“Figure out what you want to do and do it,” popular YouTuber Casey Neistat told University of Maryland student-fans who sat on the edge of their seats, eager to absorb more words of wisdom.
Neistat spoke to UMD students about overcoming trials and tribulations as well as pursuing passions at Student Entertainment Events’ (SEE) fall lecture event held at the Stamp Grand Ballroom on Sept. 21.
Neistat is known for his successful YouTube channel and his HBO series, The Neistat Brothers. He is also the co-founder of the technology company Beme, a mobile video platform. He has worked with large companies, such as Nike, Mercedes and Samsung to push the boundaries of branded content online through the creation of videos and advertisements.
However, underneath all of the fame and self-made success, Neistat has endured setbacks. As a kid, his middle school principal told him, “When you grow up, you’ll either be dead or in jail.” When his HBO show aired, it had scarcely any viewers. Neistat knows what it means to fail.
His past tribulations made him relatable to college students, who often struggle to determine the path they wish to pursue.
“Most people never figure out what it is they want to do for the rest of their lives. When we’re kids, we know we want to be [expletive] astronauts. We are committed to that,” he told the audience. “But when we become adults, we settle in our ambitions.”
Jacob Mitchener, a junior mechanical engineering student, was anticipating that bit of advice from Neistat. “Casey’s a motivational guy and I feel like I could use some direction right now,” he said.
Throughout his lecture, Neistat reiterated the concept doing what you can’t — one of his well-known mantras.
“He’s different. He doesn’t swim with the crowd; he goes his own way,” said junior physics student Sam Chun.
“Personally, I want to get into vlogging and video editing, and he’s really good at that,” said junior engineering student Rahsaan Beane. “I watch his YouTube videos and try to learn how he edits his videos, so maybe seeing him in person will help me become better.”
And that’s just the goal of UMD’s SEE lectures: to book speakers who bring value and insight to college students.
“I think our main goal is to not only attract a bunch of students but to provide a show that tells a story and is informative but is also just fun and engaging,” said Sammi Silber, lectures director at SEE. “We’ve brought lectures that have not only been informative but ones that have brought up issues and things that students feel they can talk about but wanted to be a louder discussion.”
Neistat said expressing opinions and concerns in today’s political climate is difficult: “It’s a very fine line to walk. There is a lot of toxicity in the [social media] environment, politically. But these are temporary problems. I think the egalitarianization of communication, which is what social [media] has done, means that everyone has a voice [sic].”
SEE has also hosted YouTube personality Todrick Hall and other celebrities like Bill Nye and Jesse Tyler Ferguson from Modern Family.
“The cool thing is about bringing in all these people is that they’re all excellent in their fields. We’ve had people come in and talk about sexual assault or their life stories,” said Silber. “Even though they’re big names and they’re known for comedy or entertainment or whatever field they’re in, they all have an important message…it’s not so much the name, but the stories that you get.”