How to Enjoy Doing Hard Things (ft. Ali Abdaal)

THE SUBTLE ART OF NOT GIVING A F*CK PODCAST
27 Dec 202348:59

Summary

TLDRIn this insightful conversation, Mark Manson interviews Ali Abdaal, a former medical doctor turned YouTuber and author of the book "Feel Good Productivity". They delve into the misconceptions around productivity, emphasizing that it's not just about hard work and suffering but can also be about creativity and enjoyment. Ali shares his journey from practicing medicine to finding success and fulfillment on YouTube, highlighting the importance of making work feel good and the power of experimenting with different approaches to life and work. The discussion also touches on the impact of societal expectations on personal goals and the value of seeking genuine happiness and balance.

Takeaways

  • ๐ŸŽฏ Redefining productivity to include enjoyment and intentionality, rather than just efficiency.
  • ๐Ÿ’ก The importance of emotions in productivity and how emotional resistance can hinder progress.
  • ๐Ÿ•น๏ธ Balancing work with leisure and finding ways to make work feel less like a chore.
  • ๐Ÿš€ The concept of 'escape velocity' in entrepreneurship and the need for initial hard work to achieve long-term success.
  • ๐Ÿง  The role of creativity in both learning and productivity, especially in fields like medicine.
  • ๐Ÿ”„ The idea of reframing failure as a form of experimentation and data gathering.
  • ๐Ÿคนโ€โ™‚๏ธ Incorporating fun and games into productivity systems to increase motivation and engagement.
  • ๐Ÿ“ˆ The impact of tracking progress and setting achievable goals for a sense of accomplishment.
  • ๐Ÿงฉ Finding the right 'chess moves' for maximizing productivity and success.
  • ๐ŸŽฎ Using personal stories and experiences to illustrate the principles of 'Feel Good Productivity'.
  • ๐Ÿ’ผ The power of seeking forgiveness rather than permission and adding personal touches to work.

Q & A

  • What misconception does Ali Abdaal address about productivity?

    -Ali Abdaal addresses the misconception that productivity is solely about hustle, grind, and working long hours. He proposes a more holistic view where productivity is about using time intentionally, effectively, and enjoyably.

  • How does Ali define 'Feel Good Productivity'?

    -Ali defines 'Feel Good Productivity' as the practice of making productivity enjoyable. It involves using time well in a way that aligns with one's values and goals, and doing so in a manner that feels good and is sustainable.

  • What is the significance of emotions in productivity according to the discussion?

    -Emotions play a fundamental role in productivity. The resistance or motivation to do a task often stems from one's emotional state. If a task feels good and brings positive emotions, it's more likely to be done productively and consistently.

  • What does Ali suggest about the relationship between work hours and productivity?

    -Ali suggests that working more hours does not necessarily equate to higher productivity. He shares his realization that quality output is more important than quantity, and that beyond a certain point, the output diminishes in quality, making longer hours counterproductive.

  • How does Ali use his medical background to inform his approach to productivity?

    -Ali uses his medical background to inform his approach to productivity by applying the concept of teaching and making complex information understandable. He also uses mnemonics and categorization techniques to make memorization more creative and fun, which he applies to his YouTube content creation.

  • What is the 'optimal number of distractions' according to the study mentioned in the transcript?

    -The study mentioned suggests that there is an optimal number of distractions, represented by an N-shaped graph, where some amount of task-switching is actually beneficial for productivity. This contradicts the traditional view that one must focus exclusively on a single task at a time.

  • How does Ali approach the concept of 'failure' in the context of productivity?

    -Ali approaches the concept of 'failure' as a part of the learning process or as data gathering in the context of productivity. He encourages reframing failure as an experiment, where even unsuccessful attempts provide valuable information for future attempts.

  • What is the importance of finding the right 'chess moves' in productivity?

    -Finding the right 'chess moves' in productivity refers to making strategic decisions that can significantly impact one's success. It's about recognizing opportunities and making choices that can leverage one's efforts, rather than simply working harder.

  • How does Ali relate the concept of 'feeling good' to productivity?

    -Ali relates the concept of 'feeling good' to productivity by suggesting that if one finds their work enjoyable and fulfilling, they are more likely to be productive. He emphasizes the importance of aligning one's work with their values and interests to maintain motivation and joy in the process.

  • What advice does Ali give to students regarding rote memorization?

    -Ali advises students to find creative ways to make rote memorization more enjoyable. He suggests using mnemonics, visual associations, and categorization techniques to transform the process into a more engaging and memorable experience.

  • How does the conversation between Mark and Ali challenge the traditional narrative of success?

    -The conversation challenges the traditional narrative of success that often involves long hours, suffering, and sacrifice. Instead, Mark and Ali discuss the possibility of achieving success while maintaining a balanced and enjoyable life, emphasizing the importance of personal fulfillment and happiness.

Outlines

00:00

๐ŸŒŸ The Misunderstood Concept of Productivity

The paragraph discusses the common misconceptions about productivity, emphasizing that it's not just about hard work and long hours. The conversation with Ali Abdaal, a successful YouTuber and author, highlights the importance of making work enjoyable and the impact of emotions on productivity. Ali shares his journey from being a medical doctor to a content creator, stressing the value of creativity and the need to redefine productivity in a more holistic and enjoyable manner.

05:01

๐Ÿ’ก The Role of Emotions in Productivity

This section delves into the significant role of emotions in productivity. It explains how emotional resistance or anxiety often prevents people from taking the right actions, and how the traditional approach of productivity advice often overlooks this emotional aspect. The conversation suggests that understanding and addressing emotions can be a key component in improving productivity and achieving goals.

10:01

๐ŸŽฎ Balancing Work and Leisure for Optimal Productivity

The paragraph explores the idea of balancing work with leisure activities, such as playing video games, as a way to enhance productivity. It argues that setting aside time for enjoyable activities can make one more productive in the long run. The discussion also touches on the concept of diminishing returns and the importance of recognizing when to take a break or engage in a different task to maintain high levels of productivity.

15:03

๐Ÿ“š Applying Productivity Principles to All Aspects of Life

This section emphasizes the application of productivity principles beyond work, including relationships and personal growth. It discusses the importance of intentional and effective use of time in all areas of life. The conversation also highlights the fallacy of suffering and sacrifice as a prerequisite for success, and the need to shift the focus towards making all aspects of life more enjoyable and productive.

20:04

๐Ÿšซ Overcoming the Fear of Failure and Embracing Experimentation

The paragraph discusses the fear of failure and how it can hinder productivity. It suggests reframing failure as a form of experimentation and data gathering, which can lead to personal growth and improved outcomes. The conversation includes personal anecdotes and experiences that demonstrate the value of embracing failure as a learning opportunity and the importance of running experiments to find what works best in one's life and work.

Mindmap

Keywords

๐Ÿ’กProductivity

Productivity in this context refers to the efficiency and effectiveness in which individuals use their time to achieve goals. It is not just about working hard but also about working smart and finding joy in the process. The video emphasizes the importance of redefining productivity in a holistic sense that includes enjoyment and intentionality. For instance, Ali Abdaal talks about his transition from medicine to YouTube, highlighting how he found productivity in making his work enjoyable rather than just focusing on the grind.

๐Ÿ’กHustle Culture

Hustle culture is a societal norm that glorifies hard work to the point of exhaustion and burnout. The video script criticizes this culture, suggesting that it often leads to an unsustainable and unhealthy approach to work and productivity. The interviewee, Ali Abdaal, shares his personal experience of rejecting the notion that hard work must be painful and instead champions the idea of making productivity fun and enjoyable.

๐Ÿ’กEmotional Resistance

Emotional resistance is the internal emotional barrier that prevents individuals from taking the necessary actions to achieve their goals. In the context of the video, it is described as a fundamental aspect of productivity problems. For example, the reluctance to start a task or the tendency to procrastinate can be attributed to emotional resistance, which can be addressed by treating emotions as a core component of productivity strategies.

๐Ÿ’กIntentional Time Use

Intentional time use refers to the deliberate and purposeful allocation of time to activities that align with one's goals and values. The video emphasizes that productivity is not just about the quantity of work done but also about using time in a way that is meaningful and fulfilling. Ali Abdaal discusses how he structures his time to include both work and leisure activities, such as playing video games, as a way to maintain a balanced and productive lifestyle.

๐Ÿ’กOptimal Distractions

Optimal distractions are the beneficial interruptions that can enhance productivity by providing a break from focused work. The video discusses a study that shows a sweet spot for task-switching, where some amount of distraction can actually improve productivity. This concept challenges the traditional belief that zero distractions are necessary for maximum productivity and suggests that welcome distractions, such as social interactions, can contribute positively to one's work and overall well-being.

