Derek Sivers
How to Live

How to Live

27 conflicting answers and one weird conclusion

by Derek Sivers, 115 pages

Finished on 30th of August, 2022
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The book’s filled to the rim with smart ideas. It’s funny to go through them and realize that many of the imperatives contradict each other, so in the end you have the same amount of freedom to decide as you did before. There is a lot of deep inspiration in these short chapters.

🚀 The Book in 3 Sentences

  1. Twenty-seven chapters of different angles to look at life. It’s clearly and unequivocally stating many of the different ways to live, so the title of the book is 100 percent on point.
  2. These twenty-seven aren’t completely in conflict with each other, but they also just rarely have an overlap.
  3. It’s meant to make you think about how you would like to prioritize your time on Earth. What’s most important to you and what you might be missing from life so far.

🎨 Impressions

It’s easy to notice that the author has already lived a full life, kept an open eye and made many different memories along the way. Still, he made the book light-hearted and funny, although at times I feel like that’s inadvertently. It helps you to look at your own life from different perspectives and find your own priorities.

Although the book is relatively short, it doesn’t make much sense just to race through it and devour it in an hour, I think. You should take some time to think about what each chapter means in the context of your own way of living, in my opinion. Maybe even a day each, if you have the patience.

The different chapters are advertised on the book cover as “conflicting”, but that’s only true to a degree. The vast majority isn’t mutually exclusive.

🍀 How the Book Changed Me

  • The book is reduced to only sentences which hold value. This makes it dense. It’s a lot to take in, but it definitely helped me to see things more clearly. For example, some specific chapters like “Love”, “Live for others”, “Master something”, and even “Get rich” framed things in such a new way, I’m sure I have now incorporated some ideas.
  • There are many chapters which on paper contradicted with my own views of a good life, in fact, I had certain people in mind with whom I don’t often agree, but the author portrayed these aspects in such a benevolent way it made it easier for me to interpret the positive sides of those attitudes more strongly.

