What would you do if money were no object?
What would you like to do if money were no object?
This is a question I’ve been pondering a lot over the past week. It was prompted by this video where the philosopher Alan Watts poses the question.
What do you desire? What makes you itch? What sort of a situation would you like? Let’s suppose, I do this often in vocational guidance of students, they come to me and say, well, “we’re getting out of college and we have the faintest idea what we want to do”. So I always ask the question, “what would you like to do if money were no object? How would you really enjoy spending your life?” … When we finally got down to something, which the individual says he really wants to do, I will say to him, you do that and forget the money, because, if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is to go on doing things you don’t like doing, which is stupid…
This is basically the question that first prompted me to reconsider whether Medicine was the career I truly wanted. In case you haven’t heard this story – back when I was a medical student, and later when I worked as a doctor, I would ask my seniors: “If you won the lottery, would you still continue to practice Medicine?” Half of them would say “Absolutely not”. The other half would say “Yeah, I’d still do it because I enjoy it and it’s fulfilling, but I’d do it part-time”. My follow-up question to the second group would be “What’s stopping you from going part-time now?” And the answer, perhaps unsurprisingly, would be some variation of “I need the money”.
Seeing this pattern play out for basically everyone I asked the question to, made me realise that I didn’t want to be in the position where the reason I was doing something was for the money. My goal was to build a business on the side, a business that made money on autopilot (“passive income”) so that if I continued with Medicine, I wouldn’t be doing it for the money. I’d be doing it because I genuinely loved it.
Fast forward many years, and my YouTube channel and business had grown to the point that I didn’t ‘need’ Medicine to make money anymore. So, in 2021, I decided to take a break from Medicine to focus full-time on the business.
And since then, things have been pretty great – the business has grown, the YouTube channel’s thriving, and I’m on the verge of releasing my first book Feel-Good Productivity being published with Penguin and MacMillan (you can preorder it here if you haven’t yet 😉)
But… if money were no object, is this what I’d really be doing? Is running this business actually how I’d choose to spend my time? What if I were to ask myself the lottery question that I used to ask my fellow medics all those years ago – if I won the lottery, would I continue to be a writer, entrepreneur and YouTuber?
That’s the question that I’ve been pondering a lot this week. And my answer has surprised me.
See, if I won the lottery today, and suddenly money were no object, I’d definitely continue being a writer, entrepreneur and YouTuber because it’s really fun. But I’d make videos, do podcasts and write stuff on my own terms. And I’d definitely reduce the frequency of uploads.
In other words, I’d go part-time.
Wait a minute. What?!
My answer to this question is the same as the second group of medics who’d answer the lottery question – they’d continue with Medicine because it’s fun and fulfilling, but they’d do it part-time, because doing it full-time takes quite the toll.
And for those medics, when I’d ask them “What’s stopping you from going part-time now?”, their answer would be “I need the money”.
So let’s ask myself the follow-up question: “What’s stopping you, Ali, from going part-time on your business / YouTube channel?”
My answer – money.
Money? Is that really what’s stopping me from going part-time on my business?
I thought about it more and realised that was it. Whenever I have an existential crisis about my YouTube channel and/or business, I do a bunch of journaling, and land on the conclusion: “I should just make videos when I feel like it, and not care about upload schedules and sponsor deadlines”.
But then, inevitably, within a few weeks, I start to hear the siren’s call of more money, and my resolve wavers. I think “oh but this is a really cool sponsor to work with” and “I don’t mind deadlines on videos, it’s good to have deadlines to motivate myself to actually make the videos”, and so on. And then before I know it, I’m back on the proverbial hamster-wheel of content creation.
But I’ve never before quite realised that it’s fundamentally just down to money. If I were okay with leaving money on the table, I’d definitely go more part-time with my channel and my business. I’d only film videos when I felt energised to do so, about topics that I thought were interesting, rather than on topics that would be likely to perform well. I wouldn’t hold myself to an upload schedule. Yes, the channel would grow slower. And yes, we’d make less money from ads and sponsors. But I’d have a healthier, happier, more balanced life. Is that trade-off worth it?
Honestly, I think it depends on what stage of life you’re at. Back in the day when I was earning $15/h working in Medicine 50 hours a week, I held myself to a higher standard of hustle with the side hustle. I knew that my YouTube channel and business were my ticket to financial freedom and autonomy, and knew that it would take some level of “hustle” to get there. Granted, I tried my best to make it enjoyable and energising (the whole philosophy of Feel-Good Productivity), but I was definitely working two jobs to build the financial base that ultimately helped me quit the day job and “do what I love”. If I’d been precious about wanting a great work-life balance, I probably wouldn’t have worked hard enough to get to where I a now.
But there comes a point where what got you there ain’t going to get you there. Or put another way, every virtue if taken to excess becomes a vice. Or put another way, a given strategy is relevant only for a given goal in a given season of life.
I’ve realised recently that the “work hard” and “make more money” scripts that helped me build my business are no longer serving my mission of living a balanced, fulfilling life. At a certain point, more work and more money stops buying the freedom that it once did. And that’s when the strategy needs to change.
I’m not yet entirely sure what the implications of this recent realisation are, but it’s something I’m going to try and figure out over the next couple of weeks. I’ll keep y’all updated about the thought process 🙂
In the meantime, I’d love to hear from you – what would you do like to do if money were no object?
Have a great week!
PS: If anyone has any insight on this dilemma of “mo money mo problems” please do reply to this email with any advice / links you’ve found helpful 🙂
PPS: One entrepreneur I know who seems to have nailed making loads of money while also having a balanced family life is my friend and mentor Daniel Priestley. If you’re interested, he’s hosting a free 60-minute masterclass on getting more clients on Friday 20th October. Dan is a best-selling author, founder of multiple 7- and 8- figure businesses, and his two appearances on my Deep Dive podcast are our 2nd and 3rd most popular episodes of all time – so this talk is going to be an absolute goldmine of knowledge for anyone who wants to start or grow their business. Sign up here.
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❤️ My Favourite Things this Week
- Book – In light of this recent insight about my unhealthy relationship with money, I decided to re-read Die with Zero by Bill Perkins. Again, reinforced for me that the goal is to optimise for life fulfilment, not to optimise for money-in-the-bank. Helpful reminders with some great frameworks and exercises for working on the life fulfilment piece.
- Blog – I’ve been on a recent binge of The Marginalian (formerly Brain Pickings), a fantastic blog by Maria Popova. I’ve been reading the blog on-and-off for years since I discovered her through Tim Ferriss, but this week in particular, I binged a bunch of articles all around finding meaning and purpose in your work. If you fancy going on a binge of her essays, here’s a good starting point: How to Avoid Work: A 1949 Guide to Doing What You Love.
- Blog Post – Very relatedly to the subject of this newsletter, I enjoyed this blog post by Sam Crawford. He discusses the Alan Watts video and offers a bunch of journaling prompts / questions related to the main one of “What would you do if money were no object?” As you guys know, I love journaling prompts, and the ones in this blog post gave me some solid clarity on what I want from life.
🎬 My New Videos
🎬 9 Things I Wish I Knew When I Started YouTube – I love talking about youtube, and I love sharing what I’ve learned about growing on this platform. Here are 9 things I wish I knew when I started.
🎬 How to Make $10,000/Month Writing Online – Nicolas Cole is one of the most highly paid online writers, and I recently read his book and spoke to him on my podcast. Here’s everything you need to know from him about how to make money writing online.
✍️ Quote of the Week
“The wide world is all about you: you can fence yourselves in, but you cannot for ever fence it out.”