A decade ago, I never imagined that I would become a vlogger. After all, vlogging is for people that are willing to be vulnerable and visible. And neither of those things came naturally to me. I grew up a quiet, conservative, Catholic kid, content being lost in a family of seven. In those adolescent years, I would characterize myself as a bit of a loner who would rather stay in the background, where it was safe, than take the risk of attracting attention. So how exactly does a guy like me, an introvert, go against the grain and become a person that broadcasts his deepest thoughts to the world?
Well, we’ve all heard the old Chinese proverb, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” According to this wisdom, an adventure often starts with a small, seemingly insignificant, movement in a particular direction. This proverb reminds me of how much we underestimate the power of “the little things.” We often find ourselves focusing on the big opportunities that are more in alignment with our projected fantasies. And, over the course of our personal journey, in order to stay in alignment with our fantasy future, we will successfully traverse a variety of obstacles. But, what happens when you’ve come to a dead end? What do you do when things refuse to go the way that you’ve planned? Being a guy that has a history of chasing impossible dreams, I’ve asked myself those kinds of questions more often than I can recall. I only realized, in hindsight, that these where the times that I would start looking more closely at “the little things” that I had been brushing aside: what I like to call, “the crumbs.”
“The crumbs” are those latent opportunities that gently beckon you to explore something new. While these “crumbs” are laying around everywhere, we often sweep them aside and categorize them as distractions. But, when the time is right, if we have the presence of mind to pick them up, and follow their trail, they will often lead us to the next stage of our journey.
Let me tell you how “picking up the crumbs” lead me away from my Anxiety and Depression, and transformed a shy guy into a vlogger.
In 2003, after losing my first real job, I started experiencing severe panic attacks with bouts of agoraphobia. I would spend the next ten years learning to cope with my anxious mind. This left me completely exhausted by the viscous anxiety cycle. My anxiety seemed to come and go like the seasons. It wasn’t until 2013 that I would realize that this wasn’t going to go away on its own. Fortunately, I still had something left, within, that kept me in the fight. There was a part of me that refused to give up. I decided that it was time to explore the options that I had previously refused to consider; time to find the courage to admit that I needed help. Being an American male, full of pride, I had been unwilling to get the help I needed. This is because, on some level, I subscribed to this absurd belief that admitting that I had an issue with anxiety, somehow, made me a broken person. But, It turned out that calling my doctor and setting up a mental health appointment – which was “the crumb” that I was sweeping aside for years – would actually have the opposite effect. It would lead me down a road towards empowerment. By giving myself the permission to challenge my beliefs, concerning my condition, my mind was now primed for additional exploration. This is when curiosity started taking over. I was now ready to look for the other “crumbs.”
One night, while working on my computer, I noticed one of these, so called, “crumbs.” It popped up in my social media feed. It was a notification that said, “Learn English.” You may be wondering why something like that would capture my attention. Well, after spending a long period of time in an anxious state, I found that my internal monologue was somewhat self destructive. Anxiety disorder is often coupled with depression. Even though I was getting the help I needed, I still wasn’t convinced that I had anything meaningful to contribute to society. But, when I saw “Learn English” appear on my screen, I thought, “Well, actually, I am a native English speaker. Maybe I can help these people.” It turned out that there were thousands of English language learners that were willing to take any help that they could get. I was ready to help, so I decided to invite users to participate in a group video chat.
I quickly made friends with language learners and, after a few weeks, one of my new friends offered to help me learn Spanish – something that I always wanted to do. We met in a video chat each week and quickly realized that we had a lot in common. In particular, we were both business savvy, having spent years working on different ventures. And, thinking like entrepreneurs, we soon decided that we would form video channels that would bridge Spanish and English language learning communities. This was the birth of MikeandJavi.com. As Javi and I started planning our videos, we realized that we had a technical problem: we both needed to record videos and somehow merge them together. It was difficult because we both used different operating systems. This is when I decided that we needed to use a common video editor. It didn’t look like there were any obvious options, so I went looking for “the crumbs.” That’s when I remembered blender.
