Derek Sivers

Interviews → Yo! Podcast / Rob Hope

Wonderful conversation with lots of music references. Why your favorite things are magic spells, Hendrix is like Darwin, and you should remove the marketing from your website.

Date: 2020-05

Download: audio (mp3)

Link: https://robhope.com/yo-sivers


Rob:

Yo, Derek! Welcome to the show, my man.

Derek:

Yo, Rob! Thanks for having me.

Rob:

So you’re currently in Oxford, England. Would I be wrong to assume it’s an inspiring place to be writing your next book?

Derek:

In theory, yeah. But upon arriving here, I wake up every day and I just write all day long at home. So it’s not like I am walking through the inspiring halls and the dream inspires of the architecture of Oxford. It’s like, no, I’m just sitting in my living room writing all day. But in theory, it feels like a good, smart place to write epic things.

Rob:

So how are we looking on “How to Live”?

Derek:

Oh, just fine, thanks. Yeah, I’ve been working on that book for a long time and it’s a blast. I just have so much fun writing it. I don’t even care so much if it’s going to be a great book, I’m just having a blast writing it. So one of these days soon, I will call it done and release it, but I’m still doing it.

Rob:

Incredible. So I’m fascinated by the concept of conflicting ideas, you know? Almost every piece of advice I seek has contradicting advice with authority on both sides.

Derek:

Exactly, and so it’s fun to combine that into one book, which then ends up kind of spoofing the whole advice genre, you know?

Rob:

I think it was Seth Godin that suggested, “Seek the advice that makes you move.”

Derek:

That’s cool. I never heard that. That is great advice, because yeah, you’re gonna hear a lot of advice from people and articles on the web telling you to do this and do that. But the best advice, objectively, is the one that makes you jump up and take action. That’s all that really matters. The same thing with goals. Good goals are the ones that make you take action. Good goals are not ones that seem the most inspiring or impress your friends. Good goals are just whatever makes you take action. That’s the ultimate measure.

Rob:

That’s so good. I think another classic from Seth is the one where you’re at a fork in the road, and you’re paralyzed by the decision of choosing between the two. And he says, “Just take any road, and the worst case scenario is that a decision will reveal the correct path. So you’re moving and not stalling.”

Derek:

I totally agree. The best record producers say the same thing about their job in the recording studio is to just be the person there to help make decisions, break stalemate. “Let’s do this. Let’s try that.” And whether it turns out great or not, kind of doesn’t matter. If it turns out great, then everybody says, “Wow, cool, that was great.” And if they don’t like it, they go, “I don’t like it.” And he said, “Okay, why not?” And they say why not, and he said, “Okay, great.” So ignore it and do the opposite. It just keeps things moving.

Rob:

Yeah, that’s such a good act. So the other day I got this email from a new listener of the podcast called Sid, and he shared how he absolutely rinsed through the Yo! Podcast catalog. And wondered if somehow being a Green Day “Dookie” fan is a prerequisite for being on the show. Do you know the album?

Derek:

I have never heard it. I know that’s weird. I was born in Berkeley, where Green Day’s from. But in 1994 when “Dookie” came out, I was just deep into Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, deep into Fela Kuti and Indian classical music and Tom Waits. And I was just really into exploring Exotica. Like, I’ve always been a fan of instrumentation, the unique ways that different instruments can be combined. And so the more unique the combinations, the better. And so I find it hard to appreciate regular old rock band setup, with bass, drums, guitar, and 4/4 beats and the same old, same old. It’s just kind of a restricted formula. It feels so conservative and traditional to me.

But then I think that it must be kind of like folk songs, where it’s not about the C, G and D chords, it’s supposed to be delivering a message in the lyrics. But then I’ve never been into lyrics, so all that’s just lost on me. So...

Rob:

It’s so interesting how our worlds were so far apart in ’94. That’s the year for me that changed everything. Because I got into punk rock. I was into Offspring’s “Smash,” NOFX, and for me, it changed everything. Because I’m still listening to it, and that’s the year that changed genre for me. Does any other year stick out for you?

