9 Lessons from 4 Years on YouTube

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9 Lessons from 4 Years on YouTube

In this article, I wanted to share 9 lessons I’ve learned over the past 4 years of being a YouTuber. Lessons that have not only helped me improve as a YouTuber, but also helped more generally in my life. I’ve been on YouTube for around 4 years, and in that time I’ve made over 350 videos, spent thousands of hours filming/editing, and I’ve even had 118 marriage proposals via email. It’s been a really fun, rewarding, and meaningful journey so far.

It’s a journey that’s also taught me a number of important life lessons.

  1. Haters are surprisingly uncommon
  2. Nobody actually cares
  3. Give people value for free
  4. What’s obvious to you can be amazing to others
  5. Everything is figure out-able
  6. You don’t need to be an expert
  7. The start is painful
  8. Bring others with you
  9. Enjoy the journey

🤬 1. Haters are surprisingly uncommon

When most people think about the idea of starting a YouTube channel, they think “OMG, what about all the hate comments?”. But the thing that I realised pretty quickly is that there are actually very few hate comments overall.

In general, most people are friendly and have good intentions. Sure, you’ll get the odd hate comment occasionally (and it’s kind of funny when you do), but for the most part people are really nice.

And I think this is a good way to live life generally.

A lot of us have this thing where we see others with a little bit of suspicion and think “oh, this person just doesn’t get me” or “this guy is bad”. But actually, if we really think about it, the world is largely a happy and nice place. So although bad things do happen, you shouldn’t let that stop you from trusting people generally.

This is definitely true for me. If I hadn’t made a YouTube channel because I was worried about the hate comments my life would be looking very different right now. And this is the same for every single other YouTuber friend that I have.

🤷‍♂️ 2. Nobody actually cares

Before starting YouTube I was really worried about what my friends and family were going to think. But very quickly, as I started making videos, I realised that no one actually cares.

All those people who I thought were going to criticise me for having a YouTube channel and having the audacity to put myself out there in public said literally nothing to me. They’re all too worried about their own lives to worry about whatever the hell I’m doing.

Outside the YouTube context, there are so many domains in life in which we stop ourselves from doing something because we’re worried about what people will think. Yet, if we just did the thing we’d realise that for the most part, nobody actually cares. Just as you probably don’t care what your friends/family enjoy, they aren’t thinking about you that much either.

So take risks and do things, because you’re the only person that really cares about yourself.

🆓 3. Give people value for free

When you give people value for free, really good things will happen.

The idea of providing unbelievable value for free is sort of what the whole model of YouTube is based around. In fact, some people will spend years on end making videos on YouTube, without making a single penny. Although I was fortunate to start making money relatively early into my YouTube journey, it still took me 6 months and 52 videos to hit 1000 subscribers. And another few months until I could even think about monetising the channel.

In a dream world we’d all get paid for the value we provide. After all, it’s hard work providing free value for months on end with little or no reward. But, to be honest, the people who are desperate to make money from providing value are probably also the people who think “everything on the internet should be free”. In other words, they lack the patience to see the fruits of their labour.

So the life lesson here is that when you give value to people for free, and stay patient, really good things happen. And only then should you worry about the monetisation side of things.

🎩 4. What’s obvious to you can be amazing to others

I first learnt this from my friend Derek Sivers, who wrote this amazing book ‘Hell Yeah or No: what’s worth doing’.

The main insight is that when I make YouTube videos I feel like the stuff I’m talking about is just really obvious. This is what C.S. Lewis calls the curse of knowledge – when we know something we don’t realise that there are some people out there who don’t know the thing.

Often what holds people back from starting a YouTube channel, a blog, a website or a business then is the thought that “my thing is not valuable enough because everyone else already knows it”. But you don’t realise that actually most people don’t know the thing that you know.

So if you just find a way to teach others and provide value about that thing you know (preferably for free), then people will latch onto that because it’s a new and novel idea to them.

🧐 5. Everything is figure out-able

When I started on YouTube four years ago I had no idea what a camera was. Or what things like shutter speed, ISO, or aperture were. I also didn’t know how to edit videos. I just learnt all of that stuff by following free YouTube tutorials and figuring stuff out using Google/Skillshare.

A lot of people would feel pretty overwhelmed in this situation and stop themselves from even starting. But you’ve got to realise that you can learn absolutely anything on the internet. If there’s something you want to learn, just look it up and there’ll be someone to teach you.

