5 life lessons from creating ‘Subscribe to a Cure’ with my son, Landon
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If that’s the case, then how much is a video worth? For me, it’s priceless.
I am the proud parent of a very special 7-year-old named Landon.
My son was a typical kid who liked chess, video games, and going to the beach. But he also had a medical issue. The channel that we created for him is called “Subscribe to a Cure,” after all. He was diagnosed with a form of cancer called Wilms tumor in 2018, and he unfortunately passed away on May 19, 2021.
If I’ve learned anything from my amazing son, it’s this: You're never too old (or young) to follow your dreams.” ― Mike Dreves
Landon was introduced to YouTube when we started watching typical kids videos, but from there, he discovered an unlimited stream of content from educational videos on how the universe worked to competitions on who could eat the most spicy ramen. Landon was hooked and knew that he wanted to be a YouTuber -- not when he grew up, but now.
Almost everyone who’s watched Landon’s channel says the same thing: After watching his videos, they feel like they know him as if they had met him in person.
With YouTube, my son was able to share his personality, his interests, his ambitions, his sorrows; basically, his life story in just 10 minutes.
Never before in history has such power been available to the average person -- or in this case, a seemingly average 7-year-old boy.
In my case, my son seemed to have been born part-child and part-adult. One night, we could be reading Dr. Seuss at bedtime, and the next night we would be reading Stephen Hawking and discussing CPT theory.
To fulfill my son’s dream of being a YouTuber, we decided to create a channel together. I’m going to discuss lessons that my son and I learned while starting his. I believe it to be relevant to aspiring YouTubers.
Lesson 1: Don't wait until you are ready
Landon and I discussed his channel for several months and every day he would ask me, “Have you set up the channel yet?”
I had so many questions and concerns: How do I set up the account? What camera do we use? What video editing software should we use? What lighting should we buy?
I wanted things to be perfect, but he just wanted to start vlogging. And, as usual, he was right.
Your first video doesn't need to be perfect, it will likely get better with time. It just needs to be authentic. Fortunately, in our case we partnered with Make a Wish as a forcing function to kick things off, and then later pulled a few all-nighters to get his first video out. It's like anything: It takes effort to get things moving, but then you just roll with it.
Lesson 2: Find role models
We learned a lot about channels, and what works and what doesn't work. Landon was inspired by the numbers of subscribers they had and how many likes they got. We all need inspiration! If you are starting a YouTube channel, then YouTube is the natural place to find it.
Lesson 3: Find your passion
If you are passionate about what you are doing, then people with the same interests will feel your passion and gravitate toward your channel. Landon was fortunate to be passionate about many things. The original channel was going to be called TWL (Travels with Landon), because we were going to vlog about local and remote trips. We soon found that this was far too limiting. He wanted to tell his (and other people’s) stories, and discuss chess and video games. One day I was recording him cooking, and he said, "Put this on my vlog." And thus, cooking was added to our list.
We also tried to mix things up. Landon was very into learning math, but also into playing video games, so we tried to combine these into one video about learning math using Roblox. Keep looking for new ideas, but don't deviate from what you are passionate about.
Lesson 4: Don't forget the ‘you’ in YouTube
Finding role models is important, but don't just copy your role models. While watching different gamers crashing cars or people opening gifts can be entertaining for some, the greatest videos out there are from creators that offer a glimpse into their lives. They offer something relatable that helps their audience connect with them. They not only entertain; they also tell a story. Landon loved all people and all cultures, but for his pavlova video, it was an "Australian" pavlova, because Landon was part Australian.
The channel was built from many hours of discussion between me and my son, and Landon had heavy input on the final video -- what the content would be, whether a video was ready to release or not, what playlist should be used.
Lesson 5: Give back to the community
Not everyone will be fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have as clear a cause as Landon did, but everyone can give back in some way. This is one of the things that makes me most proud of my son. It’s hard to imagine all that Landon was going through, yet he was very clear that he wanted his channel to help others. Giving back can be as simple as partnering with an organization like St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and raising over $3 million to help end childhood cancer -- a 2020 feat accomplished by generous donors and 30+ popular YouTubers. I believe that acts like these don't go unnoticed and are a key part of what it means to be a successful YouTuber.
Many have told us that Landon will live on in our memories. YouTube has provided us a channel in which Landon can also live on through the lives of those that subscribe to his channel and are touched by his stories. So while a picture may be worth a thousand words, videos truly are priceless.
Landon's story may have been cut short, but his mom and I would like to carry on his legacy by continuing to bring awareness to his cause through this channel. Maybe you watched his story. Maybe you’ve even made a pavlova. But if our son touched your heart in any way, then please Subscribe to a Cure to show your support. Landon's goal was to get 1M subscribers and for each person to donate $1.
If I’ve learned anything from my amazing son, it’s this: You're never too old (or young) to follow your dreams.