Derek:

Oh, God, yeah. I went to New Orleans by myself when I was 17, 18. And I got into a taxi on the way back to the airport, and the taxi driver saw that I had a guitar on my shoulder. And he said, “Oh, man, you’re a musician. What kind of music you play?” And I told him, and he goes, “You know, Fela Anikulapo Kuti?” I said, “Huh?” He goes, “I’m from Nigeria. I write it down for you. Fela Anikulapo Kuti. You go home, you look that up.” So I flew back home to Chicago. This is before the internet, so the way that you would find music is that you had to call around to record stores saying, “Do you have anything in stock by Fela Anikulapo Kuti?”

And there was a record store about 40 minutes away from me that did, so I drove 40 minutes to go to a record store and said, “I’m the guy that called about Fela Anikulapo Kuti.” And he gave me an album. And it was like, oh, it was cool. Like... It was just very syncopated.

And the rhythm just built up, piece by piece. Specifically with an album called “O.D.O.O.” So if you ever get that album, if you can find it online, listen to the way that the song “ODOO” builds up the beat. And I love that album so much. I’ve listened to it so many times. And it wasn’t until a few years later that I heard James Brown for my first time. Then I was like, whoa, this is kind of like Fela Kuti. And then later, I was really into the Talking Heads “Remain in Light” album. And then only much years later did I realize or read an interview that they were very influenced by Fela Kuti when they were making the “Remain in Light” album.

So yeah, getting turned onto Fela Kuti changed things for me a lot.

Rob:

What are great story.

Derek:

Yeah, there are always examples like that. Then the first time I heard Indian classical music, the first time I heard Tom Waits, it’s like, I love, yeah, when we have these... Oh, I have one more for you that I haven’t thought about in a long time.

Rob:

Let’s go.

Derek:

Speaking of, like, when you asked about “Dookie,” that was at a time when Hootie and the Blowfish was all over the radio and I was just sick of this regular old...just guitar, bass, drums, kick, snare, blah, blah, blah. I’m sick of it. And I was driving to a gig, I was a full-time musician touring for a living, and driving on my way to a gig, like a four-hour drive. And I went to go find a different radio station. Because it was just FM radio and Hootie and the Blowfish came on. I was like, no, no, I can’t. I just turned the dial, and then I get to this thing that I...I still remember where I was. It was on the New Jersey Turnpike. I don’t know what station it was, but it felt like I couldn’t tell if I was on a station or not. Because what was coming out of the radio was like... No, but it was...it seemed kind of structured but kind of not. And it was way down at the bottom of the dial with those non-commercial college radio stations.

And so yeah, it was...and I kept listening. I was like, oh, this is so nice and I left it on. And it was glitchy noise, and I loved it. It was like the antithesis. It was the remedy against...the cure for the 4/4 typical guitar, bass, drums. And sure enough, it was a station. And after 15 minutes of listening, it stopped and the DJ came on and said, “That was da, da, da by so and so.” And I forget the two artist’s names but later I looked them up, and it was two experimental musicians, one in Japan, one in San Francisco. They’d never met in person. But the guy in San Francisco would create some glitchy noise and he would mail the tapes to the guy in Japan. And the guy in Japan would do something else to do them, and mail the tapes back to San Francisco. The guy in San Francisco would load them up and do something to it, and mail it back. And together, they had this cross the world collaboration making this very avant-garde glitchy noise. Which I just loved.

And so yeah. Around that time, I started listening to...I don’t even know what genre to call it. It’s just avant-garde noise and it was wonderful.

Rob:

Damn, I love chatting about music. There’s a lot of designers and developers listening to this show. We put on our headphones, we listen to music for 10 hours a day. Everyone just loves music. So there’s actually something that’s been puzzling me, and I think you’d be great to dissect it with. So you’re a prolific musician with tons of experience in the game, but through your adventures, you’ve no doubt spent years learning about people and their habits. Why do you think we don’t get bored of listening to the same songs? You know, we can be programming a sign up form and loop a track 17 times in a row. Why do you think the hook is still rewarding 1,000 times in, even though we know it’s coming?

Derek:

That is the best question I have heard in a long, long time. Well notice that we also never get sick of our favorite foods, or getting kissed in our favorite spot. And I think here’s why, to you, these are magic spells. Like, the right combination of notes and effects, or the right combination of ingredients, or the right kiss in the right place, is like a magic incantation, right? Like, when it’s performed just right, it unlocks something that’s buried inside of you. And you actually feel those tingling nerves going through your spine and into your gut. It’s like awakening some parts of your psyche that have been dormant.

