Derek Sivers on How to Negotiate Anything, The Joys of Parenthood & Why Nothing You Believe is True

Jonny Miller [00:00:01]:

Welcome to the Curious Humans podcast, Derek.

Derek Sivers [00:00:05]:

Thanks, Johnny.

Jonny Miller [00:00:07]:

How are you feeling in this exact moment? In three words.

Derek Sivers [00:00:11]:

OOH, chilly, excited, balanced.

Jonny Miller [00:00:26]:

Your audio is making me sound particularly balanced and grounded. It's very deep. Bassy.

Derek Sivers [00:00:33]:

Derek Voice if you only knew how many of my friends have fallen asleep while we're talking on the phone. My damn soothing voice.

Jonny Miller [00:00:42]:

I think you could record some meditations and have a side hustle in that.

Derek Sivers [00:00:46]:

If you wanted to. You know what's funny is when I ran CD Baby for ten years, we would get people sending us meditation albums. I'd say, let's say, like, three out of five times. The person doing it had such an annoying voice, right? The music would come on. It's like it's like imagine a light. I think, oh, this is so unfortunate. The person has the best of intentions, but that's not a place where you'd want to hear a grating, piercing voice.

Jonny Miller [00:01:26]:

Like trying to play pro baseball, if you're, like, five foot tall. Probably not ideal. Well, the question that I always start these conversations with, that I'm especially interested to ask you is, were you curious as a child? And if so, could you tell me something that you were exceptionally curious about?

Derek Sivers [00:01:46]:

Hmm probably not. I know it's the topic of the podcast, but probably not. I think I didn't get more curious until I was like, 30. No, like late 30s. I'd say 38. I got more curious around the age of 38, what happened? And that's when I sold CD, baby. And suddenly sorry. Audience background hello. Hi. My name is Derek. I, for ten years ran a music distribution company called CD Baby. I did it from the age of 28 to 38, and when I was 38, I sold the company, which was a failure, not a success. I did such a bad job of it that I sold the company, luckily for a lot of money. But it gave me this blank slate in life because up until that point, that was like my entire identity was this thing. That's all I am. I'm Derek from CD, baby. And so when I sold the company, it was this strange, floating in space feeling for about a year and a half, almost two years of, like, I don't know who I am or what mean, I even thought about legally changing my name and moving to Slovenia and just being an open source programmer.

Jonny Miller [00:03:28]:

I didn't know what would have been your ego?

Derek Sivers [00:03:32]:

Oh, I don't know. I'm just going to change it to my middle name and my mother's maiden name. I was trying to slough off all responsibility. I had already had a bit of a name for myself, like a public name, and I had people that expected things from me and I just wanted to get rid of all of that. But anyway, the real point is just I had such a blank slate that it was a great time to reinvent myself. And that's when I really started reading books. Up until then I did read books, but it was a means to an end. I was trying to improve my business and so I'd read books on how to improve my business, how to get better at marketing or managing or something. And it wasn't until I was 38 that I started opening my mind to learning more about the world. Even college, right? Like even university. I went to Berkeley College of Music, which was just very, very blinders on. Focused, laser focused on one thing, which is just making music. It wasn't like how a lot of people go to university and they have this broad life outlook where they learn about history and philosophy and chemistry and whatnot. I really just had my blinders on until I was 38. So no, I'd say I wasn't a very curious person. And I actually see it in my kid, too. He's eleven years old and really just likes what he likes and just likes doing what he knows he's good at. If he doesn't know he's good at it yet, he doesn't have a lot of interest in it. So I was a little worried about his lack of curiosity. But maybe with you asking me this question now, I have to look back and go, yeah, I guess I wasn't really a very curious kid either.

Jonny Miller [00:05:25]:

Fascinating. I mean, it sounds like you've almost done the reverse of a lot of people who tend to be curious and explore a million things in their early years and then narrow down and focus.

Derek Sivers [00:05:37]:

Yeah, I started out by focusing. Yeah.

Jonny Miller [00:05:42]:

I was researching for this conversation. I was rereading all of your blog posts, which, by the way, I've just loved over the years. I mean, even back to the when I was working on a startup in Maptia, you wrote this outrageous personalized email to everyone that bought a CD baby thing that was like, we're sending this in a perfectly packaged golden sleeve and we're cheering it on as it gets shipped. And there was this delightful kind of playfulness in it. I didn't realize this until the other day, but I've almost come to associate you as this generous spirited trickster. I don't if this lands, but in the research that I've been doing, I've been getting into archetypes recently. The role of the trickster is this like these sacred clowns in certain indigenous cultures, they are invited in to kind of poke fun at the sacred spaces. Like there was one culture where the trick, the the clown will actually fling like literal shit across the holy space, but there's this knowing that it's actually a deeply generative force. I guess I'm wondering, do you identify with that to some degree? I know you worked in a circle.

Derek Sivers [00:06:56]:

Absolutely. Yeah. I'd never heard of that. Well, I can send you never heard of that definition. It's great.

Jonny Miller [00:07:06]:

Where do you think this tendency came from? Where was it born from?

Derek Sivers [00:07:12]:

I tend to have a rebellious streak that I think actually comes from wanting to find the balance. Meaning if I'm in an environment where everybody is being really serious then just everything inside me feels goofy to the point of giddy laughter. In serious situations when everybody's being so pompous and so full of themselves, I just can't help but want to knock it down. But then conversely, when I'm being in an environment where everybody's being so, like, woo woo or so hedonistic or complete party animals or whatever, then again, I want to kind of knock that down. And it makes me just want to curl up with a book and get serious and factual and point out to people that all of the shit they're saying isn't actually true. When a friend of mine is new Agey woman from Sicily that she's such a dear friend but she's so full of shit because no matter what I talk about she tries to interpret it through this new agey lens. It's just well that's you're feeling the energy of the I'm like no, no, that's actually not true at all. Here's what actually happened is this person said this and the reason I did this was because of that and no it's not because I'm a capricorn or whatever and so I think that no matter what environment I'm in I have this tendency to want to be the opposite of my surroundings.

Jonny Miller [00:09:02]:

Yeah, that makes sense.

Derek Sivers [00:09:04]:

So I think maybe the gesture thing you're talking about I started CD Baby in 1998 in New York City when everybody around me was suddenly thinking that the internet was going to be big money and they were getting so serious about it and putting together these very formal presentations to investors to raise financing and everybody was being so damn serious. Whereas to me, the Internet was this fun new thing that we could just make it to. Be whatever we want. And they were just acting like bankers. And so I think part of my spirit of fun in CD Baby was partially just knowing what just knowing my place in the world. I mean come on, it's a music store. It's not like I was selling investment financial services or something or funeral services.

Jonny Miller [00:10:03]:

I would like to see that company if you did.

Derek Sivers [00:10:05]:

Yeah, right. Wacky funerals. Go out with a bang. Whoo. Yes. I think I was rebelling against the serious environment at the time. But yeah, I rebel against hedonism and I rebel against oh God, people who get so into politics. Anyway. Yeah, I rebel against almost everything I'm around but I think it feels like wanting to find the balance.

Jonny Miller [00:10:40]:

Well, speaking of fun, that was something that I loved that you wrote. I think it was like fun is always a legitimate and underrated goal. I think that was what you wrote. Yeah, a good friend of mine, his name's Tyler, he always loves to ask the question, like, how can we maximize the fun here? And let's say that this isn't the case, but let's say that let's say someone had a really serious job, really busy. How would you make the case for having fun? And maybe, how do you actively view your life through the lens of fun? What does that look like for you?

Derek Sivers [00:11:20]:

Well, if you want the serious presentation of it in that situation, I'd say that what we categorize as fun usually means what we're most excited about, what we find most enjoyable, entertaining, stimulating, exciting. And these are the things that generate intrinsic energy inside of us, right? So if you're doing something that you find incredibly dull, then you're likely to get sleepy no matter what the hour of the day. But again, no matter what the hour of the day, something that you find fun will keep you up all night long, even if you haven't slept in 27 hours. If you're having fun, you'll be energized and wide awake. And this applies even in a work situation. If you're doing work that you personally find fun for whatever reason and you don't even need to justify why you find it fun. But if just your intrinsic nature or current situation means that you find something to be fun, you will have more stamina, more focus, more intrinsic drive to do well at that thing that you find fun because you just find it intrinsically more exciting. So there's my serious presentation for fun.

Jonny Miller [00:12:46]:

What would be the fun presentation for fun?

Derek Sivers [00:12:50]:

A fun presentation for being serious? Oh, I don't know. I don't know what a fun presentation for fun would be. A little too on the nose, right? Yeah, sorry, I don't have an answer to that.

Jonny Miller [00:13:08]:

No, all good. So another one of the topics that I wanted to I've been curious about for myself recently has been around this idea of freedom. And before we hit record, I mentioned that my wife and I have recently moved from Bali to Colorado. And essentially in the last two years, I've traded an enormous amount of optionality for real commitment in terms of marriage. We now have a dog, we have a year long lease, like all of these things. And I've actually been loving life this way with these intentional constraints. And I'm curious what it was like for you after you sold your company, where I believe that you also just got out of a relationship at the time as well, where you essentially had infinite freedom, you could live anywhere, you had the resources to do anything. How was that for you? And also, how did you go about designing intentional constraints for yourself during that process?

