So I was doing all these things and it was kind of this crazy whirlwind of just kind of like activity to activity, jumping between filming to lectures, to homework, to nights out. And so when I actually graduated, I was like, right, I'm going to give everything to YouTube. So I made one video every single day for at least six months. And it drove me to the point where I, one time I just broke down crying on camera. I never published that, but I have a photo which I sometimes look back on to remind me of like what it took. And so that reminds me. - Why were you crying? - It was a lot of things that sort of come to the fore. It was exhaustion in the moment because it was really hot. And I was just kind of like, my hands hurt. And my voice hurt, my throat was cracking. But it was also this kind of long-term build-up that led to it. It was actually a bit of a pivot point in my career because I sat down like, this isn't actually what I wanted. It was a realization that I've actually, you know, my channels growing, all these metrics are looking up, but this isn't, you know, my brain. And it immediately made me change mindset from hard work to smart work. It was, I suddenly started thinking like, do I, which tasks do I need to be there for? And how do I make sure I'm only doing those tasks? And also it made me take a step back from I'm not doing a video every day. I've got to look at the data, look at these retention graphs, find out how to maximize the click-through rates, all these kinds of things. It allowed me to take a step back, breathe, and focus on how to utilize my brain to the best of its ability. - In terms of mental health, you tap your head then when you said, you'd optimized for, I guess, YouTube performance, but you had optimized for your mental wellbeing. At your lowest, what was the, what state was your mind in, what were your wellbeing? - I've never been depressed, I would say. I think I'm quite resilient as well as being quite lucky. But I got to a stage where emotionally, physically, just exhaustion, I think is how I'd put it. Very, very tired to the point where I didn't have time for friends, for family, like, by the time I'd finished, they were asleep. I'd kind of screwed myself into a little hole, and that hole was my bedroom where I'd film. - So I think that's what we call burnout. - Yeah, yeah, but I wouldn't let myself stop. Because I told myself that like, this was my dream, and that one video a day was the way to achieve that dream. And so like, there was just something inside me which was like, you can't stop now, like you're there. This is the runway, just run. - What did you tell yourself your dream was? - I would look at other YouTubers when I was a kid and just like, you know, they had like a million subscribers, for example, and they were getting all this tech through the door and their entire job was to just test it and learn about it. And I remember just being like, that's the best thing in the world. Like I'm fascinated by technology. I would love to be able to just see all this stuff. 'Cause when I was younger, I didn't get to play with the latest stuff. You know, I wasn't the kid who had the latest Game Boy or anything like that. So I guess that really appealed to me. - So your idea of happiness when your younger was getting some amazing technology and being able to just like, do what you love, talk about it. So you, I guess you'd set yourself this plan of just being, making a video every single day in the, I guess the thought that that would lead to your dream. And I guess you, you realize at some point that your strategy was unsustainable. - Yeah. - And we're putting it. - It just felt like a really, like you still want it the same goal, but your strategy in terms of getting there was just unsustainable. Oh my God, it just, I relate to that so much in so many different ways. And I think a lot of people don't realize that you have to set up your goals as marathons, not sprints. If you do want to achieve them, right? - Yeah. I've never heard it described like that, but that's it, yeah. - Yeah. - You've got your whole life to do these things. Like, doesn't need to be today. - And potentially the intensity of trying to do it today is actually the biggest risk to it ever happening. - Yeah. - 'Cause I mean, if you, if your mental wellbeing had been adversely effective, more adversely effective than it was, you might not have ever come back to YouTube because of, I mean, it could have been enjoyable. Like you, it sounds like, at that point when you were doing that, like just crazy, sacrifice everything, was it in, was it fulfillment or was it something else? - I was getting some sort of sick thrill out of seeing the numbers go up. - Sick thrills, yeah. But, you know, when it comes at the cost of yourself, I think you've been there as well. - Yeah. - You're not enjoying it, really. - And it's that thought in your mind that I can't do this for ever. - Yeah, but it took until a kind of breaking point for me to realize, yeah. - And it seems to you for a lot of people. It seems that a lot of people hit some burnout, some explosive moment. I mean, Tom Blomfield sat here from on the podcast, CEO of, and founder of Amunzo, and talks about the same thing, just waking up in the morning with like a sense of dread. And like, it's sleep actually being the peaceful escape. And that three seconds when he woke up and he didn't realize he was the CEO of Amunzo just being amazing than that crushing weight of like, but it seems to be the case with a lot of people that they don't, they get so caught up in this hamster wheel chase for their dream that they don't realize it's unsustainable. And the cost it's having on other things that are fundamentally conducive to living a happy life. - Yeah, people. - People, yeah. I think we are complex beings, but we are also quite simple in what we need. And that social interaction and people who are close and who actually want us to succeed. And we don't need many of them. We definitely don't need 10 million. Tell me what you thought you needed before and then after that moment. So tell me what you thought you needed in life before you had that sort of breakdown moment and then what you've come to realize in subsequent years that you actually need in life. - Hmm. I think before it was very much a numbers thing. I think I was a kid who thought that the answer was just to just keep growing for the sake of growing. But afterwards it's very much been about, I still wanna grow. I still wanna be the best tech influencer on the planet. I wanna be synonymous with the word tech. But it will be mindful growth. Like one of the factors in that growth will be not just monetary, but it will be, does it work with this? Does it still make me equally or more happy? No decision will go forward if it doesn't. That makes sense. So the goal hasn't changed, but the approach has. - Hmm, that's fascinating. I think a lot of people can relate to that in their lives in a lot of ways because they're potentially sacrificing a little bit too much and trying to win a sprint. But these big goals, like the goals that you have, the ambitions you have, they are, as we've said, like, marathons. - They are, they are. I'm very aware that like, if you want to be the best in the world at something, you've got to give something. You can't spend, you know, all your time with your friends just having beers. You have to let it go sometimes. And so I'm very, I'm very careful with how I spend my time, but I make sure that there is quality time with the people that I do care about. - So, and so let's talk about that point then, hard work.