We all have different aspects of our personality in there, right? Like, inside you is the rebel, the child, the adventurer, the romantic, the warrior, the artist. But these songs, I think, unlock one of them and awaken it and bring it to the surface. And then you get to be with that aspect of yourself again, right? But here’s why you can actually play a song to death. Like, if you listened to the same song or ate your favorite food many times a day, every single day, it would lose its effect. Like, despite what you said in the question. So I think it’s because a magic spell, if said nonstop for days on end, would lose its meaning and start to just be phonetic sounds that we ignore.

But the main reason to not play them to death is that I think we like the feeling of unlocking, right? Like, we like the change of state, that’s what makes you tingle. Is when you put on that Rage Against the Machine or an old AC/DC song, or whatever it is that triggers something in you, you get this chill down your spine. Because your state is being transformed from that thing being buried, to that thing being awakened in you. You like the change of state, but then if you play it over and over again, well then you’re just gonna acclimate to that state. And you no longer feel the thrill of the change of state. That’s my take on it.

Rob:

It’s almost a sequence to unlock some form escapism or fantasy, but it’s totally subjective.

Derek:

They’re personal to you, right? Like, Green Day clearly means something to you, and means nothing to me. But when I hear that Rage Against the Machine song, “Killing in the Name Of,” oh, man, that awakens the 14-year-old angry, misunderstood, teenager in me that was never reconciled.

Rob:

Oh, yeah, “Unlock the demon.”

Derek:

And then that little 14-year-old angry boy comes up to the surface, and I tell him it’s okay. That song really does something for me. Then there’s songs...it’s like that was one’s just really obvious, right? But there are some songs, like, the song “Birthday” by the Sugarcubes, which is Bjork’s first band, I don’t know what it is but something about the way that she wails in that song, like, literally brings tears to my eyes and I don’t know why. It’s just something primal in her wailing that just shakes me. And I don’t even know what that is. It’s not as obvious as the angsty 14-year-old teenager with Rage Against the Machine. It’s just like, something in that song just does it for me.

Rob:

I wanna break into a quick intermission I like to call No Context. Simply shoot back either of the two options I give you, no context given and no context needed at all.

Derek:

Ready.

Rob:

Fender Stratocaster or Gibson Les Paul?

Derek:

Strat.

Rob:

”Stairway to Heaven” or “Bohemian Rhapsody”?

Derek:

”Stairway to Heaven.”

Rob:

Hendrix or Bowie?

Derek:

I have too much to say about that. Ask me after.

Rob:

Albums or compilations?

Derek:

Albums.

Rob:

Mac or Windows?

Derek:

OpenBSD.

Rob:

Coffee or tea?

Derek:

Tea.

Rob:

GraviTrax or Lego?

Derek:

Lego. You did your research. Yeah, Lego.

Rob:

”The E-Myth” or “The Four-Hour Work Week”?

Derek:

”Four-Hour Work Week.”

Rob:

And final question. Reading or being creative?

Derek:

Being creative, by far.

Rob:

Okay, let’s go back and let’s talk about Hendrix or Bowie.

Derek:

Jimi Hendrix is like Charles Darwin. Darwin, he presents “The Origin of Species” to the world and it blows everybody’s mind. But now the theory of evolution is common knowledge, so to read the book, “The Origin of Species” now, is not so impressive. So Hendrix presents the “Star-Spangled Banner,” full of feedback and more sounds from a guitar than anyone had heard before, and it blows everybody’s mind. But now, every kid in the guitar store can do the same thing. So to hear the original, is not so impressive. I think it’s kind of the same with Stravinsky and the “Rite of Spring,” it’s actually kind of unfair that they’re revolutionary contribution is diminished with time.

But David Bowie is like Josephine Baker, exotic and desirable in their time, and exotic and desirable now. And same thing with Claude Debussy’s music. Like, David Bowie, Josephine Baker, and Claude Debussy, all of them stood outside of the culture. Their art didn’t infiltrate the culture and culture didn’t assimilate or adopt it. And so time doesn’t diminish their allure.