Derek Sivers [00:14:06]:

Yeah, that's a fun subject. Most people want more freedom, but if you ever get yourself into a life situation where you have total freedom, it is really like being adrift in space. Like, imagine if years ago you saw that movie Gravity where Sandra Bullock and George Clooney are out in space, and there's that thing where the tether holding you to the spaceship snaps and you're just spinning upside down and all over the place, and there's nothing to grab onto. You can't stop yourself because there's nothing solid to hold on to. And if you think of how disorienting that would be, honestly, that's what it feels like to have total freedom. And I had the experience of that as soon as I sold my company, that I had a ton of money at the bank. I had no relationship, I had no responsibilities. I didn't even have a pet. I just was completely free to go anywhere, do anything. I didn't have to be anywhere. I didn't have to do anything. And I had the resources that were it felt basically unlimited. I could just do anything. We're like, what do you do with that? It felt so disorienting, but I didn't really set constraints for myself. Sorry, that was your kind of a two part question, right? You said, what constraints did I set for myself? I stayed in that sense of adrift, and I just started reading a lot, just started noticing what I really wanted instead of going with norms and what I felt I should be doing. Let me think. Sorry. This was what year? We know 2023. This is 15 years ago now. It's taken me a minute to kind of put myself back into that mindset. I was constantly changing my mind about things every day. Yeah. I didn't feel any loyalty towards previous statements just because I had announced something yesterday to friends that I'm going to do this now, I'm going to live in this place. And two days later I thought, oh, no, never mind. Change my mind. Don't want that. That really helped to feel no loyalty. I didn't want to create some fake obligations just for the sake of them. So the only thing that brought me out of that state is when I had a new destination. If you remember, back in 2008 and nine, Ted Talks were a new phenomenon indeed and a fun source of intellectual entertainment. And in 2008 and 2009, I was watching a lot of Ted Talks and digging on them. And suddenly, on a plane from La. To New York for a friend's wedding where I had just felt aimless for, like, a year and a half, I suddenly bolted up in my seat, full of inspiration, like, oh, my God, I want to be, like a writer, speaker, thinker kind of guy. I want the Ted Conference to invite me to speak. And I want to write articles and I want to write books and I want to be in the world of thought and ideas because these are my heroes. The people that are writing these books that I love so much, these authors that are coming up with ideas and sharing them with the world and talking about them and learning new ideas and resharing those and remixing them with thoughts they get from other places. These are my heroes. Like, that's the world I want to be in. And so suddenly, for the first time in a year and a half, I had a sense of purpose and destination. So purpose was the wrong word. Destination is a better way of thinking of it. Because by the time that plane landed in New York, I had a plan. I was so full of drive and energy again. I was like, okay, here's what I want. I need to make a name for myself doing this. I want the Ted Conference to invite to I don't think I was focused on a book by that point yet, but I was like, I know what circles I want to be in. I know who I want to be friends with. This is what I want. So I just arrived in New York City and made it happen. And it actually freaked me out that this was supposed to be a five year plan. And within, like, seven months, it all came true. So it was easier than I thought. Which then after a year gave me a new sense of, oh, what now? But not as bad as that feeling of being completely adrift. So sorry. I feel like we got off on a tangent, but point is great. Tangent. There is such a thing as too much freedom. I think we all want the right amount of freedom. And yeah. Johnny, you've found this nice balance. Maybe. I wonder, were your previous years before Colorado, were you also quite super free and adrift?

Jonny Miller [00:20:04]:

I was at times. I kind of went through a period where I was living in England and was engaged, and then that ended pretty tragically, and it kind of sent me adrift again. And I spent three or four years in this period of grief, honestly, that was this unintentional, untethering, and then came to enjoying that and finding nourishment in. I was living in Bali at the time, but yeah, I think particularly last year, there was a real feeling of looking to ground, to put down roots. And I think that the word for me was like depth. It was like commitment to this one human, commitment to place, commitment to the work that I'm doing and the freedom coming from that depth, if that makes sense.

Derek Sivers [00:20:58]:


Jonny Miller [00:20:59]:

Or that commitment, at least.

Derek Sivers [00:21:02]:

Did you see my book called how to Live?

Jonny Miller [00:21:05]:

I loved it. Yeah.

Derek Sivers [00:21:06]:


Jonny Miller [00:21:07]:

Beautiful. Yeah.

Derek Sivers [00:21:09]:

Did you read it in Colorado or read it in Bali?

Jonny Miller [00:21:12]:

I read it in Colorado. Both, actually. I read the.

Derek Sivers [00:21:21]:

Because the first two chapters, I chose them very intentionally. That the first chapter makes this argument for, here's how you should live. Be completely independent. Break all ties. Be bound to nothing and no one and nowhere. You must be completely free. And then the next chapter is like, here's how to live, commit. It's like pick a place, pick a person. And one of my favorite ideas in that chapter was we're often trying to figure out how to make the best decision. But guess what? Making the choice makes something the best decision. That choosing a place is what makes it the best place for you is the fact that you choose it. That's what makes it the best. There is no objective intrinsic value of a place that makes it the best. It's you choosing a place and deciding to commit to it that makes it the best place for you. And, yeah, there is such a good argument for commitment that it's so fun to contrast that with the also true argument in terms of freedom and independence. Totally. Yeah. Both need to exist. We got to find our right combination of the two.

Jonny Miller [00:22:39]:

Yeah. Well, maybe this is an interesting segue to your new book, which I love the premise for around Useful Not True, and we can come back to where that originated from in a moment. But what came up for me was that almost looking at it, this is maybe a bit nerdy, but looking at through the lens of ego development theory. And my sense is that many of these beliefs could be mapped on to various stages of human maturation. And so as we progress, the challenge is to exactly as you just described with freedom and commitment. It's like to let go of the belief that really served us for a certain stage and then adopt new ones that become more relevant. Does that make sense to you? And are there any beliefs that you feel like you hold now that you wouldn't have done in your 20s or in your seedy baby years?

Derek Sivers [00:23:30]:

Oh, I'm sure. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, they could change weekly, but that's funny, I hadn't heard that. What do you call it? Ego development theory.

Jonny Miller [00:23:41]:

There's a bunch of different models, but essentially often they happen to have five stages, and it's basically the stages of human maturation. So one stage is like breaking free of conventions, like rebelling kind of finding freedom. There's one, the Keegan model, I believe it is, says there's a stage where you begin to question and question self, question everything, and then that then goes into the fourth stage. And then ultimately there's like, self transcendence and merging with the universe. All right, yeah.

Derek Sivers [00:24:18]:

I think my next book, Useful Not True, is definitely the question everything stage at its heart. If you put isms to it. I'm averse to isms. But if you had to pick a couple of isms to shorthand it it's skepticism and nihilism. Which to me means first of starting out to realize that we are all too certain about things that we have no right to be certain about that we think that the things that we think are true and we think the things that we tell ourselves are true. But we're so often full of shit. We don't actually know why we do anything. We prescribe reasons for things that we've done, as if we know why we've done it, but we don't actually know why we do anything. And there are these wonderful examples of this I'll just tell a quick story of there are just a few people on Earth that have had the two hemispheres of their brain severed.

Jonny Miller [00:25:41]:

These are fantastic. Yeah.

Derek Sivers [00:25:45]:

When that's happened to somebody psychologists, of course, love studying these people. And one thing they've found is that you can give a message to somebody's right eye. Like, you can put on glasses, goggles, whatever that have little screens inside them. And to the right eye show a message that says something like, please get up and close the window. And the person will get up and close the window. And then when they sit down, they will put a message to their left eye saying, why did you close the window? And the person will say, Well, I just sorry it was a little drafty in here. Is that okay? I was feeling a little cold. And they're not lying. They honestly, truly, to their core, are absolutely certain that is the reason they closed the window. Same. Okay, so there are a couple examples of this. Another one is when they were doing brain surgery on a woman, you might know that when they do brain surgery, the patient has to stay awake, so they actually cut open the skull. But your brain itself has no nerve endings, no pain receptors. Sorry. Of course it has nerves but doesn't have pain. So when they're doing surgery on your brain, they need you to be awake because they need to keep talking with you the whole time. And they found there was this woman that when they touched a certain part of her brain, she would just start laughing. But when they asked her why she was laughing, she'd say, that calendar on the wall is just so funny, or, that outfit you're wearing is ridiculous. It's just hilarious. But she was completely convinced that that's why she found it funny, but they know it's because they were touching that part of her brain. So I think this is a beautiful insight to show us that we all do this, even if you haven't had your brain split in half or your skull is not currently open. We don't actually know why we think anything, why we did anything. We give reasons to it because our brain hates saying, I don't know. So our brain tells our like your subconscious tells your conscious that you're certain of this thing. Okay? So first you got to understand you don't know why you do anything, and then you got to understand that everybody else is that way, too. So basically, there's no reason to ever ask anybody why ever again, because anything they can say, even if they believe it, will just be confabulation they don't actually know. And then I think that same thing with anything that's subjective. The beginning of the book points out that my definition of true is if something is like physically undeniably, absolutely, necessarily, unarguably, observably, repeatedly true, stack up all those adverbs together, and only if it meets all of those conditions do I consider it to be true. And if it's not all of those adverbs and true, well, then it's debatable, it's negotiable, it might or might not be true. And because it's a might or might not situation, I just define that as not true. It doesn't mean it's false. It just means that it's not absolutely, physically, positively, observably, repeatedly, undeniably, inarguably true. But I think this is such a useful thing to it's such a useful perspective, because then you realize how much of life is just subjective perspective and therefore creative and up to you to make it how you want to be. There's so little in life that is an actual fact. Almost everything. Unless you're a scientist all day for a professional scientist for a living, almost everything in most of our lives is just subjective. And when you realize that, it just gives you so much creativity to let go of common perspectives and interpretations, let go of your own subjective, past perspectives on things. Notice when you're saying things that are not absolutely, positively, physically, observably, undeniably, inarguably, observably, repeatedly true, and let go of those things and instead choose beliefs that you find help you be who you want to be.