Hard work (31:18)
A lot of people say that hard work is toxic, or et cetera, what do you say to that? - Oh, the whole wake up at 4 a.m. That kind of attitude. - Yeah. - Yeah, I don't think that's the way forward. If anything, actually, I think sleep is a really practical, productive thing to be doing. If anything, I wish I was better at it. I actually struggle a lot with my sleep. I'm really trying to improve. I've actually got your episode with the sleep expert on my watch later. - Oh, God. - In pressure. - Yeah. - No, she said some really important things. - I'm a watch on the way home. - Yeah, yeah. - So, I'm not of that opinion. I think there is a time and place for really hard work, but it has to be for a cause that it has to be for the greater goal. Yeah, I think you talked about this with on the episode with Ali. - Yeah. - Yeah, yeah. - And what was the conclusion you came to? - Well, I can't actually remember exactly what we came to, but my general thinking on hard work is that, and I guess burnout is when you're doing something that you can set the reward of doing it, meaningful and worthwhile, then hard work really is important. I actually listened to Elon Musk this weekend to talk about this. He said the exact same thing. He said, "When you believe that you're doing "the correct thing and it's a noble or meaningful goal, "then hard work is really, really important "and it also will help you avoid burnout. "But when you're doing hard work for a task "that you don't think is meaningful, "like working in a factory for 14 hour days, "and it's not stimulating your mind, "and it's just hard work for minimum wage. "Burnout is inevitable and it's just around the corner. "And that for me is like, "Oh God, that's my different nightmare. "Hard work, hard meaningless work? "For me is the definition of like, "lose your fucking marbles insanity." - I think I'm very lucky in that sense in that like I found my calling. And I think we're in a world where a lot of people just don't, I'm not saying that there's like one true goal for each person, like no one's gonna have their dream job, but I think a lot of people, they find out quite late what they really enjoy. And I think we're in a system where people have to decide very quickly and with not a full information set what career path they wanna go down. - What advice would you give to people that are? I mean, this is just, again, talking about things that people ask me all the time, how to find my passion or whatever is. - So I would say, try as many things as you can while you're young. I had a really close friend who's 18 and she decided she wanted to do pharmacy, but then did two weeks of that course and was like, actually, I don't really wanna do that anymore. And then was like, oh, maybe I should do medicine. So she dropped out of pharmacy, thinking about doing medicine, then she might drop out of that, decide she wants to do business studies. It's like, if you just spend two weeks in as many different careers as possible, that's when you know. There's kids are lazy, a lot of kids are lazy. And I think there's this kind of short-sightedness that you have to just kind of find a way to overcome just for your long-term future's sake. Like that time is so pivotable when you're deciding you're sat at that crossroads and you're looking down all these different paths. Given the systems we have in place, you have to spend that time well, finding out what these paths actually look like. - And the system, as you say, is set up at six years old. They give you brochures and they're like, pick. Pick which subjects you're gonna do and then you're like, oh, fine. Then you're locked into those subjects. Then they go, which university and which course? And you have no idea. - The medical and the law courses are particularly bad because they're so specialized. If you do a medical degree, you're not really qualified to do a lot of different things that you're probably gonna be a doctor. And you can very quickly find yourself in a position where you feel trapped. I have another friend who did medicine and then did the whole thing, but then was like, actually, no, I want to be a journalist. And so that whole five years, they didn't need to do it. - How did you find your calling then?
What made you go after your calling? (35:43)
So what is it? And I don't mean, 'cause I know your story, we all do, but what is it about you that when your calling showed up, you had the whatever, I don't wanna put answers in your mouth to say, that's it. - I'm gonna go in that direction. 'Cause a lot of people wouldn't see playing around with mobile phones as a possibility. - I would say light in the dark. It was very obvious to me because of what the alternatives were. Like, I was kind of, I think a lot of people follow the path and the path basically dictates that the subjects you are strong in, you study a degree that is similar to those subjects. And then those degrees usually have a next stepping stone and a next stepping stone and you'll just kind of, you'll shoot down unless you veer off. You have to actively veer off that path. And so I was very much going down the kind of, I'm strong at maths, therefore I'm gonna do an economics degree. I'm doing an economics degree, so I'm gonna be a consultant. I was going down that path. And I was just lucky that I was also doing this other thing which excited me so much. And so comparing the two, when it became clear to me that actually YouTube could be a career as well, it was just an obvious choice. - Do you ever reflect on what might have happened if you didn't have the conviction to go for? - I think I would have become a consultant, which is terrifying. I wish I could say I wasn't, but that's the work experience I did. That was the job I was offered. So given there was no outside option, I probably would have taken it. - And a lot of people have done that in their lives. They've followed those sort of sequential steps and ended up somewhere. And they're listening to this right now and thinking, fuck. - It's tricky because you don't want to just quit your job one day for a potential startup you might have with a 10% chance of succeeding. You can't do that. Right? Well, what advice do you give to people in that situation? - Well, this isn't about me. - No, but I really do, I really do. I always say what you said at the start, which is about just increasing the amount of experiments you make as cost-effective experiments you're making as young as you possibly can, which is exactly what you've described, which means go to another country, spend two weeks and quit really fucking quickly. And just like rapid quit. The minute you're like, I hate this, quit, move on, try it in. And I think people that are exposed to, as you say, the most data, the most information are able to make more informed decisions about what they enjoy. And you can take that part of that job where you've got to do this thing and mix it with this part of this job where you've got to do that thing and slowly weave your way towards the thing that gives you the most fulfillment. - Yeah. - But as we say, I know, because I know the people that listen to this podcast, there's so many people right now in jobs where they've kind of like ended up there working in KPMG or PWC in the city, wearing a suit and tie. And they know that job isn't for them. They know it's not for them. But they just maybe, you know, they're... - But there is also an element, I think, of like, we live in a society where social media is prevalent and people log onto Instagram every day and see other people who are leading better lives than them, or apparently. Yeah. And I think there is an element of gratefulness with the job you do have, because not everyone is going to find their dream job. And maybe the job you're doing is your dream job because it facilitates the life that you currently lead. Does that make sense? - It does, yeah. And that's like the practical approach. I'm not practical. And like people will get mad at this, but like look at my decision making. I stopped going to school. I then dropped out of university after one lecture, started a company, quit out the blue, ran another company for seven years, quit out the blue. I make decisions based on how I'm feeling. And practicality has always been secondary in terms of, well, what am I going to do about the feeding my, like dropping out of university Manchester, never got a student loan. I'm shoplifting the Chicago town pizzas. And I call my mum and say, my mum dropping out, she goes, I'll never speak to you again. I didn't care because I was just in this relentless pursuit of me, of what made me feel good every day. So I understand the practicality argument, but I find it dangerous because it hints of like, just tolerate it, you know what I mean? - Yeah, but let's say like, obviously, I'm still fairly young, but I can imagine that if I was 50 years old with a family to support and a career that I'm not, you know, I'm on the fence of, I'm like, well, you know, it's fine, it's good. - You're right. You are right. - You do. Like you just want to be practical with it. - I do say to people you've got to be practical in those moments, but I don't think you've got to be happy with it, if you're not. - You shouldn't quit. You can look for outside options, but I think it's not one of those things to be impulsive about. - Mm. - I agree. - Yeah. - What we're describing here is there's this middle ground where you have to be practical because your kids need to eat, but, and so you want to be more strategic in how you, you know, you make your move. However, I don't, I really don't want anyone at any age to find themselves in a place of like misery and think, well, I've got to be grateful and I've got to feed these kids, haven't I? I just want better for people and I know it's hard. Like, I know it's hard or else everybody would just be living their dream, but I also know that it is possible for all of us, regardless of age or position we find ourselves in or how stagnant we've been for how many decades, to make the decision today that this is the start of like the rest of our lives and we're going to just give it a fucking go. I know that's true. The only thing that stands in the way of that is people don't believe it's true. They look at you and you seem so far away, 10 million subscribers. You must be Superman, super genius that, born with it, parents must be rich. You must have genius, just that's not me. I'm a muggle and I hate that. 'Cause I'm, you know. - And yeah, yeah. Everyone starts from zero. Every YouTube channel had zero subscribers at one point and then, you know, was cheering when they got the first one and it was probably their mum, you know. - The most inspiring thing I think I could show the audience is probably you and your 14. Do you know what I mean? 'Cause they'd be like, that guy? Same with me, they'd be like, that fucking guy. - I had the camera presence of a vegetable. Not good. - That's crazy.
