My guest today is Jon from Asianometry (@asianometry), creator of the hugely popular Asianometry YouTube channel where he posts video essays on business, economics, and history within Asia.
In this conversation, we cover his process for creating YouTube videos, some lessons learned along the way, and his plans for the future.
For anyone interested in the YouTube landscape and Jon’s topics, this one is a must-listen.
I hope you enjoy my conversation with Jon from Asianometry!
[00:00:31] – [First question] – Jon’s process of making a video
[00:05:43] – The origin of Asianometry
[00:14:29] – Videos that performed differently to expectations?
[00:17:37] – What videos are the hardest to make?
[00:19:02] – What’s been Jon’s favourite video to make?
[00:25:22] – Advice for YouTube creators?
[00:26:31] – How much of the process can be outsourced
[00:28:08] – Plans for the future?
[00:29:42] – Life in Taiwan
[00:32:35] – Underrated skill or experience?
[00:34:18] – Influential books?
Connect with Asianometry:
- Postwar by Tony Judt
- Master of the Senate by Robert Caro
- Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom by Stephen Platt
- Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum
- How Asia Works by Joe Studwell
Mentioned Asianometry Videos:
- What Eating the Rich Did For Japan
- How Carl Zeiss Crafts Optics for a $150 Million EUV Machine
- Australia’s Water Project Failure: An Economic Breakdown
Listen to this episode on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, Castbox, Google Podcasts, or on your favourite podcast platform.
Kalani Scarrott (00:31): My guest today is Jon from Asianometry. Jon is the creator of the hugely popular Asianometry YouTube channel, where he posts video essays on business economics and history within Asia. In today’s conversation, we cover his process for creating YouTube videos. Some lessons learned along the way and his plans for the future of the channel. So for anyone interested in the YouTube landscape and Jon’s topics in particular, this one I think is a must listen, but please enjoy my conversation with Jon from Asianometry. So Jon, thanks so much for being here today, but I think before we get into the specifics of you and your YouTube channel, I’d love to hear just the overall process for a video. So like from start to finish from the first idea to uploading it, I’d love to hear what your whole process actually looks like, as well as maybe the time and effort involved for just say one 15 minute video.
Jon (Asianometry) (01:18): Great. Thanks for having me. Actually, I’ve listened to and loved your other podcasts and got big shoes to fill. So, let me first get, give you a quite quick overview of how I work on a video. There’s probably six steps. Um, you start with an idea and I have a long list of ideas. And when I, a lot of people always bring me in new ideas and suggesting new things. I generally has a couple thresholds that I want to look at when I decide I want to do a video or not. First, you know, does it meet a threshold? Meaning as in, is there something that I can add? A lot of people suggest kind of things that are very highly current, like current events things. And I think that’s kind of tough for me because I really want to tell a story from beginning to end.
And then once I kind of pick an idea, next step is research. So that would be kind of like just a lot of Google, a lot of by do if it’s China related sources, Korean neighbour, seven minimum sources, 20 plus are ideal. I’m looking for primary sources, news, videos, tweets, social media, that sort of stuff. Books and paper are ideal. So, hoof it over to the library, take a look at whatever they got there. And then when I start and then I just start reading them all and once they start repeating themselves, then I know I kind of have a good idea of what the topic is. And then third part is writing. I can’t write at home. I’m at an Airbnb right now, but like I’m, I can’t write at home. So I go down to the local cafe and kind of write that out.
That takes probably six to eight hours. usually two sessions. And then, next step is asset collection charts, collecting images, videos. I hate this part. It’s the worst part, no second to worst part. And then, it’s also where I do the recording and then last part is editing. So list- That’s the worst part. I hate the most because I have to listen to my own voice and listen to myself, mess up and say words. And then final thing is feedback and redo. So release it to the early access members and they get to take a look and see whether, you know, there’s anything flagrantly wrong or if there’s just anything they think I missing. And then, I might re-upload or stuff like that. And that’s it. So that’s kind of the step of kind of like a 15 minute video.
