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Deep Dive #5 Derek Sivers on How To Do What Makes You Happy

Derek Sivers is an American writer, musician and entrepreneur who founded CD Baby, an online CD store for independent musicians, back in 1997. He has since embarked on other ventures writing 4 books including Anything You Want.

Ali Abdaal
Ali Abdaal

Derek Sivers 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 writing 4 books including Anything You Want – one of the three books that I've listed as having changed my life. In our wide-ranging discussion, Derek shared analogies and insights about friendship, goals, originality, technology and many more interesting topics of discussion.

Here are some of the highlights from our discussion:

Obsessing about metrics is like obsessing about the odometer or fuel efficiency on a car – it’s not wrong but it’s missing the point of why you got the car in the first place. If we are just trying to optimise everything for analytical returns, it may be optimised but we might not be excited to get out of bed every morning. When we do what makes us happiest, it puts fuel in our tank.

Goals aren’t there to shape the future. The future is the name that we call our imagination. All that really exists is the present moment and so a goal is only a good goal if it makes you take action in the present. If it doesn’t, then it’s not a good goal for you. In this sense, goals only exist to change your present actions for the better.

The desire to find apps to increase our productivity, paradoxically becomes the enemy of productivity. We don’t NEED apps. People used typewriters and before that a pen – we’ve coped without apps for hundreds of years.

Music theory is akin to the grammar of 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 isn’t necessary for learning or playing music.

We shouldn’t worry about originality or be concerned about referencing every quote or idea that we recall. The idea is not to hide the source but not to force it upon someone who doesn’t want or need to hear it.

Real friends provide emotional safety. Just because someone is smart, and a good conversationalist doesn’t necessarily mean they are good friends.  We can all have good conversations with strangers but there’s a tight inner circle of people we feel emotionally comfortable with and who we know we will feel safe to be not your best self.

Deep Dive

Ali Abdaal

Junior doctor, YouTuber, web designer, aspiring musician. Trying out this blogging thing.