Derek Sivers

Move to the big city


I hate to admit this, but it’s true.

One of the best things you can do for your career is to move to the big city. Nothing less than New York, Los Angeles, London, Mumbai, Hong Kong, or Silicon Valley. (Paris, Seoul, or Tokyo only count if you’re limiting yourself to those markets.)

It’s the place where everything happens. Where the biggest media companies in the world are based. Where the money is flowing. Where the most successful agents, producers, and executives live and work. Where the most ambitious people go.

It has a serious energy, because the stakes are high. It’s not casual. It’s not a place for a comfortable work/life balance. It’s fueled by ambition. People go go go.

I’ve lived a bunch of places now, but when I look back at my career, it’s obvious that the biggest breakthroughs happened because I was living in — not just visiting — the heart of the music industry in New York and Los Angeles.

It shows that you’re in the game. It shows you’re serious. And it’s got a healthy competition, knowing that today’s biggest stars and legends are there with you, too. It challenges you to push your skills to the best of the best, instead of just the best in your home town.

Once you’re famous, and the media is carrying your reputation more than your physical presence, you can move away if you want. But even then you’ll be a little out of the game. You can make the choice if that’s OK with you.

I lived in New York City for nine years, and Los Angeles for seven years. I met so many wonderful kindreds — other ambitious people like me that had moved there from around the world to get successful.

So why do I hate to admit this?

Because I love how the internet has made it possible for anyone to get successful anywhere. I love the idea of living in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature, yet being connected to the world.

But still, when I look at the facts, it’s impossible to deny. Actually living in the big city, and being in the middle of where everything is happening, will help your career the most. Being elsewhere won’t hurt you, but it won’t help.