The Origins of 1 Second Everyday

Sharing my 1st year of this life long personal project at TED 2012 (image courtesy of TED)

I’ve recorded at least one second of video every day for over 6 years. At age 36, I now have a 36-minute video documenting every single day of my life since I turned 30. I haven’t forgotten a day since I started and if I live to see 80 years of age, I will have a 5-hour long video that encompasses 50 years of my life. This is the journey of why I got started, how the project has evolved, and a few notable checkpoints along the way.

1989: Doogie Howser, M.D.

Image courtesy of ABC Television

When I was 9 years old, I religiously watched Doogie Howser, M.D. The show featured Neil Patrick Harris as a genius kid doctor who, at only 16 years old, was somehow already a working surgeon in an LA hospital. The dramedy dealt not only with Doogie’s struggle to be taken seriously by his much older and more distinguished peers at work, but also with Doogie’s everyday teenage problems like talking to girls and going to parties. At the end of every episode, Doogie would sit down at his computer and write a diary entry, reflecting on his life experiences and what he had learned that episode.

I wanted to be just like Doogie. I wanted to write a couple of things about my day every night before going to bed. As it turned out, not only was my life not as interesting as Doogie Howser’s, but I would usually keep up with a journal 3 or 4 times before completely forgetting about it.

I tried to build this habit over and over throughout my life, but to no avail.

2009: The Power of Time Off

Flash forward twenty years and I was working in advertising. As it is for so many of us, my job consumed all of my time. I worked during the day, I worked at night, I worked on the weekends, and my weeks often averaged 100 hours.

I felt creatively unfulfilled and frustrated. Questions would pop into my mind. Was this all there was? Should I try to work somewhere else? Should I go back to school? Should I risk freelancing? But most importantly, was this going to be my life story?

Working on things I wasn’t passionate about 49 weeks a year until I retire? Little time for friends and family? Little time to work on projects I actually enjoy?

I needed an exit strategy.

Just a typical long night at my desk.

The third monitor on my desk, pictured above, was dedicated to playing TED talks while I worked. Ever since TED began sharing their conference talks online, I had become addicted.

One day I watched a talk called The Power of Time Off by Stefan Sagmeister and it changed my life forever.

Stefan, a fellow Pratt Institute graduate, discussed the passage of time. According to Stefan, our lives are broken up into three blocks. In the first block, we spend roughly 25 years learning. In the next block, 40 years working. And finally, in the third block, we retire at the age of 65.

Image courtesy of TED from Stefan’s talk.

Stefan decided that instead of retiring at age 65, he would work until he was 70, but sprinkle a year of mini-retirement between every 7-year block of working.

Image courtesy of TED from Stefan’s talk.

After watching, I realized I wasn’t going to figure out my purpose while all my time and energy was focused on work. I needed to buy myself some time off.

I grabbed a pen and paper and started figuring out how much money I needed to survive in NYC for a year without actively earning money. I spent the next 2 years living frugally. I canceled all my unnecessary expenses. If I went out with friends, I would drink out of a flask, and I bought no new clothes. No fancy dinners. No taxis — I rode my bike to work. Whatever I could do to shave a few dollars here and there.

I decided I would quit my job on my 30th birthday to spend my entire 30th year of life with my family and go on adventures that would ordinarily be impossible with a normal work schedule. I was finally going to have a chance to pursue my own personal creative endeavors.

A journal that finally works for me

I was about to embark on a year of complete and total freedom. This would potentially be the only year of my life where I could do anything I wanted — I didn’t want to forget it. Any of it. I was about to turn 30, and when I tried to think back on how my life was at age 20, I found it was already a giant blur. I remembered all the big, general stuff: I was in college. My roommate was Steve. I took Intro to Art History. I could recall memorable events, but I couldn’t remember my day-to-day life. I could no longer recall certain sounds, faces, feelings, and places.

In fact, the farther back I tried to remember, the more difficult it was to remember what younger me was like. It scared me — and I didn’t want to turn 40 and only vaguely remember that magical year off. I needed to start a journal again, but I needed to reimagine how I would do it.

I began brainstorming what worked and what didn’t. While writing can serve as a beautiful way to document our lives, it had never stuck for me in the past — and I couldn’t afford to fail this time. I thought photos would be a great start. I love taking photos, but if my goal was to capture memories (instead of a beautiful photograph), then I found it imperative to capture movement and sound as well. Hearing my Dad’s laugh is just as important to me as a photo of him laughing.

I wanted to come up with something that was easy and simple to do, that even lazy Cesar could manage to do every single day. I knew it needed to be easy, but also fast!

Another thought crossed my mind: What’s the point of writing a novel about my life if I never have the time to revisit it? The result of my efforts needed to be just as fast to consume as it was to create. A way that I could look back on my life in a meaningful way and use it as a personal reflection tool.