Sometimes I do really big ones, like a 30 minute video. The Evergrande video, for example, that was a 30 minute one. Same six steps. Just twice as much time. Deadlines are crucial, you have to make sure to cos my cadence is two videos a week. So, that means each step can only take a certain amount of time. So, if it’s, if I find a stretching too long, I either split it. Like, for example, when I was doing the end video video, that took way too long or I had like a whole other section about ATI and AMD, I kind of wanted to add that in to kind of grate that sort of Game of Thronesy multiple players against each other, but`, you know, didn’t like that. Tore that out. Didn’t meet the deadline. So yeah, that’s kind of like the general six step process that I do for each video two times a week.
Kalani Scarrott (04:41): Yeah. It’s, it’s an unreal cadence. I’m not sure that many people can do it, but how much time is involved for say just one video? Because you’re not even doing this full time as well. You’ve got another fulltime job on top of this. So where do you find the time? How do you get the time? And how long does it all take?
Jon (Asianometry) (04:54): It’s about say 20 hours. And I find the time because, my girlfriend sleeps late. And so basically what I would do is she basically didn’t get up until noon. So I got up at around six, seven AM. I’m an early riser, hit the gym, finish rundown to the coffee shop and I have about six hours to do whatever I need to do two times a weekend. And then I start bringing that into the weekdays too, before I head up to work. So I get around three or four hours before I head off to the office. I do, I slip in a couple, two hours before I go to bed at 10:00 PM. So you get more time than you think, I think when you, when you do stuff like this.
Kalani Scarrott (05:43): Yeah. So maybe we’ll talk about a bit about your origin story. So people might know you for your history and business videos and economics and all your stuff on semiconductors mainly I guess, on YouTube, but a less known fact is that you started off with hiking videos and vlogging on YouTube, but what made you switch? And can you talk a little bit about your Origin story because it’s a pretty interesting one, I think.
Jon (Asianometry) (05:59): Yeah. The origin story. So, when I was working, I came to Taiwan after working, I think eight or nine years in Silicon valley, mostly in hedge funds, some marketing stuff. First couple years was in hedge funds, I was doing hedge-y stuff. And then from there I moved into marketing, mostly related to, I would say, paid acquisition, Facebook, Google stuff. I kind of got sick of the working life in Silicon Valley, got sick of hearing the same four companies over and over again. So I moved over. I decided I wanted to go to Asia, and I wanted to, there were three kind of possible decisions for me, Singapore, Shanghai or Taipei. And I basically went to Angelists, messaged anyone I could and someone gave me an offer to head to Taipei. So I went to Taipei, didn’t wanna stay there for that long.
It was like six months or something. And I opened the channel as a way to kind of share hiking videos. I would put some terrible EDM to some hiking clips and stuff and vlogging. One of the things I thought that was like really interesting when I was doing the videos, is that I was learning a lot about Taiwan culture and stuff like that. And I thought to myself, you know what? I watch a lot of YouTube. I might as well put in like a documentary to stuff that I’ve learned and I have a research background. So I have a decent idea of how to do this stuff. So I put up a video and the first video I did of this style, I think kind of really blew up. And the second one, I also really blew up. And from then on, it was kind of like a all right, well I picked up one or 2000 subscribers in from then on.
I was kind of like, all right, this is fun. I can always put up a video whenever I need to. I was making videos about history, making videos about like Chinese culture, Chinese language, Chinese characters and stuff like that really obscure stuff that just really caught my interest. And I wasn’t really thinking about it kind of like a business strategy or not business. I wasn’t thinking about it in like a strategic way. I was just having fun and just kind of following my curiosity until, you know, kind of my attitude sort of switched later on. And I think, really, it was only, it wasn’t until the channel ,until I’d made that switch. I think that the channel really started growing the way it did.
Kalani Scarrott (08:22): So what made you make that switch? Like was there a certain point in time? Was there a certain video?
Jon (Asianometry) (08:26): It was about when you get a thousand subscribers, you get something like a, you get the opportunity to monetize. And for the first three years that I was running the channel, I really wasn’t interesting in monetising because it was just kind of like a fun thing I wanted to do. I love kind of reading about this stuff. I enjoyed making the videos. I didn’t want to sort of taint this kind of pure thing with kind of money. Right. Cause I didn’t wanna talk about the money issue. I think, my friend, I had a friend, who runs a channel that’s now defunct and he told me, Jon, just, you know, hit the button, monetize, just do it. So I did it kind of just to get him, you know, shut up. And it kind of when you first start getting that, metric to optimize too, right.
