“S/he who dares nothing need hope for nothing”. It’s one of the most random memories I have from Grade 3 English class with Mrs. Grossman. When she said it, I didn’t understand what it meant. A double negative in, what was for me, incomprehensible fragmented prose. I asked her what it meant, and when she explained it to me – that if you don’t take any risks, you’ll never get any reward – I asked why the author couldn’t have just said it that way.
S/he who dares nothing need hope for nothing. It’s what I was telling myself as I submitted my YouTube channel for the Shorty Award for Social Good. Category: “Best overall YouTube presence”.
I have spent the last year posting a video a day with obsessive persistence. Sometimes editing until 1:00 A.M. Sometimes waking in the middle of the night to make sure a video had successfully uploaded to YouTube. Making thumbnails. Adding descriptions. Adding tag words. Trying to promote my latest video.
Within the year, I took my channel from 10,000 to nearly 22,000 subscribers. I (hopefully) stayed true to my guiding principle of contributing to the overall global pool of happiness. Exploring science with the family. Exploring food. Exploring our beautiful country. Exploring nature. So I figured I would give it a shot… The worst thing that could happen is that my submission doesn’t get accepted. No risk, no reward.
When the Shortys accepted my submission, I was already happy. It gave me an excuse to drive to New York for the gala, mingle with like-minded people, make connections. Get out there. I like getting out there. It’s amazing how much you can make happen just by talking to people. So I bought my ticket to the gala and, after much organizing with my wife, mother, mother-in-law, school, daycare and good friends, I grabbed my dog and drove from Montreal to New York on a Wednesday for the gala that same night, to drive back first thing the very next morning. Barnie loves a good road trip, and took to New York City like a fish to water.
The gala was held at a beautiful venue on the lower East side. A place I had never been called Apella. Driving down FDR Highway confirmed to me that there are few human-made landscapes more beautiful than the New York skyline.
Heading into the event, I had absolutely no expectation of winning. And this was not a sentiment borne out of false modesty or the psychological defensive mechanism of convincing myself that I had no chance of winning so that I wouldn’t be upset when I didn’t win. I understood what my channel is in the YouTube landscape… It’s eclectic. It’s random. It’s me. But it’s guided by the fundamental principle of connecting people through the beauty of life, and not succumbing to the sometimes insipid nature of the online world.
So when they host announced that my channel had won, I was in disbelief (just ask anyone sitting at Table 11!). And when I say that I had not prepared a speech, I had not prepared a speech. I just reflexively spoke the truth of my mission.
The entire evening was incredible. I met awesome people who were doing awesome things. And although all is vanity, and the feeling of holding a beautifully-designed crystal statue borders on idolatry, human nature is such that it feels great when our efforts are recognized.
I have always been a firm believer that charity and social good starts at home. We live in a world where too many people donate with one hand, while groping with the other. We live in a world where too many donate a few dollars from one pocket so that they can line the sides of the other pocket. This world (and a decade of commercial litigation) can break your optimism and make you cynical. And I have grown a little cynical. I don’t think I can change the world from the top down. I have to start from the bottom up. With my kids. My family. My community. And it is truly inspiring that the Shorty Awards for Social Good understood and appreciated what I am trying to accomplish through my YouTube presence.