๐Ÿ’กCompounding Returns

Compounding returns refer to the exponential growth of results or benefits over time, often due to the accumulation of small efforts. In the video, the concept is used to discuss productivity in terms of long-term gains, such as the impact of consistently creating content on a YouTube channel. The idea is that small, regular contributions (like posting two videos a week) can lead to a step change in output and success, rather than diminishing returns or plateauing after a certain point.

๐Ÿ’กEmotional Systems

Emotional systems pertain to the internal mechanisms and processes that govern how individuals experience and respond to emotions. The video highlights the significance of emotions in productivity and personal development, suggesting that understanding and managing one's emotional systems is crucial for overcoming resistance and achieving goals. Ali Abdaal's book treats emotions as a foundational element within the framework of productivity, indicating that emotional well-being is intertwined with effective time management and goal achievement.

๐Ÿ’กLife Audit

A life audit is a comprehensive self-assessment process designed to identify one's core values, goals, and priorities. In the video, the host mentions his '2024 Life Audit' as a tool for reflection and decision-making, which helps individuals determine what is truly important to them and how to allocate their time and resources accordingly. This concept aligns with the theme of intentional productivity, emphasizing the need for a clear understanding of one's objectives and values to lead a balanced and fulfilling life.

๐Ÿ’กCrossFit

CrossFit is a high-intensity fitness program that incorporates various exercises and workouts. In the video, it is mentioned as an example of how gamification and community can transform an activity from a chore to an enjoyable experience. The speaker discusses how the competitive and supportive nature of CrossFit classes made fitness more engaging and fun, which in turn increased motivation and consistency.

๐Ÿ’กWork-Life Balance

Work-life balance refers to the equilibrium between an individual's professional responsibilities and personal life. The video script discusses the importance of achieving this balance for long-term productivity and well-being. Ali Abdaal shares his journey from a traditional medical career to becoming a YouTuber, emphasizing how he found ways to make his work feel good and thus achieve a more balanced lifestyle.

Highlights

The conversation discusses the misconception that productivity is solely about hard work and suffering, and instead proposes a more holistic and enjoyable approach to productivity.

Ali Abdaal, a former medical doctor turned YouTuber and author, shares his insights on making productivity fun and enjoyable, rather than just focusing on hard work and suffering.

The idea that productivity can be redefined as using time intentionally, effectively, and enjoyably is introduced, challenging the traditional narrative of productivity.

Ali explains how he transitioned from practicing medicine to running a successful YouTube channel by making his work enjoyable and incorporating creativity.

The conversation emphasizes the importance of not working more hours just for the sake of it, and instead focusing on the quality and enjoyment of the work done.

Ali shares his personal journey of realizing that making his work fun was the key to his success, rather than just hard work and suffering.

The discussion highlights the idea that emotions are a fundamental part of productivity, and that addressing emotional resistance can improve productivity.

Ali talks about his book 'Feel Good Productivity' and how it addresses the emotional aspect of productivity, offering a new perspective on achieving success.

The conversation explores the concept of finding joy in work and how it can lead to greater productivity and success, rather than just grinding and suffering.

Ali and Mark discuss the importance of not taking work too seriously and finding ways to make even the most challenging tasks enjoyable.

The podcast episode encourages listeners to rethink conventional productivity myths and discover a path to genuine happiness and balance through their work.

Ali shares his experience of experimenting with different aspects of his work and life, such as working part-time as a doctor and full-time as a YouTuber.

The conversation touches on the idea that success doesn't necessarily mean working more hours, but rather finding the right balance and approach to work.

Ali and Mark discuss the importance of tracking progress and setting achievable goals to make work more enjoyable and productive.

The episode wraps up with a call to action for listeners to leave a rating or review for the podcast, and offers a free '2024 Life Audit' for those who do.

Transcripts

play00:00

- If you're like me,

play00:01

you've probably had periods in your life

play00:03

where you romanticized working brutally long hours

play00:06

while surviving the intense suffering that comes with it.

play00:09

For me, it was starting my first business.

play00:12

I distinctly remember falling asleep

play00:13

with my laptop on my stomach

play00:15

only to wake up six hours later

play00:17

and immediately get back to work where I left off.

play00:20

In a world that glorifies hustle culture

play00:22

and emphasizes the grind,

play00:24

it's easy to make the assumption

play00:26

that hard work must fundamentally suck.

play00:29

It's not supposed to be fun, we're told,

play00:31

after all, if it was easy,

play00:33

then everybody would fucking do it.

play00:35

But what if it didn't have to suck?

play00:37

What if it wasn't painful?

play00:38

What if it was actually kind of fun?

play00:42

Today I'm talking to Ali Abdaal,

play00:44

a former medical doctor turned YouTuber

play00:47

and author of the new book "Feel Good Productivity".

play00:50

Ali graduated near the top of his class at Cambridge

play00:53

and went into practicing medicine full-time in his 20s.

play00:56

When he realized something both dumb and profound

play01:00

that it wasn't very fun.

play01:02

So Ali decided to make it fun.

play01:04

And as a part of making it fun,

play01:06

he created a YouTube channel

play01:07

to share some of his ideas around making it fun.

play01:10

Today he has more than 5 million subscribers

play01:13

and runs one of the largest educational channels

play01:16

in the entire world.

play01:18

Ali has achieved incredible success

play01:20

in two of life's most intensely demanding

play01:23

and challenging domains.

play01:24

Yet he claims that his success stems less from his hard work

play01:28

and willingness to suffer and more from his creativity

play01:31

and ability to make even the most intense drudgery fun.

play01:35

In this episode,

play01:36

we're gonna talk about how productivity

play01:38

got its bad reputation,

play01:40

how most of the so-called productivity advice

play01:43

actually makes it worse.

play01:44

We'll discuss why working more hours

play01:46

isn't always more productive,

play01:48

and how sometimes the most useful thing you can do

play01:51

is not work at all.

play01:53

We'll hear Ali explain

play01:54

why the optimal number of distractions is actually not zero

play01:58

and how he chooses goals in his life

play02:00

to make failure impossible.

play02:02

We'll also learn

play02:02

how the biggest thing holding most people back

play02:05

is that they actually take their work too seriously.

play02:08

This episode is more than just a conversation.

play02:11

It's a journey into rethinking

play02:13

how we view work, time, and our lives.

play02:16

It's about breaking down the barriers

play02:18

of conventional productivity myths

play02:19

and discovering a path that leads

play02:21

to genuine happiness and balance.

play02:23

But before we dive into the conversation,

play02:25

I have a small request.

play02:27

If you're tuning in today, please take a moment

play02:30

to leave a rating or a review for the podcast.

play02:33

Your support helps us grow

play02:34

and bring more content like this,

play02:36

along with more incredible guests like Ali.

play02:39

Plus, as a token of appreciation,

play02:41

if you send me a screenshot of your review of this podcast,

play02:44

you'll receive my exclusive "2024 Life Audit" for free

play02:48

just in time for the new year.

play02:50

The "Life Audit" takes you step by step through a process

play02:53

that I've personally used for over 10 years now

play02:55

to zero in on the most important values in my life.

play02:58

So I know exactly

play02:59

what I wanna give a fuck about in the new year

play03:02

and what I don't.

play03:03

You can learn more by going to markmanson.net/audit,

play03:06

A-U-D-I-T.

play03:08

You just submit the screenshot of the review

play03:10

and we will automatically verify and send the PDF to you.

play03:14

Now, the Audit will show you what goals are worth pursuing,

play03:16

and this episode will help you make

play03:18

that pursuit more enjoyable,

play03:19

thus increasing your chances of success.

play03:22

So, without further ado, let's fucking get into it.

play03:26

- [Announcer] Bro, do you even podcast?

play03:29

Like, bro.

play03:31

This is "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck" podcast

play03:34

with your host Mark Manson.

play03:37

(upbeat rock music)

play03:38

- What do you think is the biggest thing most people

play03:43

misunderstand about productivity?

play03:45

- I think one of the big misconceptions about productivity

play03:47

is that it's about a hustle, it's about grind,

play03:50

it's about work, work, work.

play03:51

You know, people sometimes are like, oh,

play03:52

but like, don't you wanna be unproductive some of the time

play03:55

and things, I was like.

play03:57

And I guess it's somewhat semantic

play03:59

because if people are defining productivity

play04:00

as efficiency of getting work done, then okay,

play04:04

I can see that.

play04:06

I think I choose to define productivity

play04:08

in a much more holistic sense.

play04:09

To me, productivity is using your time

play04:12

in a way that's intentional and effective

play04:14

and enjoyable, ideally. (chuckles)

play04:16

- [Mark] Yeah.

