About This Episode
The guest for this episode of Brilliant Thoughts, a SUCCESS magazine podcast, is none other than Chris Do, CEO of The Futur, a company that offers courses, coaching, and a safe space for creatives. This guy is massively amazing, and his message is very powerful.
The One Billion Mission
Chris is a firm believer in setting “really massive, big, hairy, and audacious goals,” and his and his company’s new mission is exactly that: to reach one billion people and teach them how to make a living doing the thing they love without losing their soul.
It is an ambitious mission that is very close to Chris’s heart and is tied to his roots. As a first-generation, Southeast Asian immigrant, he grew up hearing that the “safe” career paths—doctor, lawyer, nurse, engineer, etc.—are the only options available to him. Choosing a career in the creative industries was something he didn’t know was an option until later on in his life.
“It’s not until much later on in life that I realized there’s many other things that you can do that are more aligned with what you want to do in the world. The thing that you’re uniquely qualified to do versus a more traditional path.” –Chris Do.
He wants people all over the world, the younger versions of himself out there, to know that it is a path they could take, and that success is very much within their reach on that path. His mission is to hand them tools to help open that path up for them.
Also, he wants to challenge people to set their sights high and play it big and keep on asking the question: Am I thinking small today?
That question helps him, and others, correct their course in reaching their big, hairy, audacious goals, by taking it one step at a time and learning the discipline to say “no” to the things that take them further away from their mission.
When he was around 7 or 8 years old, Chris remembers one of his uncles giving him a very simple and inexpensive birthday present that he loved: a giant pad of printer paper and a set of markers. He tells the story of how he made a thank you card with the gift and handed it back to his uncle.
As a child of an immigrant family, Chris didn’t have a lot of things growing up. If he wanted something, he had to make it. He would go down the creek and get some bamboo and start bending and gluing them together.
“That’s who I am... So, to me, there was already something inside of me that was connected to art design making,” Chris shares.
He was around senior high school when he learned that people could make a living off of making art when he worked at a silk screen shop and met a graphic designer while working there. That starts to change the course of his life, and he is self-determined to be a designer.
He graduated from the Art Center with a degree in design and built an agency. He worked with a lot of different businesses, making commercials and music videos, and later on, logos for brands. Two of his favorite clients were the band called The Raveonettes and Xbox. His agency made two music videos for the Raveonettes and worked on E3 for the launch of Xbox One X.
“I love working with artists. I love working with any client that challenges you to do your best work. That has a high bar themselves, but doesn’t try to micromanage you how to get there,” Chris says. “And this is a clue for any client who hires a vendor, the more you trust them, the more responsibility you put on them, the more they will give of themselves because they know what’s at stake,” he shares.
As an artist, Chris believes it is important to feel good about the work they are doing; otherwise, the work suffers.
They no longer do client work and were semi-retired back in December 2018. “We made a pledge to ourselves, if we can just be a full-time content education company, then we’ll never do client work again,” he says.
He also taught lectures and did talks for 15 years at the Art Center, and in 2014, his career in content creation on social media began. One of his friends, Jose Caballer, pushed him to make YouTube content. Chris reluctantly agreed, but it was the biggest shift for him in terms of what he was going to do for the rest of his life.
Beginning his YouTube career wasn’t easy. As an introvert, Chris found himself awkward in front of the camera. However, being a naturally competitive and passionate person, he began to overcome that.
His main driving force was to keep challenging himself. There was a time when he didn’t understand how social media worked and what content to put out there. But he kept on learning the algorithm. As an analytical person, he would release content and use the data to keep on improving. Once he started diving into it, Chris found content creation fascinating.
One of his “aha!” moments was interviewing Michael Janda and realizing the edge of providing educational content on YouTube. Being the competitive person he was, Chris started working on gaining more followers and overtook a lot of people, including his friend Jose, on social media.
To this day, he tries to challenge himself. “Everybody needs a pace car, one that keeps them on track. Think: ‘The mechanical rabbit that keeps the greyhounds running.’ There’s a pace and we want to set the pace,” Chris says.
He shares the story of trying to meet the challenge of getting 10,000 new followers on Instagram in two weeks. In order to do that, he needed to post four times a day. It was a daunting task at first, until Chris realized that perfectionism was getting in the way of his goals. He sets constraints on himself because he believes that "you've got to force yourself. Creativity expands or contracts to meet a deadline. I know this. This is the kryptonite of all creative people.”
At the end of two weeks, he managed to achieve the goal he thought was impossible: posting four times a day and even managing to double the target followers to 20,000.
He learned several things. “One is, you’re really a poor judge for your own value. And two, when you do things under tight time constraints and you don’t care so much, you actually get into a state and it forces you to make decisions quickly and communicate simply,” Chris shares.
Now, his newest challenge is to get 100,000 followers on TikTok, and he challenged Tristan to race to that goal.
