How to do anything.
K-Pop star Eric Nam, Justin's advice on doing anything you want, and venture capital meets music
In this issue:
Eric Nam - singer, songwriter, TV host, entrepreneur, and K-pop icon, podcast host.
How to start doing anything
OnlyFriends #4 - Should VCs invest in musicians?
🕺🏻Quest Minutes: Eric Nam
The Other Side of K-Pop:
Eric Nam is one of the most exciting powerhouse talents in entertainment. The Atlanta-born talent is a singer, songwriter, TV host, entrepreneur, and K-pop icon, who has racked up over 300 million streams. Alongside his two brothers, he also runs the number one podcast in the K-Pop industry.
Eric speaks about his experience with racism growing up as an Asian American, international non-profit work, searching for meaning, struggling with depression, quitting his job, and getting an email the next day to kickstart his meteoric K-pop career.
Here are some of my takeaways from the episode:
Chase after experiences when you are young. [7:38]
You don't have to have life figured out at twenty years old. However, you should always be trying new things so that you have an idea of what you don’t want to be doing, as early in your career as possible. Eric did a million things before he got into entertainment. That built him up and he was able to go all in once he found his calling. Remember to say yes to new experiences when you are young - you won't regret it.
It’s ok to quit. Know the signs. [20:14]
The value of relentless effort is often deified, but your body and mind give off indicators when things aren't working out. If you’re getting burned out, or the goal you’re working towards is making you depressed, miserable, and anxious, then that’s a pretty good sign that it’s not something you should be doing.
It's never as scary as you think. You need to be able to cut your losses so you aren't shutting yourself off to opportunities that could make you happier or being you meaning. If Eric hadn’t quit his role in India, maybe he wouldn't have responded to the email - he wouldn't have got on that flight, and he wouldn’t have found his passion and purpose in music, content creation, and entertainment.
It’s ok to quit - just be mindful of when it’s appropriate, and be honest with yourself.
Building a business with your family members isn't always a bad idea. [34:40]
People say you can't blend business with family. Well, you can, you just have to do it very carefully. Both Eric and Justin run their businesses with their two brothers. It's important to establish boundaries and communicate feedback in the right context. Make sure you are setting up expectations from the get-go so no one gets hurt, accidentally. Learn to separate conflicts as business partners with personal matters. Who knows? The familial bond may even prove to be an advantage!
Catch the rest of the conversation with Eric here:
This episode was done in collaboration with Subtle Asian Traits, a Facebook group dedicated to discussions surrounding the Asian experience in the West. The Quest team would like to express our gratitude to SAT for helping to source our episode fellow Wooseok, a law student and author of an Amazon Bestseller on K-pop.
How to do anything
Many people, when faced with doing something new that they know nothing about, won’t ever get started. It could be anything, from starting that daunting project, to eating healthier and losing weight, or quitting smoking, and repairing strained relationships.
The task ahead just seems so insurmountable and many of us just don’t even have any context. How can you begin, without knowing where to begin? What happens when you don’t even know what you don’t know?
This was one of the challenges Justin and Emmett ran into in the early days of Justin.tv. The idea was simple enough: a twenty-four hour livestream video feed of their SF adventures, which would be broadcasted from a portable camera to online viewers. Like most things in life however, theory and practice are very different things.
It wasn’t as simple to figure out how to make this a reality - the pair didn’t have a clue about online video protocols, server infrastructure, cameras, or mobile network connections. Their only experience so far had been building a web-based calendar app, Kiko, and selling it on eBay after Yahoo ghosted them for $1 million.
So what did they do?
They compiled a list of immediately tangible and actionable goals that would point them in the right direction. This was what it looked like:
Find a hardware device expert. This led them to one of their co-founders Kyle, who managed to build a computer that encoded video data from the camera. Check.
Figure out mobile data transmission. Through research, the team learned that EVDO (Evolution-Data Optimized) Rev A was coming to San Francisco, which enabled them to send data at reasonable speeds over cell networks. Check.
Talk to a startup in the livestreaming space, to learn about streaming server options. Check.
And finally, choose and pay for a Content Delivery Network to stream video for them. Check.
“I’ve found that when faced with a set of seemingly insurmountable challenges, the first step towards making it easier is to break things down into as large a set of small individual tasks as possible.” - Justin
This simple, methodical process can be applied to any challenge or ambition, no matter how fantastic or mundane. Make yourself a list of small, easy steps that you can take immediately, and tick them off one by one. You don’t need to accomplish everything at once - digesting your macro goal into bite-sized pieces will make it much less intimidating, and give you some direciton and actionable scale.
For example, if you need to graduate from university and get a job so you can take care of your family, that probably entails a large set of smaller, more manageable things: getting decent grades in each of a set of credits, creating a resume, applying to jobs, practicing interviewing, etc.
These might seem unhelpful in a large context, but the compounding effect of these small unrelated things will make your goal much more accomplishable. These small tasks can be broken down even further: getting a decent grade in a class turns into a smaller set of sub-tasks including studying, writing term papers, and preparing for an exam. Often times, the first step in accomplishing your goals might be as simple as buying the assigned books for a class.
So break it down, and if even that is still too much, break it down even further until you can manage it. No matter how small, a step is a step. Even a step in the wrong direction is infinitely better than standing completely still.
“You can achieve anything you set your mind to; doing so is just process of reduction.”
OnlyFriends #4 - Should VCs invest in musicians?
Episode 4 of OnlyFriends is out now - Today, Justin and friends cover the dark side of social media, whether or not YC for musicians makes sense, if Bitclout is a scam, how nightclubs relate to the creator economy, and their opinions on venture capital innovation.
Check out the episode above and make sure you’re subscribed to catch all of Justin’s content!
👀 Coming up next…
Jewel - four-time Grammy nominated singer, songwriter, actress and author who has sold over 30 million albums worldwide. A story of pain, perseverance, and forgiveness.
Subscribe to The Quest YouTube Channel and turn notifications on to catch the episode premiere @ 4th May 9AM PDT. See you there. 👋🏼