How To Optimize The Creative Process with Kevin Kohler, The Backyard Scientist. Episode 4

It's a fact, the modern American man does not have time to focus on his closet. Instead time is spent on work, family, creativity, projects -- everything you call life. For this, we built MuskOx to serve the modern American man. We flex our creative muscles for you by constructing high quality flannel shirts, sweatshirts, henleys, pullovers, and shirts that are strong enough for your everyday adventure.

Not only is it the clothing that supports MuskOx, but a strong inner-circle of men who put themselves out their day after day to enlighten, educate, and spark some creative joy. 

Creativity is something that can be hard to replicate or package with a pretty bow. On this episode of The Herd Has Spoken we welcome in an incredibly creative YouTuber known for developing experiments right in his own backyard.

Kevin Kohler sits down with Brad and talks about mixing education with explosions, along with advice for aspiring entrepreneurs and creators.

Kevin, more famously known as The Backyard Scientist, has been a YouTube sensation since his debut in 2013, building a following of over 4.5 million. From making green fire to massive explosions to testing Nerf dart velocity, Kevin has done it all. 

In their conversation, Brad and Kevin discuss perfectionism, or lack thereof, and how the Backyard Scientist goes about constructing each of his videos and formulating his recklessly awesome ideas. Kevin ends the video by giving some great advice to the aspiring entrepreneur and content creator.

Enjoy the conversation between Kevin and Brad!

Brad  

All right, welcome back to a fantastic episode here of The Herd Has Spoken. We're excited to have a gentleman who probably needs no introduction with a flashy Flamingo Hawaiian shirt, but I'll go ahead and give one anyway. So, Kevin Kohler, Backyard Scientist, huge YouTuber, also been featured on TV for those of you who are into TV: Street Science. Kevin, welcome to The Herd Has Spoken.

 

Kevin  

Hello, Brad. Thank you for having me on your podcast. Is this a podcast? 

 

Brad  

You know, it's just a conversation. We don't like to put ourselves into a box. You know?

 

Kevin  

Okay, so wait are people gonna see me or not?

 

Brad  

They're gonna see you. 

 

Kevin  

Oh, okay. Well, good thing I took a shower today,

 

Brad  

Always helpful. I find one a week is appropriate.

 

Kevin  

Yeah, I've been pushing it with the quarantine though.

 

Brad  

Well, Kevin, one of the things that I've always admired about you is that you've always done a really good job of not taking yourself too seriously. And you've always done a really good job of not having too much structure sort of burden you down with it with a day to day. So how important is the lack of structure and the free time to you and your creative process?

 

Kevin  

Um, I would say, it's probably very important for me, that lack of structure, like the lack of schedule, and stuff really allows me to kind of just explore what I want to do without having to be so focused on meeting a certain goal at a certain time and putting all my energy towards that I can be the most creative when I don't have goals. I mean, I don't have I don't have like a very rigid schedule, I guess. But sometimes having that deadline of, you know, Brad always tells me he says, Kevin, you need to get this video out by like tomorrow. Well, that helps me get stuff out. 

 

Brad  

Yeah, for sure. Well, I know a lot of people consider themselves creatives and designers no matter what their actual field is. So not necessarily creating YouTube videos, but maybe it's being a UX designer, or woodworker, whatever someone's craft is, and I'd love to hear from you: do you have a process that you follow when you're going through the creative design and model in your head?

 

Kevin  

Yes, let me try to think about how to explain it. I guess it kind of just starts with? I don't know, like, figuring out is this a good idea? Is this doable? And like having some kind of research, just a little bit of background research to see if it's been done before? How it's been done? And how I can you know, how I can do this idea? And will people like the idea, a lot of times I have ideas that I might really enjoy, but they might not translate very well on camera.

 

Brad  

Yeah. So how important is research as part of that process?

 

Kevin  

I would say, I would say very important, I pretty much do most of my videos have a certain amount of research, like most of my ideas, have, you know, even if it's not a video, I always like to find out how to do something before I do it. And will, yeah, will people enjoy it?