When you start being able to focus on a metric and measuring your success or not measuring, or measuring your success or what’s not being successful. I think that really got me focused on kind of making content that people really enjoy and brings value. So it really was sort of like a mental shift that came with monetization and with the realization that kind of like, all right, well, you’re actually doing something that needs to, you’re actually need to, you’re focusing on a metric and you need to do something to make that metric go up. And that changed, you know, end of last year. Yeah. Yeah. End of last year.
Kalani Scarrott (10:02): There was that change, and then how much further do you think about strategy and monetization overall? Like is there a plan to ever make this a full-time thing? Are you happy with how it’s going ? or just the thoughts around that. I’d love to hear.
Jon (Asianometry) (10:13): I would love to make this a full time thing. But I’m here on a work visa and until I receive permanent residency, I still have to work my full job.
Kalani Scarrott (10:23): Okay. And if I’m allowed to ask your Patreon pulls in around $1500 per month, which is a fair effort. And, but what really stands out is the 350 ish paying subscribers. So the Patreons, Cause often the hardest thing is to get them to pull out their wallets initially, but you seem to be doing really well with this. Do you think there’s any secret source as to why people are willing to support you or yeah?
Jon (Asianometry) (10:42): No. I think the formula is pretty clear . If you’re bringing value to people and you’re giving people something that I think they enjoy or they, get value from, I think they’ll support you from that. You give them the opportunity to support you and they will, the Patreon I think is fine, but like, I mean, I appreciate every one of my Patreons they’re great. They’re great people. They’re really kind and they’re really nice. It’s just one leg. I think the monetization strategy. And I think I keep it simple. I keep it kind of easy to understand and if you give people that opportunity they’ll support you. I mean for example, like I noticed you don’t have, I did some researching around, I didn’t find that you have a Patreon on yourself. I think if you opened one, I think people will subscribe to it.
Kalani Scarrott (11:32): Yeah. Cause I think you’ve done it well as well. In that you don’t really have anything behind a pay wall it’s maybe early access, but, yeah, you don’t lock people out from viewing your content, which you work so hard for.
Jon (Asianometry) (11:41): Yeah. I make much more from, views and ads that I make from the Patreon. I mean, that’s always been the case for any sort of YouTube creator. You ask any YouTube creator there’s like a great there’s a couple great videos on this if you care to search for it, but it’s like, you make multiples more from ads than you do from Patreon. Not that to say, I don’t appreciate them cause they’re great people and they help stabilize the stabilize. But yeah, you’ll make far more from the actual YouTube ads, which is unique, I think for a social media platform.
Kalani Scarrott (12:17): Yeah, exactly. So do you chat much and strategize with other YouTubers? Like do you have a community besides your discord where you bounce ideas and stuff around? Cause I know for myself it’s been hugely beneficial for me having similar mates in similar positions that I can bounce things off. Do you have anyone like that?
Jon (Asianometry) (12:31): Uh, no. I would love to talk to more kind of YouTubers around, I think in the whole year and a half I’ve done this. They don’t really talk to me and I don’t really hear from them. I, live in Taiwan. I think that’s partially why. And I have no audience in Taiwan whatsoever. Um, all my audience is overseas and I get a lot of appreciative emails and stuff like that, but right now, no one can fly into Taiwan. So I think it kind of keeps a little moat around myself.
Kalani Scarrott (12:58): Yeah, fair enough. I’ve just got a little group chat on WhatsApp. That me honestly, it’s me guy from Singapore, guy from Malaysia, Aaron who introduced us and a guy from the Philippines. So, but yeah, it just works because everyone’s doing similar things and yeah, I cannot recommend it enough. So maybe just reach out to the people you like, because you remind me of business casual. That’s how I got into you. Because it sort of, I think it may be recommended video, so yeah, but mate you could be the new Business Casual, because they stopped putting out videos.
