Make It Count

When Nike gave him a massive video budget up front, Casey Neistat decided he’d travel the world with his editor instead. They went to the airport, took the next outgoing flight on the “Departures” board, and they kept doing that until they ran out of money.

For about three months after they came back, they sat on two hard drives full of vacation footage, pulling out their hair. “What have we done?!” They missed a deadline to premier the video. And another. And another.

I’m not sure how the video eventually was released, but knowing Casey, I can easily imagine him just uploading without notifying anyone. On April 9, 2012, Make It Count was released — and it immediately exploded. Nike sold Fuelbands by the bucket. Casey got phone calls from brands 24/7. And the whole internet was talking about the video. Over ten years later, it is still his fourth-most popular video of all time…but none of it would have happened if Casey hadn’t taken the risk of alienating Nike’s budget.

Why then? Why go nuts on the third of three videos, especially if the two you’ve delivered were already well-received? “This was right after I made this decision to myself that I was going to pursue a new kind of work,” Casey says. “That I didn’t want to make crappy TV commercials anymore. I wanted to do stuff that I really believed in” — and that’s why he pushed all chips on red.

Every day, you’re given a small stack of tokens. They resemble your attention, creativity, and spirit. You can put those tokens into the same machine you fed yesterday. Often, that’s not a bad choice. “Let’s make a little more of what we made yesterday.” But small bets only yield small rewards, and so every now and then, you must put the whole hand on one gut feeling.

The only way a tiny stack of chips grows into a tall tower of impact is when you get a big return on it — and without risk, that return will never come. The machine will just spit out enough tokens to keep you going from one day to the next. No jackpot. No extra credits. No free lifetime lunch buffet.

Using your chips well does not mean taking the first flight out every time some cash lands in your bank account. Making dicey bets all the time is as dangerous as avoiding risk altogether. One will get you burned, the other burned out. But every once in a while, perhaps when you feel extra bold or have vowed to change direction, it’s healthy to upset expectations. To break character. To spend the entire budget on a glorious trip and figure the video out later.

Make it count.