Derek Sivers

Interviews → Smile High

Talk with Nate about people-pleasing and obstacles. Kind of awkward.

Download: audio (mp3)

Link: http://smilehighpodcast.podomatic.com/entry/2015-09-13T18_13_11-07_00


Nate:

Welcome everybody to yet another edition of the Smile High podcast club. Today I have wrangled somebody that, through his work, I respect quite a bit. His point of view on life and business and things. His name is Derek Sivers. Did I get that last name right Derek?

Derek:

Sivers, like rivers.

Nate:

So, Sivers. Thank you Derek. Now this is a very special guest for our podcast. Derek, in fact, is 18 hours ahead of me, he is in New Zealand. How is the morning over there for you Derek?

Derek:

Gorgeous, I live right on the ocean by the big crashing waves crashing into some rocks. So yeah, a perfect place to work at home all day.

Nate:

Do you have a window that maybe you're looking out through?

Derek:

Oh, of course. I'm saying that as I'm watching the waves crashing into the rocks right in front of me. Yeah, it's great.

Nate:

Oh, I'm so jealous! Very good. And that's Wellington, I think.

Derek:

Yeah, I live in Wellington, the capital.

Nate:

Well excellent. I actually spent two years of my life on an island just north of you there, in New Caledonia. It's a couple hour flight. So I know, I've seen those waves, I've seen that big body of water. I love it!

Derek:

What were you doing here for two years?

Nate:

I was there for two years basically doing like a service type mission. So that's what's brought me there and I would die to go back, it's a lovely place. So I'm totally jealous of you Derek. Let me just give the audience a little idea about you and then maybe you could fill in a bunch of the holes. Your resume, Derek, it's a rather extensive so I don't even know where to start. Basically how I got to know that Derek is through a TED Talk that I listened to. I got interested in that, I bought his book. Derek wrote a book, well he's written around 34 books, is that right? So he has written quite a few but I only read one unfortunately, for now, and it's entitled to Anything You Want. And that was back in 2011 and it became a number one Amazon bestseller in its category. It's a small book, but it's so dense. It's one of those books that you look at and you read a page and it's just full of great ideas for the entrepreneur. Or even just kind of everyday life. Derek has appeared on three or so TED Talks, I believe. The three talks that I know about are How to start a movement, and no, for my audience, that's not a bran muffin commercial, this is a different type of movement that Derek was talking about. The second one is Weird, or just different? And that's an interesting talk, Derek gives a few different perspectives on living abroad and seeing different cultures. The last one I know about is Keep your goals to yourself and is basically some data-driven advice from psychologist tests and stuff. Derek also started a company called CD Baby back in 1998. This, in essence, is kind of where Derek brought home the bacon, so to speak. This company became one of the largest sellers of independent music online. A hundred million in sales, 150,000 musicians, I'm sure that figure is probably changed by now. Esquire magazine actually called Derek the last music business folk hero. So he rather carved out an interesting niche for musicians. I know if you look at Derek's website, which is sivers.org, he gives a little run down of what he considers himself to be, which is a professional musician, a programmer, a writer, entrepreneur, student, and the last thing: a circus clown. Now, I'm really interested about that, Derek, is this something you did way back in your early days?

Derek:

Yeah. From the age of 18 to 28, that was my full-time job. I was the ringleader MC of a circus. I was just a professional musician, really making my living as a musician, and I got this call asking me to do a circus show and they liked what I did and they said "hey, would like you to be the new musician", and that led into "we'd like you to be the MC, we'd like you to be the main guy." Yeah it was great performing experience. From the age of 18 to 28 I probably did about 1000 shows on stage. And you realize if you can entertain a bunch of five-year-old kids you can entertain anyone.

Nate:

That's true, that's probably one of the more critical audiences that any of us can have, right? Well, excellent. That just seems to be the black sheep of all those credentials and titles that you had, I don't think any of us can say that we've ever been a circus clown. So that's very awesome. And just to wrap up, I don't want to take all the time giving me audio bytes, I want to get you on the horn here Derek. But the last thing I know about you Derek, is you started a company called Wood Egg. I'm not too sure if the current project of the book that you're writing that gives a concise synopsis of other books is part of this company, are they associated?