The Longest Game Anybody’s Ever Played
Contrary to what most entrepreneurs preach, Chris doesn’t post on social media for the purpose of marketing his business but more as a form of self-expression. “I love building communities. I want to give value. I look at this as an extremely long game. The longest game anybody’s ever played,” Chris says.
He looks at content creation on social media like a puzzle. “It’s just a game, and I want to learn how to play the game and what the rules are. I barely know how to use any of the platforms despite the audience I have,” he says.
To him, as long as you give generously to your audience, something of value, it doesn’t matter much whether you know anything about social media or not.
He has one simple rule. “Get really good at something, or get out.” Chris makes it a point to do extreme immersion in anything that he does, a habit that has paid off for him eventually.
When he was younger, he was into fishing and mixed martial arts. He would spend hours reading magazines and books about fishing, buying all of the UFC VHS cassette tapes on eBay, and going to mixed martial arts events.
During the time he was working on his agency, his extreme immersion in mixed martial arts served him well. While working with Spike TV, he learned that they were doing The Ultimate Fighter with the UFC. He wanted to do that project and asked his creative director to relay to the client that he was a fan.
While talking to the client about The Ultimate Fighter project, the client realized that Chris knew more about mixed martial arts than they did. “If you’re passionate about something, it will find its way back to you somehow. …When your knowledge and your passion exceed your client’s knowledge and passion, you get instant credibility,” he says.
His advice is simple: be a die-hard fan of the things you get into. You’ll never be quite sure how, but it will always pay off to get good and knowledgeable about the things you are passionate about.
Keeping Your Skills Sharp
“If you pay attention to what your students or your customers’ needs are, they will constantly push and challenge you. I’m sure you’re aware of this,” Chris shares. “There’s something called the curse of knowledge. It’s cognitive bias—what you know how to do today, that you can do without even effort or thinking on an autonomic level. You used to struggle with it, but you forgot about it.”
When he started The Futur, during his coaching groups, he would teach about pricing and how to make a logo, and some of the people he was teaching would raise questions that they called “dumb.” But for Chris, there are no such things as dumb questions.
Because of such questions, Chris was able to go back to his roots and remember the time when he himself was figuring things out. The questions they raised are real problems and it requires creative thinking to relate to them the answer, and how they came up with the answers in the first place.
These constraints, in order to teach others who are learning from scratch, have taught Chris how to expand himself.
“My biggest inspiration, and I’m saying this without judgment, is working with young, naive, obstinate, and sometimes ignorant people. Because they remind me of what the real problem is, and that I’m teaching them—not the people that already know what to do… So, I’m a person in search of a really good problem. And they generally come from people who are very frustrated, who have almost given up. They bring the best problems. And from that, I’m able to get more ideas. I can invent a new framework. I can explain things differently.” –Chris Do
The Secret to Success? Sell Peace of Mind
To Chris, peace of mind—making your client feel safe and comfortable—is the ultimate goal. Part of that is building relationships, but it is also something more.
“If you’re an entrepreneur, and you’re in sales, or you do some kind of client-facing thing, the thing that you have to do is to make clients feel safe. You have to speak to their unspoken fears. You have to tap into their motivations, and you have to address their objections before they even voice it,” Chris shares.
This means asking the right questions, making the clients feel heard and seen, and reflecting back their wishes and desires.
Ask questions like “When you hire someone, what’s going to keep you up at night?” or “How will you decide who you will work with? Because we know you have options.”
Those questions reveal a little bit about them, and how they think. You need a certain level of self-awareness and confidence to speak to your clients’ fears and know that you can provide what they need.
“...In the course of my creative business, I’ve done over $80 million of revenue. I’ve had literally hundreds of calls with some of the biggest brands, bands, and agency creators in the world. I’m not saying I know everything about sales, but I don’t think I can run a company for 25 plus years and not know what I’m doing,” Chris shares. “...if you sell peace of mind, you can get a lot of customers.”
Make them feel that you are going to take care of their needs, their project, and their brand. It is also not just saying yes to what they want, but communicating clearly, without being patronizing, whether there are other options that would serve their needs better than what they want to be done. Because you are an expert. Your client might not know everything there is to know about your business or your craft.
“Make people feel comfortable. Make sure that [you address] their concerns. Do not patronize them,” Chris says. “[Sometimes,] we’re in a rush to make the sale, we’re thinking about another job, we’re just like… we take for granted the person sitting right in front of us has a real problem, and right now, this is the most important problem to them. Treat it with some respect.”
Where to Follow Chris Do:
Chris Do is on all major social media platforms (@theChrisDo):
You can also visit The Futur’s website: thefutur.com.
DISCLAIMER: The people interviewed are well-trained experts and highly skilled in their areas of practice. They take many safety precautions prior to attempting the activities described. The activities or research discussed in these podcasts should not be attempted without qualified supervision and training with professionals.