The James Altucher Show

Ep. 159 - Derek Sivers: The Zen Master of Entrepreneurship


The most powerful currency in the world is not what you think. Not anymore. We're turning to a new economy with two powerful currencies. And you have an opportunity, right now, to build a more fulfilling and rewarding life. I'm going to tell you what these two currencies are and how to leverage them successfully. I'll tell you what works for me. But before I do, I want to introduce you to Derek Sivers. He's an influential thinker, speaker, entrepreneur and the zen master of entrepreneurship writing. If you're starting a business, you have to read his book, Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur. It's in my top three. Derek built his business, CD Baby, around doing people favors. It became the largest seller of independent music online, with $100M in sales for 150,000 musicians. Derek later sold CD Baby for $22M and gave the proceeds to charity. "If you focus entirely on others the world seems to reward you the most," he says. That's one of the two most powerful currencies today: favors. But there are limits. "You have to serve others within the limits of what you're able to sustainably do. You can't do something that makes you absolutely miserable," he says. That's choosing yourself. I got a lot of ideas from interviewing Derek, which is the other currency: ideas. But you already knew that. Derek moved to New Zealand. He takes 3-day hikes, spends 30 hours a week with his family, and answers thousands of personal emails asking for his advice. He wrote a list of his priorities and said "I don't want to do anything else right now. (No more interviews or speaking at conferences until further notice.)" This is his last interview for awhile. I'm grateful he chose me. Chose us. And chose himself. I encourage you to write him. And listen to this interview. Share what you learned.  I wrote a list -- 7 ways to a "make a killing" and master the new economy. Because Derek quoted Kevin Kelly, futurist and founder of Wired. He said, "We should focus on making a living, not on making something huge." Derek changed it to "It's about making a living, not making a killing." To me, that's success in the new economy. 7 ways to a "make a killing" and master the new economy: A) Leave in the cracks Derek was listening to Sheryl Crow. But he didn’t know it was her. Her voice cracked. And she got his attention. "That little fault is what made me like her," Derek said. B) Admit your faults I know I'm bad at a lot of things. Derek gave an example. When I interviewed Ramit Sethi, I admitted I forgot to read something. And I wasn't totally prepared. "To me it kind of seems like a brilliant way of asking the world to love you," Derek said. And maybe it is. Everyone wants love. How sad is it that we, as humans, contemplate hiding ourselves? We have two choices: be yourself or fear being yourself. C) You can always disappear from your problems But do you want to? Did Kurt Cobain kill himself because he was too famous? Or because he got everything he wanted? And didn’t know what to do with it. We always want things. Happiness, love, appreciation. But then do we ask for the right things? Raises, promotions, more responsibility, less freedom? You can choose f-ck you money and f-ck you problems. Or you can focus on happiness. That’s what Derek did. He had a company, CD Baby. It’s basically the original iTunes. People said he’d get a lot of money with an IPO. But he didn’t do it. "What's the point of making money?" Derek said, "It's to be happy." "And if it would make me unhappy to have so much responsibility then I'd rather not make more money. I'd rather just focus on the happiness." D) Do more favors Anyone can do this. Derek started by selling old CDs online. He made money right away. So people asked for favors. Can you sell my old CDs? He said yes. And it spread. Friends of friends asked. Then strangers and soon he had a profitable business. But do it for yourself first. Learn the skill. Then, do it as a favor for someone else. See if more people ask. And then you have a business that cost you no money to create. E) Answer asks Derek didn’t offer to sell his friend’s CDs. They asked him. "By doing favors for people it implies that people are asking you to do those favors and to me the key is the asking," he says. "Bluntly put, you shouldn't start a business unless people are asking you to." F) Passion is poison Only search for passion if searching for passion is your passion. We're brainwashed to believe we're not alive. That we need a purpose. But you're alive. Passion or no passion, you are alive. Derek says, "Instead, just follow the little things that interest you. Just notice on a day-to-day basis what you're drawn towards." G) Only have good goals That's how Derek became "a writer, speaker, thinker kind of guy." The idea came to him. And suddenly he was inspired. "I put so much work into this and then within nine months I was speaking at TED in front of Bill Gates, Larry Page and all these intimidating people." He says, "A good goal is one that actually changes your actions in the moment. Goals are not about the future," he says. "Goals are about changing the present moment, changing your present actions." Listen now to my podcast with Derek Sivers. And let us know what you think. derek@sivers. org @jaltucher Resources and Links: Email Derek - derek@sivers. org Read his list of priorities. And get inspiration to write your own. Read his book Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur Follow Derek on Facebook & Twitter Watch his TED talks: Weird or Just Different?, How to start a movement, Keep your goals to your self. Also mentioned: Smartcuts: How Hackers, Innovators, and Icons Accelerate Success by Shane Snow Blue Microphones Yeti Sponsor Freshbooks - the #1 invoicing software for small businesses. I know and work with people who use Freshbook. It's a really easy service. If you're a freelancer or have your own business, I recommend Freshbooks for you. Go to www. freshbooks. com/james and let them know I sent you. Thanks.