Ali Abdaal is a Doctor, writer, podcaster, entrepreneur, and YouTube sensation. Ali has grown his YouTube subscriber base to over 2 million, and writes a weekly newsletter titled Sunday Snippets. Sunday Snippets covers productivity tips, practical life advice, and the best insights from across the web.
Ali studied medicine at Cambridge University. He worked as a Doctor in the United Kingdom before taking time off to explore his other interests. His YouTube channel covers medicine, tech, lifestyle, and productivity. Ali also co-hosts a weekly podcast with his brother, called Not Overthinking.
After learning to code at age 12, Ali started doing freelance web design and development. He enjoys playing piano, guitar, and singing covers of mainstream pop songs. You can find occasional videos of Ali’s music prowess on his Instagram page.
In this episode, you’ll learn:
- Ali’s savvy insights for growing your YouTube subscriber base
- A proven formula for writing content titles that get clicks
- Ali’s playbook for taking your podcast to a whole new level
Links & Resources
- The Nathan Barry Show on Apple Podcasts
- The Nathan Barry Show on Spotify
- Sean McCabe
- Pat Flynn
- Ibz Mo
- Casey Neistat
- Sara Dietschy
- Chris Guillebeau
- Tim Ferriss
- Derek Sivers
- School of Greatness podcast
- Lewis Howes
- Dave Ramsey
- Michael Hyatt
- Cal Newport
- Crash Course
- John Green
- Hank Green
- Daily Content Machine
- Andrew D. Huberman
- Dan Putt
- Tiago Forte
- David Perell
- Jim Collins
- The Flywheel Effect
- Impact Theory podcast
- The Tim Ferriss show
- Seth Godin
- James Clear
Ali Abdaal’s Links
- Follow Ali on Twitter
- Watch Ali on YouTube
- Check out Ali on Instagram
- Ali’s newsletter
- Ali’s website
YouTube can change your life, but you have to put out a video every single week for the next two years. If you do that, I guarantee you it’ll change your life. I can’t put any numbers on it. I can’t tell you how many subscribers you’ll have, or how much revenue you have, like a hundred percent guarantee.
You will change your life at the very least in terms of skills or connections or friends, or opportunities that will come your way as a result of posting consistently.
In this episode, I talk to Ali Abdaal. Over the last four and a half years he’s built his YouTube channel from zero to 2 million subscribers.
He’s who all of my friends who are into YouTube turn to for advice. He’s got a paid course. He’s got a substantial email newsletter. He started out as a doctor and then has made the switch into a full-time YouTuber. So anyway, I’ll get out of the way, but, before we dive into the show, if you could do me a favor after the show: if you could go and subscribe on Spotify, iTunes, wherever you listen.
That helps with downloads. If you could also write a review, I really appreciate it.
Now it’s on to the show, with Ali.
Ali, welcome to the show.
Thanks for having me. This is really cool. I’ve been following you on the internet in a non-weird way since 2016. I remember once in, I think it was 2018, I discovered your 2015 podcast series all about launching an ebook, and pricing plans, and all this stuff.
It was so good. Now we’re looking to do eBooks and things like that. Thank you for all the inspiration on that front.
Yeah, for sure. Well, it’s fun to have you on, it’s been fun to watch you grow. I was actually on a hike with our mutual friend, Sean McCabe after he moved to Boise, my hometown. He was talking about you, and I hadn’t come across your stuff yet. And I was like, oh, I gotta check it out.
And now I’m watching a whole bunch of videos. And then of course we’ve been internet friends for, for awhile now.
I’m now a customer of ConvertKit as well, for the last few months.
Yeah. Let’s see. Okay. So I want to dive into your story and get some context because you have an interesting path of finishing school, like a substantial amount of schooling, and then diving into the world of being a doctor, and then transitioning out of it.
What was the plan? Let’s start.
Yeah. for a bit of context, I spent six years in medical school, and then two years working full-time as a doctor in the UK national health service before deciding to take a break. In that break I intended to travel the world, but then the pandemic happened and I ended up becoming a full-time creator on the internet by virtue of the fact that I didn’t have a job when it was a pandemic.
When I first decided to apply to med school, I’d been into the whole entrepreneurship thing since the age of 12. I learned to code. I started doing freelance web design and freelance web developer from age 13 onwards. So, in school, in high school, middle school, like we call it secondary school in the UK, I’d rush back home from school when I finished off my homework in record time, and then just be plugging away at like PHP or some HTML or some like jenky Java script. I used to make $5 here and there, and be like, yes, I’m, I’m making magical internet money. Every year when, when I was in, in high school, my friends and I would come up with a new business idea.
So, we started this multi-level marketing thing and some other random pyramid schemes, and random paid surveys, and whatever we could do to make money circa 2006 to 2010. So, I always had this interest in entrepreneurship, but then when it came to figuring out what to do with my life, I was getting decent grades in school and because I’m Asian, and everyone in the UK who is Asian, their parents are doctors. So, it was like a default path for me to just like, oh, you know, why, why don’t I become a doctor? And I kind of reasoned at the time that if I could be a doctor, and also be a coder on the side, that’s like a more interesting combination than if I were just a coder or just a doctor.
Not that there’s anything wrong with either, but I felt the combination would be more interesting because of the synergy. And so I ended up going to med school, which is a weird, a weird reason for going to,
Interesting to him, interesting to you, or interesting to
Oh no, not family and friends, interesting to me, because it would make life more fun and interesting to me because it unlocks opportunities for creating a tech startup or whatever, further down the line. I think at the time I was drinking the zero to one Kool-Aid
Well, Peter Thiel
Yeah, like that, where I first came across the idea that like, innovation happens at the intersection of multiple fields.
And so, you know, the printing press was invented by the guy who really understood, I dunno, looms and how spinning yarn worked, but also understood like something else about something else, and combined these ideas to create something cool. So, I always found it in my head that, Hey, why don’t I get really good at the medical stuff and be a really good doctor?
And then on the side, if I know how to code, then I can like combine those to spin off some, fit some something interesting further down the line.
I think that resonates with me of like,
I think that people, especially like online creators who go and do one thing very specifically, maybe don’t have as much of an interesting angle, to put into it. Like I think that some of what made me more interested.
This is like, they’re just hypothesizing, teaching like online business and, and marketing is having a design background, even though those are much more overlapping than say, like a big a doctor and, and, you know, a web developer, you know, as you were starting into it. But, but I think having those skills in another area makes you more interesting as a person and it gives you better stories to tell, and then it gives you a better perspective.
And you’re not like just pulling from the same industry over and over again.
Yeah, no, exactly. I, I often find that the, the YouTubers that I seem to kind of, and the, and the, and the bloggers as well, who I follow more of are the ones who seem to have multiple interests. And it kind of gets to that question of like, you know, the, the thing that holds everyone back around, like, what’s my niche, like, oh, but I have to pick one thing and get really good at that.
And yes, that does have some merit to it, but I often also think that, yeah, but you know, how, how can you carve out a niche for yourself? That’s a combination of the other, other stuff that you’re interested in, And so instead of trying to be the best, I don’t know, productivity YouTuber, it’s like, you’re the only productivity YouTuber.
Who’s also a doctor who also runs a business that that’s kind of how I think about it.
Yeah, that makes sense. Okay. So, when you’re in med school, when you started your YouTube channel or you’re wrapping up med school, right.
That’s right. Yeah. So, I started the YouTube channel in my penultimate year, so I, I, I, I done five years of med school at this point. I’d set up a few businesses. I had like two SAS products that I was using to side hustle, income, most my, my way through med school. And then in 2017, when I was in my final year, the YouTube channel actually started out as a content marketing strategy for my, my business, that business was helping other people get into med school.
It was like that standard thing. Once you do something, you then teach other people how to do the thing. and it was like, you know, the creative economy before it was really called that where
You kind of follow that model. And so the YouTube channel started.
Because you were you teaching people like test prep
Exactly. Yeah. And it’s so similar to pet Flynn story as well.
You know, he, he started off teaching people how to do some architecture exam. I started up teaching people how to do the med school admissions exams, and that’s kind of transitioned into a coaching business, which then transitioned into the YouTube channel.
