Derek Sivers

Interviews → Erno Hannink Show / Erno Hannink

Being prepared for the worst, why I like email, writing, being succinct

Date: 2020-06

Download: audio (mp3)

Link: https://ernohannink.nl/show254-letting-go-of-my-goals-derek-sivers/


Erno:

Hello. This is the podcast episode with Derek Sivers. Derek has been a musician, producer, circus performer and trainer, TED Speaker, and book publisher. He started CD Baby and Host Baby long ago. His short book, Anything You Want, shares everything he learned while starting, growing, and selling the business. He is a monomaniac introvert, slow thinker, and he loves finding a different point of view.

He’s a California native and now lives in Oxford, England. We talked about the metrics of your website, writing in your diary and why he’s doing this in plain text digitally, why he loves to look at beautiful things and think that it could be all gone tomorrow. We talked about stoicism and he shares his thoughts on leadership and letting go of goals. We talked about the concept of Hell Yeah or No. I love reading his writing and listening to his podcast episodes.

Let’s get started.

Hi Derek. In all of your writing, you really get to the essence of it and cut out all the fluff.

Derek:

I’m not sure why I enjoy that so much. It’s two separate things. When I’m making my website, I do that all by hand. I don’t use WordPress or any other kind of site generating software. Every line of HTML that’s on my site, I typed it out myself. I would never add a line of HTML that didn’t need to be there.

I like being a minimalist for the reason that it makes my site simple and fast. I didn’t get broadband for a long time. My friends had broadband, but I was still on a dial up modem for a long time. So, I felt the pain of big websites that assumed everybody was on a fast connection. I respect the wire that we’re using to deliver things from me to you. I tried to use that wire the least I can.

When I was running CD Baby, I would occasionally need to email my musician clients. CD Baby was a music distribution service. I had about 175,000 musicians whose music I was distributing. Every two or three months, I’d have something that I needed to tell them all. A new service or something that was really important for them to know. I found out the hard way that if I’m not super succinct and incredibly direct in email communication, then thousands of them are going to reply back saying, “Cool. How do I do it?” or, “Yes. Sign me up.”

When you have one 175,000 people that you’re contacting, you’re not using a “[email protected]” account.

If I send out 175,000 emails, I might get 50,000 replies and I want them to understand my initial email as clearly as possible. I found that if I was the slightest bit unclear, I would get 5,000 people replying and asking me for more information on something I just told them.

I found that if the email was too long, even if I was as clear as I could be, but I put the thing that they needed to know in the eighth sentence instead of the third sentence, I would still get maybe 2,000 email replies saying, “Cool, how do I do it?”

I realized it’s my fault, not their fault. I needed to be clearer. Through all that pain of all those years and thousands and thousands of emails answered, I felt the pain of being unclear. That was really important. Sometimes people who don’t email their clients so much and only use their website don’t feel the pain from being unclear. They just get silence and think, “I didn’t get the response I was hoping for.” When you’re doing it by email, you hear what’s on people’s minds. Point is, the reason I write so succinctly is because I want people to understand it. I figure that every unnecessary sentence reduces the chance that they’ll understand what I’m saying.

Erno:

You could send something to the first one hundred people and see how they respond before you send it the complete list. Is that something you do?

Derek:

That would be smart.

I didn’t do that during CD Baby years. I was usually eager to announce whatever I had to share.

In hindsight, you’re right, I should have sent it to a hundred people to see what happens and adjust.

Erno:

I can relate to the eagerness about when you have something to say. I do this all time. I write a blog post about a really great book that I read, and I can’t wait to hit publish. I have to get out in the world, even if it has mistakes or typos.

With your posts, you are so considerate with each line. It’s not that you aren’t eager to share, but at the same time, you seem to have more patience to really think it over.

Derek:

My writing will be on my site forever, so I think through it a lot. I might have something that I really want to say, and I’ll spend hours writing it. The next day, I’ll go back and spend hours editing it. Then, I’ll leave it for a week and I’ll come back to it because I may be a little older and wiser, even if only by a week.

