Stampylonghead and the Beauty of Leverage

I can teach you a lot about business

I can teach you a lot about business

Stampylonghead has started to play a role in my life. He and his friends are required characters in my bedtime stories to my boys. It’s not a problem, since I can roll with just about anyone in my stories – I’ve been able to seamlessly weave Skylanders, Octonauts, Godzilla, Woody and Buzz, my two sons, and various stuffed animals into them at the same time, so adding Stampy and friends, whom my son claimed were Minecraft characters, wasn’t a big deal.

Who is Stampylonghead?

My son’s been playing Minecraft for less than a year, and while I helped him a little, I hadn’t really played until he and I started a multiplayer game over the holidays. I had seen the Stampy character on youtube videos he liked to watch, so I said, “I want to be Stampy”. My son furrowed his brow and said he wasn’t sure I could be Stampy, which we confirmed. “Well then, who is Stampylonghead?”, I asked.

Turns out, Stampylonghead aka Stampylongnose aka Stampy the Cat is not really one of the players you can be in Minecraft; rather, he’s the highly personalized character used by a single Minecraft player named Joseph Garrett, a 24 year old who lives in Portsmouth, England. I’m sure Mr. Garrett is a great chap, but why exactly is he populating my bedtime stories with his Minecraft character?

The next time we watched a Stampy video, I took a more careful look. Stampylonghead’s youtube channel is enormously successful – he has (as of today, but probably much more tomorrow) 4 million subscribers, and his daily videos can garner up to 2-3 million views each. I had to figure out what he was all about.

Stampylonghead Makes More Than You. A LOT More

I’m going to make millions this year. Seriously.

I’m going to make millions this year. Seriously.

Google informs me that Stampy’s creator started his career as a barman (“bartender” in American parlance) but quite fancies playing video games, and he channelled his passion into youtube videos that eventually found their way to my son. Mr. Garrett’s youtube success has apparently put him on course to make millions of dollars a year from advertisements that accompany his videos (a Telegraph article estimates he could be earning £200K per month, but the article is from months ago so that figure is likely off & low).

You heard that right. Stampylonghead should earn his creator millions of dollars this year…for playing Minecraft.

On videos like this:

A lot of folks seem dumbfounded (and a bit jealous) that Mr. Garrett has, at least temporarily, made a smashing financial success out of playing video games.

I, on the other hand, think it is absolutely brilliant. I can’t say his videos are my cup of tea, but my kids absolutely adore him. While they’re watching Stampy, they have huge grins on their faces, and they’re always laughing out loud at his antics. Stampy has, over time, tailored his videos exactly to that young demographic. His laugh is super quirky. He starts and finishes his videos with a giggle-inducing super high-pitched “Hellooooooooo” and “Biiiiiiiiiiiye” that seem a caricature of an English lady’s accent. It seems every video he has to go through a repetitive setup (visiting a garden, grabbing a dog to accompany the day’s adventure) – things that I would find a bit tedious, but which kids love. He checks the language box by always staying G-rated.

There’s a lot to learn from Mr. Garrett’s example, and he’s also a case study on living an asset-based life. (There are, of course, many other successful youtube entertainers who could provide similar lessons, but I’ll stay focused on the one who populates my bedtime stories.)

What We Can Learn From Stampylonghead

  • Get in the Game

Entrepreneurship has always been, and will always be, one of the greatest paths to wealth. It can rapidly produce enormous windfalls, as Stampy can attest.

By simply putting his youtube channel out there, and working extremely hard to put out quality content (at least in my kids’ opinion), Stampy got to sit at the entrepreneurial table and see where the game might lead him. There is no guarantee that starting an entrepreneurial venture will pay anything – there are countless others toiling long hours to try and mimic Stampy’s success – but it’s a very safe statement that there is no real path to riches from being a barman.

  • Hedge Your Bets

Mr. Garrett kept his job as a barman until his youtube earnings equalled his bar income. He also stayed rent-free with his parents to improve his chances until he hit it big.

Producing videos on the hopes they’ll catch on while tending bar could be hard, and you could argue he should have “followed his passion”, quit his job, and dived into youtube from the start. But we’re not robots with a set output – the job at the bar likely fueled his hunger to make youtube work, and setting a milestone to cover his bar income before diving in was, I’m sure, a huge motivator. Plus, remember there are thousands of similar people who haven’t achieved Mr. Garrett’s success, so it’s best they haven’t quit their day jobs.