Okay. And so as the YouTube channel started to grow, like, what were some of those first milestones, you know, as you’re getting to, how long did it take for you to a thousand subscribers and then maybe, you know, 5,000 or 10,000? Like what milestones stand out.
Yeah, so I started in the summer of 2017 and it took me six months and 52 videos to get to the first thousand subscribers, six months in 52 videos. I was putting out two videos every week while preparing for med school finals and kind of neglecting my exams for the sake of YouTube, because I could see the YouTube thing was like, oh, I really want to do this.
I think the ROI on being a YouTube or is going to be higher than the ROI and getting an extra 2% in my med school finals. that was, that was the theory. Anyway, So, yeah, it took six months of the channel to get a thousand subscribers, another like four or five months for it to get up to 5,000 subscribers.
And at the point where I was at around 4,005,000 subscribers, there were two like really good things that happened. Number one was a collab with a much bigger utuber. his name is Ibz Mo. So he and I got to know each other through university and he had 60 K at the time. And so he and I did a collab which took off and helped the channel get exposure.
But also there was a video that I made my, my very first video that actually went viral, which was a video about how to study for exams. now this video is a bit weird because like I’d actually planned for it to happen like a whole year before I made it. So when I started YouTube, I, I sort of consumed the hell out of everything on the internet, around how to be a YouTuber and, Sara Dietschy and Casey Neistat had this thing whereby Casey Neistat, enormous YouTuber, Sarah DG would take YouTube who was smaller at the time.
She went from 40 cases. Over to like one through over a hundred, a hundred thousand, basically overnight because Casey Neistat shouted her out. and the way that she described that, and I, that I found in some random interview, like on the YouTube grapevine, was that you, you benefit from a collaboration with a bigger utuber, but you only benefit from it.
If there is already a backlog of really high quality content on your channel. And so I took that to heart and I knew that, okay, at some point I want to do a collab with a bigger utuber. And at some point I want to try and make specifically a video on how to study for exams, but I knew number one, I needed to have a backlog of hot, cold, high quality content because otherwise no one would care.
And secondly, I knew that it would take me about a hundred videos to get good enough at making videos to actually be able to make a decent video about exams. And so that was like my 82nd or something video, which I, I, I I’d had in the back of my mind for so long since, because since getting started button, you know, I need to get my skills up.
I need to put in the quantity so that I can actually make videos that are hopefully.
Okay. That’s interesting. Yeah, because coming, doing a collab and coming to a channel and it’s like, okay, they have four videos. And the one that I saw in the collab is actually the best one they’ve ever done. Like it’s sort of, it doesn’t have the same ring to it as if you come in and be like, wow, this is incredible.
Like, one of my favorite bloggers, you know, it’s separate from the YouTube space, but I got him, Chris Guillebeau was an author and blogger and I followed him in the early days. And I had the experience of, he had written a guest post for Tim Ferris and I was reading Tim versus blogging. This was probably 2011, maybe.
And I was like, oh, this is really good. I love it. I think it was on actually on travel, hacking, you know, credit card points and all of that. And so I clicked over to his site and I think. Over the next, like two days, I just read the entire website, you know, Nate, it was like years worth of blog posts and all that, but that was the experience.
Right. The guest posts is a collab of some kind and then coming over and you’re like, you’re just deep dive and consume everything rather than the experience of coming over and be like, oh, okay. That’s interesting. You know, and like moving along and the back catalog is what, what, drives that?
Yeah. Yeah. I had, I had that exact experience with Derek Sivers who I discovered through the Tim Ferriss show and Mr. Money mustache, but it’s coming through a temporary. I was like, all right, I’m spending the next week of my life. Just binge reading all of your blog posts that you’ve ever written for the last 20 years.
And now it’s like, I’ve got this information downloaded into my brain.
Yeah. I love it. Okay. So one thing that I wondered about is as you spend all this time, you know, on med school and, and then, you know, becoming a doctor, it’s a big investment. then you also have this love for YouTube and the channels growing. Like the channel now has 2 million subscribers and, and, this is wild success.
How do you think about. Like when you made that switch to YouTube, as your full-time thing and leaving behind, at least for now your career as a doctor, how did you make that decision? How did sunk cost play into it? You know, all that,
Yeah. So this is, it’s still something I think about to this day. It’s like, there’s this balance between how much do I want to be a doctor? And how much do I want to be a YouTuber? when I made the decision at the time, it was, so it was about actually this time, last year, where I took a break from medicine intending to travel the world, but then pandemic happened and ended up being a full-time YouTuber.
And then like back then, what I was thinking was I’m, I’m only going to do this for a little while. Cause this YouTube thing is going well right now, the problem with YouTube and like the creative stuff in general is that there’s not a lot of like longevity to it necessarily. Like there are so few YouTubers who are big today that were also big 10 years ago.
And so that’s the thing that I constantly keeps me up at night. Like how will I continue to stay relevant? You know, X number of years from now. And to me, the medicine thing always seemed like a great, you know, my main hustle is being a doctor and my side hustle is being a YouTuber so that no matter what happens, you know, at least I’ll have a, a full back career to kind of fall back on.
Pretty sure doctors have irrelevant 10 years now.
Yeah, I’m pretty sure doctors will be relevant. So I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t have to worry in that context. in the UK, the way the medical system works, there’s also like, after you’re a doctor for two years, at that point, there’s a very natural gap and a lot of people will take some time out to, to go traveling or whatever.
And just so happened that COVID happened to that exact point just as I just, as I left to take a break. But I was, I was on the, the school of greatness podcast with Louis hose, last, last week. And he, he was calling me out on this. He was saying that basically I was bullshitting myself because I think the reason why I was holding onto the medicine thing was a profound sense of risk aversion.
It was number one. The what if I, what if I lose everything at least then I’ll still be able to be a doctor. And number two, it was a case of like, oh, but. I, you know, my brand was built up of the back of being a doctor. And if I lose that, then you know, who am I, why does anyone listen to what I have to say?
Who will care what I have to think anymore? Because now I’m just a YouTuber rather than a doctor, which has like prestige and it has like clout. And he basically just called me out and dismantled, like all of my BS on all of those funds. And that really, really got me thinking. Cause like, you know, ultimately the thing that I care about is teaching and inspiring people.
And if I think about, if I could only do one thing for the rest of my life, it would not be saving lives as a doctor. It would be teaching people. And that’s the thing that YouTube lets you do and lets you do it at scale. And that’s the thing, the internet that today. And so now right now I’m going through this phase of having to really think about like, am I only holding onto the doctor thing because of because of fear. And am I holding onto fear and sunk costs, which is obviously like a stupid thing. do I really want to go all in, on the YouTube stuff and then the business stuff, because my real passion is teaching. I don’t know any, any thoughts on that balancing, like the fear and like the sensible decision would like following your passion.
And it sounds so cliche, but yeah.
Yeah. No, it all makes sense to me. The place that I would go is, you know, as you, cause there’s, there’s fear on both sides, right? I’ve given up the, being a doctor and then there’s fear of what does this career as a, as a creator, as a YouTuber look like in five years, in 10 years. And I would lean in on that side and try to figure that out.
Like who are the people, questions I would ask, who are the people who. You admire, who have had longevity in their careers. Right. Cause in the, in the blogging world that I’ve been a part of the last I want to spend, I guess, almost exactly 10 years now. There’s a lot of people who are not around anymore, you know, like they’re still alive.
I’m sure they’re living wonderful lives, but they don’t live internet, you know, internet visible lives anymore. and then also seeing like what, what does your business look like in that? It’s how you do dependent? Is it, what does that look like? So as you look five years ahead, this something I want to ask later, but, but I’m curious for now, like five years, 10 years ahead, like what are you doing?
What’s the, what does your, your audience look like? And what role does YouTube or other things play in
Yeah. Yeah. I think if, if, if I think about people who have longevity, I think you’re one of the examples that comes to mind where you started off as a blogger, and then you did the ebook thing, and then you went into the SAS thing, which is now like, absolutely like, you know, exploded. so that’s really cool.
The other people who I look to are, you know, people like Tim Ferris, who. Has gotten bigger every year, since before I work, we came out and it wasn’t a one hit wonder. We started off with the books and then he did a great job of transitioning into the podcast where now it’s less about him and more about kind of spotlighting other people and building this almost the institution of his, his personal brand, which is built off of teaching people.