This is something that being a YouTuber over the last 4 years has helped me to realise and fully internalise. I’ll now never stop myself from doing something just because I don’t know enough. Instead, I’ll always tell myself “I don’t know how to do this thing yet, but I will figure out”.

👨‍🎓 6. You don’t need to be an expert

Often we hold ourselves back by thinking we have to be experts or be qualified to do something. We tell ourselves that in order for other people to listen to us we have to be a guru.

But what I’ve learned from teaching medical students on YouTube is that often the people who are the best at teaching us are the people who are just one step ahead of us in the journey.

The fellow-pupil can help more than the master because he knows less. The difficulty we want him to explain is one he has recently met. The expert met it so long ago he has forgotten – C.S. Lewis

For example, if I’m listening to a medical tutorial from someone, I find I learn so much better if they’re just one step ahead of me because they’ll better appreciate my level of knowledge as a beginner. They understand that I don’t know that much and won’t overwhelm me with information that is beyond my current understanding. If, on the other hand, I have a lecture from a professor who’s been teaching this stuff for 50 years, the chances are they’ll be a little out of touch. They won’t really know what’s going through my head and what my current struggles are as a beginner.

So I will always try to learn from someone who is a guide rather than a guru.

My advice then is, whatever you’re trying to do, don’t feel like you need to achieve a qualification before you do it. Obviously don’t try to be a brain surgeon without doing the training, but for 99% of things you can dive in and figure stuff out as you go along.

Everything is figure-out-able and you don’t need to be an expert to teach or to talk about the thing that you want to talk about.

If you're interested in getting started on YouTube, you might want to check out my free YouTube crash course. I'll teach you all the basics to get your channel off the ground.

🏁 7. The start is painful

There’s a clip in one of my first vlogs in 2017 where I say that my first 50 videos are going to be terrible. And once I’ve got 50 terrible videos out of the way, I’ll have the necessary skill/knowledge to start making some decent vlogs. In short, quantity leads to quality.

And this advice doesn’t just apply to YouTube. It applies to basically everything that we’re ever going to do. When you start something it’s going to be a bit painful as the learning curve is steep and everything you do is kind of average. But as you do more of that thing, you get better at it without really having to try. You just need to push through that initial pain.

To give you another example, I’ve started trying to learn how to become a concept artist. And my artwork right now is absolutely terrible. It’s really bad. But I know that my first 50, 100, 500 drawings are going to be terrible. It’s the process of doing them and drawing regularly that’s ultimately going to make me improve and help me become a better artist.

🥳 8. Enjoy the journey

Finally, remember to have fun and enjoy the journey.

If there’s one thing that I’ve learned about productivity and success, it’s that these things don’t happen by trying to do more. Instead, it’s about doing more of what matters to us and choosing to have fun along the way.

“Ain’t about how fast I get there
Ain’t about what’s waiting on the other side
It’s the climb”
– Miley Cyrus

This lesson really embodies everything I’ve learned from YouTube over the last 4 years. It really is a journey before the destination.

Again, taking this outside the realm of YouTube, if you’re fixated on the destination you’re probably unlikely to get there, because it’s in the journey where progress happens. And if you’re not enjoying the journey then either a) you won’t actually do it because it’s not enjoyable or b) you’ll get to the destination and realise that this wasn’t what you were looking for.

It sounds a bit hippy, but remember to have fun with whatever you’re doing. It’s the most important thing.


Since I started YouTube 4 years ago I never expected it would teach me so much on a personal level. And I’m sure over the next 4 years there’ll be even more surprising lessons that this journey will teach me.

Hopefully you find some of this stuff useful and it gives you the confidence to do whatever you’ve been thinking of starting. There’s so much you’ll learn along the way.

If you’ve been thinking of starting a YouTube channel (something I’d highly recommend – it’s completely changed my life!), then I’d recommend you check out my YouTube courses. We’ve broken the Part-Time Youtuber Academy into 3 different courses for different levels. In the course, we’ll teach you everything you need to get going or get good on YouTube. And with the Accelerator course, you’ll even get direct access to my team to help you on your journey.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like my Ultimate Guide To YouTube. I take an in-depth look and talk about all the things you need to know to be successful on YouTube.

Ali Abdaal

About The Author

I'm an ex-doctor turned YouTuber, Podcaster, entrepreneur and author. I've been creating YouTube videos for over 7 years and have a following of over 4 million over on my main channel.

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6 months ago

Thank u bro. I have a Yt channel that I started 4 months ago and reading this gives me hope. Let’s f*cking grow!!

Last edited 6 months ago by Ismael