Words by Alyssa Stevenson / Images by James Coreas
After a year straight of daily video-blogging (vlogging) Casey Neistat is known amongst the youtube and internet crowd as a viral video hit maker. While his life has taken many interesting turns, it seems like he, like the rest of us, has had to work a long time to find his voice, his passion, and create a life that he is content with living. Not that any of that is easy. Last night he made his way to Denton as a part of this year’s UNT Fine Arts Series lineup. Read on for what we thought were the most meaningful quotes of the night.
When he was young Casey felt like he didn’t fit into the system of school, and didn’t feel successful as a student. He felt like everyone around him was always telling him he was wrong. “In looking back I was able to sublimate what was a very negative aspect of my life and turn it into something positive. I wasn’t wrong. I was just sort of different. Rather than ignoring that, why not just try to leverage being different and make that my voice?” said Casey.
Through this he has been able to recognize that his biggest successes in life have also been his biggest failures. According to Casey, “Those are the things I learn more from than anything. What I’ve done on YouTube has been some of the most gratifying work I’ve done. No one stands between me and the audience. This is a venue where I can do whatever I determine to be right.”
That doesn’t always mean that it is easy. Or that it is every actually easy. There is a ton of not knowing if something is the ‘right way’ or the best way, to do something. Casey pushes far past what is ‘right’ and goes for what works for him. Through this he has been able to have a more credible relationship with his audience. Casey said, “The minute you start to bullshit your audience is the moment that it begins to feel phony and fake.”
With a year of video blogs behind him, countless youtube videos, mini movies, actual movies and television series created, a software development company and the drive to keep pushing onward, one wonders how he finds the space to be creative and to keep creating even in the monotony of the day to day. When asked about how he continues to push onward and create, he responded with, “How do you come up with an idea everyday? You don’t. The only way to yield an original idea everyday is to do. It’s the action of creating that yields the idea. You just have to start.”
He went on to talk about the movie he has been thinking about for four years. He finally had to just start taking action and stop being paralyzed by the thought. “Thinking about it stops you from actually doing. Everyday I start looking for interesting-ness. Some days you’re looking for something meaningful and you have to find it. The commitment to post everyday forces me to do.”
Casey goes on to talk about the regrets in his life, and how none of it is for something that he did do - because those things all taught him something. According to Casey, “Failure is great. Failure is wonderful.” “When I look back, and see all the things I failed at, like no big deal. Everyone of them I recovered from.” says Casey, But to look back at the things you never did, you’ll kick yourself in the butt for that for the rest of your life. It’s only the things I didn’t do - those are the things that affect me so profoundly. Those are the only things I see as failures. Failure is scary in the moment, but aggregate of a bunch of failures is like developing a vast amount of knowledge. I learn way more than I do from my successes. Success does nothing but make you arrogant. Failure reminds you you’re human and makes you better.”
This is a man who has now taken on multiple major video projects, has started a company that cost millions of dollars in startup money, has gotten married, started a family - all of these really big steps in life that he (or anyone) could very easily fail at. But I think that’s the whole point - he’s willing to try it. He’s willing to stick his neck, his pride, his ego on the line and see if he can accomplish something great in the process.
When asked about how he now feels about his earliest success through his viral videos he responded with, “I literally had a show on HBO and I had 15 subscribers on my YouTube. Then I made the movie about getting a ticket I shouldn’t have gotten - and it blew up. There is no defined trajectory - there is no formula to succeed in the creative space. The only way to find success is to define your own path.”