In the world of vlogging and independent filmmaking, one of the most recognizable names and faces is that of Casey Neistat’s. His YouTube channel has amassed over 8.8m subscribers and 2.02 billion views, earning him an estimated net worth of $12 million.
As a filmmaker he has produced projects for clients such as Samsung, Nike and Mercedes-Benz. Aside from his video and film productions, he also co-founded the technology company Beme, which was eventually acquired and shuttered by CNN in late 2017 before becoming the multimedia organization Beme News.
The secret to Casey’s success
Neistat might be known for his on-screen presence, but his off-screen actions are what have shaped his career and turned him into one of the most successful vloggers of all time. Neistat is known for having an incredible work ethic and places a huge amount of emphasis on the importance of working hard, which is effectively summed up during an interview with Tim Ferriss:
“You realize that you’ll never be the best looking person in the room. You’ll never be the smartest person in the room. You’ll never be the most educated, or the most well-versed. You can never compete on those levels. But what you can always compete on, the true egalitarian aspect to success, is hard work. You can always work harder than the next guy.”
If you need more convincing of how hard Neistat works, take a look at his daily routine, as outlined in Ferriss’ book, Tools of Titans: he wakes up at 4.30am and goes about his day splitting his time between work projects and his young family. He falls asleep at 1am, usually on the sofa or at his desk, and repeats it all again the next day.
His approach might seem radical, and to an extent it is, but Neistat has always maintained that your failures and struggles define your success.
“It’s always the struggles that define you in life. Look back at your life whether you’re 13 years old or 80 years old and it’s always the hardest times that made you who you are.”
How to form habits to build a work ethic like Casey Neistat’s
Despite arguments of it being an innate quality or an attitude that can’t be developed, a strong work ethic is largely based on a person’s habits. In other words, optimizing your habits and approach to work will inevitably lead to more, better quality results. And as with most habits, breaking them down into smaller, easily doable tasks makes the challenge of developing them much more manageable.
1. Start NOW
There comes a point when you simply have to start, and what better time to start than now? Neistat puts it brilliantly:
“I’m never going to get any younger, but right now I’m completely healthy, I’m full of energy, and who knows how long this will last. I doubt I’ll be feeling that when I’m 50 or 60 years old – so I want to do it, now.”
Spend 5 minutes working on a new task/project
This project or task could be anything from starting a blog, getting started on a business plan, or taking up a new hobby. Effort tends to lead to progress, and committing as little as 5 minutes each day to working on something you’ve been intending to do will help to build some upward momentum and get you moving in the right direction of completing your goals.
2. Manage your time
Scheduling your day will often reveal where you have (or don’t have) spare time available to work on other projects or hobbies. There’s a great example of this during an episode of the David Dobrik podcast in a discussion about Neistat:
“He’s got it figured out. He knows how to time manage. I was in New York, right, and I ask Casey to hang out… it went something like this:”
David: “Hey Casey, I want to hang out, I want to see you. I’m like 20 minutes away.”
Casey: “Ok cool, I have 37 minutes to spare.”
David: “Oh ok, maybe another day.”
Casey: “No I have 37 minutes, come by right now. You’re 20 minutes away. That gives us 17 minutes to hang out.”
David: “(oh shit) Yeah, I’m on it”
“…I went over, we shot a video, we got work done, and we hung out. I didn’t even realize that that time was there because I just don’t think like that. I don’t think that I could get something done like that.”
You can train yourself to develop a similar approach as Casey by using tools or processes in order to help you spot gaps in your schedule: For example, in your calendar, you could:
Fill every slot in your day tomorrow
Commit every block of time to something. Initially it’s wise to be conservative with your time, taking into account things like travel/commute times and even breaks. Be realistic. By doing so, you’ll avoid overcommitments and the potential frustration of clients or colleagues. Over time, you’ll be able to refine your definition of “realistic” and apply those insights into making more accurate time commitments in the future. The key is to start getting in the habit of granular scheduling and building that familiarity with your time now.
3. Supplement sleep with exercise
A controversial one, we’ll preface this bit of guidance from Neistat with advice from other experts, such as Arianna Huffington and Tim Ferriss, both of whom are staunch advocates of ample sleep for the benefit of your mental and physical health.
Neistat has suggested that by supplementing your sleep with exercise you’ll feel more rested, have more energy, and generally feel better. While that might be true for him, sleep requirements vary drastically between individuals. With that in mind, you can take steps to reduce the amount of sleep you get each night gradually in order to avoid major consequences to your health. For example, you could:
Gradually reduce your sleep by 5 minutes each week
Add 5 minutes each week to your daily gym/exercise routines
For an even more gradual approach, you might consider increasing the amount of activity you do each week by 5 minutes before you begin reducing your sleep. Keep in mind that you may already be getting just the right amount (or not enough) sleep as it is so take it slowly and listen to your body.