This post is an interview transcript. Click here to watch Video Influencers interview interview with Antonio Centeno.
Benji: In this interview we talked about how to use failure to help you get 100 million views, how to make time even when you don't have time, and how to look good even standing next to this guy.
[Music] What's up Influencers? I'm here with Antonio of Real Men Real Style. Did I say that right?
Antonio: You did.
Benji: I did. I did. I said that right. Thank you so much.
Antonio: You’re welcome.
Benji: For being on Video Influencers here where we build your influence, income, and impact with online videos. And, I just love your channel.
Antonio: Thank you, Benji. I appreciate it.
Benji: And the little blurb that I got from your YouTube is building a wardrobe that complements personal style. And cool stories when I first started my channel it was supposed to be about man stuff, right? Because my wife is doing a lot of femalecentric kind of topics, so my name was Benjamin TV so when I saw your channel it intrigued me because I had this idea way back when and we were talking there's a lot of channels now, but you're just crushing it right now, so…
Antonio: I know, you should have jumped in.
Benji: Oh, yeah. [Laughs]
Antonio: You’re missing out on…
Benji: No, dude I’m not — I can't even. I watch your videos for tips, right?
Antonio: This guy has style.
Benji: Oh, thank you.
Antonio: And that's what I love is like I'm not about suits, I’m about practicality.
Antonio: And for the image you want to project you know.
Antonio: And you want to come off as approachable, friendly, but still you take care of your hair, it's a great linen shirt and I mean this — it's a great look for him and it worked with him.
Benji: Guys, check it out, Real Men Real Style. And, let's talk a little bit about your channel because I think your journey is what I really want to share with the viewers.
Benji: You're at 1.3 million subscribers. You've had 100 million views.
Benji: Teaching about personal stuff, but I know your channel is about so much more, right? Like especially recently you're doing a lot of advice videos for men not just about the wardrobe. So, can you tell us about how you got your start and where you're at today in that journey to get there?
Antonio: Okay. So, I started online business back in 2007. I started an online custom clothier and I had to figure out how to get business to my little website in the corner of the web and so I started creating content. I had a guy Brett McKay at the Art of Manliness.
Antonio: Find me in 2008 say, “Antonio I love your stuff. Can you come write for me?” So, tip right there is get really good at what you're doing and create it. Now, I didn't have a fashion degree I just gotten out of Texas with an MBA, so I kind of understood business, but I really had to be self-taught. So, I realized that there was a lack of information on the web when it came to men style concerning custom suits.
So, I went out there bought all the books I could, read, and the way that I learned is I write things out I type things out. So, I put my notes online within my website. We started getting I think we got about 100,000 people a month.
Antonio: Who makes — write to my little website, I'm like what's going on.
Antonio: I was not really selling suits at that at this point.
Antonio: So, I think I realized I can actually I'm a pretty good writer I got a lot better once I wrote about 100 articles and I could put out good detailed information. I shared my journey of growth, but that kind of positioned me as an expert and I started off with that written word. Then, we started doing infographics. I — in 2012, I created Real Mean Real Style because I saw what Brett was doing at The Art of Manliness. I said, okay, I need to be able to do this. And I thought what could separate me from all the other men style blogs out there.
And it’s not going to be a blog, I got to do a vlog and video for me was relatively light and what I mean by that like there are certain things that we do that we have a natural talent to be able to do. I don't mind getting up in front of an audience like there's just a switch that flips on me when I get up in front of people I have no issue with this. So, I realized, okay, I'll do video, I can talk I have the gift of gab. And I already knew the context I'd written, you know, hundreds of articles already at this point.
Antonio: So, I knew the content and I just delivered it in a different way. And, we got into YouTube in 2012. Kind of got serious I think in about in 2014. And just in the last six months I have just really shot up and went from like 700,000 subs to 1.3 million very quickly.
Antonio: But – and people see those numbers, but what they don't see is that my first — I did 200 videos in 200 days and they weren't just — I was just cranking out information getting up at 4:00 in the morning in the basement of my house with a black background view and I didn't — they weren't great videos I had no images or anything. My wife — I mean we would cut the end cut the beginning and I would do it all in one take and these were ten-minute videos.
But because I knew the content because I was enthusiastic about it, people could feel the energy about something that a lot people don't normally feel energy about and they were actually getting useful information and that's what kind of put us on the map.
