Tristan Jass is a basketball player, content creator and entrepreneur best known for his personal YouTube channel, which carries over 2.68 million subscribers.
Many terms are used in pop culture to describe successful YouTube personalities (e.g., content creator, influencer, social media star). How do you—Tristan Jass—describe yourself?
I don’t like to pigeonhole myself or place a label on who I am. At only 21 years of age, I am constantly evolving. Yes, I create content, and I influence, and I have a platform on social media, but above and beyond, I consider myself an entrepreneur. There is so much more than meets the eye with what I have to offer, and honestly, I am just getting started. I am always looking for new ways to improve my game, broaden my reach, and take my brand to the next level. While I have come a long way from where I began, this is just the beginning. I have fallen in love with the grind and the push to strive to be the best version of myself.
You recently posted a short documentary on your decision to forgo a D1 college scholarship to go all-in on YouTube. What made you so confident in your choice?
For as long as I can remember, I always had a feeling that I was destined for something great. I wanted my name to mean something. There was no doubt in my mind that I needed to take the route I chose and forgo college and the scholarship. In life, we are often placed in the position to play it safe or take the chance. I knew I was going to make it. I knew I was going to be successful. I had the drive. I had the gumption. I had the talent and continually worked harder to hone my skills. Nothing was going to stop me. I was fully aware it would take time, hard work, and the will to succeed. I was ready for it. I firmly believe that good things will happen for you if you put in the work and exude good energy into the world. I remember repeating affirmations to myself and placing them on whiteboards, post-it notes, and scribbling them in notebooks. Just continuously writing down my goals. Get up and get after it. Over and over. It became my mantra—my theme song. And I still do that to this day.
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What advice would you offer to creators facing a similar fork in the road between Youtube & a more ‘conventional’ path?
You have to follow your heart and your soul. Most people in my family wanted me to go to college and pursue the safe route. At the end of the day, you have to make the best decision for yourself. Surround yourself with the right people—like-minded people who are willing to work just as hard as you are. Surround yourself with people who support, motivate and inspire you. Having a reliable team around you is essential to success. Never listen to the haters and doubters. You have to have thick skin. You have to train your mind to block out the hate and negativity and know who you are and what you are all about. If you are too worried about what other people think about you in the social media world, you will never make it. That was something I had to work at. It didn’t happen overnight. I had to re-wire my brain to block out all that negativity. Be willing to make sacrifices. I have continually made sacrifices throughout this time of growth. This meant no parties or social events—not going to things most typically teenagers attend. From day one, I treated this as a full-time job and I thoroughly grind every day. The most important part about this is you have to remain humble through it all. I come from working-class, humble beginnings. I have watched both my parents work their whole lives to provide for our family. These memories are embedded in my mind and I have always had those hard-working genes running through my body. I appreciate what I have and I don’t take anything for granted.
In the pre-YouTube days, the only way to make a living playing basketball was to play professionally (NBA, G League, overseas). Since then, you’ve helped carve out a category online that offers a new route. Are you surprised by the growth & popularity of YouTube basketball?
Not at all. Basketball is one of the biggest sports in the world. People love to be entertained by it. I’ve spent my life going to the park and the gym to play basketball, so I figured, ‘why not film it?’ There is a whole new wave of sports YouTubers making basketball, football, golf, hockey content, etc. The list goes on and on. People are entertained by high-quality content involving their favorite sports, but I like to add a twist to what they normally expect out of basketball. For example, I dressed up as an old grandma and went to a few parks to play basketball and turned it into a video. Not a lot of people would do that. That video did 12,000,000+ views in 4 months.
Let’s talk about health, rest, & recovery. What steps do you take to be in prime playing shape, both in the short-term and long-term?
This has been a work in progress for me. I grew up eating chicken nuggets and Pop-Tarts. What really woke me up was the medical crisis I experienced in Dec 2019. I woke up in the hospital with my whole family surrounding me. I had no idea what happened. I was told that I had a seizure, which opened my eyes to how quickly life can change. Come to find out, it all had to do with my unhealthy habits. Poor sleep schedule. Poor nutrition. Overall unhealthy lifestyle. During one period, I was working so hard that I forgot to eat. This whole experience was an ultimate blessing for me. Flash forward to now: I have completely transformed my diet, hydration, and sleep habits. I have noticed that once you fuel your body with the right foods, you feel like a million bucks all day long. It is incredible to me what a difference this lifestyle change has done for me. I don’t drink alcohol, I don’t smoke, and I don’t use drugs. To continue to create top-quality content, I need to constantly put in work on the court to keep evolving my game. Otherwise, people will get bored. I go to the gym a few times a week to work on ball handling drills, footwork, and lifting weights. I even do yoga from time to time to stretch out and to relax my mind.
What about mental health? Do you have productive ways of tuning out the comments and criticism from social media?
I take mental health very seriously. I fully recognize what a problem this has become. I try to block out all of the negativity to only focus on the positivity. I am 100 % confident with who I am and what I am all about. This mindset didn’t happen overnight. It’s human nature to want people to like you. In the beginning, I would read negative comments over and over, and doing this got me to the point of getting used to it. I realized it would continue to happen, and I eventually trained my mind not to care. I don’t even really read the comments anymore. I assume that someone is going to say something negative. And it is all about building that mindset. It was a slow progression, but I am so grateful I got to the place I am because I don’t know if I would have continued with this progression had I been too concerned with other people’s negative thoughts.
Walk us through your content creation process. How do you plan out the upcoming month? What’s your step-by-step breakdown of things to get done?
I don’t focus on things a month at a time. For the most part, I like to take things in smaller chunks and focus on the week at hand. I have a team of people that help me, including a cameraman and an editor. We have weekly meetings where we come up with video ideas. We are also in constant communication with each other bouncing ideas off each other. I believe we are successful because we are open to going with the flow. We always keep an open mind. Whatever opportunity comes up, we do it! One thing I’ve learned is you can’t be too rigid in your thinking. In terms of my step-by-step breakdown, I work hand in hand with my editor. Once the video is filmed, I send the content to my editor. We usually hop on a facetime call and I give him a heads-up regarding little details to pay attention to and the general vibe of the video. In the beginning, I edited all my content, so I have some experience in this regard. I still make my thumbnails and video titles. My editor is very creative and I am lucky to work with him. I put my trust in him to make these videos like mini-movies. I am fortunate because we are both on the same page creative-wise. It didn’t happen overnight but we have gotten to the point where we are moving like a yin and yang with each other, and we can create some high-quality content!