Cool, cool things. yeah, I think about it, like in that context, like the thing that you and Tim have in common is that you’ve both gone, moved away from being very personal brand heavy and more towards being somewhat institutionalized in your case and convert kit in his case, through his podcast.
And that’s kind of how I see it for myself in a dream world, whereby let’s say five years from now, I’m still like doing YouTube videos and teaching people and I’m learning things. And then teaching people, the things that I’ve been learning. Cause I, I enjoy that kind of stuff, but it’s become, becomes less about me personally and more about kind of showcasing other experts.
Building a team and building a brand that can be dissociated from my personal name, if need be.
Is there a blueprint that comes to mind? So I think about this, a lot of where, where this goes with the highest leverage point to direct an audience to, I —-wrote an article called the billion Abdaalar creator, that is about like this exactly of, you know, if you have an audience of 10,000 or a hundred thousand or a million people, like, what is the thing that you would point that to long-term.
And so I’m always looking for these blueprints that other people have created, right? Like I think, Dave Ramsey would be an example of someone who has taken this.
Podcasting a radio show is basically a podcast. you know, and taking it to this extreme of, I don’t know what they have, I’m making up numbers, but in the ballpark of like 500 to a thousand employees, they’ve got like this franchise thing, they’ve got courses that they’re, you know, you can sign up for everywhere.
Like it’s this massive media empire that I can draw a pretty consistent line from, you know, blogger with 10,000 subscribers or 10,000 podcast downloads consistently to that of like continually working away at it. Not to guarantee you that, that you’ll hit that, but you know, there’ll be other people on Michael Hyatt or, anything else or there’s the software direction that I went.
So are there like specific blueprints that you look at and be like, okay, that, but
Yeah. I think for me, the playbook that I’m currently following is trying to be a cross between Tim Ferris and Cal Newport.
In that Tim, Tim Ferriss in the context of starting a podcast, interviewing experts on stuff. And I need me to, I probably add someone to that. Tim Ferriss, Cal Newport, and the crash course, the YouTube channel, which is run by Hank and John Green, whereas also taking the Tim Ferriss model of podcast, interviewing other people.
And then, then that becomes its own kind of content, which helps people, the Cal Newport model of actually I think he he’s done a great job of straddling the two worlds of old world prestige of being a professor at Stanford or wherever he’s a professor at a part-time and also being a part-time writer and blogger and internet personality type person.
And then like taking elements of those and combining it with like the YouTube airy type thing, whereby I think, I think what’s missing from the world of podcasts these days is that there are so many podcasts and there is so much incredible wisdom, which back in the day used to be locked up inside either textbooks or in scientific journals.
Now, the people who write those scientific journal review papers are being interviewed on all the podcasts. but they’re being interviewed in the context of a three hour long discussion. And yes, you could listen to the three hour long discussion. Yes. You could listen to the podcast clips that they’ve got, that they’ve been posting through Daily Content Machine on Twitter or whatever, but it’s just not as actionable as someone actually creating a compelling YouTube video.
So, you know, you could listen to Andrew Huberman interview, the world’s expert on longevity about all the eight different things you should do to increase your life. And very few people would follow that advice because there’s no in a digestible format. And so if I’m thinking like what I’m, what I’m thinking is that if we can do the podcast thing, we can do the kind of Cal Newport thing of combining old world prestige with new world, kind of content, and also do it in the format of like YouTube videos that are accessible to the mass market and, you know, a lay person audience that is kind of the combination that I see myself doing over the next like five years.
And that feels quite exciting.
Yeah. So that target of like the 10 to 15 minute YouTube video, that’s really well crafted and architected to have the table of contents and even skip to the sections. And it’s like, look, this is what you need. And it’s not just what was covered in an hour long interview, but also like, and then we pulled in this and when they referenced this thing, like, this is what they’re talking about.
We can illustrate it with visuals and everything else.
Absolutely. Yeah. And that’s the thing that I’m hooked. So in the process of building a team around, which is something I wanted to talk to you about because you’ve built a big team over time, I was speaking to Derek, you’re a director of marketing as well about building a team and he had, so he had loads of advice to share.
So that’s, that’s a challenge for me right now. It’s like, you know, two years ago, it was just me last year, this time, last year, there were three, three of us full-time well, two full-time. It was me working as a doctor and a part-time assistant, and now there’s 12 of us, but now we’re hiring another 10 people.
So by next month it’s going to be maybe like 20, 20 of us a hundred. It’s all those problems associated with scaling a team and leadership and management. And that’s the kind of stuff that, I’ve been really as sort of very much on the steep learning curve of, and that I’m very excited about getting better at,
Yeah. what’s the reason that you’re growing the team so quickly.
Well, let’s see, because we just have a lot of money. once, once we launched our, yeah, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a good problem to have. We’re just like very cash rich and expertise poor as someone described as, We launched our cohort based course part time, YouTube academy this time, last year, it did phenomenally well, I’d been doing classes on Skillshare, which started off as making like a few hundred to a few thousand a month and is now compounded to the point where we make some way between 60 and $80,000 every month, just passive income of Skillshare classes.
That means that every month we’re just making more and more money. And I see the, I see the numbers going up and I see them go up and I, I see basically like, well, why, why are, why aren’t we doing anything with that money other than just
Okay. So really quick, since you mentioned, are you okay sharing some of the numbers, like the numbers from part-time YouTube academy?
Yeah. so we launched the first cohort in November last year. I think this year we’re on track to do maybe like $2 million revenue and like 1.1 0.5 million profit, 1.6 million profits, something like that. next year we’re hoping to take that up to like 5 million revenue. Which again, all of these feel like, like dumb numbers, I’m just plucking out of thin air.
Cause it’s like, I I’ve, I’m, I’m really bad at like projecting, protecting financials. Like it’s all, it’s all just a guess. Anyway, like if we could do four cohorts and sell 600 places, that would be 5.5 0.1 million revenue. It’s like, that’s actually, that’s actually doable, but it’s just such a fricking ridiculous numbers.
It’s like, how on earth can that be doable? It’s just like, how, how does it even work?
Yeah. Welcome to the internet. And, when you have substantial leverage, like things that were possible, like seemed insane before you’re like, oh yeah, I know that math checks out, you know?
Yeah, exactly. I suppose if somebody, to you for ConvertKit was I think last I checked, you were on 20 million annual recurring.
Yeah. We’re at 20, 28 and a half. Now
Well the hell that’s going to quickly compounding.
The magic of compounding, This is fascinating to me because a lot of, I feel like a lot of content creators are, you know, get to your stage and they’re like, okay, what, you know, what Lamborghini should I buy right now?
Have you thought about putting the line beginning in your YouTube videos? I’m kidding, please.
I mean, I’ve got a Tesla model three, so that was my, a splurge.
That was your splurge. Yeah, exactly. you know, so interesting to me that you’re hiring at the rate that you are, which is to be totally clear is the rate that we hired at ConvertKit like slow at first of like two or three, four, and then it started to, like started to really take off. And I think in, let me think how long eight months we went from four people to 21 people.
And, and that worked really well for us. And we were growing really, really quickly. And, and, like in that time, I think we 10 X revenue, like going. 30,000 a month in revenue to 300,000 a month and revenue. and so that that’s absolutely a wild ride. And then we kind of paused there for a second and we like methodically about, okay, what are the roles that we need?
How do we build the team culture within the group that we have? How can we invest in those relationships? We also had our first team, like in-person team retreat at that time. and so I think it’s really important as you grow a team that quickly to make sure you’re really, really, yeah. Intentional about, the team culture, which like, that’s one of the things like, what does that even mean?
How do you, how do you do that? And the way that I do it is being clear about the mission of what you’re building and why. and then investing deeply in the relationships with each person.
Okay. And what does, what does that mean?
Was, so you’re hiring all these people, right? And let’s say you’re hiring from you’re very much the face of the.
And so if someone’s applying to like, oh, I want to work with Ali, right? Like, let’s do that. And so they have this relationship with you and what you don’t want is this, you’d end up with this hub and spoke model where you’re the hub and everyone has a relationship with you and they don’t have it with each other.
And that’s just the, it’s a natural way that things are joining, right. Or the way it comes about. I, the same thing when people wanted to start working at ConvertKit, they wanted to work at convergent, but they a lot wanted to work with me. And so you have to invest deeply in turning that hub and spoke into like a spiderwebs where if you’re not at the core of it, they all are riffing on ideas.
