I was four months out of college. Looking for answers. Wanting to risk it all.
At the time I lived in a small studio, half of which was taken up by a clothing shelf that stored all the items I sold for my small startup.
Four times a week I’d go wash dishes from 3 pm to 4 am at Suwu, a Montreal bar down the street.
I’d walk home, hands peeling, exhausted in below freezing weather. I’d wake up a few hours later, hop on the computer and look for ways to grow my tiny company.
I had zero clue what I was doing.
A lot of people romanticize these times in their lives but for me, it sucked.
I was lonely. Most of my friends from university had left the city. I was struggling with debilitating anxiety. My projects weren’t taking off.
And then that winter I met Thomas. We stayed in touch.
In May 2015, we reconnected. Project 30 was brainstormed to life.
Then the universe brought Ammar into our lives. Followed by Derin not too long after.
It was a whirlwind.
People describe love as being swept off your feet. Finding the right cofounders feels very similar. It just clicks without effort. There’s an instant understanding. It’s a “Where you have been all my life” kind of feeling.
Our friendship was recorded from Day 1.
It’s a weird thing to share a friendship with the world because it develops alongside the opinions of strangers. When you’re in your 20s and trying to figure out who you are, it makes it that much more difficult. You’re naked. You’re learning in public.
We had to learn fast. Starting a company and a channel all in one was a 25/7 job.
When we first started, everyone was telling us YouTube was oversaturated. They said gaining an audience would be impossible. There were too many creators. We’d never stand out.
Some nights we thought they were right.
If you were to read my diary during the first three years of Yes Theory you’d think there would be no shot this thing would work. No money. Rejected visas. Topsy turvy views. Family calling telling us to stop. All while needing to feed five people (Tommy had dropped out of school and joined us a year into the project).
Half my time would be spent on new ideas and filming. The other half would be on patching holes. Phone calls with lawyers, accountants and landlords, seeking out new business opportunities, paying the bills.
But on February 22, 2018, something changed.
I wrote here for the first time.
Derin had built an initial audience of loyal readers and after he’d decided to leave I thought I’d give it a shot.
We’d just hit one million subscribers on YouTube and I wanted to share how I felt.
The following is an excerpt from that first piece, “The best part is that we, the people you see on YouTube, don’t matter. We’re just part of the crowd. We’re you. We were the weird kids dancing at the party by ourselves. And then you all came along and got wild with us. And soon enough, everyone’ll be dancing.”
The response was instantaneous. People were fired up. Friends texted me. More of this, they said.
So, I listened.
Whenever I got a second away from YouTube, I’d write.
There was no strategy. No business model. Just fun.
Within two years the readership organically grew 30x.
I’d never thought writing was my thing. It always just felt easy. All I had to do was be honest.
I’d love writing essays in college.
A few professors had pulled me aside and insisted that I should pursue it as a career. I’d ignored them. Writing is for loners. I like people. Plus, it doesn’t pay.
I had no idea what I was talking about. They were right.
Your purpose is what you effortlessly gravitate to.
So many of us are inherently great at something without realizing that it’s unique. It feels so simple that we think anyone can do it. The encouragement of others is often what makes us see our own talent.
At least that’s what did it for me.
My growing interest in writing coincided with my waning love for filming. I’d never intended to be on camera or a filmmaker for that matter. I’d watched as Thomas, Ammar and Tommy learned to fly drones, set up the right angles and pull out the camera whenever something cool happened. That was never my instinct. I’d tried to learn the intricacies of filming and editing, but always quickly lost interest.
My favorite moments were always behind the scenes when the cameras were off. There was something so intimate about not having that third party in the room. I loved reflecting on these times through writing. I loved giving you a sneak peek of what no one else was seeing.
Towards the middle of last year I nervously told the guys that I was losing interest in being a host. It was hard for them to hear but they understood. They encouraged me to really dive into what made me happy. Their support allowed me to take that leap.
As I started to think more about writing, the idea for a book came up.
Books had altered the course of my life. They were my older brothers and sisters guiding me in the right direction.
A great book is the most absurd deal. For $15 you get access to the most important information a human that you look up to has acquired in their lifetime. What a steal.
And now, at the age of 28, I felt I was ready to join the club.
I’d gone through the ringer.
I’d lived an abnormal 20s. There was a lot I’d learned. A lot I wanted to say.
But how to say it? Where to even begin? What’s the thesis? How do you even do this??
I brought this up to a friend.
She said, “Write to your younger self. Write the book you wish you’d read when you were 19.”
She was right.
I’d always been writing to my younger self. I just wasn’t conscious of it.
I was telling him what potholes to avoid, where to face his gaze, when to say yes and when to say no.
Ultimately, I was filling him in on how to be truly happy.
I’m now seventy pages into the first draft of the book.
It’s still far from finished but I have this feeling it’s special. Because it doesn’t feel forced. It feels necessary.
But I can’t do it alone. Like anything Yes Theory, it’s a community effort.
So, throughout this year, I’ll be engaging with you to learn what would be most useful for you. It’s going to be a two-way conversation. I’ll listen to what you’re going through, to your questions, to your thoughts, and I’ll find ways to make the book as life changing for you as possible.
Even though my days of hosting on YouTube are done, I’m still very much here. And I’m more thrilled than ever.
What a ride it’s been so far.
23 year old me washing dishes would have never thought that five years later, he’d be pursuing writing for a living.
But, like Steve Jobs said, you can only connect the dots looking backward. You can never predict where your decisions will take you.
That’s the beauty of discomfort…The risks you take bring you to unexpected places that somehow feel just right.
So, here’s to the next chapter.
Thanks for sticking with me.
You’ve been like family for me these past few years and it feels like our relationship is just getting started.