Derek:

No, Wood Egg was a flop. When I was living in Singapore I wanted to understand my new neighborhood better. Neighborhood meaning all of the countries around Singapore. I realized I knew nothing about Malaysia, Indonesia or Sri Lanka or Cambodia. I really wanted to understand these places.

I have a philosophy that you should share what you learn. So I thought, instead of me just going around and backpacking and asking a bunch of questions, why don't I formalize this? So I started publishing company called Wood Egg to share what I've learned about these 16 countries around Asia. Yeah, it was a huge flop. I spent so much money on researchers and writers and editors putting all these books together and had a great system, it was kind of like a book making factory that we used to put this all together. And in the end man, some of those books, like the guides to Sri Lanka, sold like five copies. It's kind of amazing that I've spend like $15,000 to produce this book and sold five. People just weren't interested.

Nate:

I think I went through the list of all of those and I think I read about how you did it, you hired people who were from the country and people who were visitors and that's how you outsourced these books, is that correct?

Derek:

Yeah, well I didn't want to just get one person's opinion. So you could go to Indonesia and ask one person a bunch of questions about Indonesia. You could say, tell me about this and tell me about that. And what you get is one person's biased opinion. And I thought well I'm a programmer, I can build systems. I love building systems. So instead I built a system where I came up with 200 questions that I wanted to know the answers to, and then I made sure that every question was answered by three different people, with three different viewpoints on the place. So I tried to find always one native person that just grew up there. One foreigner that was living there now but was not originally from there. And then ideally, some of my favorite ones if I could get them, was somebody that grew up there but then left for many years. Like went and also saw the world from a different point of view, but then came back to Indonesia or wherever and to give me the perspective on Indonesia from having been gone as well, you know? I think that some of the best perspectives come from that point of view.

Nate:

I'd like to touch upon that Derek because it seems like in maybe your book or your TED Talks you've made it a point to mention to get people out of their culture to see other people's culture. Is that why that last person's perspective was so interesting?

Derek:

Yeah, I think that for all of us. You know, your two years spent in the Pacific. That phrase that I said about fish don't know they're in water. What that means is we often don't even know what our culture is until we leave it. We just have a bunch of things that we think are true. And it's not until you leave the place that you're from that you find out that a bunch of things that you thought were true are actually just opinions, or they are the norms in your culture. But are very much not true in other places. And only then can you see them. Like the fish who jumps out of the ocean for the first time and looked down at it and says "whoa! Oh my God I'm water!" Then you can, kind of with that perspective see your own culture with new clarity.

Nate:

Like you said I did spend some time out of the US and I know exactly what you're talking about. You grew up in California and have since moved out to Singapore and now you're currently in New Zealand. Looking back at your mentality, Californian mentality, United States American mentality, what would you say the biggest idea that you held as the truth that actually turned out to be not so helpful, not so truthful?

Derek:

Probably individualism is the main one. There is this very American thing of do it yourself. Do it yourself. Do everything yourself and I did this all by myself. It's actually even tied together with the whole follow your passions, follow your dreams. That's all together, it's like you you you, what do you want? What's your passion? What's best for you? You gotta look out for yourself and make your own personal achievements. And so you go to a place like, I was going to say Singapore, but the really it's true all across Asia, where the general belief is that what you want doesn't really matter so much. You do what's best for your group. And your group usually means your immediate family, but extends beyond that to your village or even your country. You do what's best for the group.

Say for example in Singapore there are not a lot of people trying to be musicians, for example. Because the spoken or unspoken message from the parents is like: "okay you've got these thing that you like doing, you like doing music, okay that's good but we need you to get a good paying job at the multinational corporation, because you got to take care of your parents and take care of your family. This little cute passion of yours is nice and all, but we can't have you being broke, because that's not good for your family. So make a lot of money, do this on the side for fun." You see what I mean? It's a very different message than you get in America with this kind of like " follow your dreams, follow your passion." So at first I thought he was wrong. Like when I first moved there I said "no, you have got to do what you want, it doesn't matter what everybody else wants you to do, you've got to do what you want!" And it took me quite a while and a lot of my Singaporean friends to kind of explain this point of view that "no, that's just you being American." That's a very American thing to think that's what you want is important. Yeah, and I finally saw it from that perspective and I no longer think they are wrong, it's just a different way of looking at it.