They, you know, understand each other’s, families and like individual values and everything else. and that matters more. And so you have to know that the natural state of things is not ideal and you need to like aggressively work, to change that. So that you’re less important than your own.
Oh, interesting. Yeah. That’s exactly the challenge that we’re having right now where. Still all of the things kind of flow through me, but it’s, I think over the last few months, as I’ve gotten like business coaches and working with, with our mutual friend, Sean, as a coach, as well, and reading sort of dozens of books about like leadership and management and like org chart structure and all that jazz, we’re starting to get to a point where I actually do feel like stuff is happening without me.
And it’s like the best feeling in the world when they’re just doing stuff. And I’m like, whoa, wow. That’s actually a great idea. It was so well done. And you’ve actually done this better, better than I would have done this. Whoa. Okay. This is really cool. so hopefully as the team expands, yeah, the, the, the culture thing is interesting.
I think so far, I haven’t given any thought to culture in the slightest as just sort of happened organically slash accidentally. but one of the exercises that Sean, Sean took me through was the thing of like, imagine, you know, a year from now or three years from now, what is the sort of business that you want to have?
Like you go into work in the morning, like what, what do you want to say. It was only after that. I kind of thought about that, that I realized that for me, what that dream looks like, it’s actually having an in-person team having like a studio, maybe, maybe in a place like London that we can invite people over to for podcasts and focus for collabs having an in-person team.
Or maybe once a once a week, I have brainstorm meetings with, you know, our writers and researchers and stuff, and we figure out what we’re doing. Maybe once a week, I filmed stuff for the YouTube channels. And maybe once a week, I sit down to record a podcast with someone cool. And the rest of the time I spend like chilling, or, you know, writing or reading or doing other, working on the businessy type stuff.
And we have like a COO or general manager or whatever you want to call it, who runs the day-to-day operations without needing my input. and it was only really when I kind of said that out loud, I’m just going to ask, so, okay, well when you just make that happen and I was like, oh yeah, you’re right.
I could just make that happen. And then, because I think before I just, I, I drank the remote work Kool-Aid so, so much that I just sort of assumed that you had to hire remotely. Then I realized, hang on, given that this is the sort of business I want to be in where we’re all actually in person, because it’s more fun.
I can just hire people who are only London. And so when we’re not doing that, hiring people who are only in London, which feels weird, but it means we also have, you know, a few dozen applications rather than a few thousand to, to deal with, which is, which is kinda nice.
Yeah. And that’s something that when you get clear on that, and that’s why so many people want, besides journaling or whatever, other journaling coaching, any, any form of getting that clarity, it’s you realize that you’re like following this meandering path and like, and then we can do this and then that, and then you realize like, oh, I can just draw a straight line from point a to point B and just do that now.
And it’s, it’s so powerful and you’ll save yourself a lot of trouble because then you won’t be at a point, right. Where you say we’ve built a 25 person team. That’s like, maybe there’s six in London. And then, everyone else is spread throughout the world and people are loving aspects of that, but then they’re feeling like the people in London are getting more time with you and right.
And you go and create this major culture problems because you had an intention like, or an internal desire that you never expressed, explicitly. And then once you express that and then everyone’s like, oh, okay. So I know that it’s them working for you remotely right now. I know that I either long-term need to switch to being a contractor of like, just providing a service, you know, or I need to move to London or I need to fully transition out.
Like, and there’s like a beautiful clarity in that, that when you just keep it inside, you like no one will, no one will experience.
Hmm. Have you, have you got any like prompts that you find helpful in this sort of journaling thing and figuring out what you want from the business and from life?
So, you and I both share a passion for coaching and I hire a coach as well as name’s Dan, from an organization called reboot. so he asks all kinds of questions. one, I was navigating a scenario recently that was just really frustrating. And, he said, okay, I want you to picture when you’re 40.
So I’m 31 right now. So nine years from now, how would your 40 year old self looking back, you know, basically 10 years be proud of how the situation was handled. And that was a version. So basically the prompt would be like stepping forward, not just, what do you want 10 years from now, but like stepping forward and trying to really imagine that scenario.
You know, what’s pushing you to do, and then looking like looking back on it as a memory of how you handle this next period of difficult transition or any of that. So that’d be one version. Another is like really pushing on like the five why’s and really digging in of why do you want that thing? What do you, what are you actually trying to accomplish?
I’m sure there’s more, but
Yeah. Are there others that you use.
Yeah, that question of why did I come across this? I can’t remember where I was like to cite my sources, but, the thing of when, when making a decision, think about what decision your like 10 year older self would have wanted you to make, to be like the best version of yourself.
And I’ve been thinking about that recently in the context of this thing of do I go all in on the YouTube thing or do I just kind of do Hoff medicine off YouTube? And I do think out of 10 years from now, I would have wanted myself to make the decision of actually just going all in on the passion project and just seeing what happens with that.
If it doesn’t work, it didn’t work, but at least having a go rather than feeling kind of pulled in two directions, which are sort of incompatible because of the amount of time commitment that a physical career like medicine takes.
Yeah. And it’s hard when you’re like, if you have a 10 person team and you’re, you’re the only one that’s part-time right. Like that, that will result in, you wish you could spend more time with the team. You, you know, you being the bottleneck and things, you shouldn’t be it made me think of like the, on the team side of things.
There’s a movie called the intern, Robert DeNiro and Hathaway.
No, yeah. I really enjoyed that. It
It’s a fun movie.
And there’s a scene in it. So Anne Hathaway runs this, like a fashion tech startup, but th but there’s a scene early on when she’s like rushing from thing to thing and everything is going to her for approval and all of this stuff.
Right. And I remember watching the, how she’s so important. It’d be nice to be that important. And then the second one, you stepped back and you’re like, that is a terribly run business. Like, what is she doing? You know, like the whole thing, if she wasn’t there, the whole thing would fall apart. Cause no one would have our approval for like the homepage designs or, or whatever else.
And so, going back to the hub and spoke thing, that’s the, you know, you’d like watch that little clip of the movie and then go, okay. That, but the opposite, like that’s
Yeah. There’s one. So, often, you know, someone in my team will message me being like, Hey, you know, we, we need to discuss item X. can you, me and Angus hop on a call and discuss item X. And these days are reply with, can you and Angus discuss item X? Like, do I absolutely have to be on this call?
And they’re often like, oh no, I guess you don’t. Yeah. You know, I mean, I’m just gonna take care of it. I’m like great, wonderful. and I’m always surprised when that works. it’s like, oh yeah, this doesn’t work. I actually don’t need to be involved in everything. but I guess it’s, it is that balance of, and I think sometimes the team does feel frustrated that I I’m involved in too many things.
I’ve heard and they feel like maybe I don’t necessarily trust all of their decisions. it’s like, you know, my name that is going on all this stuff and I trust, but I want to, I want to be able to verify, like if I ask why was something done? Like why, why that pricing plan, rather than that pricing plan,
Like a reason behind it beyond, oh, it’s just, we just sort of plucked numbers out of thin air.
Yeah. So two things that makes me think of is one, creating a culture where asking questions is encouraged and not just, Like asking questions of like, Hey, could you explain this to me? I truly don’t understand it, but, but also like asking for, is there a reason behind this? You know, why did you do that?
And then the other side, when people come to you and say like, Hey, what do you think we should do? Then you ask them, what do you think we should do?
And then going like, oh, well I think X, Y, and Z. And you’re like, okay, why do you think that because of this great, let’s do that. You know, you have more and more conversations where like people come to you and then they make the decision and
Yeah, yeah. I’d love to get to that point. I think I need to do a better job of, of doing that. the most, the most obvious example is like when we’re brainstorming video content ideas and we’re coming up with titles. so we had a meeting earlier today and, you know, the team came up with a few concepts and like 20 titles for each one.
And then I made the final decision. I was like, oh, I kind of liked the sound of like title number five. but what I probably should do in that context is, okay, Gareth, if you were making this video, what title would you go for? And then kind of seeing what happens. And I guess there is an element of like, you know, I, I trust my gut on what makes a good title more than I trust anyone else’s in the team Scott’s or what makes a good title.
