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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Hell Yeah or No—What's worth doing. By Derek Sivers ~ 13 minutes

Finished December 2020. I recommend this book 10/10.

Derek Sivers is one of the best "Students of life" of our time. Derek is a writer, musician, programmer, and entrepreneur. Your best introduction to his work is by listening to the podcast Tim Ferries did here.

This is my favorite of Derek's 3 books. You can get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

What if you didn't need money or attention? What would you do, and what would you stop doing?:

  • I think it's safe to assume that my income will continue at the same rate until I have enough to buy back my freedom (retire). With that, I think that I can start living like I have enough money. In case that something should happen with my current income rate, I know that I can live on very little. I think I've been dealt my share of attention already. The amount of praise from comments and subscriber numbers is not worth chasing. That I can help people is the reward of the job of life.

You don't have to be local:

  • I can answer emails from people from all over the world. I can also choose not to spend time replying to everyone one-on-one and make a video that thousands can learn from instead. I can also spend hours, including travel, and help a person one-on-one, but that should be expensive.

Loving what I used to hate:

  • When I liked the attention and the time to reply became a chore until I realized that the gift is that I get the opportunity to reply.

  • Having to work vs. getting to work. That is a lot easier when money is not driving the mission.

  • Be purposeful and mindful instead of monkeying around.

The public you is not you; the comments are just feedback on something you made:

  • This goes for all the positive and negative comments.

  • This is why the amateur boxing round works well.

  • When someone asks "why didn't you do it like this?" It's "why" didn't you do it like this in that specific video, not "why" as you are you stupid.

Fish don't know they are in the water:

  • Remember that culture is different around the world. The fact that you can't be an engineer without papers in Denmark, or that it would be disrespectful to your parent to move out of the house at a young age in some places in the world. You will be comfortable in your environment, but remember that you might not have all the answers.

Are you present-focused or future-focused?:

  • Present-focused is needed to enjoy life, but make sure you don't lose your future focus because that will carry you forward towards the goals worth living.

Small actions will change your self-identity:

  • Reading books, start an exercise program, or start acting like a leader. The small micro-actions are what will build upon each other.

If you're not feeling "Hell Yeah!" Then say no:

  • The things you do, do them all the way. Be strict about what you commit yourself to do.

Saying no to everything else:

  • You have the option to just focus on one thing. Completely shut out the world and say no to everything else than that one thing-at least for a period of time. That period of time is maybe what you should try to stretch.

Art is useless, and so am I:

  • When trying to be most useful to others and constantly thinking about productivity, you will not find time to do things for you-like picking up the guitar. Don't stop being a musician.

I'm a very slow thinker:

  • You don't always need to have an answer. You can say "I don't know" and take your time to answer after thinking. And maybe, through example, you can show others that they can do the same.

Tilting my mirror (motivation is delicate):

  • Have to vs. Get to. Try not to stress about an important meeting, but in preparation, just do the work, and enjoy, you get to do the work.

  • It's all about perspective, that you do control.

How will this game end?:

  • Starting out with the end in mind, and thinking through possible failures, can assure you might consider starting with a no thank you.

Solitary socialite:

  • I'm working from home, not going into an office, not sitting next to someone, not chatting over lunch or at the water cooler, but I'm very social. Meetings via Zoom that can be groups of tens or hundred, one on ones where you talk in great details, and then Slack messages, email communication, and all the social channel interactions. I'm very social at work, even though I'm sitting alone.

Getting out of a bad state of mind:

  1. Ask yourself what's wrong in this very second

  2. Observe now. Act later

  3. Raise standards. Say no to anything less than great

  4. Focus on my goals

  5. Do all the necessary stuff

There's no speed limit:

  • You can learn to do whatever you want. If you use something like mind mapping to filter out the most important sections, and then drown yourself in information on those; eventually, you will become an expert, a master, and a guru.

Relax for the same result:

  • You can filter down to one specific thing and totally dedicate all your time and power. You can also decide to work on multiple things and diversify your resources, and chances for success. And lastly, you can also take a few breaks and get to your goal after 57 instead of 42 minutes, but you enjoyed the ride


  • People, along with companies and social media want your attention and time. The best protection can be to turn your phone and email off. Then you have the peace and quiet to think and create.

Unlikely places and untangled goals:

  • It's easy to think that you need to travel to an exotic place to relax and recharge, or that you need professional equipment to be able to create quality. If you are looking for peace and quiet, you might be better off in a hotel room in Syracuse than a busy beach in the Bahamas. If you need to make a guitar, you might be better off with a bandsaw, and a file, than a CNC router.

When you're extremely unmotivated:

  • It can be difficult to want to cut the lawn or snow-blow the driveway when you have something else you rather want to do. But when just unmotivated, and you don't really have anything else on your plate-then it's the perfect time to do those things.

Think like a bronze medalist, not silver:

  • It's easy to compare upwards. Being the silver medalist who did not win gold. Why does that person have more success or subscribers? But when you think like you got bronze, you compare downwards, and now you start appreciating what you do have. Someone is richer than me, but I got plenty. Someone has more subscribers than me, but why does it really matter?

Imagining lots of tedious steps? Or one fun step?:

  • We have a tendency to make bad projects complicated in our minds. The trick of writing down just the next action and just taking that step makes it easier to complete.