Jonny Miller [00:30:54]:

Yeah, I find this so fascinating and I've been researching the nervous system and now teaching a course around the nervous system. And one of the things that I love to share is this idea that we perceive what we call reality through the lens of our nervous system. And that this applies with emotions as well. That there's many examples of confabulation where someone, listeners can imagine this too. When you're angry, you will find reasons to justify your anger in the outside world. It's a very common thing to do. I suppose my curiosity is like, how do you actually go about doing that in your day to day life? Because it's very easy to say just let go of this belief. Like, this belief isn't serving you. Let it go. But most people the same with if there's a lot of, let's say, anger coming up, you can say let go of the anger, but most people cling to it. How do you actually work with that in a kind of practical aspect in your life?

Derek Sivers [00:32:05]:

For me personally, I journal a lot. I find most of my sanity through just writing to myself. There's nothing formal about it. There's no system. Whenever I'm feeling less than 1000% congruent and excited and flowing, I'll often turn to my journal and just write. I'm like, what am I doing? What's going on? Why am I feeling what's up? What's bothering me? This is bothering me. Why is that? Because this is that true? Yes. Are you sure? No. Why is that? Because this but couldn't you also see the opposite? Yeah. Okay, so okay, so what's the opposite point of view? It would be this. All right, well, that's the opposite. That's the 180. What's the 90? Okay, now what's the 170? What's the almost opposite. Okay. What are some other perspectives on this? How could I think about this? All right, what would be a really useful way to think about this? How could I think about this in a way that it would actually make me feel and act better? What belief system would create better actions in this situation? Well, that one but that's not true. Could it be true? Well, I have these dialogues with myself, not literally, but that's kind of how it's going. I challenge myself in my journal, and I'll do this for whether it's 20 minutes or 3 hours until I feel ready to bash on in the world again. Okay, I feel better about this now. I've got a new perspective. This works for me better now. This new perspective is helping me take better actions under this new way of thinking. I'm going to take this approach now. And this is healthier than the way I was feeling 3 hours ago. That's how I do it. Other people might do it by talking with friends. Some people are nonverbal. I had a fascinating conversation with an Irish guy that has no internal dialogue, but he was one of the smartest people. I've been talking to him for two days. I was at this conference and this fascinating Irish guy just seemed to know everything under the sun. No matter what subject came up, he knew the whole history and everything about it. I was like, what the all right, Mr. Pedia, may I call you what? How do you know everything? He's like, oh, just an interested guy. And so it was on the second or third day of talking with this guy that somebody brought up the subject of internal dialogues or narrative, whatever you call it, and somebody said, do you know that there are some people that have no internal narrative or no internal dialogue? And surprisingly, this Irish guy was like, yeah, well, I don't. And everybody's like, how do you not? And so I just kept asking him all these questions like, so when you're thinking something, how are you thinking it if you don't have words in your head? And he just said, Well, I don't know. He said, I have thoughts. It's just that they're not verbalized in my head, if I sit down and start writing, they turn into words, but in my head they're not already words. Wow, that's fascinating. But anyway, so he said that he will just take a bike ride or a walk and feel fully present in the moment, but when he gets home and finds that he deliberately. Thinks about something that he was thinking about before the walk, that now his mind had changed or he'd had some new insights even though they weren't verbalized. So for me, it's all very verbal. For him, it's nonverbal. For somebody else, maybe it's social. Maybe you need to be with a group of friends talking through things or talk to your best friend about something that's on your mind. For me, it's my journal. Yeah. I don't know. Do you have a process like this?

Jonny Miller [00:36:24]:

I mean, it's fascinating you give that example, because I'm also one of those freakish people that doesn't have an internal dialogue the majority of the time. And this actually changed for me. In my teenage years, I had a lot of, I'd say, like, self critical thoughts, a lot of unhelpful dialogue, I'd say. And then over the period of, I'd say, like, my mid 20s, it just completely disappeared. But I now particularly enjoy journaling because without it, I actually don't know what it is that I think or feel about a certain thing. And I now have a practice of attempting to kind of identify the felt sense that's there and the emotion and feeling into the body of whatever's there and then from that place beginning to journal. And so kind of like through the lens of internal family systems where there are different parts, I have this sense that there are different nervous system states or even different tension in the body that correlate to those different parts. And so when I've identified a part, I will just journal or sometimes speaking through with a friend is helpful as well. But without that, I can think things like, I can repeat a song lyric in my mind, obviously, but it's not the default. I almost have to try, if that makes sense.

Derek Sivers [00:37:46]:

Cool. Okay, so how then when you want to think differently about something, how do you deliberately change your mind on something?

Jonny Miller [00:38:01]:

I don't know if I deliberately change my mind. I love the process. And part of this podcast is part of this is living into questions and really sitting with questions, almost like dropping a question into my subconscious and waiting for something to arise in that and as well as kind of deliberately seeking feedback or reflections from other people who generally don't share my point of view with certain things. Like, I'm part of a men's group and that's a way that we challenge each other in a healthy way or we call each other out on stuff. Yeah. And also reading as well. But I don't know if I have a conscious process for changing my mind with something.

Derek Sivers [00:38:48]:


Jonny Miller [00:38:49]:

Yeah. This actually ties into something that I'm very curious to ask you about. And I had a couple of friends that were interested in this as well. Maybe as the setup. If I was to my projection of you. My sense of where I imagine Derek would be in 30 years time is as this kind of Leonard Cohen type character. Like the kind of professional musician achieved fame and success and then ended up in a monastery like finding. And the reason that I feel this way is because you have this deep draw towards both simplicity and also truth. And I think a lot of what you write about, both in this book and the book how to Live how to Live is like it's like an exercise in polarity thinking. And that's basically the practice of nonduality. That's basically how meditation teaches. Kind of one of the main techniques. The question, who am I? Which is like the classic kind of contemplative question where I'm not my thoughts, I'm not my body, I'm not my feelings. And so I'm wondering, what is your relationship to meditation? And yeah, how have you explored it in your life, if at all?

Derek Sivers [00:40:10]:

Sorry, my answer for this is really disappointing. Like, 20 years ago, I did it for a bit and I went, okay, I get it. And really not since.

Jonny Miller [00:40:24]:

But that's fascinating. So what about it? Do you have any stories about people that do meditate or do you have any reasons that it hasn't drawn you?

Derek Sivers [00:40:40]:

No stories? No, I admire people that do it's not like I have a negative association with it. I think I just have so much I want to do. We could get onto this later, but if you see how I spend my days, whatever time I naturally wake up, I'm a naturally early riser. This morning I've been up since 430. I don't know why. No alarm clock, no nothing. It was pitch dark, I was comfortable, but just at 430, my brain woke up. And even though the house is cold, it's the middle of winter here in New Zealand. That's why I said I was chilly. By the way, when you asked my three words beginning, of course it's winter down there. Middle of winter, it's quite freezing in my house. Yeah, I was freezing, but, like, my brain was awake. I was just suddenly thinking of all these things, thinking about programming. I was thinking about writing, thinking about things I want to do. I'm like, right, okay, I'm up. And so 435, I grab a cup of tea. 436, I'm typing, I'm at the computer. My day has begun. I'm writing so full of thoughts. I'm working on my book, jotting down some programming ideas I want to do later. I'll come back to this, but an insight. I had something I was programming yesterday and my brain begins. And I stay in that mode often from 430 until I go to sleep at 11:00 p.m.. I'm just kind of there's, like, so many things I want to do and create and read. And then maybe once a day I might hit some point at, like, one in the afternoon where suddenly I'll be like, I'm tired. I'll lay down with, like, an empty head. And either I'll just go take a walk in the forest. Or if I'm just too tired, I'll just lay on the couch and just do nothing for a bit until 40 minutes later I'm like, oh, idea. And I'm up and I'm writing again. And it's just like this is my ideal life. This is how I love to spend my time and spend my day. And so the idea of, okay, now you've been sitting there all day long writing, now sit there and do nothing, that's not appealing to me. That's not something I want to do more of. I really like my writing and creating. So if I'm going to do nothing okay, so this is why I said it depends how you define it. I do almost every day take a good long walk in the forest. And during that time sometimes I run through things that are on my mind anyway. But quite often my mind is just kind of blank. Like I'm just observing. I'm fascinated with looking at all the trees and the way that light shines through them. So my mind is pretty empty. So is that meditation? I don't know. It's not a deliberate letting go of thoughts. It's not a deliberate nothingness. But anyway, there's my true answer.

