Episode 6: Jon Youshaei on What Content Takes Off And How To Pay Your Success Forward

When you work on your passion with persistence, it will take off. Jon Youshaei is someone who has always believed in this and is now working to pay the success he has forward. Jon is a YouTube marketing manager who works with the biggest creators who have between one to ten million subscribers and help them grow on their platform. He tells us more about how he started in the industry he’s currently in and how he was able to learn what takes off. As founder of the cartoon series, Every Vowel, and a writer for Forbes and Time magazine, Jon also discloses how we can make a difference in our lives through following our passion and helping people along.

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Jon Youshaei on What Content Takes Off And How To Pay Your Success Forward

As everybody knows, this show is very casual. It’s creating a lifestyle. At the same time, we’re giving you access to those that you normally wouldn’t have access to. Not from the standpoint of we’re better than anybody else, but the standpoint of maybe we’ve done more or something in a way that we have something to bring and teach. If you remember the difference between a coach and a mentor, a coach is somebody very simply going to kick your behind to get you where you need to go. A mentor is somebody who potentially is there already. They’re where you want to be. It could be the lifestyle, it could be financially, it could be a business they’re in. It could be a model of a business, whatever that is for you. We’re going to bring the best of the best to The Mentor Studio. With that, I have a gentleman who’s got a tremendous story and a background. He’s actually working with one of the top channels out there. It’s amazing how we don’t know how we sometimes find our way to where we get to, but we know there’s a mission and a journey. I’d like to introduce Jon Youshaei. How are you doing, Jon?

I’m doing good. Thanks so much, Michael. It’s a pleasure to be on here.

It’s great to have you on. Jon and I just met. Do you know how when you meet somebody and there’s that little click and you know that’s the person? There’s something about them I want to work with or they have the right attitude that fits for the mission you’re on. That’s when I met Jon. Jon, that was it right away. It was great. Tell us a little bit about your background.

I work at YouTube on our influencer and creator marketing team. Basically that’s a fancy way of saying I work with our biggest creators between one to ten million subscribers to help them grow on the platform and also get their thoughts on how we can be doing better and innovating to stay ahead of the curve on all things video. It’s also been fascinating being in this role for years to learn from some of these big media moguls and how they’ve built their empires with a very nimble team, sometimes just themselves. I could be able to do the same in addition to my job. Now, I’m a writer for Forbes and Time magazine. You may have seen some of my articles, they’ve gotten 1.5 million views now on three of them. I have no formal writing background. I have been able to learn what takes off and how to tell a great story, both through writing as well as through cartoons, believe it or not.

Another big thing that I’ve been working on is I’ve started this cartoon series called Every Vowel. It’s a cartoon series where these alphabet letters, these vowels, work in an office together. The hero is the letter Y because he sometimes feels like a vowel, sometimes he doesn’t. He goes through that identity crisis as so many of us feel. It’s taken off. I now have 400,000 subscribers to that cartoon series. It’s been featured in TED Talks that have gotten millions of views. Different startups and corporations have used it in their trainings and have hung it up around their offices. People have called it the Dilbert for this generation. It has been crazy to take these childhood dreams and see them actualize in the real world and to see social media allow all of this stuff to take off. By helping creators at my day job at YouTube, but also being a writer for Forbes and Time magazine and having this cartoon series take off, it’s been an absolute pleasure to see some of my wildest dreams come true and do it with the help of a ton of mentors and hopefully be able to pay it forward here. That’s why it’s a pleasure to be on.

It’s great to have you on too because I love it that your background has so many different aspects to it and in a way I think it went certain directions that you weren’t even aware that it might go. I want to talk a little bit about the cartoon series because when you mentioned that part, I feel that’s like almost become a love of your life. That’s the feeling I get from that. If you take a look at the end in mind, how we develop and we create things, was that part of your plan? If we talked five years ago, would you have said this series was going to do this and this is what you wanted to do? What was the plan?