How do you maintain meaningful relationships? (42:09)
On this point of friends then and relationships, how are you doing and what are your tips? You're super ambitious, you're scaling this big business on YouTube. What are your strategies to maintain meaningful relationships amongst all this chaos? 'Cause I struggle. - Yeah, I try and make sure it's quality time. So I think I spend less time texting and more time seeing people. Like if I spend two hours texting one of my friends, that is much less of a quality connection and two hours of seeing that person, of being able to have a fluid conversation and being able to see them and see their facial expressions and their justiculations and all that. So I pretty much plan my time such that the minute I finish work, I am doing something in person with the people I care about. Whether that's a board game with my family or a night out with my friends, that there's very little downtime, but in a good way. - Do you have to be somewhat of a contradiction in who you are to have quality relationships? Do you have to be a different guy? 'Cause what I'm saying is professionally, everything is about return on time. If I spend one hour, what am I getting back? Do you have to be a different guy to get the most out of your social life in terms of that sort of like time efficiency? I'm the boss, da da da da. - Yeah, it sounds very transactional to look at relationships like that. I think every person actually does view them in the same way, they just don't put the labels on it. I think really we're all doing the same things as humans where we've got a set of 10 decisions in our heads, things we could do, and we pick the one that's best for us. But I think I just attach a framework to it that allows me to think about it easier. So I think I'd be doing the same thing even if I didn't think about it in that way. I'm just, the way I think about it allows me to plan it better. - And you value those things. You now value those. - Oh, when I finish a day of work and I know I'm about to go see my friends, like my heart starts pumping, I get so excited. I just like, I get off the station at St. Pancras sometimes and I just, I feel like a free bird. And like I know there's gonna be a little adventure that we can't and it's, I think those moments make your life worth living. - Do you have a lot of friends? - Not many, but they're good ones. - Roughly how many? - I'd say good friends like brothers, you know what I mean? - Sick. - Sick friends. - And that's pretty much my entire circle. I think the only friends I have are good friends. The rest of them I've almost decided that realistically I'm not gonna be able to make this friendship work. And it's sad, like sometimes it's even just geographical. Some of my friends after university, they moved to France or Indonesia or Hong Kong. And just the fact that they're in another country has meant that realistically, my friendship with that person is just gonna be a series of messages, hey, how are you doing? I'm good, how are you doing? And even though I like these people, it just doesn't work. - That's not like a meaningful relationship is it? - You must have had the same thing as well. - Oh, 100%. - Yeah, and it's really frustrating, 'cause great guys, but you know. - Do you know what, I actually struggle at the moment, 'cause my girlfriend lives in Indonesia. And so right now, the border to get into Indonesia's closed, so you can't get in anyway. Now I can feel that my relationship with her is like, small talk, you know, it's like, oh, hey, how are you? I'm doing this, what are you doing today? I'm doing a podcast again and running my business. What are you doing here, running my business? It's like, do you know what I mean? And you can feel that the importance of like physical one-on-one time, which has been smashed because of the pandemic, but also because she lives literally 24 hours away. So I've got to like really assess my life. - I'm assuming you've tried like video calls and like video messages and... - Even then it's like different time zones and... - Yeah, that's the worst. - That's the worst. - Oh my God. It's really difficult, but you come back to this point, like if it's worth it, you're gonna go to extraordinary lengths to figure it out, figure out how to solve the problem. And for me, that means that I'm gonna have to go there a lot, I'm gonna have to fly to Indonesia a lot, she's gonna have to fly here a lot. - So you see that being like a permanent long-term relationship. - Yeah. - Crikey. - Yeah. - Good luck. - She's not Indonesian, she's from France, from French and Portuguese. - She's just making your life difficult. - No comments. But if it's worth it, you gotta put in the work. And I reflect on all of my friends' relationships. And this is the really the thing that really makes me wanna put in the work to make it work is all of my friends, even the ones that have had the most successful relationships, have been through hell and chaos at some point. They've had to overcome really, really remarkable challenges. And it's overcoming those challenges that have made them stronger. So I see it as that. Like my friend that I consider to have the best relationship out of all my friends, they have individually both been through personal chaos and managed to come out the other end. So I see this as one of those things, like a test. Like the borders closed, you can't get into the country. - Like that, I was saying, Rocky Balboa quote, "It's not how hard you get hit, it's how hard you get hit and can keep going forward." - I think that's relationships. And the thing that keeps you going forward is like, "Is it worth it? Is it worth it?" - Yeah. - At some point, the answer to that question might be no. Same with Burke. - So your chance, your stance on this has changed, hasn't it, with relationships? - Yes. - Quite recently. - Which part? Which part of my stance? - So I remember reading that you had a relationship that you had to kind of like end because you were so focused on your work. - Oh, I think that Daily Mail wrote that. But I mean, that is true. That is true with all of my previous relationships, pretty much. Yeah. That was just a young naive kid. That was like a super naive version of me. That was miscalculated the priorities of life. - And what changed? Was it just finding the right person or was it an internal thing? - It was definitely both, but I'd actually say it was more the internal thing. It was the, this is why I asked you the question earlier on about what you valued before and after your breakdown. Because before, for me, before I had my sort of turning point, I thought, as you said, the most important thing in the world was just getting rich by a Lamborghini and a mansion and then having loads of like infrequent casual partners. I thought that would be it. That would make me exponentially happier. When I came to, and I didn't think relationships mattered, friendships or romantic, but I came to learn through a variety of different stimuli, one of them being a TED talk I saw where they did a hundred year study of men and they looked at men that had relationships and that didn't have relationships. The ones that had relationships lived like 10 years longer, were healthier, happier. Imagine that, lived 10 years longer. - Crazy. - Made them physically healthier, were happier, everything. Everything that mattered was given to those that had meaningful relationships. Then I read Lost Connections by Johanna Hari and it shows that a lot of the reason why we're getting more and more depressed and socially anxious and all of these things is because we're not in our tribes, we don't have meaningful connections, but fuck. And then I looked at what I'd been feeling myself and I'd always been too scared to say I was lonely. I'd always been too scared to say that. I've always been too scared to say that I wasn't feeling good either. But on reflection, now I was lonely. I was really, really lonely. - You can be lonely even if you're surrounded by people. - Yeah, 100%. - I think actually there's a reason why a lot of people say that university is the best time of their lives. And I think it's because they're surrounded by friends and the relationship people have with their friends is often healthier than the relationship people have with their families because the level of expectation is removed. Like I think with families, people find that they fall into certain roles where like, they do the dishes and they clean the floors. Whereas at university with your friends, if you clean the floors, you're a hero. And I think that kind of, that attitude means that people want to hang out with their friends more and they enjoy that process. Even though they're fundamentally doing the same things, they're being appreciated more. - 100%. - And I think I try and apply that in my relationships. It's like, when my friends come to see me, just the fact that they've come to see me, I'm like, oh guys, come on. - Amazing, yeah. - It's amazing. - There's also new hierarchy in friendship groups in terms of like your