The Hedonic Treadmill


Hey friends,

I’ve realised that the bar for how ‘good’ my YouTube videos should be has been steadily creeping up. The more people I hire, the better I expect the videos to be: higher production value, better scripts, more views.

But the improvements never feel like quite enough. I think there are two main reasons why I feel like this.

🥱 1. Stifled Creativity

With a big team, the video-making process takes a while (market research, script-writing, feedback, filming logistics). And we tend to focus on ‘safe’ videos like 10 Books I’d Recommend for Teenagers to get a reliable number of views.

But that long production process + focus on *what people want* can kill the creative spark. Things don’t feel fresh and dynamic like they did when I was just filming a one-man show from my Cambridge bedroom.

So I’ve realised I need to lower the bar.

My team can still handle ‘proper videos’ with full scripts and high production value. But I’ll do more impulsive vlog-style videos by myself, to get the creative juices flowing.

And instead of asking “does this video provide insane value to all 3M of my subscribers?”, I’ll ask “will this video be useful to just one person?” If the answer is yes, and I like the idea, I’ll film it.

🏃 2. The Hedonic Treadmill

I think I’m also on a hedonic treadmill.

On the hedonic treadmill, the faster you run (hiring more people, spending more money), the more the treadmill speeds up (meaning your expectations rise more and more). Running faster unavoidably leads to higher expectations. So even though you invest money and effort, you stay stuck at your usual level of happiness.

And I might have fallen into this trap. I feel like hiring more team members and spending more money should = much better videos, which hasn’t actually happened. But looking at it another way, hiring a team has been really successful. Because at this point a million things in the business run smoothly without much involvement from me: podcast logistics, marketing, the daily vlog, managing the Part-Time YouTuber Academy, course writing, and research-heavy scripts.

My 20-year-old self wouldn’t see any problem here.

I have time to write my book, make whatever videos I want, and have a nice lifestyle. This type of realisation – that things are actually pretty great – is the best way to get off the hedonic treadmill, because it builds your capacity for happiness.

One of my favourite quotes about happiness is from Kurt Vonnegut. Here’s the full version:

My Uncle Alex, who is up in Heaven now, one of the things he found objectionable about human beings was that they so rarely noticed it when times were sweet. We could be drinking lemonade in the shade of an apple tree in the summertime, and Uncle Alex would interrupt the conversation to say, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”

So I hope that you will do the same for the rest of your lives. When things are going sweetly and peacefully, please pause a moment, and then say out loud, “If this isn’t nice, what is?”.

Have a great week!

Ali xx

⏳ 80,000 Hours – Find a High-Impact Career

Did you know you’ll have, on average, 80,000 hours in your career? That’s almost half your waking life.

So choosing a career is a massive deal, and probably your biggest chance to make a positive difference in the world. If you want to have a big, positive impact with your work but aren’t sure where to begin, then my friends at 80,000 Hours can help.

They’re a nonprofit dedicated to helping you find a fulfilling and impactful career, and they’ve spent the last 10 years doing research alongside academics at Oxford University to figure out exactly which careers have the biggest and best impact on the world.

Everything they provide is totally free, and incredibly well researched, like this amazing article about how imposter syndrome can hold you back from achieving your goals, or this one collecting evidence-based advice on how to be successful.

They also have their own podcast with super in-depth expert interviews (eg with Cal NewportVitalik ButerinCass Sunstein), a job board, and a newsletter. And if you like, they’ll send you their in-depth career guide for free. It’s definitely worth a read, take a look here.

Thanks to 80,000 Hours for sponsoring this issue of Sunday Snippets 🙏

♥️ My Favourite Things

📝 Article – The many problems with being a long-term lone vagabond without a base, by Benny Lewis. Great article about what it’s really like to be a digital nomad, including “having the same conversations over and over again”, “the sometimes uphill battle to make deep friendships”, and only owning 23kg (50lbs) of stuff.

🖥️ Tech – Insta360 GO 2. A tiny action cam (like a GoPro) that magnetically sticks to a necklace under my shirt. Should be game-changing for the daily vlog.

⚙️ Coffee Grinder – Fellow Ode. My YouTube colleague and coffee nerd extraordinaire James Hoffmann gave me some fancy coffee kit this week, including this £300 coffee grinder. So now my flat smells like fresh coffee every morning. The magnetically-attaching cup at the bottom is pretty neat.

☕ Coffee Maker – Clever Coffee Dripper. This is the black cone-like thing above, another present from James. Apparently it’s the ultimate low-effort coffee maker. Put in a filter to hold your ground coffee, pour over boiling water, and let it brew for a few minutes. Put the brewer on top of your mug, and it automatically decants the coffee.

✍️ Quote of the Week

It’s difficult to say “what I do for a living.” I usually just pick one thing or lie. The honest answer is that I don’t do [something]. I’m just me. I don’t have to fit ‘all of that in.’ It comes out. My work is an expression of being alive. And that feels very good.

From I Work All The Time – And That’s a Good Thing by Ryan Holiday. Resurfaced using Readwise.

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