Skip to main content

Escalate and Evolve: A Blueprint for Career and Life

Lesson 1 of 1

Escalate and Evolve: A Blueprint for Career and Life with Ben Uyeda

 

Escalate and Evolve: A Blueprint for Career and Life

Lesson 1 of 1

Escalate and Evolve: A Blueprint for Career and Life with Ben Uyeda

 

Lesson Info

Escalate and Evolve: A Blueprint for Career and Life with Ben Uyeda

Hey everybody, what's up? It's Chase welcomed another episode of the chase Jarvis live show. This is where I sit down with amazing humans and I do everything I can to unpack their brains with the goal of helping you live your dreams in career, hobby in life. My guest today is youtube and design sensation Ben you a to now, I'm going to go on the record right now and saying this is one of my favourite five episodes of all time, Specifically because of the wisdom that Ben shares in the next call, it, 50 minutes of this podcast. Now that's a big statement, but a little background on Ben. He stepped away from an award winning architecture from that he co founded, he left a teaching position at an ivy league school to create his own personal brand and small media company focused on making design and designs for everyday things for that, that you and I would love to make them affordable and accessible. Uh millions of people use his designs have paid attention to his Youtube channel which is j...

ust so fun and pleasurable and insightful. But more than anything, what Ben I think delivers in this episode is not about his personal past but about your ability to do what he's doing, to take the thing that is exciting in your life and make it a reality, make it the thing that you do for a living and a life making that accessible and connecting you with the creative process is going to get you where you want to be. Now I consider myself an expert in this and I felt like I was at that at the foot of a master in his ability to explain this. So I'm going to stop talking and let you enjoy this episode with Mr Ben. You ada mm hmm. Yeah. Mhm. We love you, Ben, thank you so much and welcome to the show. Thank you. It's it's great to be here. I've listened to quite a few of these and it's slightly surreal and super pleasant to be involved. Awesome, awesome. Well, uh I have been a fan of your work that you, you know, I guess we've worked hard to get on the show and for good reason and for the handful of people who would be new to your work or have been living under a rock for the last several years as you've been being your everywhere on the internet, I was wondering if we could start off by you just sharing a little bit about you, your work in your own words or what matters to you and why? Why do you do what you do? Just just get us oriented. Yeah, so I design things and rather than turning them into products, I basically share the process online, primarily that's been done through Youtube. But as platforms sort of evolved, we do that through podcasts and instagram as well. But it all came from the idea of a little bit of dissatisfaction with my background as an architect, as an architect, you design as a service. And I think that's how most people think of designers and a lot of creatives as service providers and as you know, as someone that's done creative services for hire, you know, that this can be a lot of frustration with dealing with the client, your creative vision, not basically what you're getting paid for it and you always feel like you're trying to, you're trying to have a work life balance just within the context of work where you're trying to have the profit versus creative exploration. And I kind of think that there is a little bit of a conflict of interest when I was doing architecture as a service. Because The more successful I became in my architecture career, the more prestigious the clients were, I wasn't trying to scale and design 10,000 homes a year. I was trying to design 10 to 20 homes a year, but as I got more opportunities, our firm tended to depict clients that had a ton of money and I would imagine it's not dissimilar for photography, it's not like you want to be doing photo shoots every day, you try to do the same quantity, but you scale the price and when you scale the price, you narrow the type of people that you can provide that service for. And so my passion was sort of sustainable design and being concerned about climate initiatives. And then I got to the point where I broke through as an architect, I was on the cover of magazines, but I was designing sustainable houses for like super rich people and they're often like their second or third home and there's nothing wrong with that, Like it was great, like super proud of the work, but it's hard to really be like, you know, you get some awards for sustainability achievement, your kind of thinking the back of your head, like I'm kind of a fraud, like I'm doing this very specifically in a non scalable way for super privileged people and if they didn't hire me, they would hire someone else really good because they have like tons of options. And so that's what actually started the interest in publishing content is it was that question of how do I design for people that can't afford to hire me? How can I publish design is a type of media and then monetize it as through marketing. And it was really my, I don't love business and I don't think that the term entrepreneur is particularly flattering is many of these people sort of still trying to sort of fix it to the bios, it's descriptive and it's an important term, but it's not an end all goal into of itself, but what it does give you is the opportunity to remix the sort of motivations and incentives for the financial parts of your sort of work. And I said, well, what if I just started making things that were really simple, give the design away for free and then on the media side, figure out a way to monetize that too. So remove the conflict of interest between me and I want to be having access to whatever I can do and then try to figure out someone that has the pockets to pay for that process. Incredible. And you are very adroit at describing that, and for uh just so that the universe knows we're aligned so that I can hitch my wagon to virtually here. Like that's exactly the mentality that I went through when trying to Yeah, this is whatever 15 years ago, now, trying to share what it is that I was doing in photography with the universe and hoping to help other photographers, because I had just come out of that seat where I was struggling to figure it all out and didn't want to just be on the hamster wheel of the way it had been done before. That there may be better ways. And that's one of the things that first attracted me to your work, is like, we think the same. I love how Ben thinks, how can we sort of untether ourselves from these traditional business models and approaches to making money and live a little bit of a a it's more true uh uh business journey to what it is that are to match our values. Yeah, those are my words of yours, but we're in that hyphenated class of some sort of creative profession and then entrepreneur, that's that's how you are often described as, I'm often described and I think that there's a lot to unpack there because when we, when we see sort of what how entrepreneurs are sort of presented so often when I listen to podcasts and interviews of super high performing, really successful people, they often their successes because they scaled something and I think it's a little bit different for our cases, is that the scaling isn't inevitable the way it is if you're creating an Uber or google or that kind of founder, entrepreneur, it's because scaling the creative can be a really challenging and really frustrating process that might lead to your falling out of love with the thing that got you there in the first place and when people go, what do you love designing? I'm like, it depends on the pace. I love designing, I don't I love designing houses, I love designing furniture, I wouldn't want to design a house every day And maybe like to design a couple really good ones a year and maybe like design 10- pieces of furniture a year. But that love completely goes away. If the scale of how I'm forced to do it from the business side gets out of alignment with the sort of creative interest that got me there in the first place. Yeah. And then therein lies the conundrum of in order to keep the pace at something that you enjoy, then you have to scale the price. And as you scale the price, you narrow the field. And that's the same challenge that you described in your very poignant intro that again, I identify with you want to work for companies that have more and more in the photography scene or whatever, like bigger and bigger brands and like using the apples and the googles. And yet, ironically, the belief is that your creativity gets to thrive there, but it becomes more a little bit performative and a little bit more safe and narrow. And at least it did for me, I'm wondering, is was that it's the same for you? Was it or was it just the sustainability problem that when you scale the price of something, you you were limited from working with people that you wanted or the other vectors, like the ones that I was just sharing. I think there's some of both, right? Like in my 20's and 30s, you're you're seeking to prove at least for myself. I was seeking to prove that I belong at the