family, you have hierarchy, you have the older brother and the older sister, then you have the mom and the girl. And then you also get to typically select your friends, which you don't get to do with your family. So you can wind up with a pretty nuts family. - That's true. - And have to tolerate it because you are related. And I think the friendship, especially as you get out of school, 'cause school kind of forces you together, but if you get out of school, you start to discover who you are, what music you're into, what interests you have. You then build a tribe around you that have shared values. And that seems to be the best tribe. - Not to underestimate family though. Like I think when you have good family connections, no one wants you to succeed more than they do. - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - And I think very few people have your best interests at heart apart from them. - 100%. What about romantic relationships? How have you found forming romantic relationships as a on-screen mega YouTuber? Ambition guy, entrepreneur. - Nuanced is what I would say. Like when you have this whole YouTube thing, clearly like people are into it, right? It's a cool job, if nothing else, it's just cool. - So you're saying women are into it. - Yeah. - Yeah, yeah. But I think you'll know when you've found someone who looks through it, looks past it. The only challenge then becomes time because YouTube is not just incredibly time consuming, but it's also unpredictable. And so in relationships where people want stability, trying to offer that stability is not easy. Let's say someone wants me to come to a wedding in two weeks time, Aaron, can you definitely make it? Can you book that date in? I can't really. I'm not working a nine to five. I can't book days off. Sometimes an opportunity presents itself and it's such a great opportunity that I don't wanna turn it down. Like this chat, I really wanted to come see you as soon as I got the email. But had I said to someone else, a friend or a girlfriend or whatever, that I was gonna be doing something with them this day, I'd have had to do that. And that horrifies me because we're in a place where the sky is in the limit. All these metrics are looking up and so many people and opportunities are presenting themselves. I wanna do them all. - So how'd you balance it? - How'd you balance it? - Well, quality time in person time. And I think, so you almost have to kind of like assign things in your relationships, an importance level. And if something is really important to your partner, then you just be there no matter what. If things are somewhat negotiable, then you know, try and make it, but don't commit. - And how important is it to find the right person? I'm guessing you've potentially tried a few different types like I have. I've tried a few different types of people, maybe three or four, maybe five. - 50. - No, no, no, like relationships over the last, over the last, let's say 10 years, different characters that either saw my work as a threat, saw it as a really cool thing and was supportive, or maybe way too supportive, or maybe way to intimidate by work. How important has it been to find the right person? - So important, so important. I mean, your partner is the person you're spending, you know, you want to spend the rest of your life with, they're gonna become you effectively. You know, have you heard that thing where you kind of, you become the five closest people around you? - Yeah, yeah. - Your partner is going to be your biggest influence for the rest of your life. And so them being on the same page, and them being an inspiration to you, as well as you to them, I think is the only thing you need. - Do you think you need a partner that is ambitious? And I always find this really fascinating that I've had so many conversations with very ambitious entrepreneurs, and they tend to go one of two ways. They typically tend to believe that they also need someone who is sidetracked with their own dreams and goals. But I question that sometimes. And I think-- - Okay, so start with yours, your take, and then I'll give you my second. - This is about you. Well, so, okay. So when I was a little bit more stupid, like 18, I used to think that I want my partner to be a, like a philanthropist, has their own thing, and to just be, you know, taking over the world themselves. However, in reality, I've come to learn that I might be lying to myself, because if that were to be the case, then we'd probably never see each other. - Right. - Because the likelihood is there'd be in another country doing massive things, and it would just be texting. And so I've come to learn, especially when I was in the height of my career at Social Chain, and I was flying like 50 days a year, 50 weeks a year, sorry. I couldn't have possibly had a meaningful relationship with someone that was doing the same. So it's made me question myself a little bit and start to reflect on the fact that, especially when other factors come into play. Maybe I need someone that is going to be a little bit more supportive of my, of my, and I don't think this answer will give a fuck out. - I think where I am at with it is a little different. I think fundamentally the person you end up with has to see eye to eye with you. They have to be on your wavelength. And I think for people like us who are just so incredibly ambitious, we wanna do huge things with our lives, it's not gonna work out with someone who isn't like that, because eventually you'll lose respect for them. So I think all these things about convenience of the relationship, they kind of all fall to the wayside. If that person is right, if they see you like that. - I've been unable to form a romantic relationship with someone that doesn't have passion for something. And I'm not saying take over the world. I mean, like be inter knitting, like love, you know, anything, just like love, like dog breeding. I don't, you're like breeding, grooming. Just, just be passionate about something. And I think what I'm looking for there is to come home and talk about you and your life too, and your hobbies, not just to, it's a center on me, because then I don't get to escape. I don't get to relax and wind down, you know? - Yeah. - You're right, yeah. It doesn't matter what they're passionate about, but they have to be passionate. - Yeah. But what if they are, what if they're flying 50 weeks a year? How do you, how does that work? - I think in the same way that like, you know, you have to compromise for the other person. They will also compromise for you. - Yeah. - I think it's okay if you make a million less a year or whatever it is depending on what scale you're working on. If it means you can have this meaningful relationship because as we've established like, as humans, we need that. It's a core need and it's the easiest one to neglect because the feeling isn't as urgent as hunger or thirst, but it is there. - So true. So true. I definitely have realized that if I'm gonna have a romantic relationship and it's gonna work, I'm going to have to leave millions off the table, just like in missing meetings and not having to compromise. And that's a really, that's a really hard to do because you then try and quantify the value the relationship has as a return. And you say, well, if I'm probably gonna lose, I reckon I'd lose like five million a year by having a romantic relationship genuinely, maybe even more, like genuinely, probably more. And you think, well, fucking hell they've got to be working. But then you reflect and go, well, I don't need more money, do I? But there is a game to be made in terms of like romantic connection. - Yeah, but beyond a certain point, what is money? It's just, it's a bit of convenience, right? That's all it is. And potentially if you get too much a pain in the ass, right? Like some people, I know they spend, they spend a long time looking for things to spend their money on. - Oh God, that's the worst. That is a sickness. - Yeah, so I got this phone through the mail, not that long ago, and it was a $170,000 iPhone. But you know what it was? It was, so not an iPhone, it was a Samsung phone, but it was a phone with a gold brick attached to the back. And I was thinking to myself, what kind of person actually buys this? Where would you have to be in your life to purchase this particular phone? - Miserable Boston, you've got to be miserable. - Yeah, right? - You've got to be miserable. I can't imagine a world where someone that's buying a phone that has a gold brick strapped to it, is living a fulfilled life. - Exactly. - Everything I must know must be wrong, if they can buy a gold brick. - Do you want to know the funny part? So because of the gold brick on the back, the cameras don't work. - Grap, fuck, can you take the face? - Funny would take the face. The way I reasoned it was that if you've got that much money, you've probably got someone to take photos of you. - True, yeah, well you've got no friends, because you're that miserable. But what money then, let's talk about money, what role does it play in your life?
