My name is Tom Langhorne. I am a bushcraft and wilderness survival instructor, filmmaker, and YouTuber, going by the name “ Fandabi Dozi” (I’ll explain later). I suppose if you had to put my videos under one category, I would say “Wilderness Living Skills.” But the topics I have covered include survival trips, wood carving, martial arts, history, hitchhiking adventures, and much more.
By far, my most popular series is one on 17th Century Highlander Survival skills, which aims to rediscover the knowledge, equipment, and skills our Scottish ancestors used to survive in our harsh environment three to four hundred years ago.
My parents are very outdoorsy, and most of my childhood holidays were spent in the Highlands of Scotland, hiking, fishing, camping, and wildlife watching. I became fascinated with nature and how primitive man used and made tools from the surrounding environment to survive. I was never into computer games or watching TV, so I spent most of my days building dens in the forest, lighting fires, and making bows and arrows.
My interest in survival skills stuck with me to adulthood. At the age of 19, during my first year at University, I met my best friend Richard and went out to work at his family's holiday business in Malaysia that summer. The GoPro Hero 2 action camera had just came out, and I had bought one to take with me to capture our adventures. During my stay there, Richard and I were chatting up some German lasses. For a laugh, I taught them that “Fandabi Dozi” is a typical Scottish expression, which means fantastic. (Actually, it is not, but is a catchphrase from the famous 80’s TV show “The Crankies.”) On returning home to Scotland, I sat down to edit my first ever video with the footage I had taken from Malaysia. When it came to uploading it to YouTube to share it with my friends, I had to first think of a channel name. “Fandabi Dozi” was still in my head, and thus the channel was born.
First video from Malaysia trip:
I continued to make short videos of my adventures to share with my friends and family, not to create an established channel. It wasn’t until 2014 that I released my first overnight “survival” video ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cBwDDCpo2Ag&t=1s) to get more views. I got a good response from it and enjoyed the filming process, so I decided to keep making them. Over the next couple of years, I filmed various survival adventures, both at home and abroad. In 2018, I started my Highlander survival series, and little did I know I was tapping into an undiscovered niche.
And for a month, I went from 3000 subscribers to 10,000! (first viral Highlander video: https://youtu.be/SJxWa6pr8Hw ) Later that same year, I decided to start monetizing my videos and began the moves to become self-employed and try to make a living from my passions.
Motivation and inspiration is a fickle thing! When I started the channel, I only made a few videos a year when I felt like it, but when you start trying to make a livelihood around it, there is evident pressure to get lots of regular content. There is a danger in the online creator world to get caught up chasing numbers, only making content to get lots of views. I found myself getting burnt out and was turning what was once fun into a chore. I found that the most popular videos on my channel are those I wanted to film and didn’t overthink it. Overthinking is my enemy, and it crushes the creative flow!
I now try to find the balance between scheduled and regular content but allowing enough flexibility to enable creative expression. When a video idea comes to me, I write it down in a journal. The ideas that excite me the most and are the most practical to do with the time resources move further up the list. I then think of a strategy of what order the videos should be filmed and released. For me, the ideas come when I’m relaxed, walking in nature or on the run, but I only get videos finished if I treat the filming and editing as a job. Every day, I sit down and edit or write video ideas for at least 1 to 2 hours a day. I usually focus on one project at a time and work on it consistently until it is finished. Check it over, then release it and move on to the next one. Don’t overthink it; just keep moving forward and find the balance between disciplined work and playful expression.
Most of my work is based around YouTube, but I also have a Facebook page and more recently put more effort into my Instagram page. I have my website as a place to bring all my work together, from the videos I make, the courses I run, and the events I am attending. I also have a Patreon page, which provides a little extra income to help things tick over. There, I release a behind the scenes video once a month and the occasional additional learning resources.