Rob:

Wow. That is a very good answer. [laughs]

Derek:

Sorry, I told you I had more to say about that. I think about this a lot, when it’s like, how we don’t appreciate Hendrix anymore. It’s still good music, but it’s not the mindblower it used to be. Same thing, even go back to 1955 with...what’s his name? “Johnny Be Good.”

Rob:

Elvis.

Derek:

No, what’s his name?

Rob:

That’s Chuck Berry.

Derek:

Thank you, Chuck Berry. But even Elvis apparently with “Baby Let’s Play House” or whatever. That was a big deal back then, and you listen to it now, and you think, what’s the big deal? It’s because they were innovations that have now just become completely assimilated into our culture, so we just take them for granted. And the power of the original is lost.

Rob:

So interesting. I found out the other day, that “All Along the Watchtower,” which is one of my favorite songs by Jimi Hendrix is actually by Bob Dylan and I did not know that.

Derek:

I love those.

Rob:

Let’s go back to creativity. Okay. I know it’s a big passion of yours, big topic. So I’ve come to appreciate, as I get older, that happiness is more state of mind and no longer the destination I once aimed for growing up. It’s about the process, the journey, the middle. And in recent years, I’ve discovered my middle really glows when I’m creative. So shifting through color grids in a video, finding sound effects for the podcast, switching between fonts in a design. For me, creativity and happiness go hand in hand. So for listeners out there who don’t believe they are creative, what advice would you give them to unlock creativity?

Derek:

I think creativity is overrated. I almost don’t believe in it. Because what’s obvious to you, is amazing to others. All right, like, other people’s creations always seem so impressive. They seem like genius. We think like, how did they do that? How did they come up with that? That’s brilliant. The thing is, those creators know the source of their inspiration. They know that they nicked a color from here, a shape from there, an idea from this and that. And they just mixed it together in some way that’s maybe unique, maybe not.

So to them, it’s not that impressive. If you don’t feel creative, welcome to the club. Nobody is. They’re just spitting out combinations of things they’ve taken in. And other people are the ones who call it creative. So my advice to people to unlock creativity is really just go put things out into the world. Like, any old things. Not impressive things, just anything. You can go imitate things. Like, a musician doing a cover song, right? Just go copy someone else’s creation. Because hey, unlike Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan, your version will never be just like the original anyway. So just go copy things and other people will call it original and will call it creative.

But yeah, I think for those of us creating, it doesn’t feel that creative. Like you just said in your example, like, choosing different fonts. I don’t know. To me, just choosing a different font, that’s just sitting there with a pull down menu and a dead expression on your face, just going, this? That?

Rob:

I see sparks while I do. I see rainbows.

Derek:

I see double rainbows. Man, what does it mean? So yeah, that’s my take on it. Is that just like people expect true love needs to feel like “Romeo and Juliet” with people stabbing each other and poison and balconies and all that, and it’s like, if it’s anything less than this massively dramatic thing then it can’t it be true love. Well of course it is. It’s just people glorify it and dramatize it. So I think creativity is just doing stuff. It’s just putting stuff out there. It doesn’t have to be shockingly original, and then it’s kind of freaky and funny when you put something out and other people, “Whoa, how did you think of that, man?”

Rob:

So within a passion, that’s a great place to start because it should be easy for you to create something you’re super passionate about.

Derek:

Or even if you’re not super passionate. Just put out anything. There’s a great example. A lot of people email and ask me about how to get started as a web designer or making websites or learning JavaScript or even HTML. And I point to Jennifer Dewalt. Search the web for Jennifer Dewalt, 180 websites. And it’s the woman Jennifer who said, “Right, I feel like learning JavaScript. So I’m going to build 180 websites in 180 days. Each day, just kind of focusing on one little challenge for the day.” And she blogged her way through it. Every single day, she’d start from scratch and just build a new page or site and use some new JavaScript feature she learned or some itch she wanted to scratch or something she wanted to try. And just put something out every day for 180 days, and yeah, of course, after 180 days of doing that, she damn well knew JavaScript and HTML and all of that. It was just a great way to learn.

