CNLP 317: Jefferson Bethke Unpacks Launching His Career on the Internet at Age 22, the Downside of Hustle, and Carving Out a Sane Pace of Life as a Leader and Parent

YouTube launched Jefferson Bethke to fame in 2012 when a video he posted got millions of views. Since then, he’s spent his entire life online, pivoting through all the changes in algorithm, platforms and audience.

Jeff and Carey reflect on what it’s like to be the first generation to be able to do that with your life, why having a fluid strategy matters, and how to stay sane in the midst of it all as a young leader while raising a family.

Welcome to Episode 317 of the podcastListen and access the show notes below or search for the Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts and listen for free.

Guest Links

Instagram | Facebook | Twitter | To Hell with the Hustle

Episode Links

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Jefferson Bethke on YouTube

Deep Work by Cal Newport

Workism is Making Americans Miserable article

Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus || Spoken Word

Family Teams podcast

3 Insights from Jefferson

1. Our mass self-branding might be doing more harm than good

In our modern world of technology, every single human being has become a brand. We all post our highlight reels online, and that is okay as long as it isn’t getting in the way of those scenarios, and that we aren’t creating moments strictly for social media. Jefferson would caution us against falling into this trap.

When we fall into this trap, we end up taking a 3D object (human beings) and try to show it in a 2D medium (social media). When we do this, we cheapen a bit of the human experience, and end up damaging our perception of people and dehumanizing them.

2. You have to treat your family as a team on mission

One struggle for driven leaders is finding a way to lead a thriving family and a thriving professional life. Jefferson has learned to bridge that gap by prioritizing his family as a team. He asks venues to fly his whole family in for events, and if they aren’t coming with him, they pray for him as a branch of the “family team.”

He has learned that this needs to stay his top priority in life. If he doesn’t prioritize his family, his kids might end up resenting his work and maybe even him. Another way he avoids this is by taking individual trips with his kids, trying to incorporate fun into the trip. This has massive payoff.

3. Sabbath is a time of celebration, not a discipline to endure

So many leaders view sabbath as a discipline that is nearly impossible to do on a regular basis. Jefferson has realized that sabbath is more of a celebration than a discipline. He takes 24 hours to be with his family and only do life-giving things.

On their sabbath, they eat the best food, have fun doing things they don’t normally get to do, and try to intentionally spend less time on technology. Looking back, viewing sabbath as a celebration has been the most valuable discipline they have instituted as a family.

Quotes from Episode 317

Make a business. Don't just be a personality who uploads videos. @JeffersonBethke Click To Tweet

A lot of us are living reactive lives, not proactive lives. @JeffersonBethke Click To Tweet

God's not asking me to be successful. God's not asking me to produce a lot of things. He's just really asking me to just honor him. @JeffersonBethke Click To Tweet

I think that's the big blind spot in the Western church is we listen to the laws or the teachings of Jesus, but we don't really pay attention to the way of Jesus. @JeffersonBethke Click To Tweet

Doing something that's fulfilling is harder to do these days. @JeffersonBethke Click To Tweet

I think it's totally appropriate and fine to have social media be your highlight reel. @JeffersonBethke Click To Tweet

I try to live a life that integrates my family as much as possible into us being a team together on mission. @JeffersonBethke Click To Tweet

'It's never okay to do something together' is essentially the Western family model except for taking vacation. @JeffersonBethke Click To Tweet

My phone has to be off for one hour a day, one day a week, one week a year. @JeffersonBethke Click To Tweet

Read or Download the Transcript for Episode 317

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Read or download a free PDF transcript of this episode here.

Watch Back Episodes of The Podcast on YouTube

Select episodes of this podcast are now on YouTube. Our new YouTube Channel gives you a chance to watch some episodes, not just listen. We’ll add select episodes to YouTube as time goes on.

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Next Episode: Jennie Allen

Jennie Allen never expected to be leading a massive movement involving millions of people around the world, but that’s exactly where she finds herself. She talks about how she stays grounded, what contributes to the downfall of so many leaders, and how to model your leadership differently.

Subscribe for free now and you won’t miss Episode 318.

CNLP 317: Jefferson Bethke Unpacks Launching His Career on the Internet at Age 22, the Downside of Hustle, and Carving Out a Sane Pace of Life as a Leader and Parent


  1. Michael Doerr on January 28, 2020 at 10:18 am

    I wonder, when it comes to not just Mr. Bethke but the marketplace of ideas, what effect the monetization of ideas in this new way has on the cultural debates/discernment about those ideas.
    Is this part of the polarization in our culture, or a response to that polarization?
    How do marginalized peoples get their voices heard as ideas get more monetized?

    • Leah on January 29, 2020 at 6:30 am

      This is a great question. Monetizing ideas is not a new thing. We’ve been doing it a long time. For example, a college education. While most of us have the luxury of a free grade school education, the teachers still must be paid for by tax dollars as well as materials and supplies for students. What is changing is the oversight and authority of our teachers and leaders. People are trading higher education these days for just googling the answer. The internet has offered a platform for anyone who wants to say anything. While I don’t think it’s right to restrict free speech we all need to be aware of who we’re following and who our “teachers” are, regardless of the monetization. There is a big difference between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is extremely prevalent, but we need the wisdom to know who’s leading us toward Godly pursuits.

      Thanks Carey for your work! I am always inspired and challenged to grow by your blog. Thanks for your wise leadership.

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