Bad is Where You Start

When you start anything new you will immediately encounter the reality that you’re relatively terrible at it.

Now, I use the word “relative” because, like most things, your new level of skill is relatively “bad” when compared to others. But, this isn’t the point.

When you start something new you start poorly. But that’s how you have to start. You see, bad is where you start so that you can begin to not be bad.

This truth is wildly overlooked by most folks as there is this strangely naive belief that we can encounter something new and not completely suck at it.

I have even fallen for this ignorant belief structure, like when I started my year-long video project and believed, secretly at first, that I’d be half-way decent at it and that I wouldn’t have to necessarily start from the very beginning.

What I realized, the first time I started, was that I sucked and as a consequence of that (and many other things) I quit. Gratefully, I decided to come back after a bit of time and invest again into it seriously — if I hadn't, I wouldn't be running a venture-funded company! Funny how that works.

Bad is where you start but that’s not where you need to end. What most folks also don’t realize is that the end-game rarely looks like what you had originally envisioned in your mind’s eye. Sometimes, through simply starting the process (of learning), you begin to open doors that you had no intention of discovering, let alone walking through!

In other words, in my very limited sense and perspective I had hoped that from starting at “bad” I would eventually get to “good” and that “good” was defined as a nice subscriber count and some really nice viewing statistics and metrics.

This was too small a vision — but, hey, it’s all I had. Why? Because I didn't have any experience in video, formally-speaking, and my vantage was limited due to my lack of experience. I didn't have a vision for a video-centric future because I hadn't learned to use video!

To make a long story short... as I got closer to the end of my year-long, 365-straight vlogging experience, I didn't have the #'s that I had hope for — the growth was good, in the beginning, but it didn't really scale in that exponential way.

By that time, though, I didn't really care because the doors that were now open to me were beyond what I could have imagined! You see, in that year, I also challenged a few other folks to try video and vlogging.

Some accepted the challenge while many (most) did not.

But, one person in particular did accept the challenge and took a shot at doing video and what started as a light and fun experiment has ballooned into a fast-growing enterprise, which was, as I mentioned before, the foundation of my startup today.

It's crazy to think that an unsuccessful video project evolved into something that I could never have imagined.

So, no… I’m not a popular vlogger (yet...?) and although I have learned a ton about film, storytelling, production, lighting, sound, and video engineering, I’m not even close to an expert in any of those departments.

But, again, that was never really the point. And it all started with bad.

  1. 3

    There is something I know for sure: compared to some people, I'll always be bad. Compared to other, I'm so good!

    It doesn't matter. Do what makes you happy. Stop focusing always on the result. Help the ones who need your help.

    It might sound cheesy. That's fine. I might be bad explaining it. 🥰

    EDIT: to echo all of that, twitter just gave me a cool quote. The Gods of Social Media are with me tonight!

    "The best learners are the people who push through the discomfort of being objectively bad at something." – Tommy Collison

    1. 1

      i love this quote! thank you @MatthieuCneude!

  2. 2

    Awesome read! Watching other people's amazingly produced videos made me feel self conscious about my videos as it doesn't feel like a professional touch. I know I'm starting at bad and that is okay.

    1. 2

      my videos today aren't that much better...

      ... i feel more comfortable in front of the camera and i have nicer gear... but, that's about it!

  3. 2

    Yes! We all started out bad. Have some vague idea? Start. i started streaming live on YouTube daily and am 70+ episodes in. Learned a great deal.

    1. 1

      i love how you just dove right in!

      1. 2

        Yes! It was an absolute steep curve!

        1. 1

          still on the curve.

  4. 2

    Hi, great article. I'm curious, how many times do you edit an article before deeming it okay to be published? Taking this as an example

    1. 1

      Your ROE (Return on Edits) is a lot lower than you could possibly imagine — desperately lower. In other words, spend less time editing and more time just capturing your thoughts. A nice bonus is that when you do this your writing sounds a bit more authentic as well. The “rough edges” and grammatical mistakes give color to an overly doctored and clinical world.

      via: https://john.do/10-writing/

      TL;DR: as little as possible. just hit publish: https://john.do/publish/

  5. 2

    This is really great. Something I'm currently reminding myself of frequently.

    I don't know where we learnt that if we're not great at the beginning of a venture, it's conclusive evidence that we'd suck at it forever, therefore giving up is the logical thing.

    Carol Dweck's "Mindset" has been really helpful here. I'd recommend it to everyone.

    Thanks for the post.

    1. 1


      I don't know where we learnt that if we're not great at the beginning of a venture, it's conclusive evidence that we'd suck at it forever, therefore giving up is the logical thing.

      thanks for saying it so plainly. really a head-scratcher!

      thanks for the mention of carol!

  6. 2

    I feel you, John!

    I am kind of at the same place or at least I definitely was last year. Started my Youtube channel at the beginning of 2019 and in that made..... 2 videos, which now that I look at them are very bad...

    2020 was the real year I actually started to be a little consistent (around 16 published already).

    However, looking at my most recent videos, I do see that I went from bad to good and this is very encouraging! Let me see where this Youtube journey takes me :)

    1. 2

      please, don't stop! don't quit!

      1. 2

        I am not planning to :)

          1. 1

            No. If you check out my Youtube channel, you can see I am still posting new videos and do not plan to quit :) Why did you think I quit?

            1. 2

              sweet! i didn't know the cadence. keep going! just checking in and advocating for you to not quit!

  7. 2

    You'll get there John! Don't forget us little guys when you do.

    This reminds me of a great quote I heard which is that "you have to be humble enough to set small goals" at the start. Yeah I want to get out there and win a gold medal at the Olympics, but to get that, I'm probably going to train "slower" than what I need to win, in the beginning anyway.

    1. 2

      one step at a time! or, row... lol.

  8. 2

    Awesome content, John! 💪

    1. 1

      :) thanks brayden!

    1. 1

      where did you come from?!? lol!

      long time no talk!

      1. 2

        Hah too long man. I was lurking here for inspiration on a side project.

        Relevant to the project is the whole “this needs to be polished before it’s public.” So tough to just put things out there and let people respond.

        1. 1

          whelp... it is what it is. your success will be limited by your courage. too bad.

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