Nate:

Actually that's one of those thoughts that I believe you conveyed in your book in a way that sent my house of cards falling down. I actually grew up... and it's not a bad thing because I am all about getting those ideas to where, I don't know how to put it into words, but basically to live a fulfilling and a potential reaching life, you know? The reason I'm of this mentality is I grew up listening to personal coaches like Tony Robbins, Dale Carnegie, Napoleon Hill and a lot of what they teach, which is motivating, is all about you you you. And it can basically lead to a very frustrating life. Kind of like you said, if everybody is about you you you you, I guess it's just not so rewarding. So when I was reading your book, I don't know if I emailed you this, but I was like wow, your book goes right for the jugular, you know? It's really touched me and affected me to start looking outside myself. And so I really appreciated that observation. I think that, as an audience, a listener, it's something worth considering, of possibly revamping that idea and come from a more tribal or group type think of contribution mentality.

Derek:

Yeah.

Nate:

Excellent. Well Derek, would you mind maybe sharing just a little bit about yourself that you'd like the audience to know? Who you are, where you came from, just a brief synopsis, and then will jump into the regular questions.

Derek:

Sure. Well yeah, I'm very American. I grew up all around America. Really just decide that when I was 14 that I wanted to be a famous musician. And so that ended up being the best thing for me, because it just gave me this focus: now I have something very difficult that I was shooting for. And it's funny, it could have been anything, I could've wanted to be an Olympic gymnast or go to the moon or something. But having a difficult goal, I think is just one of the best things is that a kids or a teenager or anyone can have, because it put everything else into perspective. While my friends would like to sit around and watch TV and just kill time and go to parties, I skipped all of that stuff and I would just focus. I was a workaholic robot and I loved it, because I knew what I wanted in life. And that just developed some really good habits for me of enjoying working and all that.

From the age of 14 to 29, all I wanted was to be a successful musician and in some ways I did it. I made a living doing music from the age of 18 to 28, 29. I even bought a house with the money I made touring.

And it was around that time that I started a little website just to sell my CD. But that's when some of my friends said "hey man, could you sell my CD too on that website?" Because at the time that was really nowhere else to sell your music. There was no PayPal, Amazon was just a bookstore, it was a different world on the Internet back then, this is like 1997. So yeah, I started selling some of my friend's CDs on my band's website. And then that just grew and grew and became CD Baby and that got so much bigger than I wanted it to be. It had 85 employees and way too much responsibility and it was too stressful, I was not enjoying it.

So I sold it, because I was just kind of miserable doing it. I sold CD Baby 2008 and that's when I decided I wanted to turn my attention to more interesting, intellectual things and became more of a writer/speaker kind of dude. So that's where we are.

Nate:

And what a cool dude you are at doing that. I think you're doing well. I don't know much about CD Baby I read than what I have read, but your writing and speaking, your touching people's lives like myself and I'm hoping that that gives you the motivation to just keep going. I found it interesting, and I know you didn't include this part in the details of CD Baby, but I understood that you spend maybe three months creating a "buy now" button, this is before PayPal and all of that. What made you think you could do it? Because you have no programming skills up to that point, is that correct?

Derek:

Yeah, but I guess the belief system is: this is a human capability, so if a human being can do it then I can do it. I mean how hard can anything be really? We're not talking about some kind of supreme abilities, we’re not trying to be an Olympic gymnast or something like that. But a "buy now" button, yeah I have no programming experience but how hard can it be? So yeah, it was pretty hard. But I did it. It's three months of my life, not so bad.