table. And so that's where getting into the schools that I wanted to get into setting up my own firm, getting published in the magazines I wanted to be published in. And then when I started media landing Home Depot as a client and things like that, they become really important touchstones. But often the most career dissatisfaction that I've experienced came right after like the day or week after you land that that big thing that proved to you that you got the seat at the table because then it's the well what next? And that's pretty consistent with most of the creative people that I sort of talked to that do what they love for a living where their biggest letdowns. Their most emotional vulnerability is often right after their these milestone successes because it doesn't change your life even as it changes your portfolio dramatically. But with that comes increased pressure and you may have compressed years of time to working, to land Nike, to land home depot as a client. So you you pack in all your research, all your best material, all your best ideas, years and years of work going through that one project that then proves that you get the seat at the table. But then when that's over or and you think about what next is. Are you really even if that project only took a few weeks to do you're thinking, wait, is there another 10 year climb or battle to get the next significant step up? And so I think the sort of satisfaction challenge there is, you know, letting yourself sort of dial back after these things and go where was the most fun along the way? What were the kind of uh adventures along the way that are worth revisiting now that I and using that kind of achievement of those milestone markers as a way to relax on yourself, not to push yourself even harder. This is for those who are listening right now, this is pure genius. What's coming out of Ben's mouth is true. This is what the future of your creative world can be. Should you tap in its success that I believe you're dreaming for yourself right now. So I'm going to ask you to pay extra close attention to everything that Ben says and I am, it sounds like I'm adjusting, but this is, I'm as serious as a heart attack right now. What, what the courage to have a milestone, Success and then to take a beat and understand what about that? Success was special to you and was different and that you'd like to create more of that is the path to fulfillment. And again, this is to me, one of the reasons I knew Ben was going to be an insanely appropriate and awesome guest is because this is the kind of stuff that shares in his work, it's not just the end product of the process that he goes through and what you're hearing right now is a master at work at deconstructing the process. You know, he does it with designs on his social channels, but he's done this with his career, which I think is where true, the true vision that Ben is bringing to the table right now. So this is me telling you listener to do double down and you're going to want to watch this a couple times. So if I may now then turn our attention to you talked about sort of some of the pitfalls and trappings of success and you started to go down the path of. So I started taking a beat and looking at what would be, you know, the alternatives and I'm wondering if you can walk us through a little bit more with some specific examples if if it makes sense to do so that you did when you, you signaled early on that was like, yeah, so I was like instead of just doing services, I started taking a different approach. You mentioned, media mentioned a handful of other things. So talk to us about in a little more detail about how you deconstructed what the perfect career looks like for you and one that it sounds like what you're saying and what I would argue for is that cultivates fulfillment, not just success. So once I decided that architecture was where I wanted to move away from, right and I had worked so hard to get to the point where I could be considered a working architect that was credible, that was respected in the industry, but I realized that I wasn't satisfied with that, so I had to figure out what's next, that's sort of the blank slate. I realized that getting a certain level of credentials wasn't as satisfying as I had hoped that it would be and I'm not that good of a planner, but I trusted in the concept of escalation and evolution. And one of the early things that fascinated me about the Internet was, I think it was when like Ebay was like one of the big things on the Internet, it probably still is, I just don't use it too much anymore. But I heard this story about a guy that started with the paperclip and traded it for a cigarette lighter and then traded it for a stapler and then traded it just kept escalating it and with each trade he added a little more substance and value to his trade and he traded all the way up to a car and I think eventually a house and I think that was the plan, wasn't that I knew okay in five years I'm going to be here and then we'll be designing these kind of things for this. Many people. I trusted him that idea that if I escalate my project slowly and evolve them and double down on the ones that are really promising and forget the ones that were horrible messy failures. Um, if I just set on a productive path that escalates and evolves and I can pay my bills at the same time and I'm adding skills, it will win. It doesn't mean I know where I'm going to be in five years. I don't know how fast I'm going to evolve and escalate. But if I'm paying my bills, that means I'm not getting a debt, that means I'll be better off financially tomorrow than I am today. If I'm adding skills, it's only giving me more optionality and opportunities. And I switched my focus so I realized that being an architect didn't give me as much satisfaction as I thought. Um, and instead of the story thinking of like, well, what do I actually want to be? And I think in your 20's you're so looking for that kind of credential is I want to be a working actor. I want to be a uh, an adventure photographer. I want to be a graphic designer for a luxury brand, right? But those titles aren't that great. We've met artists that reduce bags, we've met photographers that are pretentious pricks, we've met architects that were a lot of black turtlenecks and don't really have anything interesting to say. And I thought all the people that I really like our two things, they're useful and they're curious and like, I just have to be useful and curious if I can do that and demonstrate both of those things, then I can follow that path of escalation and evolution. So the early projects, I just took a complete personal inventory and I didn't have much money. And um, I looked at like the tools and sort of assets that I had and had my hands. I had like a drill and I started just making things were out of trash and things that I that I found. I made like a vase by cutting a wine bottle in half. And then I made a stool where I poured a little bit of concrete into a five gallon bucket stuff three sticks in and then flip that out and then kept escalating those projects. And what was really fascinating is that people were building them and then sharing them. I was like, oh wait, I can actually deliver design without every patenting something without ever dealing with manufacturing, without ever dealing with the compromises that come with outsourcing something. And with the bucket stool, I realized that this thing had gotten built on six different continents. It was getting built all over the world. Buy people I had never actually met, but just by publishing that Youtube video, it was like a 3 to 4 minute video that showed people how to make something I could reach both the high end of the market. Supermodel Coco Rocha has one in her home and then they are also used for like settings and schools in Uganda and everywhere in between. I think someone even made one uh, with ice to use for ice fishing where they just froze the water and stuck the sticks in. So that was a really interesting sort of breakthrough where I realized that I could build small projects that reach a lot of people. And then from there I just slowly increase the scale of the projects, much similar to starting with the paperclip and ending up with the house. And so over the years I went from three legged stools to pull furniture sets and sofas. I added new skills along the way, I started with kind of woodworking and basically a Y and glue gun kind of stuff. Then I learned how to weld and then I learned how to cut stone and then I learned how to how do I integrate robots and three D. Printing into the things and just slowly escalated, signed on brands like Home Depot. And the initial things I did with even Home Depot were like so creatively terrible, like the first thing I ever did with them paid like my designer friends just gave me an unending amount of shit because you know you're coming from like an architectural world, you're all modern, you wear a lot of black like look really sleep your home super minimalist, like a bond villain. And the first thing they had to do was to do this like D. I. Y. Christmas tree workshop where I was like cutting really khaki christmas trees out of out of plywood and painting and green. But I was a good soldier built that relationship and then they kept trusting with bigger projects, We did a solar powered workshop, which was