No, not at all. I would say that people always know their plan, but it may not be top of mind. People say, “Listen to your heart.” I think that’s great advice. My advice on top of that is listen to your heart when you were a kid. What did you believe in? What did you enjoy then? If you looked in my notebooks when I was in grade school, it has some notes on Algebra, some notes on geometry and then reams and reams of papers of cartoons. I went to business school, an undergrad at the Wharton School, I was getting into finance and all these things. That’s great. There’s a place for them. My real passion was art. I think it took me getting older and then seeing some of these creators at YouTube listening to their heart and listening to what they were passionate about is doing as a kid for me to be able to do the same thing and internalize it and go back to my roots and put that out there in an authentic way. It surprised me the way it’s been able to take off. I attribute it to that 100%.

People confuse prestige with passion. Click To Tweet

Is there a particular motto or something that you live by that keeps you moving forward? You’re in an industry that sometimes eats people up. Let’s be honest. We felt it does. What keeps you driving forward every day?

I remember this quote. It’s more of a question, “Who were you before the world told you who to be?” People confuse prestige with passion. They’re not the same thing. Being passionate about something and following your dreams can lead to prestige. It doesn’t have to, but the big question is what do you do when nobody’s watching? What do you do to procrastinate? There’s probably something in there that you’re very good at and uniquely good at and it’s about listening to that and putting in their consistent work to be able to put it out. I remember back when I first started the cartoon series, I told myself I’m putting out a cartoon every Monday. I’m on EveryVowel.com and then on Every Vowel on Facebook and LinkedIn.

I remember I was scrambling one Sunday night to finish this cartoon. It was basically how associates write emails and how executives write emails. The long-winded email from associates, “I was wondering if you can maybe take a look at this attachment when you have the time,” is rambling versus the senior executive in the cartoon. It was like, “Thoughts? See attachment.” I was like, “This is a nice cartoon. We’ll see how it does.” It got 94,000 likes on LinkedIn, 17,000 likes on Facebook. My Facebook presence took off, my LinkedIn presence took off. I think it was because I was committing myself to the craft that I was so passionate about as a kid and consistently putting out new cartoons every Monday, which to this day I’ve done. I chalk it up a lot to that.

As we see people who are successful, there’s that persistence because success doesn’t happen immediately. You have that, you have the people and we know that something hit big, the one start wonders. It is that persistence piece that keeps moving you forward. When you started down this road, you didn’t have a million fans already, is that correct?

Correct.

Like all of us, you just started. The difference is you started and you were consistent and that you kept that pattern going.

Believe me when I say, getting your first hundred fans is the hardest thing in the world. It’s harder to get a hundred fans than it is 1,000 and 10,000. It’s getting that initial base of people beyond your grandma, beyond your mom and beyond these people who will root for you regardless is the hardest thing. Once it comes, it compounds. Be ready for that. It’s closer than you think.

TMS 6 | Pay It Forward
Pay It Forward: If you’re being the most unconventional and the most different, there’s always room for you to be the best.

 

It is that persistence part that we say. I also like that you treat it like a business. Did you create a business plan around it? Something kept you moving forward to do it every single Monday, to do it every week, to do whatever that was. In your mind, it’s the love of your life but it’s still a business.

My business school teachers back in undergrad would probably not like me saying this but no, I didn’t have a business plan around it. I know that every time I put out a new cartoon, I got positive feedback and I gave myself a horizon. I’m like, “I’m going to try this for six months to a year and see how it goes.” People say, “I want to be the best of this, the best of that.” I don’t believe there’s such a thing. I think there’s enough room to be the best at different things. If you’re being the most unconventional and the most different, I always believe there’s room for you. I see now when people are trying to give business and career advice, they’re writing these lengthy articles and they’re doing a lot of things that have already been done. Putting them in cartoon format and trying to mix laughter with learning, obviously people have done that before, it’s more of a unique take that when people see the cartoons, they notice them and they share them. That’s been cool to see and that’s what’s kept me going.

If you saw yourself five years from now, where would you be?

I like to never answer that question because I have no idea. I think that’s one of the most exciting things. I did one small internship at an investment bank and I remember they were like, “In ten years, if you do this you’ll be promoted.” I’m like, “That is the scariest thought to me to have an idea of where you’re going to be.” I’d rather have no ceilings and continue putting out good work and helping anybody I can. I believe that good karma will come around.

I actually liked something you said there about helping other people. How important is that for you as your career is taking off?