Nate:

That's not too bad. I just love that viewpoint. It seems like you share a common viewpoint with me of "why not? I might as well try it." Just really quick, my background, I'm a mechanical engineer, I work with jet airplanes. My math grades in high school were horrendous. And even had a stroke of amnesia or what, but I went into college I decided to go into engineering and even with my deficient math I was able to do well. And it seems like perhaps maybe that is the entrepreneur spirit, that they look at things as challenges rather than huge obstacles. Have you ever had an obstacle in your life where you are just like "it's not worth my time"?

Derek:

Yeah, probably daily, but those things don't really stick in my memory, if you know what I mean. Obstacles are a lot... they're just what you make them to be. I know a lot of people who get to really hung up on things and think of them as huge obstacles. And then other people just look at those same things and just bypass it. They just stepped right over it and don't let it get to them. They don't give it more of a minute's thought, like "oh, all right well that didn't work, let's try this." Whereas other people would sit there and tell you their sad tale of how they "tried this and it just didn't work, and that's why I'm here in skid row."

So I think it's just a certain mindset that changes everything, whether you have the mindset of being able to bypass problems or just sometimes ignore problems. Saying like "okay, that's another thing that didn't work. Whatever, let's carry on."

I think of that Tony Robbins metaphor, once he said that when he was learning karate, he thought it was fascinating that when he was learning to break boards that his karate teacher said "ignored the boards, just focus on the point below the board, and just get your hand there. Focus all your energy on that point behind the boards." And he kind of made a metaphor for life out of that that there are all these problems, and just don't focus on the problems, who cares about the problems? Focus on where you are going, and if something gets tossed in your way you just walk around it, step aside it or just break through it, who cares?

So I think I adopted that mentality quite early. If you would ask me about the obstacles or the problems or the struggles I had when starting my business, it's like I don't even remember them. It just wasn't really a focus.

Nate:

Yeah, I love that you brought up that metaphor. It's so outcome oriented rather than excuse oriented where you are like "well, I can't program a "buy now" button, I'll wait until somebody does it for me." So very very cool. Very cool. Let's shift gears if you don't mind, and will jump into these questions. I have so many questions for you Derek, that I want to stay on track, at least for my listeners who are expecting me to ask you these questions, and I'm battling against time. So thank you so much that thus far, but let's dive into our questions. Are you ready for question one?

Derek:

Sure.

Nate:

All right. Question one is to share a life experience that has made a significant impact on your life. And if you could share that and explain how you think it's contributed to the person you are today.

Derek:

Probably meeting Kimo Williams when I was 17, I think. I grew up in Chicago and was about to go to Berklee College of Music, like I'd already signed up, I'd already enrolled. And I realized that I was going to write a lot of sheet music. And I went looking into classified ads for like a music typewriter. And there was this teacher Kimo Williams that had a classified ad in the newspaper about music typesetting and I called him and asked him some questions and he said "why are you asking?" I said that "well, I'm gonna go to Berklee College of Music in a couple months", I think it was probably just six or seven weeks away before I was going. And I said "I just want to prepare for that." He said "aah Berklee College of Music, huh? Well, I graduated from Berklee College of Music and I taught there for little bit and I could teach you a thing or two before you go." I said "I would love that!" And he said "well, show up at my studio here in downtown Chicago at 9 AM Thursday morning, and I'll show you some things."

So couple days later I rang his bell at 8:59 in the morning and he was surprised to see me. I heard him tell the story years later to someone else, he said "you know, I say this all the time to people that call me and ask a bunch of questions, I say show up at my studio at 9 AM, and nobody ever does! So for the first time in all my times of saying that this kid showed up at my door at 8:59 in the morning. That already was impressive." So anyway, he taught me that... he said "look, you can graduate college in two years. You have to understand colleges need to go at a standard pace so that nobody is left behind. You have a classroom full of people and they really just need to keep the pace at about the level of the slowest students, so that everybody can follow along. But if you're smarter than that, and I think that anybody can be smarter than that, then there is no need to go at the standard pace, there is no need to take four years to graduate college. You can graduate in two if you work hard. For example…"

He sat down and just showed me a bunch of stuff. We sat at the piano and he said "okay, how does a major scale go? Okay, what is the interval between this and that note? What is this? Do you know what a tri-tone is? Now where can you make another tri-tone using the same two notes? Great! And that's called a substitute chord." He was giving me all this music theory and it turned out that in two hours of intensive discussion like that he had basically showed me two semesters of harmony theory class of music theory class at Berklee. Then in another couple hours he showed me the other two semesters worth of it.

