I watch a lot of videos on YouTube. I think most people do. But I watch a lot of videos on YouTube. I’ve definitely gotten better at limiting the things I watch on the site, maybe to 2 or 3 videos a day, which may no longer count as a lot, but when I was unemployed about a year ago, I watched videos on YouTube for several hours a day.
Thankfully, I was able to curb that habit. I’ve gotten it down to a small number of videos per day—one that is definitely reasonable, minus the marathons of Let’s Plays that I watch every once in a while—but there’s still something wrong with how I watch YouTube. There’s a disconnect between what I watch on YouTube and how I move forward with my life afterward.
I follow people on the site that I find very inspiring. I’m tempted to say that they’re the people I find most inspiring, but that’s probably just attributable to recency and mindshare, since I’m seeing these people on video multiple times a week. They’re people like Hannah Hart, John Green, and Craig Benzine. I watch them and think, Wow! They’re doing what they love, being very productive, and having a great time doing it. I want to do that! I want to be like them. They have great videos about changing one’s life for the better, changing the world for the better, and just being a great human being. Hannah Hart follows the motto, “Practice Reckless Optimism,” John Green (along his brother, Hank) ends all of his videos with the phrase, “Don’t Forget to Be Awesome,” and Craig Benzine’s got a new series of videos that he’s putting together describing his attempts at transforming his life, and he’s constantly talking about his efforts in self improvement. I love all of these things. It’s the content they make that embodies these ideas and practices that really inspires me.
But there’s a problem with how I watch these videos, and there may be a problem with how I’m using the word “inspire.”
If something is inspiring you, it usually inspires you to do something. For example, Benzine’s latest videos have inspired me to write this blog post. Unfortunately, until right now, that’s the only thing that all this “inspiring” content has gotten me to do.
I definitely don’t practice reckless optimism, in that I am not actively putting myself out there and trying for difficult goals. Relatedly, maybe I “don’t forget to be awesome,” but I often forget that I am awesome: I forget that the skills, experience, and personality that I have are the result of almost 25 years of effort not misspent. I have things to offer, I have skills and talents, and I am a good person. I forget this. And Benzine’s current trend mimics exactly what I have been wanting to do for a number of months, except that he’s actually doing it. He’s writing a list of goals—life changes that he wants to make—and he’s getting them done.
One of Benzine’s recent videos, entitled “Getting Over Internet Addiction”, is one of the things that inspired (in the actionable sense of the word) this particular post. He discusses how he deleted the reddit and Twitter applications from his phone, decided not to use his phone in bed, started reading books instead of scrolling through mostly unimportant posts written by strangers, and is trying to “declutter mental stuff” in order to be better able to create.
As a person who wants to be able to create, and who knows they spend too much time on applications/sites like reddit and YouTube, I’m going to follow Benzine’s example. I’m deleting my reddit application and a few other applications that I know that I use merely to occupy my time and take up important space in my mind. Obviously, I won’t be deleting useful applications like map software or word processing software, but I want to transform my phone from a machine that takes my attention and time away from me into a tool that I use to make more use of my time. Then, maybe, I can spend less time looking at pictures of animals and reading articles I didn’t want to read in the first place, and I can spend more time making myself a better person and creating things worth sharing.
This is the first in a series of blog posts that I am going to write over the course of the next two weeks or so, along the themes of “Reckless Optimism”, “Being Awesome”, and “Is This Improvement?”. I’m going to try and keep this momentum going and work on other things in my life, like applying for jobs and making creative things worth sharing. Being consistent with at least this series is my first goal on the road to self improvement.
Love and inspiration,