Jonny Miller [00:44:03]:

Yeah, there's a part of me that almost like wants to I feel angry is not the wrong word, but I almost feel like meditation is. It needs a rebrand. Like, most of the world consider it as like a way to destress and a way to calm down or whatever. Like it means to an end, which it is for many people. But the view that Sam Harris actually has a very great articulation of the case for meditation is more of like I frame it as like an inner adventure. It's like exploring who am like, what is the nature of the self. And for me, it's like the complete opposite of sitting there and doing nothing. There is so much aliveness and so much like whether it's a feeling of electricity going through your body, whether it's like trying to not even trying, but noticing. What is the nature of myself in this? What is arising anyway, I'm not trying to convince you to go on a ten day meditation treat, but for me it's something strange. That the way in which you view the world. I would have totally imagined that meditation would have been something that you just sit for like 3 hours every morning. I was like, of course he does. That's an interesting I mean, maybe it's.

Derek Sivers [00:45:24]:

Just that I do, but also my fingers are on the keyboard, so I like to sure, yeah. I mean, I do spend 3 hours a day just kind of just sitting there thinking. But I enjoy writing it while I'm thinking it instead of just doing nothing with it and letting it go again. Unless you want to count all that time walking. Also, let's not forget for the last ten years, I reliably spend about 30 hours a week, just one on one with my kid that's with all devices off, completely disconnected, just giving him my full attention with him leading the way. He's eleven now and I've been doing this since he was born. I put aside 30 hours a week to give him my undivided attention. And in that time, yeah, there's no self here, right? It's all him. He's leading the way. I'm just his little assistant or his giant assistant. Who knows, maybe the word meditation, like you said, is too misunderstood. Or maybe it's one of those words like do or thing where it has too many or friend or love. One of those ones that it's like we think we know what it means, but oh man, there's actually like 80 different definitions of this word. So maybe meditation is just too vague.

Jonny Miller [00:46:56]:

Yeah, I'm really glad you brought that up on this meditation retreat I did recently, the teacher saw you. He compared the monastic life to parenthood and he described the story of his good friend who I think they had like a three year old kid and how there was this wearing away of the self in a beautiful way until basically all that was left was just this love for the kid. And something shifted in me when I heard that and I really enjoyed listening to your conversation actually, with my friend Paul, Paul Millard, who has also recently had a kid. And my wife and I are kind of in this inquiry for ourselves of like if when do we want kids, what does that look like? And I think part of my hesitation is actually having not met that many parents or fathers that I admire or that I look up to. And so I'd love to hear from you. What has your journey of fatherhood been like? What have you learned? How has it changed you? Has it worn you away in a good way?

Derek Sivers [00:48:11]:

Well, you say that you guys are not sure. I was absolutely sure I did not want kids. I knew this for certain because of my sister. She's not going to listen to this, but my sister had two kids, two boys when I was 30. She had them two years apart. So let's say 30 and 32 and oh God, the household, the way they lived, the screaming, the constant screaming, the tornado disaster zone that their house became just filled with crap everywhere and just shit all over the floor and everything knocked over and the boys always running around screaming and my sister didn't even notice it anymore. There was this one moment I'll never forget. It was just horrific moment where I'm at my sister's house and her boys are aged four and six or something like that and we're trying to have a serious conversation and her boys are like literally screaming and jumping on the couch and running in circles as we're sitting on the couch and they're screaming all around us. And I eventually said, like, hey, could you and she goes, what? I said, could you ask them to stop? And she goes like she goes, oh, God. She goes, I'm sorry. She goes, I don't even notice it anymore. I was like, you don't even notice it? I was like, oh, God, no kids for me. You don't notice that your two kids are screaming and running in circles and knocking things over in the room that you're sitting in. What a way to live. No way. So I did not want kids. And later, when I didn't remember, that was why. But when I looked back, although, who knows, maybe this is confabulation and that's not I don't believe a word I say, and neither should you. So I did not want kids. My ex girlfriend and I had agreed not to have kids. And then it was actually after a trip to Bali, when it was a month after Bali, or a month and a half after Bali that she said, I'm pregnant. And I said, no, you're on the pill. And she said, do you remember when we were in Bali and I forgot to bring my pill? And I was like, no, but we agreed no kids. She was like, yeah, sorry. I was like, oh, God, this sucks. No, I was so upset. Also, we had just broken up, so she and I were together for a year and then broke up and then found out that she was pregnant. So that's why if you hear me talk about parenting a lot, it's always first person plural, not sorry, first person singular, not plural is we parent separately. So he's half the week with me and half the week with her. So anyway, by the time he was born, I had resigned to my fate. And then shortly after that, I got excited because he is awesome. I used to only believe in nurture, not nature. I used to think that everything was upbringing, but he just has such happy DNA. He's such a happy kid, and even as a little baby, never cried, never has had a tantrum in his life. And I'm not exaggerating. Not once has he ever had a tantrum, ever. Which blows my mind. People kept telling me, oh, just wait, it'll come. No, he's eleven now. Never did. And he's like my best friend and we're like soulmates now. We are so close. We just talk, talk about life now. He's my favorite person to hang out with. In short, I tell my friends, having a kid is just being in love. And it's like if somebody were to say, like, being in love is a lot of work, you'd say it's a lot of work. Yeah, but maybe because it's a lot of time with somebody, but it's like the happiest damn time because you're in love. So to me, that's what having a.

Jonny Miller [00:52:40]:

Kid is like, wow. How do you think that maybe a better way to ask this question? What are some beliefs that you now hold as a result of your conversations with him that you didn't eleven years ago?

Derek Sivers [00:52:56]:

Oh, God, he's just going to be who he wants to be no matter what I say or nudge or do. I tried to get him into music so many times. He's just not into it. I tried to get him excited. I tried so many different ways, and he's just totally not into it. He likes making weapons. He likes raising mice.

Jonny Miller [00:53:31]:

I heard about that. That's great. And selling them too, right?

Derek Sivers [00:53:35]:

I think I read well, he's going to okay. Yeah. We're only one week into this plan, but yes, he just got a boy and a girl mouse with the intention of breeding them next month and selling the babies. Yeah, he's his own person, and it's sweet that as much as he admires me and as close as we are, it's really amazing to me to see him straight up defy me. It actually makes me really happy. So even just okay. Last week when we were picking out the mice, there were a whole bunch of mice, and I just hate the ones with the red eyes. And I was like, oh, they're just like the ones with the black eyes are adorable. Well, the ones with the red eyes are straight up creepy. So I said, okay, I am happy to I will feed these mice. I will take care of them when you're not there. I will do everything. I said, I just have one request, no mice with the red eyes. And he was kind of quiet and nodded, and he was looking at all the different mice that were there and making his decision. But I told him, all right, it's your decision. So finally, yeah, he told the lady that we bought them from the breeder. He said, okay, I want that boy, and I want that girl. Okay. And I was kind of standing outside waiting, and so we come out and yes, sure enough, you know where this story is going, that he picked a boy with red eyes, and it was just like, Dude. And he said, that's the one I wanted. He said, I heard you, you made your point, but this is the one I wanted. I said all right. And it's the same with some other things in life, too, that I really like, that he has a good sense of self and what he wants, and he's not just doing what his dad says, and he's also not rebelling against me. In many, many ways, we are completely aligned. But where he differs, he knows his preferences and I don't know, to me, that's really cool to see. I'm like, all right, right on. Making your own decisions in life. I love it. Thinking independently.

Jonny Miller [00:55:40]:

Yeah. I mean, it sounds like he's got at least some of the tricks to DNA intact, at least in a healthy way. What are some things that you what's a good way to ask this question? What are some skills, if anything, that you're looking to impart to him that maybe you wish you'd learned when you were growing up? Because I mean, for me, I could list so many things. And I'm curious, are there specific things that you're trying to share or is it more just an organic process?

Derek Sivers [00:56:15]:

Talking with strangers, like how to talk to people. And luckily he's pretty good at this. He's not good at asking so many questions yet, but he is confident to talk to anybody. And I like that like, we can, we can go to the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul and he will talk with a man smoking a hookah in an alleyway. And I'm like, Right on. That's cool that he feels comfortable going up to strangers and talking with them, to grownups, talking with them confidently. And I did that by example ever since he was a baby, since he started talking, I should say. Always gave him my full attention when he was talking and really, really listened. And I think that helped him feel like talking was worth doing. It's funny, I meet a lot of his friends. Sorry, now I'm feeling we're talking too much about parenting stuff, but I meet a lot of his friends that it's kind of 50 50. Like half the kids have this ability to connect with a grown up and half don't. So half of his friends call me Derek and we talk about anything the same as I do with him. And the other half, they're just like they don't look me in the eyes. It's like, hey friend's, dad, can I have something to eat? You could just tell. They just see me as like this other, this parent that they don't know how to connect with adults. So that's something that I did very deliberately. That's nice to see that he's got that. What else? Making instead of consuming. That's always been one, like between the lines, overtly and covertly. Since he was born. I've always glorified making and denigrated consuming. So he is proud to define himself as a maker. Whereas his friends are often or not his friends, the other kids around him are often consumers that just want to watch their screen. And he's like, no, I'm going to make animation. So he got the little app on how to do Lego animation and moves the Legos just a little millimeter at a time and makes animations. He makes weapons. The biggest room of the house, most people, like, their main central room of the house is the living room, which they used to sit there and stare at a screen. To us, like, the main room of the house is the making room. Two big tables just full of crap and glue and paint and tape and nails and Lego and wood and bits and things because that's the main focus of life. It's making.