Years earlier, I discovered a free, cross platform, program that could be used for video editing. It was called blender. It was an open source project that was mainly used for doing 3D modeling, but it also had a built-in video editor. After a day of tinkering, I decided that it had all the video editing features that I desired. Having said that, there was one problem: nobody really provided adequate instructions on how to use the video editing portion of the program. In addition, the program was far from being user friendly. That’s when I decided that it would be useful if I created a video tutorial to guide my friend, Javi, through the basics. After a couple of days evaluating the features, discovering bugs and creating workarounds, I posted a quick tutorial on my YouTube channel, for Javi to watch. This is when something amazing happened. I noticed that other people were watching and commenting on the video, and they wanted more.
There is a certain high that you get when you feel useful. It especially feels good when you have been tormented by years of negative thoughts. I liked this new feeling, so I started producing more and more in-depth tutorials. I had somehow become an authority on a subject, even though, only months earlier, I had little to no knowledge about blender. I felt like it all happened by accident. But it all happened because I was picking up “the crumbs.”
In the mean time, I’d started to go to cognitive behavioral therapy. My therapist, Lou, was meeting with me bi-monthly; and my sessions were really helping me to open up and talk about my issues. It was soon evident that the progress I made in therapy was helping me to be much more productive. Every week, I was producing listening videos in addition to developing my blender channel. I was really starting to feel like I was in control of my life again. By now, my newly discovered confidence had inspired me to continue looking for more “crumbs.” And the next “crumb” would lead me in an athletic direction.
In my grade school years, I was always athletic, but I was built more for strength than endurance. In fact, for most of my school years, there were few people that could do more pull-ups than me. But endurance based activities, like distance running, were my weakness. Due to my past experience with running, I was convinced that I would never be a runner. Looking back now, this seems kind of odd, because hiking long distance had become one of my favorite activities. For many years, I had been regularly hiking the parks, in order to help alleviate my anxiety symptoms. But, somehow, running was always out the question. Soon everything would change thanks to Javi who conveniently just happened to be a half-marathon runner. During our weekly chats, Javi would often tell stories about running races all over the world. He had run all over Europe, North and South America. His passion for running was “the crumb” that got me to challenge myself. One day, during a long hike, I decided it was time to see if I could run. I noticed a half-mile marker ahead of me on the trail. It was time to see just how far I could go. On my first try, I ran a half mile. After a few weeks, I would be running a mile straight without a problem. I can still remember the day that I ran that first mile. It felt like I had done the impossible. I was so surprised and elated that, at the moment I passed the mile marker, I felt the tears welling up. It seemed like magic – running was no longer impossible. On that day, I experienced a transformation. I went from thinking I couldn’t run to running every day.
At this point, you may be wondering what all these random things have to do with my vlog. Well, this is the funny thing about “picking up crumbs”, often, you only see how necessary they were in hindsight. But the next set of “crumbs” should help you connect the dots.
Javi and I were always looking for topics to talk about in our listening video series. Having some success with running, I felt inspired to do a video on the subject. It was customary for Javi and I to post our listening videos on Facebook. After my video went up, I received a direct message from one of my Facebook friends. She saw the video and asked me if I would be willing to write an article about how I learned to love exercise. I quickly agreed to produce an article, even though I had no idea how I was going to write it. As the days passed, I started to think about what I would write. I soon realized just how much my exercise routine was being utilized as a tool for dealing with my anxiety and depression. The article that I wrote became the first place where I publicly revealed that I had been dealing with anxiety for more than a decade.
After writing that article, I was overwhelmed by the amount of support I received from my social media friends. I was feeling empowered by my experience. That’s when I realized that my perspective on anxiety and depression mattered, and I felt like I could do so much more. But I wasn’t really sure what I should do next. Fortunately, seeing the positive response that I was receiving on Facebook, one of my closest friends, who is also an entrepreneurial mentor, asked me to consider talking about anxiety on my YouTube channel. Initially, I wasn’t sure it was appropriate. After all, my YouTube subscribers only knew me as an upbeat teacher. And I was concerned that maybe they wouldn’t accept an off-topic, raw, vlog. But I felt like “the crumbs” were beckoning me once again to try something new. And that is how I became a vlogger on YouTube.
When I look back at all the little distractions that got me here, I’m kind of amazed. All those “crumbs” needed to be discovered in order for me to get to this place in my life. It’s important to remember that we won’t always know where we’re going on our journey, but no matter where you are, if you feel like you have run out of options, there will always be “crumbs” waiting to be discovered. Keep exploring your interests. They will lead you in the right direction.
My first vlog was filmed on 11/14/2014, and it looked exactly like this:
My second vlog was filmed on 11/21/14 and is when I started filming from Nature: