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Inspiring Biography of Shawn James (My Self Reliance)

Shawn James is a popular outdoorsman and YouTuber.

He has more than 2M subscribers on his YouTube channel, ‘My Self Reliance’.

He is also a photographer, and a freelance writer.


Shawn James was born on 10 April 1970 in Canada.

He grew up in a middle-class family in Newmarket, Canada.

Born  Shawn James; 10 April 1970, Canada
Nationality  Canadian
EducationDropped out of high school
Occupation  YouTuber
YouTube channels‘My Self Reliance,’ and ‘Shawn James’
Years active on YouTube2015-present
GenreOff-grid living, log cabin building
Subscribers2.17M on ‘My Self Reliance,’ and 368K on ‘Shawn James’
Net worthUndisclosed
YouTube incomeUndisclosed
Family Wife and two daughters
LocationIn the woods outside Huntsville, Ontario
Shawn James information

Love for outdoors-

Shawn grew up downriver near the farm fields and a small forest and was living on the edge of a rural town and used to walk into the forest and build forts and sleep in them and used to do bird watching.

Also, he used to walk down the forest after school and all of these, sparked his interest in the outdoors and he has been an outdoorsman from a young age.

During that time, he used to also catch snakes and adopt them as pets.

Shawn along with his family used to go camping and during that time, his grandparents had a trailer in the Honey Harbour and here, he learnt fishing off the dock.

He also went to day camps at a young age and later, did outdoor activities around the world.

Inspired by ‘Two little savages’-

Once, Shawn’s mother gave him ‘Two Little Savages’ book.

This book was authored by Ernest Thompson Seton, one of the founders of the Boy Scouts of America.

This book contains the story of two boys going out in woods and building shanties and this inspired Shawn, who at 11, started building shelters along with his friend and started sleeping in them even in the winter.

At 12, he built winter shelters with the pieces of split-rail fence and used to sleep in it.


During that time, Shawn was very much into hockey, canoeing and kayaking.

At 12, he gave a demonstration to Wayne Gretzky on how to do an eskimo roll on a kayak.

At 15, Shawn along with his three friends canoed for an entire week from the Six Mile Lake to Georgian Bay.

A year later, they did a week-long trip on the French River in Canada.

Building a cabin in woods-

At 17, Shawn read ‘Walden’ book written by Henry David Thoreau, an American naturalist and this book inspired him towards simple, solitude, and off-grid living.

So, he started pursuing his dream of owning a property and leading a simple life.

In 1987, at 17, Shawn did commercial roofing for two summers and also did construction work and thanks to these, he was able to save $16,000 with which he bought an island property near Whitestone Lake.

Commercial roofing not only taught him the value of hard work but also taught him the skills of measuring tape and using a hammer which later helped him in building cabins in woods.

At that time, Shawn was earning $12.50 an hour doing the construction work and as the wages were good and the cost of living was low, he was able to afford the property at a young age.

As he wanted to live at the property, he hand-built a little log cabin and had a couple of canoes at stash on the Black Lake and enjoyed hunting and fishing.


Shawn quit high school at 17 and started living in his cabin but at 21, his parents informed him that he had to come out of his cabin and work as he had to pay for the property taxes, which at that time was $150 per year.

So, he took on a variety of jobs.

At 21, he took a sheet metal apprenticeship and started going to sheet metal work with his father.

Then, Shawn did sheet metal work in a commercial setting for around eight years and here, he learned using tools, measurements and building codes and these skills helped him while building cabins.

He always hated traditional jobs and could not perform well in them as his sole passion lay in being self-reliant.

Becoming an entrepreneur-

After doing sheet metal work, Shawn started his own commercial roofing sheet metal business and here, he learnt about structural engineering, waterproofing and general things about buildings and all this knowledge later helped him while building cabins.

As he wasn’t passionate about his business, he lost everything and thanks to the financial hardships, he had to even sell the property that he bought when he was 17 and even then, he was indebted.

The financial crisis of 2007–2008 was another reason for the failure of Shawn’s business.

Later, as he was passionate about renewable energy, he started a business related to it.

Back to the basics-

Eventually, Shawn started receiving many lucrative work opportunities but as he wanted to live a simpler life in the woods, he quit everything and moved into the woods.

He sold his business to one of the biggest companies in Canada.

And during the selling process of his business, Shawn learnt that Maddie, daughter of his business partner was earning $2500 per month from YouTube and thanks to this, he decided to seriously work on his YouTube channel.

As the business deal got closed, he paid off the huge debt that he incurred from the 2008 business failure and rebought his property.