But no one of those 180 sites was shockingly mind blowing, but man, collectively, that’s amazing. So you don’t have to be super passionate about it. You just put it, just do something.

Rob:

And after 180 days, you’ve built a following just through the process. You’ve produced a lot of content over the last couple of years. Do you think giving our subconscious time to process is the secret to our best work?

Derek:

Maybe, but not passive time. It has to be active time. Don’t play video games in the name of letting your subconscious process. Like, spend hours a day doing nothing going, “Oh, I’m just letting my subconscious process, man.” But instead, save a copy of whatever you’re working on, and then go mess with the copy. Like, reverse it. Turn it inside out. Chop the middle. Extend the ends. And then save another copy and on this new copy, now twist it and question it and put some poison in it. Kill its crucial component. Like the equivalent of just leaving the reverb but not the original source.

And then you save another copy and you mock it. You take it too far. You make it a caricature of itself just to see what happens. And then you save another copy and you pretend that you’re somebody else, like one of your heroes and you sit down to improve it as that person would. Like don’t be yourself. Go be somebody else and work on this version. Like, to me, is active processing instead of just the subconscious. And I mean the subconscious kind of happens automatically when you fall asleep at night and you let things, just time passes as you continue to work. But I’ve just found that it’s so much better whether you’re creating words, images, music, whatever it may be you’re making, do this active process instead. It’s so much more effective.

Rob:

Good advice. So aside from writing, you’ve also got some interesting side projects like MacWork, Wood Egg [SP] and Music Thoughts, to name a few. Do you think side projects make you a better author?

Derek:

That would be like the question you asked about the subconscious, like letting an idea ferment. And there is something to that. Like my book, “How to Live,” I had the idea at first, and I just kinda let it sit for a year while I finished other things first. Because I still had two books that were unfinished. I was like, oh, I don’t wanna start a third unfinished book now even though I’m super inspired. I need to get those other ones done first.

When I look back, it’s like, did it really help to let it sit for a year? Probably not. I made way more advancement on it and got way more insight into it by actually being active and having my hands on it for hours a day and doing it, than I ever did just letting it sit for a year.

Rob:

Understood.

Derek:

So I think it’s a little overrated, this idea.

Rob:

Okay, so let’s break into a second intermission I like to call True, False or Maybe. I’m gonna give you a statement, and you simply shoot back either of those three words, true, false or maybe, no explanation needed at all.

Derek:

Ready.

Rob:

You haven’t had a day job since 1992.

Derek:

True.

Rob:

New Zealand is the most underrated travel destination in the world.

Derek:

No, false.

Rob:

All designers should learn to code.

Derek:

Maybe.

Rob:

”School of Rock” is the greatest movie ever made.

Derek:

For some people, but false.

Rob:

Vinyl has a superior sound quality to digital.

Derek:

Maybe.

Rob:

Everything you do is an experiment.

Derek:

True.

Rob:

The day you stop learning is the day you begin dying.

Derek:

False.

Rob:

And final question, you recently answered over 2,000 emails in 48 hours?

Derek:

Yeah, and 6,000 in 10 days.

Rob:

Wow. So I’m fascinated by this firstly because of the personal human connection here is incredible. When I told people you were coming on the podcast, they replied, “Oh, rad, Derek emailed once back in the day.” But secondly, I’m fascinated by how the hell you did it. For context, for the listeners out there who don’t know what went down, Derek sent a simple text-only email to his mailing list at the start of the pandemic simply asking, “Are you okay?”

Derek:

I did.

Rob:

And you received 6,000 emails back. Have you coded your own email clients? Are you using brilliant macros?

Derek:

Well first, yes to both. I did write my own email client in the PostgreSQL database using Ruby and Sinatra on the front end. But I’m a nerd like that. And then yeah, I do have 25 macros for my top 25 most used sentences, I have them mapped to keys. So I use the...what do you call that? The backslash? The slash that goes the other way that we don’t use, above the enter key.

Rob:

The other slash.

Derek:

The other slash. And yeah, so that’s with my right pinky. And then yeah, usually I’m able to answer most emails in under five seconds. You know, I just kind of quickly read, send. So that’s how I’m able to answer hundreds a day. And I enjoy it. I really love the connection, I love hearing from people. I think it’s...I spend a lot of time in solitude just writing, so it’s exhilarating to connect with 500 people in a day, and have 500 people’s lives and words coming through my screen, through my eyeballs, into my mind.