I ask, “Do I still agree with what I said last week, or is it a mess now that it’s been out of my head and now I’m putting it back into my head? Is it really clear?” I’ll often do this sometimes for months. I’ll edit things for months before I finally release them to the world.

Erno:

I like that you’re very intentional about what you do, even if it takes a lot of time. You’ll spend weeks answering emails nonstop. How do you do that?

Derek:

I enjoy it. It’s worth it. It’s not the most fun thing I could be doing with my time, but it’s also not the worst. Most people are pretty considerate, and I find it usually pretty interesting. It’s really cool hearing from people, especially people that are around the world. I find it really interesting to get an email from a guy in Kazakhstan that’s into forestry, or somebody from India who’s running his dad’s construction business and tells me about it. I think these things are really interesting and fun.

I enjoy my email inbox for meeting people like that. I also enjoy the challenge when people ask me questions. Somebody will say, “How do I know when it’s the right time for me to quit my job?

I’ll think, “Hm. When is it the right time?” I enjoy being prompted with questions like that, because I use them later in my writing. But there are also moments that are not so interesting. For those, I’ve crafted a whole series of macros on my keyboard. For each of the 26 letters of the alphabet, I mapped to my 26 most common sentences. When you hear that I’m answering 6000 emails, I can get through most of them in five or 10 seconds each.

I’ll quickly scan the screen and think, “T, Q, S, Go!” And that’s how I answer most of my emails. But then, I’ll get stopped with a fanciful email from somebody in Western Australia telling me a really interesting story. I’ll stop and take a drink my tea and enjoy it.

Erno:

You have a daily journal where you write down your thoughts. But you also have a specific topic journal.

What triggers yourself to write on a specific topic?

Derek:

It’s usually a problem that I’m working through, especially if I’m feeling confused or stuck. I did it a lot with my business. If I felt that I was pursuing something that wasn’t going the way I wanted it to, or I had a situation with an employee, I’d have to stop and go back to the basics in my private thoughts and build up a foundation from the beginning to remind myself. Or get a new perspective on what’s going on.

For example, if it was a problem with a person, I’d stop and go back, maybe look at all of my communication history with this person sometimes something they told me long ago about their beliefs that maybe they haven’t mentioned in a year or two, but this is still who they are. It’s really interesting sometimes to look at the very first e-mail or two or three you have with somebody when they’re telling you about themselves.

Sometimes those things haven’t come up for a year. But now let’s return to it. They told me that their family is really important to them. Now, they’re acting in a way that seems strange to me, but if I go back to that thing now, I realize it’s not strange.

If I’m developing a service or a product and it’s not going the way I wanted, or I can’t make it happen the way I wanted, I’ll go back to scratch and ask myself, “Why did I feel this was important to make? Who is this really for? What problem did it really solve?”

I know that some of these sound really basic, but it can be good to have some private time in a diary that’s only for you. You don’t have to justify these thoughts to anybody else. You can be ridiculously honest, ridiculously selfish, whatever it may be. This is just you talking to you. Nobody’s ever going to see it. It can really help remind you why you’re doing what you’re doing.

I can help you see what you might be doing wrong and how it could be done better. This is one of the most important things I’ve ever done and I’m thinking of it constantly.

Sometimes, journaling is not always just for solving problems. Sometimes you’ll have a little seed of an idea that pops into your head and you need to give yourself time to develop that. And, yes, you could do it over beers with friends. But maybe that should come third. Maybe the second thing is to spend more private time with it in writing and ask yourself some questions about this brand-new idea you had. Explore it more yourself before you put it out.

Erno:

The writing makes the difference instead of simply thinking about it.

Derek:

Huge difference. You can lay on the couch and think, but it’s all going to disappear, and it will be a jumble. Your mind is going to wander if you do it in writing. It slows you down a little bit. It makes you see things that you just wrote and then you can detach from them a little bit. For example, “Why is it important that I’m living here? I’m living here because I want my kid to have a good education,” and then you see that sentence and you think, “Huh? Sounds like bullshit. Is this the only place my kid could get a good education? No, it’s not.”

