Derek Sivers

Entrepreneur, programmer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Life is like High School

Last week a musician wrote an email to the effect of, “I've been working hard - why isn't it paying off?”

Keep this in mind: life is like high school.

When you're in high school, it's ALL about popularity, clicks, being cool, what you wear, what parties you're at, etc.

When you go to college, the focus shifts to academic achievement.

Many people get out of college thinking the world will be like that. “The harder you work, the more you will be rewarded.” But it's not.

Life is like high school. It's all about who you know, how socially charming you are, what scene you're in, what you wear, what parties you're at, flirting, and being cool.

But you can make this work in your favor.

When I think about every big leap that happened in my career, it was always because of “someone I knew.” Always friends of friends. People in some position of power who I kept in touch with, did favors for, and got the same in return.

Go meet 3 people each week you think could help your career. Be a good friend. Make it mutually beneficial, not some suck-up relationship. There's always some resource you have that can totally help out someone who may be “above” you on the ladder. Invite a NEW friend to a party or show you know about.

For years I was booked solid, touring the college market, making way too much money, not because I'm GOOD, but because we made a FUN, ENTERTAINING, “COOL” show. We won the popularity contest.

I think it's possible to approach the music business as if you were a new kid going to a new high school, and wanted to be the most popular kid in class. Sounds shallow, but it works.

Ask Andy Warhol, or someone like Miles Davis - who made great music but knew how to play his image : to be cool.

Life is like High School