September 18, 2013

Small Talk: Ronnell & Jon of Never What You Think

What Mandy Thinks: "Small Talk" post
As you may have seen me shout off the rooftops recently, I am now an official guest blogger for a blog Never What You Think, which is all about "dig[ging] deeper into truth, life, and the complexities of the human experience."  Their founders / writers / hosts / awesome thinkers Ronnell and Jon are here for some "small talk" as my thank-you gift to them for letting me spew out my thoughts on their website (and I think they're blog is splendid so check it out). If you haven't seen my contribution, here's the post.

Ronnell & Jon of NWYT
Photo credit:
What is "Never What You Think?" How did you come up with the name?

R: It’s a brand and concept that sends its message via a blog website and YouTube vlog. The message is to think deeper, question, and explore life’s experiences by encouraging people to share the thoughts, ideas, perspectives, life lessons, stories, and tribulations they wouldn’t otherwise share with others or have yet to explore themselves. It’s a place where conviction, compassion, and honesty are welcome.

R: As for the name, I came up with it when I was 17 late one night on Myspace. I felt that it was the perfect mantra for how I live and want to live my life as this was the time I discovered that there were so many layers to people, relationships, situations, and life itself. To me, the idea of “things may not be what you think” wasn’t true. Things were always never what I thought it was. (If you go to the Facebook page and go to the date we were created in the timeline, there is a picture of me in front of a mural I did in high school of my first design for NWYT.)

What Mandy Thinks: "Never What You Think" blog logo,
J: “Never What You Think” is a site that digs deep beneath the surface of the human condition. We attempt to ask questions or bring up topics that are important to us. They can range from life lessons we pick up from movies or conventions, to questions we have about society, humanity, etc. Our goal is to be a community of thinkers where we get past the clich├ęs, share life experiences, and question what it means to be human.

You both have very different backgrounds. What inspired you to create NWYT?

R: Since coining this phrase at 17, I wanted to spread my message but didn’t know how at the time so I put it on the backburner for the next few years. It wasn’t until I graduated college with an Advertising degree and became an avid blog reader and YouTuber, that I figured out what NWYT would become. (I also finally had the design and marketing skill sets needed.) However, I still wasn’t acting upon it because of time and self-doubt. Since high school, Jon and I would always have intellectual discussions about life and our differing backgrounds made for great dynamic and debate. One night after a discussion, I expressed my idea about creating NWYT and him taking an interest in it gave me the kick I needed to get it started within a year.

J: I don’t recall the date, but one night, Ronnell was sharing her thoughts on creating a blog/vlog/fusion where she would share heavy topics that were on her heart. Seeing how I’ve written a handful of blogs that align with that mission, I thought “why not help my friend out with something that I feel passionate about, myself?” I like expressing ideas. I like debating morals—if done in a hygienic and healthy environment. This seemed like a good venue to express my thoughts and converse with others who may have different views on the same topic. As you stated, we are different. While both of us bears the others’ qualities, I feel that my writing is more “classical art”—a style you’d find more in a novel—and Ronnell’s is more of a commercial art—a style you’d find in an editorial/publication. That said, nothing is wrong with either approach. However, we have butted heads on ideas before because of our stylistic differences [e.g.: how we word titles]. However, our differences do make us stronger—especially in the scope of NWYT. If our goal is to be applicable to many peoples, then my writing will grab one demographic and Ronnell’s will grab another, yet the goal is still met and uncompromised. Also, it’s become evident that Ronnell takes a bit of my style and I take a bit of hers. My titles have become a bit more direct and Ronnell has used historical references here and there—I’d like to hope, at least, that that’s my doing. Anywho, we sharpen each other in spite of our stylistic differences, which hopefully makes NWYT stronger.

Which topic do you enjoy writing the most?

R: Well, there are definitely a few common themes to our blogs. When we constantly write from the heart, our core values, morals, and beliefs are bound to come out. As for me, it seems that the common themes that show up in my blogs are fate/destiny, friendships, dreams/ambition, humor, and self-esteem. I’d say the topic I enjoy writing about the most is humor because I enjoy comedy myself. It’s a good way to speak the truth and I feel everyone just needs to laugh sometimes. Plus, I like to be funny and take every opportunity I can to insert my humor. You can read more about my thoughts on humor in this blog (

R: However, the topic I write about the most is fate/destiny. It’s being open to what’s happening or happened to you and trusting that things - good or bad - all play a role in your future. But my theory is that you can’t just sit there and let life pass. In order to see this “path” unravel, you have to walk through it by working hard and being proactive as well as pay attention to the signs along the way. Living with this mindset, I’ve learned that life has its odd ways of balance, but nonetheless it needs balance. So I persevere when unfortunate things happen to me because it’ll soon be balanced by more fortunate things. Likewise, I stay humble when things go my way because it won’t be long until it’ll be balanced by unfortunate things. With that, nothing in life is irrelevant. Each event, opportunity, or missed opportunities have value and prove its relevance later. But I’m aware other people have different views of their path in life and I welcome their thoughts!

