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Hank Green is the benevolent leader of the Nerdfighters, a massive community of YouTube fans and creators. With his brother John, their VlogBrothers channel grew to over 2.2 million subscribers in seven years, leading to the creation of his own record label, online charity, crowdfunding platform, a dozen successful YouTube channels, and VidCon, the world’s largest convention about online video for fans and creators.

Recorded in September 2014 at XOXO, an arts and technology festival in Portland, Oregon celebrating independent artists using the Internet to make a living doing what they love. For more, visit

Video thumbnail by Ian Linkletter:

Intro Music: Broke for Free, "Only Instrumental"
Announcer: Hank Green, everybody.

Hank Green: Thank you. This is—oh, man. This has been so fantastic, thank you Andy and Andy, and all of you, like, this is a very big honor to be on the stage with all of the amazing people who have been on this stage so far. Uh, and thank you for sitting while the heat from the person sitting next to you gets closer, so, and you feel and it's just. I'm gonna do something, there's people in the room right now that are wearing really big shoes. I'm gonna do something that you, you maybe wanna try: just taking them off. Me, like, I'm pretty confident that no one is close enough to smell this right now. You may not be, but it's SO much better. It's just there, it's good to have four points of radiation.

Um, so. I make internet video. I, uh, have been doing it fairly successfully. We started about eight years ago, coming up on our eight—eighth anniversary. Um, and, uh, it's a, it's a weird thing because when we started there was of course no way to monetize it and there wasn't a lot of people to watch it. But, uh, so that's the, that's the right time to get into things apparently, back when like nobody else is there. Uh, so uh, I did some calculations recently. Uh, our videos have been viewed 800 million times. Which is, we're working our way up to that big "B" you guys. And, uh, and if you—about five minutes on average is the watch time for those videos (they don't watch the whole video, assholes), and—and so I, it's four, four billion minutes, uh, there's an expression you may have heard called "killing time." Killing time is what you do in between the thing you're doing now and the thing that you have to do, but there's not really enough time to do anything useful, so you're going to kill that time. It's a bizarrely apt phrase, because human lives are made of time, and so in killing that time you are literally killing yourself. Like, little pieces of it, but you're killing little pieces of yourself, which has made me think about the fact that I have killed four billion minutes of human lifetime, which turns out to be eighty-five lives. Which is not a thing that, once you've done the math, you can sort of un-know. And you're sitting there in bed at night, thinking "have I done eighty-five human lifetimes of good? No, not really." Uh, and that can kind of hurt. Uh, and but to be clear, uh, we kill together, me and my brother. I kill slightly more people than John does, 'cause of Scishow, which he doesn't work on, uh, but, but, we uh, we kill sort of as a joint team. Um, though honestly he's probably killed way more people if you count the freaking book. This was a really weird thing that just happened in my community, is that my brother wrote a book that became very successful.

But we've killed mostly, uh, teenagers, high school and college students. Really even mix between male and female, which I'm proud of. And recently, I think the coolest thing is if you do the math, we have recently killed our first member of the greatest generation. Which is a difficult thing to do on the internet. Unless you're Juno. Or, I guess Yahoo, I'm not sure, where do they go?

Um, but this is all by way of establishing my credibility right now. I'm, uh, not going to talk about how I got here because I think it's a very much of a lottery situation where I have no idea how I did it. If you want to get popular on Youtube, get a time machine, go back seven years into the past and then start a Youtube channel then because I don't know how to do it now. Um, I guess it's a two-step process. Earlier, we had a three-step process, earlier today, and that was like "no, I can do better than that, two steps." First: Build an extremely engaged community of pe—like, 200,000 minimum—people who care about you deeply and want to support the things that you do and have very, like, their values resonate very well with yours, and then uh, and then that's the first step. Second step, is just use them. Just exploit the crap out of them and be like, "hey, I'm doing this other thing, you want to do that? Ahh, I'm going to do this other thing over here." And like, as long as it resonates with the sort of central values of the community, then, you know. Like, all of these things have started to work out. Like, I do a, like, we converted Pride and Prejudice into a video blog, and we started an online video conference and a crowdfunding platform and a charity and like all these things wouldn't be possible—like, the only reason I can do this thing is 'cause I have this weird tool of 200,000 crazy excited people who are enthusiastic about things on the internet. And we, like, sort of agree about what "good" is.

Um, so, I want to talk about that. But I sort of did, now you know that stuff. Uh, but broadly, I wanted to talk about some stuff that I feel like I have learned that, uh, hopefully will be useful to you. It would have been useful to me to know this earlier, so I want to talk about your dreams.