Jonny Miller [00:59:01]:

Yeah, you're making me want a making room. Now, in our house, we've got like, a spare room. I'm like, that's the making room.

Derek Sivers [00:59:06]:

Now I know what it is. To me, this was a soul sorry. So you're from England? Where did you grow up?

Jonny Miller [00:59:13]:

Yeah. North of London, England.

Derek Sivers [00:59:15]:

What part? Like, where north?

Jonny Miller [00:59:16]:

Hertfordshire. I went to St. Albans. Yeah.

Derek Sivers [00:59:20]:


Jonny Miller [00:59:21]:

Back in the day.

Derek Sivers [00:59:22]:

Nice. So right before COVID unfortunately, with bad timing, I moved to Oxford.

Jonny Miller [00:59:31]:

You bought a house, right?

Derek Sivers [00:59:32]:

Yes. I loved it so much. I loved living there. I wanted to live there for the rest of my life. And then COVID hit, and his mom, my ex, hated it. And the world was locked down and school was closed and you couldn't travel. But we were New Zealand citizens, so we came back here. But point is, the making room came from a soul searching moment. The night before, I was deciding whether to buy a house or not. So I found this great house in Oxford, but I was trying to justify the price. I was like, damn. Hmm, that's a lot of money. Do I want to do this? I was like, what am I really doing this for? And I actually looked at some other examples of people I admire and the homes that they bought, and I saw that so many people's, nice homes, were focused around relaxing. It's like, here's our media room, here's our sauna, here's our patio where we can look out at the countryside. I was like, no, see, I don't do any of that stuff. I don't sit around with lemonade looking at the sunset. I don't sit in a hot tub sipping champagne or whatever people do. Like, I don't like sitting around lounging. And so it was in that soul searching when I realized, OOH, hold on. Like this main central room, the room with the fireplace, they're like the biggest central room. Like the heart and soul of the house that doesn't have to be a living room. It can be whatever I want it to be. I was like, okay, so what's my highest value? Making.

Jonny Miller [01:01:17]:


Derek Sivers [01:01:18]:

I was like, oh, my God. It's not a living room. It's a making room. Okay? I could put like three two meter long tables in this room, put them out here, and it was like, okay, now this is exciting. Now it feels worth getting a house instead of a little one bedroom apartment. Now I'm into this idea. So, yeah, I bought that house. The main central, biggest room of the house was the making room. And that's where we spent all of our time. So, yeah, that's where my kid and we both miss that house a lot. So wherever we live now, even as later we've lived in a little apartment, we converted what other people would call the living room, became the making room, where we had our big two meter long tables. And it's just been, like always, the focus of the house, because everybody gets to make their own definition of what they feel. Home is. Right to me, home is the place where I have no friction from making things. So that's what home means to me. I don't want to sit around and I don't have a TV, I don't watch screens. I don't spend an hour on meals. I just quickly eat my food and get back to work. And when I'm feeling leisurely, then I want to be out. I don't want to be home if I'm feeling leisurely. I want to be out in the.

Jonny Miller [01:02:38]:

Marketplace, out in the Grand Bazaar conversation, going on adventures.

Derek Sivers [01:02:42]:

Yeah, out in whether it's Times Square or know, the Dubai Mall or in I like being out, out, out when I'm not working. So this helped me decide some things around the house. Like, I don't need to have any leisure space in the house because when I'm feeling leisurely, I do not want to be at home. Anyway.

Jonny Miller [01:03:08]:

Was the out out, out a Michael McIntyre reference?

Derek Sivers [01:03:11]:

No, sorry. What's that? I don't even know who that is.

Jonny Miller [01:03:13]:

Oh, there's a British comedian who talks about going out and then out, out. So if you're going out, you're like getting ready to go out, and then you go out, out, out, and then if you stay later, you go out, out, out what you were referring to. He's a kind of family friendly British comedian that us Brits appreciate. I don't know if he's wait, so.

Derek Sivers [01:03:35]:

So what's his definition of out, out, out, then when he said you stay out later, but what does he say about out?

Jonny Miller [01:03:39]:

So out out is like, if you're staying kind of to the end of the oh, you're going to the after party. It's like, oh, you're going like, out the hierarchy of being out. But anyway, before we get on that tangent, I love this idea of the making room, and it kind of overlaps with something I've been thinking about and teaching in my nervous system course, which is this idea that we design our environments, and then our environments design us in return. And there's studies on the cathedral effect, which is where if you have high ceilings, you tend to be more creative, more like conducive to abstract thinking. There's other environments which are more around play. I love this idea that, again, by questioning the kind of the classical assumption of, like, okay, every house has a living room, you've reframed that around. You've designed your environment in a way that it is now designing you and your son in return. And I think that's such a beautiful example, and I imagine there's many other ways in which our physical spaces could be designed. Anyhow, the other thing that I'm really curious to talk to you about, you mentioned that the house was a lot of money. And, yeah, Oxford's an expensive place. And I'm wondering, you obviously made a lot of money when you sold CD baby. How has your relationship to money shifted over the years? And I'm particularly interested in what stories did you have around money? Because it sounds like and again, maybe I'm projecting here, but money was freedom when you were young. If you had enough money, it equaled freedom. But how have these stories or this relationship to money changed?

Derek Sivers [01:05:32]:

It's constantly changing. Hmm. Something I've said a lot that I think might still be true, but I also might be full of shit. I'm not sure is that I think of acquiring money a little bit like acquiring stuff. And once you've got enough stuff, if you keep acquiring stuff, well, then we call you a hoarder. And that's like a mental disorder. Those people whose homes are filled with stuff, and I have some friends that are multimillionaires and still spending so much energy deliberately making money, not just doing what they love, but deliberately focusing on making more money. And to me, it feels like a mental disorder to keep doing that when you have enough, way more than enough, more than you'll ever need to keep focusing on making money feels like a disorder to me. And so I very often have to check with myself, like, am I doing this? Why am I doing this? Whatever this may be at any given moment, and I mean, anytime over the last 15 years since I sold my company, I'm planning on doing such and such. Why am I doing it? Is it for the money? Because if it's for the money, there is no point in doing that, because what the hell would I do with more money? Having more money is not something I need in my life. Which kind of reminds me of years ago, I dated this girl that was very skinny, and it was just her DNA. No matter how much she ate, she just stayed skinny. That was just like, whatever. Her family was all just skinny. And she said it made her feel so alienated from people when everybody's talking about counting calories and worried about getting fat, she just said that she just couldn't relate. In fact, people would literally insult her and tease her about being too skinny. So I felt that way about money. Like, after you have plenty, then it's a little alienating from the whole world where everybody's focused on making money and talking about how to make money. And I just kind of feel like the skinny girl when everybody's talking about calories, and I'm like, Well, I'll just sit out this discussion. So I still feel a little weird when people email me and ask my advice on making money. It's like asking the skinny girl how to lose weight. I'm the wrong person to ask, so that's a lot. I constantly have to, but I'm still really stingy. I still. Hate spending money. It really messed with me in a good way. When? A few years ago, after I published my first two independent books, your Music and People and Hell yeah or no, I put out those two books in 2020. Thanks. And I just emailed my mailing list and said, here they are. They're for sale. And within I think, a month, I made half a million dollars. I was like, oh, my God. Okay, what am I going to do with this money? I thought I was going to make 50,000. I was not expecting 500,000. So after kind of walking on air for a couple of days and feeling great about myself, I thought about what to do with it. And a friend of mine said, you should celebrate. I said, but what does that even mean? Like, go drink champagne, make stuff, treat. Yeah, treat. My daughter celebrate. And I got to credit her. She's an author, a Lithuanian author that's a friend of mine that she said, someday when I sell my first screenplay, she said, I want to buy a part of a forest in Lithuania and just protect it and make sure that nobody wrecks that forest and do nothing with it. Don't not develop it, just protect it. And I went, oh. So that's kind of like charity as celebration. I was like so that got me looking into effective altruism and saying, okay, well, if I'm going to be charitable, then what's the most rational way to help the most people and not just do some kind of Fuvio? Well, I feel like protecting cats, so I'm going to give it to the Cat Protection Society. But like, okay, where would my money do the most good? I'm sure somebody studied this. So I went out and looked for this, and I found what are they called, the effective altruism, like Will McCaskill.

Jonny Miller [01:10:51]:

And Toby ord yeah, I'm forgetting the name of

Derek Sivers [01:10:55]:

GiveWell. Thank you, So I found and went, oh, good, here we go. Some data nerds that have looked into every charity and found out, like, okay, well, how many lives are being saved with the money given to them? And most importantly, how much will giving more money save more lives? Because there are some organizations like the Red Cross, they might be doing good stuff, but if you give so much money, if you give a Red Cross, it's not going to do anything. So where will your money help save even more lives? Therefore, this is the most rational place to give the money that you can afford to give. And so once I found them, I went, okay, this is where I'm going to give all of that money to, because, in fact, I don't need it. I want it all to go to there. And here's the part that I'm getting to, is I found out that it costs $2,000 to save someone's life. So every time you give them $2,000, someone will not die. Which means every time you spend $2,000, you're choosing that over someone else's life. So every time those people who fly business class for $10,000 instead of economy for $1,000, that was their choice, that they're going to be more comfortable for 9 hours, but four people will die. That's what it really comes down to. And that messes with me. You think about that. I know that when I talk about this with friends, they say, well, in that case, you would actually have to take the $1,000 flight and then you'd actually have to send the $8,000 to the charitable organization to send the difference. I'm like, yeah, but the point is, in my mind, I can't wholeheartedly spend $2,000 anymore without thinking that somebody has died because I didn't, because I kept this $2,000 for myself. So maybe, like you said much earlier, you talked about people rationalizing their beliefs that if they're in an angry mood, they'll find justification for why they're angry. So I think I was already stingy, and this has just given me more rationalization for why I should not be buying anything and should just be giving my money to charity instead. Anyway, there's some thoughts about money.

