I made an embarrassing mistake on YouTube and I loved it.
Making mistakes out loud is a pre-requisite for entrepreneurship.
Because if you’re too worried about making mistakes—about being seen as “immature” or “uncertain” or even “stupid”—you might not launch anything at all.
You may not know this but I am a kind of professional small business builder. I co-founded this website you’re on right now, where we’ve had thousands of customers over the years, and I get to bring my particular kind of madness to the work we do here… I love sharing my madness.
And my work here is about helping people make small businesses. So, it’s one of those “entrepreneur about entrepreneurship” things… but we do it without being douchbags. (how’s that for a catch phrase?)
Which means, I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO MAKE MISTAKES. I’m a business guru, man… I’m supposed to know how to do all this business stuff.
Well, I made a pretty stupid mistake… out loud… in public… and it was worth it.
“Making mistakes out loud is a pre-requisite for entrepreneurship. ”
Here’s what happened to me.
It’s highly likely you don’t know this about me: for the past several years I’ve made YouTube reviews of bags. (Here’s my channel.)
I love bags, I love video, I love talking about bags on video… there’s a lot of madness in these videos and people like them.
Over the past 5 years or so that side-project has gained a little more speed. More and more bag companies have sent us bags, more and more videos have been made. I’ve even become an affiliate for several companies and some money is coming in — not much, but enough for my wife to be happy letting me take a Sunday afternoon to make a video for some help with the rent. (#GoldDigger… I’m kidding! My life would fall apart without that woman.)
These videos started getting popular. Viewers would comment, people would subscribe. And then they got more popular, many videos getting 30-, 40-, 50-, 60,000 views. The channel was growing like gangbusters and I wasn’t really doing anything but making fun videos.
Well, the growth was giving me some ideas. What if I could make other kinds of videos, videos about stuff I wanted to talk about more than bags?
You see, if I had to give a name to the kind of vision I have for my life (this is the dream, you understand, not the reality, the dream if I could be successful doing anything in the world) I’d want to be some kind of stand-up comedian / spiritual guru. I love what comedy does to people, I also love spirituality and deep things, it’d be amazing to get to spend my time doing those two things. It’s embarrassing to say “comedian/spiritual guru” out loud, but that’s literally this lil’ boy’s “what do you want to be when you grow up.” I just gotta admit that to you.
So, in light of that dream, I thought, “what if I could do videos of comedy stuff and maybe other videos of guru stuff and over time maybe they grow and I can do this online personality thing.”
Well, in order to do that, the first thing I thought to do was separate the bag videos from the “other” videos. I’d want to have a place for each kind of video to call home — a bag review channel, and a “Chase Reeves, professional crazy person who’s also kind of deep” channel.
But there was a huge problem. I only had 1 youtube channel at the time and it was where all the bag videos and subscribers were and there was no way to change the name! It was associated with my gmail account and it was set in stone.
Dammit. Ok, plan B: let’s create a new youtube channel for all the bag reviews and see how many people we could get to move over to that new channel. It’ll take some time, but in 2 years that channel will have 60+ bag videos and a life of its own.
Now, I wasn’t sure if this was a great idea, but I felt good about it. Sure, I’d have about 40 videos of bag reviews at the old channel (Chase Reeves) because YouTube doesn’t let you move your videos around, and that’d be sloppy because those videos keep getting more and more popular. But maybe over time people will learn about the new channel (Chase Reviews) and everything will work out, right?
I talked to a friend who’s a professional youtuber — he said “don’t do this, it’s a terrible idea.” And I thought, hell, he doesn’t know everything; I still feel good about this.
And I should say that — I really did feel good about this. I felt calm, I felt confident, I felt peaceful and centered about this. It felt like I was aligned with an intention that was real true to me. So, to me, it was like: fuck it, if it’s a mistake we’ll deal with the consequences later.
I made the leap.
There was a decent amount of work — announcement video and explanation on the old channel, new videos on the new channel, teaser videos on the old channel for the new videos on the new channel, some giveaways. Basically, I really wanted to make this legit and get as many people over to the new channel as possible.