The first videos I made weren’t trying to impress anyone or make money or get a viral hit. I was just having fun and wanted to share it with family and friends. So I didn’t have any fears at the start, which was an excellent way to start. However, inevitably when I started making more videos and trying to make a living from it, hate comments and worrying about what others think catches up to you. Also, when going self-employed and trying to juggle multiple sources of income sources was a scary step into the unknown. My mantra for life is “Trust the process.” Moderate anxiety is helpful to keep you on your toes and in the game. Failure is just learning, so embrace it! Find a balance between being open to constructive criticism while filtering out the irrelevant negativity. Surround yourself with supportive and positive people and make friends with people who have paved a similar life path.
Again, I did not start my journey to build a “brand.” If I did, I wouldn’t have picked the name “Fandabi Dozi.” Haha! But it happened, so I just need to own it now. My “brand” created itself from an organic place. It sounds cliche as hell, but the videos I am most proud of are the ones I was just myself in, doing the things I like doing. As I mentioned in the “backstory” section, a few introductory videos played a vital role in the channel’s growth, and I built my brand and future content around those. Last year I wrote a “mission statement” for the channel and created a logo and slogan that followed the same direction. I didn’t get much help with branding. I’m sort of just making it up as I go along.
I would say you need to find a topic/subject that you are deeply passionate about. You need to become obsessed with it. To get started creating, simply think of an idea, give yourself a rough deadline, try your very best, and then just share it. Don’t think too hard. Just do it! Be open to praise and constructive criticism, but don't take anything personally. Reflect on what you did well and where you need to work on and repeat the process. Just keep putting content out there that you are genuinely passionate about and enjoy doing. Plan, prioritise, execute, reflect, repeat.
Write a mission statement for your work that is deeply meaningful to you. It has to be significant for it to drive you through the more challenging times in life. It can be changed and edited as you go along, but use it as a foundation for your creations. You don’t need a well thought out plan of where you want to take your brand exactly or how you will get there. You just need a direction and keep working on and perfecting your craft. Learn from other people that you look up to, but do not compare yourself with them. We are all on our unique paths.
Give yourself targets to aim for (number of subscribers x amount of content released), but don’t be too attached. I believe we are built for the process, not the destination. So, identify yourself with the process of perfecting your craft; this allows you to stay grounded and focused on the task at hand. I have a big note pad where every month, I write the objectives I want to achieve. These include activities that benefit your mental and physical health (exercise, seeing friends and family, recovery time). Then, every week I write down the objectives I want to get done that chip away at the monthly ones. Indecision is the enemy of progress, so at the end of each day, I write down the to-do list for the next day, so I can just wake up, and I know exactly what I need to do. I sit down with my morning coffee, prioritise the most critical tasks, and only attack each of them individually until they are completed.
I work best early in the morning when it’s quiet. I keep my phone switched off, so I don’t get distracted by social media, and I try to work as focused and efficiently as possible. I then leave the afternoons and evenings for exercise, chilling out, and fun stuff. I found I was way too ambitious with my objectives and would beat myself up if I didn't reach the deadlines I put in place. I am still learning to find the right balance, but if you can tell yourself that you tried your very best at the task and always didn’t meet the goal, you need to set more realistic time frames. The objective is to establish a work level you can sustain over a long time (and even your whole life).
I don’t believe there are any hacks, just ongoing work and practice. The trick is to keep it fun so that motivation can drive you alone, and it doesn't feel like work. Being motivated at all times will take time to find, and something I still struggle with.
So, in short, just do it, put yourself out there, don’t take anything personally, get used to the process of failure and learning, find the balance between disciplined work, and having fun with it. Keep moving forward.
YouTube is where I started, its what I am used to and have to build my online presence on. In terms of income, I still do not make enough to live off it alone. It is getting increasingly difficult to do that now. I have multiple income sources from teaching survival, filming for outdoor companies, and picking up other random odd jobs. But the channel is what brought me these job opportunities and allowed me to follow my passions. So although I can’t make a living from it alone, it brings in attention and opportunities to make money in other ways.
For me, chasing views and money from videos ruins the creative flow. I believe as long as you are putting the work in, making the best content you can with genuine passion behind it, then people will notice it, and the money will come in some form or another. If you are mainly motivated by money, then perhaps this perspective will not work for you.