Saturday, September 22, 2018

A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes, or, What to Do When You're Living the Dream...But?

Today, I am 30 years old, I work in my dream job teaching leadership using games, and I make $0.85/hour.*

Leading with Class, in case you don't know (most people don't!), is my YouTube show where I teach about leadership using roleplaying games. It's the dream job I made real for myself through a lot of hard work and the support of my loving, and incredibly talented, partner John. It also still doesn't feel much like a dream come true, because it comes with some overwhelming "but"'s.

I get to teach leadership...but it's not in a respected role.
I get to teach using games...but it's not seen as "fun."
I get to work from home...but I can't pay my bills.
I get to work with my partner...but he doesn't get paid any better than I do.
I get to share my vision with the world...but almost no one watches my channel.

In 2014, I made the decision to continue my pursuit of an education and get my degree in organizational leadership. From there, I continued on to graduate school and got a degree in leadership - and over that two year period, experienced continued health and career setbacks that left me unemployed at graduation. My job became Thoughty - and Thoughty is still my actual primary income. All $300-ish a month, maybe. I have ten years of career experience that the lessons learned can apply to my work in leadership, but no one wants someone who was mostly an admin in a position of leadership, and my health disallows a full time job.

So, whatever, fine, I said. I'll make my job. With John's encouragement (and from my other partner, Dillon), I started working on scripts for Leading with Class. Even now, it feels endlessly selfish, and working on Leading with Class instead of trying to dig through thousands of jobs to find at least one that pays $15/hr. and only requires 25 hours a week felt irresponsible. But I did it while still doing freelance work (as I am now) and Thoughty, and it was so wonderful to make something that meant so much to me!

What was less wonderful was the lack of feedback and viewership. I am incredibly grateful for the Leading with Class patrons on Patreon - honestly, it means the world to me that anyone would support this work. But it's still extremely quiet. On all of our videos combined - all of them - we have fewer than 350 views. I've shared on LinkedIn, Facebook, G+, Twitter, Mastadon, and Instagram, and of course, they're on YouTube. I've done streams on Twitch to garner interest, answering questions and writing the script live to engage viewers.

We have three comments on all of our YouTube videos combined.

Now, we're lucky enough to have followers and subscribers on our various media accounts! There's just really low engagement. I know we're kind of a niche interest, but I've only ever seen (personally) fewer than 5 total shares of Leading with Class content outside of my own personal shares, John's shares, and the dedicated shares of some of my close friends on G+. Most shares aren't accompanied by any positive recommendation, either.

And you know, yes, this does sound like whining. But as a creator, as a person who struggles with impostor syndrome and serious anxiety and depression, and as a person, I think it's essential that my viewers and readers know me as a real person, and that they know the truth. The truth is, creating the thing that means the world to me, living the "dream" like I am, is heavily dented by struggling to make it through financially every day and hearing basically silence when it comes to my work.

I am used to silence when it comes to my work. People don't link and share my site(s) or my work very often, and this has been notoriously challenging for me. I struggle with professional envy, seeing others get praised while I can barely get a retweet at times. But I thought, with Leading with Class it will be different! Even if it makes no money, even if it gets no press, I'll be making something meaningful. I'll be using my degree to do what I wanted the most!

But if a YouTuber makes an amazing video and no one watches it, does it functionally exist at all?

When one of my key purposes with Leading with Class is to educate, and there are no new viewers, who is really learning? If one of the necessary aspects of so-called "edutainment" is that it is spread broadly and enjoyed by an audience, have I created anything really at all? Did I get hit on the head by a backdrop while recovering from a brain injury and struggle to put words together to make episodes and even my best friends, people I respect and admire, haven't watched a single episode?

This is the episode where we stopped using the backdrop because it fell on my head. Such a headache!

And I suppose it does often just burn me that John puts in so much work to make these episodes look beautiful, to make me look and sound competent, even through brain injury problems, and yet as of this writing, only 22 people saw our latest video? The lovely work he did? That makes me so sad! I feel I'm wasting his time. This thing that is meaningful to both of us feels injured by the quiet, by the feeling that we are working so hard, this is so good, it means so much, it should go far and silence.

I do try to bolster with every like our videos and posts get, and absolutely I could be posting more often. But the hype machine only does so much when no one else turns the gears.

And I don't want people to think I hate making the videos or I don't think they matter. I do think they matter, and I love them, and love creating them! I had to take a hiatus in July because my recovery from my brain injury (sustained last November) was taking a long time and writing and filming while trying to also do freelance work and get through recovery was just not working. I struggled so much, and I cried so hard about taking a hiatus! It would doom the show, I knew it, and what if we could never start back to it?

But we did, even though I'm still in recovery. Even though the cats insist on interrupting our shoots.

And I'm spurred, truly, to keep working on the project. I want to take it further - I mapped out a second series, and a mini-episode series. I'm even getting the chance to do my first workshop at Big Bad Con - one huge part of Leading with Class that hasn't progressed far yet, but would mean the world to me to make bigger and broader. This is my dream.

I am a game designer, and love designing games - I want to keep doing that. And Thoughty is still important to me! But Leading with Class is a dream that I feel could make a difference! If it could just... grow. I know I need to work harder, I always do, but I have always worked best with the enthusiasm of others encouraging my progress, and John cannot carry all of that weight. He isn't my audience.

I suppose, what I'm trying to say is, it is very hard to do the thing you love and feel unfulfilled by it. The perils of relying on others! But we are, as they say, a community, so I think a lot of people could understand what I'm feeling here, so I felt like I needed to finally speak these words clearly, so you don't feel alone and so you don't feel like your work is meaningless. Leading with Class isn't meaningless, and your work that feels like it's floundering has meaning, too.

So what the heck am I gonna do about this?

First, I'm going to keep writing scripts, filming, hopefully streaming, and doing workshops. I'm going to finish the first season of the show with the full twelve episodes, no matter what.

Second, I'm going to try to do better about promoting the show and increase my social media presence, as hard as that can be.

Third, I'm going to continue to be honest in how I approach this work and my purposes with Leading with Class. I'm never going to bullshit you about the work I'm doing, and I will continue to be transparent.

And fourth, finally, I'm going to be grateful for those of you who are here, who do support me and Leading with Class, and try to keep that in mind when the gremlins come to fight in my mind. I can't let them win. I'm the winner here!

Thank you for reading, for watching, and for every moment of your being. The world is a better place because of you, even when you think it's not. And hey. Come join me -- in Leading with Class. <3

*For those curious about the time John and I spend on a given episode, here's a breakdown.

Brie's time investment per episode
~10 hours research
~5 hours script writing
~1 hours rehearsal
~3 hours filming
= ~19 hours

John's time investment per episode
~1 hour research support
~1 hour script review
~1 hour rehearsal
~3 hour filming
~5 hour editing
~3 hour graphics and animation
= ~14

Total investment = ~33 hours per episode.

The Patreon currently sits at $28/episode.

We aren't stopping, though. :)


Check out Leading with Class on YouTube, Twitter, and Instagram. For questions about the show, email

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