YouTube superstar The King of Random nearly quit the platform three times - luckily he stayed and now has over 11.3 million subscribers, and 2.4 billion views. Read his story here.
Welcome to the first in an exciting new series focusing on some of the most inspiring YouTubers around today. We're taking a look at their creator journey, and the story behind their success.
In this episode, the spotlight falls on Grant Thompson, otherwise known to millions as 'The King of Random'. Grant nearly quit the platform three times before finding the right work/life balance for himself and his team. His 'The King of Random' YouTube channel now boasts over 11.3M subscribers, and 2.4B views, and he has built a solid business around his YouTube content. You can read the full transcript of Grant's story below:
YouTube Creator Journey: The King of Random
Hey, guys. My name is Grant Thompson, known around the internet as The King of Random. For the last eight years, I've been very passionate about figuring out how the world works and really taking time to figure out the mechanics of our society, everything from pyrotechnics to napkin folding, and from welding to making bread. Everything that I've learned so far, I've turned into videos and put on my YouTube channel so that all the knowledge and experience I've been gaining through my personal experiences could be shared with the rest of the world. Our YouTube channel has over 10 million subscribers now and 2 billion video views. And I'm gonna show you how it all started, because this is my creator journey.
Here's the super fast version of my life story before YouTube. I was born in Canada to some amazing parents who tried their best to raise a kid like me. And probably like a lot of kids out there, I struggled in school and grew up with low self-esteem. I also got bullied and became a trouble-maker to get attention and that ended up getting me in trouble with the law.
But, at age 14, I decided to take ownership for my life. I started finding joy in things like extreme sports, cliff jumping, whitewater rafting, repelling, and even skydiving. And by age 19, I left Canada to go to England for two years to serve a voluntary church mission. And then I came home, bought an airplane, and decided to work on the oil rigs as a roughneck, blowing up dynamite and drilling for oil in the Northwest Territories.
It was dangerous work, but the money that I made was enough to help me pay for my airplane and the fuel for all the time I spent flying it. I got licensed as long-haul tanker truck driver at age 22. Then I moved to Oahu, Hawaii to fly airplanes and drive motor coaches for Hawaiian tourists. While I was out there, I became a commercial airline pilot, and moved back to the mainland to work for SkyWest Airlines by age 23. And with that stable career, I got married at age 26, bought 11 houses, and semi-retired at age 29. My wife and I have four kids, all boys. And during that time, that's when we decided to buckle down, learn how the world works, and start making videos on YouTube.
A lot of people ask me how the King of Random got started. And it was really back in 2009 when the economy was struggling, there were rumors of another great depression. I had a wife and kids to take care of and I took that responsibility seriously. So, I started on a personal journey to intimately understand how the important things in our society work, like light bulbs, electricity, and filtered water.
I wanted to know how they were produced and I wanted to know how to make them at home if I needed to. So, I spent the next year tinkering and experimenting with anything I could get for free off the classified ads. And in the process, I was making discoveries about things that were blowing my mind. I made an arc welder out of microwave parts. I build rocket rocket motors from sugar. I played with high voltage electricity that I made from glass bottles and saltwater.
And what was really fun about that time, was as I'd share these random experiments with friends, people began asking like, who is this guy? Why does he know these kinds of things? And quite often, I'd share my newest passions with my brother and he always seemed to have this friend hanging around just listening in the background to all these random projects going on. And one day, he just stepped up and said, "Dude, you're like the King of Random." And that's pretty much where the name came from.
I could feel that the things I was experimenting with were kind of peculiar. And people in general seemed unusually interested to know more. So, that's when I decided to learn how to make videos and start sharing these ideas on YouTube.
In 2010, I created my first YouTube channel. And since I wasn't really planning on becoming a famous YouTuber, I just enter the date and time, which was 01032010814. It was just this random number, but it gave me a place where I could upload stuff. And so, I started using my handicam to make fun little videos about how to start fires using water bottles or how to build rockets and random things like that because I thought it was cool to share. And it seems like the internet agreed because hundreds of thousands of people started watching them.
Now, right about the end of 2011, that's when I started getting really serious. I thought, I could probably make this a business because nobody else was making the kind of content I was sharing and there seemed to be a need for it. YouTube had just offered monetization to creators, so I got my channel monetized and I said, I'll do this as an experiment. The idea was if I made 100 videos that were good enough to get 100,000 views, then it would probably be worth it. And in the process, I'd have a great excuse to learn more about the things I was passionate about anyway.
