We all live to work, or work to live to some degree or another, but what drives you to work hard? What reasons do you have for pushing yourself and putting in the long hours? Justifying hard work with the promise of fashion, fast cars, fame or fortune is not realistic. Living for the weekend isn't sustainable either, your career or social life will suffer eventually. So what of smaller more attainable goals, can a continuous renewal of goals improve your work-life balance? Is there a way to enjoy your hard work for its own sake?
We cannot expect to be able to graft with an aversion to hard work, first we need to change the way we think about hard work. My inspiration for this epiphany and desire to change has been Casey Neistat. Casey is a filmmaker who has worked incredibly hard doing what he loves. In an article he wrote on Medium – ‘How to travel the world and get companies to pay for it. Don’t get excited, it doesn’t work like that.’ He writes: “I have always made a living to make movies, never the other way around.” It is this attitude towards work I hope to emulate.
Inspiration that comes from watching ‘Make it Count’ – a film in which Casey spends all of Nike's advertising money travelling the world in 10 days without telling them. He films over 40 hours of footage, and creates a moving story about what it is to make your life count. This was his first hugely successful film and it paved the way for him to continue doing what he loves.
Casey found a voice after going ‘viral’ before that was a good thing. In 2003 the battery died on his iPod after 18 months. After Apple refused to fix it and suggested he buy a new one, he took to the streets with a camera and a stencil, spray painting the iPod billboards with the information. The video received over a million views in one week, coincidentally the same time Apple changed their replacement policy.
This approach to tackle the issues he cares about though film in an honest and creative way really works. Filming everything is second nature to Casey, so when he was pulled over by a police officer his camera was running. Getting a ticket for not cycling in a bike lane was the start of ‘Bike Lanes’ – a film to prove his point of view, where he cycles exclusively in the bike lane causing him to crash his bike repeatedly. The amusing approach emphasizes this entertaining defiance to the status quo. His self-taught film making involves a lot of different techniques, and the end result is a playful documentary style.
A natural storytelling ability and charismatic personality, draws in his audience so much so, he has one of the biggest followings on SnapChat where he documents his daily life. It might be seen as vain to document daily life on film, however his early adoption of new platforms has earned him a return trip to Rio de Janeiro to take over Marriott Hotels SnapChat account for a day. It is this constant filming that has enabled an unprecedented ability to be able to self market naturally.
Casey now has over half a million YouTube subscribers, with multiple videos racking up over 13 million views each. Currently the go to social media superstar across almost every platform, traveling the world working with Mercedes Benz, Nike, and J.Crew. It appears he has found the formula for success and is reaping the rewards, but it seems not to be the case in his eyes.
“My focus is and always has been on making the work I care about. It is an honor to have found a way to get paid to create work like this, something I value greatly. There are no shortcuts. No one is going to pay for your vacation, no one cares, no one gives a shit and they never will. If you want something, anything, do the work and earn it.”
So how does he do it? A relentless work ethic, organisation bordering on the obsessive, and an attitude that is more akin to “will do it now” rather that “can do”. A physical representation of this commitment is tattoos of the words “Do More”, “Work Harder” and “Always be closing” on his left arm. I am not suggesting quotes inked into your skin will give you the same drive, but it might help remind you of the purpose here. The aim has to be the work itself, it’s the journey not the destination we need to focus on. There cannot be an end or finish line for the creative individual, we have to relish in the challenge to continue the hard work, strive to dig deeper, and push further. To be able to hold this unwavering focus we have to remember the reason we got started in the first place, the work.
Casey gets great jobs and makes great films but this isn’t the end. He is still making the films he wants to make and loves, for himself. Understanding that getting a break is a bonus, not the end goal, is a difficult concept. You have to keep on grinding at the small things that got you noticed in the first place. Of the 98 films he has on YouTube, eight of them are for clients.
“Do the work first. Create the following and the audience first. Prove your value first. Demonstrate your understanding of an industry first. Do all that then and only then maybe will a company have the confidence in you to provide the freedom and creative latitude for you to do what you want that will ultimately benefit them and their bottom line. It took me 14 years to understand this.”
To be able to focus this hard and to fully commit the task for the sake of the work itself is not easy. To create quality is one thing but to continuously create quality without ever needing gratification is another. Hard work can pay off but you have to enjoy it, and you have to want to work hard. You can’t hate it, the end result will never work in your favour. Creativity is not effortless either, it takes a lot of effort, and you might fail. You need to work even harder in order to achieve something. If you are not enjoying yourself, you aren’t going to do well. Like Casey I love the work I do, I was hired because I want to edit and animate films, and I will work damn hard to keep on doing it.
The result of changing my thinking has already started to pay off. I find I have more time in the day, and accomplish a lot more; therefore I continue to push myself to do more. I now write articles (something new), am involved with marketing, mentor work experience students, along with my editing and motion graphics roles. This also does not just apply to my job, my house has never been cleaner or more organised, my young son and wife have never been so spoiled, weekends filled with trips, and I am training harder than ever at the gym. It’s all possible, once you want to put the effort in.
At the time of writing this Casey decided he wasn’t being creative enough. Currently he is creating a YouTube channel for supermodel, Karlie Kloss, working with the Media Lab at MIT, starting a new business, and still making the movies he loves. Also recently married and father to a new born and a teenager, but all of this wasn’t enough for Casey; therefore he’s decided to make a movie every day.