You need to see something in front of your eyes to get a little distance and perspective on it. And also, to go back historically, some people like writing in paper journals. I really like plain text files because I like that they’re archived forever and easy.

In a snap, I can search my diary for every use of the word discipline or nature. I can search my diaries in one second and go back all the way to the beginning. Twenty years ago, every time I’ve mentioned that person or that word, I can see it in a flash and sometimes realize that a problem I’m having now is something I wrestled with eight years ago and I forgot about it.

But now, let’s look at that word eight years ago. Wow, nothing has changed. I have that exact same problem now. Or wow, I’ve made a lot of progress and I didn’t realize I can look back at what I wrote eight years ago, and it sounds so naive now. What have I learned since then?

It’s so much more useful than sitting with your feet up and simply thinking.

I had this wonderful idea five years ago. I did a six-day long hike in New Zealand where I was completely offline. I walked in the forest alongside a river and up in the mountains and back down for five days and it was so nice. I had lots of ideas in my head and I thought, “Well, this is a wonderful way to live – to be walking through the forest by the river. Why are we sitting at desks when we could be walking through forests by rivers? Well, because of typing. We have to be stationary so that we can type into our devices.”

If voice recognition gets good enough, I could be walking through the forest, listening to emails, replying to emails by voice and having it turned into text, even perhaps writing a book with my voice.

For editing, you’d be able that just by saying things like, “Remove sentence beginning with this word.”

If this type of software advances further, I imagine it would be like learning a whole new way of doing things. It would be like somebody learning to swim for the first time, or something that feels really unnatural to us. It would take quite a while to adapt, but could you imagine if the way that we write could be adapted to a purely speaking and listening method? We could be free to do so many productive things.

Erno:

I agree. I love the idea. But will this damage the whole experience? When I run alone, it’s a great moment to let my thoughts go and rediscover creativity and think about others.

When I run and listen to an audiobook, I lose that moment when it’s just me running. What do you think?

Derek:

That’s a really good point.

Have you noticed that different activities let your brain be more or less open? When I walk, I have lots of thoughts and my mind wanders. When I get on my bicycle, I have no thoughts. I could cycle for four hours and come home and not have had a single interesting thought in four hours. But if I walk for four hours, my brain is full well when I come home. It’s funny how those two things can be so different.

To answer your question, I was thinking while in the forest, “What if I were to make this my way of life? What if I were to actually live here and not just walk for six days, once a year. What if I were to walk around eight hours a day and integrate this into my life instead of needing to make it time outside?”

It was a fanciful idea of how if this could be completely integrated into life. I heard that the old Greek philosophers used to do all of their philosophizing and Socratic questioning while walking up and down the hills of Athens. That’s why I started questioning how I could do my best thinking while walking, but also save it and record it and maybe even write my book while walking.

Erno:

I think walking is a really important part of life if you want to be creative and if you want to write and think better.

Derek:

Because of the reflection time and the time to stop and think of what you’re doing? To get away from what you’re doing and look at it from another perspective?

Erno:

I think it has to do a lot with the actual rhythm of walking and being outside. Sitting at a desk is static, but walking gets the energy flowing. It’s a different energy in your brain. I am not an expert on this, but this is what I think.

Derek:

I like that.

You’re the first to hear this morning’s thought. I went on a two-hour walk this morning through this big field here in Oxford full of cows. At edge of it, there’s a forest. In this forest, there’s a track that I usually take. But I started my walk an hour later than usual so there were more runners out that I was trying to avoid.

I ended up taking a path that I’d never taken before, which got me thinking about the word meandering. I was thinking how meandering is the opposite of leadership. If you’re a leader and you want people to follow you, you have to show a sense of direction, “I know where I’m going. We’re going here.”