So right there, he had me get out of four semesters of classes that I would have spent however many months of my life sitting in. We did it in two hours. And then he did that for some other stuff and some other stuff. I went down to the studio probably four, five times over five weeks before I went off to college. And on my opening day at Berklee School of Music sure enough I tested out of, I don't know, twelve semesters worth of classes.

I didn't graduate in two years, I graduated in two and a half. But the belief system was there that the standard pace is for chumps. That was his quote. If you're more driven than just the average lump you can do so much more than anyone expects and that this applies to all areas of life, not just to school. So I really think that I owe most of the achievements I've had to his raised expectations. That's all it took. If any of your listeners are interested I told the story with a little more detail on my website at sivers.org/kimo. And there is a link to him and his music and his studio. I haven't talked to him in a while, but I should. But anyway, yeah we kept in touch, he made such a huge difference in my life that we've kept in touch ever since. That was 20 years ago something.

Nate:

That's interesting, because of that very thought makes us analyze our lives and look at things that we've adopted, patterns or ideas or whatever that we've adopted, because they were given to us. And I guess one could think "well, can this be done in a different way or can it be done quicker?" Yeah, I can see why that had such a profound effect on you. Is that idea what has made you think of the project of condensing these books that you've been reading into ideas and easy to assimilate ways of life or looking at things?

Derek:

I don't know if it's related. I'm just a learning addict, like you and like your listeners probably. I love learning and improving and constantly reading. For me books really do it for me. Actually if you want to hear a strange fact about me: besides the fact that I've never tried coffee, I've also never listened to a podcast. Not once, not ever. Books are really just my favorite format, I love to get away from the audio and just sit down with a good book. And when I do that, if it's a paper book I underline things and I circle paragraphs, and if it's a Kindle, they have a highlighting feature on the Kindle that you can basically do the same. Regardless, when done then I copy all of my notes into a text file so I can review it later. Because about eight years ago I realized that I would often forget the lessons inside the had read in the past. I would remember in the moment, I would be influenced by a book as soon as I read it. But then a year later, three years later the lessons were gone. They had just faded away. And I've flipped through a book again going oh wow, I should read this again. But I don't want to take the 20 hours to read the whole book again. Really, I just want to get the highlights again. So I figured, in the moment I'm reading it, this is where I need to save the most important lessons from this book. So I started saving all those text files. And I would copy them to my phone so even if I was just sitting on the bus for an hour, I could review my notes on the bus. And then I started posting them on my website. So if you go to sivers.org/book you'll see all of my book notes, I just started sharing them publicly with links to go get the whole book if you're interested. Now I have this idea of wanting to sum up the most important things I've learned from the last 225 books that I've read. And think of what were the most important powerful points that I've learned, and put them all together.

Nate:

I think that's a very worthwhile project and I'm looking forward to what you come up with. Let's move on to the second question if you don't mind. The second question is Derek, what is your strength and how are you using it to bring joy to yourself and others?

Derek:

I don't really think in terms of strengths. Only in terms of what interests me. I think strength is like a later analysis, if you know what I mean. When somebody says what are your strengths, I have to think back to the last 20 compliments I've received and try to find a common thread and go hmm, people really seem to like this, so I guess that's my strength. Or people have told me that I'm good at that, so I guess that's my strength. But in the moment it's not really something I ever think about.

So because of that I tend to think of myself as a programmer, student, because I just spend a lot of time learning and entrepreneur, I like to make systems that hopefully help people. But when I think back to the compliments I've received, what other people have told me made a big difference to them it was always my writing. By writing, I guess, I mean everything I've written, even if I get on stage and say it later, I still just considered that writing. So even my company, CD Baby, was quite successful and I was the sole programmer and the sole founder, so therefore the entrepreneur. But in hindsight CD Baby wasn't successful because of my programming or my business savvy, it was always my writing. People loved what I have to say about the struggles of being an independent musician. They love the words associated with the business. So what is my strength? I guess I'm a writer.