But I’d like to be able to either train someone it’s hard to train someone for this, like find someone who’s got like trust more. And so who, who I can just fully outsource the responsibility of coming up with a decent title for, because it is such a huge part of what makes a successful YouTube video
Yeah. Okay. On those lines. When you make a video, do you know how often do you know when it’s going to be like a video that really hits?
Think about 20% of the time.
I can, I have a gut feeling that, okay, this could be a banger. and th the way I think about it in my head is sort of in terms of Banga potential. So a video called I dunno, nine passive income idea is how I make $27,000 a week that has high bang of potential, a video call.
The power of positive thinking the potential, like that’s not going to be back. It’s like, okay, can we increase the bang of potential by making the title more clickbait? and so for example, you know, I’ve been working with a life coach for the last few months. I want to make a video about it. I’ve been thinking, you know, how, like really the thing I worked with them on was how to figure out what I want from life.
But a video called how I’m, how to figure out what you want from life. You know, maybe two out of five bang of potential, a video called I hired a life coach for $3,000. Here’s what I learned. That’s got bag of potential. And so often it’s just like a tweaking of the title where it’s like the more click baity and sensationalized the title that is annoyingly often.
The thing that chorus that correlates most strongly with how much of a banger is this city you’re going to be. And the formula that I try and use is sensational click baity title combined with like very deep nuanced. So that someone clicks on the video thinking, huh? And then they’re very, very impressed by the production value by the structure, by the academic newness of it, by how awful it is.
I think it’s crossed the Pepsi, at least that’s the intention.
Okay. That’s interesting to me. I have this like running fantasy as I teach. People how to build wealth and make money. Like, those are some of my favorite topics. I can talk about them all day. And so I was joking with someone that I was going to do, like these real estate seminars, you know, that you see advertised where it’s really scammy or you’re really just paying for that person’s private jet.
You know, or it’s like, it’s the, the MLM equivalent, multilevel marketing equivalent of whatever. Like I’m going to use the same tactics, but then like actually deliver real value. And like the ticket that I charged would just be like 50 bucks and it all go to, I don’t know, clean water, charity water, or something like that, you know, basically saying like, I’m going to hook people in with the same thing, clickbait and then deliver, like substantial value that will actually be life-changing.
Yeah. And so
The same thing. I like it.
Yeah. I think it’s a great idea because you kind of need to use the clickbait. Like there’s literally no way someone’s going to click on something. there’s a channel, V very, to cm, which made an amazing video, like a few days ago, about the difference about the importance of clickbait and how, and how much it works.
And his overall point was that like click, click bait is kind of the wrong word. There is sort of, I think, I think the two terms where there’s this sort of like intrigue Bates, which is that, you know, oh, this is interesting. I want to, I want to click on this. And then there is, I can’t remember what he said, but it’s like, sort of trashed bait, which is that I’m going to stick a bikini model on a thumbnail and has nothing to do with that.
But, and so there’s those two, two different ones where like, in a way, the way that you title something or the title of your book or the cover of some. It’s so, so important for getting the message across. And we shouldn’t see that as being a bad thing. Whereas the word clickbait, it includes, you know, things like what is what what’s a good headline designer.
What’s good marketing coffee, but it really shouldn’t because clickbait has, it is a dirty word, but it, it shouldn’t be because the cover of something is so important to how that thing is perceived and whether people are going to see it or not.
Yeah. Yeah. That makes sense. How do you think about the thumbnails and then like the, say the first 30 seconds of the video, those are two separate questions, but as both of those in, in driving engagement,
Yeah. So thumbnail is really, really important. I think on our channel, we were bad at thumbnails. I’m not a fan of our thumbnail style. we’re trying to evolve and iterate on it over time whereby the, you know, and so w w whenever someone’s an early stage, utuber, it’s like, you’re, you’re uploading the video.
And then you think about the title. And then you think, okay, let me find a, still from the video that I can use with someone else, and then maybe you downloaded it, ramp up the contrast saturation, blah, blah, blah, sticker, clarity, filter on it, and maybe put some text on it in Canada. That’s like the, the new YouTube, YouTube way of doing it.
When you become a little bit more pro you start thinking of the title in advance anything, okay, what’s the title of this video going to be, and then you make the video and you’ve got the title already. but the thumbnail is still a bit of an afterthought because it’s, it’s quite hard to think about something else.
And that’s the point where we’re at. and the gold standard is where you have full about the title. And you have literally made the thumbnail before you even think about writing the script for the video. And that is a place where we would like to get to. so we’re looking to hire like a graphic designer and, you know, a YouTube channel producer whose job it’s going to be to work with a graphic designer at any time, because we, we we’ve got hundreds of ideas at the top of our pipeline, but at the moment, our bottleneck is in developing those ideas, crucially with a decent title of decent thumbnail and a rough talk, rough amount of talking points.
And so, yeah, we’re doing everything we can to make the thumbnail more of a first-class citizen, because it’s just so stupidly important on YouTube. And in fact, often, you know, if, when I’ve heard YouTubers would like 10 million plus subscribers speak about thumbnails, they view the thumbnail as being even more important than the title, because the thumbnail is the first thing that really catches the viewer’s eye.
And the first thing that they see. so yeah, I think we do vaginal thumbnails. Well, relatively speaking, and we’re trying to improve at it. I think equally the first 30 seconds is just ridiculously important where everyone’s attention is so like all over the place, but if you don’t hook the viewer within the first like five seconds, you see that huge drop off in engagement.
And again, other other YouTubers that I look up to really, really obsess over the first 30 seconds to one minute of the video and when we teach our YouTube, of course, and we analyze like, what makes a good, like what do these sort of 5 million plus view videos happen? It’s like often there’s like a cut every single second in the first 30 seconds, like some new piece of gear or something happening on screen.
It’s just like so rapid and fast and really holds your attention. Whereas for the rest of the video, you can kind of switch to a car every five seconds or something happening every 10 seconds, the ten second rule. but certainly the first 30 seconds, like Panama, it’s gotta be like really, really, really sharp and on points.
Otherwise people just don’t watch.
Yeah, that’s fascinating. I’m realizing that it’s true for a lot of channels I’ve seen grow really quickly are employing the same things. that’s something that’s I wanted to ask you about on the monetization side is you’re selling a high value course, to like a big audience, you know, 2 million subscribers on YouTube.
You also have a what? Lower a hundred thousand subscribers on, on email.
130 or something.
Nice. What’s the, like, how does your approach differ when in promoting that, you know, a new course, like the part-time YouTube academy on YouTube versus on email.
I think I’m still scared of selling. It’s really bad. I need to get over it. I was, so I was really, really scared of selling like a year ago. And when I had the idea for the part-time YouTube academy, it was on like the 16th of August, 2020, where I wrote the notion page about it for the first time I was thinking, okay, you know, this, this is either going to be a Skillshare class.
I eat free, or it’s going to be like maybe a 50 to $200 kind of self-paced course. And you know, I can really, really over-deliver on content. Cause I know what I’m talking about here. And so $200 is an absolute steal for this. No one’s ever going to complain that this is not worth it. And then I spoke to, I think people that you probably know Tiago Forte and David Perell who run their own like cohort based courses.
And they challenged me. You know, what if you had to do this live? What if you had to charge a thousand Abdaalars for it, how would it change your approach to the course? And starting to think in those terms made me really changed the way that we did a personal course and it became a high, second thing. It made me realize that actually what the world needed was not, or what needed to be grandiose, like what the internet needed.
It was not, another YouTube or making a self-paced course on how to be a YouTuber. The thing that’s actually holding people back is the accountability and the community. And these are things that you get in a live cohort. but getting back to your point about how, like the difference in, in setting it.
So we actually only advertised it on Twitter and on the meeting list. initially I didn’t even mention it on YouTube because I was so scared of mentioning the course on YouTube. And I think the reason I was so scared of mentioning the course on YouTube is a problem with YouTube that I’ve spoken to a bunch of other creators about, which is that the people who comment on the videos do not reflect the audience at all.
Like, if you think about who comments on a YouTube video, it’s generally kids, it’s generally kids with with enough time on their hands to comment on to comment on videos. And so I was always scared. Like, my audience is not going to appreciate the fact that I’m selling a high ticket course. They’re going to think I’m a snake oil salesman or something like that.
