Sustainable Creation: How to Not Exploit Yourself for Success

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If you are a creator, I want to ask you a question. How did you feel the last time you missed a deadline or couldn’t finish something in time? Was it painful? Upsetting? Demoralizing maybe? If that is the case, you might have an unhealthy relationship with work. You might be overworking and exploiting yourself without even knowing. And today, I want to bring you a better, healthier idea of productivity. Sustainable creation.

This article has been adapted into a video which you can watch here.

100 videos.

If you are a YouTuber or have researched the platform, you probably know the significance of this figure.

The general idea is that the vast majority of monetized YouTubers, who are part of the YouTube Partner Program and making money through ads, have at least 100 videos published on their channel.

Therefore, in order to increase your chances of being monetized, you must have at least 100 videos on your channel.

And for many creators, this correlation has become the basis of their strategy for success on YouTube.

If you want to be successful, you simply.

  • Publish a full-effort video, or two, every week.
  • Don’t miss any deadlines.
  • Wait for two years.
  • Profit.

And it works really well. But why?

Feed the YouTube Algorithm

The logic goes that once you “feed the algorithm” enough content, it will then start recommending and promoting it to people. This is how new people are exposed to your channel and end up subscribing, finally taking you to the big leagues.

Now, this strategy might sound familiar to you since it is based on advice that high achievers give when asked how to replicate their success.

“Work hard every day, be consistent and patient. You will get there.”

Short, approachable, beautiful, right?

But I would argue that we are missing important context. 

Let me ask you a question.

How did you feel the last time you missed a deadline or couldn’t finish something in time?

Was it painful? Upsetting? Demoralizing maybe?

Did it make you feel like a failure or doubt your commitment to your goals?

Overwork
Photo by M. on Unsplash

If you are passionate about what you do, chances are that these questions brought you back to a painful place. 

But why is that?

Follow The Hustle

GaryVee, Kevin Hart, Will Smith, Dwayne Johnson. 

If you have spent any time on the internet looking for motivation to get through the grind of work or a bad rut, you have seen a clip or quote from them. And chances are that whatever you saw or read resonated with you. 

Whether it is a quote from Gary’s many speeches, a story from Will’s wisdom-filled childhood, or a montage from The Rock’s workout sessions, something about their ideology and passion resonates with us. It speaks to our hearts directly in a primal language to which dreamers like us are pretty attuned.

And the message is loud and clear.

“Hard work is the way.”

This is the mantra of the Hustle Culture, an ideology that glorifies work and prioritizes the pursuit of success over every other aspect of your life.

The Harm of Hustle Culture

Joe Ryle, Director of the 4 Day Week Campaign, once said

“Fundamentally, hustle culture is about work dominating your time in such an unnatural way that we have no time to live our lives.” 

Hustle Culture
Photo by Kyle Johnson on Unsplash

Hobbies, recreation, and time with the family take a back seat to give the hustle space. And we happily give away these aspects of our lives because, damn it, we want to be successful today.

And hey, there’s nothing wrong with working hard and putting in the hours, especially if that work is towards a passion project or career that fills you with purpose.

But, here’s the thing.

Blindly putting strenuous amounts of work and time into something without giving much thought to balance and sustainability is an expressway to burnout city. And sadly, we creators seem willing to purchase VIP front tickets happily.

Deconstructing a Flawed Strategy

So, should we reject this strategy entirely?

Well, it’s complicated.

At first, it seemed to me that the “create as much as you can, consistently” advice was a fundamental misunderstanding of successful creators as to how they achieved success. After all, it’s tricky sometimes to tell what did the trick for you. 

But I think that is not the case. After all, there is absolutely some truth in the fact that the more you do, the better you get at doing. And people are getting results.

So this advice is indeed helpful and will give results.

Additionally, the statistics don’t lie. 

YouTube Algorithm
Courtesy of TubeBuddy

Almost all monetized channels have more than 100 videos published. So it’s easy to conclude that you will reach monetization if you get 100 videos out as quickly as possible. So just post 1 video a week, or 2 if you’re bold, for 2 years, and you’re there. 

Simple.

But here’s the thing. We are assuming that monetization came as a consequence of reaching 100 videos. They “fed the algorithm enough,” and got rewarded. 

But there’s no real correlation between these two events. We are just connecting two dots that seem related because it’s easier than understanding the complexity of each individual case. And besides, this doesn’t even take into account the countless accounts with over 100 videos that have not reached monetization.

The people in this group who achieved monetization did so because they developed their skills and improved their craft through the constant process of creation and progress. They refined their work with every video and learned along the way.

What does this mean?

Simple. You will succeed sooner or later if you create tons of videos. But not because you met a particular figure.

You will succeed because you become a better creator who produces quality content that keeps viewers engaged, not because you were loyal and consistent to a schedule.

Misunderstanding the Algorithm

Additionally, the assumption that we need to “feed the algorithm” so that it promotes our content goes against what makes YouTube successful and promotes an ideology that is harmful to small creators struggling to figure out how to keep up.

The algorithm’s job is to keep people on YouTube for as long as possible. And it does that by showing them highly engaging quality content, not content that has been published consistently.

Once you understand that, it becomes clear why your strategy has not worked. 

You need to make content for people, not the algorithm. You need to keep people watching and want to watch more.

The Hardest Journey

I believe sustainability should be at the top of our priority list as creators.

When we start our journey, the learning process is harsh and challenging. We struggle to figure out what we need to learn, what tools to use, and how to create good content.

It’s a long and demanding process, and we still need to pay bills and fulfill our responsibilities.

But we want to be successful. We want to follow the lead of the great hustlers who have changed the world with their ideologies and work ethics. And this leads to exploiting ourselves to get there.

And hey, if you manage a schedule that allows you to post 1 or 2 quality videos a week, that is fantastic. I am so happy for you. But if you are not prioritizing balance and sacrificing other aspects of your life just to keep this pace, you will likely run yourself down and end up hating the process before you get anywhere.

Sustainable Creation

So, what is sustainable creation?

Simple. Make sure to put balance as a priority in your life.

Sustainable Creation
Photo by Bekir Dönmez on Unsplash

If your circumstances only allow you to produce good quality, full-effort creations once a month, then embrace it. Make every step of that process an opportunity to challenge yourself and learn new things. That way, you will keep growing fast despite the flexible schedule.

Additionally, as your circumstances change and you become more efficient and skilled, you can adapt and revisit your strategy and schedule to fit your needs first. Remember, you are creating expressions of your creativity and tastes for people first and foremost. Don’t get trapped in the rat race of keeping up with an algorithm out of fear.

Finally, rest.

There’s a reason why nature programmed us to need sleep for at least a third of the available time in a day. We are not machines. We need all other aspects of our lives to be balanced, to have their space to exist and grow.

And this is especially true for creators who depend on creativity and imagination as much as motivation and grit to produce quality work they love.

I hope you feel more informed about your own creative journey.

Now, I had to keep out a lot of stuff about hustle culture and toxic productivity not to make this post too long. But if you want to really be free from its harmful grip and avoid its worst effects on your lifestyle, you must watch this video where I break down exactly how to deal with perfectionism, anxiety, and busy work.

Cover photo by Amauri Mejía on Unsplash

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Juan
From early on in his life, Juan knew he was destined for greatness —and then proceeded to waste his time watching YouTube. A talented tech/random fact expert who refuses to let fear get in the way of his self-development. You can count on Juan to show up as a natural-born leader, funny man, and loving friend.

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