But, those first 200 videos got me a million views. Like you said, now we're, you know, we've maybe made 600 more videos and those got me 99 million more views. So, you see it's like a snowball and they just it gets bigger and bigger. And I think the key for people just starting off is to know that you're satisfying a demand that you have customers willing to pay and when you know that then you can put in the time effort to build…
Antonio: Before that snowball and then just get it rolling.
Benji: Yeah. Invest for the long-term, right? Like this is not a short-term thing.
Antonio: You know that — that is correct, but make sure that you've got measuring points along the way because if you — you have to be honest with yourself and don't, you know, if you keep hitting your head against a solid brick wall your head will eventually give in, but if you realize that, you know, I can actually you know I've got a hammer and I can keep hitting it, you will get through that wall.
So, make sure you're hitting it with the right thing and you're going in the right direction and so you want to have measurable like with my clothier, I shut that down and in 2012 and that's why I was able to give YouTube a go. And I knew to shut down that clothier because I was looking at metrics of my competitors and how much money they were making and I realized I just didn't have the money to invest in higher – get and create a higher conversions. I didn't own my back and my clothing my tailor shop, so I realized okay I need to fold up and focus on what's winning what's working for me which was content creation on YouTube.
Benji: Absolutely. And, you know, there's so many golden nuggets out of what you just said that's amazing. The first thing I'll hit on is you know we talked about you getting your start in 2012, but really your start was way before that, right? Doing the writing the articles online, right?
Benji: Working with on the other channel writing that experience. So, a lot of people they see your success and they just think, oh, you — maybe you got lucky. Obviously, you hustled and you worked very hard, but really you're preparing for this moment for a long time, right? And that's what our viewers I say like what are you doing right now that could be an asset for the YouTube channel that you want to start you know?
Benji: And you're a perfect example of that.
Antonio: Yeah. I mean it's a — you know we talked about Gary Vaynerchuk and I mean and you don't have to go to the level hustle, but you've got to put in what you — you really got to be honest with yourself and say if I really want this, am I willing to sacrifice to go get it?
Like I said, I gave up a lot of sleep. I have four kids and I wanted to spend time with them and I realized that I wanted to create a business and a lifestyle that would allow me like I was saying I'm returning from a six-month trip. We lived in Ukraine for three months not because we really want to do crazy things, we just simply wanted to spend time with family. My wife is Ukrainian.
Antonio: We spent a month though in Thailand and that was a pretty awesome.
Antonio: And I was able to do that because I always knew where I wanted to go. The end — I knew what the end wanted or somewhat what I wanted it to be and therefore I'm able to work backwards and make sure create a business which sustains that.
Benji: That's great because I think anybody including myself can be inspired what you — what you said and what you experienced and what you did and accomplished for yourself, right? That's a big deal you know time freedom, that's one of the reasons why people want to become YouTubers.
Now, on that note, right? Most people would think they think of YouTubers especially at the beginning they're thinking about like these comedians, actors, obviously big people like Casey Neistat, one of the reasons your channel stood out to me not just because that was an idea I was thinking of way back when it's because it's unique, right? It's different than 99.9% of YouTube.
And, even if people doubted that was something that could grow into what it is today, you kept at it. Obviously, there's multiple channels doing similar things. Can you talk about people pursuing whatever it is they're interested in and as you did pursuing the — the fashion and giving tips to men and even beyond that you have other aspirations as well?
Antonio: Yeah. Well, I mean it's not like I came up with this great idea. What happens is you – you throw something out there you make mistakes and you — you fail most of the time. And in fact, I mean do you like baseball?
Benji: Yeah. I love baseball. Mariners fan though Seattle.
Antonio: So, you get in the Hall of Fame, if I’m hitting 400 think I'm going to get in the Hall of Fame if I do that over 20 years?
Benji: Oh, for sure.
Antonio: Yeah. But, that — but you can still like you're missing the ball striking out six out of ten times.
Antonio: Yet that is if you can hit 400, that’s freaking amazing.
Antonio: So, you’re – if you strike out 6 out of 10 times you’re still – can you get in the Hall of Fame and be at the very top. So, what that tells us is that you’ve got to get — you got to go out there and try a number of things not in the vast majority of things will fail.
What’s funny, people don't remember all of my failures, they don't see everywhere else that we're just not doing — I mean Instagram we're doing okay there, but the video I've been putting out about a hundred videos on Instagram and it really hasn't taken off. And you’ve got to go out there and fail and fail, learn from that failure. I mean some people say take pride in failure and to a degree, yeah, but really focus in – figure out what wins and go down that route.