play04:17

- And so to me, like for example, this evening,

play04:19

I have an evening of alone time

play04:22

where I'm gonna play "Baldur's Gate 3" on my MacBook

play04:25

and I might even go and get,

play04:27

pick up a gaming laptop for myself

play04:28

because I've been salivating over

play04:29

the Razer Blade 16 inch

play04:31

and there's a store in LA that has it in stock.

play04:33

And so I like to, that to me is productivity.

play04:36

It's using my time intentionally and effectively.

play04:38

'cause I'm playing on hard difficulty

play04:39

and enjoyably 'cause it's gonna be fun.

play04:41

And having that one evening a week where I play video games

play04:43

to me is like, that's a dream.

play04:45

That's what I've been trying to optimize for my whole life

play04:47

and my 13-year-old self would be

play04:50

having a field day if he knew that

play04:51

this is where I've ended up where I can play video games.

play04:54

That to me is also productivity.

play04:55

And I think if we expand out the definition,

play04:57

then we can start applying the principles of productivity.

play05:01

Like the stuff that you and I talk about,

play05:02

the stuff that Tim Ferriss talks about.

play05:04

You can start applying the principles of productivity

play05:05

to anything in life.

play05:07

So I love optimizing my relationship

play05:10

and like using principles of productivity

play05:11

in my relationship.

play05:12

It's like, how do we do this in a way

play05:14

that's more intentional and effective and enjoyable?

play05:16

And reading books about what makes relationships work

play05:19

and regular rituals and check-ins and routines.

play05:22

And we have a notion page for like our relationship reviews

play05:24

and have done for the last two and a bit years.

play05:26

That is applying productivity

play05:27

to real life rather than just to work.

play05:30

And so, I think people almost focus down too much

play05:32

on just the work thing or the how do I get better grades

play05:34

and not enough on, hang on,

play05:35

I'm learning a set of skills here.

play05:37

Let me just make my life better.

play05:38

- I feel like people,

play05:40

there's a tendency to fetishize suffering and sacrifice.

play05:44

We tend to love hearing other people's stories

play05:47

of all the shit you went through, how much you struggled,

play05:51

all the setbacks you overcame.

play05:52

Like that's very entertaining

play05:54

when it happens to other people.

play05:56

And we really admire that.

play05:57

And so I think we kind of romanticize that in ourselves

play06:01

and we think to do something great,

play06:02

you have to struggle and suffer immensely and be miserable

play06:06

and (laughs) force yourself

play06:08

through all sorts of awful shit.

play06:10

So what I love about this is

play06:13

it's the first productivity book I've come across

play06:15

that treats emotions as one of the fundamental systems

play06:21

within an overall productivity framework.

play06:23

And this is something that, like,

play06:25

I would try to write this for years.

play06:27

I would try to explain to people

play06:30

that any sort of productivity problem

play06:32

is fundamentally an emotional problem.

play06:34

- Yep.

play06:35

- Like, the reason, if you're not doing something,

play06:37

it's because you don't feel like doing it.

play06:38

It's not, there's no, it's not a software issue.

play06:42

It's not like a lack of

play06:43

tools or it's not 'cause you didn't get up early enough.

play06:47

It's because there's some sort of emotional resistance

play06:52

or anxiety that's preventing you

play06:54

from taking the right actions

play06:56

or modifying the behaviors you need to modify.

play06:59

People don't like hearing that.

play07:01

They like hearing, they want the tool,

play07:02

they want the the system.

play07:05

They want the morning routine.

play07:07

Why do you think that is?

play07:09

- Yeah, I think the emotional piece is so,

play07:13

like I remember the first time I really came across

play07:15

that idea was reading Steven Pressfield's "The War of Art."

play07:18

And he calls it the Resistance with the capital R.

play07:20

- Yeah.

play07:21

- And like when I read that book,

play07:22

it just sort of hit me like a ton of bricks.

play07:24

I was like, oh my fucking God.

play07:25

Like this is the thing.

play07:27

Like he's just describing in like this whole book

play07:29

exactly what I feel when I procrastinate.

play07:30

It's this resistance.

play07:32

And what it took for me to kinda get over that

play07:36

was a recognition that the resistance

play07:38

is an internal emotional thing

play07:40

and almost treating myself like a system.

play07:42

Whereas I think when it comes to kind of like,

play07:44

even hearing you say that right now,

play07:46

talking about emotions,

play07:47

like the part of me that was reading

play07:48

Lifehacker back in the day is thinking, oh, come on.

play07:52

Emotions, like- - Yeah.

play07:53

- What bullshit is this?

play07:54

- Get over it. (laughs) - Right? Come on. (laughs)

play07:56

And so many people I speak to

play07:58

there's that thing of if I could just find the right tool,

play08:01

if I could just find the right technique,

play08:03

then I wouldn't procrastinate so much.

play08:05

Or if I could just find the right meds

play08:06

for my ADHD or whatever the thing is,

play08:08

it seems to go in waves

play08:09

in terms of what people think the magic bullet is,

play08:11

but fundamentally it just comes down to this thing of

play08:13

you're unproductive 'cause you don't feel like

play08:14

doing the thing.

play08:15

No one ever struggles with procrastination

play08:17

watching Netflix or hanging out with friends.

play08:18

- Yeah. - That's not a thing.

play08:19

We struggle with procrastination when it comes to

play08:22

writing that blog post or like studying for that exam,

play08:24

or like doing that slightly boring,

play08:26

annoying PowerPoint at work that we don't really want to,

play08:28

or like asking our manager for a raise,

play08:29

the stuff that feels, we feel that resistance.

play08:32

And so part of the, part of my goal with the book

play08:35

was to try and figure out, okay, cool,

play08:37

we know that's a thing,

play08:38

so therefore, what are the tools that we can use

play08:39

to kind of treat emotions as something important?

play08:43

Treat them sincerely

play08:44

rather than thinking of it as like, oh, I'm just a pussy

play08:46

because I'm not like grinding like David Goggins does

play08:48

or whatever the narratives sometimes are.

play08:50

- I think it also kinda taps into,

play08:53

so, I think the big epiphany for me that I had,

play08:55

and I think I had it writing my second book.

play08:58

So my attitude in my first book was very much,

play09:01

bro, you gotta fucking grind.

play09:03

You gotta suffer.

play09:05

You did nine hours yesterday, let's do 10 today.

play09:09

Let's finish two chapters this month.

play09:12

And I noticed that it started to backfire

play09:14

that essentially I would get

play09:16

four really, really good high quality hours out of myself

play09:20

and then every hour past that would be low quality

play09:23

or it would be a very mediocre output.

play09:25

And then I realized that when you're writing a book,

play09:28

mediocre output is actually worse than no output

play09:31

because you have to go back

play09:33

and either heavily edit and revise it,

play09:36

which is just adding work for yourself

play09:37

or you have to make a bunch of very difficult decisions

play09:41

of whether to cut it, delete it, and so on.

play09:43

So, I had this weird realization probably way too late

play09:49

that at least in the context of book writing,

play09:52

four really effective hours was actually more productive

play09:55

than 10 moderately effective hours.

play09:59

- Yeah.

play10:01

- And when that unlocked for myself,

play10:03

I started wondering where else that applied in my life.

play10:06

Where else in my life am I,

play10:08

is that the production curve actually,

play10:10

not only is there diminishing returns,

play10:11

but it's actually turning negative at a certain point.

play10:14

- I totally vibe with this.

play10:15

I think I am always on the lookout for areas of my life

play10:18

that have that diminishing return, sort of,

play10:21

kind of where the curve goes down afterwards.

play10:23

I'm also always on the lookout for areas

play10:25

where there's kind of compounding returns-

play10:28

- Yeah. - Like for example.

play10:29

But things like starting a YouTube channel,

play10:32

the difference between making one video a week

play10:33

and making two videos a week

play10:36

is actually, it's a step change.

play10:37

'Cause if you're able to do two videos a week,

play10:39

you have twice as many chances for one of them to pick up.

play10:42

And generally putting twice as much effort

play10:44

into a single video does not,

play10:46

again, depending on the channel, doesn't yield as much value

play10:48

as putting that effort into two different videos.

play10:52

And so, there comes a point where maybe

play10:53

it takes you 20 hours a week to do one video,

play10:56

but like you could do 30, 30 hours to get two videos

play10:59

and actually that extra 10 hours then unlocks

play11:00

an extra step change in output,

play11:02

which then improves your odds at succeeding in the thing

play11:05

rather than diminishes your odds at succeeding on the thing.

play11:08

And so, I think there are some areas of life

play11:11

where we have the diminishing returns

play11:12

and others where we have the compounding,

play11:15

but I think there are far more

play11:16

where we have the diminishing than the compounding.

play11:17

- Yeah. (laughs) - It's like, yeah.

play11:18

And like balance is good.

play11:19

It's like all writers fundamental,

play11:21

like ultimately arrive at the four hour number as well.

