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Deep Dive #1 - Noah Kagan on Careers Advice, Books and Productivity

In my first Deep Dive conversation, I talked to Noah Kagan who has gone from being employee #30 at Facebook to now owning the Sumo Group of apps, and works to help entrepreneurs start, market and grow their business.

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

In my first Deep Dive conversation, I talked to Noah Kagan who has gone from being employee #30 at Facebook to now owning the Sumo Group of apps, and works to help entrepreneurs start, market and grow their business. He shared insights on how he moved on from disappointment, how to find our passion and how we should all adopt a ‘No Apologies’ approach to ventures that we start out on.

Here are some of the highlights from our conversation:

The key to anything is JUST GET STARTED. It’s easy to spend time thinking and reading but you’ll learn the most from just getting started.

College is the best time to start a business because you have the time. You have the time to learn, to make mistakes, to recover and try again – all this with minimal downsides. As we get older, we become less bold and we get scared of losing money which robs us of our youthful exuberance and confidence. The trick, therefore, is to start young when you can think of life as a buffet and try as many things as you can.

It’s much easier to garden than to hunt. It takes time to build a garden: you need to work and tend to it but it’s more sustainable and it will produce food every year. But most of us eschew this option in favour of just going out to hunt hoping that we’ll find something straight away. But this is foolish because there is never any guarantee. The key, therefore, is to start planting your seeds now so that you can reap the reliable benefits later.

Jealously is a compass for something that you either want or don’t want in life. It’s not about feeling behind and getting depressed because of how you have compared yourself to others, it’s about using that feeling to work out where you want to be.

When you start following your gut and your heart, you can overcome that feeling of thinking that you are falling behind. Listen to what you have been doing – look back at what you did as a kid that you really enjoyed and look at what you’ve been doing in your spare time for free – concentrate on those things and follow your heart.

Moving on from disappointment requires starting with the smallest acts that can help build back your confidence and self-worth. This begins with the smallest actions like making your bed every morning but can also involve helping other people. These acts enable us to gain greater control over our lives as well as positively contribute towards our self-worth.

Optimise the 80% in terms of satisfaction and fulfilment. Identify where you are spending your time and where you want to spend your time – it’s probably valuable to invest money and time in those things rather than worrying about what others are doing or what you think you should be doing.

In fact, we should adopt a ‘No Apologies’ approach to ventures that we set out on. We often apologise to the world when we adopt an approach that is seen to go against what is expected. But Noah discusses how if we didn’t have to apologise for anything we did (within the law, clearly) and we could really just follow our heart, we would all more likely fall into professions and industries that aligned with our interests and our goals.

There are three systems for setting goals and each of them can work. There are object-oriented goals related to objectives and metrics; there are progress goals where we ask ourselves is it progressing? With these goals, the direction matters more than a particular target; finally we have system goals where there no expectation on progression but the goal is to establish a routine for instance, going to the gym three times a week.

"It's easy to get what you want, it's hard to know what you want. Put the other way around – it’s hard to know what you want, but it’s really easy to get it when you know it”.
Deep Dive

Ali Abdaal

Junior doctor, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.