really awesome. I got the first time I got this really bring my sustainability interest into this kind of D. I. Y. Space. That video did really well. And then two years later they commissioned what was our biggest video project to date, which was to do a complete docuseries on a shipping container home. Um so we we built a shipping container house out in Joshua tree. We made a complete series that shows how to get permits, how to build it, how much it will cost, why we did this and not this, It totally blew up about 20 something million views and it's sort of like the biggest thing that sort of is the house that started with the base and it's really encouraging. There's no way I could have planned on day one. Okay, here's how I'm going to do a path towards where I'm building whole houses that are really innovative and interesting on the internet and I have the funding for it and they have the audience to support the funding and all these things. But all I had to do was escalate one project to a slightly more complicated one and add skills along the way. If I would have sat down and said, OK, I need to learn how to, how to weld, you need to learn more about structural stuff, how to pour reinforced concrete, build foundations, all these kind of things. It would have been so daunting, but if I just kept designing bigger projects along the way, I slowly added those skill sets and I was able to monetize those projects along the way, so I kind of grow to the opportunity, not just sort of demand it and try to figure it out from scratch absolutely incredible. And this is again, this is pure fire for anyone who aspires to be your own boss and create, not just living in a life and some success, but actual fulfillment to this is recipes, is the best blueprint maybe I've heard in the show and we've done hundreds of episodes. So this attention to what makes your heart sing and the belief this trust. Um just read something about confidence in the day and confidence is believing that you can put yourself in a situation and figure it out or survive to do it again and then in the next iteration, figure it out and that when you've done that a couple of times, I think that this, this the way, even the way that you're speaking about it, there's a certain trust in the process. And so what my question, my note here to myself was, uh, how did Ben start to trust himself to do this? Because right now I'm going to try and put my head, and some of the listeners, you know, someone's jogging down a bike trail right now are riding their bikes and bike trailers, sit on a park bench, thinking, cool, but, well, I don't have much time has been done to figure it out. And I don't have, you know, there there we go, into this process of catastrophizing, we go in the process of, uh, you know, I don't have enough. And so I'm hoping you can share some of the things that you've done along the way to trust your ability to land on your feet and figure it out to be able to incrementally, you know, uh increase each of the scale and quality of the project that you're doing and you know, isn't there pressure in there, in and of itself? So how did you learn to trust yourself? Was that an eight or is that learned a little bit of both? I don't have that much confidence that things will succeed. I try to just look for things that have a high ceiling, but a high floor, Right? So for my sort of personal, like emotional approach to risk taking is I'll take the risk if I know that I won't die or I won't lose everything that I own. Uh and so I've always built confidence by analyzing the downside. And that's why I sort of like to start with sort of small pieces of furniture, because even if I make something and published on the internet and people are just like, you might have been afraid of negativity, you're afraid that this no one will notice or care. Right? So that's why my early projects were based around things I could actually use. That's how I sort of minimize the downside risk. Is that well, I need some seating for this, so I'll bill back, I'll publish it and do the extra work. But all I'm risking is the extra time it took towards making the video content part of it. I get a useful thing at the end of it, where if I would have started with trying to build a shipping container house for an online video series and put hundreds of thousands of dollars and months and months of time into it. That risk at the point where that enterprise couldn't sustain itself would have been dramatic and financially devastating. So I'm not that confident that things will work out. I've tried a lot of things that haven't I had a dabbling and sort of tech where I went out and raised about $1 million dollars by giving a power point presentation, Had people telling me how super smart and tended to believe them and then 2008 happened, I realized I was much more of a product of great circumstances. Um, so I think that's that's my sort of approach to building confidence and that's why I think the escalation and evolution is so important. It's not setting out to do this massive thing, It's setting out to have a consistent escalation in rewards as you acquire the skills along the way. I wasn't ready and didn't have the abilities to build big significant projects myself. When I started I needed sort of 5-6 years of practice and escalation to get to the point where that was appropriate. You have to build those muscles, you have to build the memories, you have to build this sort of experience to get there. So I'm not that confident, even when I do so many things, I kind of expect them to not work out, but I have enough confidence to give it a shot after I sort of say, okay, what's the worst case scenario mitigate against that? Make sure it's within sort of good financial planning and that's how I build confidence in a very timid way, brilliant. It's so it's so like when you're incredibly articulate and two, it doesn't surprise me at all that you've cultivated the success that you have because there's a thoughtfulness, clearly there's a thoughtfulness in your approach and also your awareness. Now, what is different, what I notice of the many things that you do that's different than so many of the folks out there on the internet is the there is an element of you that is so well embedded in your projects. Like you said, I had a drill, therefore I, you know, and so what are the qualities of Ben, you know, just enough confidence? He protected the downside, He has a drill. Like these are so simple, but they're so like that awareness of what you have and what you could do, uh I believe is in part of your genius, you're choosing the things, how do you choose what parts of you are in action when you're making decisions on what to do next? Is it ahead? Is it hard? Is it both, Is it curiosity? You mentioned that earlier intuition? What are some of the words that you use and how do you think about what to do and not to do? Besides just mitigating the downside? Because clearly you've got interested in something and then you said, okay, what about this product? Can I can I minimize the downside for versus like of all the things I could do in the world, what has low downside? You didn't do it that way you did at the former. So I'm wondering what goes into um to you choosing your sin? Since clearly there's a piece of you in all of this. Yeah, there was some point where I think we reached peak Ted talk. I'm not sure exactly when that was, but it happened at some point, right? Like I've seen yours right? At some point, like Ted was such an amazing thing early and I get this leads into your thing. And then I used to watch like every Ted talk that came out and it was I was starving for that kind of insight from these world class performers. I consumed a lot of your early content, A lot of tim Ferriss stuff like that, Right? Because the internet created access to these world class performers. But then it suddenly dawned on me that I might not be world class at anything. Um, and there's way more people that aren't world class than world class. So not everyone. It's my problem with that book. The secret is that yes, everyone that kind of achieved some level of success has a good amount of self belief. But there are a lot of people that I've met along the way that aren't world class performers that have way too much self belief. Um, and I don't so much worry about them. I worry about their sort of friends and family and stuff like that, that seeing them sort of go on this deluded journey. And so early on in with sort of the Internet, there seemed to be so much inspiration coming from the top down where we are looking at the best people in the world. And like that's like if you can have like body images problems by looking at genetic freaks and uh for both men and women, uh you know, if that can be damaging, certainly there can be career and emotional damage by consuming all this content from the greatest people in the world. I don't want yo yo ma to be my cello teacher, I want someone has struggled with reading music and someone that struggled with being tone deaf to kind of teach me how to do something like that. So somewhere as I sort of became more internet literate, I've realized that uh maybe maybe there's a way to start from the bottom up and so much of my inspiration doesn't come from what's great, I love the work of the world's greatest architects. I love like Zaha Hadid