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Mimetic Traps

Hey friends, Quick thing before we launch into this week's Sunday Snippet - I'm getting an ever-incre
Mimetic Traps
By Ali Abdaal • Issue #129 • View online
Hey friends,
Quick thing before we launch into this week’s Sunday Snippet - I’m getting an ever-increasing number of emails from people wanting to start / grow their YouTube channels and wanting my advice on how to do this efficiently.
If you’re in that camp, I’d love it if you could answer this question -
When it comes to starting / growing your YouTube channel, what’s your single biggest challenge or fear?
I’m trying to get an idea of what the common (and uncommon) struggles are that people are having, so please could you put your answer in this Google Form. It’ll only take a minute of your time and it’ll really help me plan ways to help out with this.
Thanks!!
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Hey friends,
In this week’s episode of Not Overthinking (the weekly podcast hosted by me and my brother), we discussed Mimetic Traps based on a blog post by Brian Timar. It’s an article that everyone (especially university students) should read.
Brian talks about his experience of studying physics, and competing with his peers for exam grades, publications and highly-coveted research positions. He talks about how he sort-of stumbled into physics by accident, but then found himself spinning on the hamster wheel of competition many years later, (a) without a clear reason why he was doing it, and (b) not really enjoying the process either.
I’ve long heard similar things from (some) medical students and doctor colleagues. The feeling of having fallen into a career without being fully informed about what it’s actually like. And then once you’re in it, the feeling of continuing on the yellow-brick-road laid out in front of you.
At each step, the next rung of the ladder’s just around the corner, so you don’t think too hard about it. You apply for that next training position because everyone around you is doing the same thing.
One consultant (ie: fully trained doctor) I spoke to a few months ago put it this way:
You keep on following the path, and before you know it, you’re a consultant in your 40s and you look back and think ‘I’ve given the best years of my life to this profession and if I had my time again, I’m not sure I’d do the same’. But the problem is that Medicine is all you know, so you feel like you can’t really do anything else.
I’m not writing this to bash Medicine as a profession - it’s great and rewarding and fun etc etc.
But whatever we’re doing, it’s worth asking ourselves 'what game are we trying to play here?’ and 'what are the victory conditions of this game?’ And our answers to this will change over time, so it’s always worth reconsidering victory conditions (as I wrote about in December 2019).
Brian found himself falling into the mimetic trap because he didn’t stop to think 'why does this matter?’ or 'what’s the point of this thing I’m doing?’
This is something I’m trying to keep in mind as I go through life. It’s way too easy to get sucked into the trap of competing with our peers for whatever proxy-for-social-status our particular field values.
I’m instead trying to take a more zoomed-out, peronsal-preference-based approach. Who do I want to be? What do I want my life to look like? And who do I want to serve?
Hopefully that’ll lead to a more authentic and fulfilling way of approaching life / career / everything.
Have a great week!
Ali

My Favourite Things This Week
1 - Article - In preparation for my Deep Dive with Ryan Holiday, I binged some of his blog posts. There was one in particular that I loved - How does it feel to get everything you wanted? It touches on a lot of the topics I care about - meaning, fulfillment, and enjoying the journey over the destination.
2 - Podcast - I’ve been re-listening to this episode of the Knowledge Project featuring Naval Ravikant. Lots of people I know say it’s the single best podcast episode they’ve ever heard. Lots of interesting lessons to take from it, and if you’re not familiar with Naval’s general spiel, it’s pretty mind-blowing stuff.
Quote of the Week
All creativity is inspired by other people’s ideas. The faster you embrace that, the more successful you can be as a creative.
From Intellectual Phase Transitions (article) by David Perell. Resurfaced using Readwise.
Tweet of the Week
Ali Abdaal
played playstation from 8pm-1:30am last night thinking 'you deserve this 🥰' and 'its okay to take a break sometimes'. now my back is absolutely wrecked from sitting on the sofa for that long - is this what old age feels like?
This Week's Videos
How to Invest for Beginners (2020)
How to Invest for Beginners (2020)
How I Remember Everything I Read
How I Remember Everything I Read
Did you enjoy this issue?
Ali Abdaal

I’m Ali, a junior doctor, YouTuber and podcaster from Cambridge, UK. Every Sunday I write an email newsletter with some thoughts, life lessons and interesting articles I discovered on the internet that week.

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Ali Abdaal, Cambridge, UK.