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Why everything is super low risk

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

Hey friends,

This week, I was listening to an episode of Gary Vaynerchuk’s podcast, in which he was interviewing Tim Ferriss. They were answering phone calls from listeners, many of whom were interesting in starting or growing their own businesses. A common thread in questions was the concern about the ‘risky’ aspect of starting a business. What if it fails? What if it isn’t profitable? What if you lose money in the process?

A common thread in Gary and Tim’s responses was that if we take a broad enough view, most things are far lower risk than we would think. Sure, our startup or website or app might ‘fail’, but even if it does, we’ll have learnt so much from building it that the experience will be net positive. We might have taught ourselves to code, we might have met new people and expanded our network, we might have gained some skills in how to sell stuff.

Tim Ferriss’ podcast is one of the most ‘successful’ in the world, with over 200 million downloads, and he’s able to charge tens of thousands of dollars of sponsorship fees for each episode. He started it out by committing to doing 5 episodes, and his thinking was ‘at the very least, even if this podcast ends up failing, I’ll still have improved my interviewing skills and I’ll have learnt how to record and produce audio content’.

When I started my YouTube channel, I knew that even if it should ‘fail’ (however we choose to define that), I’ll still have had fun learning how to make videos, I’ll have improved my confidence on camera (which would hopefully bleed into real life) and at the very least, it’ll create some memories that would be cool to look back on. There was literally no downside to starting the channel, and it’s been the single most rewarding thing I’ve ever done in my life.

I like the phrase “at the very least”. It encourages us to actively think about capping the downside, ensuring that every new thing we try will help us level-up our characters even if it fails by more traditional metrics.

Have a great week!

Ali


This week's podcast episode

Not Overthinking | 007 - How should we take advice? | Episode 7

We all love getting advice from our audience, our mentors, our seniors, our listeners. In this episode, we discuss some of the feedback we've got about the podcast so far and wonder to what extent we should change things up based on advice. We then generalise this to general life - how should we take advice effectively without over-correcting our internal models based on individual pieces of advice?

Stuff I enjoyed this week

1 - Article - The Battle for my Life (Emilia Clarke) - Seems like everyone on the internet has read this already, but if you haven't it's very interesting. Emilia Clarke (who plays Dani in Game of Thrones of course) writes about her experience of two life-threatening brain bleeds (subarachnoid haemorrhages). It's interesting from a medical angle, but more so from a human one.

2 - Article - How to illustrate when you can't draw to save your life - Illustration is an aspect of design that I've (so far) completely neglected and yet envied from afar. Being able to illustrate completely changes the game in terms of web/app design and branding. This article by Amy Devereux is a quick introduction that shows 'it's not that hard'.

3 - Podcast - I loved the IndieHackers interview with Laura Roeder (from 2017), who made an app called MeedEdgar which at the time was doing $4m/year in revenue. There was a tonne of actionable advice, I found myself pausing the podcast every few minutes to think about how I could apply the various bits of wisdom she imparted.

Kindle Highlight of the Week

When people injure you, ask yourself what good or harm they thought would come of it. If you understand that, you’ll feel sympathy rather than outrage or anger. Your sense of good and evil may be the same as theirs, or near it, in which case you’ll have to excuse them. Or your sense of good and evil may differ from theirs. In which case they’re misguided and deserve your compassion. Is that so hard?

From Happy by Derren Brown.

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Ali Abdaal

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