Bjarke ingles, they are inspiring in their own way, but what I find personally inspiring our shitty strip malls because there's so many more of those and I may never be as good as brk or is there like once in generational talents, I might not be that. Maybe I will, but I shouldn't plan on that, but I can make a better strip mall. I know I can do that, I'm so confident that could take this dilapidated piece of shit with a run out, you know, that was used to be a blockbuster blockbuster and now is a place where people get bloomin onions, I could make a better version of that. And so a lot of my inspiration starts with the proliferation of terrible design, not trying to do a shittier version of great design. Um, and I think that the world is rich with inspiration. If you look at that way, if we just whatever you do fashion photography, graphic design every day, you probably see things that just drives you insane because of how bad and thoughtless they are. Every one of those terrible things that you see, where you have a path to doing better is a place to prove your place in the world. It's a way to show that like I can make the world better because I made this thing that's crappy into something that's less crappy, doesn't have to be genius, doesn't have to do, just has to be less crappy. And if all you did was to take, uh, you know everything around you and make it just a better version of that. Even if you never leave your hometown, you never do that. You have made the world a better place. And that is an unrelenting source of inspiration is all the terrible shit that's around us that we see every single day. Yeah, I love it. And all of my favorite thinkers and Doers, there's this bit of sort of counter intuition that you just, again, I like the word use you just use this. Um because right now there's a young architect saying, I just want to, you know, do the next building with a ski area on top of it, like Barca and and just this idea and there's both the humility of practicality, but also pure genius in reverse reversing that mentality. And again, you mentioned uh tim Ferriss which a friend of the show all the time, like tim is constantly not saying like, cool, I'm going to look at the long distance running athlete who came from four generations of long distance running athletes And has all these characteristics. He's like, who's the £220? You know, former former outside linebacker who turned himself into a ultramarathon because that is like someone who's been successful but doesn't have all of the, you know, the, the notches on on the belt or the accolades of the what not. So I really appreciate that about you. And I think that the folks were listening and watching should do a little gut check in there. I wanted to circle back on the sum of a couple of things that you mentioned and I wanted to go a little bit deeper on them. Um one you talked about shifting the model right, when you don't have clients anymore, um you have to make money and you talked about rather than how can you? Uh huh. I guess let me look at the way that you said the words, how do you design for people who can't afford to hire you? And you had to reinvent a new business model rather than chasing the next mega commission on a multi million dollar home. So what did you actually do? How do you actually make money? And I'm using this not as necessarily a recipe for someone to go. I'm not suggesting that if you're a listener right now you're we're going to go try and replicate exactly what this Fine gentleman has done, but mostly to draw inspiration in how to think differently about the process. And maybe you can apply a similar pattern or structure to your area of interest, whatever that might be. But so Ben, I'm wondering if you can talk to us a little bit about how you deconstructed, what was possible based on may be seeing things out there in the world and then what you ultimately decided to do, and if that was good, bad or indifferent or there are other things you run along the way, So yeah, it was. Mhm. Well, let me start with how I make money over the last like six or seven years and most of its around Youtube is I'll make a video on Youtube that shows how to make a table and I'll often show it with a limited amount of power tools. So one of my favorite projects is I show how to make a complete dining table out of one sheet of plywood using just a circular saw, a drill, an orbital sander. So the cost of the tools and the materials is less than the cost of a way crap your table from IKEA that's made out of less quality materials. And that was, it was always sort of my bench part because there are brilliant company that makes fantastic things. So that was the premise that I started with and then the work was the sort of prove whether or not they could deliver on that premise is can I use the internet and the supply chains of home depot to create a better furniture offering than this massive company that has a huge design budget in the form of the cave. I can do that at I've done that successfully at times but not always they're still they still beat me in a lot of things because they're really good at what they do. But it was great to sort of provide that option. So that was the premise and the kind of internal challenge. Then I started thinking about, well who are all the stakeholders that would provide assets and resources along the way. So I did, here's the things I would use and the things that would be on camera, tools, materials. Um and then I sort of reached out to home depot and I reached out to a job I didn't ask for sponsorship. I asked for just an interview to sort of ask them about how they spend money on marketing and what kind of metrics do they look for return on that? And what I quickly discovered this is presumably do not call 1-800 home depot. So uh huh dems on instagram and cold emails. Uh more and more, it's done through the DMZ on instagram, but that's a lot easier once you build up a little bit of following and get that sort of check mark. But early on it was just emails and what I sort of asked them was or what I discovered was how much money they spend, not on ad buying, but just on the production of content. And this was the sort of thing that I discovered early on, is that when Home Depot puts a commercial on an HD Tv show, let's say like the Property brothers. So everyone knows, okay, you got to buy that slide, you have to buy the time on that Super Bowl on that Super Bowl ad. But what you also have to do is pay for the production of the assets. And what I discovered was companies like home depot were often spending more money to make a 32nd video that wasn't designed for anyone to want to watch it. It was just designed to sort of be all call to action and you had to watch it because it's on television and in the break. And so what I realized that my offering when I had no following was I couldn't offer the replacement for the ad buy. But what I could offer was a replacement for the production at no risk. And that's what I sort of offered initially was look, you spend a lot of money on video and it's really risky and then you have to spend a lot of money for people to watch that video. Send me some of your tools and I'll make videos with your tools in them. If they get a certain number of views, then you tell me what that's worth and we can see if you can work out a sponsorship and that was the sort of approach that I had, I think like like six or seven years ago and I'm still working with RIO B. And Home Depot to this day and it's always based on the same sort of dynamic of asked them where do you currently spending money, What are the benchmarks? How do you measure it? And then I say well we can make this very un risky for you by saying you only pay me if we beat these benchmarks and then it sets really clear business goals for me and I have as many creative shots that hit those numbers is as it takes. Um Okay and what I felt comfortable was doing is putting a lot of pressure on me to build and design creative stuff because that's the fun part. Um And I just wanted to I know that there was light at the end of the tunnel from a business standpoint and that I was working towards metrics that were useful and valuable to other people. So I know I had the curiosity part to explore try new tools, trying new materials, experimental things in different ways. I just want to make sure I was doing that in a way that was useful to someone other than myself and to fill in what is I think uh huh. Operating in the background but to bring into the foreground you've been talking about not having clients as you would in architecture, but your clients end up being is the end viewer because certainly Rio B or Home Depot, they are the ones who are actually ultimately will be writing a check. And so there is a certain amount of of responsibility but noticed that you've sort of almost decentralized or alleviate the responsibility to Home Depot and move that over to people who you can connect with through making creative choices all on your own. I think that's a subtle but powerful distinction between you're not going to Home Depot and Home Depot saying here's what we want. The video looks like, it needs to be this tall, this wide, this long had this many ex shots and this many y shots and you're saying, cool, I'm gonna if we hit this benchmark and I'm going to go to the audience and I'm going to try and