Whereas if you’re exploring and changing your mind constantly, “I went here. But I feel like going this way. What’s over there? Oh, interesting. Look at this bumblebee. I’m going to stop and watch it for a while.”

Metaphorically, meandering is not a good thing for leadership. Changing your mind often and exploring is great for personal growth and great for learning and great for a lot of things, but not great for leadership.

When people ask me if I’ve always been this way with all of the journaling and questioning and trying to look at things from a different point of view, I realized it didn’t really start until I sold my company. That’s when I started exploring a lot. I felt like a relief to not be a leader and have nobody depending on me.

I loved that I could completely change my mind at any time, start things and stop them one day if I feel like stopping them. It’s really nice to have nobody depending on you like that. I’m being the opposite of a leader right now. It’s really nice.

Erno:

I like to meander in my podcast topics and in life, too. I love that I can learn so much from interviewing people on my podcast. But people often say to me, “You should narrow your topics and get to the point.”

When I read your book, I was reminded that being able to constantly learn and improve yourself is of the most satisfying thing to do as a human being.

I have a hard time with wondering, “Do I try something new? Do I stick to what I’m doing now? Will people follow me?” It’s an endless train of thought.

Derek:

What about the idea of disconnecting the project or the company from ourselves? I feel like that’s advice that’s often given is that your company is not your life. This project is not you. When it comes to personal growth and leadership, that could be an interesting comparison.

Say that leadership of a project needs to be somewhat unchanging because it’s a project. If you personally are exploring and going through personal growth, well, that’s great. Disconnect your personal growth from this project. This project needs to go straight ahead. Your personal growth can go meandering all over the place but separate that from the project itself or from the company.

My employees used to get so mad at me for changing my mind. Often because I wasn’t separating the company from me. I really did still think of it as a personal project that I needed some employees to help me with. But it would make them so frustrated and so mad. They’d say, “You’re always changing your mind.”

I’d say, “That’s how we learn. We change our minds.”

But it was really frustrating for them, it made me hard to work for because I was changing my mind so often. In hindsight, it probably would have been better if I led the company straight ahead on an unchanging path and kept my personal growth to myself or channeled it into other projects that were not this one that people were depending on.

It’s so against my nature to take a project or a company and let it only be what it needs to be, instead of it being who I feel like being. That’s why I tend to dive into things so deeply now. It’s because I’m doing what I feel like doing. I’m not doing it for others. I’m doing it for myself. I can follow my own interests.

Two years ago, I decided to create my first mobile app. I had an idea that I thought would be really interesting. For a month or two, it’s all I did, and I got 90 percent done. But that last 10 percent didn’t interest me. So, I stopped doing it because I hadn’t told anybody about it. Nobody was depending on it either.

I said, “Alright. That was fun,” and I walked away and did something else. It was so wonderful that nobody minded because nobody was depending on it. But if you had people working for you, it feels like the right thing to do would be to lead them straight down a path without changing your mind.

Erno:

How does Stoicism make your life better?

Derek:

I didn’t know about Stoicism until I was 42 years old, but I’ve lived through this philosophy since I was a teenager. I don’t know how I picked it up or how I adopted this philosophy, but I think it’s because I wanted very, very, very badly to be a successful musician. I knew that it was going to be difficult. Millions of people want to be a Rockstar and only one in a million is going to achieve that. I wanted to be that one in a million. So, I felt that I needed to overprepare myself for a difficult future. Every step of the way, I was intentionally hard on myself.

I would challenge myself. For example, if somebody wants to be good at jumping high, then strap a bunch of weights onto their legs and practice jumping a few centimeters at a time. Keep working on it and they’ll be up to a 20-centimeter jump. Eventually you get up to a 60-centimeter jump with weights. Once you take the weights off, wow!

I was doing versions of that in my life at all times. I was constantly, intentionally making my life harder as a form of practice for life.

That involves expecting the worst and planning for the worst. Never planning for the best because the best doesn’t need any planning. I’d been thinking this way for 20 years and finally, a friend or two urged me to read a book on Stoicism.