play11:24

- Sure. - I've yet to meet a writer

play11:25

who say, who writes any more than four hours.

play11:27

- Yeah, right?

play11:27

- Or has done it for a long time

play11:28

who has landed on number more than four.

play11:30

It seems to be a thing.

play11:31

- Yeah.

play11:33

Well, I think there have been a lot of studies too on

play11:36

just your average worker laborer.

play11:39

It's the vast majority of their productivity

play11:41

comes in the first four or five hours.

play11:43

When they do studies on how much people get done

play11:45

in like the corporate world,

play11:46

hours five through eight, it's not much. (laughs)

play11:49

- And then even the first four hours are like

play11:51

filled with multitasking and distractions

play11:52

and like, oh, grabbing a coffee with someone here and there.

play11:54

And yeah, the whole day goes by

play11:56

and I have these days where the whole day will go by

play11:58

and I'd be like, I've written maybe 300 words

play12:01

and I was aiming for a thousand today.

play12:02

I'm like, how did I write 300 words in eight hours?

play12:04

Like, what the hell?

play12:05

Like, how did this happen?

play12:06

And it turns out because well,

play12:08

distractions and lack of focus,

play12:09

and all the things that everyone struggles with.

play12:11

- Do you think the optimal number of distractions is zero?

play12:15

Do you think this concept that we're talking about

play12:17

of how, like, having that day

play12:18

to just play video games like let your brain wander.

play12:22

Does that also apply on a micro basis

play12:25

with say, checking your phone?

play12:27

- Yeah.

play12:28

We found a really cool study about this that's in the book

play12:30

and weirdly, there's a graph

play12:32

and it's sort of like an N-shaped graph.

play12:35

There was a study, I think it was,

play12:37

they got people to solve a Sudoku

play12:39

and also to like in a different tab, do some other puzzle,

play12:41

and also in a different tab do some other puzzle.

play12:43

And they looked at like,

play12:45

they were allowed to switch between the puzzles.

play12:47

And they found that there was actually a sweet spot

play12:48

that like some amount of switching between tasks

play12:50

is actually good for you

play12:51

rather than the traditional narrative,

play12:53

which is that you must focus on one thing at a time

play12:55

and exclusively that one thing at a time.

play12:57

And so, there does seem to be

play12:59

some kind of optimal number.

play13:00

So, this is why like,

play13:02

if I'm working on something

play13:04

and someone will come along and talk to me,

play13:07

I don't really let it faze me.

play13:08

I think of these as welcome distractions in a way.

play13:11

If I get a notification of like,

play13:12

some news site that I wasn't really,

play13:13

I didn't really care about and that derails me,

play13:15

that to me is an unwelcome distraction.

play13:16

- Yeah.

play13:17

- The one thing I used to do at university

play13:18

is prop my door open at all times

play13:20

with a little shoe, door stopper thingy.

play13:22

And so if a friend would come by

play13:23

and disturb me and distract me for a few minutes,

play13:26

that to me is a great thing.

play13:27

Like, the point of university is to hang out with friends,

play13:29

not really to study and maybe I was marginally

play13:31

less efficient and less productive.

play13:32

- Yeah. - But like those,

play13:34

those like hallway conversations sometimes led to hangouts,

play13:37

led to plans, led to interesting things.

play13:39

Like that's kinda the point of life.

play13:41

So I'm all about trying to find ways to leave the door open

play13:44

or like work in a communal area

play13:45

or something that allows surface area for serendipity

play13:49

when it comes to interactions with people.

play13:50

- Interesting.

play13:51

Yeah, I used to be one of those people

play13:53

who was a little bit religious.

play13:54

I went through a phase, I should say of maybe three years

play13:58

that I was very religious about those blocker apps

play14:01

that like block out social media and news sites

play14:03

and all the riffraff that you try to avoid

play14:06

on a day-to-day basis.

play14:07

And I guess, I don't know, a year or two ago,

play14:09

I just kinda came to a conclusion that it was

play14:13

to the core premise of your book,

play14:15

it was, I was feeling bad.

play14:19

I was almost like over invested

play14:21

in being hyperproductive all the time.

play14:25

And so, at some point I just turned them all off

play14:27

and I'm like, well, I'll turn them on

play14:28

if it's ever a problem.

play14:30

And 90% of the time it's not really a problem.

play14:32

- What you said there really resonates with me

play14:33

because I'll change it if it's a problem.

play14:36

- Yeah.

play14:37

- Like I think that's like just a pretty chill way

play14:39

to approach life.

play14:40

That's like, I'll change it if it's a problem.

play14:41

- So you've achieved two things

play14:43

that are very difficult to do.

play14:45

You've become a doctor

play14:46

and you've become a successful YouTuber.

play14:48

Those are also two completely different things.

play14:50

One is a very creative entrepreneurial pursuit.

play14:53

One is a very traditional,

play14:56

bury your head in the books,

play14:58

memorize a million things.

play15:00

What are the skills that crossover between those two things?

play15:03

- Two things.

play15:04

Number one is an ability to stick with it for long enough

play15:08

and number two is I think the ability to teach.

play15:12

- Okay.

play15:13

- One of the things that medical applicants often say

play15:16

in their interviews is that,

play15:17

when they're ask, "Why do you wanna be a doctor?"

play15:18

There's a phrase "A doctor is a teacher."

play15:21

Like you're trying to break things down,

play15:22

you're trying to understand things,

play15:23

you're trying to explain to patients,

play15:25

but you're also trying to explain them to your colleagues.

play15:26

You're trying to, running them by a senior.

play15:29

You're trying to break some things down

play15:30

in an explainable way.

play15:31

You're also kind of teaching the people,

play15:33

the juniors below you.

play15:34

It's a very teachingy type thing.

play15:36

And so, I think that's a skillset

play15:37

that I've had for most of my life.

play15:39

I would always be the guy helping kids out

play15:40

with their homework.

play15:41

And I did private tutoring when I was younger

play15:44

as a way of making money off the internet,

play15:46

being a medical student, being a doctor.

play15:47

I would always try my best

play15:48

to teach the people who are younger than me.

play15:50

And when my YouTube channel started,

play15:53

it wasn't an educational channel.

play15:55

I actually started making musical song covers

play15:58

and I wanted to be the next Kurt Schneider and Boyce Avenue

play16:00

and these sort of YouTube cover artists that would

play16:03

sing covers of popular songs.

play16:05

So the first like five or six videos are still there

play16:06

and it's those sorts of videos.

play16:08

Like no one cared.

play16:09

I have no musical talent.

play16:10

Some of my friends were good at singing.

play16:12

I was like, yeah, I'm gonna learn to play the guitar.

play16:13

I'm gonna be a big YouTuber.

play16:14

But it was only when I started actually using the fact

play16:17

that I was pretty good at teaching

play16:18

and making educational videos

play16:19

that things started to take off.

play16:21

And so I think like fundamentally,

play16:22

like, I don't think I would've been successful

play16:23

as a Mr. Beast or as an Airrack or as a Ryan Trahan,

play16:26

or someone who's making

play16:27

more entertainmenty, inspiringy type content.

play16:29

But I managed to do well by being like, right guys,

play16:31

today we're gonna talk about five ways

play16:32

to do well in your BMAP medical school entrance exam.

play16:35

Boom.

play16:36

(Mark laughs) It was what I knew.

play16:37

So that I think was a big part of overlap.

play16:39

But I think the other thing that both medical school

play16:40

and being a YouTuber teach you

play16:41

is the ability to just stick with it for long enough.

play16:43

Like medical school in the UK is six years

play16:46

where for the first three years, at least in Cambridge,

play16:48

you don't see any patients.

play16:49

So you have no, like, real world contact with real people.

play16:52

You're just in the books learning the science,

play16:54

memorizing tedious pathways and stuff.

play16:56

And again, finding a way to make it fun

play16:57

was the real hack for me even when I was in medical school.

play17:00

Similarly, YouTube, most channels don't succeed

play17:04

unless you consistently make videos

play17:05

every week for like two years.

play17:07

And then at that point you start benefiting

play17:08

from the compounding

play17:09

and then you become an overnight success and all that stuff.

play17:11

- Sure.

play17:12

- And I think that is...

play17:14

The skill of faith and patience,

play17:17

faith that something good will happen

play17:18

and patience to stick at it long enough to make it happen.

play17:21

And honestly, I think it all comes back down

play17:22

to feel good productivity.

play17:23

If you find a way to make your work feel good,

play17:25

you are more likely to be patient with it for two years.

play17:27

If it doesn't feel good, you're like, fuck, why's my view?

play17:30

Why isn't my YouTube channel blowing up after a month?

play17:31

And obviously that's not gonna work.

play17:33

- It also helps solve that conundrum of

play17:36

how do you know when to stick with it

play17:38

and how do you know when to quit and give up,

play17:40

and stop chasing a pipe dream.

