A Life Philosophy

I came across Derek Sivers and the story of his company, CD Baby, while listening to a podcast moons ago. At the time, he had already redefined music distribution before Apple Music and Spotify burst onto the scene. A problem only a musician understood at the time and then promptly sold his company. The journey is told in the book, Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur.

In looking for his latest book, How to Live, I found one could only buy it from a store built and designed by himself, from the ground up. No Amazon or Barnes and Noble. There is something to be admired here in a quest to be a master of one’s own destiny. And I love how he distributed the book. Buy once. Pay for the delivery method. For example, if you buy the “Rights to Read” for ten dollars you pay for the book’s printing cost. Or, nothing if you leverage digital delivery. Solves many problems related to purchasing in a digital world. As a parent, don’t get me going about Nintendo’s method of tying Mario to the console. How many times have I purchased a copy of Legend of Zelda since 1986? I’m all for rewarding the work, but too many gives the company a negative connotation.

Sivers can do this because he’s the printer and publisher all wrapped into one.

No, he probably didn’t bind the book himself. I’ve gone done this journey before and printing at scale is challenging. But who knows? I never considered building my own Content Management System using Ruby on Rails either. Few take on the challenge of creating their own digital Amish sect. I’m somewhat curious if he has a separate server, which he built from the ground up that hums inside of his basement. Instead of Windows, Linux, or macOS, he tirelessly imagined his own operating system. I genuinely am kidding and do admire that he’s not dependent on anyone for distribution. There is much to like in boldly doing what you want with unwavering vision.

A Printed Book, Shipped from Asheville, NC

Building your own site. Owning the virtual place. Designing the ebook. Working with the printer. Becoming the master of your own destiny. I call this hard work.

Whatever your opinion, I will say Derek practices what he preaches, from his book, All misery comes from dependency. If you weren’t dependent on income, people, or technology, you would be truly free. The only way to be deeply happy is to break all dependencies. He has few in his business model of life.

There are threads in his latest book, a journal of self in a Marcus Aurelias style, that are stoic in nature. Sivers frequently writes about treating each act as though it were the last of your life and being a self reliant moral agent. Yet, our “psykhe” is complicated, and so is this book. Inconsistent at times. But a shining thread guides throughout.

Here were my notes (cut for brevity, the entire work is worth reading):