Once I read it, I thought, “Whoa. Oh, my God! Somebody thought of this stuff 2000 years ago. I thought it was just me. I thought I was the weirdo that was always assuming the worst!”

If I had to sum up Stoicism, I’d say it’s assuming that the future is going to be harder than it is now and preparing yourself accordingly, being stronger than you need to be, getting used to accommodations or a lifestyle that is harder than you have it now.

Let’s say you may have $100,000 in the bank, but you live as if you only had $1,000 in the bank. Don’t use your savings because you’re going to need it for that more difficult future.

I feel stronger because of Stoicism. That’s how it’s improved my life.

I’m prepared that if things go horribly wrong – and it’s hard to imagine now in 2020, how could anything go wrong? [Laughter.]

It’s nice to feel that I’m mentally prepared for that. The most memorable idea in this book about Stoicism I read is so vivid and horrible. They said when kissing your child good night, a true Stoic must always imagine that your child will not be alive in the morning.

I thought, “God that’s sick. Who says that?!”

That’s vivid and extreme. But that’s a great example of expecting the worst at all times.

It sounds a little crazy, but when I’m walking in nature, I’m often looking around thinking, “This might all be gone soon. Some horrible tree disease or some horrible bomb is going to be dropped somewhere and all of these gorgeous trees are going to be burnt stumps. And this blue ocean is going to be brown.”

And because of that, I am so thankful this is here today. It makes me so thankful. Lastly, I’m not sure if I call this Stoicism, but in general, assuming the worst can be a really fun, creative thought exercise. A month ago, I asked myself, “What happens if nobody could ever travel ever again?”

I’ve always thought that travel is crucial. What if we can’t? How would I adapt?

And if travel is possible again, that’s a nice bonus. But I’ve set myself up in such a way that travel’s not necessary for what I want out of life anymore.

End of monologue [laughter]. You’ve got me on my favorite subjects.

Erno:

For me, I don’t always expect the worst. It’s more about being aware of how I respond and react to things. If I can’t change or control a situation, then it’s a waste of time to think about.

I think, “What can I do with my thoughts that’s going to help me? What’s going to contribute to the actions I really want to take?”

Derek:

Right. Because it in the end, our actions matter the most. If we’re just thinking things, that’s like watching movies in your brain

For example, people who think that the stock market is only going to go up and up are not well prepared. On the other hand, somebody who’s expecting in advance that the stock market might go way up and then it might completely crash and stay down for years at a time, they would take different investing actions because of that expectation.

With personal matters or your business, if you think, “OK things are going really well right now, but they might completely crash and stay bad for a long time. I might have zero clients for nine months if that happens. What would I do? I might get completely drowned in orders. The president tomorrow might declare my product to be essential and we quickly need six million of them. How can I be prepared for either of those two scenarios?”

If you’re thinking of these things in advance and then you take actions accordingly, so that whether you get six million orders tomorrow or no orders for six months, you can actually be prepared and embrace that whatever happens, happens. You’ll be OK no matter what happens.

Erno:

Good point.

Derek:

I want to say that I really appreciate the pace of this conversation. Some people, because they’re hosting a podcast, feel the need to act like a radio DJ. They feel the need to fill every single space with words because radio cannot have any silence. I really appreciate your silence. It’s really nice.

Erno:

Thank you. Silence is important.

Letting go of goals is a very new subject for me.

Every quarter at my last job, we gathered to discuss topics and ask each other tough questions about the new ideas that we all had for the coming quarter.

I was and still am always very optimistic about things.

I have these really big, great ideas. But every time my predictions wouldn’t come true, I wouldn’t be happy because I didn’t reach my goal. I had a stone in my stomach every time I shared my numbers because they were not what I promised.

Then, I thought, “Why not forget about these goals? Because it’s just an artificial number that I made up. Why not forget about the goals and just do the best work I can do with the people I’m working with now? And hopefully, they will share that with somebody else and that will bring in a new client or new project.”