get them to over this benchmark of views or conversions or whatever the metro if you'd agree to. And I think there's a, I don't know if you if you agree with that, but there's a distinction in what kind of a client it is and you're ultimately making things for, for humans rather than it's a little bit less of a business decision. But knowing that they spend money to do those things, there was a great genius there as well. Yeah, it's interesting the there's no such thing as complete creative autonomy and nor do I think I particularly want that or deserve that. I like some of the constraints. Um and that's why I think the useful and curious thing is such an important combination is I want to be useful to the people that are collaborating with me. I don't have to be brilliant. Earth shattering. Everything's brand new. Never been seen before. All these kind of really hyperbolic kind of categories from my design because I just wanted to be useful. I want people to like it and I want them to take action from it. What was sort of interesting with sort of working in this model where I share design. It's almost like a recipe, right? If you're tollhouse and you want to sell more chocolate chips, you would make sense to invest in developing the best chocolate chip cookie recipe, publishing that on Pinterest instagram everywhere else, Tiktok videos and then you always just sort of including that. You might as well build useful content that has the perfect call to action. And that's what I think is so interesting on the internet. This term influencer kind of gets thrown out a lot and I actually kind of don't mind it just, you know, as much as there is a lot of ass selfies and stuff like that involves with or associated with it. The, I'd much rather be influential than just entertaining and that's why even in a lot of my videos, there's not a lot of personality from me as a human. Hopefully there's some personality and style and the designs themselves, but I'm not trying to be super charismatic on camera. I just want to be kind of matter of fact, here's a recipe how to build something and what I like about that is that it I don't want to convince people with a force of personality that this is the table they should build. I want to sort of just like, do I want that? Not really for me? Okay, I'll wait for the next video. Maybe that's a little more my style. Um, but that was important. That kind of aligns the various interests involved. I want to do a good job of promoting the products for my brand partners who are paying me to do. So I also want to do a good job providing design options for the viewers and it should never feel like you're letting me down. This person. You've developed an emotional attachment to If you don't go out and buy this drill or this thing, it should really just be, here is a recipe for something that you might like, Oh, you don't like coconut. This isn't the right cookie for you, right? You want to wait for the taco chips that's coming soon. Eventually we'll get to you. And that just took a little bit of the pressure off of trying to be over connected to the audience or overly influential in a course of way. It just lets me be really matter of fact about what the call to actions is, which gives you a lot more peace of mind where you're going to do something for a long period of time awesome. Let's talk about the right now. There is someone who is very compelled by what you're saying. And then there's this some business school, uh, scar tissue or you know, their, their grandfather who was raised in the depression, taught them to do maximize everything. And there's some folks who are questioning something and that is, hey man, it's great to give these great designs, Whether you're leaving so much on the table, then why aren't you chasing maximization of your shipping container business or the dining room table that you mentioned, Like, you could be, you know, selling plans, you know, for that on the internet and make a dollar every set of plans. And if you can sell a million plans Rather than one plan for $1 million. But it's also like there's someone who's saying talking about maximizing and so why, why do you give your best designs away? And why don't you try and maximize the value of its extracting everything you can from each product? Well, I guess if you're a chef, you could make more money by starting the next Chipotle than you could by actually making food. That's amazing. Uh No, no shade on chipotle. Chipotle is awesome, right? Like the escalation from Taco Bell to Chipotle is a, and they're both readily available. That's a really good one. Like Chipotle like change the game. But if you're a chef, do you really want to create chipotle? You would make way more money if you built that next chain. But what does that mean for your actual lifestyle? And are you trying to make money off of something that like how many burrito innovations are you really going to be excited about now? If you're doing chipotle just so you create the freedom so you can create the ultimate farm to table, kind of like blue hills experience, then it might be really worth it. So the question about money and escalating and scaling is being like, well what would I do with that money? I have some pretty clear goals. Like my goal is to build a compound just outside of santa Barbara where I have an avocado tree in my kitchen. I like to have avocado toast for breakfast. So I think the coolest thing ever would be to take the avocado that's growing right inside the kitchen, not just like a little plant in a hydroponic, like a whole freaking tree. You probably need two of them so they can cross pollinate. So that's the height of consumption. I don't want anything more than that. I can't afford to build that just yet because land in santa barbara is pretty expensive, but I think I'll be able to get there soon. So everything comes in, every economic decision comes in either moving that goal closer in the timeline or being satisfied. Well, I'm having a lot of fun and I don't know how to design the right sort of indoor system that provides enough light and water. So the question is, is I only need to make enough money. Do they have ideas with how to spend it? And the minute you get into sort of making money for the sake of money, I mean you, I know a lot of wealthy people and some of them are really happy and really clever with how they consume and some of them aren't. But here's the thing that I see is really consistent. People talk so fondly about their college days or the sleeping on the couch startup days, you talk to founders of like massive companies and they love to regale you with like stories of when they were struggling and their, you know, their their desks were an old door on two sawhorses and they were eating top ramen. That was probably when they were most engaged with the process because it was also probably when they were, the world was the most unpredictable and they were, they were growing their skill sets in their tool sets the fastest. I always think the best part of every superhero movie is when they just learned their powers and are just kind of experimenting and testing before they have the pressure of saving the world. That's the really stressful part. Once you have the whole weight of the world on your shoulders, even though you have all the powers and you have them all at your fingertips, it's not as much fun as when you're just being like, wait, can I jump off this building? And that's what the early stages are. So I've had like different sort of success cycles along the way. And again, the most empty feelings I felt were sort of like right after you, you finally got something that you weren't looking past. And so now I keep it pretty simple as we're always going to leave money on the table. And the most efficient people that I meet are not the most interesting. It knows so many people that live their lives through spreadsheets and they wake up and they drink this many ounces of water and they have this many grams of protein and they have this many things and they're just control and precise. Have some engineering friends that love living that way. And if that fits your personality where everything has to be measured, everything has to be maximized great. But that's not the people I want to have dinner with. So why would I want to live my life? Like somebody I wouldn't want to hang out with. I like the people, everyone loves everyone. I know that's creative, loves Anthony Bourdain and it's not because he was had the best restaurant and he ran this this kitchen staff with like maniacal precision and every meal was perfect. It was because he just roamed the earth and had adventures and so if you have enough money where you can do kind of some silly stuff like you can leave some stuff on the table if it makes life cooler like I was talking to uh so we have actually been scaling some of these things. So it's like when I built the shipping container house, I got approached by some investors to expand that container house into a shipping container hotel. So I brought in a business partner, a young guy, ivy league educated background in finance, exactly what you would think. Super smart, just driven like And just like scale wants to buy 30 years old, he wants to get to $30 million. I'm like, why tell me, please tell me like how that is not a completely arbitrary thing that in no way will