I’ve given a lot of thought about what it means for me to be successful. As long as I can be helpful, I’m successful in that. Let’s take stock of the last year and see where we’re at.
I started the Electronic Armory YouTube channel in January of 2016. Immediately, I started posting Android videos for my class I teach at Boise State University (more on that later). There was a nice spike of subscribers because my students subscribed to the channel so they could catch the latest Android videos and watch live streams of the class if they had to miss class or wanted to watch it later. 20 subscribers! Later, other subscribers started to trickle in. And by trickle, I mean a few every week. Cool! There were a few people out there that found the content useful!
After eight long months and dozens of videos that took countless hours to edit, the channel finally reached 100 subscribers! That allowed me to create a custom URL and unlocked a few other YouTube content creator features like:
So much better! Success! It felt so good to have achieved that small step.
Then something interesting happened. Videos that I was posting were getting lots of comments and views. A few of the videos reached a thousand views, and then more. Subscribers started to roll in. After a few more months, I was at 200 subscribers. This really started to take off. It took me 8 months to get that first 100. In about 2, I doubled that. I considered posting more videos like the popular ones, but I really wanted to try to something different. I did not want to be defined by one successful (there’s that word again) video and just do that. I have years of app development experience that I struggled to acquire because no one was teaching it. What were people teaching? Those one topic tutorials that were popular on my channel. A number of people even said I was the “best on YouTube.” Ego booster for sure, but I knew better. I’m glad they thought so, but I refuse to believe it. There’s no need to get better if you’re the best. Never accept that title.
Instead, I put together a 2.5 hour video on how to build a full, non-trivial app. At first it got no traction, but it really illustrated how to properly put together a well constructed app. The reviews went from “nice tutorial,” or “learned a lot,” to “OMG, this clarified so many things for me!” I think that’s success.
With 200 subscribers I was happy. I thought that was great. I never defined what a successful YouTube channel would look like. If I had a million subscribers, that would surely be successful. But what about 10,000. Is that good enough? When you reach that, you just keep going.
Going forward, success was going to mean something very different. But when things are a moving target, how to do you measure that? At almost 1,500 subscribers in about one year, what will 3 years look like? That’s what I’m looking at now and wishing I had started three years ago.
2016 saw the beginning of my fourth year of teaching at Boise State University. What an amazing journey that’s been. So many talented students, so many great after class conversations, so many students going on to great things. Success is almost guaranteed in my opinion. Students sit through class, work on projects and at the end, they’ve created an app of their own choosing, their own design and have something they can show off at the end.
The real question is, why do I teach? The pay isn’t very much and it’s not like I need the money. Same goes for the channel. When you concentrate on doing things for money, you’ll be miserable. When you concentrate on what makes you feel good and doing things for yourself, not only are you more motivated and excited about it, but it seeps into your work, making your work better. I think once my heart isn’t in it, I’ll quit. That’s easier to do when money isn’t your primary motivation.
Z Studio Labs
Running your own company is hard, exhausting, frustrating, but very rewarding. So to make everything easier, I started saying “no” to a lot of people who wanted us to work on projects. Instead, I only took the ones that really sounded great. These were mostly games, virtual reality projects and small projects for friends. I made less, but was happier and better positioned to continue doing the things I loved. If we had said yes to more projects, we might not have had time for the stuff we really wanted to work on. Those projects we said yes to, were also the most profitable since we were able to focus on them. More is not always better.
In between everything from from recording YouTube videos, teaching, the day job and making video games, I’ve managed to fit in plenty of exercise (losing 10 pounds in 2 months), reading (currently reading books on management, motivation, controlling habits and building brands) and time with the family.
So, am I successful? As long as I’m helping people, I’m enjoying what I do and money isn’t an issue, I am. Success to me is a satisfaction in what I do. I’m always improving, always trying to get better.