Gary Vaynerchuk said this once how a guy said I tried it a million times it didn’t work. He’s like, okay, really, you tried it a million times? No, no, you tried it a thousand times. No, no, you tried it a hundred times. No, no, you tried it twice. That’s not a million times. You’ve got to put…
Antonio: You got to keep, you know, figure out what works. YouTube works for me. I wrote a hundred articles. Nowadays I don’t write anything because I can’t type to save my life. I’m like the hunt-and-pecker. So, it really was difficult to do it, but I did it and it got me in the position. Now, I know I don’t want to do that writing isn’t as valuable to me.
Benji: Yeah. All your experiences just like so many YouTubers including the big ones and the ones that are more unknown, they usually have an experience previous to YouTube that was part of why they’re succeeding now, right?
Antonio: Yeah. Everyone thinks Casey Neistat is overnight success, what they don’t see is that he’s older than a lot of the other YouTubers. And for twenty years he grind at this.
Antonio: And that he has this strong background in film.
Benji: Once was sleeping on somebody else’s couch with nothing, no one knew him, so, yeah, I love his story. And, thank you, I’m glad you brought that up too, right?
So, the last thing I want to talk about – actually there – before we get into the last question, I want to do something fun. It’s called the Lightning Round, right? Hopefully you want to have some fun here. So these are just fun questions we’d like to ask.
Benji: Oh, I think I know the answer to this, but cat or dog?
Antonio: I like both, but dog, I do like dogs.
Benji: You got a lot of videos with dogs. I just tweet it out.
Antonio: I just put out a video with dog.
Benji: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Coffee or tea?
Benji: What book should every influencer start reading now?
Antonio: Built To Sell by John Warrillow.
Benji: What’s your favorite documentary or movie?
Antonio: I love anything with World War II.
Benji: Isn’t that crazy that I brought up Normandy earlier?
Antonio: Oh, yeah.
Benji: [Laughs] I love World War II too. What is your hidden talent?
Antonio: I’m pretty good with weapons.
Benji: Oh. I’m not going to mess with you. What is your morning ritual?
Antonio: Morning ritual is usually it starts with about 1:00 AM and it’s taking my five-year old and putting her on the potty.
Benji: Man, we have so much. I do the same thing too.
Antonio: Yeah. Yeah.
Benji: If you could give a TED Talk what would it be about?
Antonio: It would – that’s a hard one, maybe that’s there’s too many TED Talks out there. I don’t know. [Laughs]
Benji: How has failure or setback set you up for success later in life? Do you have a favorite failure or story?
Antonio: I have – I would say failure is what makes you because it will break a lot of people and they won’t be able to take it. You know this isn’t my favorite story, but I think it’s the most impactful one is in 2009 my sister –I got a call and she’s dead. She just killed herself. So, I’m – I mean I was so busy in my business that I could not even grieve. I had to jump into my truck, drive down to Austin, Texas. I’m working while I’m clearing out her apartment. And the rest of my family, you know, I’m the oldest son. I remember driving a cross-country with her urn in my lap taking business calls.
And I would say what you want to do is whatever you’re doing don’t let it own you the way my business owned me. And you really want to whatever you’re doing you create – you want to give yourself the margin in your life, so that you can – you can live your life, you can grieve, you can spend time with your kids. I know so many dads out there, you know they’re just they’re working hard they think they’re delivering what their family needs and at the end of the day they don’t even know their kids when they come home.
And so, you know, that’s like a big message I try to get to people is, you know, you talk to people that you care about letting them know you love – you love them, be open, and don’t let your business, you know, be a prison that you get stuck in.
Benji: Yeah. And thank you so much for sharing that. I know that like, you know, that’s a deep story. But, you know, in my experience wisdom says too that will pay dividends back to your business long term, right? Because there’s nothing worse than burning out or breaking relationships, so I appreciate that story.
Do you have a quote you live your life by or think about often?
Antonio: Yeah. You know it’s – I guess it’s a Persian saying, I cried because I had no shoes until I met a man who had no feet.
Benji: Hmm. Deep stuff. Were you guys expecting this? I wasn’t and I love it. Okay. Last one is favorite place in the whole world and why?