Because with every one, I quickly kind of... The way that I have my email client set up, it’s kind of like what you’d call like a customer relationship. What do you call that?

Rob:

A CRM.

Derek:

Yeah, for every email that comes in, I also see on the right hand side of the screen, who this person, where on earth they are, their first email ever to me, their most recent. Just my history of this person on the right hand side of the screen.

Rob:

Brilliant.

Derek:

So every email that comes up, even if they’re just sending me a sentence like, “Hey, man, good to hear from you. All is well,” sometimes I look and it’s like, oh, whoa. That was an email from the second guy that ever sent me his music to CD Baby back in 1997. Cool, Dennis, how are you man?

Rob:

And they’re blown away.

Derek:

Yeah, but I am too. Because it’s like, whoa, blast from the past. Yeah, by sending out that email, I was hearing people that maybe I met a conference once in 1998, or slept over at my house in 2005. That’s why I was sending this email to everybody. It’s like, these are my people. I know a lot of these people. I mean some of them are just anonymous people who signed up to my mailing list, or left a comment on my site. But a lot of them are people that I have a connection to. Yeah, it’s worth it to me.

Rob:

Incredible. You mentioned, on your website, sivers.org, there’s no analytics.

Derek:

Oh, God, no.

Rob:

Do you have any data from these sends? You know, are you tracking list open rates, click rates, what emails are working, what aren’t?

Derek:

No, no, no, no, none of that, no. No, there’s no hidden trick. I don’t send HTML emails, there’s no little hidden pixel or anything. No, it’s just plain text. I don’t.

Rob:

What are you using to actually send the list?

Derek:

My server.

Rob:

Wow, amazing. I know that in that send that said, “Are you okay?” you started with your first name in the email subject, and I reckon that just hit a heartstring.

Derek:

Well to me that’s just good manners. Some people say like, “Hey, man, we don’t...” Every now and then, like once a year, I get somebody who’s offended by that. Like, “It’s not really okay of you to use my name. It’s not like we’re old friends or something.” But to me, it’s just good manners.

Rob:

I think it was classy, serious.

Derek:

Thank you. I’ve been doing that since the ’90s, like, all my CD Baby clients or whatever, CD Baby customers. Actually I got a whole chapter on that in my book, about how I used to do these things. Because I was sending the emails directly from the server, I would actually munge the from address, so if I were sending you a CD Baby confirmation email, it would say that the from name was “CD Baby Loves Rob.” And Tracy would get one that says the from was, “CD Baby Loves Tracy.” And I thought well, come on, it takes one line of code to do that. It’s fun. It’s funny. Why not?

Rob:

Yeah, in such a stale world of email marketing, why not? So my niche is one-page websites. I’ve collected over 8,000 single-page websites over on my website, One Page Love. And simplicity and directness in message are at the core of these websites. So you can imagine fascination when you launched nownownow.com, simply encouraging the world to start a forward slash now page telling everyone what are you doing, and nothing else. Do you think we’ve lost our way online with verbose marketing waffle?

Derek:

I’m a big fan of the personal, non-commercial web, right? I’ve been online since 1994, and I was one of those guys that, in the early days, I laughed at the people that were talking about trying to make money on the internet. I was like, you don’t go to the library to make money. You don’t go to church to make money. And you don’t use the internet to make money. Of course I was completely wrong, but I still kind of have that approach to it. I don’t think of the internet as some kind of moneymaker, right?

As far as the...what did you call it? The marketing waffle. Think of the offline, in person equivalent of this, where you know someone who’s just a cool person. Like, they’re fun to talk to. You like bumping into them. I’m talking like really, like, in person, where you live, right? They have interesting things to say, they’re interested in you, they’re also good at what they do, and if you needed something that this person offers, it would be a joy to give them your business. They didn’t have to ask for your business, you know what they do. And they’re just a cool person. So you’re happy to send them your business, if you need what they have to offer.