- So when I was growing up, like I said, I wasn't underprivileged, so I had everything basic covered. But there was definitely what things I wanted. I wanted the latest toys, I wanted the latest trading cards, whatever it was. So when I first started getting income from YouTube, I was very happy with it. I would buy things off Amazon and make myself short-term happy, just fill those little gaps that I had in my childhood, I guess. Would you go looking for things to buy? - Sometimes. - Yeah, I think I would. - Same. - It's that first initial feeling of freedom, and it almost doesn't feel real when you can order things off your own card, and they come to you, and it's like, I've earned this, this is my treat. But after a period of time, I realized that the things that I actually want don't cost very much. And so I've purposefully not bought myself a nice car, because I actually, I'm very aware that, as humans, we adjust. - Slippery slope. - It's a slippery slope, and I know that, even if, let's say, 20 years in the future, I own a Ferrari or a Lamborghini, there's no point rushing to get there, because I know from that point, all I'm gonna be thinking is what's next. And so you might as well get a polo first, and then maybe get an A-class Mercedes, and then maybe get a nice Nissan, I don't know, work your way up. Even if you could get a nice car now, like, what's the rush? Just enjoy the journey. It's like, I see it like a video game. Like, do you play many games? - Yeah. - So I always find myself when I play games, I am rushing to finish them. And I wanna get to that last boss, I wanna beat it for the final reward. But then as soon as I do that, I just, I lose all interest in the game. And there's so many parallels between that and real life. You know, what do you do when you have so much money that you don't know what to do with it? You just, you find things to do with it. And that in itself is, you know, it's just another thing to do. - It makes me feel sick sometimes that I still have these moments where I will like glance at a mansion on like right move. And then I genuinely have this sick feeling in my stomach because I know what my life then means. Do you know what I mean? Genuinely, it would probably make me miserable because I'd have to move out of London, which means I'm farther away from friends and people can't come to me. And then I'm in this eight bedroom house. - Yeah. - That no one can come to you anyway. And I feel that sickness. Like an ice, I feel the same way when I look at like the Lamborghinis and the Rolls-Royces, which I always come back to. I'm gonna buy one. It's like the insecure kid shows up. And then I get that like belly sickness where I do it. - Tiveness. - Yeah, it's like, well, Steve, if you do that, you know what this means. - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - You know what treadmill you're like. - There is some part of you that's pulling you and you've got to try to stop. - Yes, exactly. And it's that insecure kid that's been, still being influenced by society and social media to try and run at those empty things. - Yeah, it's actually something that's been on my mind recently, like society is that thing. And through adverts and social media targeting, like it's found its way into our lives in a way that is so close to us all the time. - Constant. - That you're being pulled in this direction. And it's no one's fault. It's not our fault. But we are becoming very materialistic. - Yeah, at the expense of things that actually matter. - Yeah. - And it is at the expense of something else. - Yeah, these apps are custom built. Every decision made with these applications that we use is built to use us to extract from us. Every time that goes on is custom built to mess with the parts of your brain that are made to sort of like, they're made to make you lose control, to make you think, oh my God, there's a notification, I've got to check it. They are built like that and that's terrifying. - So what'd you do about that, knowing that? - I used to use a scheduling app. So I used to set my phone up so that all my notifications would come at one point in the day. - Interesting. - Yeah. But then I stopped doing that when I started missing important emails. So now I just kind of keep my phone on silent and look at it when I look at it. - I almost get mild anxiety if I've not checked my WhatsApp. Like I know what you mean. - I used to really get it when I was at social chain because especially when I was living in New York City, I would wake up after, I guess I'm that's right, yeah, I'd wake up after the UK. So I would know the minute I woke up, and I'd usually wake up at 4am because my brain would wake me up because it was anxious, knowing that the minute I touched my phone and look at all these offices around the world and all these people and all these employees and these directors, my phone every morning would be 7080 messages. So you'd wake up and then you go, like with one eye open reach for the phone and look and just check there was nothing on fire, like no major crisis. And doing that for a lot of manicure it takes out of you. - You don't want to get up. - You don't want to do your job anymore. You don't want to ever have that again. It's awful. - How did you get around that? - I didn't, I quit the job eventually. But it was up until I quit. Like I was waking up with that, that like, I was always, you know, at the worst times when the business was like tough and it was struggle, like I wouldn't want to open my emails and I wouldn't want to open my WhatsApp. So it was just because you knew it was bad news. Your body's conditioned, it gets a signal. It's like, if you press this button, you get bad news. Why the fuck do you press the button then? - Yeah. - You start avoiding pressing the button. - Yeah, yeah, yeah. - So, yes, it's not easy, but social media is designed in that way. It's like for probably more so from like the positive reinforcement you get from that dopamine hit of getting comments or likes or whatever. And as a YouTuber, you must feel that more than, more than most. You've got 10 million. - It is on my mind actually that like, what other things I do in my life going forward are going to give me the same amount of dopamine? 'Cause if you post a video and it starts, you know, hitting trending and it's getting millions of views and so many likes and 10,000 people telling you, you're great, what tops that? What am I gonna do in my life that is actually better than that? And I do, sometimes I've had to kind of pull myself out of this mindset, but there was a point in my life where I would look at situations I was in, let's say, on bowling with my family. And I'd be thinking like, is this making me as happy as getting a viral video? It's not, it is a slippery slope because it's almost too good. It's too good and nothing else can match it. - Kind of what you said earlier about playing the video game and waiting until you get to the end, you're standard of that dopamine hit or if a thrill is so high now. - Yeah, yeah. - Must be hard to meet that elsewhere in life. - Yeah.