And my audience mental model was the people who comment on my videos. And it took me a little bit of like an epiphany to realize, hang on, the people who I’m targeting are people with jobs. People would like, you know, six figure incomes, people who want to do the creative side hustle and take it seriously.
They are not the 14 to 17 year old kids commenting on my videos. And that was such a major like revelation of like, I can actually completely ignore the comments and I can just go by the analytics that tells me like 40% of my audience is age like 24 to 36 in the U S fantastic. Those are the people I want.
Whereas on email, you don’t really see that as so, so clearly. And so I think, and especially because I’ve read your stuff. Read a lot around email marketing, but so little around YouTube marketing. I’m much more comfortable selling on email than I am selling on YouTube, but it’s, it’s something I’m trying to get better on.
Are you able to track attribution for signups or that kind of thing of what’s coming from YouTube versus email now, right? You’re doing at least some promotion of it on YouTube.
Yeah. we actually, so in the first cohort where we did, we didn’t promote on YouTube at all. So it was like 50% Twitter, 50% email, I think for the most recent cohort, even now we don’t really promote on YouTube very much. It’s less just like a very, very subtle casual plug at the start of a video.
I think about 30% came in through YouTube and the rest came in through again, Twitter or email.
And so, but you know, one of the things that we’re hiring for is a marketing marketing manager to basically just lead marketing for the YouTube academy. And that was some of the stuff that, that your pal Derek was was, was helping us with.
Yeah, they’re good at all of that kind of stuff of taking, I mean, all the things that I did over the years of like, oh, there’s, one-off push here, they’re entering into like, okay, that was great. Look at the results we got from it. Also, we’re going to do it as a system now, and it’s going to work like this and it’s going to drive consistent results over time, rather than like these spikes or that sort of thing, which I’m good. okay. Something else like in that journey, we kind of left off as you were, you know, I guess the last we’re talking about YouTube numbers was, you know, like five, 10,000 subscribers. I want to hear a little bit more about going from that 10,000 to 100,000 and then like, I think it’s a huge jump, but a hundred thousand to 2 million.
I think it is absolutely fancy. It’s just the law of compounding and consistency and, you know, the results happen very, very slowly and then very, very fast. And before you know it, you know, Jim Collins, I thing has that model of the flywheel that it takes. It takes a hell of a lot of energy to get going, but once it starts to go, then it, it becomes unstoppable.
I think it’s, it’s the case for any interesting kind of compounding could growth projectory, you know, YouTube channels, convert kits, any software platform that’s growing. and so in year one, I think we hit maybe like 20,000 subscribers by the end of it. Then year two was probably the next few hundred thousand year three was the next like million in year four.
It’s just wrapped up wait, where we just hit the 2 million mark. And then at the end of year four, so it was just, you know, perfectly matches it maps onto one of those exponential growth curves. The scary thing about that is that like, if you extrapolate it further, that means we’re going to be on like 4 million subscribers by next year.
And that’s just completely unfathomable to me because it’s like, okay, that’s just never gonna happen. And there is a point at which the, the compounding growth curve stops, That’s the thing that I worry about. I don’t really worry about it. That’s the thing that I’m trying to build more and more like pillars of support around the business, a diversification, more into courses, more into books, more into stuff that is dissociated from my personal brand and also from my personal YouTube channel specifically.
Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s weird. It’s one of those things we look back on and you kind of forget like, oh yeah. When, when I started, like, I remember like when I started working as a doctor, I had, I hit 50,000 subscribers like that, that, month. And then a year later when I was having my first like appraisal, where they, your supervisor looks at how good a doctor you were.
The first thing he said to me was there were 263,000 people following a YouTube channel. How the hell did that happen? And so I have that number in my head is like, oh yeah. Once I, at the, at the end of 2019, when I, when I finished my first year, I was Dr.. That was what. And then it was like my it’s my second year of working as a doctor when the pandemic struck and the pandemic, me and my channel really take off because all of a sudden people were sitting home and watching YouTube videos.
I think that was when we had and subscribers. and now a year on from that point, we’ve just had 2 million and it’s just been just insane, insane growth. but obviously consistency compounding the thing I always tell my students is that, you know, YouTube can change your life. but you have to put out a video every single week for the next two years.
And if you do that, I guarantee it’ll change your life. I can’t put any numbers. I can’t tell you how many subscribers you’ll have or how much revenue you have, like a hundred percent guarantee. You will change your life at the very least in terms of skills or connections or friends, or, you know, just opportunities that will come your way as a result of posting consistently on YouTube.
And everyone here is that advice. And like, you know, so few people actually follow that,
With me. You know, I’ve been trying, I’ve been trying to hit the gym for the last like eight years. Never done it consistently until I got a personal trainer and now I’m actually seeing gains, Yeah, compounding and consistency, which is some of the stuff that you talk about as well.
Yeah, for sure. Is there a point in there where you saw things plateau at all? Like right. There was the, a flat part and an S-curve where you started to think, okay, I need to change something or push through this or anything like that, or has it always just been consistent?
Yeah. So I don’t really look at the numbers very much. the way that’s, you know, my, my theory of numbers has always been that like the, the numbers were, were always outside of my control. And the only thing that I could personally control were the number of videos I was putting out and how, how good I felt about the quality of those videos.
That second one I got rid of very quickly, because I realized that what I feel about the quality of my own videos does not match at all what the audience feels about the quality of my videos. And therefore I’m not even gonna think about that. So the only metric I care about is just putting out two videos a week.
The thing that I, I think of more. When it comes to, okay, these are, this is a bottleneck. We have to like push through. It is when the channel starts to feel like it’s a bit stale. And there’s been a few times, boy for four and a bit years now, or I felt like, okay, we’ve kind of been doing the same thing for awhile and it worked to get us here, but maybe what necessarily got us there.
So most, you know, initially it was like medical school stuff or it’s that Kevin doing medical school stuff for a whole year. I need to kind of branch out from this. And it was like student stuff in general. And it was like, okay, I, I’m not, I’m not graduated to the student. There’s only so long. I can keep on just peddling the same stuff around how to be an effective student.
It’s all kind of, of it. I mean, it’s, it’s obvious, but it’s, you know, there are a finite number of things. There’s like a few techniques that work really well and you make videos about them over and over again. So it, it feel stale now more, more recently, the productivity hustle lead type stuff has started to feel a bit stuck.
And so now we’re now thinking, okay, what’s the next level? And that was what prompted the idea to start any podcasts that we’re what doing, trying to mimic basically the Tim Ferriss show or impact theory or school of greatness, or these other sorts of broadly in-person interview podcasts interviewing like entrepreneurs, CEOs, creators, and other inspiring people about how they find fulfillment in work and in life that’s like the spiel for it.
And I, I, I hope that will be like the next level, and be able to expand our content beyond just me talking about productivity or me talking about tech.
Mostly based on that gut feeling of stillness that I feel okay. The writing on the wall is that this is going to decline unless we change something rather than about the numbers.
Yeah. That makes sense of figuring out. I mean, it’s in the quality of the product that you’re delivering, you know, and making sure that you’re continuing to innovate their innovative buzzword, but you know what I mean? so one other thing that I see you doing throughout all of this is making sure that it’s fun.
And so I’m curious for your
On like, what’s your philosophy around making this fund? why is that important instead of just like, or in addition to the like rigorous discipline?
This is literally the thing that I’m writing a book about right now, which is that, you know, people have been asking me for it for years, how you said productive. Even when I was in like high school and university people would be like, oh my God, you do so much stuff. Like how, how are you so productive?
How do you, how do you will have it? And it always felt a bit like, you know, people, people had this weird image of me that I was some kind of productivity guru. And now the comments on my videos, like, oh my God, he must be some sort of absolute machine. But you know, I, I, I, I line until like 11 o’clock in the morning this morning, the only thing that got me out of bed was a zoom meeting with the team.
And I scroll Twitter for a solid, like 45 minutes today. And I wasted, you know, I, I finished up with a call about half an hour before we were meant to start recording. And I was like, ah, How much work are you ready to get done in half an hour at school, Twitter, often Ariba. So I’m just like genuinely really lazy.