So, that’s how I tackled of letting go of goals in the last two years or so. But it’s still a battle.

Derek:

I’ve never thought about numbers in a project that you’re still committed to. I had only thought of letting go of conflicting projects entirely and shutting down plans. One day, I had the idea to give up on making music and actually give away all of my musical instruments to a friend of mine who’s a full-time professional musician. I thought, “Wow. That would feel so liberating!”

So, I gave away all my instruments. I have no musical instruments in the house now. Weirdly enough, I’m happier because my soul is not torn everyday thinking, “I should be spending more time making music.” I was a huge relief to take that off the list of things that I’m going to do and completely let go of it.

I’ve never thought of this idea that you brought up about numbers. For example, I’m expecting 100 people to sign up and only 40 people actually signed up.

If I decided I’m going to pursue this project and I have no idea whether a million people or two people will sign up, but I’m going to do it anyway – how would that look? Are you letting go of expectations?

How would that change your actions? Would that improve things if you let go of expertise?

Erno:

Yes. I was inspired by Sean D’Souza, a copywriter from New Zealand, to start an online environment. I wanted it to be a forum where I post topics and others can learn, share, and ask questions.

Sean has around 600 people on his forum, so I thought that if I have 100, that would be great. In the end, I had around 40 people on my forum. And the same thing happened with the number of clients that I wanted for my business.

I was always worrying about numbers. I spent a lot of my time thinking about marketing and sales to get to a specific number. I realized that the time I was dedicating to finding new clients or forum traffic was conflicting with the time that I could spend with the actual customers that I have. I was more worried about the 60 people that I don’t have, instead of the clients that I do have.

It was better for me to let those numbers go. Now, I’ve been working very hard with the remaining customers that I have. I spend a lot more time with clients than I should.

Derek:

Wow. That is such a great example. Thank you for sharing that.

Seth Godin talks about a concept he calls the minimum viable audience. For any new thing that you start, determine what is the minimum viable audience that will make this worth doing and enable you to keep going. The story you shared reminded me of that.

Could I do this service if I had only 10 clients? Yes, I would.

What about 100 clients? What about 500?

If I had only 10, would that be sustainable? If so, until you get 10, focus on getting to that minimum number. But after you have the minimum number, focus entirely on your existing people and not even try so hard to grow it because you met your minimum.

I hear entrepreneurs talk a lot about a business concept and they only refer to people in terms of quantity.

“We have to get 10,000 users and 200 clicks. . .”

I think, “You know these are people, right? These are individuals that you can speak to and ask why they’re using your service. Always remember that these are individuals that are spending their time with you.”

I like thinking that there is no such thing as a crowd. They’re all individuals.

Erno:

I wrote a book about hyper-specialization. I don’t talk about target audience, I talk about a target client. Think about the one and only client that you want to work for that has one issue and you have one solution.

Your book, Hell Yeah or No, is a concept that’s been on my mind a lot lately. Can you explain what it’s about?

Derek:

The hell yeah or no idea is about raising the bar all the way to the top for what you will say “yes” to. This concept is for when you’re feeling overcommitted. You’ve said “yes” to too many things and feeling stretched too thin. You have too many opportunities coming your way and you’re at risk of drowning.

You need to raise the bar all the way to the top and say “no” to basically everything. Then, only when that rare, occasional thing comes by that’s so amazing, you can say “yes” to that one thing because you’ve said “no” to everything else. Now you have the time, the energy, and the power to throw yourself completely into that one thing and really kick ass at it instead of kind of half-assing a lot of things.

The problem is that it got shared on Tim Ferriss podcast and went out to a massive audience.

I get e-mails from 21-year-olds straight out of college going, “Hey, man, Hell Yeah or No – that’s awesome. I’m going to apply this to my life. I’m not going to say yes to any job unless I’m feeling a ‘hell yeah’ about it.”

