Derek Sivers

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

Articles → Why you need your own company

It was early 2008. I had agreed to sell my company - my sole obsession of the last 10 years. The paperwork was processing.

I hated having 85 employees. It had become a little hell. I needed to get away and clear my mind.

I went as far away as I could - to a hot-springs Shinto shrine on a volcano at the southern tip of Japan.

I sat silently. I steamed. I soaked. I slept to the sounds of the sea.

I could not have been more relaxed. My head was empty.

For the first time in ten years, I had nothing I needed to do. No responsibilities. No plans.

What a relief, right? Can you imagine?

I brought along the great book Seeking Wisdom, and read in my peaceful Japanese ocean-facing room.

The book was great. Charlie Munger’s thoughts on behavioral finance were brilliant and contrarian. This book was inspiring all kinds of entrepreneurial ideas that I wanted to try!

When I was at CD Baby, I’d be able to play with new ideas immediately. (“What if we had a $5 sale?” “What if I could co-op card swipers?” “What if I could go multi-lingual?”) Any time I had an idea, I’d be able to test it out within days.

But now, for the first time in 10 years, since I had no company, I couldn’t test out these new ideas! All I could do was read, think, and maybe write about it. Damn!

Then I realized why I need to start a new company. Not for the money. Not because I’m “bored”. But because a company is a laboratory to try your ideas. (The word “laboratory” is defined as a room for research, experimentation or analysis. I think of it as a sandbox or playpen.)

Realizing this in my peaceful hot-springs, I caught a train back to Fukuoka, and jumped into action.

I started MuckWork so I could play with crowdsourcing while helping people get their boring work done.

I re-launched MusicThoughts to experiment with a fully multi-lingual site, and to organize this translation work.

I set up Now Now Now as the incubator/holding company and an experiment in transparency.

And all of my education-based projects (Success Stories, Documentary, and Coaching), which I’m wrapping into one bigger scope soon.

And this made me happier than doing nothing. This isn’t work, it’s play. It’s my place to try my ideas.

We all need some time off. A change of scene and pace. Silence and solace if we’re stressed. Reckless adrenaline if we’re in a rut.

But for those of us who think that an eternal escape from work would be paradise, don’t forget that we all need a playground, and your own company is one of the best playgrounds of all.

“If you observe a really happy man you will find him building a boat, writing a symphony, educating his son, or looking for dinosaur eggs in the Gobi Desert.” - Australian psychiatrist W. Béran Wolfe

“Find a happy person, and you will find a project.” - Sonja Lyubomirsky