A YouTuber who makes gadgets and tech accessible for millions

The journeys and personalities of various noteworthy individuals have one element in common: self-awareness. Talk about optimum utilization of their skills or stepping back when things don't work — these folks are mindful, empower those around them, and steer their career for an exciting adventure.


David Payette is the creator and host of Payette Forward, a popular YouTube channel with 855K subscribers. Known for its tech reviews, quick hacks, and practical tutorials on fixing device issues, this channel's initial niche was Apple devices. Interestingly, David began his career at an Apple store. He is also the creator behind UpPhone, a website that offers tips and guidance on buying and fixing mobile phones in the US. 

While his friends introduce him as an honest, impatient, hardworking, and resourceful individual, David considers himself good at finding the shortest path from point A to B. From Googling to hiring, David tries not to lose himself in the finer points and steps back whenever necessary. As a thought leader and learner, he's comfortable with not knowing the answers to everything; in reality, he surrounds himself with bright people and relies on his team.


An only child to his parents, David grew up in the suburbs of upstate New York. He enjoyed writing as a child and owes it to his parents, who are good writers too. While David started reading pretty early on, he also learned the craft of writing, which he never gave up while growing up. But here's a twist in the tale — although brilliant at examinations, he never did homework in school, which confused his teachers. They often wondered if he grasped the subjects, and there was a lot of push and pull — sometimes, he was held back in classes, and other times, he was accelerated. Through these phases, David admits he learned to reach from point A to point B quickly.

As a teenger, David fell in love with the piano and was determined to become the best jazz pianist in the world.

"It was my life goal, and I thought anything less would deem me a failure. So, I went to a music school and pursued it for a while only to confront the reality — I wasn't the best jazz pianist in the world, and I won't make it. I was good, but not great so, there came the point in life where I had to figure out something else."

When that realization hit, it took a toll on his self-esteem, and he took to alcohol to deal with his internal struggle. This commenced a drinking problem in his early twenties.

"I've realized I drank because I couldn't fulfill my passion, and sobriety forced me to confront several things. First, I let go of the idea that I had to be a piano player; then, I squashed the notion that people should applaud me as that mindset ran me into the ground with the idea of perfectionism, depression, and everything that comes along."

Early Struggles

David addresses the period when he turned sober as a significant life transition because he let go of his past and entered a new life. Around that time, he pursued a bachelor's degree in Electronic Music & Media and took up his first job at a convenience store, where he helped people buy cigarettes, sell gas, and do other things that he didn't do as a child. That's where David learned the value of hard work. But complex things awaited him — he found out he had cancer as he turned 26. 

"I left that job because of radiation therapy and full-time school. Fortunately, my parents supported me throughout that period, and when I healed, I was ready to work again and took up a part-time job at an Apple store in upstate New York. I was also living with my parents, and I feel grateful to have had that opportunity because, without their support, I wouldn't have been able to get off the ground with school or business."

When David joined Apple, he was a happy camper but sometime during the journey, he wasn’t enjoying the work. On a rough day at work, he went to the food court and stumbled upon a spiritual guy, Wayne Dyer. He pulled up some of his stuff which said there is no way to happiness and that happiness is the way. It led to an epiphany that he should first be happy and that exterior joys won't bring him happiness. It felt a lot like he was on the wrong bus, and that he needed to get off it.

A snippet from our interview where David discusses his moment of epiphany

Stumbling Upon Blogging

On quitting, David started to consult and work with local businesses for web designing. As a part of that, he blogged to show business owners that he could establish blogs for them. He took online courses on Lynda to learn WordPress and SEO; besides, while working at Apple, he understood that most people don't possess technical skills. His first post — why does my iPhone battery die so fast, was a guide to fix that issue, which went viral six months later with five million reads. 

"I made $10,000 that week, which was a miracle because I never made that much in a short amount of time. I remember heading downstairs to show Google Analytics to my dad, and we thought it broke as it was performing so well. When we watched the number of readers go from 20 to 70 to 100s and then 1000s, I realized I could write blog posts."

David spent the following weeks writing more blog posts at Starbucks, and then, a friend who moved to Maui in Hawaii invited his friends' group to visit him. 

"Hailing from a middle-class family, we didn't vacation in Hawaii or somewhere similar, so I took up on his offer and flew to Hawaii. Three days later, I decided not to come home as it felt like I needed to be there. I ended up living there for 20 months, wrote blog posts, did some dog sitting and other tasks to get by. I made $10,000 the first month on my blog, $700 the second month, but it wasn't enough to live on, so I did other jobs to make money."

Getting Into YouTube

After running Payette Forward for some more months, David moved back to New York and got an apartment in the town. Once when he was walking past their clubhouse, he bumped into David Lynch, a pool attendant and now his co-host on YouTube. Lynch had just graduated, was running a blog, and they hit it off right away. David found him extremely intelligent, resourceful, a quick learner, and all he could ever hope for in an employee and friend. In no time, they were working together, and it was then, David wanted to get into video as it seemed logical that people would prefer watching someone fix an issue instead of reading.

