Just be you.
Movies were never my thing – I couldn’t comprehend the idea of sitting still for an hour or so to just watch something in front. I’d rather use the time to read or play video games. That said, as a child, I did grow up watching a lot of cartoons, but as I entered my high school years the TV habit gradually ebbed until I outgrew it completely. Put me in my dream house and I’d be perfectly happy having no cable TV (I do need the screen for the Nintendo Switch, though. Heh).
It extended to videos on the Web as well. My idea of surfing is more on reading entertaining, informative, or motivational articles – not binge-watching stuff on YouTube. However, for the better part of this month, I have been eating my words, and in all my spare time doing exactly just that. What happened?
BuzzFeed happened – to be precise, Worth It, Unsolved, and the most hooking of ‘em all… the Try Guys.
Since 12 September 2014, this awesome-AF quartet (consisting of Ned Fulmer, Keith Habersberger, Zach Kornfeld, and Eugene Lee Yang) has been enamouring the entire world with their antics, their challenges, their… coolness. As of this writing they’ve had more than 100 episodes (excluding their appearances with officemates in other BuzzFeed videos, their guest appearances across the US, and their own Web show), all of which depict them just doing different activities, many of which aren’t your typical everyday hobbies or tasks. Collectively, their videos have amassed over a billion views, their most widely viewed one being that on labor pain simulation (as part of their motherhood/Mothers’ Day arc).
Through it all, the Try Guys have been their own producers and directors, adding a uniquely personal touch to a global reach. They’ve even taken the intimacy to a whole new level with a sub-format débuted in 2017 dubbed the Try Vlog, where they share more “everyday” things they do (or even, in Zach’s case, talk about a recent health diagnosis) – though, arguably, everything they’ve done is personal. Because in all of the videos, the Guys present themselves purely as they are – four young, adventurous dudes willing to take on anything that this deep, wide world offers, and learning and growing in the process.
And learn in the process not just they did, but also their fans. This fan right here from Manila in particular; and just as there are four Try Guys, there are four life lessons I’ve taken from the screen, into my own reality.
1. Confidence, the mother of all dreams
In honor of Mental Health Week in 2015, the Try Guys tried group therapy. (This in itself speaks volumes about their confidence, as therapy, especially for men, is for many uncomfortable) The other Guys believed that Zach – my favorite Try Guy, which I’ll get back to later – needed to be more confident in himself, an insight he himself echoed, not just in this video, but in others as well. (For instance, in an episode where they allowed themselves to get made over by high school girls, he referred to himself as an “insecure young twat” during his own high school days. I’d say similar for myself.)
In every single one of their episodes, however, all four Try Guys epitomized self-confidence in their own ways. They needed to – many of the things they Try require massive doses of it, like doing various dances (Korean, African, and Irish), trying on not-so-wholesome costumes, and even baking bread without any recipe or guidance whatsoever. (And Keith’s perennially putting himself in the spotlight without being arrogant about it, just hilariously.)
Having been somewhat of a performer in high school, I needed to gain confidence where previously there wasn’t. And I really did struggle with confidence and security throughout my younger years, having been mostly an outcast (partially self-imposed, I admit) and having interests that not much people around me had. It reflected in so many ways – my way of dressing, my personality, the way I carried and conducted myself. (Looking back at old photos of myself, I want to bury them and never speak of them again – but be that as it may, that was my life.)
The past few years, however, were like on-the-job training in confidence. I facilitated camps and tours, made cold calls (well, emails) to strangers from elite organizations, ran social enterprises (both my own and otherwise), and spoke publicly (both spontaneously and planned). My experience in the ASEAN Youth Workshop on Social Entrepreneurs in Bangkok last January 2017 was a big boost as well, especially as it was the first time I was interacting with other cultures on that kind of scale.
In each exercise in confidence, I did my best, though for sure there were many times it wasn’t good enough, and I still did struggle with self-confidence – even in everyday things, such as dressing myself up, and in allowing myself to be the one teased in many of my groups.
But these past few weeks, binge-watching the Guys – and the wider BuzzFeed Video in general – was cathartic for me, as even the way I conducted myself everyday changed overnight. The first step to living your Truly Best Life is to know and love yourself, and without self-confidence, there can be no self-love, and there can thus be no holistic approach to selflessness. Watching the Try Guys bear themselves up on the world just like that was joyful for me. I can even go as far as saying that they’ve taught me more about confidence in one month than twenty-six years of life.
2. The comfort zone is what it is: just a zone
Hand-in-hand with confidence is its twin, courage – courage to adventure into the Great Unknown, where feet may fail. (Thanks, Hillsong, for my life’s anthem!)
