Derek Sivers

Interviews → Jovana Miljanovic / Podcast

Changing identities, tea, thinking through things slowly, why you shouldn’t be attached to plans

Date: 2020-02

Download: audio (mp3)

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sumJoW_J6iQ


Jovana:

Welcome to my first episode of my new podcast. And thank you so much for taking your time to be a part of this.

My first question for you, which came from one of my followers, a girl who also follows and loves your work.

What would you suggest that she does when some of her identity changes in life are happening right now at the moment? And she says she feels like someone pulled out a carpet underneath her feet? [laughter]

Derek:

Did she give any more information than that?

Jovana:

No, it was just that.

Derek:

I think most people I know or most people I hear from have the opposite problem. I think that most people in life feel like they’re in a rut, like nothing is changing, and they feel stuck and they’re bored, and they don’t know how to make any change.

So, I think if you’re having a big change in your life then it can feel overwhelming, but you’ve got to kind of appreciate it, you know? [Laughter]

Because you should feel lucky that that’s a good problem. When your life is changing that means you’re changing and you’re getting smarter. And change usually - almost always – is good. Even if it seems bad at first, in the long run, you can usually look back and be glad that things changed. The worst thing is usually when nothing changes.

Jovana:

That’s a good tip. It is helpful, and it makes you look from things from a different perspective.

Derek:

Yeah, I think it helps to also not need to feel loyal to who you were before.

I was living in the wilderness in New Zealand. I was living in a forest. And then I moved to Europe and I thought that I would do the same because I had kind of defined myself as like, “I’m a nature guy. I like solitude and silence and nature.”

And then after I got to Europe, I felt like, “You know, I just really feel like being right in the middle of a noisy city right now. I’ve completely changed my mind. That was what I wanted then. This is what I want now.” That’s just the most recent example that’s on my mind today.

But in the past, all my friends knew me as a musician. And then I started a business and I stopped making music. And my friends were so upset. They’re like, “This isn’t who you are. You’re a musician. You haven’t even written a song in two months.”

So, I think there are going to be many times in your life when your identity changes and you can’t feel bad about it. You just got to go with it and actually feel glad that you’re changing.

Jovana:

Yeah. That reminds me of your post about “Keep earning your title or it expires.”

Another question which I also get a lot, especially from women, is about self-confidence. I have a lot of theories, one of which is that self-confidence comes when I make some little promises to myself. On the small scale and daily. Small stuff daily, I just keep them.

That’s how my muscle of self-confidence grows.

Derek:

I was just talking with my best friend in Australia this morning about this subject because she’s very confident about herself intellectually and emotionally, but she does not think of herself as attractive, no matter what anybody tells her.

Men could be down on their knees, praising her beauty, and she just doesn’t believe it. She’s like, “No, I disagree. I don’t see it.” Nothing makes her feel beautiful, but she feels completely confident intellectually and emotionally.

In what aspects in your life, does your confidence come from within? Like you personally think that you are awesome in this way. And in what aspects of your life do you need outside validation, like you need compliments or other people’s opinions in order to feel confident about these things?

It’s a really interesting thing to ask yourself. Because everybody has it differently. You know, some people are completely confident physically, and not confident intellectually. Like they need somebody to tell them that they’re smart in order to feel smart, but they definitely feel hot. