Ali Abdaal on Identity, Prestige, Quitting Medicine | The Pathless Path Podcast

Ali Abdaal is a YouTuber and a former doctor. But in this conversation, he was still grappling with whether or not he should take the lead to be a full-time entrepreneur. He shared how he grappled with his identity, the challenges of veering off the course of traditional metrics of success, enjoying the journey, and the challenges he faced in his year away from medicine. We explored questions like:

  • What would his mom think if he left medicine?
  • Why is he so attached to prestige metrics?
  • What does it feel like to know you want medicine to be a “side” thing?
  • Now that money isn’t the biggest issue, how does he decide what to do?

Podcast Links: Choose Your Player

What We Talked About

  1. Transition from Medicine to YouTube: He talks about his initial apprehensions and the strange feeling of introducing himself as a YouTuber along with being a doctor. He also mentions his experiments and secret projects that he undertook before making the transition.
  2. Thoughts on Leaving Medicine: He discusses the potential impact of his decision on his family and how it might affect their perception of him. “Do I really want to become that guy who leaves medicine where there’s a shortage of doctors during a global pandemic to become an influencer making videos on the internet?” was a question he thought about when thinking of making the career transition.
  3. Future Plans: Ali shares his future plans of possibly working part-time as a doctor while also creating content online. He talks about wanting a portfolio career that isn’t solely focused on being a full-time creator.
  4. Impact of Prestige: Ali acknowledges the societal prestige associated with being a doctor and how it initially influenced his career path. However, he later realized that personal satisfaction and impact were more important to him.
  5. Productivity and Creativity: Ali and Paul discuss the relationship between productivity and creativity in the context of online content creation. Ali shares his approach to productivity, which is more about personal output rather than the rewards or recognition associated with it.

Quotes From The Episode

What would you do if money didn’t matter and you couldn’t share it?

In terms of figuring out what the hell to do with my life what do I want written on my gravestone? And whenever I think of that, I always land at some combination of a good father, a husband, and an inspirational teacher. And if I think back, a lot of the most meaningful moments in my life have been when I was teaching. And so I’d want to find a way of doing that. And so when you asked that question about if you didn’t have to worry about money, and you couldn’t tell anyone my immediate thought went to, I would, I would be a writer, but I would publish under a pseudonym or anonymously or something. So I can still have that thing of being a teacher, an anonymous Twitter account or an anonymous blog, an anonymous author without it being tied to me because that would feel really, really satisfying.

Ali on his identity as a junior doctor (01:30)

In my head, the image is I’m a junior doctor. I don’t know anything. I’ve only been doing it for two years. Please don’t come to me with medical questions because I’m a junior doctor.

Ali’s playful description of his profession (02:00)

If someone asks me what do you do, I kind of make it into a joke but, ‘Oh, I just make videos on the internet’ rather than ‘I’m a YouTuber’.

Ali’s question to fellow doctors (04:01)

Anytime I become friends with a doctor, I like to ask the question that if you won the lottery, would you still do medicine for fun?

Ali’s perspective on balancing medicine and tech (04:50)

I’ll do a doctor, I’ll be a doctor because it’ll be fun, and then I’ll keep the tech stuff going on the side because then maybe I can do some kind of medical startup or whatever.

Ali’s earliest experiment (10:00)

The earliest experiment was when I was 11 years old… we wanted to create this thing called the UIA, the United Intelligence Agency… the first project for the UIA was the UIA Academy, which was going to be an online forum.

Ali on envisioning the future 48:31:

I can’t have a hard time envisioning the future because I’m very happy with how things are today.

Ali on the ideal day 49:41:

I woke up, I had a Zoom call with someone, recorded a podcast, did some writing, hung out with my wife, cooked a meal, and watched the sunset together.

Ali on aspirations 51:01:

The kind of next level for me is to write this really good book, hit the New York Times bestseller list, become the next sort of Tim Ferriss-esque type figure because that seems cool and it’d be fun.

Ali on the importance of money 54:01:

Money doesn’t really solve any of your problems. It solves your money problems.

Ali on balancing work and passion 56:03:

That’s kind of where I’d like to be, where probably not a full-time job but like a part-time traditional job, going into work, maybe working as a doctor two days a week, and then doing the other stuff.

More From Ali