Five Takeaways From Casey Neistat’s Daily Vlog
“Our job as creators is to further define any medium.” – Casey Neistat
If you’re an On Taking Pictures listener, you know how inspired I am by Casey Neistat. For those of you who have never heard the name, Casey is a filmmaker based in NYC who has built a career by following his passion for making movies with a drive and intensity that—while sometimes intimidating—is always encouraging.
For nearly two months, he’s been posting daily vlog entries (along with weekly Q&As) on topics ranging from success and failure to his family to the challenges and struggles of starting a new company. I can honestly say that I’ve enjoyed every one of them—so much so that watching has become part of my morning ritual to help get me fired up about the day. Here are five of my favorite takeaways from Casey Neistat’s daily vlog.
1. Time is your most valuable resource
You can make more money, which you can use to buy more stuff, but the one thing you can’t make or buy more of is time. You also can’t speed it up, slow it down, reason with it, bargain with it or stop it. Time is the great equalizer—it’s the one thing that is finite for each and every one of us. What you can do, however, is maximize it—which, as you can see in Vlog 43: Fat and Lazy, is something that Casey has elevated into an art. While his approach to time management may be a bit manic, even militant to some, I understand his ethos around it and I respect his discipline to it. For Casey, there are two types of time: Work and Family. Period. If he is awake, whatever activity he is engaged in falls squarely into one (or occasionally both) of these categories. “Free time,” Casey says, “is the enemy of progress” and his obsession with omitting it from his life means that he sucks the marrow from every waking moment.
2. Tools are not precious
Photographers have a tendency to fetishize gear—often elevating certain pieces of kit beyond what they really are: tools. For example, at the recent Paris Photo, I quickly lost count of the number of Leicas hanging around the necks of attendees. In fact, I don’t remember seeing more than a handful of Canons and Nikons combined. Watching just a few episodes of Casey’s vlog, you realize that there is nothing at all precious about the gear he uses, whether you point to his shelves of beat-up point-and-shoot cameras, or to the battered skateboards he uses to get around NYC. Apple fanboys will cringe in horror watching him take an engraver to a freshly unboxed MacBook Pro. But these things are merely tools to do a job—no more, no less. They have no intrinsic value other than their ability to perform their requisite task. If any one of them is broken, it is repaired or discarded and replaced, and not a tear is shed in its absence. Utility is key. Can you do the job or can’t you?
3. Fixate on your passion
Jack London said, “You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” One of the character traits about Casey that is immediately apparent is his passion for what he does and his motivation to keep contributing to the stream by making movies. Perhaps nowhere in the vlogs to date is this more apparent or as cut and dry as it is in Vlog 47: Just Me Talking where Casey addresses questions around what to do when faced with major life decisions. “In life,” he begins, “you should only ever be doing one of two things and that is: figuring out what you’re most passionate about, like finding your dreams in life. And then two, realizing those passions, realizing those dreams.” Admittedly this belief can appear to be brutally myopic, or that it’s advice given by someone with the means to follow it, but it really does seem to be the way Casey has been hard-wired from the beginning.
4. Have faith in your path
One thing you won’t see in Casey’s vlog is self-doubt. He seems to have an unwavering belief in himself—not arrogance, but a confidence that his effort, force of will and reluctance to ever play it safe can and will propel him forward. “Life shrinks and life expands in direct proportion to your willingness to assume risk,” he says in Vlog 28: The Most Dangerous Thing in Life. Have there been mistakes along the way? Absolutely, but behind every misstep or setback was his conviction in the direction he was headed. As he remarks in Vlog 34: My Biggest Failure, “I trust myself and I trust my perspective.”
5. Money is not a motivator
Casey is pretty transparent about his life. He talks openly about having his son Owen at 16 and the years spent as a dishwasher in “a shitty seafood restaurant” cleaning burnt clam chowder from the bottoms of arm-deep steel pots. But he also talks about how he took ownership of that and every other job he’s had— and how since he turned 18, the motivation for everything was to tell stories through movies. “I always made a living so I could make movies,” he says. “I never made movies to try and make a living.” For Casey, passion is the fuel, not money. “If the reason why you’re doing anything creative is to make a living, then you’re doing it wrong. You get into it because it’s a true passion, it’s something you really believe in….” It’s not that he has anything against making money by being creative—it’s just that money should be the byproduct of, not the decision maker in, his creative process.
If you’re looking for daily dose of inspiration that doubles as a daily kick in the ass, look no further than Casey’s YouTube channel. And if you have any misconceptions that vlogging is somehow not filmmaking, Casey has a response for you here.