/ Life Advice

The secret to success

The secret to success is to pick something, and work on it for 10 years.

I came across this quote in a Y Combinator interview with Courtland Allen, who made an amazing website/community called Indie Hackers. I think he attributed the quote to ‘some guy on Twitter’, and that’s where the trail ends.

As soon as he said that out loud in the interview, I felt my world shatter metaphorically at its implications. The secret to success is to just pick something, and work on it for 10 years. That’s just incredible. It can apply to businesses, hobbies, musical instruments, YouTube channels - pretty much anything can be ‘successful’ if you work at it for long enough.

I found myself thinking of this quote in the context of my fledgling YouTube career. I started making videos on YouTube properly in July 2017. The YouTubers who I look up to (Kurt Schneider, Alex Goot, a lot of others in the musical scene) started their channels pre-2010, and have been working on them ever since (8+ years). Their secret to their success was to pick an idea, and work on it for an extended period of time, pumping out content and steadily improving their skills.

I’m tentatively hoping that I can do the same with my channel. Of course, the best time to start a channel was 2010, but the second-best time is now. And now that I’ve started, and enjoy it, as long as I keep at it (and hopefully keep enjoying it), it’ll be hard, in a way, for it not to be ‘successful’.

I think its also useful to think about what ‘success’ actually means. To me, at this moment, ‘success’ means something like 'you enjoy what you’re doing, you’re doing a good job, you’re sharing it with others, and maybe you’re making a bit of money from it’.

I suppose also, there’s very little point in attaining ‘success’ if that doesn’t lead to ‘happiness’. So maybe our definition of success should include ‘and you’re happy doing it’.

Reminds me of a question that Tim Ferriss often asks in his podcasts - “When you think of the word successful, who’s the first person who comes to mind?”. One of the guests said ‘it depends on what that person’s goal was / whether they’re happy. Everyone thinks of Richard Branson as being successful, but if he’s miserable in his life, is that really success?’

Anyway, back to the topic of this blog post - “the secret to success is to pick something and work on it for 10 years”. I love this, and I’m going to remind myself of it whenever I feel like my channel is growing fast enough, or my business isn’t making as much money as it used to, or I feel my guitar/piano skills are underdeveloped, or my medical knowledge is lacking.

All it takes is patience - to slowly improve over time and keep at it. Hopefully while having fun along the way.

Ali Abdaal

6th year medic, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.

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