📔 Highlights & Notes

  1. Be independent
    • If you were’t dependent on income, people, or technology, you would be truly free.
    • The only way to be deeply happy is to break all dependencies.
    • Wait a few days to decide what you really think. Don’t let ideas into your head or heart without your permission.
    • Decide everything is your fault. Whoever you blame has power over you, so blame only yourself.
    • You can’t be free without self-mastery. Your past indulgences and habits might be addictions.
    • Learn the skills you need to be self-reliant. Learn to drive, fly, sail, garden, fish, and camp. Learn emergency medical and disaster preparedness.
  2. Commit
    • Trust and show you can be trusted. Let them know they can lean on you because you’re here to stay.
    • Once you decide what’s important to you, you know how your ideal self will act and what your ideal day will be. So why not act that way and live that way every day?
  3. Fill your senses
    • Appreciate this wonderful physical world.
    • Experience it all, never do anything twice.
  4. Do nothing
    • Don’t hope. Hope is wanting things to be different than they are. Wanting to change yourself is self-loathing. There’s no deeper happiness than wanting nothing.
    • Most actions are a pursuit of emotions. You think you want to take action or own a thing. But what you really want is the emotion you think it’ll bring.
    • Your whole experience of life is in your mind. Focus on your internal world, not external world.
    • No news, no gossip, no entertainment. Most of it is not worth knowing.
    • But if it still feels necessary, adjust your time frame. A year from now, will it be important? Ten years from now? Zoom out as far as you need to make it unimportant. Then you’re free of it.
  5. Think super-long-term
    • Put money in an investment account and never withdraw. Eat mostly vegetables. Exercise always. Get preventative health checkups. Make time for your relationships.
    • Imagine your future self judging your current life choices. When making a decision, ask yourself how you’ll feel about it when you’re old.
  6. Intertwine with the world
    • Only idiots think they’re always right.
    • To live a full and rewarding life, intertwine yourself with the world.
    • From Germany, learn rationality and directly honest communication. Leave before you start scolding strangers.
    • If you eventually need a permanent home, choose the place you’d want to be if everything goes wrong.
  7. Make memories
    • You could have a long healthy life, but if you can’t remember it, it’s like you had a short life.
    • Novelty is the solution. Go make memories. Do memorable things. Experience the unusual.
    • Document everything, or you’ll eventually forget it. Nobody can erase your memories, but don’t lose them through neglect.
    • Making memories is the most important thing you can do with your life. The more memories you create, the longer and richer your life feels. Making memories is how to live.
  8. Master something
    • Mastery is the best goal because the rich can’t buy it, the impatient can’t rush it, the privileged can’t inherit it, and nobody can steal it.
    • Goals only improve your present actions. A good goal makes you take action immediately. A bad goal doesn’t.
  9. Let randomness rule
    • You can’t predict what will happen. Instead, you’ll calculate probability. You’ll be hyper-aware that statistics apply to all of us, and we’re more average than we think.
  10. Pursue pain
    • If you overprotect yourself from pain, then every little challenge will feel unbearably difficult.
    • Always say the truth. Take the painful consequences.
    • The easy road leads to a hard future. The hard road leads to an easy future.
  11. Do whatever you want now
    • Doing whatever makes you happy now is smart. When you’re happy, you think better. More of your brain is engaged.
  12. Be a famous pioneer
    • For the benefit of furthering humankind, do something significant no one has ever done before. Show that it can be done.
  13. Chase the future
    • Regularly visit Singapore, Jakarta, Addis Ababa, Lagos, Mumbai, Ho Chi Minh City, and Silicon Valley. Each is creating the future in different ways.
    • Avoid Europe and anywhere that lives in the past. Places that resist change have no vision, only memories.
    • Move to South Korea, listen only to new music and watch new shows. Give away everything that binds you to the past.
  14. Value only what has endured
    • The longer something lasts, the longer it will probably last.
    • New technologies are more exciting because they are changing fast. But the stable and old ones are those to trust. Cryptocurrency versus water filtration. Virtual reality versus air conditioning.
  15. Learn
    • The biggest obstacle to learning is assuming you already know. Confidence is usually ignorance.
    • Don’t be consistent with you past self. Only idiots never change their mind.
  16. Follow the great book
    • Whether the Bible, Tanakh, Upanishads, Quran, Think and Grow Rich, Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, or another. Your book is wiser than you.
    • “Follow your passion” is terrible advice. Fleeting interests are a bad compass. Rules give you freedom from following emotions so you can do what’s right instead.
  17. Laugh at life
    • Humor is the spirit of life – a sign of a healthy, vibrant mind and soul.
    • Those who take life too seriously are the opposite of being playful, creative, adaptive, irreverent, and unbound by norms, and are at a disadvantage.
    • No matter what you need to do, there’s a playful, creative way to do it. Playing gives you personal autonomy and power.
  18. Prepare for the worst
    • If you expect to be disappointed, you won’t be.
    • Comfort reduces your future happiness.
    • So don’t depend on circumstances. Everything that happens is neutral. Your beliefs are what make it good or bad. It’s all you, just change your reactions to events.
  19. Live for others
    • Even if you prefer solitude, you have to admit that being a valuable member of a group is smarter.
    • Be warm, open, and fully present with everyone you encounter. Confidence attracts. Vulnerability endears.
    • Imagine if you found out someone was going to die tomorrow. Imagine what you’d do to make their last day on Earth the best it could be. Now treat everyone like that, every day.
    • Success in business comes from helping people – bringing the most happiness to the most people.
  20. Get rich
    • Making money is proof you’re adding value to people’s lives. Aiming to get rich is aiming to be useful to the world.
    • Don’t aim to just be comfortable. You don’t make the world a better place by just getting by.
    • Your time is more profitably spent doing what comes easily to you.
    • Stay frugal. Reducing your expenses is so much easier than increasing your income.
  21. Reinvent yourself regularly
    • Your past is not your future. Whatever happened before has nothing at all to do with what happens next.
  22. Love
    • When someone tells you what’s broken, they want you to love the brokenness, not try to eliminate it.
    • Don’t exaggerate to be more entertaining. Don’t downplay.
    • The more you really connect with people, the more you learn about yourself: what excites you, what drains you, what attracts you, and what intimidates you.
    • Notice how you feel around people. Notice who brings out the best in you.
    • Don’t hope that someone is impressed. Impress yourself. Be your ideal self.
    • In a relationship, you must both be free and able to live without each other. Be together by choice, not necessity or dependence.
  23. Create
    • Creativity is a magic coin. The more you spend, the more you have.
    • Collect ideas in a crowd. Create in silence and solitude. Like your bedroom, your work space needs to be private.
  24. Don’t die
    • Avoiding failure leads to success. The winner is usually the one who makes the least mistakes.
  25. Make a million mistakes
    • Jump into action without hesitation or worry. You’ll be faster and do more than everyone else.
  26. Make change
    • Change the world as much as you can. All your learning and thinking is wasted if you don’t take action.
    • In the end, the highest praise of a life is to say that person “made a difference”. Difference!
  27. Balance everything
    • Schedule everything to ensure balance of your time and effort.
    • Balance your needs versus the needs of others.
    • Talk with smart people in the opposite political camp until you’re not opposite anymore.
    • Balance your response to situations. Feed the hungry, balance justice.
    • If you balance everything in your life, you postpone nothing. You won’t postpone happiness, dreams, love, or expression. You could die happy at any time.

How do you feel after reading this?

This helps me assess the quality of my writing and improve it.

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