That’s everything because I wouldn’t be here if people didn’t help me out. I believe in the pay it forward model. A ton of great people took time on me when they had no reason to. That’s why whenever somebody reaches out, whenever somebody sends an email, I try to help out in any way that I can. In fact, if anybody’s reading this and if there’s any way I can be helpful as you’re trying to get your career off the ground, if you’re looking to work at a tech company, if you’re thinking about getting your own content series out there, honestly don’t hesitate to reach out. My email address is literally [email protected]. Email me, I promise I’ll respond and I’m happy to help any way I can and put you in touch with anybody that I can. I’m no barriers with that.

That’s a great thing that you put out there because it is about giving back. I think that makes a difference in our lives. That’s what it’s about because it is that pay it forward and it also leaves that legacy. It leaves that piece of that we’ve touched more people in the world. Look at how many people you’ve touched now. Look how many people that you’ve created a difference and you don’t know what that means to them. They could bring money to your cartoons, but it’s not just a cartoon. I know what you’re doing. They could read that one thing and maybe it’s a better way that they treat somebody around them or even as far to as they see that they can now do what they want to do and what they love in their life.

It's harder to get 100 fans than it is to get 1,000 and 10,000. Click To Tweet

It’s a ripple effect.

Any last things for our readers, even from a little perspective of giving them a little bit of homework? It can be from any of the channels that you work with. We’re going to have illustrators, we’re going to have people who want to break into the cartoon industry, people who want to write children’s books, people who want to be on TV or whatever that is. Any advice about a homework piece they can do or somewhere to start?

I’d say this and it’s more of a thought exercise. It comes from my good friend, Kenny, who always says, “Think about your eulogy, not your resume.” What do you want people to say when you know your time has come? What will people talk about? Will they talk about the trophies and accolades or will they talk about all the times you helped them? If you’re trying to go into content specifically, think about it this way or at least this is how it’s been helpful for me to think about it. Content is simply mentorship at scale. If you could offer thoughts that had been helpful on a one-to-one basis, perhaps over a coffee chat, and that’s resonated with the person that’s sitting across from you, there’s probably a nugget in there that you could take and put it into an article, a podcast, a cartoon, a book, whatever it may be that somebody else around the world will also benefit from. At that point, it’s about consistency and having a format. There are already things that I see in many of the YouTube stars that I work with before they became this big or before I saw some of my teachings have value and viewership in places like Forbes and Time or on the Every Vowel blog. It all started with trying to help somebody on a one-to-one basis and then thinking, “How can I help more people at scale?”

This has been awesome, not only the enthusiasm of what you’re creating and what you’re doing, but from a young position to be able to say it is about creating and helping others. That’s all it’s about and that makes a difference and offering up yourself. By the way, for those of you that joined us at The Mentor Studio, you’ll be seeing more of Jon. He is brilliant at what he does. Listen to some of the words. I’ve been in this industry a long time and there are some things you said that I’m thinking right away, “We’ve got to get this man on stage,” so we’re going to have a further conversation from that perspective. Jon, thank you for your time. I appreciate it. You took time out of your very busy schedule. I know you’ll be working more with us and we’ll be spending more time and getting to know each other and the readers, getting to know you in many different ways. Any last words before I let this thing go?

Whoever is reading, if you have an idea, stop waiting. Get it out there. There are tons of people around the world who want to help you see it happen. I think Michael is a great example. I can hopefully help in any way that I can. Don’t hesitate to reach out. Ask, don’t wait and get after it. I assure you that amazing things will happen.

Ask, don’t wait and get after it. I love it. That’s what we’ll be doing. Thank you, Jon. Thank you all for reading. Wherever you are in the world, we appreciate you spending your time because we know your time is as important as ours. I know you’ve learned something from Jon and take his words because they’re their wise words. Jon, thank you so much.

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About Jon Youshaei

TMS 6 | Pay It ForwardJon Youshaei, is a Google product marketer and graduate of The Wharton School, where he served as class president and represented 2,500 students. As a first-generation Persian-American, he’s amazed by this country’s opportunities, especially for people his age.

Today’s 20-somethings truly have the potential to do big things. In writing for Forbes, his mission is to make sure we don’t settle for anything less. He’ll share insights that will immediately improve your life. He’ll interview passionate, proven leaders who will inspire you. But he can’t do this alone, which is why he’s excited to have you here.

 

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