play17:43

And it's, if you love it,

play17:46

then who cares, right? - Exactly, yeah.

play17:47

It's fun doing it for intrinsic reasons

play17:49

rather than extrinsic reasons. - Totally.

play17:51

- A reason, you're doing it for the sake of the thing itself

play17:54

rather than the outcome that you're getting from the thing.

play17:56

- Yeah.

play17:57

- That's why I loved what you said

play17:58

to me over lunch the other day

play17:59

that like, if it's not fun, I'm not gonna do it.

play18:01

And I was like, yes.

play18:02

(both laughs)

play18:04

That is a great place to be

play18:05

once you're already successful.

play18:07

- Oh, absolutely.

play18:07

Until you're successful

play18:10

I think the reframing is

play18:11

I need to find a way to make it fun,

play18:13

otherwise I'm not gonna do it.

play18:14

- Yeah.

play18:14

Well, you know what's funny about me

play18:16

is I think I had that early in my career

play18:19

and I think it's a big reason of why I became successful

play18:22

because I was always just very,

play18:23

I was very similar to you.

play18:24

I was very uncompromising about

play18:27

what I would write, the way I would write it,

play18:30

the particular tone or style,

play18:32

the subjects I would address.

play18:34

And I think part of what kinda fucked me up

play18:37

after "Subtle Art" became so popular was

play18:40

just very big impressive corporation's,

play18:45

name brands, celebrities,

play18:47

all these people started interacting with me

play18:49

and wanting to do projects with me.

play18:51

And I didn't feel that liberty to, I was like, oh man,

play18:54

I'm doing a feature film with Universal Pictures.

play18:56

Like I can't fuck this up, you know?

play18:57

Like I can't say these things.

play18:59

And I think I lost touch with that for a number of years.

play19:03

And as your book correctly points out, I got burnt out

play19:08

'cause that's what happens

play19:09

when you stop having fun with something.

play19:10

If you're not completely aligned

play19:11

with why you're doing something, you lose the joy

play19:14

and you lose the momentum

play19:16

that keeps you going through the hard times.

play19:18

I wanna ask you really quick,

play19:20

while we're talking about medicine versus YouTube,

play19:23

how is the production function different

play19:26

between creative work

play19:28

and say kind of rote memorization, studying science,

play19:34

learning?

play19:36

- All of it is creative work.

play19:37

- All of it. - This is another thing

play19:39

that students always get wrong.

play19:39

Like this is my biggest piece of advice

play19:42

for a lot of students.

play19:43

Like sometimes you do have to rote memorize

play19:45

like the Krebs cycle.

play19:47

- Yeah.

play19:48

- And one way to do that is to just continue

play19:50

to drill it again and again.

play19:52

The other way of doing it is to create a mnemonic

play19:54

or something fun, or like a cool way of thinking about it.

play19:57

And I, so actually before starting medical school,

play20:01

I read loads of books about memory

play20:03

and the like world champion memory,

play20:06

people who like memorize decks of cards

play20:07

and 18,000 digits of pi and all that shit.

play20:10

- Yeah.

play20:11

- And basically all of them were like, yeah,

play20:12

you just need to create a really strong association,

play20:14

like a strong visual association in your mind.

play20:16

And the more absurd that association is,

play20:18

the more likely you are to learn the thing.

play20:20

And so even now,

play20:21

like when me and my medic friends get together,

play20:23

we'll like joke about the ways

play20:25

that we used to memorize things.

play20:26

Like, ah, isoniazid gives you peripheral neuropathy

play20:30

'cause isoniazid, the drug, sounds kinda like ISIS

play20:32

and ISIS famously chop your hands off if you do bad things.

play20:34

So it's like, imagine like (Mark laughs)

play20:36

peripheral neuropathy is like isoniazid.

play20:39

Or like, I don't know, ethambutol sort of

play20:42

makes your wee orange because etham has the word ham in it.

play20:46

And if you think ham, it's sort of like pink

play20:47

and pink is sort like orange.

play20:48

So it's like you get like orange wee.

play20:51

And that was how me and most of my friends

play20:54

got through the rote memorization of medical school,

play20:56

which is a highly creative task.

play20:57

- Yeah.

play20:58

- Or like making cool mnemonics

play20:59

to like memorize all 12 cranial nerves.

play21:01

Like, there's various rude versions of them.

play21:04

It's like on they traveled and found various

play21:08

something and horcruxes.

play21:09

It's like gives you all the nerves of the face and stuff.

play21:11

It's like, shit like that that makes it fun,

play21:13

it's a creative act.

play21:15

Finding a way to, another kinda tip,

play21:17

if any student's listening to this to categorize things.

play21:21

Hematology is like the study of the blood,

play21:23

it's like a huge field.

play21:25

But like if you look at all 100 conditions in hematology,

play21:28

you can basically categorize them into three things.

play21:30

Like great, that simplifies it.

play21:32

Now within those three things,

play21:33

you've got categories for like four things.

play21:35

And like the textbooks won't tell you this

play21:36

'cause they're sorted in fucking

play21:37

alphabetical order for no reason.

play21:38

(Mark laughs)

play21:39

So you just have to like, look at the shit

play21:40

and be like, okay,

play21:40

what's the sensible categorization of this?

play21:42

Oh great.

play21:43

There's like anemia, there's malignant heme,

play21:44

and there's like a non-malignant heme, great.

play21:47

Those are the three categories,

play21:48

bang, bang, bang, three structures.

play21:49

And it's also creative and also fun.

play21:51

And now when I speak to medical students,

play21:54

the ones who are like,

play21:56

"Oh man, medical school's such a grind.

play21:57

But once I be a doctor, it's gonna be fun."

play21:59

I'm always like, oh, we need to talk

play22:02

because if you're finding medical school a grind

play22:04

where going into the hospital is optional,

play22:06

you are not gonna find being a doctor fun

play22:07

where suddenly going into work is no longer optional.

play22:10

And I will always try and encourage students,

play22:12

find a way to make whatever you're studying feel good,

play22:14

find a way to make it fun because that is an attitude

play22:16

that will help you learn the thing better

play22:18

and also make me and you less stressed,

play22:19

and also make you enjoy life more.

play22:20

- Yeah. - I'm just like massively.

play22:22

- It's remarkable that you still (finger snaps)

play22:24

have to recall all that stuff

play22:26

10 years later. - It's the visual

play22:28

metaphors and imagery.

play22:29

- The fun thing for me

play22:31

I find it in my own life particularly useful

play22:34

around fitness and health

play22:36

because like most people I think

play22:38

I found fitness to be just a fucking bummer. (laughs)

play22:42

- I'm struggling with this right now.

play22:43

Like, help me figure this out.

play22:44

- Yeah, so it's the thing that unlocked it

play22:47

and I'm not a huge CrossFitter,

play22:49

but I, I visited a couple CrossFit classes

play22:51

and it completely, I mean, it's like

play22:53

the first section of your book

play22:55

could basically just be kind of a guide

play22:57

to like why CrossFit works.

play22:58

Because they gamify everything.

play23:00

They put you in teams and they track scores

play23:03

and help you try to best get new PRs

play23:06

and do all this stuff.

play23:07

And it was the first time

play23:10

my associations with fitness and working out,

play23:13

it was always just this drudgery.

play23:15

It was like, oh, well yeah, I'm doing this today

play23:18

because I don't wanna fucking die when I'm 60.

play23:22

All the stuff that you read about

play23:23

or I wanna lose 10 pounds before summer.

play23:26

And it never felt good.

play23:29

It was never fun.

play23:30

It felt like an obligation.

play23:31

It felt like a chore.

play23:32

It felt like a lot of it was shame-driven

play23:34

or judgment-driven.

play23:36

And then I went to some of those CrossFit classes

play23:38

and I had the hardest workouts of my life.

play23:41

Like, I was literally laying on the floor.

play23:44

(Ali snickers) You know?

play23:45

Like world swirling above me, barely remaining conscious.

play23:51

And I'm like giggling with how much fun I had.

play23:54

And it was such an epiphany to me of just like,

play23:58

turn it into a game,

play23:59

turn it into a little competition with yourself,

play24:01

invite friends over.

play24:02

Like, I used to be so rigid and structured

play24:05

about like a workout program, right?

play24:06

Like I'd go, I'd go online and find like this,

play24:09

oh, this is the workout program

play24:10

that's gonna help you build 10 pounds of muscle

play24:13

in the next three months.

play24:13

And I'm like, oh man, I gotta do this.

play24:15

I gotta like show up every day.

play24:17

And again, back to that point of

play24:20

I used to think you had to hit every workout

play24:23

exactly the way it's listed

play24:24

at exactly the day that you're supposed to do it.

