A tortoise, kpop star and tiktoker
And what they all taught me about slowing down
If you’re interested in getting these emails straight into your inbox — subscribe here
There’s a Youtube show I love watching called Showterview, where Kpop star Jessi interviews various Korean celebrities — a couple of weeks ago, she interviewed her first Tiktok guest, Won Jeong Man, who has amassed 38 million followers worldwide. FYI that’s Second to BTS, in Korean celebrities — definitely a big hit (kudos if you got the pun lol.)
‘So you have 38 million followers,’ Jessi starts off the question. ‘How long have you been on TikTok?’
‘Um, so I think I started about a year ago…’ Won Jeong responds nonchalantly.
‘Well, it took me 16 years to get here!’ Jessi retorts in utter disbelief.
Won Jeong only started making Tiktoks a year ago. Jessi (who has a following of 9.4M) has been on this grind for 16 years. SIXTEEN. And she has only gained a quarter of the following.
The first question I asked myself on hearing that was: Why am I not going viral like that?
Well, largely because these days, mainstream success is a numerical definition. The higher the number (of money, of views, of likes, of following), the higher your success rank. Impact, cause, meaning…all of that is thrown out of the window (along with your self esteem).
Talking of self-esteem — do you remember the tortoise and the hare story? Slow tortoise wins the race and digs at the rabbits ego? Well, not quite like that but I had to link the paragraphs somehow. We were bleated to by adults that slow and steady efforts will ultimately ‘win the race’.
If we take social media as a race (which, unfortunately it is) — why are our tortoise-like efforts not working? I’m sure Jessi also thought the same thing as she gave salty looks to Won Jeong.
These days, instantaneous fame seemingly abounds. The narrative is portrayed such that it feels like there are too many hares in the world, racing past whilst we are still plodding along. But let’s face it — the majority of us are Jessi. The majority of us are the tortoise.
So what does that mean for me?
Firstly — accept that Won Jeong’s story is a rarity. No matter how much SM and algorithms get you to believe that it isn’t — sensationalism sells. That’s why it’s everywhere.
Meanwhile, the majority of us have to follow the Atomic Habit method of incremental improvements. And honestly? It’s a hell of a lot more sustainable that way.
There’s one analogy I love from James Clear’s book that gives a great metaphor: If you have absolutely no time on your hands and are happy to watch an ice cube melt, you can stare at it whilst an invisible operator slowly increases the temperature of the room by 1-degree shifts. You won’t notice anything: it’s still cold and the ice cube is still stubbornly frozen. You start to get frustrated — shouldn’t it melt by now?!
But it’s all in the incremental shifts. Without you realising, invisible operator has slowly racked up the temperature until now, it hits 0 degrees — a drop of water slides it’s way off the ice cube. Success.
If you resonated with the question, why am I not going viral, you (and me) are still in the pre-zero phase. We have not yet hit our melting point. But our small efforts, concentrated in certain areas — our incremental shifts — will help us to get there — 30 minute daily speedpaints, yoga sessions, writing jams. All of these will add up. We just need to be patient enough to watch the ice cube melt.
The sunny sides of slow and steady
One of my favourite YT ‘tortoises’ are Wong Fu, a beautiful film channel aimed at portraying Asian-American narratives. This is a channel that has really followed the course of slow-burn. Since 2003, they’ve been putting out videos — and they only have 3M followers. If you think of it relatively, that’s nearly 20 years to get a following that’s a fraction of Won Jeong’s!
In a world that loves to consume in 15 seconds or at 2x speed, it’s good to slow down and see what larger, slower content offers. These days, I’ve found myself settling for 1.25x speed, or even (shock horror) watching the videos in real time. I try and be patient with myself as I wait for the impatience to subside. This also goes for making videos, reading books or even writing these emails — I keep telling myself I cannot rush the process. It’s unhealthy, disingenuous, and grating to the soul, to consume so fast and furiously.
in a world where the slow steady climb is not valued, this is our cue to take our time and most importantly — enjoy it. Mindfulness and productivity are notions pitted against eachother, when they don’t have to be. If the tortoise did it, why can’t we?
I’m not saying I perfectly follow the above — many times I face the decision of whether I should put out a certain type of video just because it attracts more views. Or I’ll find myself ignoring comments or suggestions. But ultimately, I know that with each step, with each not-so-viral video, with each shadow-banned Instagram post, I need to keep telling myself that success is not a numerical definition. It is so much more.
You can either be impatient to get to your destination, or you can enjoy the ride. And, because time travels not a thing yet, you have no other option really so buckle up, roll down your window, and enjoy the breeze! 😃
P.s. here are some small reasons I love being a small content creator.
- I can do whatever you want: Switch platforms, try new mediums, completely change subjects. I don’t have enough following to criticise me, and whoever stays will be an authentic fan!
- A smaller community is wayyy easier to handle — I can reply to comments with more than 2 words. I can respond with more authenticity and sincerity.
- My aim and mission are still (relatively) purer. I do it for the genuine love of it, not bc I am making any money off of it!
📝 Website/Article: It only makes sense to insert an upcoming writer here, so here’s a wonderfully poetic piece of prose from a lovely writer I found.
📚 Book: I recently finished this amazing fiction book based in Kurdistan — poignantly and poetically written, I literally sobbed my way to the end.
📽️ Video: One of my favie Gen Z Vloggers who kinda talks about the crazy viral-vlogger phenomenon and how the new vlogging generation should move away from that — I thought it goes quite nicely with this article.
✨ Random: I’m all about alternative forms of education and this platform (originally started at the request of Elon Musk!) provides just that for tweens and young teens. Sigh, oh to be 12 again.
“The camera sees things geometrically, whereas we see everything psychologically. There’s a big difference. We make it bigger when we look at it because we enjoy it so much.”- David Hockney on photographing blossoms,Lives of the Artists, Lives of the Architects
Originally published at https://designdrawdo.substack.com on January 31, 2022.