Nate:

Yeah I'd like to second that notion. I think that your writing, at least in the book that I read, Anything You Want, was very straightforward, was very non-fluffy, was no-nonsense, it was very meaty. And you know, just to go one level deeper in complimenting you about your writing is, as a reader, the keeping things dense is much appreciated. And I think that you are able to take ideas, strip away all the inessentials and presented in such a way that's not couched in caveats or disclaimers or whatnot. And that's why I think your words hit me so hard is because I started a company earlier in January, because I wanted to do something that I loved and hopefully somebody would buy it, you know? I was basically doing everything wrong, from the perspective of: usually people would go out and see what's needed, a service that maybe people will pay for, and then adapt their product to that. But I was like: I just want to do something I love and hopefully it sells. And so when I read your book I was like "oh man!" It was a bit of it shock to reality. And I knew everything you were saying was good, it was viable advice and so I much appreciate it. I'm adapting, as we speak now, my business plan. I think your writing is a strength. I'm glad that your interests of learning and being a student and entrepreneur are basically fruits from this writing, or your writing is fruits from that interest.

Derek:

Yeah. Thanks.

Nate:

Yeah no problem, Derek. So let's move to the third one. Now the third one is this kind of just to keep things light, maybe learn a little bit more about you. The third question is if you have may be a funny joke or maybe an embarrassing experience that you had in your life that makes you smile. Maybe you could share something like that.

Derek:

I think they all do. When I was a teenager I just built the habit of asking, whenever anything goes wrong I ask "what's great about this?" It's a habit that I deliberately cultivated. And it didn't come easy at first. Usually I forget to ask it because I'd be in a bad mood. You know, something's gone really wrong and you're just in a foul mood, so sometimes I would just not remember to ask this at all. Or I'd remember a couple days later. I say "what's great about this?" And of course in the moment I would say "well nothing! Nothing is great about this! This is awful!" And then I think "okay, well actually, all right if I'm being open-minded, okay it does have this upside."

At first it would take me a couple of days to remember to ask myself that questions. And after a couple of years I noticed that I was asking that question, say, an hour after something went wrong. And eventually after training myself in became an instant reaction. So it's like this very second something goes wrong I find myself just instinctually asking what's great about this. So yeah, I'm usually the one to laugh whenever I make a huge mistake. Whether it's dropping dinner all over the floor or getting involved with the wrong woman or shutting down a business that nobody wanted, as we discussed earlier.

Nate:

And obviously you have to be very creative at times to find what's great about it, whether, like you said, dropping something on the floor. With the Wood Egg company, did it take you longer because of all that investment and sunk cost into that, before you found something great about it?

Derek:

No. Luckily I had the right mindset going into that one, that I was not doing it to make money. Kind of like I described earlier: I did it just for my own learning. I also, at the time, thought I was going to continue living in Singapore for 20 years. I didn't know that life would swirl me around and send me to New Zealand and Belgium instead, I'm still a legal resident of Singapore and I hope to live there again someday. But at the time I thought it was going to be my sole home for 20 years, so I really want to immerse myself deeply in the subject.

So I wasn't doing it for the money. So when the books didn't sell it was just kind of a shrug like "eh, oh well, whatever." That's okay, I did for my own personal interest reasons. I think at this point in my life a lot of things I do are just for my own personal interest. If nobody else is interested in the things I've created, it doesn't bother me so much.

Nate:

That's nice. At least from my perspective, it definitely protects your ego. Because my ego is often bruised and damaged because I have so much hope that it's going to be well received. And I wrote a book, earlier in January, with the launch of my company, and I'm not selling very many books. I guess I wrote this book at the level of math and the derivation of the equations I did was just a well above even my colleagues. And I had written this book for a 15-year-old, and I'm like: I need to change things on my next book. But yeah, for you to separate yourself from the project, I can see why it wasn't hard for you to laugh it off or see what was great about that.

