Retrospective: My Fifth Year on YouTube

For the past 4 years, I have made a habit of reflecting on the previous year and set goals for the new year. This year is no exception, but now I try to set better goals while reflecting on some personal things in life.

Previous years: 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020.

Stats for 2020

Let’s start with the raw statistics for 2020 and see how they compare to the year before:

  • Fifth-year on YouTube (up from 4 years 🤪)
  • 30 new videos uploaded (↗️ up from 11 last year)
  • 3,796,678 views (↗️ up from 3,245,598 last year)
  • 53,055 new subscribers (↗️ up from 38,264 last year)
  • 3:28 average time watched (↗️ up from 3:27)
  • 8 members on YouTube (launched last year)

I’m pretty happy with these numbers.

(Achieved) Goals from 2019

Last year I set myself these goals:

  • Reach 200k subscribers (46k to go)
  • Find my rhythm again and produce more videos.
  • Make some tutorials again!
  • Bring this website & Simply Explained close together

I did manage to reach 200,000 subscribers, and I did find the time to make a new tutorial series (ESP32 programming).

Making more videos was also achieved, although this comes with a caveat. I published 30 new videos in 2020, but 19 of those were part of the ESP32 programming series. Bringing the count of “real” Simply Explained episodes to just 11, which happens to be the same amount as last year.

I wasn’t able to dedicate more time to my YouTube channel due to various side-projects. But that’s life!

As for my website: I did manage to redesign the homepage so it draws attention to my blog posts as well as my videos.

Goals for 2021

Setting new goals is always tricky. Last year, I listened to an episode of The Knowledge Project with Naval Ravikant, the CEO and co-founder of AngelList. It turns out that there’s a lot about happiness, society, and wealth that we can learn from him.

When writing this blog post, I was reminded of a quote of his:

Figure out what you’re good at, and start helping other people with it. Give it away. Pay it forward. Karma works because people are consistent. On a long enough timescale, you will attract what you project. But don’t measure—your patience will run out if you count. - Naval Ravikant

Don’t measure

His last sentence is very important: “don’t measure”. I’ve fallen for the numbers game too often. Settings goals for how many subscribers I should reach or how many views a new video should get. However, these goals aren’t doing me any good (and now I understand why).

I would feel bad about myself when a video “only” got a few thousand views. Am I not making the right kind of content? Should I only make content related to cryptocurrencies (which are some of my most popular videos))? Or should I stick to making videos about hot topics?

Making videos and educating people is something that I love to do. Simply Explained is my hobby, something I love to work on, but that doesn’t feel like actual work. But making videos that are requested by others is less fun and almost feels like work. Likewise, making videos about hot topics brings a certain pressure. You want to be one of the first to cover something new, but how long does that “newness” last?

This year, I will try not to focus on numbers and instead to work on the things I love.

Actual goals

So here are my actual goals for 2021:

  • Stay healthy (so far so good!) and keep up the regular exercise
  • Make more videos Making more videos should not be a goal in itself. Instead, I want to structurally “solve” this problem by carving out more time to work on my videos, like dedicating 1 day a week to only YouTube and not focus on any of my side projects.
  • Finally, a more concrete goal: migrate this website from Jekyll to Eleventy, and start using Tailwind CSS.

That’s it. No goals for subscriber count or view counts. Simply Explained is my hobby, my side-project. I don’t depend on the money it generates. So it should be all about me and what I love: educating people on whatever topic I find interesting. Sounds a bit selfish, but I believe it’s the only way for me to stay creative and have fun while doing it.

Introspective

To round up this post, I wanted to do a little introspective. Fellow YouTuber, Ali Abdaal, does this every year and published a list of questions that can help you get started. Here are a few that I choose to answer and publish on this blog:

When have you felt proud of yourself in 2020? what were you doing?

I’ll highlight two occasions. First, when we moved to our new house, I felt really proud of having achieved this (don’t get me wrong: it’s not a mansion). I feel proud to own my home and be able to renovate it and change it to our likings.

Secondly, I felt really proud of the video I made about mRNA vaccines. I always make videos about technology, and stepping out of this comfort zone was scary but very rewarding.

How did you suffer differently in 2020?

I’m not sure if “suffer” is the right word for it, but I did struggle with the whole pandemic and lockdown situation. This might sound weird, but I didn’t like to work from home.

Before COVID, I went to the office every day, which put my mind in a “work mode”. That fell away when I had to work from home. It took some time for me to re-active that “work mode”. The lines between personal time and work-time got blurred.

However, once I got a good routine going, I started loving working from home. It saves me so much time. I don’t have to commute, and I can be more flexible with my working hours. For instance: during the dark winter months, I prefer to go running just before lunch, while the sun is out, and work a bit longer in the evening.

What new habits did you create in 2020? Which ones would you want to keep?

To fight the boredom of being locked in our homes, my girlfriend and I started going for long walks. We follow pre-made routes that we find on the internet, and we’ve discovered beautiful places in and around the city we live in.

It’s very peaceful - and even therapeutic - to walk for 2 hours with your significant other. We’ve talked about so much stuff that we otherwise don’t. Definitely a habit I’d like to keep!

Thanks

As always, I want to thank everyone that has watched any of my videos or read one of my blog posts. Your support really means a lot to me!

Feel free to reach out to me, say hi, or ask a question. I can be reached in the comments and on Twitter.

Stay safe, stay healthy, and enjoy the new year!

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