Derek Sivers

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

I’m a very slow thinker

When a friend says something interesting to me, I usually don’t have a reaction until much later.

When someone asks me a deep question, I say, “Hmm. I don’t know.” The next morning, I have an answer.

I’m a disappointing person to try to debate or attack. I just have nothing to say in the moment, except maybe, “Good point.” Then a few days later, after thinking about it a lot, I have a response.

This probably makes me look stupid in the moment, but I don’t mind. I’m not trying to win any debates.

In fact, I’ll tell you a secret. For most of those interviews at sivers.org/i, they sent me their questions a week in advance. I’d spend hours writing down answers from different perspectives, before choosing the most interesting one. Then once we were in a live conversation, I’d try to make it sound spontaneous.

It’s a common belief that your first reaction is the most honest, but I disagree. Your first reaction is usually outdated. Either it’s an answer you came up with long ago and now use instead of thinking, or it’s triggering a knee-jerk emotional response to something that happened long ago.

If you take some time to think it through, you might find that your first reaction wasn’t current and true. Or if it was, then you can say so with more conviction.

Point is: When you’re less impulsive and more deliberate like this, it can be a little inconvenient for other people, but that’s OK.

Someone asks you a question. You don’t need to answer. You can say, “I don’t know,” and take your time to answer after thinking.

Things happen. Someone expects you to respond. But you can say, “We’ll see.”

And maybe, through example, you can show them that they can do the same.

(Can you imagine how the world would work if this was the norm?)

(Tree sculpture by Kim Beaton.)