Jonny Miller [01:13:31]:

Yeah, it's beautiful and also fascinating. And I've been having these conversations with a mutual friend of ours who also made a lot of money in the startup world and is kind of in this. He describes it as like a post money, post money world where, like you said, most people are kind of still playing that game. And he also said that he feels a little bit isolated at times in this. And I'm wondering for you, it doesn't sound like it is, but when you kind of moved past that finite game, let's say you kind of won the game to some degree, and now it sounds like the game has shifted to, how can I do the most good with the money that happens to come my way? But you're also not actively trying to maximize your money. I imagine you could spend your life differently if you wanted to make money possible in order to give it away. So it's almost like you found a middle ground.

Derek Sivers [01:14:29]:

It's not I don't know if it's completely congruent. When I gave Tim Ferriss some shit for having six minutes of advertisements at the beginning of every podcast episode, he made a good point. He said, Doing those ads earns me almost a million dollars per episode. And he said, And I give most of that money to charity. So that money has helped build schools. It's helped research. I was like psychedelic research. I was like, okay, it's still annoying, but all right, that's congruent. That makes sense. I don't like it. So I guess we all have. You looked into what's his name, the Righteous Mind? The author.

Jonny Miller [01:15:24]:

Peter Singer?

Derek Sivers [01:15:26]:

No, sorry, I forget his name right now. The author of the book The Righteous mind has a metaphor of the elephant and the rider.

Jonny Miller [01:15:36]:


Derek Sivers [01:15:37]:

He said that the relationship between our emotions and our rational mind is like an elephant with a boy riding the elephant. He said your rational mind is like the boy riding it. Your emotions are the elephant with a lot of tugging and pulling and kicking. Maybe the rational mind can nudge the emotions a bit, but for the most part, the emotions are just going to do what they want to do. So as you're asking my thoughts about money, I'm sure so much of this is just driven by emotions that I'm not even aware of and I'm giving rationalizations for it.

Jonny Miller [01:16:20]:

Yeah, I appreciate that perspective. Something that I did a training recently with this amazing guy called Joe Hudson and he says in the context of decision making, but it actually applies much more broadly, that when we think we have a decision to be made, it implies that there is an unfelt emotion there and otherwise it would just be a choice. It would just be like the next most obvious thing.

Derek Sivers [01:16:45]:

Wait, what? Hold on. An unfelt emotion? Sorry, can you repeat? How do you mean?

Jonny Miller [01:16:49]:

So to give an example, let's say you are unsure what country to move to. If you think that you have this big decision to make. In his view, it's likely that there is an avoided emotion there. The the emotion might be fear of making the wrong choice. It might be a projected disappointment into the future of living somewhere that you don't want to live. But he's like, if you do the work ahead of time to actually feel the emotion that's there that's arising, then you will just make the next most obvious thing. That might be do more research. It might be speak to someone that lives in the country. Or it might be, I'm just deciding I'm going to move to America. That's kind of how even with the bigger decisions, if we think it's a decision, it's an indication that there's some underlying emotion could be subconscious, which is like asking to be felt. And that perspective has really yeah, it really landed quite deeply in me and realizing that we actually make a lot of, I would imagine, beliefs as well to support to keep ourselves safe from feeling certain emotions which we habitually avoid and everyone has different ones. Anyhow bit of a tangent?

Derek Sivers [01:18:10]:

Cool. I like that.

Jonny Miller [01:18:12]:

But yeah, I was reading through your blog post and I liked your book review on Power. I believe the book was actually you can negotiate anything.

Derek Sivers [01:18:25]:

Yes, it's at the top of the list right now. I just reread it.

Jonny Miller [01:18:28]:

I was like, wow, that's not the book that I would expect to be at the top of Derek Siver's list. But I read your notes and it was fascinating and I'd love for you to share. What are some of the things that have actually stuck with you from that book.

Derek Sivers [01:18:42]:

Okay, so the book is called it's either how to Negotiate Anything or you can Negotiate anything. The author's name is it is you. Okay, thank you. You can negotiate anything by Herb Cohen. This book was written in like 1980, and I read it for the first time probably in 1990, and it was already full of dated references then President Jimmy Carter and Nixon and whatnot. But it turns out later, I actually just a few days ago read the Wikipedia page about the author and he was a professional negotiator that the US hired in 1980 to go negotiate the US hostages that were being held in Iran at the time when when switching from President Carter to President Reagan. And so this was the guy that was negotiating that. So maybe he was assuming that we knew that. So that's why he's talking about Carter and whatnot in the book. But anyway, so I read that book at a very formative age when I was maybe 20 and probably read it a few times again. I remember it was just one of those paperback books that I just had around and I would pick up and reread. So first, just as a writer, oh my God, he tells so many stories. Every single point he tries to make is just story, story. So many tiny little relatable stories of when this approach was used. Let me show you a counter approach. Let me tell you about this story about when somebody didn't do this and how it went wrong. Now let me tell you a little story about a time when I did this. Let me tell you a story about a friend of mine who did this. And these stories are so memorable that when picking up the book after not reading it for 20 years, as soon as I just got to the first sentence, I was like, oh right, I know the story that's going to come up now. I remember this. Wow. And so as a writer, that helped me remember the importance of stories. In fact, that's why I picked it up to read it now, is because I was like, yeah, what about that book that I still remember these stories 20 years later. I'm going to read that book again. So when I did read it again, I was amazed that it's related to everything we talked about. My useful, not true book about how everything's negotiable if it's not physically observably, undeniably, factually, a physical thing. This cup is on this table kind of true. Everything else is subjective and negotiable. Things are presented to you as facts saying, here's the law. You may not do this. And he said, well, that law was negotiated by somebody. Just some people in a room made that law. They negotiated it. So it's still negotiable. That's not the law of gravity. That's not some law of physics. That's a law that some people made up. And I don't think it applies here. I don't think it applies to me. And so he talks about how many times he has negotiated things that people considered to be unnegotiable. Every price was just decided by some marketing manager and the supplier and whatnot pick the price? It's not the price. It's not a, you know, God didn't make that sign that this was just made by some people. And he really emphasizes yeah, if you look at my book notes on this so audience, go to S-I-V-E-R-S book, and you'll see my list of the last 380 books I've read since 2007 and taken detailed notes on each book I've read, and they're sorted by how much I recommend them.

Jonny Miller [01:22:34]:

You're rating?

Derek Sivers [01:22:35]:

Yeah. And with the newest one at the top. So this book called You Can Negotiate Anything right now has a ten out of ten rating. And since I just reread it last week and took my notes last week, it's currently at the very top of the list. And so if you click in to look at my notes, you'll see he talks a lot about realizing the power that you have in any situation. And he said, First, I need to talk about the word power. A lot of people have negative association with the word power because they've been on the other end of somebody abusing power or using it for evil ends. He said, Power in itself is just neutral. It's just the ability to get from point A to point B that's power. So assuming you're using it for good, let's talk about the power that you have you might not realize you have. And he tells this here's one of these many little stories I'll never forget. He said, okay, let's say, for example, you are a prisoner in solitary confinement, and there's a guard right outside the prison gates outside the bars having a cigarette, and you want a cigarette. You would think, obviously, the prisoner has no power in this situation. The prisoner could say, please, guard, may I have a cigarette? And the guard would say, Screw you. He said, okay, but let's look at the power that the prisoner does have instead. That prisoner could say to the guard, look, if you give me a cigarette, all you have to do is give me a cigarette. But if you don't, I will bash my face against this wall. I'll pass out into a bloody mess on the ground. I'll say that you did it. And even though they won't believe me, you'll be hauled into court and you'll have to appear in so many hearings and it'll be hours of your life and so much paperwork just to defend yourself against my stupid allegation. Or you could just give me a cigarette and this could all be done. And he said, in that case, do you think the guard's going to give him a cigarette? Yes, he is. Do you think he's going to light it for him? Yes, he is. He said, okay, well, it's the same with you in any situation in life. And this is the point that I felt was just profound and I might have to just turn into an article to share it with people is he said, so much violence comes from people who feel powerless. They feel that they have no power in life and the only thing they can do is to lash out and abuse with violence. And he said, if they just realized the power that they have if they just learned how to think in a different way and realize the power they have to get from point A to point B, to get where they want to go, to be who they want to be, they do have the power. They just don't realize it. And he said that's what this is really about. That's what negotiating is really about, is realizing how much power you have in any given situation. I thought it was beautiful. That's why I gave it a ten out of ten. I was like, Everybody needs to read this.