"Earlier, I made basic videos like why does my iPhone die so fast, which garnered some traffic. When Lynch and I started making videos, we had around 1,000 subscribers, and I sent out an email blast to fetch over 1,000 subscribers and get us monetized on YouTube. We made $2-7 dollars every day and wondered if we'd ever make more. But, we realized we were only getting traffic through organic search, which suggested our videos too."
Beginning of YouTube journey with David Lynch

The Stumbling Blocks That Accompany Content Creation

David admits that it was a life or death situation for their business, although it didn't feel like then. Another concern was as a writer first, David was anxious to face the camera, which is why Lynch was in the earlier videos. Eventually, David got over it by editing the videos and watching himself in them — he learned from everything, including the brutal comments on their videos. Despite the initial negative feedback, they put in immense effort to a point where they get 99% positive feedback. 

David's reflections on handling negative feedback

Payette Forward has recently launched memberships at $10 a month, and David says building one-on-one relationships with their viewers has become more accessible through YouTube. While the team is mindful of their content creation, they don't always play it safe. For instance, when they were keen on reviewing headphones, it was a lot like venturing into the unknown. 

"While our financial situation improved with time, my natural hesitancy to spend money still lingered. I didn't want to buy headphones worth $5,000 on Amazon as I was worried if we'd experience an ROI."

They didn't just see an opportunity with the keywords; they were passionate about reviewing headphones, which felt like a cool project. No wonder they spent thousands of dollars to review 30 pairs of headphones. The growing viewership led to a growth in the team, too; with three core members and the rise of freelancers and summer interns, there are enough hands on deck to develop content, design, and engage with the YouTube comments. Interestingly enough, most of the team works remotely. 

Practicing Detachment

From David's conversations, you can infer that he practices detachment. He admits it's both a conscious and unconscious decision because playing music felt like putting his hand on a hot stove and burning himself. It was around the time it hit his self-esteem, making him miserable — so he recognizes the trap. While he consciously detaches himself from self-prescribed lofty goals, he says he has an automatic built-in response. 

"It's because of how I've transformed as a person — the awareness helps my self-esteem stay grounded. So, even if things are going well, I don't get too excited; nor am I unhappy when things don't go well." 

In Hawaii, he studied spirituality, which got him into meditation and helped him focus on his inner energy. Around that period, the Google Analytics for his blog was blowing hot and cold, but it didn't cause any debilitating fear because he stopped fussing over the problem.

A snippet from our interview where David shares his thoughts on handling uncertainties as a creator

Handling Creative Burnout

David says he is fortunate enough not to run into a creative burnout — perhaps because he understands the importance of rest periods. He puts in the effort when he can but doesn't force himself to work when he can't. 

"I've had times when I didn't write for two weeks but would have 14 posts from the previous week. Now, I'm grateful to have an excellent team that backs me up, and when I'm motivated, I do a lot more. When I'm not creatively productive, I support my team. Most creative folks tie their success to a publishing schedule, but Google recommends insightful information, and it won't change if you don't publish a video in a week."

David also doesn't believe in working long hours or holding himself to someone else's standard — he respects his limitations and prioritizes his happiness first; creativity ultimately follows. However, creative block is something he has experienced in situations where the team has exhausted their ideas, but the Payette team doesn't shy away from experimenting and trying out different ideas, albeit crazy, and David remarks that's how the team's excitement piques. 

Revenue Models

David hooks up Google AdSense to his YouTube channel and says YouTube drives most of their revenue. He relies on Simon Gilbert, an ad specialist from London, to plugin ads for the websites. Amazon Affiliate is another revenue stream, and despite lean membership, it's working out for them. 

"With your Amazon affiliates, you can leverage data to prove your ability to drive traffic and that people who watch your videos buy stuff. That gets your foot in the door because a lot of these folks are PR representatives for larger businesses, and we get a lot of those pitches."

They also receive several brand collaboration requests, and although it's a challenge to sort through the emails, the team ends up working with one or two brands monthly. He refers to this act as finding the diamonds in the rough, and the team doesn't recommend products they don't like or believe. While trying to monetize various content models, they also launched 'Blog Winners' to teach people the craft of running profitable websites. Although it didn't perform as intended, it was a great learning experience, and those content modules are instrumental in training their new writers.

The Way Forward

David says the future of Payette is a million subscribers on YouTube, which will eventually lead to two million subscribers. He intends to grow the team, update the websites since they will be a constant source of income as Google prefers the written word.

"The future will be more personality-based as Lynch and I get to know people and things continue to go viral on YouTube. I've made plans, written documents, and have three-year and five-year goals, but I'm a very one-day-at-a-time person at the core. I'm not someone who believes in doing different things every day — having plans is good, but we keep them short and plan for about six months to know which direction we're heading."

David emphasizes the importance of being agile and spontaneous in decision-making so they can pivot even with forward-thinking. YouTube may be the platform that bestows ultimate glory, but David is keen on exploring their growth on TikTok and Instagram, provided they find the right person for Instagram. All said and done, he also asserts how grateful he is for his team, which makes cracking tough decisions seem like a breeze. With Lynch backing David and offering candid advice, the future of Payette Forward is only looking onwards and upwards.

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