17: How to be better. As attempted by Mo
Part 1 of 5
It is important for our hero to have an encounter that marks the beginning of their character growth. If the character is lazy, there must be a moment in which they choose to stop being lazy. If they are mean, there must be a moment in which they realise the extent to which their behaviour is detrimental. Our hero can be motivated but something must motivate them.
This is how it needs to happen… in stories.
In a recent Casey Neistat video, he documents his latest attempt at the new york marathon. I watched the video with a friend of mine, a fellow former runner and new Casey Neistat convert. In this Youtube movie, Casey features a lot of fan pov videos. The day before the race, he posted a request on Instagram asking people at the marathon sidelines to record videos of him running by and to send them to him on Twitter. He received 100s of videos. In his youtube video, he featured at least 20 of them. As my friend and I watched the video, she pointed out how much work his personal assistant had to do filtering through all the videos. She said it as a matter of fact, there was no other way for it to be. There was no way he had done all the work of recording his video, editing the storyline and also filtering through hundreds of videos on Twitter.
“There’s no way he could do all that work”
“I won’t put it past him. This is the same person that recorded a vlog every day for 3 years. While starting a tech company. and travelling regularly, and having a social life.”
If you know Casey Neistat, you might know this about him - he is absolutely unrelenting in his pursuit. Casey Neistat is easily one of the most influential figures on Youtube. He quite literally redefined the vlog form. His vlogs are literal movies often following a three-act structure. They are sophisticated and complex and compelling. The frequency of output and consistency of quality for those first three years is to be studied, admired, and maybe even aspired for.
What makes a person like that? People, that are so driven? What drives them? How were they made? How will I be made?
This is the first question on my mind.
What would it mean for me to begin that journey? What does it mean to be better? How do I become a person that is unrelenting in his pursuit?
Incase you are new here: My name is Mo Isu. I am an audio producer based in Lagos, Nigeria. I am currently attempting to build a career in audio journalism. I have taught myself everything I know so far. You are reading issue 17 of my newsletter detailing this segment of my journey. Read the about page for more
Step 0: What do you even mean
On Sunday, 13th November, I made this audio story with my friend, Jill.
It’s an audio story about how she started keeping a journal at 17. During a time when she did not have many friends, Jill told her journal everything, everything except one thing. You can listen to the 4-minute audio story.
We(Jill and I) put this story together as part of KCRW’s radio race. The radio race is basically this challenge to make a non-fiction audio story within 24 hours. That means we do research, conduct interview, write a script, and record and edit audio all in 24 hours. I and Jill first found out about it last year but both felt like we weren’t ready. When Jill shared it with me this year, I knew I didn’t have a choice.
Did I want to do it? Was I excited? Bursting with joy and enthusiasm? Not particularly. I just felt like I had no reason not to try. You know when you wake up on Monday morning and you lie in bed for 10 extra minutes, staring at the ceiling, hearing the world come alive around you? At that moment, knowing that here goes another week, a voice in your head asks you if you are ready for the week, you reply nope but you get up and do it anyways.
This happens to me often these days.
Are you ready?
Nope, but I will do it anyways.
The radio race started on Saturday evening at 7 pm and we had till Sunday evening at 7 pm to complete our story. I and Jill spent 30 minutes pouring ideas into our notes then we jumped on a call for another 30 minutes. At 9 pm we took a break that was meant to last till 11 pm. At 11, we started texting again about what ideas we had for the radio race. We each had some rough ideas, we needed to find someone with a story we could interview the next morning.
Earlier in the week, we had jumped on a call to plan out our production day hour by hour. By midnight, we were supposed to already have an interview booked, a script roughly outlined and enough of a concept to know what other audio elements we would need for this audio story.
By midnight on Saturday, we had a few idea options but we hadn’t decided what story we would be running with. As a result, we also did not have any interviews booked and we did not have any script outline. Things weren’t following the plan
In my last essay, I referenced Jack Conte’s video on publishing. “Writers don’t just write, writers publish.”
I have been watching Jack Conte’s videos for a while now. This video he made a couple of months ago about how he works around his fear of flying is still the best youtube video I have watched this year.
