As we were away this week, this episode is an interview that Ali recorded with Noah Kagan as part of his Deep Dive series on YouTube. Noah is an entrepreneur, YouTuber, blogger and podcaster as well as being one of the first employees at Facebook. In this long-form interview, we talk about a variety of things including moving on from disappointment, finding satisfaction, productivity, goals and much more.

Here are some of the highlights from our discussion:

College is the best time to start a business because you have the time - there is no downside. When we have to less to lose we should be bold with our actions and business ideas. At college, Noah started a number of different endeavours - most of them failed but you learn from these mistakes. As we get older, we become less bold and get scared of losing money.

Whilst at school we should try to think of life as a buffet and try as many things as we can. We should take advantage of the free time that we have – so take up skills because skills compound on themselves over time.

The key is to JUST GET STARTED. It’s easy to spend time thinking and reading but you’ll learn the most from just getting started.

“If you can find something and stick at it for 10 years, you will achieve your goal”.

You have to hit rock bottom before you can start coming up. Noah explains how his whole identity was tied up with Facebook and hence getting fired presented a challenge not just to his job but his whole life. But to deal with disappointment and these low moments Noah recommends:

  • Get your confidence back up and feel self-worth. For example, make your bed. Why? Because you can control it. You can also control your health.
  • Go help one person – reach out and help someone for free. Once you start teaching or helping someone with something, you start to realise that you are worthy which again helps to build confidence.
  • Look At Your Network. You probably have at least 500 friends / acquaintances and within that network someone can either help you or knows someone who might be able to help you. So look within your network and start asking for help.
  • Start Building Relationships and An Audience. Noah started blogging and sending a newsletter 20 years ago – so his advice is to try to start this as early as possible – start building up your brand and your audience because no-one can take that away from you.

It’s much easier to garden than to hunt. It takes time to build a garden: you need to work and tend to it but it will produce food every year. But most of us just go out and hunt – hoping that we’ll find something straight away but there is never any guarantee. The key is to start planting your seeds now for things that you can enjoy later.

When you start following your gut and your heart, you can overcome that feeling of thinking that you are falling behind. Listen to what you have been doing – look back at what you did as a kid that you really enjoyed and look at what you’ve been doing in your spare time for free – concentrate on those things, follow your heart and the feeling of falling behind will dissipate.

Jealously is a compass for what you want or don’t want in life. It’s not about whether you are behind or not when you compare yourself to others – it’s about giving you clarity about what you want or where you want to be.

Lists of fulfilment can help you start your mornings strong as well as provide you with a sense of gratitude and satisfaction. This simple journaling practice can have significant mental and emotional benefits which will then spill over into positively affecting other aspects of your life.

“To live an interesting life, you just have to do interesting things”

We often apologise to the world for things that seem to go against what is seen to be normal or standard. If we didn’t have to apologise for anything we did (within the law, clearly) and we could really just follow our heart, what would we want to do?

“I don’t believe in happiness, I believe in fulfilment. I believe in control. Fulfilment is not easy – happiness can be easy and can be fleeting. Fulfilment is challenging. That’s the part of life we need to think about – what fulfils us?”

To help achieve satisfaction and fulfilment, we need to optimise the 80%. This means identifying where we are spending our time (or where do we want to be spending our time) and invest money and time in those things.

How do we find out what we are good/talented at?

  • Look at what you’re doing in your free time - whatever you are gravitating towards, there is something unique there.
  • Ask someone you respect what they think your unique talent is – they’ll probably tell you something that you may not have even considered.
  • Try out things that you don’t like.
  • Text and help one person. If you help one person, it not only makes you more confident, but it also makes you consider, what would you help someone with which is probably your unique skill that you have an advantage in.

By thinking about what we would work on for free, we can more easily identify our passions and move into those areas. That way, whether you get paid a lot or a little, you'll still be energised to show up and continue doing it.

There is a big difference between efficiency and effectiveness. We can become more productive at various different aspects of our life but we need to make sure these are the right sort of things that chime with our values and direction. A person paddling a canoe really fast up the wrong stream may be efficient but it’s not effective because they are going in the wrong direction.

There are three systems to setting goals:

  • Objective oriented (e.g a revenue goal)
  • Progress goals (e.g what direction are you heading)
  • System goal (e.g going to the gym three times a week but no specific target).

"It's easy to get what you want, it's hard to know what you want. Put the other way around – it’s hard to know what you want, but it’s really easy to get it when you know it”.

Think about whether our actions are intentional or accidental. Apps are optimised to waste our time – their algorithms are optimised to make money by hooking and holding our attention. We have to defend ourselves and follow things that are inspirational and things that are adding rather than taking away from our lives.


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What is this? Not Overthinking is a podcast about happiness, creativity, and the human condition. We talk about things to help us think, do, and be better. Things like social interaction, lifestyle design, mental models...things that are hard to examine, but important to explore. And hopefully, things that make for a fun and interesting chat every week.

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Ali is a junior doctor and YouTuber working in Cambridge, UK. He makes videos about medicine, technology, productivity and lifestyle design. His links: YouTube, Blog, Newsletter, Instagram

Taimur is a data scientist and writer, working on his own startup Causal. He writes on his blog and as a columnist for Medium. His links: Blog, Twitter, Medium, Instagram