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April 1, 2019 · 14 min read

Creative influence with Kevin The Tech Ninja

You might not recognize the name Kevin Nether, but chances are you’ve watched at least one video by Kevin The Tech Ninja. If you haven’t, fire up your YouTube app.

A self-described “guy who’s just always loved technology,” Kevin’s videos have won acclaim and following for his creative, down-to-earth unboxings, product reviews, and the occasional rant. In this episode I talk to Kevin about being a creator, letting go in order to scale yourself, and the hard work of creating content you can be proud of in any discipline.

Kevin Nether

The Tech Ninja
Read transcript

Ledge: Kevin, man, it’s awesome to have you. Thanks so much for joining.

Kevin: No problem. Thank you so much for having me.

Ledge: Can you give a two- or three-minute sort of background story of you and your work just so the audience can get to know you.

Kevin: My name is Kevin Nether. I just reside just out of Detroit, Michigan. I’m from the same area. I feel like I’m doing a dating profile. I’m 31 years old. I’m a guy who just loves technology. I’ve always loved technology and I’ve always had a passion for film, for movies. I used to watch movies as a kid growing up and break down the shots. I was kind of a weird kid.

Saving Private Ryan was sort of my go-to movie as far as cinematography and I love technology. And then, it just took some time and those two passions kind of fused together. And now, I’m making a YouTube channel called “The Tech Ninja” and, essentially, the channel is me having a conversation with you about technology.

I can get super technical about things but I’d rather not. I’d rather have a conversation where everyone can understand and the techy people can get something out of it. But I’d rather have my mom get something out of it because as IT people are smart people, we are the support for our families; and, a lot of times, speaking at a thousand miles per hour, a lot of people won’t understand what you’re talking about.

You could talk about megabits and megabytes and all those things but it’s a foreign language for a lot of people. So I speak in real life language to talk about technology, things I like, and I bring it to a practical level.

So when I compare the new iPhones, the new Galaxy, I’ll say, “Hey, this one gets a better battery life for ‘at 10 p.m. I’m charging it’ versus ‘hey, I get seventeen ours of talk time.’” I look at real metrics and that’s just kind of what I do on my YouTube channel. I just have fun with it and I’d pop out a couple of good videos a week.

Ledge: I am one of the 1.5 million or whatever people who watch your stuff. I’m just struck by the creative flair of what you do for a topic. If there’s a hundred million videos out there on unboxing the iPhone, your stuff is tight. It has a creative vibe to it.

You’re a technologist artist and I think our audience would really relate to that. We have craftsmen coders and code poets and they just have a different vibe about their creative discipline in their practice.

What’s your take on that?

Kevin: Number one, I have the utmost respect for programmers and encoders because when I was in college, I had to take a program in class. I think it was Java or something like a required class.

And that is the hardest thing ever. You have one error on a line; you fix it; then, you have thirty-seven more errors. That right there is just mad respect for anyone who can make something out of nothing.

And I’ve worked with programmers before and when it comes to their codes, they’re very particular about it. They can look at a program from someone else and say, “Oh, this is crappy. This is ugly.” They’ll look at the code and say it’s an ugly code, which I don’t understand.

So I think we sort of do the same thing. You take pride in your work and you create things that you’ll be happy if you were a customer of that. If you paid someone to make a code, you would want that same type of quality or craftmanship, if you will.

Yes, I think we’re two of the same.

Ledge: I’m just curious about your production and this idea that as you got more and more busy, you got more popular, you got things going on, you had a baby and you had to outsource or sort of hire an editor or whatever to come in and work on your stuff.

And it’s difficult to let go. It’s kind of like scaling yourself and creating that vision for somebody else to touch your product.

Talk about that a little bit.

Kevin: Yes. It’s sort of hard. It kind of feels like you’re letting go a little bit. To me, that was sort of a challenge.

It had to happen. It was one of those things where I was in a position to do that for a while. I should have had an editor years ago because it just gets to a point where you want to do so much more and you have to send off certain works and certain things. You have to outsource things.

Right now, my wife handles the accounting and she handles a lot of the emails and stuff just to free up more time for me to do more creative things.

A lot of people want to talk about being a YouTuber just sitting in front of a camera talking about tech; but most of it is pre-work, post-work, emails, invoicing, and a lot of other stuff that isn’t the ideal picture of being a “tech YouTuber.”