I stumbled upon Jack’s youtube page a few years ago and since then he has become one of my leading thought influencers. Jack’s the founder of Patreon, a platform that helps creators get paid by people that like what they create. From 2020 to December 2021, Patreon was my only consistent source of income. for about 16 months, I received 30 dollars a month from friends and family who were trying to support my dream of making podcasts.
Jack makes videos about his personal life and his attempts at creating. A lot of the time, when I watch Jack’s videos, I feel like he is talking to me directly. Other times, I am just in awe of how driven Jack is. He is currently part of two bands, one with his wife and another with a couple of friends. He consistently makes music videos for both bands on their youtube videos. On top of that, he is running a now 1.7 billion dollar company.
This isn’t to say that Jack is just a hugely successful super genius that’s immensely driven. Patreon has lost about 70 per cent of its value from when it was valued at 4 billion dollars just last year. Jack recently had to lay off 17 per cent of his staff. The thing about these failures is that Jack talks about them openly. This video where Jack talks about his most epic failure was one of the first I ever saw.
There’s one short video where he talks about making music on a plane. A plane is perhaps the least comfortable place to do any kind of work. You have to be really into the work you are doing to do it on a plane.
It’s things like this that have put Jack Conte on a list of people that I admire. People with absolutely incredible churn rates. The kind of people that wake up at 4 am, go for a 12 km run, then go to work. The kind of people that work till late and then work some more.
I think there are two kinds of highly motivated people.
The first kind of highly motivated person is motivated by the work they do. They love their work and just do it because they can’t help it. That’s Jack Conte.
Then there’s the second group that’s motivated by discipline. These people can be successful at anything they want to do because their principle is that of doing everything thoroughly.
I think maybe the ultimately motivated individual is someone that has a combination of these. At the moment, I am neither.
I like the work I do but all I have at the moment is just that. I don’t have the motivation or discipline required for me to be proud of my churn rate. That’s what I want to change, that’s the improvement I am looking for. I guess that is what it means for me to want to be better.
I want to be the kind of person that makes music on a plane.
I want to be the kind of person that goes through hundreds of videos to make sure I have the best youtube video about my marathon.
I woke up at 11 am the next morning with a clear understanding that I had a lot of work to do if we were to get our 4-minute audio story ready by 7 pm. In the past, I would have given up. I have done that before. I have woken up and realised the amount of effort it would take for me to achieve something and I have just given up. I even did it a lot in university. I’d wake up to read for a test and the sheer volume of my ignorance would discourage me from even trying.
The night before, Jill and I had begun messing around with making her the subject of our story. We talked about her journal and I asked her a number of questions about it and about herself. Before going to bed, I asked her to leave some excerpts from her journal in our shared doc. When I woke up, I opened the doc, looked at her excerpts and drew out a structure for our story. We still didn’t have a plot but at least now we had something.
As the hours strolled by on Sunday, Jill and I got closer to our plot and were finally able to script it out. At 4 pm, I sent Jill the final script and she recorded it. By 5 pm, we jumped on a call and I edited the audio. By 6 we had our first draft, two drafts and 40 minutes later, we were ready to export.
We got our submission in a mere 4 minutes before the deadline. I don’t think we will win. For me, the main takeaway from this exercise is that I was able to prove to myself that I was yet again the kind of person that could make a story in one day.
The kind of person that was unrelenting in his pursuit.
I am curious to know if I can make this the person I am every day not just on Sundays.
In this next series of essays, I will be talking about my journey to be this person. A version of self that I am proud of. The version of self that shows up every day and shows out. The kind of person that makes music on a plane. A better person.
Next week Monday: Step 1, Conviction
Behind the scene
This is a new segment where I share notes from the process of putting this article together.
The Casey Neistat story that wraps the prologue together came to me on a train two days ago and was the last idea I got for this essay. Another case of the beginning of the story being the last element I settle on.
For an article that has existed in draft form for four weeks, this article was way too hard to figure out. I deleted half of the notes I originally made and there’s an alternate draft for the prologue that I tossed out because it made no sense. That draft had started out as a story about my ultimate writing advice to beginner writers, maybe it will come back in a later issue
I wrote about half of this essay on my train ride back from Ibadan, I wrote some of it in my hotel room there.
I am not actually happy with this final draft but I think this needs to go out now so I can move on to the next thing and make progress in life. Perfect is the enemy of good. Good is the enemy of done. In this case, I want to be done.
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