Derek:

You know, songwriting is kind of like micro entrepreneur training, because when you're a songwriter you write a new song every week or two. And you write it and you record it and you play it for your friends, and sometimes you have all kinds of hopes, you think "oh my God, this is the best song I've ever written." And you play it for your friends and they go like "eh... I like the other one better." And other times you just pop out a little ditty that you're not too thrilled about and your friends go "wow, I love this one! This is my favorite song you've ever written!" You say "what? That one? That was just some silly little effortless thing that just came out." And they're like "oh no, you know this is the best song you've ever written."

So I haven't thought about that comparison before that as a songwriter you do this a hundred times. A lot of songwriters have easily written a hundred songs and you don't get too attached to any one idea. You put it out there and you move on and you get a little disconnected from how the world is going to respond to it. You just kind of learn to shrug. So I think entrepreneurial pursuits has to be a little bit like that to. You just do lots of things, you put it out into the world. Sometimes the world isn't into it, sometimes there into something you didn't think was a big deal. It's a certain mindset to get into.

Nate:

I appreciate you mentioning that because I think it's a fine balance when you create something as an artistic person, whether it's songwriting or art. And you think it's wonderful and somebody poopoos on it, so to speak, you take it very personal. And I guess the advice that you would share with people like that, people like me, and tell me if this is accurate, just create many different works of art and not invest your feelings or expectations into others and you won't suffer the arrows and slings of people who don't like your work.

Derek:

Yeah, it's learning to disconnect from it a bit. You know, when they say like you release an album, you release a book, you release a movie, I like that you use the English word "release" for that, because it is like a letting go. It doesn't belong to you anymore, it's out there in the world. You created it for whatever reason you did, but the world is going to respond the way they want, it's theirs now.

Nate:

I like that. I like that term "release". I think Picasso said something to the effect that you spend your life finding your talents or passions and then you spend the rest of your life giving them away.

Derek:

Nice. I like that.

Nate:

Yeah, yeah. Well cool! Excellent. That was a good segway into this: do you have a favorite quote, and if you do have a favorite quote, could you tell us and why you like it so much?

Derek:

Probably "whatever scares, you go do it." I just think it's a good compass in life. To delegate your actions to that rule of thumb and it can help unparalyze you in those moments of fear.

Nate:

Has there been maybe an example in your life where something scared you, you've done it and it just was kind of a remarkable event for you?

Derek:

All the time. I mean it can be on the big big big level, like to me when I was 39 years old and I felt like: okay I spent the first 40 years of my life in the US, I want to spend the next 40 years out. And I know it'll be scary and I know it will be challenging, therefore go do it. So do it on the big level sometimes like that whenever I'm making a decision. That's why I call it compass, it's like whenever you're faced with a decision ask yourself "is this scaring me? Therefore there is a correct thing to do." But even on a micro level: catching yourself in the moment scared to go talk to this intimidating girl or whatever. If you noticed that you're scared of someone, well that's probably a good sign that you should go talk to them. Things like that. Big or small.

Nate:

Amazing. I love that. Who said that? I think I have that quote on the poster in my bathroom, I'm embarrassed to admit that but yeah I have quotes in my bathroom, it sounds like something like Mark Twain or Ralph Waldo Emerson would have said. I think that's an excellent quote.

Derek:

To me it was something that I'd heard somebody say when I was 18 years old, this guy Mark Fried who was working at BMI at the time and later founded Spirit Music Publishing. He was an important guy my life. And he said "whatever scares you go do it." No actually, he didn't! He said "whatever you're thinking go do it." I forgot about that. Anyway, it doesn't matter who said things. We can just put down anything in quotes and write Mark Twain after it if that makes us feel better about it.

Nate:

That's true. You have, on your website even, confessed that you're an introvert. And I like to think of myself as an introvert. I actually look forward to the day, Saturday morning, get up and do my podcasting or my art or writing a book. Is that true, are you an introvert like that?