Jon (Asianometry) (13:23): I did actually. I know business casual was around, they’re great videos. The channel that I think I most my model, my channel after is, a basketball channel called Thinking Basketball and they have a collection of video essays and profiles. This guy basically has like 200,000 subscribers. And I think it’s really interesting to kind of look at other YouTubers and their kind of categories of content they put out and sort of model that after them. I really like that basketball channel because you know, you have that mix of kind of really deep dives into a particular player and it’s very structured and it’s kind of like your Evergreen content and you mix it in with kind of these essay contents of original ideas or compilations of ideas that you’ve come across. And those will be, you know, you’re never quite sure how they perform, but you know that it’s, you know, something that really you get something to explore and sometimes it might really hit, you know, hit a home run or not.
Kalani Scarrott (14:29): Yeah. So you talked about something performing differently. Have there been any videos that perform totally different to your expectations of them? So either unexpectedly well or worse than you thought it would? I’d love to know how much of your opinions differ from maybe the viewers sometimes.
Jon (Asianometry) (14:42): Oh yeah. Hmm. The video, I think when I work on a video, I have a, I don’t pick the video idea now unless I have a decent idea it’s gonna do a hundred, 200,000 views. It’s a bet. Um, I think the videos that most performed disappointingly for me was probably the Carl Zeiss east Germany video with the one that they split in half that out of recent videos, plenty of videos have disappointed me in my past life. But like the one that I most recently was thinking about is that east Germany one, cos I, I really thought it was a really compelling story. It did kind of like you kind of followed this, this really interesting character and you kind of followed the, I even had like a brief overview of the east German economy. I don’t know why it didn’t do so well as I thought it would.
I thought it was like a banger. Oh, so it is on the other hand, the video that did really well, that kind of really surprised me was the semiconductor bust video. And that was a long time ago. I think it was like six months ago. I’ve been thinking a lot about like the idea of capacity in the semiconductor industry. And I fiddle around with the idea and I sort of collected together some, some random thoughts and it, that video, I think when I put it out, it was like a Tuesday or something, which I don’t really, that’s not a slot I use for kind of, I have a Tuesday slot Monday, Tuesday slot for, I think the premier video, like the one I think will do the best and I have a Friday slot for kind of like a secondary video. So I put this video in a secondary slot cuz I wasn’t quite, I thought it was just like one of those videos that kind of, you put out this great idea, some interesting ideas and see how it does, but it blew up, it blew up in a way I’ve never seen before.
And I think it’s like number four, most viewed it’s crazy,
Kalani Scarrott (16:39): People are thirsty for semiconductor videos and like, yeah, you’ve done a few of them, are you sick of them yet? Like what’s next?
Jon (Asianometry) (16:44): I don’t wanna say I’m sick of it. I do think I’m kind of, I mean, it’s a fascinating topic in general. I think something that really I wonder about is, what happens when the semiconductor shortage ends. Right. And so I’ve been working a little bit to kind of look in like electric vehicles and renewable energy and stuff like that, as well as I think developmental, economics and stuff. I would probably say the semiconductor videos are just, I kind of enjoy now. It’s a little fun, I would say. If you can ever say something like that. So technically intense is fun, but like, it’s pretty fun that being said, I don’t want to be the semiconductor guy. Like, I don’t want to be seen as like the semiconductor guy. Like I have no background in electrical engineering, my father was a chip designer, but, not me.
Kalani Scarrott (17:37): Okay. Interesting, fair enough. Can’t argue with that. Well, so what’s been the hardest video to make and why ?
Jon (Asianometry) (17:41): there’s two types of videos when you say it’s difficult, right. There’s videos that I think that are very technically difficult. Like technically intense, like for example, the Carl Zeiss optics video for EUV was extremely difficult. It was kind of, my brain was like turning into mush and I remember telling my girlfriend at the time, like, I can’t, I don’t know how long I can read this crap. Like, it’s just like, I’m so tired. So that was really hard. And you’re kind of trying to kind of explain it, not in a boiled down way, not to make it like I’m telling a kid, but more like I’m trying to make this something that people can understand. Like, can you follow the narrative of how this technology works? And then, on the other axis there’s videos that are just difficult to make because image assets are hard to find. Like, for example, there’s a really great idea about a video I wanna make about the, about Korean shaman cults during the Japan colonial period. Apparently this one cult was like abducting women, like 300 girls and like murdered 500 people or something. I’ve seen, I have some sources, no photos whatsoever, no images, nothing I can actually dig out and that’s a video I don’t think I’d be able to do.