Jonny Miller [01:25:37]:

Yeah, that's fantastic. It reminds me of the Victor Frankl, the man search for meaning of like he found his power or his agency in that. Like the freedom between sinless, even in the worst conditions imaginable in a Holocaust camp. It's like someone can find their own agency, I guess, in that.

Derek Sivers [01:25:56]:


Jonny Miller [01:25:57]:

Beautiful. So I had this funny moment before I hit record where the next thing that I wanted to I was curious about was the topic of sex. And I was like, oh, I'm going to name this money, Power and Sex with Derek Sivers.

Derek Sivers [01:26:15]:


Jonny Miller [01:26:16]:

I don't know if that will actually happen. We'll see. But in your conversation with Tim Ferriss, which I thought was really moving, actually, you mentioned offhand that you were walking in a forest talking for, I think, hours about sex, but you didn't mention what you were talking about. We can edit this out, obviously, but if you're open to sharing, what have you been exploring in that domain? Is there anything interesting that you think might be worth passing on to our listeners?

Derek Sivers [01:26:46]:

No. To be fair, we were not talking for hours about sex. We were talking about for hours about life, including sex. But I think the reason I said that as an example is that I think when I was a kid or a teen, I used to think that famous, important people got together to talk about important, serious things. And it was liberating for me to realize that the best conversations I had with people that were VIPs were when we would just shoot the shit, like with any other, and just talk shit about friends or talk about sex or just talk about stupid shit. And that's like it's so endearing to get off the pedestal, to not be the public figure. So let's just say when tim and I get together, which is rarely, we talk about the shit that we would never talk about publicly. And that's what's so fun is the week he was here, I laughed harder than I have in a long, long, long time. I don't mean once. I just mean like so much of that week was spent with both of us kind of like red faced, rubbing the tears from our eyes and laughing because we both are public figures. And it's only when we're completely offline and he knows I'm not going to gossip a thing about anything he tells me, and I know he's not going to go tell anybody anything I tell him. So we were able to just be completely free and talk all kinds of shit that you'd never say publicly. So am I going to share it? Hell no. But yeah, it was endearing and liberating and hilarious. Does that help? I mean, sorry, we're not like having serious conversations about the meaning of sex and anything like that. No, we're trading shit stories.

Jonny Miller [01:29:03]:

It does. I think part of the reason that I asked about it is I feel like it's one of those topics which is actually very important and almost like under discussed in a way. And there's so many misconceptions and myths.

Derek Sivers [01:29:21]:

Yeah, I agree, but I'm not the person to have that important conversation with. The only one insight that I wish that I would have learned earlier is I feel like I was brought up maybe it was the I don't know if everybody's brought up this way or if it was just the circumstance of the exact time when I was brought up. I think as I was becoming like 1213 14, the movies that were famous at the time kind of sold this message of sex is something that boys want and girls reluctantly give. And one of the worst offenders of this was the movie There's Something About Mary where he finally has a date with Mary and his friend is just like, hey, man, you're just like too know because you've got the baby batter on the brain. And he said, no, man, you got to desexualize this thing, man. And so that's why the whole hilarious scene of the hair gel or whatever, because the whole point of that scene was his friend telling him to desexualize it. Don't be wanting sex so much. Women don't like that. And it's funny because we watch this movie, we go, ha, it's a big hit movie. But you accidentally take in that message that women don't like sex or hey, man, don't be so sexual. That's rude. Women don't like that. And I think it wasn't just that one movie. It's just that one comes to mind. But I feel it was like in between the scenes, even when women because most of my friends are women, but they would tell these stories about this creep that was hitting on him or this creepy dude. Yeah, creepy dudes, gross guy, online dating people sending dick pics or whatever. And this unintended message was accidentally received as, like, women don't like sex. Sex is something that men want and women reluctantly give, and God, that just stuck with me as, like, a truth for decades, until recently, until I was god, what age? 44.

Jonny Miller [01:31:52]:


Derek Sivers [01:31:52]:

44. When I met Carla, I was 44. When I was like, oh, my God, this is, like, the best sex of my life. I can't believe this is the thing that I wish. I have very few regrets in life, but that's one if I could go back and tell my younger self, like, damn, man, I missed out on, like, 20 years of sex. Not that I had none, but, like, very little sex for 20 years because I thought it was rude, because I thought you should never try for that, or I don't know, I really got the wrong message in there. So that's one of my few regrets in life. Making up for it now.

Jonny Miller [01:32:31]:

Thank you for thank you for sharing. And it sounds like that's, like, maybe the perfect example of a belief which is profoundly not useful and also not useful.

Derek Sivers [01:32:39]:

Yes. If you think of that, like, the different categories, there's things that are true, but not useful. Not true, but useful. Yeah. Anyway, yeah, you're right. That's a not true and not useful.

Jonny Miller [01:32:57]:

I guess this may not lead anywhere, but I think you mentioned that personal growth is, like, one of your core values, something that you kind of lean into. Are there any ways in which you've kind of been leaning into your edges in a kind of healthy, playful way in recent memory?

Derek Sivers [01:33:17]:

What do you mean edges?

Jonny Miller [01:33:19]:

Edges as in things which maybe make you, like, a little bit uncomfortable or things which would be yeah, outside of your comfort zone or your usual Derek default path?

Derek Sivers [01:33:29]:

Absolutely. What three words did I say at the beginning when you asked, what are my three words? I said chilly. I said excited and balanced, I think. So the excited. I wasn't talking just about this conversation in this moment. I actually meant, like, this month. No, I mean, that was that was true too, but I chose those words carefully. The this has been a really exciting month. In one month, two of my old prejudices were reversed. Two things that I was prejudiced against, I am now prejudiced towards, in favor of. We don't use that word for that direction that much. Yeah, because it's prejudging. Never mind. I guess it doesn't apply when you're no longer prejudging. Now I'm post judging positively. I'm postjudiced. Okay, I'll tell you the two things dubai and Python. So Dubai was on my top ten list of places I never want to go. It did not sound like my kind of place. I lived in Singapore, which some people compare singapore and Dubai, or maybe just some the kind of people who come to Singapore often sometimes go to Dubai. So people had told me that Dubai is this materialistic, shopping focused, crass, soulless place, and every time I'd hear about it, I'd think, ugh, yuck, I never want to go there.

Jonny Miller [01:35:14]:

Same reaction myself. Yeah, I have that right now.

Derek Sivers [01:35:17]:

Okay, good. Have you been there?

Jonny Miller [01:35:19]:

I've not been there.

Derek Sivers [01:35:20]:

Yeah, all right, perfect. Brilliant, dude. I had a flight because I had agreed to attend this conference and my flight from New Zealand was passing through Dubai. So I thought, all right, you know what? Instead of just changing planes for 4 hours, I'm going to spend two days there. So I spent two days there and I absolutely loved it. I am so fascinated with it. I think about it. It's been just over a month now. I think about it every day. I wish I could have just stayed there. I wish I could move there right now. If I didn't have my wonderful boy here in New Zealand, I would be living in Dubai right now. I find it fascinating. It is the bar in Star Wars. Do you remember the bar in the first Star Wars movie? All of these people from all over the universe are passing through this trading port. So many different creatures, some kind of questionable characters, and they're all in this one place where they're there in a transactional kind of way. That, to me, is Dubai. Or let's say the Dubai Mall in particular. I didn't see everything in Dubai. I only spent two days there. But oh my God, it's the best people watching I've ever seen. I brought my laptop to do a little work, and I couldn't get any work done because I just sat there, people watching for hours. I just like, I can't work. Oh my God, these people are fascinating. So many people in the kind of like the Arab robes. And then suddenly the people from Nigeria with these giant green robes will come through, and then people from all over the Middle East and Asia and Pakistan and Bangladesh and India and all around the Middle East, and then the European tourists and oh, my God, so many people. It was so interesting. And then the conversations I had. Everybody is from somewhere else. Okay, so London, you know, London a bit london is full of foreigners, right? But if you look at statistics, about 37% of the population of London is foreign born. Same thing with a lot of the big international cities, like New York City, Singapore, Toronto are all about, like, 35% foreigners. Dubai is like 95% foreigners. There are almost no locals here. There are not that many emiratis. There are not that many locals, and they keep to themselves out in the suburbs more. A friend of mine that's lived in Abu Dhabi for ten years said, I've tried. And he said, in my ten years here, I think I've had conversations with a handful of Emirates, he said, they keep to themselves. And he said, So the point is, when you're in Dubai, everybody's from somewhere else, so you can just ask anybody, where are you from? And they're always going to be from somewhere else. So I had so many interesting conversations with strangers from Cameroon, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, a few different Kenyans. God, it was just fascinating. And then the stories that they were telling me, and even their points of view, because the guy from Pakistan telling me about, like, he comes from this neighborhood that's right on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, which is a special culture. He said, oh, whether it's Pakistan or Afghanistan doesn't really matter. This is my neighborhood. And then about ten years ago, he moved to a neighborhood on the edge of Dubai called Dera, which I haven't been to yet, but I can't wait to see. And he said, one by one, all of my cousins and relatives started moving there too. And he said no. He said, I just counted recently, I have 120 family members in my neighborhood. And he said, so everywhere I go in my neighborhood in Dera, Dubai, he said, almost everybody is related to me in some way. That's just in my one little neighborhood. And anyway, it was just such an interesting place. Yeah. Living there, to me, feels like living above, next to the bar in Star Wars. Yeah. So that's Dubai.

