The 25 Year Old Doctor that Amassed a 500K YouTube Following, Ali Abdaal

Ali Abdaal, is a YouTuber and junior doctor in the UK. His YouTube channel has more than 30 millions view and 500K subscribers. 

He is also the founder of 6med, the largest medical exam preparation crash course in the world. 

Ali holds a doctorate from Cambridge University.

In this conversation, we spoke about:

  • Ali’s battle tested learning techniques
  • How to choose your doctors 
  • How to grow a YouTube while having a 50 hours/workweek doctor gig
  • and much more!

If you’ve only got 2 minutes, here’s a short video 

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Name calling

When we call someone racist, sexist, or a capitalist, what are we hoping for?

Here’s the thing: the best way to push someone away is by branding them with a pejorative label, obstruct a useful conversation, turning them into that other.

Much more useful: Hold them to a higher standard, identify the behaviour that’s counter-productive and talk about it.

And of course, there’s an art. The rule is to stop attacking the person and avoid the lizard brain, the Amygdala from acting up.

Instead of saying to someone, “Hey, that’s not cool man” causing all sorts of defence mechanism to fire up.

What if we say, “Hey, I know you’re not a racist.”

By assuming positive intent, it opens up a conversation with curiosity. And if there’s a change that needs to be made, we’ve crafted yourself an opportunity.

The seven magic words. Let’s start talking about it.

Getting in sync

I used to be smart. When problems surfaced, I jumped to offer solutions.

Do it this way. It’s faster, cheaper and stronger. The best way, my way.

Now, I am wise. I sit curiously, I ask and I listened.

Just as it’s about the answer, it’s about the journey coming to the right answer, for us.

Because what’s the point if it’s the greatest diet that no one can adhere to.

No I can’t attend your wedding

No, I can’t meet with you, no I don’t want to donate here, no I can’t give you anymore discount. I’m sorry, but no, I can’t.

You try and try again, through manipulation, trickery and a good tantrum. In the short term, you might get an yes. But the first instance I can, I will run away.

No is hard to accept. It requires emotional labour, understanding and empathy, but in the long run, the door will be open for you.

Because “I see you” is what we all really crave for.

What’s PDPA for

Doctors may be able to save my lives, but I’m not sure if I can trust his words anymore.

Just last week, I got a call from my doctor asking to postpone the appointment in light of the CoronaVirus. He mentioned that it’s best to stay away from the hospital, offered to ship my prescription and informed me about my MRI results. I had a slipped disc.

“Hold up. Could I get those scans and ask for a second opinion?”


I received a report in the email, but not the scans. I spoke the doctor again asking for the actual scans. He mentioned that it can’t be sent over because of the Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA). I suggested then to keep the appointment and I can come to take a photo of his computer screen.

Again. “No, you can’t. PDPA”. [At this point, I was about to reach through the phone and punch him].

“It’s my data. Why can’t I get them?”

As much as I did not want to come to the hospital, I’m in pain and I want to fix my back. I tried repeatedly to understand why can’t I get the scans, my scans. Again, PDPA.

End of my patience, “could you quote the exact section in PDPA where I can’t get a photo of my scans?”

He acknowledged and said that he would come back to me.

The phone rang. This time, he found a solution. He’s going to print the scans out. Boom, problem solved.

Except, what really happened to PDPA?

Of course, this article isn’t really about PDPA. It’s about taking the courage to say “I was wrong, I’m sorry”. Because in the short term, we might be able to get away with the uneasiness of owning up, while costing us the trust and reputation that have been built over decades.

Because in the long term, we all win. We keep our reputation and, in the meantime, learn something to use for the rest of our lives. To be the kind of person that adopts the posture of learning instead of covering up.