  • Look for Leverage

Extraordinary wealth often comes from enjoying great leverage.

Stampy’s leverage is tremendous: Mr. Garrett probably worked just as hard (if not harder) putting out quality videos for 10,000 subscribers as he does for millions, and every incremental view puts additional money in his pocket and costs him precisely nothing (the economist’s dream of a 0 marginal cost). There’s a natural limit to how big his audience could be – there are only so many children playing Minecraft, after all – but Mr. Garrett can be fabulously wealthy long before he reaches that limit.

Any time you can enjoy massive leverage in an endeavor, you’re setting yourself up for a potentially huge windfall. And of course if you have poor leverage, the reverse is also true. I’m sure there are ditch diggers who have worked just as hard as Bill Gates, but his efforts were multiplied a billionfold by serving an enormous market with a low marginal cost product. Software companies, athletes, entertainers (including youtube stars), and entrepreneurs can enjoy great leverage. Employees in a company (and ditch diggers), less so.

  • Follow the Money

Stampy originally had more of an adult-themed youtube channel – language wasn’t G-rated, and the games he profiled were often for an older crowd.

Once Mr. Garrett realized that his demographic was much younger, he cleaned up his language, focused on games that appealed to the younguns, and tailored his delivery with his rather goofy laugh and over-the-top antics. I may not tune into Stampy’s channel myself, but I’m very comfortable letting my kids watch (a rarity among youtube channels).

Putting out his youtube channel got him into the game, but his success was really driven by understanding and serving his customers. You wouldn’t think that a barman’s youtube channel would be a poster-child for outstanding marketing principles, but that’s exactly what it’s become. Stampy is a powerful brand that I trust (add that to the list of sentences I never thought I’d write).

 

Next Steps for Stampylonghead

When I think of the people who should urgently embrace an asset-based approach to their finances, it’s professional athletes. They have just a few years to build a massive pile, and then they may well need to live off that pile for the rest of their lives.

But Stampylonghead’s day in the sun may make the careers of professional athletes look endless. I sincerely hope he makes millions for years and years (I take a very generous attitude toward anyone who makes my kids happy). But it’s likely that his run will be quite short-lived. Kids can be fickle, and there are hordes of other Minecraft aficionados nipping at his heels. Mr. Garrett has already shown great dexterity in pivoting to target the right market, but there are no guarantees he continues his success in a hyper-competitive space.

My advice to Mr. Garrett (not that he’s asking) is to fully embrace an asset-based approach to his success. He has caught lightning in a bottle and should cash in and cash up as fast as possible while living as modestly as if he were still a barman. There’s every reason to believe that he has materially increased his potential standard of living for the rest of his life, but there is no way of knowing – since there is no way of knowing how big his cash mountain will be – by how much yet. There will be plenty of time once the race is done to start administering his financial asset empire.

The other massive assets he owns can’t be ignored – among them his very powerful Stampy brand, his huge and growing viewer base, and his skill as an entertainer. I’ll leave Mr. Garrett to maximize the value of those, since he clearly can do a better job of it. If he moves from success to success, his pile could double or more.

As Fortunes Fade and Careers End, Cash Remains

But if his youtube channel falls from favor, his impressive run ends, and his other ventures falter, his mountain of cash will still be there. He could be set for life, and he could continue to roll the entrepreneurial dice and follow his interests and passions with little risk to his lifestyle, if he protects that pile.

If Stampy’s run is short, it could mean most of Mr. Garrett’s career earnings would come in a very brief window. This means he should never, ever, think in terms of income; income is interesting from a math perspective, because it charts the rate of his growing pile, but it’s a fleeting and changing figure that pales in comparison to his assets.

You may not find much in common between Mr. Garrett’s career and your own. I would argue the risks and opportunities are similar; it’s just his time frame is much more compressed. Stampy allows us to see a long career play out in an instant and learn many valuable lessons.

Embrace entrepreneurship. Seek out leverage. Hedge your bets. Be nimble and seize opportunities. Cleverly market whatever you’re selling (even if it’s only yourself). Maximize the value of your assets. And most of all, view your earnings not as perpetual income, but as the limited supply of building blocks for your own mountain of cash.

Your career earnings may be spread longer than Stampy’s, but your worries should be the same as his. He may be the poster child, but we’re all asset-based in the end.

 

For more on Stampy’s potential earnings

For first-hand fun with Stampy, visit Stampylonghead’s channel on youtube

 

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