J: It’s funny. Ronnell and I always poke fun about the topics we write about the most. As for me, I write a lot about community. I feel like this generation is becoming more and more individualistic. This isn’t an original thought. You can see it as people walk from place to place on their phone or listening to “their” music, rather than being open to the world around them. You can see it as radios are becoming more “personalised.” You can see it as people spend more time socialising via computer rather than face-to-face. You can see it as people would rather drive than take public transit [though I recognise many things go into that] It’s easier to be in a bubble. It’s harder to be exposed to the world around you. I’m not suggesting that everyone lives in a Kumbayah state where we share everything and live in harmony with others. I’m not asking for plasticity. However, I am asking for us to act out the things we learned as a child. For some, it was “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The “Golden Rule” that transcends most if not any culture/religion. More specifically, for me, it was “love your neighbors.” Not just be kind to them, but care about them. Mother Teresa takes that adage even further: “I want you to be concerned about your next door neighbor. Do you know your next door neighbor?” I live in an HOA where a bunch of houses were broken into. Why? Because there’s no community. No one knows anyone around here. My neighborhood is just a bunch of living-spaces with walls. The lesson I pull out of this thievery situation in my neighborhood: if people knew their neighbor more, the world would be a better place.

J: However, my life goes in different themes. Perhaps, if NWYT lasts a long time, my favourite topic will change. But for now, community is something I enjoy a lot. As well as topics on history. Heck… I am passionate about almost anything I write about, so it’s safe to say my favourite topic to write about is every topic (except about bugs). But we can stick with community. And sci-fi...

NWYT doesn't just write blog posts but also vlogs on your own YouTube channel. How do you manage your time with both?

R: Yes, I think vlogs provide a different medium to promote and convey messages. Nowadays it seems like a standard for most people and brands. A lot of things in pop culture and education today wouldn’t have happened if it weren’t for YouTube. Well, we set up a calendar of tentative topics a month beforehand, but sometimes we feel strongly about something else on the day we decide to film. I think what makes it more manageable is letting most of our videos happen organically be it the topic or the actual video. Even Jon’s drawing videos are not set in concrete. A lot of the sketches are decided as he’s drawing them. It also helps that I have an interest in video and have filmed/edited many home-made videos at my leisure. So my workflow is a little more streamlined. Lastly, Jon and I live in the same neighborhood. We live practically 5 minutes from each other. :)

J: Magic. Seriously, though, it isn’t greatly time consuming. Some of the videos are on the spot. The hardest part is coming up with topics. As long as Ronnell and I prepare time ahead and set a schedule, doing a blog and video a week are manageable.

What advice do you have for those running blogs or wishing to start their own?

R: Be patient. You’re most likely not going to get the success you’re envisioning right away. Just consistently post and your followers will grow soon. Also, there is no formula to virality despite the plethora of articles you read on how to make things viral. It’s hit or miss.

R: Be bold. Along with your audience, your blog should continue to grow in all aspects. The best thing about being your own boss is you can do whatever the heck you want. So try out new things. Every blog audience is different depending on the type of content you post. So what works extremely well for one blog, may not work so well for your audience. We are continually experimenting, expanding, and evolving NWYT from things such as the logo design to the type of posts we do on social media.

R: Be prepared. (Lion King reference!) But seriously, if you want to post and promote quality content, know that running a blog is going to be like a part-time job. The more you expand your strategy to include videos, graphic design, photography, other writers, merchandise, the more time it will consume. On that note, there’s nothing wrong with trying to monetize A BIT. Google Ads, sponsorships, and merchandise are great ways. Like I said, this is going to be like a part-time job so it’s like getting paid to do what you enjoy! Also, be prepared to invest almost the same amount of money you do in time in the beginning depending on the quality of your content. Some things Jon and I have pulled out our wallets for are: website hosting, shortlink hosting, a bigger memory card, sharpies, a backdrop, printed flyers, gas for location-based videos, a new tripod (Jon broke my old one filming the launch video!), cookies and many other things. So getting a little compensation out of it helps, but refer to “Be patient.”

R: Be organized. Before even starting this, we had several meetings and created a timeline of when certain things will be done. Always start by laying out your overall strategy. Working in the advertising field, I just do it the same way at work. Your strategy can include your mission, audience, do’s and don’ts, design guidelines, brand voice, competitors, social media guidelines, etc. We also have schedules for who, what, and when things will be posted on the blog, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. In addition, we have a process for preparing blogs. We don’t simply write and publish. Basically, when you’re your own boss, you need ways to hold yourself accountable and having these things will help.

J: Content. Always think about the content. It doesn’t matter if your blog is amateur or professional, don’t write something just for stats or views. Write something because it means something to you. If this generation knows anything, it knows when someone is faking. If you write something of meaning, while it might not get immediate views, it will be held in higher renown than someone who writes a bunch of plastic thoughts.

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