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The Most Interesting Thing I've Ever Done


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View count: 257,682
Rating: 15,916 likes, 156 dislikes
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Duration: 06:35
Uploaded: December 30, 2016
Information as of 2017-01-11 02:00



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Join us in celebrating 10 years of Nerdfighteria in Boston: http://www.nerdconnerdfighteria.com

I went over-time on this video, but I still don't know that I was able to do this topic any sort of justice. First, I have to say that I said "I" a lot in the first paragraph because I was focusing on my own life but, of course, I had a lot of help doing those things I did (most of all from John.)

Second...we've had ups and downs in the strength of this community, and it's also a certain amount of scary for me when it seems like the focus of it is not as much values and goals, but me or John as people. There's a weird line between being the doorway into something bigger and more interesting and getting...stuck in the doorway.

I want you to like me, but I don't want you to be here for me. I want you to be here for whatever message I'm sharing that day, whether it's one of joy and silliness, or of compassion, or of knowledge.

But I also think I can sometimes be distracted from the importance of what we're doing here on Vlogbrothers by all of the new things that this community has allowed us to do. And since Vlogbrothers is still just me and John, while our other things have whole teams, it's easy to get dragged into those things by the great ideas those teams are having.

Which is a bummer, because I don't want to be distracted from our work trying to figure out how cohesive and constructive community can find new ways to exist as the old ways are working for fewer and fewer people.

Thank you for an amazing 10 years...good god, how lucky am I...

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Good morning, John.

Two days from now will be the tenth anniversary of the first Vlogbrothers video being uploaded to YouTube. There were people who watched that video when they were eleven-year-olds, who can now get drunk! In those ten years, I have done a lot of things that dreams are made of. I made so many amazing friends, I toured in a rock band, I played Carnegie Hall, I bought my first home, I grew up, stayed young, created VidCon, and SciShow, and Crash Course, helped other amazing, talented creators turn their visions into real things, I became a bobblehead, invented 2D glasses, and I interviewed the President.

But of all the things that we've done in the last ten years, the thing that I'm most proud of is this community, and I know that that sounds hokey and made up but let me explain. We are in a time of cultural upheaval. Now, that's probably true of everyone who's ever lived, but it seems particularly strong right now. The internet is gonna have an unknowable effect on human culture, and I think that effect is gonna be huge and it's gonna be both positive and negative. The thing that's been occupying my mind a lot lately, and this isn't just the internet, this has been going on for a long time, is the disappearance of traditional structures for community. And that so far, not a lot has taken the place of those structures, except for just die hard individualism. And there are good things that come from that, but I think it's also sort of resulted in an explosion of distrust among people. And an explosion of cynicism, especially in young people.

I don't like the idea that the only thing you can put your faith is yourself, because one, it's not true. And two, where does it leave us in those moments that we all have when we don't actually like ourselves that much. And those moment might be getting more common as we see all of these people on the internet with their perfect lives and their pretty faces and their giant travel budgets and all their followers. I don't want individualism to go away, nor do I think I could make that happen. But it's so new and so different and so pervasive that there aren't a lot of structures to help it exist while also not destroying society.

Now, that's a big statement that's based on not a lot of research, but I don't think it's controversial to say we need new community structures. Now, lot of people would and have said that John and I, we are leaders of a community. And of course in many ways, that is true. But I honestly believe that more than being a leader of this community, I am a follower of it. So for ten years, we've tried to build a place where people can be comfortable and excited and enthusiastic in a tumultuous and weird moment in history. But we have not done that by seeing this target ten years off and charging straight through the forest at it. We didn't knew what we're doing. We didn't knew how to do it. I do what I am being told to do. When people leave comments and they say, "This was my favorite video ever," when people say "Thank you, this really helped me," or "I feel like a better person after watching this video." that's how we choose what we do.

I am being lead through this process. I don't know what I'm doing. But somehow over these ten years, by wanting to do this, and by listening, we have created a community that provides joy and connection and value and even meaning for a lot of people, definitely for me, that doesn't look like any of the previous things that were community. I gotta go back and say individualism is great, like we need it, we need to believe in ourselves, we need to give that power to the individual people. But we can't also discard community.

Striking that balance is a huge challenge that we need to face right now. Because there are big problems that need to be faced, not by these leaderless collectives that we have seen, where the individuals have tons of energy, but there's no cohesive community to focus that energy. We need to figure out how to be both leaders and followers. How to be both ourselves and part of something bigger than ourselves. We've spent ten years trying to figure out how to do that, it's hard. It's complicated. The model doesn't exist.

And this is why I say that Nerdfighteria is the most interesting thing that I have ever been a part of. It is a model for that. We have had the time to try the things out. We figured out some things that worked and some things that haven't, and other people elsewhere have also figured those things out. And they also lead us.

People from Mark Twain to Vi Hart, from Michelle Obama to Ze Frank, from Reinhold Niebuhr to Nathan Zed. Like, wide varieties of amazing people. I really think that we need to find the tools for how to do this and we need to find them pretty quick.

So I look underneath the ten years of the amazing things that we've done, like things that are in the news and people talked about, and, like, people respect us for. But underneath all of it is this thing that's confusing and hard to understand and amorphous that is this community. That no one understands how big of a deal it is, how interesting it is, and how, maybe, important it is.

So when I say that Nerdfighteria is the thing that I'm most proud of, of all the very cool things that I've been able to do, I'm not saying that as some kind of, like, you know, slogan to try and, like, increase enthusiasm for the community, though absolutely I want that. I'm not saying that just as, like, a cheerleader for the values of this community, although I am also one of those. I'm saying it, because it's a model for how we build community in a distributed, internet-based, hyper-individualized world, which, at the moment, we have very few of. Which is why I am obsessed with this and I'm so proud to be a part of it and I want to say to everybody who has watched, who has participated over the last ten years, thank you for being my leader.

Also, what I'm saying is, this video is longer than four minutes, isn't it? And, I couldn't do anything about that. Not made a lot of overtime videos, I'm doing it right now. Because, I just... I couldn't. And also I had, at the end, I wanted to say that this community is getting together in the real world for our first, like, this is a central place that we're trying to get as many Nerdfighters in the same place at the same time for, in Boston, February 25th and 26th at NerdCon: Nerdfighteria. And I hope very much that as many people who can come will come, because I know that being in the real world with people is an important part of community and it's an important part of me learning about this community and being lead by it.

And also those two things, they mesh together so well, this long video and NerdCon: Nerdfighteria, I have a great chance, an opportunity if you will, to get punished in front of people. And so I've decided that I'm gonna do that. So this video's too long. Punishment coming, we will record it and upload it, but people at NerdCon: Nerdfighteria will get to see it live. Not sure what it's going to be yet, but I will be punished. It's been a while and I'm looking forward to seeing some folks in February. 

John, I'll see you on Tuesday.
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