In 2017, Shawn built his log cabin without any power tools in an unorganized township near Algonquin Provincial Park in Ontario at a reasonable distance to the major centers.

As the development fee in an organized township was high, he chose an unorganized township.

YouTube channel-

Once while researching in the canoe forums, Shawn stumbled upon the YouTube videos of Larry Hyett and started watching them and was impressed by them.

Then, he wrote a piece for the Trip Reports on the Algonquin Adventures forum and won a $100 gift certificate from Duncan outfitters.

This sparked Shawn’s interest in sharing knowledge with people and so, he thought of starting a YouTube channel to not only share his knowledge but also to build an audience and monetize it.

So, on 23 April 2013, he started a YouTube channel by name ‘My Self Reliance’.

But Shawn started seriously working on it only from May 2015.

On 16 May 2015, he published the first video, ‘Algonquin Park Solo 6 Day Canoe Camp Fishing Trip May 2015’.

Making a living in the woods-

Initially, Shawn was earning by guiding and developing websites for other outdoorsmen.

He was also earning by writing articles for Ontario Tourism, canoe magazines, etc. and by selling photographs for Tilley.

Becoming a full-time YouTuber-

On 10 January 2018, Shawn published a video, ‘Log Cabin Building TIMELAPSE Built By ONE MAN Alone In The Forest’.

A few Facebook pages, including one of George Takei’s shared this video and thanks to this, this video became viral; this video also got featured on ABC News.

As Shawn’s other videos also started getting a good number of views, he became a full-time YouTuber.

As of January 2024, he has 2.17M subscribers on ‘My Self Reliance’ channel and 368K subscribers on his eponymous YouTube channel.

And he has 200K followers on Instagram and 245K followers on ‘My Self Reliance’ Facebook page.

He uses Sony a7 III, GoPro Hero7 Black, Canon EOS 6D Mark II, and GoPro – Hero5 cameras.

Shawn earns from a variety of sources, advertisements and ‘Super Thanks’ on his YouTube channel, affiliate marketing, merchandise, and sponsorships.

He hasn’t revealed his net worth.

He has a website.

Currently, Shawn doesn’t have a Wikipedia page.

Personal life-

Shawn is married and has two daughters.

He introduced his family to outdoor activities like camping, paddling, etc.

Shawn’s youngest daughter, Emily Aisling, is a part-time YouTuber and has 81.9K subscribers on her eponymous channel.

He has a pet golden retriever, Cali.

Doing physical work in the woods has not only been very meditative but it also helped him with his back pain which he developed while working in an office job.

Shawn is an introvert and is passionate about environmental issues.

Currently, he has a couple of properties, one for his family and another one for his wife and he is developing these properties.

So, how are you inspired by the success story of Shawn James?

Share with me in the comment section below.

About Author

Hello folks, I'm Naveen Reddy.
I love writing the inspiring success stories of people so as to inspire you.
Enjoy the well-researched, thorough articles!
Every article takes many days of effort; so, why not pay it forward by sharing them and spreading positivity.

anton millner

Thursday 11th of May 2023

Very good biography, but one very important detail is missing. Who is Lilly's mystery spouse? She proudly tells in her videos that she is married but doesn't say who she is with. Why is she kidding her fans?

Naveen Reddy

Friday 12th of May 2023

Thanks for your appreciation, Anton; I think you are referring to 'Survival Lilly.’ I researched but couldn't find about her relationship.


Sunday 23rd of April 2023

Being retired and 78 yrs young, I am somewhat not very mobile and I live in a lift chair and my TV is outfitted with Roku, where I love to watch Shawn James on YouTube, a lot. I love watching a person build with or without the proper tools.

Naveen Reddy

Sunday 23rd of April 2023

Hi Scott, thanks for sharing your thoughts!

Helena Hroncova

Monday 27th of February 2023

My 90-year-old mother wants to watch nothing but your videos. He adores your Cali.

Naveen Reddy

Tuesday 28th of February 2023

Hi Helena, thanks for your comment! Good to know that your mother loves Shawn's videos.


Sunday 11th of December 2022

Hat jemand die E Mail Adresse oder Telefonnummer von Shawn James? Gruß Hubert

Naveen Reddy

Sunday 11th of December 2022

Hi, just visit this page and click on View email address.

Hubert Jänsch

Saturday 10th of December 2022

Hi Shawn James,

I'm not englisch. have you a E-Mail and WhatsApp ?

I See you!

God by

Naveen Reddy

Saturday 10th of December 2022

Hi Hubert, you can find Shawn James's email address in the 'About' section of his YouTube channel.