Kalani Scarrott (19:02): So what’s been your favorite video to make so far then and why?
Jon (Asianometry) (19:05): The, Japan Zaibatsu video, I knew that I really wanted to do that topic for the longest time, but you know, the thing about social and business topics and macroeconomics topics to do is that they actually take maybe two to three times more research than a technical topic because textbooks and technical topics are pretty straightforward. I have a video that’s gonna come out about the EUV light source, of ASML’s EUV machine and that, you know, really fast. That actually was like two days. But like the Zaibatsu video took, I would say about two months on and off, because it’s a social topic, it’s a macroeconomic topic and everyone thinks they know, macroeconomics including myself. So, you have to do twice as much research to kind of make sure to iron out the ideas.
Jon (Asianometry) (19:58):
So I love that topic. I love that video because you kind of fall, you trace like the modern history of Japan up until the World War II and the economic history, I mean. And kind of take this really interesting angle into, passive income, the rich land form, stock reform, stuff like that. It was really fun. And you know, it’s, I did it during a time of my life when I was in the states, I was in the states at the time and I got to be with my family and all it was really fun. So I have a lot of positive memories about that video.
Kalani Scarrott (20:32): You mentioned that one taking two months, but how many videos on the go do you have at any one time in different stages of development then?
Jon (Asianometry) (20:38): I can read right now. Let me see what I have. Um, I have two videos. I would say that have at least 30% done. I have about three more that are started. Like I’ve done maybe the introduction and maybe a paragraph or two, a section or two. And I have, I think, 40 that are just ideas. I have a title. And then I have like 10 that I have abandoned.
Kalani Scarrott (21:05): Due to just too much work. Too technical?
Jon (Asianometry) (21:07): No, the story just doesn’t work. Every story. When you tell a story, you’re trying to each section because you know, you’re trying, because I don’t have like fancy graphics. I don’t have fancy flashing pictures and stuff like that. That’s not my game. My game is to tell a really great story. That’s either tell something really fascinating or something technically difficult brings a lot of value to people. And if you can’t put that into a story, in like it wants people want to listen to the next section. It doesn’t work like, and I can’t make a video out of that. It’s boring. It’s just a lecture. So every section, when I about when I’m writing a section, I’m thinking to myself, there’s two ways a section can end, right? You either end with a like furthermore, like this has repercussions that moves into the next section or, but there’s a reversal.
And you want to tell that, that’s how you build that narrative throughout each video. I don’t always do it perfectly. But if you think about that Zaibatsu video, right? The first part of the story is Matthew Perry from Friends coming to Japan and he brings the ships. This turns, this has repercussions to the civil war and the, Meiji restoration and then you have kind of moving to the rapid reform and so on and so on. You want to think about it in that sort of way. So you want it to flow. You want it to be a real story and you can’t do that. For example, I have a video about Silicon carbide transistors. How do you make a story outta that?
Kalani Scarrott (22:45): I don’t know, man. You’re the storyteller.
Jon (Asianometry) (22:49): You can’t, you can’t like I was able to make something out of the – today I released the semiconductor design verification flow. I created a story out of that because each idea moved into another idea. So I think that’s, you can do that sort of way, but you can’t Silicon carbide transistors. That’s that’s boring, man.
Kalani Scarrott (23:10): That’s tough, yeah. It reminds me, I think I heard from South Park creators where they said each story you have to have a ‘ therefore’ or a ‘but’, I think so you’re in good hands.
Jon (Asianometry) (23:18): Exactly. That’s where I got it from.
Kalani Scarrott (23:20): Oh, well, there we go. Great minds think alike.
Jon (Asianometry) (23:22): That’s where I got it from.
Kalani Scarrott (23:23): That’s perfect, just curious, what software do you actually use to edit your videos on? I’m sure some people would be interested.
Jon (Asianometry) (23:29): iMovie I do it on. Sometimes I do it on my phone too.
Kalani Scarrott (23:32): Nice. That’s so cool. Anyone can do this then, really.
