Pursue your passion. Do what makes you happy. We often hear these statements from successful individuals trying to make an impact and inspiration among people looking up to them. They encourage everyone to take a bold step and follow what their hearts desire.
But the sad reality is that: pursuing one’s passion can take a toll on someone’s life. This could mean leaving the comfortable life you have been attuned to and embracing the long and lonely journey of doing what you think would make you happy. Pursuing one’s passion is not for the faint of heart. It is a path for the brave, like Jeffrey Chang.
Who is Jeffrey Chang?
Even if you’re not a member of the Jeffreaks, if you’ve frequented YouTube and TikTok, you most probably have come across the multitalented entertainer and musician, Jeffrey Chang. This Montreal native was one of the young teenagers who found an audience on YouTube back in 2011 – when it was still a breeding ground for those who would want to experiment and get recognized for their talent and creativity.
Jeffrey was first known for his comical skits, a venue for him to express himself. His YouTube channel, JeffreyFever, became a hit that he was able to be on shows like Canada’s Got Talent, The Ellen DeGeneres Show, and many other local TV shows. He started making videos at fourteen, and for the next eight to nine years, his fans closely followed his life through his confessional and whimsical videos.
But What Happened to JeffreyFever?
After years of providing humor to his fans, Jeffrey finally realized that it was about time to focus on himself and do the thing that will truly make him happy: to pursue his childhood dream of becoming a musician. So, in 2017, he decided to retire and commit himself entirely to music.
This bold decision empowered him to travel to Los Angeles to meet people and learn more about the music industry. There he realized that pursuing one’s passion is not as easy as it sounds. Things became very difficult for him. People were not giving him the chance to even tap into the music industry. While there are those who saw through him his potentials and gave him promises, most of them were not able to commit to their words.
Jeffrey went home empty-handed. And in the midst of his frustration, he decided to do things on his own – the way he did when he started his YouTube channel several years back. He self-taught himself to songwriting, mix music, and set up his home studio. In 2019, he then launched his new channel, Jeffrey Chang, where he poured all his efforts to prove himself as a musician. However, for someone who came from a comedic background, many people doubted him and didn’t take him seriously. There he realized how the YouTube industry has grown and that there are also a lot of influencers who want to be singers and just make music in general.
Knowing that he has a lot to prove to people, Jeffrey started making YouTube covers. But the interest among his audience has started to dim down and the market was already pivoting towards something else. Around December last year, he discovered TikTok and found the same passion among young people who are so driven with what they do. “It wasn’t just people or kids just doing random things. I heard that it was for young kids, like 12 to 15 years old but I discovered so much more than that. There’s this work ethic there that I’ve never seen before and all of my ten years of work with YouTube, I understand that it takes a lot of time. They’re passionate about it and they’re having fun. They’re creating these nice communities.”
Despite having successfully navigated his way through songwriting and mixing vocals, the songs that Jeffrey released didn’t have the license to be placed on streaming platforms. These challenges that hindered him from becoming a full-fledged musician paved the way for a new platform that embraced all his creativity. And so began his TikTok journey.
Like many beginners, Jeffrey also found it difficult to navigate through TikTok. But after seeing how the video his friend went viral after convincing him to put it into the platform (with 10 million views and over a hundred followers in just 48 hours), he realized how powerful TikTok can be. He went through what people are doing on TikTok and realized how it has been providing a venue for people to express themselves by dancing, singing, and just having fun – which was exactly what he has been doing. There he saw an opportunity to try and experiment with new things. He began making two to three videos a day and he even invited his dad to dance with him and TikTok!
How was the transition from being a YouTuber to a Musician?
Jeffrey admitted how difficult pursuing his love for music was. There he realized that one song could take six months to a year to do. There were a lot of moments when he questioned all his decisions but he also kept in mind that if he wanted to create music and stay in the path that he’s tracking, he has to be good and be courageous enough to face all adversaries.
“You know, I think one of the biggest blessings is coming from a ballroom background. Coming from a background like that, I know that in order to win competitions, you need to be good, you need to train, to need to put hours and hours and hours of practice. Like the Principle of 10,000 hours. I had to admit that it was so naïve of me to think that I could just work on music for 40 hours a week, for two months, and I’m good to go. Now, I just see the beauty in just learning. It’s never a question to quit. So, I don’t have regrets.”