play24:27

And I realized like, if you miss a day

play24:29

or if you have to push it back a day,

play24:31

or maybe a friend is coming into town

play24:33

and he's got a workout program, you're gonna do it together.

play24:35

Or maybe like, he likes to run,

play24:38

so maybe I go running with him

play24:39

instead of my workout that day.

play24:41

It keeps it fun and interesting and novel

play24:45

and that keeps the motivation going.

play24:47

It keeps the excitement going.

play24:49

Tracking was another huge unlock for me.

play24:52

I never tracked my workouts in the past.

play24:54

I was just kinda, again,

play24:56

I would download some list off the internet

play24:57

and just like follow it to a T like a fucking robot.

play25:01

And when I got a tracking app

play25:04

and I started putting in all my lifts and all my weights

play25:07

and how many reps I did of everything.

play25:09

And every single week when I open up that app,

play25:11

when I start my workout, I'm like, okay,

play25:13

last week I did three sets of eight at this weight.

play25:17

Today I'm gonna try to do three sets of nine

play25:19

and see if I can do it.

play25:21

And that just, that little bit of competition with myself

play25:26

gets me through that set,

play25:27

gets me excited about it.

play25:29

When I hit it, it feels good.

play25:31

Yeah, it's been incredibly profound.

play25:33

And it's, again, it's one of those fucking obvious things

play25:36

like and I hate shit like this

play25:38

because it's when you have to take your own medicine,

play25:42

like it's the advice that you've written about for years

play25:44

and you never applied in your own life.

play25:46

But it's been really transformative the past couple years,

play25:50

for sure.

play25:51

- That's so I've been struggling with motivation

play25:54

or consistency on the fitness front for literally years.

play25:57

And it was, again, when I was reading the audiobook

play25:59

for this a few months ago, I was like.

play26:01

(Mark laughs)

play26:02

My god, like literally,

play26:04

I have not thought about applying this principle to fitness.

play26:06

- Yeah.

play26:07

- And just like find a way to make it feel good.

play26:09

And if you've tried all the things and it doesn't,

play26:11

then like change it up and try something else.

play26:13

- Yes.

play26:14

- So I've been thinking in the back of my mind,

play26:15

I really wanna try CrossFit

play26:16

because there's so many examples from CrossFit of like

play26:18

how they used all these strategies and stuff.

play26:20

- Yes.

play26:21

- And I've yet to try CrossFit.

play26:22

- I didn't stick with CrossFit.

play26:23

I actually found CrossFit too intense,

play26:25

which a lot of people run into that issue

play26:27

and a lot of people get injured and things like.

play26:28

Like what I noticed when I was doing CrossFit

play26:31

is I would go so hard that I would feel exhausted

play26:35

for the next 48 hours and it actually dampen my energy

play26:38

'cause I was overexerting.

play26:40

So in many ways it's almost like the problem with CrossFit

play26:42

is it's too effective.

play26:43

It like gets you going too hard.

play26:45

It is such a worthwhile experience

play26:48

just to go experience the community.

play26:50

The community's amazing.

play26:52

People are, they're so positive there.

play26:54

Like it's very, doesn't matter.

play26:56

Like there'll be a dude next to you who's lifting 400 pounds

play26:59

and you're like struggling to get the bar off the ground

play27:01

and people are cheering for you

play27:02

just as hard as they're cheering for that guy.

play27:04

There's like no judgment.

play27:06

Everybody's super positive so. - Oh, nice.

play27:08

- Thumbs up, CrossFit.

play27:09

- Yeah, I would absolutely check it out.

play27:10

- So, this is something that comes up a lot

play27:11

with my readers and fans, and I'm curious,

play27:15

it just occurred to me that there might be an analog

play27:17

in the productivity world as well.

play27:19

But like, I've actually, over the years

play27:21

I've come to the conclusion that

play27:22

in kind of the self-help personal development space,

play27:25

there's actually secretly

play27:26

two separate categories that are going on.

play27:28

And I think a lot of people get them mixed up,

play27:30

which is the first one is advice

play27:32

that takes you from bad to okay, right?

play27:34

So it's like, if you're depressed,

play27:36

here's some things you can do to like

play27:38

help you not be so depressed.

play27:40

But then there's also advice

play27:41

that takes you from okay to great.

play27:44

If you're just kind of a normal person

play27:45

going about their life,

play27:46

but you wanna do something really amazing and special,

play27:48

here are four things that you can try

play27:50

to like make your life way more effective.

play27:53

And I find there's so much confusion in my world

play27:58

and readers and people who follow other people

play28:00

in this space,

play28:02

they see the bad to okay advice

play28:04

and they mistake it for okay to great advice.

play28:06

They'll be like, oh, well that's obvious.

play28:07

Like, everybody knows that.

play28:09

I'm like, well, yeah, it's not meant for you,

play28:11

it's meant for the guy who can't get off the couch

play28:13

or it's okay to great advice,

play28:16

but it's misconstrued by people being like

play28:20

well, that's not gonna help me

play28:22

get over my crippling anxiety.

play28:23

Like I can't even do this or that.

play28:26

- Nice. - I wonder if there's

play28:28

an analog in the productivity space

play28:30

because a lot of what we're talking about is mitigation.

play28:35

It's almost like mitigating unproductivity

play28:39

rather than maximizing productivity.

play28:41

- Yeah. - It's like making sure

play28:42

you're not falling below 80%

play28:44

rather than killing yourself trying to get to 99%.

play28:48

- Oh, I really like this.

play28:50

I've not thought of it in this way,

play28:51

but that, I think there are definitely analogs.

play28:54

One thing that comes to mind is like bad to okay

play28:59

is often about the basic obvious things

play29:03

and often about the hardware,

play29:04

like sleep, exercise, nutrition.

play29:07

- Totally.

play29:08

- If you're depressed, just like

play29:10

people have done the studies on this.

play29:11

Sleeping eight hours a night,

play29:13

doing some exercise every single day,

play29:14

having some social contact and like, about it. (laughs)

play29:17

And like eating well is like-

play29:18

- That solves like 80% of it. - Gets you more-

play29:20

- It solves 80% of it.

play29:21

The other 20% is like whatever.

play29:23

So for someone who's depressed worrying about

play29:25

maximizing their typing speed or keyboard shortcuts

play29:27

or bashing and all that shit that we'd have to talk about,

play29:29

like, it's kinda meaningless.

play29:31

But to go from okay to great,

play29:32

you still have to have the basics done

play29:34

because the basics will derail you immediately.

play29:35

- Yeah. - Like you can have the best

play29:37

productivity hacks in the world,

play29:38

but if you're sleeping three hours a night,

play29:39

obviously it's not gonna work.

play29:40

And so you have to do the basics well,

play29:42

the basic fundamentals, the boring fundamentals,

play29:44

and then you can start adding stuff on top of that.

play29:47

But recognizing that, like, I think,

play29:49

like that point you made at the start,

play29:52

like the people with billion dollar businesses

play29:54

are not really working that much harder

play29:56

than the people with million dollar businesses.

play29:57

Even though there's a huge difference

play29:59

between billion and a million.

play30:00

They're just doing different, playing different chess moves.

play30:02

Yeah.

play30:03

And so, going from, I think going from okay to great

play30:06

is often about finding the right chess moves

play30:07

rather than really about working harder.

play30:09

Because if you have the basic fundamentals

play30:11

and you're operating at 80%,

play30:13

and you find an area of the market

play30:15

where your business will just a 100X by default,

play30:18

by virtue of being in that market,

play30:19

like trying to sell to people with money

play30:20

rather than trying to sell to broke students.

play30:23

You could do the same amount of work

play30:24

and still play video games and still have a great life,

play30:27

but also make tons and tons of money.

play30:28

- Yeah.

play30:29

- And so those are now the stories that I look for

play30:31

and I enjoy.

play30:32

I don't really vibe with stories of like, oh my God,

play30:34

I struggled so much and I suffered so much.

play30:36

I love the stories when someone's like, you know what,

play30:38

I was working on this for a few years, it was really fun.

play30:40

I had a really balanced life,

play30:42

spent time with my friends and family,

play30:44

played some video games

play30:44

and also the thing was successful.

play30:46

- Yeah. - I love that shit.

play30:47

I'm like, great.

play30:48

That is the person we should aspire to be

play30:49

rather than Muhammad Ali is like,

play30:51

"I suffered every day for 10 years

play30:53

and it was worth it to become a champion."

play30:54

It's like most of us I don't think wanna suffer for 10 years

play30:56

just to become a a champion.

play30:58

- Have you read the new Elon Musk book?

play30:59

- I have not.

play31:00

It's on my Audible at the moment.

play31:01

- Oh man. It is a wild ride.

play31:03

It is an absolute wild ride.

play31:05

He is everything you expect times 10.

