🎙 Deep Dive - Ali Abdaal x Derek Sivers

Highlights From Our Discussion

Life Advice Quotes

On Writing

Some people think writing a book is big, daunting prospect but it’s better not to think in terms of a book but rather in terms of ideas that you want to share.

Limit yourself to one idea per article and share the articles in public as you go. Eventually your articles will form the basis for the chapters of a book after having had exposure and feedback from the initial public exposure in the form of the article.

Writing offline is essential – when it’s time to write, actively turn off your internet so that you cannot go online or get distracted and the you write. We all have a habit in the modern world of thinking that we need to look something up but then you fall down a rabbit hole and then you’re not writing. When you think you need to look something up, just add it to a to-do list somewhere else.

We don’t NEED apps – any form of text editor that gives you the space to write your thoughts is as good as any app. The desire to find apps to increase our productivity, paradoxically becomes the enemy of productivity.

Avoid quoting people or listing long bibliographies before you get to a key point. The idea is not to hide the source but just not to force t upon someone who didn’t ask for it. Imagine if it was the norm that every time you ordered a meal at a restaurant the chef would come out and explain the heritage and history of every ingredient – it would be quite strange! If you want to know you can ask, but it’s not the norm – the same philosophy can be applied to this idea of quoting people appropriately.

Key Quotes

On Music

Music theory is akin to grammar in language. Many living languages have never codified their grammar but still exist without getting analytical about them. Music theory can be viewed through the same prism – it always comes later and isn’t necessary for the learning or playing of music.

To analyse music, make up your own system for reading. The reason we have sheet music was to make universal standards but on a personal level, you’re not going to be writing out music for orchestras and so you should create a system for yourself.

Learning an instrument or learning to sing is easier when you enjoy doing it for its own sake – that it’s process driven rather than just a goal.

On Making Friends

Don’t be afraid to reach out to people, you probably have a lot more in common than you might imagine – just be cautious about putting that person up on a pedestal too much because you are implicitly putting yourself in an inferior position.

We all have phones, yet we rarely use them for their overriding raison d’être – to phone people!

We feel one way about something and we assume other people feel differently about it – if a friends was to call us, we are generally delighted to speak to them and yet we have concerns of calling them ourselves for fear of disturbing them.

On Goals + Metrics



🙍🏼‍♂️ Derek

A conversation with entrepreneur and author Derek Sivers. Derek is an American writer, musician and entrepreneur who founded CD Baby, an online CD store for independent musicians, back in 1997. He sold CD Baby in 2007 and has since embarked on other ventures including writing 4 books including Anything You Want - one of the three books that I've listed as having changed my life.

💻 Website / 🐤 Twitter / 🎙Podcast

📚Derek's Books:

👨🏼‍⚕️ Ali

Ali is a doctor, YouTuber and podcaster. His day job involves saving lives, but in the evenings he makes videos about productivity, tech, education and lifestyle stuff.

🎬YouTube / 🎙Podcast / 💻 Website / 🐤Twitter / 📸Instagram


00:45 – Background and Career

02:00 – Anything You Want Book Discussion

03:00 – Writing a Book

07:00 – Fear of Plagiarism

09:35 – Advice on Writing, Apps and Productivity

16:05 – Current Books Being Written

19:00 – Building Your Own Store

24:20 – Do What Makes You Happy

27:30 – Avoid Quoting From Other People

32:50 – Identity: Music and Being A Doctor

37:20 – Music Theory: Is it really that valuable?

44:45 – Musical Originality

46:05 – Derek’s Singing Journey

50:15 – Ali’s Singing Experiences

53:00 – On Making Friends

55:45 – What Does Friendship Mean?

59:40 – Vulnerability, Exposure and Making Friends

01:07:00 – Talking To People On The Phone

01:08:45 – The Famous Broadway Musical Composer…

01:13:35 – Weird Like Me, Shared Experiences and ‘Burning The Ships’

01:20:00 – Connecting With People and Strangers

01:23:20 – Replying To Everyone

01:28:30 – Replying To People Asking For Advice

01:33:20 – Imposter Syndrome

01:35:10 – Goal Setting in Life and Business

01:42:45 – The Most Powerful Thing to Remember About Goals

01:45:30 – Closing Thoughts