Derek Sivers

Frequently Asked Questions

In 2016, I answered 30,904 emails from 11,971 people. It was practically a full-time job. These are the most common questions.


What should I do about my career?

Read the book “So Good They Can’t Ignore You”.


What should I do with my life?

Read “Happy, Smart, and Useful”.


I can’t focus.

First understand the do-or-die importance of focus. If you don’t learn to focus, you will have a shallow and unrewarding life without any meaningful achievements. So make it a priority.

Read the book “Deep Work”.

Read “Trying to pursue many different directions at once?”.

Practice meditation.

Yes it’s hard. Websites, phone apps, and media in general are designed to be as addictive as possible. Treat them as you would other harmful addictions.


Can I use your video / article?

Yes. Anything I put on sivers.org is free forever.

It would be nice if you could credit me and link back to sivers.org But honestly I don’t care either way.

For the “First Follower - How to Make a Movement - Leadership Lessons from a Dancing Guy” dancing guy video, please get my original from sivers.org/ff instead of the one from the TED Conference.


I have a boring well-paying job. Should I quit my job to pursue my art full-time?

Read “How to do what you love and make good money”.


I’m a full-time artist, but can’t make money. What should I do?

Read “How to do what you love and make good money”.


What do you think of this business idea?

It doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, except your customers.

Nobody can predict whether it will work or not. So stop asking “in-theory” and go find out.

Find just one paying customer, and please that person. Start lo-fi, right now.

Read “The Lean Startup” book, for more thoughts on this.


Where can I find a mentor?

First read “A warning to anyone receiving advice”.

Then read the best books about the challenges you face, and let those books be your mentors.

It’s dangerous to think that there is one special person that can give you all the answers and help you.

Talk with many people, not just experts. Get a diverse group of opinions.

I never had a mentor. When stuck on a problem, I’ve always called many friends for feedback. Some of the best and most helpful insights came from random friends asking naïve questions.


Why isn’t my business or audience growing faster?

I worked on CD Baby for 12-18 hours per day, 7 days per week, for four years before it really took off.

As for an audience, I’ve been creating and posting things online for free non-stop since 1994. Yep, that’s 22 years now. And keeping in touch with everyone I met that whole time.

Keep pushing, but be patient.


How should I learn programming?

First master HTML and CSS, as described in “Should you learn programming? Yes.

Then learn JavaScript, as described in “How to learn JavaScript”.

If you just want to get a job or make a website, you can ignore the curiosity about other languages. Just master JavaScript, and it will take you far.

But if you still find programming fascinating, make a point of learning the basics of three or four other vastly different languages, like SQL, Racket, Swift, and Lua, because something clicks once you understand a few different ways of getting the end result you want. You don't need to master them. Just spend a month with each, going through a couple tutorial books about it, and making something happen with it.

Definitely read “The Pragmatic Programmer” and “The Little Schemer”, no matter what.


How do I become a better writer?

First read “On Writing Well”.

Then read “Made to Stick”.

Consider hiring five translators to translate your writing into five languages. Since they charge about 10 cents per word, you’ll have to look at each sentence and decide if it’s really worth $5. And you’ll have to consider if each sentence might be unclear to someone who grew up in an opposite culture.


Will you be on my podcast?

Not now, but maybe some day soon.

I enjoy interviews when the questions are interesting, and haven’t been covered before.

Here is the archive of my past podcast interviews.


Will you speak at my event?

Sorry, I don’t do public speaking anymore.


Will you invest in my company?

No, sorry. I never had investors. I have never invested in anyone or anything.

I don’t know anything about investing, and I’m not interested in it.


Will you promote my thing?

Read “Why I don’t promote”.


How do you do your book notes?

I read only on Kindle.

While reading, when I read an idea that is surprisingly useful, I use Kindle’s clippings feature to highlight the idea.

When done with the book — (I only read one book at a time) — I copy the “My Clippings.txt” file to my computer with the USB cable.

I heavily edit that text file, chopping unnecessary words, making each idea self-contained for future lookup.


Will you read or review my book?

I don’t review books.

I only read for my own self-improvement, and take notes for my own reflection.


I’m a musician. What should I do?

Read “How To Make It in the New Music Business” by Ari Herstand, and do what he says.

This is the single best book on the current music business. An absolute must-read for every musician.


Blah blah blah blah CD Baby?

I left CD Baby in 2008. I haven’t talked with anyone there since then. I don’t even know who works there anymore.

I know nothing about what they’re doing. So I have no insights and no opinions.


What should I do about my relationship, or lack of?

Read “Models” by Mark Manson. (Only guys ask me for relationship advice.)


I’m really sad.

Read “When Things Fall Apart” by Pema Chödrön.