 

Brad  

Right on. So for those of you that don't know, Kevin is famous for making science experiments in the backyard. There's a lot that I think people do learn from these experiments. Another great element of these to me is that they're really approachable. So the backyard part of Backyard Scientist, I've always thought of it as meaning: "hey, this is approachable. Anyone can can do it." Is that an accurate description? And how important is it to you to be able to have your audience connect and understand what it is that you're doing.

 

Kevin  

I try to make all of my experiments approachable in some way, because I like people, maybe not to try all of them. But I like to be able to inspire people to say, "hey, you know, you don't really need a whole lot of expertise or fancy equipment, or stuff to be able to do this". Because, you know, I think that a lot of times you try to read how to do something, and it's very complicated. And it might turn you off from wanting to learn how to blacksmith or weld, but no, you need to do is just get a piece of metal hot and pound on it and just do it. And, you know, it's with just a little bit of, you know, backyard science, you can really do some cool things without, you know, needing crazy equipment.

 

Brad  

Yeah, I think that's a really good point. Because to me, as a self defined entrepreneur, and someone who likes to go and create and make things happen. So often I find that what's important isn't knowing all the answers. It's knowing a few good questions and being willing to go out and try things.

 

Kevin  

Yeah, exactly. You just have to have a little bit of recklessness a little bit of, you know. Yeah. I don't know a little. Yeah, just have to go out and do it. Really.

 

Brad  

Yeah. I like that. Recklessness, relentlessness, and creativity, you put those three things together, and good things can happen.

 

Kevin  

Yeah, don't be afraid to take risks. But know what would happen, you know if something went wrong, like in a video sense. So don't be afraid to do something dangerous, but still plan for what the danger would be, but also in a broader sense, like, don't be afraid to try something new in your videos or try to do like, you know, go on different platforms too.

 

Brad  

Yeah, and I think that's good advice no matter what someone's craft is, whether it's making videos, or starting a new business, or maybe it's trying to go have a hard conversation with someone in a different department at your, your work. Yeah, it's being willing to like put yourself out there, right?

 

Kevin  

It's more than like 99% of people are willing to do.

 

Brad  

Yes,

 

Kevin  

That's a really good way to get ahead is "just do it". Like, yeah.

 

Brad  

We need to get you as a sponsor for Nike, but, but in all seriousness that I mean, that's it, right? Like, just go create, you're gonna fail. And one of the things that I really liked about your videos is, frankly, when you do fail, so can you maybe talk about your biggest mistake that you've you've made and how that ultimately turned out?

 

Kevin  

I don't know where to begin, man. Well, there's a different senses of mistakes. Either I could have a mistake, like something went wrong in a video, or this whole video was a mistake or something like that. But I guess what probably what people hear people want to hear is how have I injured myself the most in a video. And, uh, I don't know, I would say I haven't personally been injured in my videos. But my girlfriend on the other hand, we were doing a rocket powered fidgets spinner, and one of the rockets and broke up the fidgets spinner. And we had a safety shield setup. But it was just a piece of plastic. And a rocket is like burning gunpowder just zipped right through the plastic. And it landed like under her leg. And that was a mistake that was probably poor planning on my part to use a plastic table. But no mistakes. Just happy accidents. Just kidding. Don't tell Sandra said that.

 

Brad  

Your secret is safe. Your secret is safe.

 

Kevin  

But besides that, I wouldn't say I mean, what do you mean by mistakes? Like in that sense, or?

 

Brad  

Well, I think that's a great example. I think people can really relate to that. And I'd also be I think people would be interested in hearing about maybe your, your career as well. Or to the extent that you feel comfortable talking about even some things in your, your personal life. Where have you made mistakes? And how is that ultimately served you in the long run?