  • Being independent means you can’t blame others. Decide everything is your fault.
  • Offer products, not a personal service, so your business can run without you. Create many sources of income like this.
  • When a decision is irreversible, you feel better about it. When you’re stuck with something, you find what’s good about it. When you can’t change your situation, you change your attitude towards it.
  • Ignore other aspects of your life. Let go of every unnecessary obligation. Each one seems small, but together, they’ll drain your soul.
  • Commitment gives you peace of mind. When you commit to one thing, and let go of the rest, you feel free. Once you decide something, never change your mind. It’s so much easier to decide just once. Commitment gives you integrity and social bonds. Commitment gives you expertise and power. Commitment gives you love and happiness. Committing is how to live.
  • Fill your senses as if this was your last day on Earth. One day that will be true.
  • The smart choice is sales. It will always be valuable. Learn to sell, and you can go anywhere. You’ll be paid well at any age. Always in high demand. Get a job on the road. Always talking to strangers. That’s what you need.
  • Hope is wanting things to be different than they are. Wanting to change yourself is self-loathing. There’s no deeper happiness than wanting nothing. Desire is the opposite of peace.
  • When a problem is bothering you, it feels like you need to do something about it. Instead, identify what belief is really the source of your trouble. Replace that belief with one that doesn’t bother you. Then the problem is solved. Most problems are really just situations.
  • If an action feels necessary, and you can’t let it go, just write it down for later. Everything seems more important while you’re thinking of it. Later, you’ll realize it’s not. But if it still feels necessary, adjust your time frame. A year from now, will it be important? Ten years from now? Zoom out as far as you need to make it unimportant. Then you’re free of it.
  • The actions are obvious. Put money in an investment account and never withdraw. Eat mostly vegetables. Exercise always.
  • Only spend money on things that do long-term good, like education. In other words, never spend, only invest. The earlier you start, the better, since time is the multiplier.
  • Many huge achievements are just the result of little actions done persistently over time. Cities began with just one building. Walmart was one little store. People with incredible skill just practiced every day. Put $25 a day in your investment account, and in thirty years, you’ll have over a million dollars. 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 is too late, you’ll be an expert by the age of sixty.
  • Be extra-careful of habits that seem harmless. Imagine each choice continuing forever. Do this if eating.
  • When you’re young, time goes slowly because everything is new. When you get older, time flies by, forgotten, because you’re not having as many new experiences.
  • A story is the remains of an experience. Make your stories entertaining, so people like to hear them. By telling good stories, your memories can last longer, because people will echo them back to you occasionally, or ask you to tell them again.
  • Your memories are a mix of fact and fiction. Your story about an experience overwrites your memory of the actual experience. So use this in your favor. Re-write your past. Embellish adventures. Disempower trauma. Re-write your stories into whatever works for you. Remember only what you want to remember. You have the right to reframe.
  • Mastery is the best goal because the rich can’t buy it, the impatient can’t rush it, the privileged can’t inherit it, and nobody can steal it. You can only earn it through hard work. Mastery is the ultimate status.
  • Decisions are easy when you have only one priority. Your destination is a huge mountain peak on the horizon. You can see it from everywhere. Yes to that mountain, and no to everything else. You’ll always know where you’re going, and what you’re doing next. All paths go either towards that mountain or away from it.
  • With your eyes on the horizon, you’ll step over obstacles, undeterred.
  • If you haven’t decided what to master, pick anything that scares you, fascinates you, or infuriates you. Don’t ask, “Is this the real me?” or “Is this my passion?”
  • Define “success” for yourself. Describe the outcome you want. You can’t hit a target you can’t see.
  • Every day, no matter what, you must practice. Your practice ritual is your highest priority — an unbreakable commitment. Stubbornly protect this time against.
  • Once you get momentum, never stop. It’s easy to continue, but if you stop, it’s hard to start again. Never miss a day. When you’re not practicing, remember: someone somewhere is practicing. When you meet them, they will win.
  • How long will it take you to become a master? It doesn’t matter. Imagine getting to a mountaintop after a long hike through a gorgeous forest. Achieving your goal would feel like taking off your backpack. That’s all. You do it for the journey, not the destination.
  • When talking with people, ask deep open-ended questions — like “What’s your biggest regret?” — that will lead to unexpected stories. When ordering in a restaurant, ask them to surprise you.
  • Remember the classic story arc of the hero’s journey. The crisis — the most painful moment — defines the hero.
  • Be absolutely honest with everyone. Stop lying, completely. You lie when you’re afraid. You lie to avoid consequences. Always say the truth.
  • Friendships, nature, family, learning, community. The best things in life aren’t things.
  • If it’s important, there will eventually be a good book about it. When people ask you about current news, proudly have no opinion. Admit you’ve given it no thought at all — and don’t plan to — because it’s not important. Indulging is common. Refraining is rare.
  • Study the past — understand Chesterton’s fence — before thinking you know better.
  • Never consider yourself an expert. It’s the strong swimmers who drown.
  • Rules must be absolutely unbreakable. If you try to decide, each time, whether it’s OK to break the rule or not, then you’ve missed the whole point of rules. Rules are to save you from deciding. That’s why hard rules are easier to keep.
  • Visit your favorite places. Listen to your favorite music. Taste your favorite food. Touch your favorite people. This might be the last time you do all these things, so appreciate each moment fully.
  • Relationships are more delicate than people. Relationships can be ruined with one inconsiderate word. Withhold angry thoughts, and let the feeling pass unexpressed. Never lose your cool. Never vent. Always be kind, no matter how you feel.
  • Instead of thinking of customers as leading to a sale, think of each sale as leading to a life-long relationship with a customer.
  • Boring industries have little competition, since most people are seeking status in glamorous new fields. Find an old industry and solve an old problem in a new way.
  • Don’t lose touch with regular people. Stay frugal. Reducing your expenses is so much easier than increasing your income.
  • So don’t love and judge your children that way. Don’t try to change them. Just give them a great environment where they can thrive. Give them the safety to experiment, make mistakes, and fail up.
  • Picasso was asked if he knew what a painting was going to look like when he started it. He said, “No, of course not. If I knew, I wouldn’t bother doing it.”
  • Consider creating under a pseudonym. This will help you know that criticism is not about you, just something you made.
  • Writers say you should quickly finish a bad first draft, because it gets the idea out of your head and into reality, where it can then be improved. Live your whole life this way.
  • Even creative work needs scheduling. The greatest writers and artists didn’t wait for inspiration. They kept a strict daily schedule for creating their art. A routine triggers inspiration because your mind and body learn that ideas emerge at that time. The world’s greatest achievements were squeezed into existence by deadlines.

The Finer Details and Disclaimers:

  • Note, when you side load an ebook Amazon doesn’t let you use all of their services. I do love the Kindle highlight feature, but the company removes the option. To do this, one has to plug your device into a computer and open the documents file using a text editor. Once I found out where the file existed, this proved easier than the handy email function Amazon provides. Maybe, there are more things in life one should do themselves. You can find a better way.
  • Psykhe is greek. The translation to English isn’t one to one and is more nuanced. To reference the Stoics, the headline picture comes from Rome.
  • And, maybe, he did print the book himself. That One Should Disdain Hardships is underneath the book in the photo.