Jon (Asianometry) (23:34): Oh yeah. Like the way I set it up, like I do the graphics in keynote, I export them into images or like, if they’re kind of like, there’s some sort of animation, I do some clips and then and I put it together in iMovie and I just gear down put my headphones on and just listen to myself talk for an hour or two hours.
Kalani Scarrott (23:55): Yeah. Bob’s your uncle. There you go. That’s so good. Because yeah, I never would’ve thought. I thought you’d be some sort of wizard on Adobe or something you never know. Is there any aspects of YouTube in making videos like yours that you think people don’t appreciate? Like, is there anything you wish more people knew about your work and what you do?
Jon (Asianometry) (24:09): Pronunciation is harder than you think, man. People get really offended when you pronounce something wrong. There’s a video I did about Australia’s Ord river scheme.
Kalani Scarrott (24:23): Kununarra?
Jon (Asianometry) (24:23): Kununurra, I don’t know how to pronounce it.
Kalani Scarrott (24:24): Yeah. I heard the Kununurra, I was like, oh, well least he’s trying. I don’t care that much that I’d comment on it, but yep.
Jon (Asianometry) (24:32): I Googled it! And people commented like, yeah, Jon, you don’t understand how to, you should have just put some little effort. I did put some effort. I saw that word and I was like, all right, I know I’m gonna have a mouthful when that one comes up and I googled it, the google doesn’t, sometimes google will pop up, say, this is how you pronounce the word. No, I looked on YouTube and I picked up a YouTube, 1970s documentary from some guy at a council pronouncing Kununurra. And I was like, alright, that’s how you roll with it. And then find out, you know, I’ve actually had to scrap. I scrapped one video, totally because I pronounced the whole thing in American way. So I said, Brisbane, Melbourne. I got really, really strong feedback. And eventually I was like, I couldn’t, I can’t get the Bris, Bris I can’t get that phrase, right. Australia videos are very difficult for me.
Kalani Scarrott (25:22): Do, you have any advice for YouTube creators on maybe what not to do ? Like anything to really avoid or easy mistakes you think they can, yeah, just avoid?
Jon (Asianometry) (25:32): Don’t do gaming. Don’t do vlogs and don’t do history, do something different, do something that I think you have to do an intersection between something you’re interested in and something you’re passionate and something people want. Right. Everyone wants to do gaming videos because everyone likes to game. I don’t like I’m fortunate in my life cos I don’t like video games, but like you don’t do gaming videos because everyone’s doing gaming videos unless your dream and you can do like a Minecraft manhunt thing and you come up with that idea and you’re actually brilliant at the game. Don’t bother. Don’t do vlogs because your life isn’t that interesting. Very few people have lives that are that interesting for vlogs. And I wouldn’t do history because I think I don’t wanna sound cruel. But most people only care about history. When they say history, they really only mean world war II. If you go, you go to Barnes and Noble , I don’t know what bookstores you have in Australia, but you go to Barnes and Noble and you go to the history section. It’s really more like the World War II section and the American civil war Section.
Kalani Scarrott (26:31): I can’t argue with that. And maybe in terms of growth of the channel and looking forward, if this ever goes full time, how much of your process do you think can be outsourced? Do you reckon? And would you even do, would you even outsource it? Like would it disrupt the flow and the style or have you ever thought about that?
Jon (Asianometry) (26:46): I’ve actually tried doing some things like I’ve thought about, so one time I’ve tried to outsource various parts. I haven’t tried to outsource asset collection yet because I don’t know. Seems like it might be harder to explain, but I’ve thought about outsourcing, like writing a script and I did do one video recent video that you probably won’t see for a couple months, but like it’s I outsourced that and when it came back, it was terrible. It was terrible. I think the thing I had to really learn when I started out was, start out with this outsourcing thing is that like a lot of what makes an Asianometry video special is the, writing and the storytelling and the ability to kind of go into very deep into topics. And you can’t really outsource that even though that ended up takes most of the time, it’s like 50%, 55, 60% of the whole video process. I would probably have to do try to asset collection. We’ll see.
Kalani Scarrott (27:48): Anecdotally, I listen to MKBHD podcast and he mentions that. I think one of the things he does is outsource his asset collection, but he still does the editing himself. Like he still has a big role in his channel. So…
Jon (Asianometry) (27:58): Yeah, he said in that podcast, something like what makes an MK HD video special was the editing. He enjoyed that part of it most, I guess in my situation it’s kind of similar.