Procrastination hack: change "and" to "or":

  • Instead of "I will exercise after I've had coffee, and read, and..." change to "I will exercise after I've had coffee, or read, or..." You don't waste time by doing a whole lot of things before doing the difficult thing. Count to three and go!

There are always more than two options:

  • Great insight only comes from opening your mind to many options. I like at least three options because when you have only two, you start comparing the pros and cons of those two. At least add "do nothing" and "go insane" as options.

Beware of advice:

  • Ultimately, only you know what to do. When people give you advice, they are reflecting on their surroundings. Therefore it's good advice to ask a waste group of people but listens mostly to your gut afterward.

Switch strategies:

  • Productivity hacks only work for a period, be ready to switch things around as you go through phases. It's like with your work; at times, you should be involved in many projects and then switch, and dive to focus on the most important. Just always remember what values you carry on your shoulder; they don't change.

Don't be a donkey:

  • Think long-term in what you do. Take the time to be strategic. Be ready to do work that will drag on. Don't be the donkey, who could not decide about the hay or drink of water, and died between.

I assume I'm below average:

  • Don't worry about what others think of you. Think about what you can learn from others. Trying to convince yourself that you are above average just adds to your ego. Being below average means you just are still learning.

Everything is my fault:

  • Instead of running around being sour, and recent people. Make a switch in your brain. If someone says or does something that offends you, think about what you could have done differently. Remember, you are trying to be a constant learner, so taking the fault when things go wrong, is an opportunity to learn from it

I love being wrong:

  • I don't love the feeling of being wrong, but I realize that when I realize that I'm wrong about something; that's when I learn. The opposite of being wrong is being right; that is when you are cruising along, polishing your ego, not really paying attention. The best way to learn is by realizing you were wrong; therefore, I love being wrong

Singing the counter-melody:

  • In everyone's opinion, there is almost always a different perspective. Some people will say blond hair looks better, and then someone colors their hair purple-and that looks great too. Don't always go against the grain, but at least ponder options, and don't be afraid to try something new

What are the odds of that?:

  • I don't like taking chances and play against the odds. I don't play the lottery because you know how ridiculous your chances are. That is true, but someone does, right? It could happen! So maybe don't bet against the house, or maybe, you should?!?

Two three four ONE, two three four ONE:

  • How many things do we take for granted for facts? Do you have to go to Engineering school to become an engineer? An MBA to run a business? It might make sense to explorer the opposite once and a while

232 sand dollars:

  • How many times have you realized that it was the excitement of getting something, not owning it? And then you realize that you can't take it with you at the end anyway.

The power of "Good":

  • When bad things happen, my response is "Good." Not "Why me?" When you respond with "Good", you are ready to learn. I learned to be a better employee when I got laid off. I learned to be a better husband after my divorce. And, I learned how to manage money, after I was so broke, that I couldn't borrow more than $500 on a credit card.

Obvious to you. Amazing to others:

  • Don't ever hold back ideas. What seems obvious to you, might be the thing that moves the mountains.

You should always have three key elements in your planning:

  1. Does it make you happy?

  2. Is it good for you(think long term)?

  3. Is it useful to others?

What do you hate not doing?:

  • Reading in the morning.

  • Have enough time with my daughter in the morning.

  • Sitting on the couch with my wife at night

You don't need confidence, just contribution:

  • If you have a mindset of being a continued learner, and a willingness to adjust your approach and opinions. And, if you have the attitude of being helpful, useful, and that it's not about you, and your ego. Then, my friend, your little contribution to the world, will be unique and useful.

Let pedestrians define the walkways:

  • "You don't have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great." Don't feel like you have to have all the answers up front. It's fine to say "Let's start, plan for a direction, and we will find our way."

Don't start a business until people are asking you to:

  • Start in stealth mode, that way you can adjust or kill the business idea. Start slowly on some one-on-one projects to see how things go. Don't make big announcements until you are ready to back them up.

Parenting: Who is it really for:

  • Do your best to play on their terms, play their games. This will let you leave yours for a minute. They grow up so fast, try to be connected, talk to them about what they want to talk about. That is a good lesson to put away your agenda, your ego and connect with them, using their priorities


  • "It's easy to think I need something else. It's hard to look instead at what to remove." You have plenty of things you would like to do, but you can only find the time by eliminating something else. Don't be afraid to subtract. Maybe it's time to clear out some 1:1's on your calendar, either for some more focus time or to be filled up by new relationships.

Moving for good:

  • If you live in the same place and do the same things every day, you will start to create patterns. You should flex, you should learn. One way is to be fascinated by people; try to learn from them, where they are from, and what drives them.

Learning the lesson, not the example:

  • Lessons can be applied to many factors, not just the example you read in a book. Think about how you have been able to take examples from the shop floor and weaved them into video lessons.

  • It takes 10 years for 175,000 subscribers:

  • When I notice that I do a mistake in leadership, it's important I remember that I'm just practicing this craft. I've only been a leader on this level for 3 years. It took me over 500 YouTube videos or 10 years, to be decent at that.

Goals shape the present, not the future:

  • If you have a goal that you have been putting off, it's a bad goal. Goals are not for the future; if you say, "I want to do that someday" then you have a bad goal. With a great goal, you can't wait to get started.

Seeking inspiration?:

  • It's fantastic that I love to read. However, think of your breath; in and out. You can't just read seeking inspiration, that is breathing in; you also need to do, that is breathing out.

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