necessarily make your life better more than $2 million, which is still pretty lofty and amazing. Um He doesn't really have a good answer other than that feels like what it takes to play in the social circles that he wants to be in. Uh and I'm like, well I wanted you to some people that made $30 million dollars off a Bitcoin that really aren't that interesting. They have, they have the receipts, they have the money, but people aren't pounding down their door to sort of go to dinner parties with them or to pick their brain. They're not necessarily the most loved people in their community, their people that were opportunistic. And they got those numbers, they secured the bag. So congrats to them. That's that's awesome. And they had some vision to do it, but that's That's not compelling. I would much rather hang out with someone that created something original and did well with it than someone that made $30 million Dodge coins. Although the memes are pretty tight. Well said um for those of you who uh if you haven't looked back up like five times already, then we've done a bad job because this is this is some super compelling stuff, homemade modern as your Youtube channel. And I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about how you think about your channel as an expression of you yourself. That's this vision that you think about it. It's just a distribution platform, or is it a piece of you and your brand? Um, talk to us about the channel. I think it's just awesome. And right now people are tapping were using their thumbs and looking it up. Um, you know, the shipping container stuff on there is just awesome. Uh, tour your loft, etcetera. Yeah, you do. It was really important early, I would say, from like maybe like three years ago, I've become less and less in love with the platform. I think it's an amazing platform that does a lot of good. But I've been doing it for a really long time, like six or seven years. So I think early on it was this race to try to get to a million subscribers because subscribers used to be really important. And then at some point you get that and again, this is like, okay, hit this milestone. You have some videos that pop off. You have other videos that don't, and more and more. It was Why do I want to keep growing? Why do I want to keep scaling the media side? And so once you get this sort of 500,000 to a million, you're like, okay I can add a team, but do I want a team right now? My team is like 3-4 or 3.5 people. It's me, my younger sister, Jessie. Um, and then Brett who manages the sort of shop and helps out with a little bit of production and that's it. I don't have meetings, I don't have to sit down with the staff. I don't have to worry about utilization of employees, everyone's family. Uh, either literally or figuratively. And what I saw with my previous sort of text exploits was there's a certain point where the tail wags, the dog, where you build a team to scale, you're sort of growth. But if you're already at a point where you're living really comfortable and you have a great quality of life, why are you scaling beyond that to the point where you're that scale makes you vulnerable to market fluctuations. When I did sort of a tech company, which where we became the largest supplier of home designs in the country, had like a team of 10 to 12 people When the 2008 housing market crashed, it was an agonizing year where I had to lay people off work ridiculously hard with an uncertain future. And with Youtube, once I got to the point where it was lucrative, I was like, in a lot of the other sort of people at a similar level were being like, okay, now we're building out media team, so it's like we got two videographers editors and we're going to crank it out, and we got to make a video every single week. That was about every single day. Yeah. Some people don't know every day, just like Casey Neistat, right? Like, man, I loved following his journey, but like, you know, I love that. He also said, like, okay, I can't do this anymore, right? Like that, that kind of ability to, to sort of pull back when you need to. So I knew from previous things, I didn't want to build out this massive team. I'm so grateful for what youtube has given it's gonna be a real stable sort of base. But now I think what I'm more interested in is not the weekly grind. And so I got completely off the schedule. I'm very opportunistic either publish something when I have a sponsor or when I have an idea that no one wants to sponsor, but I think it's important. And those are the only two sort of rules for when and why I kept the production really minimal. And then that lets me sort of focus on big projects that I'm now excited about. You get disorder. You can't, for me at least I can't do the same thing year after year after year and be equally excited about it. I can only build so many coffee tables and pieces of furniture. So I needed the escalation to keep myself sort of involved. And the shipping container house project was a lot of fun because it was, it was so different and so big. I launched that on a completely different channel, the modern home project. And so now what I'm sort of interested with Youtube is it's this great publishing thing. I don't want to work for Youtube one. The profit sharing isn't really in our favor as creators. It's definitely in sort of google's favor. Um you aren't a complete control of it. So it becomes this sort of baseline way to stabilize and be like a nice sort of lucrative piece of the puzzle. But more and more, I'm like, I should use this as a stepping stone to building things that I have true, complete equity ownership in not something where I kind of own it. You don't really ever own your channels on social media. You, I have a terms of service agreement that allow you to profit from them, but I don't want all my eggs to be in that basket. So what I like is using that as a launch point. I have enough audience where if I have a great idea, it will reach everyone that it needs to. Um and I don't want to focus on to be growing the audience to where mediocre ideas, you know, can will excel just from the momentum of the platform. I don't want to be the rock or kevin Hart, right? Like I want to be when I have something great to say, I wanted to be, that's what carries it, and that's what Kind of the way the platform performs is you can do a video that gets 50,000 views, and then you can do a video that gets five million views and it really depends on is the content, is the thumbnail engaging. It does the content, once you click on the thumbnail, deliver on the promise of the thumbnail and but more and more. I'm thinking, okay, I built this media platform, I have a good sized audience now, why should I work towards more audience? Or should I work towards more density of alignment and now that I have that audience, I'm like, okay, I don't have an excuse not to bring the issues that are important to me back into it. Affordable housing and sustainability early in my career is more interested in sustainability. Part as I get older, I sort of realized that that needs to be tempered with sort of affordability and as someone from California that now lives in California, affordable housing is, I think one of our biggest problems and all a lot of the homeless issues and stuff like that trickle down from it and it's not a simple problem. It's I think it's even as complex as as sort of climate challenges are, because it involves sort of regulation and involves supply chains and involves like physical labor and involves like land uses and where are we going to run out of water? Um so now I think I'm at the stage where I'm less interested in sort of media growth and more interested in like how do I sort of add more density of the issues that are important to me into this sort of media that I'm already creating. Wisdom man, It's just like a the firing range right here of just knowledge bomb. I truly and again, I'm I realized that this is like the third time I've said it, but your ability to articulate the the solutions to your problems that you've created through success and through opportunity are really been very, very talented at this. I'm deconstructing many of my own experiences now and putting through the lens of what you're sharing with me. And I have to say that so many of my decisions are paralleled that and I didn't have a good explication for them. So, um, thank you, Thank you for that. And again, the, the escalation and evolution to me, this is something that should be, this is, this is like a mantra that I would ask listeners to adopt this idea of just growing. And it's not only, it's not only linear, right? I'm sure there was somewhere you escalated and you had to de escalate a little bit and uh, you know, one step back kind of a mentality. Um, so we talked about, you know, leaving opportunity on the table. You, you know, you had incredible insight, they're talking about building the media platform, partnerships, the relationship that you have a social media. I want to go way back to what I would consider the beginning and we'll try and make up full circle here. Part of what I coach to anyone who pays attention to the things that I do, uh, is one particular thing and I'm, I'm gonna throw it out there and I want you to respond to it authentically and say chase your bullshit or no, I believe that and there's a starting point and I use the term