I did all the work. I did it well. I felt great about it. And the people started responding too. Immediately we had a flux of new subscribers in the first couple days, and loads of comments on the new videos.
At the time I had about 10,000 subscribers at the Reeves channel. Within the first week I had about 2,000 at the Reviews channel. That’s a huge amount of engagement within a week.
I was feeling great about this whole thing. I launched a new video at the new channel, put a trailer up at the old channel. A week goes by. Another couple videos. Another week goes by…
And I noticed things weren’t going as well as I wanted. It wasn’t about the viewers or the feedback—my subscriber count was growing, people were pumped on the new content, there was loads of comments. It was about what I’ll call “the messiness.”
See, I designed this switch in the first place because I wanted there to be clean intention on each of the channels. I wanted viewers to know exactly what each channel was about so they could easily understand the value prop. (You’re an expert in value prop, right? Gotta be to make anything stick these days. Learn about it in The Roadmap.)
But more importantly, I wanted it to be clean and uncluttered for me. But this, I could tell, was NEVER going to be clean and uncluttered because no matter what I did I’d always have 40 REALLY POPULAR BAG VIDEOS ON MY OLD CHANNEL. They would always be there, wildly popular, nothing I could do about them, like a kink in the system forever.
Sidenote: this often happens in small biz stuff. You want things to be a certain way, you don’t know all the details, you try things out and find out exactly what you didn’t know before. You don’t learn the things without taking the action.
This realization slowly dawned on me — oh no, I’m going to have to put these channels back together aren’t I, undo all the work I’ve done, explain everything all over again to my audience… shit. Waves of shame tried to come up over me but I’ve gotten too good at battle that stuff. Regardless, I was getting that feeling in my stomach, that nervous feeling. I wasn’t completely convinced but I was getting pretty sure that I was going to make this decision to undo all the work.
I didn’t want to undo all the work. I wanted the new channel to make everything clean and clear and OK forever. But my knower, my intuition, was starting to get the signal—“oy, I think we were a little impulsive when we split these channels. We’re gonna need to undo this.”
I talked to my wife about it. She didn’t really understand why I wanted to make the split in the first place, though she supported me. Nobody understood why because nobody saw that vision in my head with the emporium of video essays about life and death and marriage and kids and money. Only I saw that… and just barely. I mean, I haven’t created anything like that yet; it’s just a vision.
But ultimately my wife felt better about going back to how things were. We had more traffic on the old channel, more subscribers, etc. (#GoldDigger. I KID!) and she was right. The truth is, I was coming around to seeing how I could do BOTH of my visions under one channel. It would be the Chase Reeves emporium of the mind… with lots of bag stuff, tons of bag stuff. My comedy and spirituality video essays could impact my bag reviews and vice versa.
So, I made the final decision and made videos to tell both channels what I was doing and why. People were understanding. Most of them were just, like, “uh… ok, just give me the bag videos literally anywhere, ok?” I was embarrassed a bit, but I didn’t actually lose any dignity. If anything, I feel closer to my YouTube audience for it.
So, here’s the deal. I came up with a vision, I designed a plan, I executed the plan and did all that work out loud… in public… and 7 weeks later I said, “whoops, my mistake, we’re going back to the way it was.”
It was a little embarrassing, it took some work, but it wasn’t that hard. AND I’ve learned SO MUCH MORE about Youtube, the people who use it, my fans, my motivation and what I want my work there to be like.
Listen, if you’re in the stage where you’re thinking about your plan and getting excited and nervous and there’s a lot of vacillating between fear and enthusiasm… it might be easy to think that you have to NAIL it. It might be easy to think that you have to do this whole thing perfectly.
But you don’t.
Entrepreneurship isn’t perfect.
Success doesn’t require flawlessness.
For just about all our businesses the thing that matters most is the connection that real people have with you… the way you make them feel, the way you solve their problem, the way they feel taken care of by you.
So if you, in the pursuit of that authentic connection, make a mistake… who fuckin’ cares? No big deal. Acknowledge and move on. Flawless ain’t a requirement.
So get out there and make it count… even if there’s a little dirt on your nose.
“Entrepreneurship isn’t perfect. Success doesn’t require flawlessness.”