 

Kevin  

Um, yeah, that's a good question. A lot of times, when it comes first when it comes to my videos, I do make a lot of mistakes. But the problem is I have, I get wrapped up in the mistakes and I think like, oh, this video has to be perfect. And I need this video to be perfect. Very good. Like, there's not supposed to be any mistakes. I'm supposed to make this thing it's supposed to work. And I get wrapped up in that when really like, you know, if you're watching the video, you see it on screen that this is not going good. This is you know, whatever, I just made this a disaster. And I just sometimes you just need to embrace the mistake instead of just trying to fool yourself that you can make it better just realize, okay, this is what I have, and how do I work with this now that this is the outcome, and that's an interesting thing, angle that I've been trying to work with is just, you know, maybe not trying to make everything perfect, but just roll with what you have. And career wise. I don't know. Probably not going out, not branching out to more platforms sooner, like TikTok is already very well established. And I'm just trying to get like just trying to make a name for myself there right now. And I think the more you can branch out and be part of all these different social networks, like is better? 

 

Brad  

For sure. No, where can people go and follow you on TikTok.

 

Kevin  

[At] The Backyard Scientist Official... see, I wasn't too late. I actually got... no... I actually got @TheBackyardScientist, I believe. I actually was able to get my username. On Instagram, somebody stole my username. And somebody stole my website, the backyard scientist [dot] com too. So that was a mistake.

 

Brad  

If you're hearing this, go ahead and message that person try to give it back. But, I think you said something that's really important, you know, particularly right now. Because these are trying times for for everybody. And you mentioned, "hey, when things go bad, you just kind of have to run with them." And one of the things I like to believe is, look, you can either worry about things you can't control, or take action on the things that you can control. And really, when your video is not going well, or an experiment is failing, I think it's really good advice. Because no matter what the situation, you know, your words, you just have to roll with it. I think that can be really, really powerful for people to know because, yeah, we all strive for greatness, it's tough.

 

Kevin  

And you'll get wrapped up in the fact that like you're this one little thing is holding you back, but to like, either to somebody else's view, it is great. You know, it's a work of art, like, or it's a, you know, it's not important, that last little detail, and you can just be fine with what you have. And so will everyone else?

 

Brad  

So, question for you that I feel like a lot of creative folks I know, can struggle with. How do you know when what you've created is good enough?

 

Kevin  

Yeah, that's, that's a lot. You know, there's two different philosophies. There's either like, you know, better today than perfect tomorrow, just get it out there or, you know, strive for absolute perfection and go over, you know, the video editing with a fine tooth comb, make sure everything's perfect. And that's the hard part, it's hard, it's really hard to know when something is has crossed the line into being like, acceptable enough to, like, when is the project's done, I'd like I could honestly work on any of my videos for another month. And just like keep going, but it's not necessary, really, because you have the point of it. And I guess nobody really wants to know, like a dissertation on how fast a Nerf dart can actually go. Like, I think I gave the point across pretty well for seven minutes. But I would just say, like a real life pro tip would just be, show somebody that you're close to, and watch their reactions and just see when they lose interest or just get somebody's honest opinion. Like my mom, I make her watch all of my videos. And I send it to her, I'll send it to my family. And I'll say, Hey, watch this video, some of you think, and I get just get some honest feedback from people because they're not afraid to tell you like, yeah, and if it can keep my mom's interest. I'm sure it's probably good. She doesn't care.

 

Brad  

Yeah, I think I think having an inner circle of people that you trust, and who are going to give you honest feedback is so important. Whether that's, you know, in your career with your family, your friends, that people are willing to tell you when you have spinach in your teeth. 

 

Kevin  

Oh, yeah. 

 

Brad  

And if you've got spinach in your teeth, and someone doesn't tell you, they're not a true friend, right?

 

Kevin  

Yes. Yes. 

 

Brad  

So just just a couple last questions for you, Kevin. 

 

Kevin  

Okay. 

 

Brad  

When you're, when you're designing and creating a new project from the beginning, what is it that you're hoping that your audience will take away from consuming your content?

 

Kevin  

Um, hold on, I'm gonna try and mess with my camera. I don't like this camera. It makes me seem like super red.