I say, “No, no, no, no. Hold on. It’s cliché, but you don’t get a hammer and try to start using this one tool for everything, including cooking and fixing a light bulb. It’s meant for smashing things. Hell Yeah or No is a tool for when you’re overwhelmed with options and you’re at risk of drowning. Then, you can say “no” to almost all of them so that you have the time to say “yes” to the occasional one.

But early on in your career, or when you don’t have a lot going on, the best strategy may be to say “yes” to everything. Do absolutely everything, sleep a little bit less, meet everybody, try lots of different career paths. Maybe you’re not really sure what career path you want to go down, so you dabble in a little of everything.

Maybe you work three jobs at once and have two other projects on the side and then, when one of those things starts to reward you exceptionally well – whether that means lots of money, or receiving amazing feedback, or experiencing exceptional joy – then, you can start to say “no” to the others and throw yourself into this one thing.

We need different strategies for different times. Speaking of one, my favorite leadership books of all time is by Marshall Goldsmith called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There. The big idea is that you used a certain set of techniques to get you from the beginning to where you are now. The book aimed towards successful executives and assumes that you’re already at a medium level of success.

Goldsmith says that to get to the next level where you want to be, you’re not going to implement the same set of techniques and tools you used to get here. What got you here, won’t get you there. You need to take a different strategy to get you further. I see Hell Yeah or No as a second-level strategy. It’s something you need to start using after you’re already successful.

The reason Tim Ferriss liked the idea so much is because he was overwhelmed. At the time, he was living in San Francisco as a startup angel investor. He was drowning in people sending him business ideas,

He said very often he would hear business pitches and think, “Wow, that’s a really good idea. Maybe I should invest in that?” So, he liked my Hell Yeah or No idea because it helped him raise the bar higher for who he would invest in.

“Now that I’ve said ‘no’ to 199 others, now I can say yes to this one. In fact, I’ll invest more because I said ‘no’ to so many others.”

But for those of us that are not overwhelmed, it’s helpful to say ‘yes’ to everything. I say “successful,” but you could actually be successful and not be overwhelmed.

That’s where I’m at right now. I’ve been doing this for so long and by default, said “no” to so many things for so long that I’m not drowning. I don’t need to use my own Hell Yeah or No technique at this stage in my life because there aren’t a lot of things coming my way – in a good way.

Erno:

But in the beginning of your career, you had a lot of experiments and a lot of times where you said “yes” to everything.

Derek:

I don’t think of my past that much, but you’re right. A lot of the best things that ever happened to me were because of some random, little thing that I said “yes” to, that everybody else said “no” to.

I was a ringleader of a circus for 10 years. It was an amazing gig and it’s all because all of the musicians around me said “no” to playing guitar at an all-day pig show in Vermont for $75. The musicians around me thought it wasn’t worth doing. I was the one weirdo that said “yes” to it.

Because I said “yes” to that one thing, it led to so many other things. That happened over and over again in different aspects of my life.

Erno:

I see that with 21-year-olds today. It’s very difficult for them to accept a job that they don’t know if it’s the right one. I think, “Come on, you’re so young. Just take it and see what happens to you. After a year, there will be another world for you. A lot of things will change. Let go of the idea of this ideal job when you’re in your 20s.”

I’m 52 now. And I’m sometimes I’m wondering why it took me so long to find the thing that I really love doing, and that other people love me doing. When my clients are happy, I am happy.

I think, “Why did this take so long for me to find?”

Because we have to experience all the other stuff to get ideas and find our way. I like that story a lot, Derek.

Derek:

This has been a really fun, unique conversation. Again, I really appreciate the peace and the silence. It felt like more of a real conversation.

Erno:

It’s all about me trying to learn from you.

I can learn nuggets from your wisdom and see how it fits into my puzzle.

So, thank you very much. If people want to find you, what’s the best way?

Derek:

Go to sivers.org. As I mentioned at the beginning, I really like hearing from people.

In fact, I really like Dutch people [laughter]. A lot of my good friends are Dutch.

Every time I visit, I always think, “I wish I could live here.”

I really like the culture. So, any Dutchies, send me an email. I like you!