Derek Sivers

Flip it in your favor


The old saying, “It’s all who you know,” used to feel so defeating.

I wanted to be a famous musician, but I didn’t know any famous people. I didn’t grow up in Hollywood. None of my friends were successful. Fame was a secret insider’s group.

So when I heard, “It’s all who you know," it felt like the rest of that sentence was, “and you don’t know anyone. So forget it.”

One day in college we had a guest speaker who was a head-honcho at BMI.

On his way into class I overheard him say he was hungry. He had come straight to our school without lunch, so when the teacher told him it was a two-hour class, he groaned.

Because everyone was still getting seated, I quickly ran out to the hall, called the local pizza shop, and ordered a few pizzas to be sent to our classroom.

After they arrived, he laughed and said, “Good move. I owe you one.” He gave me his card after class, and suggested I keep in touch.

For the next two years, he took my calls and gave me all kinds of advice about the music business. When I graduated college, he got me a great job at Warner/Chappell Music Publishing in New York City. He heard they were hiring, called them to say their search was done, and that was that. I started work that week.

A year later, I realized “It’s all who you know,” doesn’t have to be depressing. I just never considered it could work in my favor.

Then I realized the profound conclusion. Everything that seems depressing can be flipped to work in my favor.

Every deal that’s bad for someone is good for someone else. So instead of moaning about the bad side, you can take the good side.

If you think corporate radio is keeping your music from being heard, start a radio station! Look at the history of for an example.

If you think banks have an unfair advantage, you can start a bank! Look at for an example.

In 1997, I thought distribution for musicians sucked. So I started CD Baby. Now distribution doesn’t suck anymore.

And if you live in a democracy and don’t like the law, you can even change the law!

You can flip anything in your favor. It’s easier than ever for you to replace a broken system, and never feel helpless again.