You're Lazy, And What's Worse: You Don't Even Know It

We’re all working hard. We all shoot as much as we can — a lot of it for free or little pay. We do our studies or go to work and try our best to stay in shape and take care of ourselves. There are a lot of hard-working people in the world. But most are quite lazy inhabitants of this planet; and odds are that you’re one of them.

I’m not going to discuss what I don’t mean in this article…you can glean that information from what I do mean.

This business of ours — it’s not easy. It’s a lot of emails, a ton of sitting behind a desk… It’s a crap-load of things that aren’t photography. But when it comes to creating new work, too many people are stuck in a perpetual fog behind the computer, reading about what to do as opposed to being out and doing.

In one of his fairly recent vlogs, Casey Neistat (who is impossibly yet very arguably besting Chase Jarvis as “Photographer of Greatest Current Internet Fame, Mass Fan Appeal, and General Career Envy" at the moment) answered a fan’s question that addressed a common concern of any budding photographer/videographer/creative: "How do you always have a brilliant idea for your videos?”

Neistat’s response: “Thanks for the compliment. I don’t always have a brilliant idea. If you were to reduce any one of my movies down to a single idea, you would find a perfectly mediocre idea. It’s the execution that matters, never the idea.”

Here's another Neistatism worth noting:

To say that it’s “never the idea” is so contradictory to what is embedded into our society today. Everyone is always looking for the next big idea.

But Neistat hit on a very important note. He said something that was so quickly -- and, quite frankly, scarily -- placed in what is the relatively dimly-lit, quiet, soft-spoken, and under-viewed part of the world that is Neistat's vlog in relation to how important this really is that something had to be called out and has to be shared. It's a correction the entire world needs to record and that everyone should absolutely listen to as he or she develops a career: execution is all that matters.

Someone is always going to have a good idea. Some good ideas are simply old ideas that are tweaked a little. But it’s always the execution of any idea that gives long, lasting, prosperous life to a particular company or product. Netflix isn’t the only streaming service or the only way to see the films it offers (except for us House of Cards fans, anyway). It merely does it better than just about anyone else.

When one watches Neistat’s recent vlogs (of which he has committed to doing every day until he’s bored or tired of it — essentially indefinitely), it's not hard to get the sense that Neistat is anything but lazy. He gets up at who-knows-what hour in the morning (apparently 5:55 a.m. most mornings, as revealed later in his vlogs), goes for a ten-mile round-trip run every morning with little exception (being sure to travel five miles in only one direction so it’s more difficult/impossible for him to cut it short), takes care of his family, takes care of his usual work, reluctantly but consistently answers to emails, and never lets up with the techniques he uses to record what is at first glance an arguably silly vlog. That last one is key.

Using an iPhone, a GoPro, a Canon 5D Mark III, a Canon G7 X, and likely a few others that will enter the mix as time goes, Neistat records not one, but three time lapses, takes the time on his runs and throughout his day to set up multiple camera angles to keep things interesting, and finds/applies new music from artists he works with or appreciates for every single five- to nine-minute daily vlog. None of those are easy, quick shortcuts.

As fun and "cool" as Neistat is, it’s not the vlogs themselves that are necessarily so interesting — not at all. They’re simply a series of clips that are piecemealed together to form what is ultimately an entirely entertaining and gradually more addictive series of short films, all thanks to the work that goes into them. It’s the new music in the background, the constantly refreshing camera angles, and the time-lapses that allow the quirky new things he chooses to record every day to stay interesting.

I’ve seen countless amateurs and professionals alike say things like, “No, don’t worry. I think we’re okay with the shot (read: angle) we have,” or, “No, I'll just hand-hold it. That's fine,,” or even, “We only have the one DSLR, so we’ll have to make do.”

The time has come where we can use clips from our smaller cameras and especially from our phones. Neistat uses his iPhone for the portions of his runs. He doesn’t bring a tripod with him in those cases, but that doesn’t stop him from using curbs, trash cans, and chain-link fences on which to prop up his phone, run back so he can run past his own phone taking a shot, and then go back to pick it up again. It’s all incredibly simple and likely takes an extra, measly minute.

But so few would go through the trouble. Well, that “trouble” could be — should be — your bread and butter. And your clients are noticing — they’re noticing the other guys that are taking that extra step.

So the next time you begin to think to yourself that it's not worth the extra weight, or baggage, or forty seconds of unfolding, or general effort, do your viewers, clients, and future fans a favor: shut up and do it anyway. Life is about forming good habits -- something that Neistat has obviously done so well and something that anyone can do by making the effort every day. If you need help getting started in the beginning, it's okay to simply listen to Nike: Just do it. But please, please, please just stop being so lazy: I want to be lazy while I sit back and engorge myself on your awesome work.

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11 Comments

Bob Bell's picture

Bang on! I've been super lazy for a while now but having watched Caseys Vlogs for the past few weeks I've been inspired, like you say, to just do it.
I've wrote my plan this afternoon (see picture) with reasons why I'm gonna do it.

Jasper Verolme's picture

Exactly, I am kind of in a 3 month period to a job interview wich can change my whole career. Until that time I don't have to work really.. Watching casey's vlog's makes me realize why the hell get lazy sit still etc, just keep going, and make new content.

Bob Bell's picture

Go for it mate! And good luck :)

Grant Beachy's picture

Bravo. This is also the way that new photographers can set themselves apart from the pack. The photo (and every) community is full of dreamers, but not nearly as many doers. Thanks for a good reminder.

Andrew Griswold's picture

Dude, this is incredible. Just wrapping my recent post about Casey and his work its fun to see a more deep talk on this subject. The dudes got it down and feels it out for every single day he shoots. The daily vlogs have been a very cool way for me to see even further into his process and how he puts things together. Great post bud!

Adam Ottke's picture

Thanks. Yeah, his vlogs have done the EXACT same things for me. It was an excellent reminder. It's rather amazing how much something so awesomely huge (or so little, depending on how you look at it) can really impact you in a just a few minutes on YouTube. It definitely helped me. Even told my girlfriend: time for Adam 3.0.

Michael Comeau's picture

Not that I would have listened at the time, but I would love to tell my 23-year old self:

STOP THINKING. START DOING.

George Pahountis's picture

Amazing person, truly unique character

I'd highly recommend reading Anything You Want by Derek Sivers; it's a short read on basic but refreshing small businesses principles. He's got a great diagram on why ideas are meaningless without execution: essentially that quality of your execution is a multiplier of the quality of your idea.

Chris Adval's picture

Yea I've been lazy but in the past I've tried youtube videos. Not sure if this is any different than daily vlogs or not but youtube videos didnt do so well, some did well some didn't which is obvious as different ideas interest different people. Also it was more of a distraction from my photography but just for this post I am more encouraged to photograph more than video more. My craft in photography is beyond more important to me.

Adam Ottke's picture

You have some good points. I think a big part to Neistat's success is in the videos he first made popular. Those gained him a following that allow his current vlogs to be more popular than they otherwise might be. So it's probably not the best idea to compare "anyone's" YouTube experience to Neistat's (I mean...go for it....but it'll probably just make you feel bad :-)). In any case, YouTube and/or doesn't have to be your medium either, as you've figured out. I'm glad you're now more encouraged to shoot more one way or the other.