play31:07

But it's funny because he is totally that person.

play31:10

I was actually surprised

play31:13

how few takeaways there are from the book

play31:15

because I don't think what he does is reproducible at all.

play31:18

Or if you tried to reproduce it,

play31:20

you would make yourself so miserable

play31:22

that I'm not sure you would even wanna do that.

play31:24

Like, he is that guy who is

play31:26

18 hours a day on the factory floor

play31:28

screaming at people.

play31:29

- Yeah.

play31:30

- Like involving himself in every little decision

play31:33

and it, you could see,

play31:34

he's like not a happy person. (laughs)

play31:37

- Yeah, he describes entrepreneurship

play31:38

as like chewing glass or something.

play31:39

- [Mark] Yeah.

play31:40

- And I've never felt like

play31:41

entrepreneurship is chewing glass,

play31:42

but obviously I'm not trying to get people on Mars.

play31:43

I'm just trying to build a-

play31:44

- (laughs) You're just making YouTube videos.

play31:46

- I'm making bloody YouTube videos,

play31:47

trying to build a lifestyle business,

play31:49

trying to make time to play video games,

play31:50

hang out, hang out with people in LA.

play31:52

(Mark chuckles)

play31:53

And so, yeah.

play31:55

Different strands of entrepreneurship.

play31:56

One gets you to Mars,

play31:57

the other one gets you a couple of YouTube videos.

play31:59

(both laughs)

play32:00

But one leads to what I would describe,

play32:02

you know, I'd recommend entrepreneurship

play32:04

for a lot of people.

play32:05

Elon Musk would not recommend

play32:06

his branch of entrepreneurship for almost anyone.

play32:08

- No and he actively doesn't actually.

play32:10

There's a great moment in the book where, I don't know,

play32:13

he goes through like some crazy drama at SpaceX,

play32:16

loses his mind,

play32:17

and then immediately has to get on a plane

play32:20

and fly to Asia for like some big conference.

play32:22

And he gets there and it's a room full of founders

play32:24

and business owners who are there to hear him speak.

play32:28

And the first question is,

play32:31

"This is a room full of 2,000 people

play32:32

who are inspired by you and who wanna learn from you.

play32:36

Like what is the best piece of advice

play32:38

that you can give us to be as effective as you are?"

play32:41

And he just looks at him and says, "Don't."

play32:44

It's like you don't wanna go through what I go through.

play32:48

(laughs)

play32:49

And by that point in the book,

play32:50

you've read enough of the book that you're like,

play32:51

yeah, don't, don't.

play32:53

(laughs) Don't do it.

play32:54

- I do wonder though, this like,

play32:57

when I interview people on my pod,

play33:00

I always ask the question of like,

play33:01

once someone is post-success,

play33:04

they're always preaching work-life balance.

play33:06

- Yeah.

play33:06

- But I wonder, I always wonder like,

play33:08

could they have achieved that level of success

play33:12

while also having work-life balance?

play33:14

Or is it a phase that everyone has to go through

play33:16

where there is always a phase of grindiness or whatever

play33:20

and then on the other end

play33:20

you stop preaching work-life balance?

play33:22

- I don't think so.

play33:23

Rich people they go through 10 years

play33:25

of grind, failure, suffering, struggle,

play33:29

come out the other end, balance their lives,

play33:31

become very healthy and happy,

play33:33

and then turn around and tell everybody else

play33:34

that they should be balanced, healthy, and happy.

play33:36

And it depends what you're trying to do, right?

play33:38

Like I think if you are in a more conventional career path,

play33:42

I think there's a lot to be said

play33:44

maybe about work-life balance.

play33:45

If you are doing something entrepreneurial

play33:47

there seems to be an escape velocity phenomenon

play33:51

where you need an immense amount of force and pressure

play33:55

to get off the ground and to get into orbit.

play33:57

And then once you're in orbit,

play33:58

you can kinda ease off a little bit.

play34:01

I don't know if you can escape that though.

play34:02

- Yeah.

play34:03

So my way of squaring this conundrum was to

play34:07

and I think I recognize this fairly on, fairly early on,

play34:09

which is why the book is called "Feel Good Productivity"

play34:11

is to be like, okay, I need to do lots of work

play34:13

to make my business successful and be financially free.

play34:16

Great, let me find a way to make that work feel really good.

play34:18

And I'd get home from work when I was working in my day job

play34:22

and I would look forward to editing a video.

play34:25

And on days where I didn't look forward to editing a video,

play34:27

I would find a way to make editing the video.

play34:30

I would, the stuff I talk about in the book,

play34:31

like play, power, people,

play34:33

find a way to do it in a slightly different way.

play34:34

Find a way to level up the transition or the animation.

play34:37

So random shit like that I found as a way

play34:39

to make, almost convince myself that editing a video

play34:44

for four hours in the evening was actually more enjoyable

play34:46

than watching Netflix for four hours in the evening.

play34:48

And I would have friends being like,

play34:49

"Look Ali, you know, you're working too hard and shit."

play34:51

And so, I used to be addicted to "World of Warcraft"

play34:53

back in the day. - Yeah.

play34:54

And so I went back into well, got a gaming pc

play34:57

'cause I was like, okay, I can afford it now,

play34:58

bought a gaming PC, played some well.

play35:00

And I'd find myself more drained

play35:01

at the end of a gaming session

play35:03

than I would by the end of an editing session

play35:05

because I found a way to make the process so enjoyable.

play35:08

And from all the research,

play35:09

interviewing a bunch of people and reading a lot

play35:12

in preparation for writing the book,

play35:14

a lot of successful people seem to land

play35:16

at the thing of like,

play35:18

the way to do something consistently

play35:19

is to find a way to make it feel good.

play35:20

- [Mark] Yeah.

play35:21

- And if the thing gives you energy,

play35:22

then you kind of want to do it.

play35:23

You don't just wanna scroll TikTok,

play35:24

which is not a thing that really energizes anyone.

play35:26

- Yeah.

play35:27

So let's talk specifically

play35:29

about what constitutes feeling good.

play35:32

Because my fucked up head

play35:35

as soon as I see "Feel Good Productivity,"

play35:36

I'm like, oh, cocaine.

play35:38

Of course.

play35:39

I'm gonna get a ton done. (laughs)

play35:42

Like where is that line

play35:43

between feeling good about the work you're doing

play35:47

and distraction or indulgence?

play35:49

- I think if the thing is feeling good

play35:52

and moving you in the direction

play35:53

of the work you wanna be doing, then great.

play35:55

If the thing is feeling good

play35:56

and moving you away from the work you wanna be doing,

play35:58

then that's not so good.

play35:59

Or feeling good but moving you away from it

play36:01

in terms of like the rest of your life.

play36:03

- There's like a sustainability aspect.

play36:04

- Yeah, there's absolutely.

play36:05

And so the final three chapters of the book

play36:06

are all about sustainability.

play36:07

Broadly anything that feels good,

play36:09

that moves you towards your goal is a good thing.

play36:12

I am a big believer of small little tweaks.

play36:15

Like Tim Ferriss asked that question,

play36:17

"What would this look like if it were easy?"

play36:19

And I think that's a great question.

play36:20

I ask myself that a lot.

play36:21

I ask myself a slightly different question,

play36:23

what would this look like if it were fun?

play36:25

Like what does a more fun version of a podcast look like?

play36:27

What does a fun version of editing look like?

play36:28

What does a fun version of writing discharge summaries

play36:30

look like when you're a junior doctor?

play36:33

And asking myself that question is like,

play36:34

what does it look like if it were fun?

play36:36

while I'm writing my discharge letter,

play36:37

let me add a few jokes here and there.

play36:39

It's gonna be a real life human reading

play36:41

this letter on the other end.

play36:42

Let me just say something nice about this patient's cat

play36:44

because it's just kinda funny

play36:45

and like, doctors don't do that

play36:46

'cause it's too straight-laced and too boring.

play36:48

It's like, it's gonna make the writing a little bit nicer.

play36:50

Let me use my creativity a bit

play36:52

when writing this patient's like discharge summary.

play36:54

Little tweaks like that move me in the direction

play36:57

that I want to go.

play36:58

I finished this discharge summary

play37:00

but just make the process more fun.

play37:02

So it's not a case of doing cocaine and writing it,

play37:04

it's a case of like adding a few jokes about

play37:06

the fact that this patient has been very disappointed

play37:09

because Chelsea lost the game recently

play37:11

or whatever the thing might be.

play37:12

- Yeah.

play37:13

- It's just like lame, lame dad jokes

play37:14

that make things more fun sometimes.

play37:16

- I feel like a lot of people find that difficult perhaps

play37:20

because they worry about doing something differently.

play37:24

They worry what other people are gonna think.

