Derek Sivers

from the book “”:

You don’t have to be local


You can focus your time locally or globally.

If you’re local, then you’re probably social, doing a lot of things in-person, and being a part of your community. But this means you have less time to focus on creating things for the world.

If you’re global, you focus on creating things that can reach the whole world. But this means you have less time to be part of your local community.

Neither is right or wrong, but you need to be aware of the choices you’re making.

My example:

I lived in Woodstock, New York for three years. There I started CD Baby and Hostbaby, which connected me with thousands of people around the world. All my social time was on the road, traveling to conferences. I never met anyone in Woodstock. I just lived there, but didn’t socialize there. My attention was focused out to the world, and it was very effective.

Then I lived in Portland, Oregon for three years. I worked every waking hour — super productive. I made great friends worldwide, often at conferences, but I never hung out in Portland. It was just my place to work and sleep. My attention was still focused outward.

Then I lived in Singapore for three years, and decided to do the opposite — to get fully involved in my local community. I had an open door, said yes to every request, met with over 400 people one-on-one, and went to every event. I volunteered my time to all the universities, entrepreneur mentor sessions, and government departments. I spent most of my time talking with people, and I really got to know the Singapore community.

But something felt wrong. After a day of talking, I was often exhausted and unfulfilled. My interactions were usually one-sided — answering questions and giving advice. Two hours spent with one person who wants to “pick my brain” is two hours I could have spent making something that could be useful to the whole world, including that one person.

Then people around the world started emailing to ask why I’ve been so silent. No new articles? No new projects? Nothing?

So there’s the trade-off. When I’m local-focused, I may be useful to my community, but I’m not being as useful to the rest of the world.

So I’m finally admitting: I’m not local.

I feel equally connected to many different places around the world. Just because I live in one now, doesn’t mean I should ignore the others.

To me, the emphasis on local stuff never felt right. When I was in Woodstock and Portland, people would ask what I was doing to promote the local music scene there. I’d argue that I shouldn’t favor Woodstock or Portland any more than Wellington or Prague.

But that’s just me.

Some people feel a strong separation between insiders and outsiders. If you’re a part of their family, neighborhood, church, school, or a friend-of-a-friend, then you’re an insider. Everyone else is an outsider.

Other people feel no separation. You’re treated equally, no matter where you’re from or who you know. There are no outsiders. You made connections based on who you are now — not where you’ve been.

One will feel more natural to you. Like your tendency to be an introvert vs extrovert, or conservative vs liberal, these base world-views will shape your preferences for being local-focused or global-focused.

A business can focus on their local market, or internationalizing worldwide. A musician can focus on doing local gigs, or reaching fans online. Very different approach.

Both are necessary. Neither is right or wrong. But be aware that you can choose the local/global balance that works best for you.