How do you enjoy aspects outside the excitement of YouTube? (01:06:34)
- So what do you do about that? How do you, how are you able to enjoy, and you don't have to have the answer, we're all works in progress, you'll be 25, but how do you able to enjoy other parts of life with your partner who wants to just go to, I don't know. - Go shopping. - Go shopping or have a picnic. - I think the key is detoxing every now and again. You've heard of the whole like dopamine detox. - Not really? - So it's the idea of completely depriving yourself from all stimulation, periods of time. So no music, no phone, no internet, nothing. Just very simple pleasures. And so like whenever I get the opportunity to do those, I will take them. And so like I have these periodic moments of complete release where I'm doing nothing stimulating and they're quite difficult to be honest. Like the urge is definitely there to run up and check my notifications, but I refrain just because I know long term, like I need to stop. - And how long are these periods of dopamine detox? - It's whenever I can afford to do them. I mean, I think in a best case scenario, you do it regularly, but for me it's more like, if I finish a big stint of work and I'm just exhausted, I'll say, okay, next day and a half, I'm doing very little. I'm gonna talk to people and drink coffee. You know? What impact does that have? - I think it brings you down to earth again. It reminds you of the things that are important and it allows you to enjoy them. You only need a couple of hours and I think you can very quickly start to appreciate things that you'd forgotten to appreciate before because you were caught up on social blade statistics. - Is there, we talked a lot about the positive sides of this meteoric rise you had on YouTube and how it helped you like be a bit more secure in yourself and understand yourself a bit better, but are there some characteristics or, I guess side effects of this that are probably reversible now that you... - Irreversible. - Yeah, like irreversible consequences of this meteoric success on YouTube that are negative in your view. I mean, that was kind of one of them there, but... - Yeah, the only thing that comes to mind, I suppose you'd almost have to ask the people around me to get a proper answer, but the only thing that comes to mind is how cagey I am with my time. I think because of how much I plan it and because of how self-aware I am, of how important it is, I very much find myself in situations where I'm like, okay, this was great, gotta go, bye. And I do really enjoy these break times, but I do also cut them. And I think for other people who aren't as cagey with their time, they probably see that as like, he's gotta go again, classic Aaron, you know. - Or Readness or something. - Maybe, yeah, I've been told actually a few times in the past that actually, like I start a conversation, realize I don't have time for it and leave. I used to do that at university 'cause what would happen is, you know, you go out your room, you're living with your friends, you talk to someone. And before you know it, there's seven people in the corridor chatting. And even though I was the one who started the conversation, I'd have to go 'cause I'm like, okay, it's 7.30, I've gotta start scripting YouTube. And some people will be like, well, that was a bit rude. Which I can understand, but there was no other way I could have got what I needed to get done done. - You don't regret that though, do you? - No, I don't regret it. Because I think the people who have ended up as my core friends, they understand. - I tend to also believe that the people that have reached fulfillment and success their lives are really, they have like a high boundary set for the use of their time. At the end of the day, as I talk about a lot, it's the only resource we all have. - Yeah. - And educating it in a really efficient manner towards things that matter, I think is important. But a lot of people won't, they'll find themselves in that hallway conversation. And they won't wanna be rude because they're people policing. - Mm. - So they'll end up spending like two hours talking about things they don't care about with people they don't really like. - Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. - And for me, that's just a cardinal sin of happiness. You've gotta be a bit of a, I was gonna say the C word that I shouldn't do that. - You've gotta be a bit rude sometimes. - You've gotta be rude sometimes. - Yeah. I think a lot about that idea of like becoming the richest man on earth, but then being really old and wanting to spend all your money to buy another day or something. I think about that a lot and it's a constant reminder of like stay in the right lane, focus on the things that matter. You don't have that long. - Do you think you're lonely now? - No, I don't. I did a few years ago, but I feel really good now. I feel like I know what I want and I've got it. And that's, that's comes from the balance of friends and family and romantic. - Yeah. - Connections. - Yeah, not many, but good ones.
Your growth on Youtube (01:11:27)
- You've grown, you know, this YouTube channel over the last, what, 10 years? - 10 years. - Roughly. From zero to over 8 million subscribers. In terms of your growth trajectory, what story does that tell? - How quickly you grew, how exponential? Was that an S curve? Was it slow then fast? - It's been pretty much slow then fast, somewhat exponential, I'd say. So, so right now, my channel is growing much faster than where it is proportionally. So the percentage growth on my channel is really high, like one of the highest on YouTube. And I've only actually got a team of two people in total, to be honest. So I'm at a stage now where I'm thinking, okay, I need to get more help. I need to get more people doing the things that I shouldn't be doing right now. But I want to keep it as me. Like, I'm very aware that like, I could probably get more numbers if I had people writing my script to me and stuff. But there are certain things that I just want to do because I like them and I think I'm good at them. And so I want to keep doing those things. - But in terms of that, that sort of exponential growth, how long, like give me the time frames in terms of how long it took you to get to several different stages. - Oh, okay. I've got a tweet actually, I can find it. Find it for me. - Okay. So it took me seven years to hit one million subscribers. It took one year to hit two million, eight months to hit three million, six months to hit four million, and then three months to hit five million. So that there's definitely been a sort of, you know, a curve. - Hockey stick. - Yeah. But I think people, they kind of miss place where that comes from. I think people have this idea that if you're big on YouTube, you'll just keep getting bigger on YouTube. But I think what actually happens is that you're big on YouTube because you're starting to understand what works, and therefore you get bigger because you're implementing what works. That makes sense. - Oh, 100%. I mean, that's applicable to every walk of life right as well. As you were saying, I was thinking about everything, thinking about the gym and I was thinking about, you know, business, everything. It's interesting. It's interesting because there are a lot of YouTubers who get big and then stop. Like their growth stops. - Yeah. - They build these big channels and then suck the tectonic plates shift. The algorithm says, okay, we want something else now and they fall off and they... - I don't think a lot of these are actually algorithms changing. I think right from the start, the algorithms have had a very simple goal. And I think they've been able to achieve that. I think that's the creators losing touch. It's whether it's failing to keep up with the competition because the bar for content is rising all the time or whether it's just neglect of what their audience wants. Like sometimes I've seen creators who they get big and then they're like, oh, this is what my audience wants to say. I'm just gonna keep doing that exact same thing the whole time. Or sometimes you get creators