- Hank Green is a mega-successful YouTuber, CEO, and author who also founded VidCon with his brother, author John Green.
- Insider spoke to Green at this year's VidCon London about his 13 years on YouTube and how he hasn't burned out with his seemingly endless projects.
- He said living in Montana helps, as does realizing the importance of friends and family. But he really struggles with taking time off.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
Hank Green has basically done it all — he's a YouTuber, musician, podcaster, author, and CEO.
When asked to describe his career so far, he told Insider it has been "surprising," to say the least.
"I look back, and if we're gonna be super frank, I think I've tried to find all of the different ways that maybe I might matter," he said.
"Being a rock star for a while, being a business person and being successful with that, interviewing the president, having famous friends — I've tried all of them."
Green and his brother, the well-known author John Green, started up their first YouTube channel vlogbrothers in 2007. They have since launched educational channels Crash Course and SciShow, started the podcast Hank & John, and founded VidCon.
Overall, Green hopes his subscribers take away that they should be curious and passionate about the world and themselves.
"I think the curiosity is one of the best human emotions," he said. "So I want to help people cultivate that and people be open to the experience of learning new things, and there's always something you didn't know that's going to help you. And even if it doesn't, it doesn't matter because it's fascinating."
Hank and John bonded through YouTube
As well as a platform to grow their audiences, Vlogbrothers was set up because it was something Hank and John could do together.
Green said working out how to have a relationship with a sibling as adults is sometimes hard, especially when you live in different states.
"At that point, I was in Montana and he was in New York city, very culturally different places but also very far apart," he said. "And not just that, we didn't talk very much."
They would exchange words when they visited their parents or messaged each other, but they never had "deep conversations," he said.
Green wouldn't talk to his older brother other about his problems, not exactly out of competitiveness, but because he wanted John to think positively of him.
"When you don't have a close relationship with family member who you respect, or anyone who you respect, you don't want to tell them about the problems because it might make them think less of you," he said. "Which is a silly thing to think about a sibling, and especially about my brother, but I didn't know him that well."
On the channel, the brothers tend to take it in turns to upload, a little like they're sending audio-visual letters to one another.
In a recent vlog, Green met with a woman and joined her mudlark — an archaeological get together which involves scraping the bottom of the Thames for items, "which is just trash and centuries of people throwing stuff in the Thames," Green said. "Mostly you find actual trash, but occasionally you find very old trash."
The following week he made a video about "signing a lot of pieces of paper" because he has a new book coming out and has to autograph tens of thousands of sheets. Before that, John's video included a poem and and some musings about the weather.
Green will call his older brother up with the biggest challenges he faces nowadays "without the blink of an eye." He said he largely has their joint projects to thank for that, because it opened up all kinds of conversations, from hiring a new social media manager to everything else that's going on in their lives.
"It's a little bit like raising a child, like we have this thing that is ours," he said. "It's never going to be just one person's, and so you have a relationship that forms around that."
'You have to keep going, but you've run out of fuel'
Burnout has affected many YouTube creators, especially in recent years. Green said he thinks of it as when "you have to keep going, but you've run out of fuel."
"Where that fuel comes from is going to change through your career," he said. "In the beginning just having views is all the fuel you need, and having the thing be growing and getting attention."
Although it sounds "kind of s—-y," at some point the numbers aren't enough anymore, he said. Sometimes that's because you want a larger audience, enough money to live on, or it's simply because you need to value what you're doing.
For Green, that validation comes with making educational content that helps people, "because that fuel burns really clean for a long time."
"I enjoy getting better at making videos, learning new skills, and making something that I couldn't have made a week ago," he said. "And then I think also diversifying how I feel valued and finding other sources of that internal appreciation."
You have to be more than a YouTuber
When other creators ask Green for advice he tells them they have to "diversify their identity," because they have to be more than a YouTuber.
"In the early times it makes sense to have [your channel] take over your whole life for a little while, but it can't last forever," he said. "Don't alienate all your friends and family. Continue to love and respect them because you will have to have to find that identity again."
He said it feels like the whole universe is saying the channel is the most important part of you, but that's only because everyone around you also benefits from its success — agents, managers, and even friends and family.
"It is very easy to have it become the only way you find value or the only thing you appreciate about yourself," Green said. "But you just have to know that it's not going to be that way forever and to have other identities to fall back on, to be building up other identities that you want to be a part of."
One way Green has kept the balance right is by living in Missoula, Montana, where his friends are all teachers, farmers, and non-profit workers. This helps him realize he has a normal job in the sense that it is part of his life, not his whole life.
"It's a job not a lot of people have, but that doesn't mean that it's actually all that different," he said. "In terms of the practicalities of what I do, which is mostly go to meetings and send emails … That probably sounds familiar."
Green admits he struggles to take a break
Despite an outwardly healthy attitude to a work-life balance, Green freely admits he struggles with taking a break.
"Do I believe in time off?" he said. "Yeah, it is a thing. I have a problem when I am forced to not work."
He's currently fighting the instinct to immediately start working on another book as soon as his latest one, "A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor," is published in July.
"It's not that I'm in this business to seek out the high of stress, which a lot of people I know are," he said. "I'm in this business because I love doing things and I love how it makes me feel to have accomplished something, and I'm effective at it because I hate stress so much that I will work very hard to make it go away."
Part of his difficulty in taking a step back lies in that until pretty recently, he felt his companies couldn't survive without him. He said he could just about handle taking one month off now, but six months would be pushing it a bit. He's certainly not thinking about retirement.
"It's hard, man, running a business and setting it up to sustain itself without you," he said. "I think any CEO would agree. But because of who I am, because of my goals, I want that to be possible."
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