Some people have asked how I know so much about so many different things and the truth is, I really don't. When I began, I wasn't an expert at all. I just looked at the kind of people I'd like to be, even though most of them were fictional, like MacGyver or James Bond. But the Mythbusters were a great real-life inspiration to me. I wondered how do you go from knowing absolutely nothing, to being just like one of those guys. So, this became my own personal journey, one step at a time, learning how different things work to become like MacGyver or more like a Mythbuster myself.
Sometimes, I'm interested in welding and do a bunch of welding projects. Sometimes, it's pyrotechnics. Sometimes, I'll just be folding napkins 'cause I was on a cruise and I thought that was cool. Or I could be making apple swans. It's just whatever I'm interested in. I typically spend a little bit of time in a few videos exploring those topics, and then once I was satisfied, move onto something else.
Like most internet content creators, almost all day, every day, I spent working on new videos, concepts, and ideas to the point where it was almost an obsession. And I think this happens for a lot of creators. It go to the point where I felt like I was actually limiting my own personal progression so that I could keep making videos and content for the internet. It was a real battle because what I really wanna do is just play and explore the world, but then nobody knows about it. But if I take the time to create videos, then I don't have as much time to play and tinker. So, it's been this constant struggle to juggle the best of both worlds. But it's really been worth 'cause it stretched me and made me grow.
The success of our YouTube channel has helped build me as a person, it's helped build my self-confidence. You know, back before I'd made any projects myself, I did feel a little insecure in this society, because I didn't know how anything worked. And when you don't know something, you're kind of dependent on the system. But now things are completely different.
I've learned so much and feel like I've broken through to the point where I could be okay supporting my family whether or not there's any kind of apocalyptic collapse. And not only that, but in the process, people have looked to me as an inspiration and people are actually willing to try a few things for themselves because I've left a trail for them to follow.
These videos aren't just about showing cool things that we've made. It's really about empowering people, showing you that you can try something new and do something you thought was difficult. So many people have stopped me in the streets and told me how they've sat down as a family and done some of the projects together from our channel. And that's something I could have never predicted when I started making these videos eight years ago.
I think one of the hardest things for creators these days is experiencing massive success. When you make something that does really well and attracts an audience, that audience expects you to make more, which is really awesome. But it kinda ties you into this cycle where you have to constantly be making more. And if you're the one doing it, then it has to be you. It's your face, your mind, your projects. And it really is stressful and it's a constant grind. I think that's why we see so many creators today suffering from mental health issues and needing to take breaks.
I was at that point myself two years ago, ready to quit YouTube for the third time when I read a book called The E Myth, and that changed my life. I started building systems instead of building videos. I hired my first employee, started putting together training programs, started to become more of a leader, and started treating the YouTube production more like a business as well, one that was gonna stick around longer than I would.
And now here we are today with 14 employees making five videos a week. We're finally at a place now, where we've built a really good machine that I think looks really promising. We've got the platform, we've got the content that we produce every day, and now I'm bringing in the employees that can spend all day tinkering and prototyping and playing in a sustainable way that's not gonna burn them out. So, looking forward, The King of Random movement has a very bright future.
We're starting to roll out project kits that people can do at home. We're thinking about putting together a King of Random camp, where people can get together and build things. We're writing books, we're selling merchandise. We'd might even find a way to put project kits in schools so that teacher and kids could do these things in class. The only real guarantee in life is change. So, whatever the future holds for me and The King of Random, one thing's for sure. I'm sure we're all gonna learn a lot. And the journey, no doubt, will be random. Stay random my friends and we'll see you in the next video.
We'd like to say a HUGE thanks to Grant for taking us on his journey. Tune in next week for a brand new episode.
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Liron Segev, aka TheTechieGuy, is the Director of Customer Success at vidIQ, an internationally celebrated Digital YouTube Strategist working with some of the largest brands and YouTube influencers in the world. Over the past 20+ years, his work has taken him to South Africa, the UK and the US where he frequently speaks at conferences and provides expert tech commentary for various print publications, radio, and TV while actively running his Tech Blog.