Ballet was apparently one of the most-requested things the Try Guys try, and watching the episode, I couldn’t help but feel that this was really stepping out of their comfort zones, both literally and figuratively. (Ballet is one of the most physically-intensive activities out there, with the best dancers having started out as practically toddlers.) They did admit difficulties. Yet with their go-get-‘em attitude and confidence, they did it – and nailed it.
There were other episodes, too, where the task did seem herculean (and they didn’t always have a lot of time to prepare), yet they pulled them off neatly: creating Sailor Moon costumes and performing their own song at Anime Expo 2015, competing in a roller derby, and stepping in a USC basketball finale. Other exploits were downright uncomfortable, such as swimming with sharks (without a cage), surviving in the wilderness and at sea, and even recreating female Photoshopped model shots.
Their pilot episode was of them trying ladies’ underwear, and Keith would mention in subsequent interviews that they came to be because they were the only ones willing to do it (a job in BuzzFeed does have its more-than-fair share of quirks, which is pretty swell). Here in the Philippines, trying on ladies’ underwear for any purpose would immediately get us heterosexual men judged – which would probably be the reason why no one’d step up and try it. But the Try Guys straight-up walked out of their comfort zones, and went for it, even going so far as to emulating other aspects of female lifestyle – all for the sake of understanding ladies better.
The past few years for me have also been all about venturing out of my comfort zone. For my own reasons, I never went corporate, choosing instead to dive headlong into social entrepreneurship. But I also needed to turn to other income sources to keep myself and my future afloat while said entrepreneurship efforts hadn’t taken off yet. I prayed to God, surrendered everything to him, and said yes to wherever the Spirit would lead me.
And I went places, going where I never imagined I’d go. Saying yes to managing HABI Footwear led me to BPI Sinag, one of the most joyful experiences in my entire life. Saying yes to going in a more creative direction for The Daily You (rather than sticking to my own vision) opened up a world of possibilities for me in the social media sphere. Saying yes to talking about my experiences (and I’d always hated public speaking then) paved the way for me to rebuild and reinforce the philosophy of living one’s Truly Best Life, and doubly inspired me in working on my book.
For all my passion for entrepreneurship, it’s way beyond my comfort zone. Marketing, the arts, and public speaking – I never imagined I would be doing this for my career, for my life, yet here I am, doing just that. And it’s made me grow so much as a person, that the relative lack of job or income security is nothing compared to the alternative future I could have lived: comfortable, but caged in as well.
The boys of the USC chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha, the featured guests and instructors for the stepping video, said it best: “You’re only going to remain ignorant about a culture if you don’t step out of your box to learn about it.” Same with life, Oluwatomi. Same with life. Thanks for inspiring the Try Guys and us all.
3. Know and live the Gospel according to you
Through it all, the Try Guys did what any one person can and should do best: They were themselves.
Part of knowing and loving yourself is being yourself, because if you’re not even connected with your own identity, how can you love it and use it to serve others?
In past articles, I’ve always stressed the importance of uniqueness and individuality. There is no one exactly like you, not even an identical twin if you had one. You are singly blessed with your own desires, abilities, limits, and circumstances, and like a QR code, it is something idiosyncratic to you, and you alone. Moving forward, the question is: armed with this knowledge, what will you do with it for the sake of others?
(Read more: The Gospel according to you)
Now, take four unique-as-can-be individuals and put them in one clique, one show. Even in the opening scenes, we get to witness just how different each Try Guy is from each other, and it’s such a wonderful thing. They’re even proud of it. In the episode the screenshot above comes from, the Guys had a style makeover from a professional men’s stylist, who tailored it to their individual personalities and the images they wished to convey to the world.
Each of the Try Guys has traits I identify a lot with (or want to develop), which makes me love watching them all the more, and inspires me to be myself more confidently.
Eugene’s fashion-forwardness and being high-achieving is a match made in heaven with his own confidence, which has been noted by people they’ve worked with throughout the series.
Keith’s likability and general approachability is, apparently, a trait I used to have in abundance, but no longer – and it’s a current struggle for me, a feeling that I’ve lost part of myself.
I’m a hopeless romantic type like Ned, with the chief difference being he actually has a beautiful and lovely wife we’re very blessed to see throughout episodes be at the receiving end of his unceasing attention. His own confidence oozes with his frequently showing off if “it makes [his] butt look good” – this utter comfort with his own body is #goals.
