• Lars Christensen

How to live by Derek Sivers~5minute read


I finished this book in September 2021. I recommend this book 10/10.

I'm a big fan of Derek Sivers's work. He is a modern-day philosopher who brings logic and calms to his content, both via books and podcasts. How to Live includes 27 conflicting (and useful) answers to the question of how to live.

You can read more directly from Derek and get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • Dogs bark. People Speak. It doesn't mean a thing. What they say and do has nothing to do with you, even if it seems directed your way. The only opinion that matters is your own. When you know what you're doing, you won't care what anyone else is doing. When you're indifferent to people's words and actions, nobody can affect you.

  • Being independent means you can't blame others. Decide everything is your fault. Whoever you blame has power over you, so blame only yourself. When you blame your location, culture, race, or history, you're abdicating your autonomy.

  • Everyone has their own lives to manage. Nobody is responsible for you, and you aren't responsible for anybody. You don't owe anyone anything.

  • Ignore other aspects of your life. Let go of every unnecessary obligation. Each one seems small, but together, they'll drain your soul. Focus your attention on the few things you're committed to, and nothing else.

  • Always forward. Never back. Push yourself. Always be a stranger in a stranger land. But don't rush. Savor every aspect of everything you take in. Notice the nuances.

  • We overestimate what we can do in one year. We underestimate what we can do in ten years. If you take up a new hobby at the age of forty, or whatever age you think it's too late, you'll be an expert by the age of sixty.

  • Nobody had ever run a mile under four minutes. It seemed impossible. But then one day, Roger Bannister did it, and the news spread worldwide. Over the next two years, thirty-seven people also did it. This is the power of a pioneer: To enable the impossible. To open a new world of possibility. To show others that they can do it too, and take it even further. Explorers used to find unknown lands and bring back stories of unfamiliar cultures, which encouraged others to go exploring. The old finish line becomes the new starting line.

  • Learning is underrated. People wonder why they're not living their ideal life. Maybe they never learned how.

  • Follow a great book. You know which book that is. Bring your book with you everywhere as a constant reminder and reference.

  • No matter what you need to do, there's a playful, creative way to do it. Playing gives you personal autonomy and power. When kids play make-believe, anything goes. To play is to be free from constraints. You can make light of anything. Respond to life's events however you want. Nothing has to get you down.

  • Someone says life is hard. The comedian says, "Compared to what?" Comedians are philosophers.

  • People talk about pessimism and optimism by saying, "Glass half-empty or glass half-full?" But caveman would say, "Oh my god! A glass! What a great invention! I can see what I'm about to drink! This is amazing! A blanket! A chair! A bed! Food, ready and waiting? This is heaven!" You don't have to be a caveman to look around you and appreciate your comforts by imagining life without them; then imagine the relief of finding shelter, the joy of controlled fire on command, and the satisfaction of hot water.

  • Ask open-ended questions, asking people's thoughts. Ask them to elaborate on whatever they've said. Show that you're interested. Allow silence. Don't fill it. Silence gives space to think, and an invitation to contribute without pressure. Small talk is just a way of matching the other person's tone and mood. It helps them be comfortable with you. Be warm, open, and fully present with everyone you encounter. Confidence attracts. Vulnerability endears.

  • Whenever you're thinking something nice about someone, tell them. A sincere compliment can put a lot of fuel in someone's tank. People don't hear enough compliments.

  • Don't aim to just be comfortable. You don't make the world a better place by just getting by. If you aim to be comfortable, you won't get rich. But if you aim to be rich, you'll also be comfortable. Aiming to be rich makes you think bigger, which is more exciting, more fun, and less conventional since most people don't think big.

  • The world needs more boldness. Refuse the comfortable addiction of a steady paycheck. Boldly jump on opportunities. Take risky action.

  • Use other people's ideas. Ideas are worth almost nothing. Execution is everything. The world is filled with ideas, yet so few take action and make them happen. Better to be filled with action than ideas. Best of all to be the owner. Own and control 100% of whatever you create.

  • Avoid competition. Never be another contender in the crowd, fighting for scraps. It doesn't pay to do something anyone can do. Be separate—in a category of your own. Invent something completely new. Instead of fighting to split an existing dollar, inventing creates a dollar out of thin air. Invent for a very small niche of people who need something that doesn't exist. Instead of making a key, then looking for a lock, find something locked, then make its key.

  • Investing is easy unless you try to bear the market. Settle for average. Be happy with good-enough returns from passive index funds that represent the entire world economy. Just take a few minutes per year to rebalance. Don't over-think. It's better to do nothing than something. Keep it simple and manage yourself. Avoid exciting investments.

  • Learning is loving. The more you learn about something, the more you can live it. Learn about a place to appreciate it. Learn about people to empathize with them. Not just individuals, but cultures, mindsets, and world-views.

  • Actively listen to people. When they're succinct, ask them to elaborate. People aren't used to someone being sincerely interested, so they'll need some coaxing to continue. But never try to fix them. When someone tells you what's broken, they want you to love the brokenness, not try to eliminate it.

  • Once you're in a relationship, avoid harming it. It's easy to love someone's best qualities, but it's work to love their flaws. Don't try to change someone, or teach them a lesson, unless they as you to.

  • Imitate your heroes. It's not copying because it won't be the same. Your imitation of anything will be unrecognizably warped by your own twisted perspective. Most creations are new combinations of existing ideas. Originality just means hiding your sources.

  • Separate creation and release. When you've finished work, wait a while before you release it to the world. By then, you're on to something new. The public comments won't affect you since they will be about your past work.

  • Virtue is the balance between extremes. Between the insecure and the egomaniac: confidence. Between the uptight and the clown: grace. Between the coward and the daredevil: courage. Between selfishness and sacrifice: generosity.

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