Antonio: Home. You know so I grew up in Midland, Texas and I still consider it home. But I live in a small town now called the Wittenberg, Wisconsin. And it’s not – it’s not much, it’s town of a 1,113 people in north woods.
Benji: Oh, wow.
Antonio: But, you know and people I think everyone needs to have a home. Right now, that’s where we go back to. We’ve been on the road for six months. We’ve been to Thailand, Ukraine, Los Angeles, I mean so many cities and states in the United States. But we just look forward to going home wherever you decide to make it.
Benji: Amazing answers. Wow, some of the most deepest answers we’ve ever gotten on the show. So, I appreciate that.
Antonio: I’m a Philosophy major, so maybe…
Benji: [Laughs] Okay. So, there are actually two more things to end this. One of them is so, you know, I looked at the history of your channel, of course like almost everyone on YouTube you had to start at zero, right?
Benji: Your early videos had, you know, very few views compared to what you’re getting now, right?
Benji: So, maybe a few hundred a thousand and grew to five thousand, ten thousand. But then, once in awhile you get these videos that do like one or two million and unique to your channel you have many of those throughout even the early history. Can you talk about how you would share how other people could do the same thing and, you know, I have thoughts about how you did that, but I would love to hear, you know, what was your – what’s kind of like the reason why that happened and how you did that?
Antonio: Well, I will start at one point like I woke up like I didn’t really start at zero because I had relationships. So, one of the early things I did, I gave away my best content. So, Brett McKay at the Art of Manliness, I mean I was just giving him my best videos. I never got paid for an article I wrote for him even though he was offering a lot of money for articles. I would do it because I believed in his mission and I was always authentic.
Now, things that went viral, I mean it was really hard to predict.
Benji: Yeah. Sure.
Antonio: I just find it very practical useful thing started going viral, but the videos I get most proud of are the ones that I know I can go deep on and I can have an impact on whoever watches that video and I try to give the action steps. But, yeah, like how to roll your shirt sleeves, how to tuck in a shirt.
Benji: Utility type of videos, right?
Antonio: Exactly. And most interesting about those is…
Benji: And how many men out there can relate to this, how to make a bowtie, how to tie a tie, those kind of things, right?
Antonio: We put those all out there and sometimes those very simple ones which you think maybe have already been done in the industy, but like the how to tie a tie videos, we did – we’re doing eighteen of them, we’ve already put out sixteen. But, what we did different because there’s many out there is we took a different angle on the camera and we looked at the tie as the way a man would look at it when he’s tying it. It was a small change, but…
Benji: I’ve actually never seen that.
Antonio: That separates us from all the other how to tie a tie videos out there.
Benji: Yeah. One thing we always like to ask people especially with the kind of success you’ve had is if you were talking to a 14-year old maybe this is something you would say to your son, right? And they’re a young person or maybe they’re older, right? They are just starting out in YouTube, what would be like some of the piece of advice you’d want to give them to start their journey out correctly?
Antonio: You know it would you’ve got to be – you’ve really got to want to do this and you’ve got – I mean the word passion is a bit overplayed, but I would say that you’ve got to be able to be willing to commit to it to go through and to get really good at it because the things I think people become passionate about are the things they’re really good at, but to become good at anything, you’ve got to be willing to go through the failure, be able to take step on the mines to be able to deal with the hate.
And, you know, a 14-year old I’m hoping they don’t deal with too much hate at this point, but it is something that that’s what defines you, your ability to not deal with the success, but to deal with the failure and be able to pick yourself up.
Benji: Amazing. Well, thank you so much. I really appreciate it. We’re going to put all your links; socials, YouTube channel obviously down below. You guys go check it out. Real Men Real Style, correct right?
Antonio: That’s correct.
Benji: And you got to love his stuff especially if you’re a man, okay? Or if you’re into men style.
Antonio: And 8% of our audience is actually women.
Benji: There you go, maybe they – maybe they just like your look, they appreciate your charm.
Antonio: They tell me that our stuff is, you know, you can use it for both. And I thought about actually creating a woman’s channel.
Benji: There you go.
Antonio: But, my wife doesn’t like that idea. She’s like no.
Benji: She likes the 8% and she wants that to go lower maybe.
Antonio: Yes, she does.
Benji: Guys, check it out. Thank you. Again, here on Video Influencers helping build your influence, income, and impact with online videos. Thanks for watching.
This post is an interview transcript. Click here to watch Video Influencers interview interview with Antonio Centeno.