What are your metrics for success?
At an early age, Jeffrey knew that school wasn’t for him. While he loved the social aspect of being in school, he admitted that he found it difficult to concentrate and perform well in class. He found it more important to take a moment and just don’t rush things. Coming from an Asian background, many have been brought up thinking that one should have everything settled at 25 – you have to have a career going, a wife, and so on. But Jeffrey believes otherwise. “I will always be a supporter of education and academics if it helps you. I have friends that went back to school at the moment and they’re studying brand marketing and they’re learning so much. But my decision didn’t really have a linear way of going forward in a sense like that. I also felt this pressure from my family when I stopped school. But I’m going to be a student for life, even if it’s not in the parameters of school. So, after I dropped out, I found these classes on songwriting, I brought books from bookstores and started learning how to mix songs. I also decided to learn how to speak Mandarin because I felt like I wanted to reconnect with my roots and maybe, in the long run, it could help my career. Everything I did after dropping out was still a form of education. I think that’s something that’s really important to note: you will always be forever a student, even outside of school.”
What does it take to be a great influencer?
The transition from mainstream media to social media is very much evident these days. With more options and interactions permitted online, this generation has maximized online tools to market and showcase products and services. Social media has become an instant best friend among many influencers that many are starting to come to terms with how they can utilize their social media accounts to something more productive and income-generating.
While it’s easy to point out face value as one of the entry points to becoming an effective influencer, with his years of experience, Jeffrey shared that those creators who solely rely on their face and body usually don’t last to more than a year or two. The standards of beauty change over time. People will be more drawn to influencers who work with intentions that’s why it’s important to hold on to your skills and be pure with what you would want to share. Hence, to stay relevant in whatever online platform, it is essential to thrive for longevity. Aim for long-term success. Work on a vision for the next 10, 20, 30 years and be willing to work towards a craft that will bring you there.
How to handle the pressures of social media?
Navigating through TikTok was such a humbling experience for Jeffrey. Coming from YouTube with a huge number of subscribers and then moving towards his musical journey, he felt once again the excitement of starting from zero and building his community to hundreds and thousands of followers. He once again felt the freedom to just share what he has in mind and express his thoughts.
However, as the numbers increased, he also began to feel the pressure of creating quality content. “The weirdest thing about getting a bit more success is that you’re now comparing yourself to people that are also successful. And then your standard becomes misaligned. And that’s the dangerous part. Once you start tapping into kind of not being yourself, it’s easy to lose yourself.” Jeffrey emphasized that this kind of mindset will make you lose track of your intentions – and once you do, it would be a lot harder to come back.
Yes, Jeffrey still feels pressured with the type of content he’s producing and the huge competition out there, but he believes that hard work pays off. He constantly reminds himself that great things take time. Delayed gratification, that is. And that he has to stay focused, believe in his craft, and do away with comparisons.
How to deal with criticisms and negativities online?
Because of his Asian features, a number of people who come across Jeffrey would associate him with other Asian entertainers and content creators. But instead of feeling disheartened with these stereotypes, he shows more understanding and just comes into a reconciliation that it’s just part of life and that’s how human beings connect with one another. He also tries to be more understanding of other people’s perspectives and decides to channel his energy into becoming a better artist. But when bad days come and those negative comments would really hit him, he would often look in the mirror and ask himself how true those comments are. If it has really nothing to with something he can control, then he decides to move on with it and stay focused on his intentions and what’s important for him.
What’s your message to the young dreamers out there who are planning to pursue their dreams?
“To all young dreamers, be your own superhero. Being Asian in the field is going to be a disadvantage for a while – not only because of representation but also because of traditions. But be the first person to believe in you. People will say it’s impossible. Well, if it’s not possible, then achieve it. It would be difficult and nobody’s going to help you. But there would be people who will be looking up at you. There are lots of kids that want to be like you. So, make it work.
I know that there are a lot of people that are inspired by what I do; that’s why I do it. And that feeling is forever – versus the five million views on your video. There would be videos that will perform poorly but that’s something that you have to tell yourself: you got to love the process. That’s more important.”