You just have to trust someone and sort of make a synergy with someone whom you get a good vibe from, someone who is genuinely a fan of your content because he’s watched my videos over the years so he has a an idea of how I work. So I was able to work pretty well.

And me being the way I am ─ I’m sort of a control freak when it comes to that ─ but I heard a good quote which may make programmers upset. It says, “Don’t let perfection get in the way of being really good.”

There are times when I see a shot and I’m like, “That’s not perfect but, you know what, it’s really good”; and 99.9% of the people won’t even know the difference. I have to let that go, otherwise, I’ll be stuck working on one video for three weeks.

Ledge: You have a million clients at any given time but you just have to make that business calculation. It’s like, “Yes, I could refactor this; I could make this better.”

We have those conversations all the time. Absolutely, you’ve got to get to what we call a “minimum viable product.” Just get it out there because if you don’t release, you’re not going to get any feedback; you’re not going to be able to get better.

I’m sure when you look back at the stuff you did at the beginning, you’re just like, wow, that’s garbage. I bet if I looked at it, I’d be like, oh, that’s pretty cool.

Kevin: Once I have published, I don’t watch the video ever again. It’s just me seeing things in the video that I could have done better or done differently or “Why did I say it that way?” And it bothers me.

Even videos from a year ago, every once in a while, I’ll pop something on and I’m just like, oh, no, my lighting, my white balance, oh, what is going on?

It’s just me. I know how I am and I protect myself from me.

Ledge: Absolutely! You’re a self-employed influencer. I don’t know if a lot of people aspire to do the work necessary to get there. But I think our audience can probably relate, as a self-employed person, that you’ve got a lot of stuff to do to wrap up around that.

How do you keep a disciplined schedule? How do you keep up with all the things you’ve got to do in a right prioritized order?

Kevin: I think I’m really bad at that, to be quite honest. I think most people would agree ─ when you work for yourself. I would love to say, “Hey, I have hours that I work and I do my hours, and then I put it down and spend time with my family.”

But that’s not the case, unfortunately. I sort of work in good spurts and I think I work better with a foreseeable deadline like if I have to get something done by 8 p.m., I’m going to get it done by 8 p.m.” But if there’s no foreseeable deadline, I might delay and it might take longer.

So this is one of those things where I give myself deadlines or I give myself good stopping points and I’m sure I’d get there. I sort of just hunker down and do it. I don’t eat dinner, sometimes. I’m not the best person to speak on this whole balance thing but I’m doing my best and I hope I get better with it.

Ledge: I don’t think any of us are. I resonate with your method as well. How about putting yourself out there? There are a lot of people, really a lot of smart engineers, smart technologist; and they still have a lot to say, really useful feedback and ways to help others. But maybe they just don’t have a stage or they’re intimidated by writing or speaking on video or doing podcasts.

Any advice to help people advance their influence?

Kevin: I wish there was like a beautiful crafted sentence I can use and just everything is perfect. But it took me years of doing this. It took me years of negative comments; it took me years of not caring after a while.

You get called a bad word so many times where it just doesn’t bother you anymore. It’s one of those things where you just have to not care and know that whatever you’re into, someone else is into it; and if that person finds you, they’ll like you.

And then, just keep creating; keep baking something. If they don’t like this last video, they’ll like the next one. That’s the mindset you have to have. Basically, you have to have a bad memory, I guess.

Ledge: Right. What’s new and exciting now? What are you really thrilled about with the work?

Kevin: Right now, it’s Smarthome. I bought this house about two years ago. It’s an older house like 1960s or so; and the person that had it before me left it in the 1960s or so. So I’ve spent a lot of time and money upgrading the house to something that’s more comfortable for me and I’ve been just really getting into Smarthome.

And Smarthome is still the industry that’s somewhat booming but it hasn’t really taken off. I mean, everyone buys a Google home or the Amazon Echo but they don’t know what to do with it. They just ask what the weather is. They don’t take advantage of it.

So I do a lot of videos on my channel where I talk about how to really take advantage of it. I have a video right now called “The Hundred-Dollar Smarthome Challenge. And this video is basically for a hundred bucks on what you can do with your Smarthome; what can this hundred dollars get for you.

And in that video, we get Amazon Echo; we get lights, switches, and all these things. There are a lot of things you can do with Smarthome that people may not know what to do with it.