But if that same person instead was always trying to sell you something and turning every hello into a sales pitch, or like trying to convert you into a customer every time you ran across them, well you’d start to avoid them. They wouldn’t be so cool anymore. And in fact, you’d also feel kind of icky about sending anyone their way. So this to me, is the Dao of business, that this constant selling actually drives people away. I think it’s shortsighted. Like it might rope in some strangers, but repels the rest.

So I think it’s the same with our online presence. Remove the marketing. Remove the selling. And while you’re at it, remove all the bloated JavaScript and tracking cookies. Just be personal. Be cool. Be considerate. And by doing so, you’ll be more likeable. And then you’ll let people come your way because they want to, not because you used some trick to trap them into your clutches.

Rob:

That leads into my question. Just saying, for someone who’s about to go down that road and try to big themselves up with some fancy pants portfolio with all of the JavaScript libraries in the world, what advice would you give them to stand out online?

Derek:

I’m not impressed with anyone’s portfolio. I’m more impressed with their responsiveness. Right? It’s more impressive if you’re easy to contact. Like a clearly posted email address, phone number, WhatsApp, Skype, Signal, Twitter, wherever, so that I can use the communication medium of my choice. And then most impressive is if they’re able to whip up a quick spec to express interest even before getting hired. And what I mean by this is many times I’ve gone looking to hire an artist to do some work, whether by browsing the web or one of those specific marketplaces. And often, just one person of many will jump into action and reply immediately, like within a day and then give me a quick rough draft of whatever I asked for in my original email, before they’re even hired.

Like, I’ll put out a call in some marketplace saying, “Hey, I’m looking for somebody to do this kind of thing,” and yeah, some people reply with a graphic immediately saying, “You mean something like this?” And they’ve already scratched up a rough draft. I’m like, whoa. Okay, well that kind of responsiveness means that I can stop searching and just pick this person. Maybe they’re not the best, but they’ve shown a capability and an interest, so my search ends there. That counts for more than some mysterious person out there that might technically be better.

Rob:

That’s such an excellent reply. I’m just thinking it would replace all those efforts to try and glamorize your website with focusing on how quick can we turn around a transparent and direct reply.

Derek:

Because I mean that’s the core lesson of business is, it’s not about you. You’re a servant to your clients and your customers. It’s all about them. This isn’t about you. So the more you can make it about them and the less you can make it about you, the better.

Rob:

Brilliant. Derek, final question. If you would drop back in time into January 1st, 1800, how would you successfully prove you were from the future without bringing anything back to 1800?

Derek:

I wouldn’t want to. I would not want to prove I was from the future. Like, think about that for one second. Why call attention to yourself? I’d be kidnapped and turned into an oracle slave forced to predict the future for other’s profit. No, I think it would be better to deny it, even if you were asked directly, like, “Okay, come on. Level with me. Are you from the future? Are thou from the future?” I’d say, “No, no, I am not.” But instead, I would quietly lay low, and fit in and be a generous member of a community. And I would humbly learn the survival skills of that age, because I’m sure I wouldn’t know a damn thing about how to live in 1800. So instead, I think I would quietly take advantage of the little I know of the 1800s, like where to avoid coming battles. Where not to live because some wars will be coming there in a few years. And instead, I would probably go invest in some undervalued inventions and such. But man, I would want not to let on that I was from the future. I would take that to the grave.

Rob:

Derek, you just answered the unanswerable question.

Derek:

It’s fun to question the question. You don’t wanna just give the answer. You kind of have to question the question, that’s more fun.

Rob:

So fun. So at the end of the show, I ask guests what track can I use to end off the interview? And you chose “Simplicity” by Megan Wofford?

Derek:

Yeah, I had never heard of epidemicsound.com but you turned me onto this site, and I went browsing this morning, and I like this track.

Rob:

Awesome. So while I got that going, you just wanna quickly tell the audience where they can follow the rest of your journey.

Derek:

Go to sivers.org. I don’t really do the social media thing much. So just I try to keep everything on my own site, sivers.org. And yeah, as you can tell, I like hearing from people. I like emailing. So if you listened all the way to the end of this show, send me an email, say hello. Introduce yourself. Ask anything. I reply to everyone.

Rob:

Big love for coming on the show, Derek. Take care.

Derek:

Thanks, Rob.