TarcherPerigee
By Matthew Santoro
August 9, 2016
IDEAS

Santoro is a YouTube star and author of Mind=Blown

I grew up in the small Canadian town of Welland, Ontario (population 50,000). Life there is slow, and there isn’t much to do, especially as an only child. Growing up I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I felt pretty lost. Then one day my accounting teacher told me accountants made decent money. That sounded good! So I charted the course of my life to be a number cruncher forever. Exciting, I know.

But at the end of 2009, I discovered this awesome website called YouTube, where you could make anything you wanted and post it for everyone to see—for free! Back then the most popular creators were making low-quality videos, usually with a standard-definition camera and no proper mic or lighting. Nothing like it is today. But something drew me to it. It was the authenticity. It was the fact that a regular person could put themselves out there and amass an audience.

I quickly starting realizing, “I could do this!” So, amid doing accounting 9-5 all week, I signed up for a YouTube channel at the beginning of 2010. I had just graduated with a Master of Accountancy degree and had begun working as an accountant. That was paying the bills, but I was never fully happy. But I couldn’t just leave—I had spent $35,000 and five and a half years of my life getting that degree. So I continued working full time as an accountant for two years, all the while creating videos on the weekend that shared weird facts about science, history, outer space and more. It was my creative outlet. And it was a lot of work, but it was what I loved to do.

Then everything changed. I got laid off. Once again, I found myself completely lost. I was at a crossroads: do I go back into accounting or take a risk on this crazy YouTube thing?

That’s when I realized the “safe” path in life isn’t so safe anymore. The days of our parents working at a factory for 40 years and retiring just don’t exist. I needed to make my own way. It was like a light switch went on. It was like I woke up (to this day I still call it “unplugging from the Matrix”). It was then, for the first time in my life, I took a major risk. I went down a new and scary path—no safety net, no direction and absolutely no guarantee my new plans would work.

For an entire year, I did what I could to make ends meet—shot weddings, did side jobs for friends, anything to keep the lights on. But I kept making videos. Consistently. And after almost exactly one year to the day, at the end of 2013, I started to notice that my channel began growing. Then it started growing faster. And at the beginning of 2014, I had 30,000 subscribers. At the end, I had 3.5 million! Everything started coming my way. I started making real money, which eventually surpassed what I made as an accountant, I began flying places for the first time in my life (I had never been on a plane before) and began meeting the big players in the YouTube community, started collaborating with them and started making a lot of friends.

Since then my life has never been the same. I even wrote a book, with the help of my good friend Jake Greene, called Mind=Blown, which is a collection of the most amazing facts from the world we live in, as well as some tidbits from my own life story. My goal with the book is to not only entertain, but also to inspire others to follow their dreams. I constantly preach to work hard, be consistent, take risks and, most important, have faith—in yourself, and that it WILL happen.

The journey to realizing your full potential is not an easy one by any stretch, but I promise you’ll never been happier than you are when you’re making a living doing the thing you love most. It’s an incredible time to be alive. The Internet, and YouTube, make ANYTHING possible.

With that, I’ll leave you with this:

A survey was done of people on their deathbeds, asking them to identify their biggest regrets in life. Here they are:

3. I wish I had taken more risks.
2. I wish I discovered my purpose earlier.
1. I wish I had lived my own life rather than how society taught me to live.

Take risks. Chase your passion. Do it for you.

Contact us at editors@time.com.

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