Kalani Scarrott (28:08): Yeah, no, I’m sure it is. So what plans or visions do you have for yourself and the channel in the future? Like what areas you most curious about going forward for future videos and um, yeah, just maybe outline some of your plans.
Jon (Asianometry) (28:18): I wanna do more ambitious videos ambitious in terms of, you know, when you do a topic that I think is not very interesting or a topic is often not interesting because it’s not ambitious enough in my opinion. So if I did a video about, you know, this very, so looking back on it, now my explanation to myself or why the Carl Zeiss video in East Germany didn’t do well was because it kind of explored this very specific thing, right? This split of this company. And to me, that was fascinating because that’s like, oh, you know, um, this, these legal maneuvers between these two companies and two different parts of the world was very interesting to me, but that’s not interesting because to other people, because it’s not, it lacks that sort of ambitions very specific. And it’s a very safe place.
I think when you try to do, when I want to do more videos in the future, I want to do videos that very like that, that kind of span, very big questions. Like, why is Japanese wages not moved for 30 years? It’s a big question. And it’s a very complicated answer, but that’s the sort of video I think that, you know, that makes me feel very fulfilled when I finish it. And I think brings a lot of value to people, especially when you get to go really deep into it and I get to get, you know, I think that’s sort of stuff people wanna see.
Kalani Scarrott (29:42): Yeah. That’s awesome. You love to hear it and yeah, totally. I do like the big ambitious ones cos you know, how much time and effort goes into them. So it’s definitely appreciated. So moving into my sort of a few miscellaneous questions and my closing questions, like, so I heard another podcast and if I’m allowed to ask this, when you originally came to Taiwan, you were only planning for staying six months. So what changed and what does your future look like? Maybe personally, if I’m allowed to ask again?
Jon (Asianometry) (30:02): The answer is pretty simple. I met a girl, yeah.
Kalani Scarrott (30:05): You’re not alone.
Jon (Asianometry) (30:08): That’s pretty much it, but a lot of people ask me, I’m gonna hijack your question. A lot of people ask me why I stay in Taiwan, right. When I can make so much more money elsewhere. A lot of people say when I tell people, especially Taiwanese, I tell them, you know, I love it here. And I have no intention to move back to the United States. I think I get this very sort of weird sort of look, they kind of look at me like I’m like I got three feet or something. And I think it’s, it’s a fair question. And I think the reason why I stay is because I think it’s a very special place to me, even though I’ve actually never grown up here.
It’s a special place for me because I think it’s, it’s everyone who’s born at a certain place eventually should probably should have that life experience of moving away from it. Right. I was born in the US and I came and I left, a lot people even if like, for me, Taiwan was the place I decided to settle to and I had the choice of deciding to live in. So it does hold a very special place in my heart sentimentally. And also, you know, rationally, Taiwan is like a really special place to live in because not only, not just because of cost of living, stuff like that, it’s a very wide range of places. It’s a very special place. I very much value living here.
Kalani Scarrott (31:32): So what’s your favorite part about living in Taiwan? Anything in particular?
Jon (Asianometry) (31:35): The hikes are great. The biking is great. Like the fact that you can just get, a U bike and just bike anywhere you want. That’s really special. I love a hot pot. The food is great. The only thing I really miss are tacos. I guess, I miss tacos so bad. I mean, there’s places in Taiwan, you go into feel like you’re in the middle of like New York city, like the richest places in the world. And then there’s also, you can then travel 10, 15 miles and you can feel like you’re in the jungle. Right. Literally in the jungle. I think it’s a really it’s and then there’s places you can go and look like, it’s like a deserted island. It’s a special place.
Kalani Scarrott (32:10): Yeah. I’ve only been to Taipei, but I loved it. I did Elephant mountain hike, but I’m keen to try it again because yeah, it’s a great place. And just so different. Very jealous.
Jon (Asianometry) (32:18): Yeah come back. We’ll grab a coffee.
