Onward Continuity

Lessons from YouTube and The Podcast

Hey friends,

Last week, I erased my podcast Half A Thought. 69 episodes. 18 months. 10+ guests. 2 friends. 1 journey. In fact, writing this makes me feel a tad nostalgic about how wonderful the journey has been; I’d do it all over again. Yet, as I reflect on the slowing down of my YouTube channel, the grand — or rather, uneventful — end of my podcast, and finally, the continuance of this newsletter, I’ve learned a few things about “doing things” I wanted to share.

That said, I’m confident that learning about these things is different from actually learning these things. It’s like reading a book about swimming versus actually swimming. So I’d ask that you only consider these lessons as ‘reference points’ for your own journey in whatever you’re presently doing.

Your own lessons or experiences would be your best guide.

Let’s begin.

Drivers and Direction

Hyper-accelerationism drives the world today. This is because life is finite, which means, time is finite. So, anything that helps us get to X faster, becomes valuable. Faster seems better. But faster is wrong when it comes to big life decisions.

When I started YouTube, I did it for one set of reasons. Along the way, somewhere, those reasons changed. I learned that the pressure of pushing out “one-video-a-week-to-keep-up-with-the-algorithm” can blind one to the real drivers of why one started doing YT in the first place. (I talk a bit about it here.)

Point being, as you progress in life, taking stock at times, helps. It’s useful, once in a while, to check your direction to verify you’re headed in the right place and that you have the fuel + “right” drivers to get you there.

But the sad part is that we end up as victims of hyper-accelerationism even in our own, deeply personal choices. We don’t think things fully through before taking big decisions, partly because it’s hard and partly because we lack self-knowledge.

So, to avoid losing the right direction, take stock of your situation every now and then. Develop a tacit situational awareness of where you’re headed, and why you’re headed where you’re headed. As my podcast comes to a close (and my YouTube channel most likely does as well), I realize what this situational awareness means.

This sounds obvious, but it’s funny how most of us still don’t do this.

Your drivers matter, and so does your direction. It’s best to take time to verify they’re both right for you.

Effortless Essentialism

Greg McKeown has written two incredible books on models for living life: Essentialism and Effortless. I like to bucket his ideas as ‘effortless essentialism’. Essentialism is the idea of doing the right things; Effortless is the idea of making it easier to do them.

Doing things and quitting them has allowed me to trade depth for breadth, quality for quantity. I read this piece Make Classics, Not Content that particularly helped me build up the resolve to quit things and not be subject to the sunk cost fallacy.

Looking back, there definitely were some masterpieces that came out from my videos and podcasts, but those were only flukes, a function of quantity, not a deliberate attempt at quality. Yes, you can argue that the two (quality + quantity) are correlated. But in my view, as long as you know from your past that you’re consistent and that you will follow through with what you say you want to do, quantity does not matter… Just focus on the quality.

Point being, doing things tells you whether you like to believe you do them, whether you think you do them, and whether you actually do them. With a definitive number of content pieces producted, I’m confident that I did do these things, which sets me for doing more things of higher quality in future.

But even as I write this, I realize I need to be intentional about what it is I choose to do in future.

Social Rewards

Increasingly, I’m learning that 65.7% of the things we tend to do are in some way driven by social rewards, and often rewards that are hidden. You may want:

  • A specific kind of job,

  • To live in a specific kind of city,

  • A specific lifestyle,

  • A specific kind of problem to solve,

  • A specific kind of advocacy to have, and this goes on.

Social rewards, social programming, and insidiously-inserted social agendas tend to do backseat-driving without us even realizing.

And that’s totally okay, until it’s not. Which is why mid-life crises, existential crises, and cluelessness are a thing. We don’t know why we do what we do, and by the time we do, it’s too late. So, one thing I’m practicing these days is to specifically ask myself, “If everything I did had equal social and monetary reward, what would I then do?” The answer to that question will allow you to filter what you really want to do, what you really want to avoid, and why you really want to do what you want to do.

I’ll let Paul Graham take it from here:

What you should not do, I think, is worry about the opinion of anyone beyond your friends. You shouldn't worry about prestige. Prestige is the opinion of the rest of the world. When you can ask the opinions of people whose judgement you respect, what does it add to consider the opinions of people you don't even know? [4]

This is easy advice to give. It's hard to follow, especially when you're young. [5] Prestige is like a powerful magnet that warps even your beliefs about what you enjoy. It causes you to work not on what you like, but what you'd like to like.

That's what leads people to try to write novels, for example. They like reading novels. They notice that people who write them win Nobel prizes. What could be more wonderful, they think, than to be a novelist? But liking the idea of being a novelist is not enough; you have to like the actual work of novel-writing if you're going to be good at it; you have to like making up elaborate lies.

Prestige is just fossilized inspiration. If you do anything well enough, you'll make it prestigious. Plenty of things we now consider prestigious were anything but at first. Jazz comes to mind—though almost any established art form would do. So just do what you like, and let prestige take care of itself.

Prestige is especially dangerous to the ambitious. If you want to make ambitious people waste their time on errands, the way to do it is to bait the hook with prestige. That's the recipe for getting people to give talks, write forewords, serve on committees, be department heads, and so on. It might be a good rule simply to avoid any prestigious task. If it didn't suck, they wouldn't have had to make it prestigious.

Until next time,

Abhinav