mastery in my book creative calling to talk about it. I don't think mastery is necessarily required, but I think it's something near mastery in an area where what you said early on our conversation got you a seat at the table. It allowed you to have a point of view that other people are willing to listen to and you had enough either letters after your name or videos to your name or followers or money in the bank or some sort of a marker that allowed you to get in the room or to be a part of the conversation. And I personally have have no instruction to anyone on what that should be for them. I don't care if it's you're the fastest Lincoln log assembler or you are a nuclear physicist and you invented a new way for space travel. Like I I don't actually care what the thing is or if it's the best macaroni in chief noodle on the planet, some understanding of, of greatness or mastery in any area allows you to more easily deconstruct areas that you in which you choose to operate or want to move and they can get you a seat at the table. And I would, I would step back from my concept of driving to mastery on any of these things, but I want to know for you this was architecture used a very clear example. So if I'm looking to create a kernel of advice for someone who is interested in pursuing the life that you've created for yourself or something similar with their own on their own terms, how important is being, having some fortitude, real legitimate fortitude in a single area before you know, trying to boil the ocean for. So I agree with like, I really liked the word mastery, right? Because that really, to me that signifies the personal internal pursuit of betterment, right? That you have this goal, becoming a master craft person for whatever you choose to do the mistake, I think that people make in interpreting that word is that competency to a lot of people is mastery, right? Like there's so many times where just competency is a joy in of itself. I think in and out burgers is like a great example. Are they master chefs? Are there? No, but are they just so competent and consistent at creating a burger? They are, it's like and at that price point, it's a great experience. And so mastery when you sort of are setting out of a path or a road map to mastery, and if you're in that industry architecture, photography, and you're looking at the world's greatest, once again, you might be like, I'm so far from mastery, but you're really just trying to get to the point where the people that you're serving, the people that are actually benefiting from your work, what's competency to you might be mastery to them, right? So a you know, every time I have a in and out burger, I feel like it's a type of mastery, I objectively know that there's higher levels of cuisine, but that is what I want at that moment. So if you're one of these creative professions don't be dissatisfied with your competency because that is mastery to someone else and to someone that doesn't have access to that kind of creative potential, Like if I make a better strip mall, that makes that community like a more engaged place that's more pedestrian friendly and people hang out there, it doesn't matter if that doesn't win the Pritzker Prize. What matters is it made that its mastery to that community, it's physically important. It takes up space. So, I think mastery as an internal sort of pursuit for self betterment that will never ever ever end Uh is an amazing inspiring thing. Mastery is feeling as something you have to prove to your peers can be very detrimental, where you're constantly comparing yourself to people that might have just 10 or more years ahead of you. If you're always comparing yourself to people who've been doing it longer, it can be really hard to catch up right now. I think that's an interesting distinction and to be fair, I define mastery is mastery over the material and your ability to live within that space. So like I can walk onto any set and find with the best lighting or a high quality of lighting is going to be in a very short amount of time because of experience, you're going to be able to manipulate the situation with the resources, personal knowledge and you know, the universe and you can work your way around. But that's not to say there's not more to learn whether or not people who are better than you. So it's more about your relationship with the material than it is your relationship to other people who've been doing it a long time. So I think your answer than dovetails nicely, but there's this uh competency and proficiency with the material so that you're not thinking about what court is this again while I'm playing the guitar, it is like, you don't have to look directly at the thing that you're doing when you're kind of like that, that is a great, that's a joint itself. I think that's why people like surfing, it's like once you get over the part where you're trying to balance or trying to get up on the board or trying to figure out the right angle to catch the wave and you're just doing it and you're like, oh, I can kind of just do this without thinking that you may not be ready to compete with kelly slater yet, but like that is a type of mastery, right? You now can do the thing consistently at a way that you don't have to like focus every ounce of attention on making sure that everything's going in the right place. So yeah, I I love that concept of mastery both as the sort of internal never ending journey. Um but I would just encourage people to have a broad consideration of it and it's like it can just be really good competency where you where you are in control of your tools, like that's a nice feeling, it feels good to be useful and competent and it's also once you understand what the feeling is, your ability to leverage it into other areas is dramatically increased because you found out cracks and the facade of what you thought mastery was or what it could be. And I find that, you know, you already mentioned again, tim Ferriss, tim has, you know, he's world champion at X and X number of new york times bestsellers and why number of you know, is just like he's done a lot of things because you know, learn what makes you tick in the process. What some of the constraints are how to transcend those constraints. One of the rules, what which ones do you break? There's a, there are some patterns in there that I think are meaningful and to have watched you do that with um gosh with design, with manufacturing um with homemade modern with so many things, has just been an absolute treat. Um legendary guest. This goes down as one of my favorite conversations and I believe most insightful for people who actually want to do the thing that Ben does in the world, which is make shit for cool people, do it your way um and make the world a better place, engaging your sustainability. And I'm going to beg you to come back on the show before we do, I was hoping to just to steer folks who are again new to your work, to some of the other places. I mentioned your Youtube channel, but you have an instagram, obviously facebook and a handful of other things, but can you share a couple of your handles on the internet so people can um, instagram is the best, is the best place to start, Because that's where I sort of preview any projects that I'm working on right now. We're working on recycling 30 ft long windmill blades. We're working on a bunch of recycled plastic projects. Um, we're getting ready to build another house. So instagram is just Benjamin and then you, y e D A, my last name, but if you put in Benjamin in the letter U. I normally pop up there pretty quickly. Um, and then from there you say your, let's say your last name for say your last name, You ate it. Yeah. And then again, that's U Y E B A in case you're on a job right now, I'm gonna say it out loud. Um You could write it down and what you say, you mentioned insta is your preferred. Um, it's the best broad entry point for someone else. The Youtube is sort of where the projects get posted, but not always that active on their kind of hit or miss. And there's two youtube channels if you're interested in the shipping container house project. But for a lot of people are, that's the modern home project. But if you just put in my name, Ben wada and shipping container house, it shows up. That's the great thing about these, these, it's funny early on, I was so worried about like, oh, we're going to get the call sign right and get the plug. It's like, God bless you google. I mean like he's, they really make it easy to find these kind of things. So, um, yeah, check it out. Um, some of it will be great. So hopefully some of it's useful to you and uh, yeah, instagram and reasonably good at answering DmS. Don't get to all of them, but don't feel afraid to try. Awesome. Ben, thank you so much for being a stand out. Really, really grateful to finally connect after senior stuff all over the internet for years. Um, kudos to you and uh, just grateful for your time today. Thank you so much and my pleasure. All right, everybody out there on the Internet, please pay attention to bend his work, the lessons that were shared in this video or in this uh podcast. Um, out of 10 in my book. And you should have been taking notes if you want to go back and re listen, watch how you consumed it and signing off until next time I did you. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah.