And all of the people who actually know me know that I’m really lazy and are completely baffled that the internet thinks I’m a productivity group. I think the, if there is one secret that secret is that I just make everything that I do really fun. and so I think that’s got kind of two components.
The first component is finding things that you already find fun and then doing them. and that’s fine. it’s, it’s, it’s quite hard to do that because often the things we find fun are the things that are not really suitable for a career. Like, you know, I enjoy playing the guitar and do I ha I enjoy playing board games.
I enjoy watching Netflix. Like it’s very hot. It’s hard to make a kind of sustainable career out of that probabilistically. Yes, I could become the next ninja, but it’s pretty unlikely I could become the next John Mayer was pretty fricking unlikely. and so the, the lever that I try and pull is figuring out ways to make the thing that I’m already doing, figuring out ways to make that more fun. And I think I’ve just sort of been subconsciously doing this for my whole life, because I don’t like doing stuff that’s boring. I only like doing stuff that’s fun. And I figured out like a few different, different things I can do that. Basically it tricks my brain into having more fun, which makes me more productive, but it also makes my life more happy.
And it also means I don’t really need discipline because it’s like fun. Like, you know, when was the last time you needed motivation to hang out with your friends or discipline to sit down and watch Netflix is there. There’s not like really a thing. So that’s my whole philosophy on fun. If you optimize for fun, then, then the productivity takes care of itself.
Is there an example of something that you knew you needed to do or wanted to do that you were able to make fun with? You know, this particular.
Yeah. the way I’m thinking about it. So it was as it was like, assembling something, the book proposal, I mean, that’s basically five, five categories of things. Conveniently, which, I kept on thinking like, how do I turn this into a five-part acronym? And then, one of my coaches, I just had them written down and he was like, do you realize that spells games like G a M E S?
And I was like, oh my God, I didn’t see that. so it’s like G for gamification, a for autonomy, M for mastery, E for environment and S for social, and all five of those Oliver’s that I have pulled at various points with various things to make things more fun. so to give a concrete example, you know, when you’re going through medical school, you got to memorize just a shit ton of facts.
Like it’s, you know, it’s, it’s a bit dry. Like some of this stuff is fun. Like human physiology is fun, but when you’re having to memorize, like the interactions of different drugs and like the mechanism of action of all this stuff, it becomes a lot less fun. And so the classic thing there is to figure out a way of turning it into a game.
And if we look at all the research that video game designers have done about the things that make games. It is basically two things and that’s challenge and progress. And so if it’s gotta be sufficiently challenging, so as to feel interesting to get through, and I think the nice thing about like, studying for exams is that it’s challenging by default because, you know, you’re only going to really study stuff that you find difficult, but the progress is another big component of it.
Like, you know, I was, I was addicted to world of Warcraft back in the day and I’d be doing so much grinding. and I’d be working really hard at world of Warcraft to kill, kill bores and skeletons and stuff. Just to see the XP bar taking along. I realized I could apply the XP bar to all of my exams and I just created a timetable and color coded it.
So if I knew something, it was green. If I didn’t know it was red and you know, there would be graduations relations in the middle and there was something so satisfying about just watching the red boxes on my Google sheet, turn into green boxes that really sustained my motivation to keep going with it.
And it genuinely felt like a game. and then, you know, that was, that was one. For that same stuff, you know, six years of struggling to memorize things, bringing friends on board, like studying with friends, we would, we would do the Pomodoro technique in the library together. We’d all be studying different things, but the fact that we were all in the same room doing, doing different stuff, but the fact that we were all in the same room and that everything was just more fun.
Other things that make things more fun, autonomy. One of the biggest drivers of human motivation, when we feel like we’re doing things our own way, when we feel like we get to do something rather than we have to do something, just that mindset shift makes such a huge difference. And I use this a lot when I was at work.
You know, I’d be getting to the end of, I thought that there was one time in particular where I got to the end of like a 13 hour long shift and the nurse said, oh, you know, this patient needs a, it needs an IV. cause they need fluids. I was like, oh God, I really can’t be bothered with this. I was in a bit of a Huff as I was getting all the equipment together.
And then I re I remembered a blog post from Seth Goden, which was about this idea of have to versus get to. And I realized I was thinking of it as, oh, I have to put in this Ivy, like my autonomy was being taken away. I was being told what to do. This is annoying. I don’t want to. And I just decided to view it as I get to, I get to put in this county law and immediately, like, it was a, it was, it was magical.
I was like, oh, you know, this is actually privileged. I get to do this. This is sick. This is so good. And then I, I put it in and had a nice chat. And I walked back home with like a spring in my step. And it was purely just that mindset shift that gave me a little bit more autonomy. and all the research around this shows that as well, that the more autonomy we have with whatever we’re doing, the more fun it becomes.
Yeah, I love that. It made me think particularly what you said about the, the experience bar, right. And that increasing over time and wanting to see progress. I realized that my most productive time. Maybe in the hips, like my career as a writer. I don’t know, maybe even in my life who knows was this time that I was working on writing books and I use the app Scribner, to compile everything in the book.
And there’s all sorts of things wrong with Scribner. And I don’t know that I would recommend it like as the thing that I use today, but across your entire document, which is really a collection of all these little things, it would count, keep track of your word, count across everything in the whole project file.
And you would set a target, you could set a daily target, and then you could also set a, you know, your total. And I knew that the book I wanted to write would be like decent length, but not too long. So I was targeting 30,000 words. And so, yeah, I knew if I was going to end up at 30,000 words, I should probably write 40 and cut down to 30 or something like that.
And so I was seeing that progress of every day I would up the daily goal and then watch them the, you know, the total goal and I chip away at it and I realized. Every time I’ve been successful at writing consistently has been when I have had in this case, an actual, like experience points bar, like going across and the times that I’ve had these habits going for a short amount of time and kept it going for a week or three weeks or something like that, and then dropped off is when I’ve been trying to do it of like, oh, I’m working in school, but I’m more forcing myself to do it.
So yeah. I need gamification is what I’m saying.
Oh man. I completely forgot that. That I think that was how I first discovered your stuff. You’re like thousand days of writing or,
Yeah. I did a thousand words a day for 600 days in a row. Yeah.
That was the one. Yeah. Oh yeah. I remember, I remember I came across a blog post where he talked about that and I was just like, so, so, so inspired.
And I did it for about two days and then I stopped that. I was like, oh, I, you know, I keep on thinking, you know, often like showing or one of my other coaches will ask me, you know, what’s, what’s the one thing that you can do for you for the business that would move the needle. I can even think like, if I, if I could just write something, I could just write a thousand words a day that would genuinely move the needle for the business in so many different ways.
I didn’t, I just don’t do it.
You, got any tips. So progress bar check we’ll we’ll we’ll we’ll do
Yeah. Well, I think the program progress bar, we’ll see a couple of weeks, the progress bar I think would be a big one. second thing would be, making sure that you’re writing the things that are actually highest leverage. You know, like we can write 500 words, a thousand words or whatever in a bunch of different places.
I can write it over time in slack, you know, and in base camp posts of my team, I could write it on Twitter. but probably for me, the highest leverage place that I could write is for a book that I’m working on. Right. Because that will package up this material and put it out in a way that, you know, might reach tens of thousands of, or hundreds of thousands of new people.
Right. There’s you can go on a book tour in life. Traditional media. Right. And go beyond CBS or something that if you didn’t have a book, they’d be like, why would we have this YouTuber on? But in the moment you have a book on this. So like, oh, you fit into our predefined paradigm. Like, you know, that kind of thing.
Like James clear the newsletter author. They’re like not really interested in having him on, but James clear the book author they’re like absolutely like slot him right in.
And so you think about right. he could write more content for the newsletter or he could write content for the book and that case, the book is higher leverage.
So yeah, my, my things I think would be figuring out what’s highest leverage of where to put the words, and Y you know, what words to put down and then finding the ways to gain by it. And I feel a little bit weird giving the advice, because I’m in the position of being like, I need to do this as well.
And so maybe that third thing is like all the people that you look up look up to
Probably still, in some ways, struggle with the thing that they’re really well known for.
Yeah, yeah, definitely. Yeah. That makes so much sense. Like, I feel like people come to me for productivity advice, and yet I always struggle with productivity with, especially with writing the book, which is such like a long, a long term important, but not urgent projects.