Do you know having an automatic switch for your bathroom is really cool? You walk in the bathroom and the light comes on. You don’t have to touch anything. If you have guests in your house and you don’t want them touching things and not wash their hands. It’s just really hygienic. So I have that in the bathroom and that’s like the coolest thing ever.

And then, I look back four years ago when I was sitting here talking about a smart switch for the bathroom. I don’t know. The four-years-ago version of me will be really upset with myself right now because, back then, it was “Oh, the new Galaxy Android phone…” and, now, I’m talking about switches in a bathroom.

I don’t know. I just think these things are more practical especially for me.

Ledge: I know you’re a new parent. I’ve got to ask about that. How is your perspective changing and evolving?

We have a lot of people who are independent professionals at that stage of life juggling their kids.

Kevin: Let me get some sleep first and I can give you a better answer. I just sort of go day by day. I haven’t really had a chance to really sit down and think about it. Honestly, I’m trying to set up a situation where if my son wants to walk in and take this thing over because technology is forever advancing and, one day, I’m going to be the old geezer no one wants to listen to anymore; and maybe my son wants to take it over…

When I started my YouTube channel, I was in my mom’s house doing videos out of my bedroom; and now, I have my house with my son. It’s crazy how my YouTube channel has seen me grown from basically a kid fresh out of college to a grown man supporting a family.

I don’t know yet. I’ve never sat down…

I guess, when you’re in the midst of things, you never stop and look from the outside to appreciate what happens. And, I guess, when we’re talking about them, I kind of looked and a lot has occurred in my life on YouTube which is pretty wild if you think so.

Ledge: Are you ever going to bring him on? Have you done that?

Kevin: I have one video about the top apps for new parents. I’m very hesitant about having my son in the videos and everything because I get recognized in public, sometimes, which is kind of a weird animal as it is. And I just don’t want anyone recognizing my child.

People are very crazy these days. I sort of want to leave him out of that until he’s of age where he wants to do it and he’s into it and I can have these conversations with him.

As a baby, they change so much that I’ll throw him in the video every once in a while. His face will change. He’s like the little blob right now and, eventually, he’ll become a normal looking person. So until then…

If it’s relevant to what I’m doing, then, yes, but I’m not just going to put him in front of everything I do.

Ledge: You’re a tech guy. Let’s just wrap it up with sort of your future prediction. Where are we going here?

We’ve got AI. We’ve got video. Everybody is carrying around a super computer in their pockets. What’s going to happen in the next five years?

Kevin: In the next five years, we’re going to see real 5G connectivity between cars, between everything. And, right now, the car industry is looking at the autonomous driving car and the whole autopilot which is extremely dangerous to do. And they push it out as beta software.

It’s weird. I think in the next five years, this will be refined and I think cars would communicate with each other. I don’t think it’s going to be full autonomous driving but I think they’ll be able to communicate like if you’re switching lanes, I think the cars will be able to “have a conversation” to prevent that accident or things like that; or if there’s a car on the side of the road, it can send a distress signal to other cars so you won’t hit that car.

I think autonomous driving on certain routes, let’s say, for an army veteran who is disabled, a route to go to the doctor or a route to go to the store ─ I think those types of cars will be out there, a pre-defined set routes and these other cars can talk to it and that car can communicate, “Hey, I’m going to turn left” and ensure another car can’t hit me in that situation.

But, right now, there are so many different protocols that companies are working on that they don’t all speak the same language.

So I think that’s going to be a problem where a Chevy can have a different language and Tesla has a different language; and they don’t speak to each other.

I think that’s going to have to be refined. But 5G is going to be the spectrum that will do that just because a throughput and output is ridiculous for 5G right now. I mean, we’re talking almost a gigabit down and up which is the potential for 5G which is amazing for wireless connectivity.

Ledge: I love the insights, man. It’s so cool to have you on. Where should people look you up and find you?

I have watched the videos and have really enjoyed them so I want to throw my endorsement on. But let everybody know where to find you.

Kevin: On YouTube, I’m “The Tech Ninja.” Just type it right up. And anywhere social media based is “Tech Ninja Speaks”─ that’s Twitter, Instagram, Facebook.

You can find me a couple of times a week on YouTube ─ The Tech Ninja.

Ledge: Kevin, I love having you on, man. Thanks so much.

Kevin: Thank you so much for having me.