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Obvious to you, amazing to others

Hey friends, This week, I want to share a post written by Derek Sivers. I’d been following Derek onli
Obvious to you, amazing to others
By Ali Abdaal • Issue #75 • View online
Hey friends,
This week, I want to share a post written by Derek Sivers. I’d been following Derek online for several years (in a non-creepy way), and had the privilege of having dinner with him when he visited Cambridge a few months ago. That was my first experience meeting someone I hugely admired and it was really cool :P
Any creator of anything knows this feeling:
You experience someone else’s innovative work. It’s beautiful, brilliant, breath-taking. You’re stunned. Their ideas are unexpected and surprising, but perfect.
You think, “I never would have thought of that. How do they even come up with that? It’s genius!”
Afterwards, you think, “My ideas are so obvious. I’ll never be as inventive as that.”
I get this feeling often. Amazing books, music, movies, or even amazing conversations. I’m in awe at how the creator thinks like that. I’m humbled.
But I continue to do my work. I tell my little tales. I share my point of view. Nothing spectacular. Just my ordinary thoughts.
One day someone emailed me and said, “I never would have thought of that. How did you even come up with that? It’s genius!”
Of course I disagreed and explained why it was nothing special.
But afterwards, I realized something surprisingly profound:
Everybody’s ideas seem obvious to them.
I’ll bet even John Coltrane or Richard Feynman felt that everything they were playing or saying was pretty obvious.
So maybe what’s obvious to me is amazing to someone else?
Hit songwriters often admit that their most successful hit song was one they thought was just stupid, even not worth recording.
We’re clearly bad judges of our own creations. We should just put them out there and let the world decide.
Are you holding back something that seems too obvious to share?
This is a post that I return to several times a year, and every time I read it it resonates on a deeper level than it did before. As I become more ‘established’ as a 'creator’, the fear of this is too obvious increases.
But whenever I read a comment or message from someone saying that a piece of advice has changed their life, it reminds me that what feels obvious to me might well be amazing to someone else.
Have a great week!
Ali
PS: If you liked that post, definitely check out Derek Sivers’ other stuff. Here’s a good place to start.

This week on Not Overthinking
Not Overthinking is the weekly podcast hosted by me and my brother. If you enjoy these emails, you’ll hopefully like that too. You can listen on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Castro (my favourite podcast app) or any other podcast app - just search for ‘Not Overthinking’.
Not Overthinking | 026 - Invisible Shackles & Life Scripts | Episode 26
Stuff I enjoyed this week
1 - Blog Post - This ridiculously short blog post by Seth Godin (The Room Where it Happens) inspired me to organise a board games night.
2 - Podcast - This episode (Life Hacking, A Reexamination) of the Art of Manliness podcast was an interesting look at the history of the ‘life hacking’ self-help movement. It also had lots of snippets of life advice for the stuff that we all love - productivity, motivation etc. Well worth a cheeky listen.
3 - Workout Guide - This ridiculously detailed and well-put-together guide on how to build muscle by Julian Shapiro might well change my life. I’ll report back and let you know how it goes. Also, this guy’s website is #goals.
Kindle Highlight of the Week
We can look at the things and people we value each day with the knowledge that we will most likely lose them at some point, and love them all the more for that. One day your best friend may move away, and you may never see each other again. Loved ones may die or become estranged. Your partner, despite your promises to love each other forever, may one day leave you. In fact, it is inevitable: through death or choice, your closest relationships will end.
From Happy by Derren Brown. Resurfaced with Readwise.
This week's video
My Productivity Desk Setup (2019)
My Productivity Desk Setup (2019)
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Ali Abdaal

Hey friends, I'm Ali, a Cambridge medicine graduate now working as an FY2 junior doctor. I spend most of my spare time making YouTube videos, but every Sunday I send out an email 'newsletter' with some thoughts, life lessons and interesting articles I discover on the internet.

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Ali Abdaal, Cambridge, UK.