How do you think about, coaches? You you’ve mentioned, I think three different coaches, throughout this that you’ve worked with. So you’re, it sounds like you’re a big believer in, in hiring coaches and, and I’m curious as to how you think about it.
Oh, huge. I love, I love the coaches. I’ve only recently started. I think it was about a year ago where I decided that, oh my God, coaches are the best thing ever. yep. Yeah. People often ask me like, when, especially when the find out how much some of these coaches cost, it’s fricking expensive. It’s like, you know, like sometimes 300 an hour, $500,000 an hour.
It’s like, what, how, how could you possibly pay 500 to a thousand Abdaalars an hour for someone’s time? It’s like, well, because it genuinely is usually is, is useful. I used to think of it as two things. And then I did really had a coach, like just before this, we were recording this where I decided to change it to a four, four part list of benefits of coaching.
So the, the two original ones were number one having, I think, half of the value of having a coach. Isn’t just the fact that you show up and think about a thing for at least an hour. And you know, when I show up to a business coaching session, it’s an hour in the calendar where I. Doing technician working in the business staff.
It’s, I’m doing big picture thinking of working on the business and the ROI on that is just absolutely huge. so actually just making the time to show up and secondly, and, and, and the fact that there is accountability in that I’m paying someone to be there. Someone is on the end of the zoom call. I will, therefore, I’m going to show up.
I’m not going to not show up to the zoom call that I’m paying someone to be on and goes. That would, that would be weird. I think the second value that I, I got a lot from, it was, it was really a coach asks the right sorts of questions. And, you know, when I try and describe this to my mom, which is like, wait, why are you spending so much on a coach?
Like, what do they even do? Like, do they even understand your business? It’s like, well, they, they don’t, they do, but they don’t really need to understand my business. They need to just understand businesses as a whole to know what questions to ask at what point. And it’s the fact that they’ve asked those questions that just is really, really useful, but that’s, it’s, it’s a very hard benefit to be able to sell to someone who hasn’t tried it.
And then the other two that I figured out today that I’m going to talk about at some point are, think number one is confidence. so that like, if I, if I’ve made a decision about something and I’ve made it in isolation just by myself, I don’t have a lot of confidence in the decision because I don’t know what the hell I’m doing.
I’m making stuff up as I go along. But if I’ve worked through that decision with a coach who is asking the right questions, and I trust them enough and they’ve got enough expertise in the area and I respect them, then I have more confidence in the decision because I know it’s been, it’s gone through someone who will have picked up some of the issues with it.
And, and the final one I think is that I think it’s like the challenge in that, like, if I were to sit down and think about how to grow the business for an hour, that’s fine. You know, I w I would get to a certain level and it would be useful and I should do more. But when I’ve got a coach there and we’re thinking about how to grow the business, they challenged my thinking in ways that I might not have known to do myself.
And so like, you know, for example, this, this session with Sean, where my default way of thinking is I have to hire a remote team just because that’s what everyone’s doing. and then he pushes back and be like, do you really need to hire remote team? That’s like, oh shit. You’re right. No, I don’t. And just having someone there to challenge my own thought processes is incredibly valuable as well.
And so a bit like 100% of the coaches I’ve had have been absolutely worth their weight in gold. and so I’m just so bullish on recommending coaching to everyone, especially because most of these coaches have a money back guarantee, but if you don’t find it useful, you get your money back and that just
De-risks the investment that it takes to get a coach.
How about you? I’ve upskilled for a long time. I know you’re big into the coach thing as well.
Yeah, I am as well. And so I hire executive coaches for my whole leadership team. So I’d probably spend 16 to $20,000 a month on coaching across my executive team. and yeah, he’s a believer in it. I think getting to the understanding of why you’re doing something right where you’re just like, oh, we’re doing this.
And someone actually go, oh, but why? And you’re like, bright. Okay. Let’s dig in on that for a second, you know? Cause your, your answer wants to be well, obviously, and you’re like, but you haven’t actually articulated why that thing is true or why you would value it. what you said about like building out the decisions or.
Like a real foundation for the decisions that you’ve made in isolation. I think it was a really good thing. Cause there are things that I instinctually say like, it should be this way or like, this is what we’re doing, but ISO, I simultaneously hold them very strongly of like, well obviously like here’s this thing.
And so challenge them myself and think that they’re on shaky foundations because they haven’t been tested. And so a coach helps me close that gap of take this decision that I intuitively know is the right thing and bring it to the point where I can defend it and, and have a confidence behind it. and so it’s bringing that internal idea so that it can withstand the forces of, and I can express it with the confidence necessary for it to be like leading a 70% team or, you know, like making product strategy decisions for a company.
And then I think the last thing would be. If you can find a coach, a lot of people do it specifically in like, let me hire a YouTube coach, a business coach, a writing coach, you know, for a specific skill. What I really like is finding a coach who has, like who will coach you on the emotional side, either do that, through that coach or like go to counseling.
So like I find someone who bonds the gap between like the business coaching and counseling, or like do both separately because there’s so many things that we do of, how we show up how we lead, how we make decisions that are rooted in how we were raised or these little interactions, that if you don’t take the time to like suss them out you’ll for better or worse suffer the consequences of them for years without actually understanding that that’s what’s driving it.
So that’s why like reboot, that organization, because they like play that middle ground really well. Being totally willing to, or like eager to dig into your childhood, to like, get to this like $10 million like business strategy decision and why you’re trying to choose one or the other.
Hey, have you got an example of kind of where you felt like a childhood emotionally type thing changed a decision that you were, you were going to make?
Well, I was going to make a reaction decision to one of my executives, and they were going to, and it was because I felt like they were taking advantage of the resources in the business, which on one hand, you’re like, well, they, they should, right? It’s one framing is taking advantage of it. The other is like, here’s a multimillion Abdaalar budget.
Like go spend it to grow the business, right? They’re not taking advantage of that budget. They’re putting it to great use, you know? And so being able to dig into like times in my childhood where I felt like I had been generous and that had been taken advantage of. So, I had an executive who was intellectually making the right decisions to grow the business.
I was having an emotional response to it and rather trying to logic my way through, like, here’s why you shouldn’t have that emotional response. It was much more helpful to dig in and understand why I had that response and where it was coming from. What was it that was triggering and like, actually really dive in and sit with that rather than like, you know, being like Nathan that’s irrational don’t don’t respond that way.
Yeah. I feel like I must have a lot of blind spots around this stuff. I’m actually starting therapy from this Friday. It should be fun.
Oh, I’m I’m like the biggest fan of therapy and recommend it.
Oh, nice. Yeah. I mean, I’ve heard so many people like, like internet friends say that as well. Like I feel like I don’t have anything specific that we need to work through.
Have any mental, I like, you know, clinically diagnosed mental health conditions, but it’s just one of those things where I feel like it’s so it’s so ROI positive
When it’s what you call that I’m spending an hour like methodically, you know, like taking a step back and looking at your business instead of working in it, like, what if you did the same thing of like taking a step back and analyzing yourself and why you react that way and what that’s based on and, and all of that.
And if you do that every couple of weeks or months a month, like the ROI is, is substantial.
So, yeah. we should probably wrap up there, like I’m realizing I have other things that I should get to, but we could talk about forever basically, but this has been fun to dive in. you have a ton of things going on on the internet.
Where should people go to subscribe to the YouTube channel? The newsletter I follow you on Twitter, all the things.
Yeah. So probably my website is the easiest place, so, www.aliabdaal.com. There you’ll find a link to the newsletter, which is hosted on ConvertKit, and you’ll find links to the YouTube channel or Twitter, and everything else from there as well. But yeah, thanks for having me on Nathan.
Yeah. Thanks for coming on. I’ll catch you later,
See you later.
1 Responses to “048: Ali Abdaal – Building Multiple Income Streams as a Content Creator”
Thank you for this wonderful conversation. Especially the part where you both open up about the hard part of getting to write something. It is nice to see that everybody can have a struggle with this part. Especially people who already had success with writing. This makes us all human and not these idolized personas.
And thank you for having a transcript.
I was listening to this as a podcast on my way home.
This made it way easier to go through some of the things I wanted to note down. This is incredibly hard when you only have audio.
Would you have some examples to apply the GAMES acronym to writing blog posts?
Thanks and I wish you a pleasant rest of your day :-)