play37:25

If I comment on somebody's cat on the discharge form,

play37:29

what if they don't like that?

play37:30

What if they complain to my supervisor?

play37:32

What if the other doctors look at me weird?

play37:35

How does that factor into this?

play37:38

- (laughs) Yeah.

play37:38

I think people just overindex way too much on thinking.

play37:42

There's just too much seriousness.

play37:43

(Mark laughs) Way too much seriousness.

play37:46

- Like there's that quote from Alan Watts,

play37:49

"Don't be serious, be sincere."

play37:51

And it's like, the way I think of it

play37:53

is I imagine myself in that position.

play37:55

If I were a GP, general practitioner,

play37:57

reading a discharge summary

play37:58

and someone made a comment about the cat,

play38:00

I'd have a little chocolate,

play38:01

it would make my day because everything else I've read,

play38:03

it's just been boring as fuck.

play38:04

- Yeah.

play38:05

- I used to give this advice to students

play38:06

when you're studying for exams.

play38:07

If you're writing essays,

play38:08

you just wanna imagine the poor examiner.

play38:10

They're having to like, empathy for the examiner.

play38:12

They're having to read 500 of these

play38:13

shitty pieces of writing.

play38:14

- Yeah.

play38:15

- Give them something to chuckle about.

play38:16

They're gonna give you the top grade immediately

play38:17

because you've just made their life a little bit better.

play38:20

You know, you have nice handwriting,

play38:21

maybe you use a little pink highlighter or something

play38:22

just to make it a little bit more pleasant.

play38:24

I think people over index on this way too much.

play38:26

I'm also a strong believer in seeking forgiveness

play38:28

rather than permission.

play38:30

So I started incorporating jokes into my discharge letters

play38:32

and the only comment I ever got was actually

play38:34

a written compliment from a GP

play38:37

who emailed the hospital staffing department being like,

play38:39

can I just say this is the best

play38:40

discharge summary I've ever seen.

play38:41

And that was a commendation on my CV.

play38:44

(Mark laughs)

play38:45

That was sick.

play38:46

But you know, there were times where I also,

play38:48

I made a video and I was a bit too blase about data security

play38:51

and the way that I spoke about patient data and stuff.

play38:53

And so someone complained to the hospital

play38:54

and I was like, ah, okay, let's not do that again.

play38:57

So most things are not,

play38:58

it's not like they're gonna fire me immediately.

play39:00

They're gonna be like, hey man,

play39:01

be a bit less blase about data security.

play39:03

And I'm like, yes, that's a very good point.

play39:04

I should have been less blase about it.

play39:06

So usually these things are not that like life or death-

play39:09

- Yeah. - Or not that like important,

play39:10

but we treat them with such importance.

play39:13

I think also when giving presentations at work,

play39:15

people are boring as fuck when giving presentations at work.

play39:17

But the most effective presentations

play39:18

are the ones that start

play39:19

with a bit of a joke. - Of course.

play39:20

- Take it a bit less seriously.

play39:21

- Of course. - Lightens everything up,

play39:22

gets the energy and the mood going.

play39:24

Whereas when you see someone who's like so timid

play39:26

and so like, I have to be professional,

play39:28

just sucks the joy out of it.

play39:29

- Yeah.

play39:30

- And everyone wants more energy in their life.

play39:31

- It's funny because the classic

play39:33

caring too much what other people think,

play39:35

I think not only does it kill fun,

play39:38

it attacks that issue that we started off with,

play39:41

which is knowing what to optimize for in the first place.

play39:44

I personally interact with a lot of readers

play39:47

and listeners that they feel very lost in life.

play39:50

Like they don't know

play39:51

what they should be pursuing in the first place.

play39:53

And when you really drill down deep,

play39:55

it's because they've spent their entire life

play39:58

trying to please the people around them.

play39:59

You know, it's like mom and dad wanted me to be a lawyer

play40:02

so I went to law school.

play40:03

And then I got a job at this firm

play40:05

and they wanted me to take on these sorts of cases.

play40:07

So I took on these sorts of cases

play40:09

and then I needed to move into a bigger apartment.

play40:12

So I had to work on this team

play40:14

but I don't like the people on the team.

play40:15

And next thing you know, they have an entire life

play40:17

that has been structured around

play40:19

other people's wants and desires.

play40:21

And not only are they not addressing

play40:23

their own wants and desires,

play40:24

so they're out of touch with

play40:26

what they should be optimizing for.

play40:28

They've never actually taken that time to experiment

play40:30

and discover who themselves are

play40:32

so they don't even know what they like.

play40:33

Like they know they don't like being a lawyer

play40:35

but they don't know what they would like otherwise.

play40:38

And so again, it's this really deep intersection

play40:41

between emotions and productivity, optimization,

play40:47

achieving goals, whatever you wanna call it.

play40:50

It's such a cliche thing to say like,

play40:52

oh, stop worrying about what other people think.

play40:54

It's as the years go on,

play40:56

I'm consistently surprised and impressed

play41:00

at how deeply this affects people

play41:02

and kinda fucks everything up for them.

play41:05

- That's so true.

play41:05

Yeah, as you were saying that, I was kinda thinking like,

play41:08

that's definitely the experience

play41:09

that I've seen from other people

play41:11

and I was wondering why

play41:12

I personally didn't have that so much.

play41:14

And I think all of it can be basically traced down

play41:16

to Tim Ferriss, basically. (both laughs)

play41:18

Ever since I discovered the freaking "4-Hour Workweek"

play41:21

and realized the life that's possible,

play41:23

the whole like new rich thing,

play41:24

the whole like, wait a minute.

play41:25

Think about what you actually want from your life

play41:27

rather than following the script

play41:28

and assuming when you retire at 65

play41:30

with osteoarthritis in both of your knees,

play41:32

you'll suddenly be happy

play41:33

sipping cocktails in a beach in Thailand.

play41:35

One, One of the core insights from it,

play41:37

which is not like a highlight,

play41:39

it's not one of the top level highlights

play41:40

that people normally say.

play41:41

It's just the idea of running experiments

play41:43

and testing hypotheses.

play41:44

Like I was just signing up to go to med school for six years

play41:46

and then training for 10 years

play41:47

for the sake of being a consultant when I was 40.

play41:50

And I hadn't really considered that path

play41:52

beyond like two days of work experience

play41:54

and the fact that everyone I knew was a doctor.

play41:56

And so, after reading "The 4-Hour Workweek,"

play41:57

I started asking people

play41:58

who were 10 years ahead of me in their careers,

play41:59

are you happy?

play42:00

What are you up to?

play42:01

Like would you change anything?

play42:03

My favorite question, if you won the lottery,

play42:05

how would you spend your time?

play42:06

- [Mark] Yeah.

play42:07

- Would you still do medicine?

play42:07

And then half of the people would say

play42:08

they would leave immediately.

play42:10

- Wow.

play42:10

- One guy even said he'd leave

play42:11

in the middle of the operation.

play42:12

- Oh my God.

play42:13

(both laughs)

play42:14

Good luck. (laughs)

play42:16

- He was like, yeah, my dream is to coach

play42:17

my son's like football team 'cause he loved football.

play42:20

There this is soccer. - Yeah.

play42:21

- And the other half of the people said

play42:22

they would continue medicine but they'd go part-time.

play42:25

I've never met anyone

play42:26

who enjoys working at hours a week as a doctor.

play42:28

It's just not fun.

play42:29

- Yeah. - I've met people who enjoy

play42:30

working 30 hours a week as a doctor,

play42:31

maybe even 40, but not 80.

play42:32

80, like doing anything for 80 hours a week is just not fun.

play42:35

And I would always ask those people, it's like,

play42:36

okay, well what's stopping you from going part-time?

play42:38

And it would always be money.

play42:39

Well, I've got a mortgage with kids,

play42:40

like bills and all that shit.

play42:41

And so "The 4-Hour Workweek" gave me that language,

play42:44

gave me that like mindset shift to be like, oh fuck,

play42:47

if money is the problem

play42:48

and the people 10 years ahead of me in their career

play42:49

are not having fun,

play42:51

I need a way to make money.

play42:52

- And so, I think that's such a really great takeaway,

play42:56

the find people 10 years ahead of you on your current path

play43:00

and ask them how they feel,

play43:02

what their current problems are,

play43:04

what their regrets are, or what anything they would change.

play43:06

Like it's one of those things that is

play43:08

once you hear it said is so obvious

play43:10

but I've never heard anybody talk about that before.

play43:13

- I think that has, that attitude of experimentation

play43:16

has pervaded every aspect of my life.

play43:18

Like we've got 54 actionable tips in this book,

play43:21

all of them are framed as experiments

play43:22

because it's like the idea is try this experiment,

play43:24

see if it works.

play43:25

Once my YouTube channel has started to make money,

play43:27