Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Disconnect

Someone asked what I remember as the best times of my life.

They’re almost all times when I was being the most productive — when I was creating the most.

Turning my ideas into reality is what I want the most out of life. So that’s what gives me the deepest happiness.

Then I realized that all the best, happiest, and most productive times in my life, were when I was completely cut-off.

No internet. No TV. No phone. No people.

Long uninterrupted solitude.

When I was 22, I quit my job, and spent five months alone in a house on the Oregon coast. Practicing, writing, recording, exercising, studying, learning. No internet. No TV. No phone. No people. I only drove into the city once a month to see friends and family. The rest was completely disconnected.

In those five months, I wrote and recorded over 50 songs, made huge improvements in my instrumental skills, read 20 books (some of which changed my life), lost 20 pounds, and got into the best physical shape of my life. Not only that, but I was the happiest I’d ever been.

When I was 27, I moved to the woods of Woodstock and did that again. Months and months of lovely solitude. That’s how I started CD Baby.

It’s not that I hate people. The other best times in my life were with people. But it’s interesting how many highlights were just sitting in a room, in that wonderful creative flow. Free from the chatter of the world.

No updates. No news. No pings. No chats. No meetings. No surfing. No blogs.

Silence is a great canvas for your thoughts.

That vacuum helps turn all your inputs into output.

That lack of interruption is a great ingredient for flow.

Every business wants to get you addicted to their infinite updates, pings, chats, messages, and news. But if what you want out of life is to create, then those things are the first to go.

People often ask me what they can do to be more successful.

I say disconnect. Even if just for a few hours. Unplug. Turn off your phone and wifi. Focus. Write. Practice. Create.

That’s what’s rare and valuable these days.

You get no competitive edge from consuming the same stuff everyone else is consuming. But it’s rare to focus. And it gives such better rewards.