who one minute they're making a video about how they make cupcakes, the other time they're making tech videos. And you've got to keep your audience at the front of your mind because so have you heard this saying that like, create what you want to create and your passion will show through and people will find you? Okay, 'cause I've heard it a lot and I actually strongly disagree with it because I think it makes the creators think that like, they're the prize, they're the customer when actually it's the viewers and it's a privilege to be able to create for them but you can't be complacent about that. They're not gonna come to you just because I'm making stuff I like making. There's too many people who are doing that for that to be the case. So you have to really respect people's time and really deliver value to them. - In order to be able to adapt to what your audience want, it's got to be a two-way conversation. So how do you have that two-way conversation? Really, I know how you have it one way but I'm saying how are you getting, how are you understanding what they want? What are the metrics you're looking at? Is the comment section, is it? And again, these aren't just lessons for YouTube. These are lessons for anyone creating any product in the world that is looking to build their customer base 'cause it's the same business. - Hmm. So there's both, there's explicit and there's implicit feedback. The explicit is someone literally writing, Aaron, this was a great video or Aaron, you should sit a bit further back 'cause your face is too close to the camera. I've had that, that's very useful. But the implicit feedback is most of it. It's what percentage of people who watch this video put a like on it. It's like how many minutes of this 20-minute video did they watch and at what point did they drop off? That's an incredibly useful piece of information there. And I used to actually, as soon as I changed my attitude from work hard to work smart, these are the things I started looking for. It was like, oh, I said this sentence and there was a drop there. I'm not gonna say that sentence again. Clearly that was doing something. And it was trying to understand what about that sentence made people drop off that allowed me to grow as a person and as a channel? - So are you really in the weeds like that? You're really looking at every video and looking-- - I'm obsessed with it. Yeah, it's my background as well. Like I'm a math student, I'm an economic student. I love the data. I think to some extent, the fact that I pay so much attention to it is one thing that really helps me over other YouTubers. - Oh, I can tell, I can tell. Because the answers are there, it's the same in business. Your customers are usually telling you what they want or don't want, but we lead with our hypothesis. - Yes. - And our hypothesis is ego, attached to our egos. It's sometimes overly romantic. So we can spend years, as I think I did in my first business, trying to sell my customer, or who thought my customer was, product that they didn't want. And when they told me they didn't want it, because of their behavior, - You were like, no, you try to sell it. I was like, no motherfucker. I'm gonna force you to try, you know? - Yeah, yeah. - I talk about this at the mother podcast. It was actually when I started a Facebook group and realized that the Facebook group was 50 times, 100 times more effective in achieving what I was trying to achieve with my website, that I was like, people wanna do this behavior on Facebook. I'm trying to force them to do it somewhere they don't wanna do it. Just go with what the people want. And that requires you to be low ego, low romance. - There is one caveat, which is that, every now and again, people don't know what they want. You know, like, if you think about the first iPhone that came out, right? People at the time, if you'd asked them what they wanted, they would have said, oh, I want a flip phone with maybe a bigger keyboard. And they would have just kept saying that year after year. But actually, the iPhone completely changed what they wanted. And there is a time and place for that as well in YouTube. Sometimes just you have this idea, no one's asked for it, but you just think, oh, that's a good idea. I'm gonna try it. And you'll very quickly realize if it's the right thing to do. - Hmm. It's harder to argue with the, well, I guess when you're creating something new, there isn't the data, there isn't the prehistoric iPhone. - But that's why you've gotta just do it. - Try, it's gonna start with an experiment and then go into analytical observation. - Yeah. - I guess. I guess that's a good approach. I think everyone can relate to.
The biggest misconceptions of you as a Youtuber (01:18:52)
What are some of the biggest misconceptions of you as a YouTuber that you, that piss you off? - There's a big thing with tech YouTube, where like, if you say a good thing about a product or a company, the assumption is immediately that you're paid to say that. And I think it's an element of like, I probably just need to communicate better how it works. Like, I'm not paid every time I say a nice sentence about Samsung, they don't just like slip me a couple of bills. That's probably the predominant thing. - I saw somewhere that you send these companies an email when they offer to give you a product. You letting them know that you won't accept the money, but you will review it if you like it. - Yeah, so a lot of the emails I get are actually, would you like to do a paid review? - Yeah. - And I can't, with an honest conscience say yes to a paid review because it's a contradiction. A review is a piece that is meant to end with a recommendation. You should buy this or you shouldn't buy this. And having taken money for that piece. - You can't be objective. - No, I can't be objective. So there are cases where, yeah, a company said, "Can we pay you for a review?" I've said, "No, I'll do a review, but I won't take the money." - So how do you make money? - So you can do sponsors if you do sponsors in the right way. So what I think is the right way is, I will take on sponsorship if it is, if I don't have to be conclusive about it, if I can be completely genuine about it, like, like you all, for example, I do sponsorships with you all, but that is because I was drinking fuel before fuel reached out to me. So they actually spotted me wearing a fuel t-shirt in one of my videos and they're like, "Oh, okay, this guy, he likes it already. Would you like to talk about us?" And I said, "Yeah." - Why did you like fuel? Do my sponsor genuinely. Why did you like fuel? - I guess it fits in with my lifestyle. I, you know, being, I care about my time. I am not getting paid for this. - No, I know. I am. Cheers. - Yeah, go on, why don't we? No. - No genuinely, I'm really, really curious as to why, why it fit in your lifestyle. It was the same for me. I was a customer for three years before they sponsored the podcast. Similar thing, they were looking for authentic influences, but I'm curious as to why it fit your lifestyle. - I think it's this idea of a meal is sometimes for enjoyment, but it's also sometimes just because you need something to eat. And when you're very busy, you don't care about what it is. Like you just need nutrition. And you just, you don't wanna be eating crap, basically. You know, you wanna just eat something that you feel good about. And that's what this was. I had a friend who got me into it. He was actually using like full fat milk when he was doing it the whole time. And he was wondering why he wasn't losing weight. I was like, "Try it with water. Just give it a go." - Yeah. - I don't even have the time to do the, well, I do the protein, but I don't, I've never really been a huge fan of the powder in the cup mix. - So I used to do that. And then as soon as I started having the ready to drink ones, now I just have these. - Yeah, same. - 'Cause they're in the fridge, they're chilled, there's no washing up. - Exactly. Yeah. Have you tried the protein? - Yep. - You have. - Like the strawberries and cream. - Oh, yeah, it's on top of my fridge over there. - Yeah. - Anyway.
