Derek Sivers

from the book “”:

Learning the lesson, not the example.


Learning how to read metaphorically was a major turning point in my life.

When I was 19, attending Berklee College of Music, I had no interest in anything but music itself. But a teacher made us read the book “Positioning”, which is a straight-up business book. I thought, “Business? Yuk! I’m at music school, not business school! I just want to be a musician, not some corporate suit!”

But then he showed us how we could apply that book’s business lessons to our music. Even though the book makes no mention of music, he told us to translate the examples to whatever we’re doing.

In other words: Don’t focus on the example itself. Use it as a metaphor, and apply the lesson of the story to my situation. It sounds obvious to say it now, but I’d never looked at it that way before.

I realized I could advance my music career by reading books that make no mention of music. In fact I’d have a competitive advantage by doing so, since most musicians won’t!

Now here I am, 20 years later. I write little articles that try to share the lessons I’ve learned. But in the comments, I notice people are often focused on the specific example I used.

It’s never about the example. It’s about the lesson that can be applied to whatever you want. I should try to make it clear that this example is just one example, and that this lesson can be applied to anything.

But that’s one thing I love about comments. They let me know when I’ve been unclear.