Derek Sivers

Moving for good


You are the way you are because of what you’ve experienced.

Your country, family, town, random circumstances, and friends shaped the way you think. If you grew up on the other side of the world, you would have a different set of values and thought patterns.

But if you keep experiencing the same things, your mind keeps its same patterns. Same input, same response. Your brain, which was once curious and growing, gets fixed into deep habits. Your values and opinions harden and resist change. If you don’t flex, you lose your flexibility.

You only really learn when you’re surprised. Unless you’re surprised, everything is fitting into your existing thought patterns. So to get smarter, you need to get surprised, think in new ways, and deeply understand different perspectives.

With effort, you could do this from the comforts of home. But the most effective way to shake things up is to move across the world. Pick a place that’s most unlike what you know, and go.

This keeps you in a learning mindset. Previously mindless habits, like buying groceries, now keep your mind open, alert, and noticing new things. New arrivals in a culture often notice what the locals don’t. (Fish don’t know they’re in water.)

Don’t think of yourself as visiting. Say that you’ve moved here, and mean it. Commit. Immerse. Go native.

Form deep friendships with locals. Ask lots of questions. Ask them to explain things, and show you how it’s done. When they state a fact, ask how they know. When they state an opinion, ask for examples.

At first, their values and methods will feel wrong. You’ll feel the urge to tell them how it could be better. (Meaning: more like what you know.) But try to understand a perspective where they are right, and you are wrong. Eventually you’ll realize that your beliefs were not correct — they were just the quaint local culture of where you grew up. You are a product of your environment.

Every country has a shared and working philosophy. Dive in and really try to understand it. This is one of the best things you can do for your brain. Stay immersed at least until you feel yourself saying “we” instead of “they”.

Then, if you want to keep your brain actively learning and growing forever, keep moving across the world and immersing like this for the rest of your life.

(I wrote this for Tynan’s new book “Forever Nomad”, so please buy his book if you like this subject.)