The New York Times — January 1st 2016

I realized video was the best way for me to keep a journal of my life. It felt unlikely that I would stop carrying an iPhone with me at all times anytime soon, an HD video camera was now in my pocket at all times. I thought about shooting a snippet of video every day to use as a memory trigger. But what’s the smallest amount I could record? One second. As an animator, I knew from experience that a second is actually a significant amount of time.

The idea stuck. I decided I would record one second every day during my year off, ending up with a 6-minute recap to remember it all. I had no idea what life would bring for me that year, but the thought of getting a bird’s-eye view of my life was appealing. I was so excited to get started.

February 20th, 2011: 1 Second Everyday is born.

My first year recording one second every day. My life at Age 30.

It was finally my birthday. I turned 30 years old, quit my job, and began recording one second every day.

The idea began as a fun way for me to chronicle my year off, but it quickly grew into something more important. It allowed me to reflect on my life and look back at how I was spending my time. If several days went by without anything outside my typical routine, it started encouraging me to wake up and seize the day.

I began to plan out adventures that would ordinarily be impossible with a normal work schedule. Like a 95-day summer road trip through 25 states and 6 Canadian provinces.

A 95 day road trip I’ll never forget

As time went on, I realized what an immensely positive impact this project was having on me.

That’s when I decided I’d continue it for the rest of my life.

2012: The TED Talk

My audition for TED at the first ever TED Talent Search. Photo Credit: James Duncan Davidson

A once in a lifetime opportunity popped up on my social feed. TED decided to hold the first ever TED talk auditions. “If only I had an idea worth spreading!” I thought. But I didn’t close the link on my web browser. Instead, the tab stayed there staring at me as I used the internet every day.

Then one day on my dad’s birthday as I was recording my second of the day it dawned on me. This is having such a positive effect on me… maybe it could help others too?

I felt silly at the thought that my personal project was worthy of the TED stage, but I was plagued by the thought that if I didn’t apply, I would’ve regretted it for the rest of my life. I thought back to my guidance counselor in high school who gave me one of the best guiding pieces of advice of my life. He said, “Live to regret the things you did, not the things you didn’t do.”

I ran home and posted my one-minute audition video to TED with just minutes to spare before the deadline.

Days later my life changed forever. I received an e-mail from TED. I was one of 17 chosen to audition live on stage at a special TED event in New York!

Photo Credit: James Duncan Davidson

I’ve never been more nervous. The day was a blur and I walked off stage convinced that I was horrible. Ultimately, I was just happy to have done my best and pleased that I had a photo of me with a TED sign as proof it actually happened!

Two weeks later, I was completely shocked to get a phone call from TED asking if I’d like to speak at TED 2012. I freaked out! Somehow, I was able to keep it a secret for the rest of the year, as instructed.

February 27th, 2012, exactly one week after completing the first full year of the project, I arrived in Long Beach California for TED 2012.

I met some personal heroes of mine that day, including Bill Nye (the science guy). I remember mentioning to him how nervous I was, but he replied, “If you weren’t nervous, it wouldn’t be worth doing”. Exactly what I needed to hear.

On March 2nd, 2012 I shared my video online and on the TED stage. The video got staff picked by Vimeo and slowly started popping up all over the internet. The idea spread.

TED 2012. Long Beach, CA. Photo Credit: James Duncan Davidson

2017 and Beyond

A TON has happened since TED.

I went back to work in advertising for exactly one day before realizing that I just couldn’t do it. I found developers who believed in the idea as much as I did and we started building the app I had been envisioning in my mind.

We garnered the most backers ever for an app on Kickstarter. We’ve been regularly featured by Apple. We built an Android version. We’ve partnered with brands like Pepsi, Google, and Chase on campaigns, we played a beautiful role in Jon Favreau’s Chef, and we recently won a couple of Webby Awards for Best Use of Mobile Camera!

My co-founder Schoneck Shoaf and I with our Webby.

What started out as me working on my own has grown into a 9 person team! We’re growing, we’re profitable, and we’ve yet to take venture capital funding.

But most importantly, many of our users now have years of their lives in movie form. The app is being used by parents, teachers, travelers, and everyday people with mobile phones all over the world. They’re recording the good times, the bad times, even the mundane moments. After all, they’re all worth remembering.

Today, we’re launching our next big idea. Social Media Zero. Our take on a social media feed, one that’s designed to get you back out to the real world instead of trying to keep you coming back for more over and over throughout the day.

Our very own Jason Forest made this illustration of our growing team.

Our team is committed to helping our users live a better life with a healthy, balanced use of technology.

We want to continually ask ourselves… How can we help improve your life?

How can we help you get more of your precious time back?

We just launched a Kickstarter for Social Media Zero. I’m so excited for what’s to come and the future of 1 Second Everyday.

I would be deeply grateful for your support and a share with your friends :)

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