Success = Boredom.

CaseyToday during Cohort 21, a notification popped up on my phone. It was letting me know that Casey Neistat, one of my favourite filmmakers, was ending his daily vlog. Ironic, as some of you may know that I tossed around the idea of turning my blog into a vlog this year, inspired by Casey. So, on the car ride home, I pulled up his YouTube channel and listened to his vlog.

His message was thought provoking after our long day of heavy lifting big ideas at Cohort 21:

There’s so much to unpack in his message, but I zeroed in on this idea of relentless personal ambition. His idea of success isn’t achieving a certain number of viewers (though a billion views is impressive), but rather he takes on the Tibor Kalman approach to success:

From Tibor’s book, Perverse Optimist - a great read for those interested in looking at the world differently

From Tibor’s book, Perverse Optimist – a great read for those interested in looking at the world differently

Casey believes that success is having a “creative fistfight” to take on every single day in his life. I love his analogy of being Tarzan swinging through the jungle, and needing to reach for that next vine.

I wonder, how might we inspire teachers and students to have this kind of personal ambition? How might we create a classroom where all students are striving to reach that next vine, even if it’s a little scary or risky?

We all know that when we set the bar high for students, they tend to rise up. How might we help them learn how to raise that bar for themselves? (@jtrood, @drutherford & @jbornstein I know you’re also asking this question).

We talk about growth mindset, grit, and perseverance, but it’s more that than. In order for a student to develop any of those things, they first need to have the drive to get there.

It’s not about all students becoming 4+ students, it’s about every student reaching their full potential. About every student always wanting to push themselves to the grab that next vine.

Whether students go into business, or medicine, the arts, science, teaching or something entirely different, if they are constantly be seeking and attempting to move towards the next challenge, they will find “success.” And as teachers, we need to model this ambition for our students.

“The trouble with success is that it makes you comfortable” – Casey Neistat

As Casey points out in the video, when we get older and more successful the stakes get higher. It’s hard to take risks when you’re in a comfortable place in your career. But as he notes: “A career is always about progress, it’s never arriving in one place and staying there”. How might we, as teachers take risks and model this relentless ambition for personal and professional growth for our students?

Today at the York School, I saw a room full of teachers hungry for growth, supporting each other through collaboration, and pushing each other to take that next step forward. With this type of support, taking ambitious risks becomes a little easier (like posting your first blog, right @gmatthews).

It comes back to our “Danger Zone” activity from this morning. It’s not about mastering something and then staying where you are, but it’s about the confidence to try something new. Which is why this billboard caught my eye a few blocks later on my drive home:


The ad is part of the NorthFace’s #QuestionMadness 50th Anniversary Campaign. As you may know from my last post, I’m a sucker for anything that highlights those crazy people who take personal ambition to the extremes of what’s possible. I’m not saying that we all need to go out there and climb a mountain, run a 210km race, or even do Karaoke, but it’s about deciding what our own personal limits are, and trying to push ourselves right to the edge of what we feel confident doing. Some people might not understand what you’re doing, or why, but just tell them:

Also from Tibor's book.

Also from Tibor’s book.


So go out there and reach for that next vine. Whether it’s creating a civic-action experience for your students (@ggrise), embracing your own creative confidence (@mneale), changing attitudes about math (@snewell), addressing digital citizenship (@jmoodey) or even stealing yoga balls for your classroom (@ddunlap), take that risk. Let go of the old vine and reach for the next. Your students are watching and they will appreciate your bravery.

**PS – Teenagers love Casey. I’ve been showing his videos to my students for years, and I wish I still had a classroom to show them this one. It’d be a great reflection activity for students to think about their own idea of success.The first Casey video I showed my class was this one about bike lanes, when I was teaching urban design. If you teach civics/civic-engagement, this one makes an interesting statement about how we choose to spend our money and help others (@ggrise). Casey has the words “Do More” and “Work Harder” tatooed on his arm, so he is a special kind of ambitious this one highlights just how crazy-ambitious he is. (Warning – language alert in some of his videos). 


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One comment to “Success = Boredom.”
  1. Sooooo, I’ve watched this video about 1000 times today! thanks for sharing. The theme of climbing, and I know you’re a fan of it, is explored in the same vein and with the same beauty/rawness in “Valley Uprising” a documentary on Netflix about the climbing culture, and its shifts, in Yosemite National Park. Check it out…

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