Jonny Miller [01:39:37]:

Thank you for sharing that. That actually has completely reframed my perspective.

Derek Sivers [01:39:43]:

Me too.

Jonny Miller [01:39:43]:

I could totally imagine. I love people watching and I love talking to strangers. And you're right that most people who are traveling, they're almost by default, they're just, like, more interesting to talk to and they're more likely to be interested as well, which I think makes better conversations.

Derek Sivers [01:39:58]:

Yeah. So that was one, and then the Python computer programming language. So first I have to explain that just by random circumstance, in 2004, I learned the Ruby programming language. I just happened to have the Ruby programming manual during a Christmas holiday where I was offline in my girlfriend's cabin in Sweden. And so I learned Ruby very well and I loved it. And I've used Ruby as my sole programming language for everything since for, wow, 19 years now. And Ruby and Python are so similar. It's like Portuguese and Spanish, right? So by being fluent in Ruby, I was like the Portuguese speaker in, say, like, South Brazil, surrounded by Spanish speaking countries, because Python is so much more popular that I was just refusing. Like, anytime somebody would talk about Python, I say, no. I'd plug my ears. I'm like, I'm not learning Python. It is too similar to Ruby. If I'm going to learn another computer programming language, it's going to be lisp or something obscure rust or something that is nothing like Ruby. Why on earth would I spend any effort to learn something that is so similar to Ruby? No. I'm not learning Ruby. Sorry. I'm not learning Python. It's the same as Ruby. So I have held this prejudice for 19 years against python, and recently, I was starting a new project where I had to decide from scratch what was the best language to do this new project in. And I evaluated 15 other computer programming languages, even some really obscure ones.

Jonny Miller [01:41:42]:

Tried really hard not to use Python.

Derek Sivers [01:41:44]:

Well, I wasn't even on my radar. It's Funny. I was even searching for it. I was looking at one called Gerbil Scheme. I was looking at really obscure languages. And finally, after 15, I was like, oh, right. Okay. I didn't consider Python. I was like I was like all right, to be fair, I'll consider Python. So I pulled up Python and I did the same evaluation that I did in all the other languages, which is I wrote a little script in each one. Like I learned enough to do this. And I actually did use OpenAI what do you call it? Chat GBT a bit to say. Okay, can you help me write a script that does this and that and show me how to connect to a database? Dude, it was number 50. Or maybe it was 16 out of 15. When I finally pulled up Python, I was like, all right. Connected Base. And I was like as soon as I did, I looked at the screen, I was like, oh, my God. That's beautiful. Whoa. I was like, that's brilliant. Wow. Out of the 15 languages I've just been looking at for the last five days, this has just become my favorite one. What the hell? Why have I never looked at this language before? This is gorgeous. This is amazing. And so I spent the next three days immersed in the I went through the documentation, the manual, start to finish, and said wow out loud at least a dozen times. Over three days. I'd just be doing something simple like okay, open a file and read it. And I'd go, whoa. Wow. That's Beautiful. Damn. So just like that, after 19 years of prejudice against Python, after ten something years of prejudice against Dubai, in One month, I've Had Two Things that I Had on My shit list now become My Favorite. So now it's like, I wish I lived in Dubai and I'm doing all my new projects in Python. What a great month it's been.

Jonny Miller [01:43:36]:

That's Amazing. Thank you for sharing both of those. Okay, so I have a few rapid fire questions to Randolph, and then we'll wrap up. First question. What is one hypothesis that you hold that you suspect might be true, but don't yet have proof for?

Derek Sivers [01:44:09]:

Anything I would say would be a lie because I don't think anything is true.

Jonny Miller [01:44:18]:

I guess that's a hypothesis.

Derek Sivers [01:44:24]:

That's my nihilism in full effect is I just really think that basically nothing except the physical things in front of me are true. So I don't judge things that way. So if there's some hypothesis that I'm choosing to believe, I just still see it as a preference. I don't see it as true if I say that humans should do this or I should do that or the world is as such. I'm just too aware that every single thing I could say, there would just be a preference that absolutely none of them are true because they're just perspectives.

Jonny Miller [01:45:14]:

Yeah, I think that's a great answer, and it's also something that I feel like is an example of something that is, all right, we won't go down the rabbit hole, but I appreciate where you took that. If you were to write an illustrated children's book, what might the title be?

Derek Sivers [01:45:46]:

It's all up to you. Sorry, dude. My head is in the useful not true mindset right now in this thing we're talking about, about pointing out that all of the things that people are going to tell you are not necessarily true, and it's all up to you what you want to do with life. And I would probably make some colorful, memorable examples of a kid going through the world being told that things are so by very smart, knowledgeable people around him, and then later finding out that none of those things are necessarily so, that it was just that person's opinion and helping kind of disprove. Because I think that kids think of grown ups as authorities that know better. But so often grown ups are so full of shit, and they tell kids things. I was about to say lies, but they're not intended to be lies. They're just they're beliefs that people hold that I think are harmful beliefs, and they tell them to kids as if they're truths. And I think it's really harmful. And, I mean, that's really my ultimate motivation for writing this book, is some of my best friends are still fucked up in their 40s because of beliefs that their parents gave them when they were eight, and it's taking decades to unravel those harmful beliefs and yeah. So I would think that that would be a useful kids book.

Jonny Miller [01:47:36]:

I love it. Perhaps the subtitle could be grown ups are full of shit. Yes.

Derek Sivers [01:47:42]:

Good one. Thank you. That would actually probably sell better that way. Yeah.

Jonny Miller [01:47:48]:

What is your working definition of a meaningful friendship?

Derek Sivers [01:47:57]:

Vulnerability, a mutual admiration, wide open communication. Yeah, those are my big three.

Jonny Miller [01:48:21]:

And then last question. What is your greatest aspiration or hope that you hold for your writing and your books?

Derek Sivers [01:48:31]:

Um OOH. Greatest aspiration. Okay. If I take that adjective seriously, then of course it's like the childhood dream of many to think that something we make is going to be read after our death. Sorry, I'm saying childhood because I remember I'm actually specifically referring to an old girlfriend of mine. I was actually that my first major girlfriend when I was 21 years old, told me that she used to daydream that her diaries would be read like Anne Frank's diaries. After she died, she used to write in my diary, just convinced that after I die, these diaries are going to be read with such earnestness and seriousness and people really valuing my thoughts. And she said that I realized later, I'm just some eight year old girl in Massachusetts. Greatest aspiration. Okay, taking that adjective all the way then. Yeah, it would be nice if my books were valued greatly even after my death. And it's a wonderful definition of the afterlife. If you are a total atheist and believe in nothing and you believe that when you die, there's no whatever spiritual realm that you just plop into the earth, well, then your personality is what lives on through recordings like this, through your writing. And so that is your personality living after you have physically died. That is my favorite definition of the afterlife.

Jonny Miller [01:50:32]:

Wow. Well, this has been so much fun. Really appreciate your time. Where can listeners read your books, your book reviews? Buy the new book. What would you like to direct people to?

Derek Sivers [01:50:47]:

I would like people not to go to Amazon, not to go to Audible.

Jonny Miller [01:50:53]:

Don't go to Amazon, people.

Derek Sivers [01:50:54]:

Yes, just decentralize. Quit going to the man for everything. So just go to my website, go to Sivers and everything is there. My books are all there. Just buy them directly from me. All the money goes to charity. And also you get a better deal when you go with me. You get the audiobook and the ebook and the paper book and everything, all included. The best thing is to send me an email. The reason I do these podcasts is clearly I'm not here to promote anything. I've done a terrible job of that if I was, but except for my new illustrated future children's book called Grown Ups are Full of Shit.

Jonny Miller [01:51:43]:

Heard it here, thanks to Johnny exclusive.

Derek Sivers [01:51:45]:

Yep. Titled by Johnny then I like meeting people, as you can tell. So anybody, if you listened all the way to the end of this interview, you should go to my website and click the link that says Email me and say hello.

Jonny Miller [01:52:01]:

Well, I will make sure that all of those links and your email, which is brave of you, will be in the show notes. Thank you. So I'd like to close with this line from the poet Wilke. And he said, try to love the questions themselves and live them. Now perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live your way into the answer. With that in mind, what is the question that is most alive in your consciousness right now? And what question might you leave our listeners with that they may potentially email you about?

Derek Sivers [01:52:55]:

Still thinking.

Jonny Miller [01:52:56]:

Take your time.

Derek Sivers [01:53:12]:

It fuck it. I'll just say what what is your dream situation? Your ideal? What's your ideal in this scenario? I like asking that because we so often constrain ourself to the defaults. We constrain ourselves to the norms and what we see is just like, well, yeah, of course, I have to have to do this, have to do that. This is what you do, this is how it goes. And I think a great question to live is to constantly ask yourself, well, what's the ideal like in a perfect world, how would it go? And then creatively make it from scratch that way.

Jonny Miller [01:54:06]:

Derek Sivers thank you so much.

Derek Sivers [01:54:09]:

Thanks, Johnny.

Jonny Miller [01:54:11]:

We will wrap the show with that.

Derek Sivers on How to Negotiate Anything, The Joys of Parenthood & Why Nothing You Believe is True
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