MrBeast: 3 creativity lessons (Lex Fridman interview)

Notes from MrBeast’s interview with Lex Fridman.

Consume a lot (and filter with taste built through obsession)

MrBeast talks about his obsession and building taste and how he thinks of new ideas. He compares his mind to a neural network. All of the things that he’s taking in help to inspire him, and that’s where he finds the inspiration for future videos.

“You need just a constant stream of ideas. And the only way I’ve really found that I can consistently come up with a hundred million view videos is to intake inspiration and then see what my brain outputs.” — MrBeast

Lex asks if he’s generating the video, the title, the thumbnail, all of that jointly in his head.

And I think that’s the interesting part here as far as being specific to Mr. Beast, is that he thinks with these three components in mind. Someone whose life has been spent making music, that they’re thinking in different components.

Someone aiming for traditional media, they’re not thinking in thumbnails and short videos.

They’re thinking bigger in scope.

That said, what makes Mr. Beast different is that the scope of his videos has become huge. The productions for his videos rival that of traditional studios in TV and movies further on

Lex: the video, the title, the thumbnail, jointly, Right?

MrBeast: Exactly. And that only comes because I spent 10 years of my life just obsessively studying all that stuff.

From “Laws of Creativity” by Joey Cafone

…however it makes sense, begin to amass a targeted library for the task at hand. As you do so, keep in mind the following principles,

Volume: Gather a lot. Don’t find two examples and move on. Instead, grab dozens. The more you find the better (as long as it is in the literal sense, inspiring).

Contrast: Make sure that you don’t just gather many things, but many different things. The more unrelated and varied, the better.

MrBeast talks about this, he’s just taking in so much stuff.

The variety that YouTube has helps nail this volume and contrast aspect of things.

All of that goes into his mind where he’s built taste and thinking in the components of a YouTube video.

As Lex said. The video, the thumbnail, the title, and then that gets compressed into an idea. Then he writes a bunch of those ideas down and then continues to do that filtering again.

Just starting out? Make 100 videos (and improve something with each one)

First he addresses this idea that some people come out flying out of the gate.

MrBeast: There are very freak cases like Emma Chamberlain who have really good personalities and it doesn’t take them so as many videos and it’s just like people who are seven, five and making the NBA like, yes, there are freak cases you can find, but for the average person like us, you know, who don’t have these exceptional personalities and you know, backgrounds in filmmaking, just make  100 videos, improve something each time. And then talk to me on your 101st video.

I thought this was the best actionable advice from the podcast as far as doing anything. Specifically for if you want to create something online, is start making things.

He’s talking about this common case where people will plan and plan and plan. You want your first video to be a hit. But the first video is really not going to get any views.

You have to get the repetitions in. Just make 100 videos. Improve something each time.

The book I’ll recommend here is “The First 20 Hours” by Josh Kaufman. It’s a book about learning. And he goes through how he tried to learn a few different things and comes up with this framework and he says, these are the five steps to learning something.

1.) Deciding exactly what you want to be able to do.
2.) Deconstructing a skill into the. Smallest possible = sub-skills.
3.) Learning enough about each sub skill to be able to practice intelligently and self-correcting during practice.
4.) Removing physical, mental and emotional barriers that get in the way of practice.
5.) Practicing the most important sub-skills for at least 20 hours

Or for 100 videos.

If we step right back through this, deciding what you wanna be able to do, make videos, you can deconstruct it into sub-skills of making videos: scripting, filming, editing, and learning about each sub skill.

That’s the great thing about creating things online, you have this opportunity to pick a sub skill and then learn that

number four, removing physical, mental, emotional barriers. This is good because Mr. Beast talks about how a big hangup for creators is going to be,

hey, you’re gonna get negative feedback.

It’s not gonna happen instantly. This is something that you’re gonna try to learn with the hundred videos is one. No one’s gonna watch so you have to learn to be okay with that.

Number two, once people do start watching, you’re gonna start to have videos that don’t do as well as your earlier videos and you have to deal with that.

And then negative feedback. Comments. Learning to detach from that… be able to look at that feedback and figure out what you can learn from it and apply to your future videos.

Back to this First 20 Hours framework, practicing the most important sub skills for at least 20 hours. Mrbeast says 100 videos… That’ll take way longer than 20 hours. You’ll be able to practice the subskills.

The part that I really liked in this interview is Lex says,

Lex: You say make a hundred videos and improve something each time. Improve something each time is the tricky part. How would you do that?

And then Mr. Beast just starts firing off different ways, rapid fire.

MrBeast: The second one, just, I don’t know, put more effort into the script. The third one, try to learn a new editing trick. The fourth one, try to figure out a way that you can have better inflections in your voice. The fifth one, try to, you know, study a new thumbnail tip and implement it. The sixth one, try to figure out a new title.

There’s so many different elements that are involved, which can be exciting and figuring out which ones you wanna focus on. It is nice to know that there’s always going to be some element that you can improve.

When thinking of video ideas, figure do-ability later (focus on whether it would make a good video)

This last takeaway coming up with future ideas and this idea of feasibility in a video. It used to be just talking to the camera.

As his channel has grown, he’s invested more and more into his videos and now it’s millions of dollars that go into a video. He has to reduce risk. He has to be able to release a video and have the confidence that it’s gonna be viral.

Starts with a brainstorm. Lex Fridman was invited to one of the brainstorms to observe and he talks about going how he found it so interesting.

Lex: One of the questions is, is this even doable? Right?

MrBeast: Yeah. First off, come up with ideas you think would do well, and then ask yourself later if they’re doable. Yeah. Because there’s, there’s different ways you can accomplish something.

He can’t film something on Mars. He can’t film something on the moon.

But maybe he can do something with that idea of space.

This reminds me of creative work once you’re starting to work with a team on larger projects. In building software the three approaches to it are is it viable, is it usable? Is it something consumers would want?

In “Creative Selection” by Ken Kocienda. Ken talks about his time at Apple. He he was responsible for the first iPhone keyboard.

But he talks about a project before the iPhone and iPad and they were working on the Safari web browser. Of course later versions of this mobile version is in the hands of hundreds of millions of people.

He was working on the beginnings of that. He talks about a teammate where they weren’t sure if something was doable, so they had to try to build that.

From “Creative Selection”

Next, Richard resolved to produce a result on the shortest possible schedule.  He downloaded an open source project that held genuine promise, the Konquerer code from KDE a browser that might well serve as the basis for our long-term effort in getting this code running on a Mac. He decided to make the possible approximation of a real browser that was feasible on his short schedule. He did, he identified three features: loading webpages, clicking links, and going back to previous pages.

He gets this thing working and it’s enough to prove the idea. This is kind of like one step after the brainstorm.

Back to what MrBeast said, first, off, come up with ideas you think would do well, and then ask yourself later if they’re doable.

What you can do is take that idea and break it down into smaller pieces. You can look at that and see, hey, which pieces of this idea are doable? Which pieces of these ideas Be the basis for a video that people would be interested in.

That can be one way to start testing how doable your idea is.

Check the full interview out. It’s one of my favorites for the year, even though it’s like six days in it’ll stand the test of time just as far as the future of entertainment and understanding the process of making videos and thinking through ideas.