Nobody notices the stain on your shirt

Plus: Werner Herzog on skateboarding, the invention of playing cards

:::Issue #29. Why are you receiving this? You’re friends with Cam Houser or you just joined the Minimum Viable Video waitlist. This is where I share uncommon stories of video, entrepreneurship, and the human condition:::

🎟 Welcome Allen, Pranav, Eric, Billy Bob, White, Bunny  🎟 

What’s happening, Rulebreakers!

Life is good. I’m alive and breathing. Hope you are too.

What I’ve been up to:

💻 Zipping around on a Macbook Air with an M1 chip. This thing is lightning fast.

👨 Prepping for being a mentor in Write of Passage and Andrew Barry’s Be On Deck Course Creator Fellowship.

😺 Spending two hours in the dream world of Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro.” Miyazaki is Japan’s Walt Disney and this film is a pandemic panacea: so full of childlike joy and wonder. It was a balm for the weird times we find ourselves in. If you need an escape, I recommend it.

The Spotlight Effect

I remember the first time I heard my voice recorded.

I was 14, hiding away in the furthest corner of the attic, strumming a guitar and singing softly into a tape recorder.

Softly because I didn't want my family to hear it. I was worried my brother was going to make fun of me. Turns out I was perfectly capable of making myself feel bad enough.

My voice was warbly. The tone was miles off the cool confidence I thought my voice was projecting. And that was just voice. Seeing myself on video for the first time was horrifying.

Video is a more powerful medium — its expressiveness, visuals, and richness just make us that much more embarrassed. This feeling is normal. For most of us, seeing your face on screen makes you want to die.

You immediately notice everything wrong with your video. Your hair is slightly out of place even though you tamped it down multiple times before hitting record. Your shirt has a hot sauce stain on it you didn't notice until after you got the take you wanted. And there's an empty can of soda lurking in the background that you forgot to throw away.

All the effort you put into your video. Wasted.

I prepped and practiced, and this is what I got for it?

Often, you don't even hit publish. But before you hit 'delete,' remember this: There's a phenomenon called the Spotlight Effect. It's our tendency to grossly overestimate how much other people notice about us.

You feel like there's constantly a spotlight on you, highlighting all your flaws and mistakes for the world to see.

We're the protagonist of our own movie, but we only play supporting roles in everyone else's. Now, if you were to show your video to a friend, they'd likely not even notice your hair, your shirt, or the background. They're too busy listening and following what you're saying.

They'd probably tell you that you'd be crazy not to hit publish. That's why it's so important to get feedback from someone you trust on your work.

They can recognize when the point you're making isn't strong enough, drawing your attention to what really matters and away from irrelevant details.

Always remember the spotlight effect when you see yourself on camera.

Video version here:

Rulebreakers: Werner Herzog on Skateboarding

The video below is a gem. Werner Herzog, a legendary filmmaker and cantankerous curmudgeon, waxes darkly poetic to some kid on the other end of a Zoom screen.

This video gave me a laugh and has some nice moments of joy and resonance in it.


“I am puzzled because I am not familiar with the scene of skateboarding…at the same time, I had the feeling that, ‘Yes, that is kind of my people.’”

“I see [skateboarders] trying to slide on a metal rail. They do it 25 times and fail. The 26th time, they fail. The 30th…it’s good that you accept failure and you don’t give up and finally you land the right jump and you keep sliding and screeching down a handrail.”

“Skateboard kids are not out there for the media. They do it for the joy of it and for the fun of it.”

Watch it here:

“The market for printed cards proved much greater than that for scripture.”

Early printing technologies developed to produce religious texts proved valuable for making secular items: playing cards.

Technology will always be applied towards unintended outcomes, but it’s ironic that tools built to further our spiritual lives could be adapted to give us gambling.

Even the most trivial items might yield a great profit, as when the new commerce sparked a rapid spread of card playing because merchants and soldiers found the light and easily transported game an entertaining and novel pastime. Compared to the more cumbersome objects needed for chess and other board games, any soldier or camel driver could carry a pack of cards in his gear. This new market stimulated the need to make card production faster and cheaper, and the solution for that process was found in printing them from carved blocks normally used for printing religious scripture. The market for printed cards proved much greater than that for scripture.

From: Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World

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See you in the Zoom grid,

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Just for fun: Pinky, our fierce predator, eyes her prey…