 

Brad  

You haven't been in the sun too much, have you?

 

Kevin  

No! It's just like, I don't know what it is. I think I'm wearing too much white and it just makes me look weird. Like the color balance is off. All right, I don't know. No, I should just keep that it'll be weird. If I change it halfway through.

 

Brad  

It might be a little bit.

 

Kevin  

I'll just keep it. Okay. Wait, sorry. Hold on. I actually messed with my computer. Okay, what was the question again?

 

Brad  

The question was: "what is it that you want your audience to take away from watching the content that you create?"

 

Kevin  

Ummm. Huh. Well, I don't know. I mean, I want them to really just, most of the time, I want them to actually learn something and actually say, "wow, that's interesting. I never thought of it like that." Or I want them to actually pick up this skill of being able to look at something critically, because in my videos, I tried to actually, like, follow the scientific method a lot. And, you know, think about because sometimes I don't have enough time, or like, it's impossible to do the full video and do every variation of every single thing that could be done. So I, I try to present it in a way that people can draw their like, own conclusions, in a sense to something and they'll be able to kind of pick up. I don't know, just a way to like, I don't know, yeah, hold on.

 

Brad  

I'm putting you on the spot here.

 

Kevin  

Yeah. I do like people to learn things, and I want people to be entertained at the same time. And those are the best types of videos when it's not just purely educational. It's not just purely blowing stuff up. It's a good mix of it. And I think that that is, you know, that lets you learn something and have fun at the same time. And, you know, I was just trying to have people I don't know, get just get like, a little more out of the videos.

 

Brad  

Very good. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs and aspiring creators?

 

Kevin  

Well, I would probably be better at the creator aspect of it, I can try giving some entrepreneurial advice.

 

Brad  

But same for you, you know, you've created a good living through yourself by being a being good creator. So totally take your point that you didn't necessarily go into the saying: "let me become an entrepreneur." 

 

Kevin  

Yeah. And that's something I think so there is two sides of it is I'm not really too much of an entrepreneur myself. But what I'm good at is I have you, Brad, I have people that I know can do things like I know, I can only do so much. And I know when it's appropriate to bring in somebody else to help me do things that, like I'm unable to do. So I think it's important not to stretch yourself out too thin, and know like the value of what you do and what your time is worth. So you can have somebody else handle things for you. You know, I have an accountant that I pay like, I don't know, not very much, but it's certainly worth it. Even if it was more than that, because I can't do that myself. And I would already be an IRS jail if I had to do my own taxes, like come on. 

 

Brad  

Right, let's see, this is gold. This is gold. Because I think the advice of clearing your schedule to focus on what you're really good at, and trying to spend as much of your time doing that. And then finding good people that you trust that can be in your inner circle who have skills that are complimentary, and let them do their thing is really, really good stuff. And I've witnessed it myself in terms of you, enabling you to be really, really successful. So I've got one last question. We're going to change gears slightly here. So what is the most fun thing you would do with a White Castle Crave Case?

 

Kevin  

Oh, White Castle Crave Cases that like a bunch of burgers.

 

Brad  

Yes. sliders upon sliders upon sliders.

 

Kevin  

As many sliders as I want. Oh, that sounds good. I don't know. Have you ever seen that SpongeBob episode where he has to feed a bunch of hungry anchovies. And he just taken them and slinging them off and like a bunch of different ways and having anchovies they're all catching them in their mouth. I'll probably do the same thing with my dogs. And my girlfriend actually should probably be the one slinging burgers at us and we'd be grabbed out of the air.

 

Brad  

I love it. I love it. I can envision you're going to nice pond or seaside resort down in Florida where you live and just slinging sliders. 

 

Kevin  

Slinging sliders open up. I go to the dog park with a bunch of them. That'd be fun.

 

Brad  

That'd be fun. Well, Kevin, it's been a ton of fun having you on. Thank you so much for the time today. We really appreciate it.

 

Kevin  

No problem, Brad. Yep, see you later. 

 

Brad  

Take care.


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