Class Description

There's a common misconception that artists have a monopoly on creativity...But the very act of making waves - no matter the career - is a creative one. The Chase Jarvis Live Show is an exploration of creativity, self-discovery, entrepreneurship, hard-earned lessons, and so much more. Chase sits down with the world's top creators, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders and unpacks actionable, valuable insights to help you live your dreams in career, hobby, and life.

ABOUT THIS EPISODE:

Ben Uyeda stepped away from the award-winning architecture firm he co-founded, as well as an Ivy League teaching position, to develop media companies that deliver affordable designs to the masses.

In the last four years, Ben’s design ideas have reached more than 50 million people and the free designs he gives away are being built on six different continents. Despite the populist and affordable nature of his work, Ben’s designs have been featured in an exhibition and workshop at the Vitra Furniture Museum in Germany. He shares many of his designs on his popular youtube channel, the Modern Maker, as well as his growing collaborations with brands to explore sustainable designs. This episode ranks as one of my my top 5 ever conversation. Why? Ben’s articulation of the creative process, including:

  • How and why to start with what you have?
  • Building your career through a process of creating larger and more complex projects over time
  • The difference between mastery and competency, and how sometimes competency is all you need
  • The challenges of scaling creativity
  • and much more.

If you’ve either struggled with your hyphenated creative identity or simply need a boost of inspiration, this episode is going to bring you a ton of value.

Reviews