Kalani Scarrott (32:19): I’m always up for that. I’ll take you up on that and so yeah, my closing round of questions that I ask everyone, and this will be interesting for you because you’ve had a few different life experiences, but what do you think is the most undervalued life experience that university age students don’t give weight to? Like what’s an underrated skill maybe or an experience that you think most people or everyone should have?
Jon (Asianometry) (32:35): When I was in, I graduated from a pretty prestigious school and I was set up to, work in accounting and I quit that after four months and I told my parents that I was quitting this very stable job during one of the worst crisis financial crisis in the world. And they were like, well I guess, you know, you can come back here, come move back home and you know, try to save money there. So I did that and I lasted three weeks. Oh my gosh, there was so much bickering. I moved out. I had no money. Yeah. I had no money. And I kind of, I moved back to the Silicon valley and I told, I called up a roommate and I slept in his corridor for I think three, four weeks.
And then I kind of bounced between different friends. One night I slept under a radiator. And for the next, I would say one or two years, I lived in a state that I can only describe as poverty, but it was a really special type of poverty, I guess when you’re young and you have more energy than money, I think it’s a really special experience. I look, it was terrible at the time, not gonna lie, but looking back at it, it was very special. And I think people, university age students should think about what it’s like to struggle and be not afraid of struggling because that’s when you really get to do some really special things.
Kalani Scarrott (34:09): Yeah. Probably one of those things, you’re glad you’ve done it, but probably would never do again. I guess?
Jon (Asianometry) (34:12): Maybe if I was 22 again, not now that I’m in my thirties.
Kalani Scarrott (34:18): No fair enough. Has there been any maybe books or even other experiences or ideas, classes that have been influential in shaping your worldview?
Jon (Asianometry) (34:27): Oh my gosh. Okay. I am ready for this question. So I have five books that I think every person should read Postwar by Tony Judt. It’s like Asianometry for Europe, but 800 pages just it’s really great, follows the whole story of, you know, from the end of the World war II in Europe, all the way up until I think the 1990s, 1995 or something really great story. I love how everything mixes in, people characters come in characters come out. It’s really great writing. I really recommend it. Um, Master of the Senate by Robert Caro. I listened to this in a very long, you know, joy, I drove across, I think California and I listened to this whole book the whole time. And it’s a beautiful way to tell a story of something that’s not very interesting creating policy, not that interesting, but he does it in a way I think engages and captures you. Autumn in the Heavenly Kingdom by Stephen Platt.
This one is about the end of the Taiping Tian Guo (太平天国), which is the Taiping heavenly kingdom. It’s a fascinating topic to me. And I think it gives you a really great experience perspective of what it’s like, of what Chinese people think, what they think about the opium wars you get to see and feel their frustration and their anger I think, as you know, you see these interventions or these colonial interventions by different colonial powers. I think it really gives you a great insight into kind of their head space. The fourth book I would say is Iron Curtain by Anne Applebaum. I think I mentioned it in a lot of my videos. It’s a special book because it tells you how free democratic societies get taken apart. And it’s a very, it’s a recipe almost. I think it’s a very good book. Everyone should read it. And then the last book is everyone recommends this one, How Asia Works by Joe studwell. This goes over the East Asian Export Driven model that I think Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Thailand to a smaller extent and China of course are all following. Everyone should read that.
Kalani Scarrott (36:48): I feel terrible. I’m one from five out of all your books. So you’ve given me some summer reading.
Jon (Asianometry) (36:52): Everyone should read those, yeah they’re great.
Kalani Scarrott (36:54): Before we sign off, anything you wanna plug? Obviously the YouTube channel, but plug, anything you want I guess.
Jon (Asianometry) (37:00): Sign up to the newsletter. You can read some stuff that’s not on the YouTube channel. I have something that’s coming out soon, that won’t be on the channel. Yeah, no, just I really appreciate everyone watching the videos and everyone, the good and bad comments alike. I all appreciate them. So thanks everybody.
Kalani Scarrott (37:18): Oh, perfect. That’s awesome. And yeah, I’ll link to everything in the show notes, but Jon from Asianometry, thank you so much for today. I’ve had a blast and I can’t wait to get over there or even you get over here maybe one day and I’ll show you around, so thank you.
Jon (Asianometry) (37:29): Thank you so much. Thank you for having me.