Zach, however, is my favorite Try Guy because I see so much of myself in him (the BuzzFeed quiz asking which Guy was my soulmate did, in fact, point to him) and so I relate on a wholly different level than the other three Guys. As mentioned, we both battled insecurity and lack of confidence in our younger years – as well as depression. We’re both lacking in sports or other physical activities. I’m also “single AF”. And it’s also a pet peeve for me to have my name misspelled (“Alloy” being the most common one). And a lot more.
Naturally, no one’s perfect, and every one of us has our shortcomings. But we also have our own virtues. What makes the Try Guys so successful is that they wholeheartedly embrace who they are, not trying to be people they’re not. They are deeply in touch with themselves, and empower themselves with that connection. And look where it’s led them.
The Try Guys brand themselves as “ordinary” guys Trying all these things. I prefer to rephrase it with a little inspiration from the Benita & Catalino Yap Foundation: the Try Guys are ordinary guys trying extraordinary things. Of course, they’re extraordinary stars now, but to show the world how everyday people can do all these things if they just know and believe in themselves and take that unfamiliar step, and be able to identify personally with at least one of them… well, it’s a very heartwarming and inspiring thought.
4. Make it last forever, friendship never ends
It’s touching to read about behind-the-scenes friendships and relationships among TV series or movie stars. In character, they may be mortal enemies (Daniel Radcliffe and Alan Rickman, anyone?), but once the camera cuts, they just sit down and have a laugh.
Some of them become BFFs, arising from this shared experience that they had to go through (for instance, the Harry Potter series took ten years). Perhaps there was already familiarity in the first place because of work, but be that as it may, the Try Guys quickly became best friends, being completely comfortable with each other (nakedness included). To the point that, in true Guys fashion, Ned, Eugene, and Zach organized Keith’s bachelor party, and became groomsmen at his wedding – shooting the entire time and publishing them under BuzzFeed Video. I’m not sure if I’d want my wedding to be publicized that way… not that I have a girlfriend already, yet.
But as each person has their own unique identity, each and every relationship also has its own dynamic and language. Different strokes for different folks. Obviously, the brotherly bonds among the Try Guys had grown so much that Keith didn’t mind that this normally-private milestone in his life be filmed for work. Their friendship is, frankly, enviable, and they’ve squarely landed top spot in my #squadgoals list.
In the same way, I’m very grateful about my friendship with my co-delegates in ASEAN last year. With such short notice, we were brought together, but we stepped up and made it – and our relationships with each other – work. Today, some of us are geographically challenged, but when we get together, it becomes irrelevant: we’re together in the spirit of camaraderie, and that’s what’s matters.
Of course, no relationship is perfect, and every one of them will come with their own fair share of challenges and trials. I’ve had a fair few fights with my own BFFs, and instead of letting it destroy what we’ve cultivated throughout the years, we work to fix it. Any relationship, any action of selflessness, of love, is a choice, and you can choose to do it or walk away. I’ve walked away a lot, to my own regret, and now I consciously choose to stay, even when walking away seems the easy option.
As the group therapy video showed, the Try Guys, too, had their own tensions. Some videos showed it not so subtly. Yet they came out of it closer than ever, each of them testifying to the rock-solid friendship they had with each other, haters begone. Their secret? They cherished their relationships, and put it above everything else. Bromance over blockbuster… and because of that, they did become blockbuster.
A devotion I read once has always stuck with me: Of the three cardinal virtues of faith, hope, and love (or charity), faith and hope will no longer be necessary in heaven – because we would’ve achieved the object of our faith and hope by then. However, love remains – and it’s there to stay forever. And how is it best lived? Through relationships with one another. That is all we will be bringing with us into the afterlife. Nothing, and I repeat nothing, is as valuable as your relationships with other people. Cherish them and keep them strong.
Late last year, I posted on Instagram a lengthy post about how 2017 had been a terrible year for me, for many reasons. I am not ashamed to admit that I was depressed most of that time, having lost all motivation and drive to do things I wanted or loved. Part of it, looking back, was also perhaps due to a lack of confidence in myself, and I’ve started taking steps to fill that gap in my life.
Now, a year since my breakdown began, I’m happy to say that I’m getting there. I’m not completely out of the woods, but I’m nearly so. The rest of 2017 was devoted to healing myself, through my own forms of self-therapy. But this February 2018, watching BuzzFeed and the Try Guys in particular, for the reasons above and so much more, accelerated my recovery, bringing back the person I once was and wanted to be, that person who was hidden for so long and only needed self-love to get out once more.
So, thank you, Ned, Keith, Zach, and Eugene. You will forever be my idols, my heroes, and I will forever be your #tryceratops.