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Obvious to you, amazing to others

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

This week, I want to share a post written by Derek Sivers. I’d been following Derek online for several years (in a non-creepy way), and had the privilege of having dinner with him when he visited Cambridge a few months ago. That was my first experience meeting someone I hugely admired and it was really cool :P

Any creator of anything knows this feeling:
You experience someone else’s innovative work. It’s beautiful, brilliant, breath-taking. You’re stunned. Their ideas are unexpected and surprising, but perfect.
You think, “I never would have thought of that. How do they even come up with that? It’s genius!”
Afterwards, you think, “My ideas are so obvious. I’ll never be as inventive as that.”
I get this feeling often. Amazing books, music, movies, or even amazing conversations. I’m in awe at how the creator thinks like that. I’m humbled.
But I continue to do my work. I tell my little tales. I share my point of view. Nothing spectacular. Just my ordinary thoughts.
One day someone emailed me and said, “I never would have thought of that. How did you even come up with that? It’s genius!”
Of course I disagreed and explained why it was nothing special.
But afterwards, I realized something surprisingly profound:
Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them.
I’ll bet even John Coltrane or Richard Feynman felt that everything they were playing or saying was pretty obvious.
So maybe what’s obvious to me is amazing to someone else?
Hit songwriters often admit that their most successful hit song was one they thought was just stupid, even not worth recording.
We’re clearly bad judges of our own creations. We should just put them out there and let the world decide.
Are you holding back something that seems too obvious to share?

This is a post that I return to several times a year, and every time I read it it resonates on a deeper level than it did before. As I become more ‘established’ as a 'creator’, the fear of this is too obvious increases.

But whenever I read a comment or message from someone saying that a piece of advice has changed their life, it reminds me that what feels obvious to me might well be amazing to someone else.

PS: If you liked that post, definitely check out Derek Sivers’ other stuff. Here’s a good place to start.

LifePersonal Knowledge Management

Ali Abdaal

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