Derek:

Yeah. I used to think I was more 50-50. People who encounter me in person think I'm a big extravert, because I'm socially skilled but those are skills that I cultivated out of necessity. So I used to think I was more 50-50, so one time I was working with this guy who asked me if I was introvert or extravert and I said I'm both, I'm really 50-50. And he said "well let me ask you this: where do you go to recharge your batteries?" And I said "well, alone, obviously." And he said "aah, see? Not obviously. I'm an extravert, if I'm alone for too long I get to really run down. I need to go be around people still kind of recharge my batteries." And I went like "whoa I can't even imagine that! People are draining! No, alone is something I could do forever. Being around other people, that's something I can do for like a few hours or maybe a few days, tops." And he said "ah, you're an introvert." Certainly that's all that's really about. I like people in small doses, but I love being alone.

Nate:

I hear you. I can resonate with that. And I like that, I guess that method of determining which you are, because some people definitely do recharge with more people around. And to me it's an effort to be social. But like you say, you develop those for survivor skills, because we live in a world that's a really prioritizes the two levels. And I would dare say that extraverted people are looked at in a more favorable light. Yeah excellent! Good! I'm glad to know I'm with friends of the same mentality. So Derek, the last question or two, they're kind of a connected question. The last one is what do you see in the world today that keeps you hope in humanity and in our future?

Derek:

I don't really think in terms of humanity. And honestly, I don't even look at the man-made world so much these days. I live in New Zealand now, quite intentionally, surrounded by nature and I spend my work time just programming and writing, which is quite inward focused. I'm not really looking at what other people are doing or trying to get hope in humanity or something like that. I spent all my non-work time hanging with my kid on the beach and climbing rocks and playing in the forest and swimming and doing stuff like outside in the real world. So yeah, I'm not really looking to the world to give me hope in humanity and in our future. I don't think in those terms.

Nate:

No. I love your response. I formulated this question on my way back from Taiwan, fortunately, for my job I get to travel the world and see different cultures all over the world. And I had read some articles that just really depressed me and I wrote this question and I intended to ask everybody on this podcast, so that they could tell me why I should be excited. Because I was really depressed and that time. And I like that you've disconnected your reliance on this. Maybe I need to practice that. But yeah, thanks for sharing that Derek.

Derek:

Talk about very American traits, feeling self-sufficient, you know? Self-sufficiency is very American. But if you're feeling quite self-sufficient, like I don't really need the world to do much for me, that's why I don't really like living in cities.

I think cities are often best for people who require entertainment, you know, they want the world to entertain them. They say "I love the city, there's so much going on." I don't need anything to be going on. In fact, my happiest times in my life I've been just living in the middle of nowhere. When I was 22 years old I moved to the Oregon coast and I lived in a town with a population of two. While I was there the population was three. I would go walking on the beach every day, sometimes for 3 to 5 hours. I wouldn't see a person all day long, and that was my kind of life, you know?

I don't need the world to do something for me to give me hope. It's like no, this world is good as it is and I'm good as I am and I'm doing things that I like doing, I don't need other people to make me happy. But you also asked about what kind of legacy do I want to leave future generations. But I found that I also don't think in terms of legacy, because I don't really care what anyone thinks of me after I die.

Some people are driven by that idea. You know, Trump putting his name all over things. Just even ignoring whatever silly politics stuff is going on now, but I just mean that's somebody that's always made a point of making sure that his name is on things. And he wants that name Trump the go down in history for many generations. So do people, whatever, Carnegies, people that want to put their names on things. But there are other people that have done amazing things for the world and we don't know their names because they didn't make a point of leaving legacy, they didn't care. And often they are happy to let someone else take the spotlight. So that said, I do think that recording your thoughts, whether in writing, audio or video, and then publicly sharing what you learned is one of the best things you can do for the world.

Nate:

Awesome. I think if anybody has benefited from listening to your knowledge and advice it would be me. I think it was very therapeutic, you may want to start a company, like a shrink for people like me. I love, Derek, that you insist on being disconnected. And that's kind of something that I need to hear. So I appreciate you mentioning that. I really love your personality and insights. I would like to thank you for being on our show.

Derek:

Thanks Nate, I really appreciate it.

Nate:

Thanks Derek and have a good one. It's been a pleasure

Derek:

You too, thanks Nate!