What are your motivations now? (01:22:18)
So as you, you've achieved a lot in business, but also on YouTube, you've, you know, I got a YouTube channel. I've got like 50,000 subscribers. Bear in mind, like 90% of my audience listen off, off YouTube. But if you told me that one day I'd have eight million subscribers, I'd wonder where my motivation would be to get, to try and get more. I think, well, that's fucking, I mean, nine? That makes no difference. Do you know what I mean? - Yeah. - Ten, like, what is your motivation now? What is it, what does it come from? - I think it's this idea of like, I feel like I have a message to share almost. Like, tech is fun, tech is exciting. And it's one of the few industries that's moving forward really fast. Like, I look at fashion and, you know, things just go round and round in loops, basically. But tech is a straight line. And so I always liked the idea of just getting people on board with that idea. And so becoming synonymous with the word tech and becoming someone who's like a teacher of tech and who's a fun place to learn tech, that's kind of where I'm at right now. So I guess my end goal would be to be the tech person. So when someone says tech, you think, oh, that's Aaron Mayney, that's Mr. Who's the boss, you know, he's tech, go look at him. - So one of your central focuses is becoming synonymous with the word tech globally on YouTube as a teacher and educator. What about the other facets of your life, your personal life? What are you aiming at? - I think to be honest, like the things I actually want are fairly simple, all things considered. Like it's not cars or money or gold brick phones. It's just good, good happiness. - Well, if you're not using it, then you can... - Yeah. - Just gonna ask if you still have that. - Yeah. - You have to send it back. - I actually do still have it. - You still have it? - Okay, they asked me to send it back initially, but then communications got mixed. - Yeah, I bet they did. - Yeah, if someone sent me a gold brick phone, trust me, can you, yeah, I'm stuff answering. - They couldn't get a courier who could ensure it. So we're struggling to send it back basically. - I send it back, I've got a good guy that sends phones back. Send it over here, I'll take care of it. Send it over here. I've got a guy that's the best courier in Europe. - Yeah. I watched actually one of your past podcasts where you talked about like the idea of, we trick ourselves into thinking there's something on the other side, but this is it. And I'm very aware of that, and I'm very happy about it. I don't need anything else. Like I'm enjoying the process. And as long as I can keep having those times where my friends are over and we're playing video games together and we're laughing on the couch, and I can spend good quality time with my parents going out for dinners. That's all I need. - But then go back to a professional goal about being synonymous with tech. If you were to achieve that goal, what would it do for you? - Put a smile on my face. Probably not much more, I'm gonna be honest. Like I think goals like that, they're not meant to be achieved in a way. Like just having the goal gives you a purpose. Like I already have the income I need to have the social life and the kind of like the things that actually make me happy. And so this goal is something to give the rest of my life a purpose. - And it is a goal that you can almost not measure. - Yeah. Which I know is against all goal setting, it's against goal setting 101. I know you're meant to have like smart goals and all that. - No, I think it's great. I think more people should have goals that I said this on my Instagram the other day, incompletable because that stops you from that sort of mountaintop moment where you then need another goal to find your orientation in life and to find your direction. So those big, incompletable goals, I think are the best. Well, you can't ever measure if it came true. - Yeah. - Which I think is amazing, but it is interesting that achieving the goal would basically do nothing for you. - Yeah. - Which is crazy when you think about it. - But I'm loving the process. - And that's what I know. - So every time an article gets written about me or I get referenced or someone shares it, I look at it and I'm like, oh wow, this is a step towards my goal. So even if I never achieve that goal and even if when I do achieve that goal or if I do achieve that goal, I don't care that much, it's created a structure such that I can really enjoy the process. - And that's probably the secret to professional happiness, I guess. Isn't it sounds like a, it sounds nuts. It sounds crazy to have a goal you can't complete and that doesn't matter. - Yeah, it does. I can see it. - Could you imagine that, folks? The key to being happy is to say goals, you can't complete that, don't matter. - No, it don't actually matter. But I think you're left with no other choice when you get to a point where you've ticked off those Mazlovian needs of like food, shelter, security. - Yeah, that's exactly it. - Nothing beyond that point really matters. - There was a point when I was like, oh, if you get 100,000 subscribers, you've made it, you've done. And so when you've got 80 times that, there is a point where it's like, this isn't numbers don't make you happy, you realize that quite quickly. - Well, listen, thank you so much for being so honest and open with me today. I've had such an enjoyable, diverse conversation with you and it's an honor to get to meet you. And I was looking at your story and you are in a normally in so many ways because you're incredibly self aware and conscious now. And clearly that's not always been the case when you're in that pre-breakdown phase. Similar with me, I was a puppet driven by society. Society was the puppet master and my insecurities from my childhood, but you've reached that point of self awareness that you know those goals aren't gonna matter and that you know why you're doing it. You know that balance is key and you're able to allocate your time in accordance with your long-term values, not any sort of external or insecure goals or desires. So I think that's remarkable. And I think the reason I wrote my book and a lot of the reason my I do this podcast is to share stories like yours. So thank you for your time. It is not an incredible time with you. And I am really excited to see you become synonymous with tech across the world. And I think you're clearly on the way to doing that. It's remarkable what you've achieved. - I appreciate it. - And as a small little irrelevant YouTuber, I'm gonna need some tips from you off camera about how I can continue to do one day. But to be fair, like you've answered it for me. Like we enjoy it and yeah, that we celebrate like the little wins and stuff, but we're doing this, I think, I think I speak for the team because like meeting people like you and doing this is fun. - I'll give you one little nugget now, I think. - Please, more than one if you have them. - I would try and add some structure. - Interesting. - I think a lot of the people watching this podcast are very ambitious people who want the next thing. And I think your videos could potentially highlight what's coming and with some sort of ramping intensity to keep those kinds of ambitious people who want the next thing engaged. - Interesting. - Have you watched Hot Ones? - Yes, the Wings. - The Wings Show. - Wow. - The reason that's so interesting is that you know the wings are getting hotter each time. - And that structure allows me to just like watch right till the end, no matter what they're talking about. - That's really, really good feedback because watch time matters, it's so critical to YouTube right in the algorithm. So incentivizing people when they, in the first five minutes to stay till minute 55, by letting them know there's something spicy over there. No pun intended. Makes a lot, a lot of sense. I'm going to speak to Jack who's behind me. We're going to figure out a way to conduct that experiment. - Yeah. - Any other tips before I go? Like I know you've got to make YouTube tell and you thought, what's the fun because this guy doing? - One thing I've started thinking about recently actually is-- - You can just say it was something you saw. - I did a big watch through of the Marvel films. - Okay. - Start to finish, the whole universe. And I realized that like these movies are, they are self-contained episodes. So you can watch one end to end and you will get a character arc, you will get villains and heroes and the heroes will beat the villains. But they're also part of a bigger picture. And it made me realize that like every time I finished one of them, I wanted to watch the next one because it was all contributing to this bigger picture. It was like this bigger universe. And so more and more I'm starting to think of like my videos as contributions to a universe and how to actually link between them in ways that people feel like they need to watch all of them or no, no more like they want to watch all of them to get the full picture. So oftentimes now I will actually have inter-video jokes, things that actually span multiple videos. Like I've had one where I finished one video by throwing a phone up in the air and I caught it in the next one. I've had other times where between three sets of videos, someone started throwing stuff at me during the videos with increasing intensity. And these kinds of like multi-video storylines are actually really, really powerful. Again, because of the algorithm, right? Yeah, I mean, it just makes people want to watch you more. It makes it feel not complete by just watching one video. I met YouTube and YouTube said to me that when people go on a streak of watching multiple videos on YouTube, and you'll know that I was like, I don't know why I'm talking to you about fucking YouTube tips, but they said to me when people go on a streak of watching multiple videos on YouTube, then the first video in that streak gets the credit basically. So if you can create content that is episodic, then all of the videos will perform better. So what you're talking about there is kind of like interlinking narratives throughout multiple videos so that one video doesn't stand alone. You have to, that's really interesting. But listen, thank you for your time. I've had so much of it and it's a huge one. I don't know how busy you are. So it's a huge honor that you've given some of your allocation today to this. 'Cause I know someone that understands the value of your time. So I really, really appreciate you and I don't have to tell people where to find you. You're welcome to. Never, I mean, type in your name anywhere and they'll find you and your work on every social platform. Thank you, Aaron. It's been a huge pleasure. It's been incredible. Thanks, Steve.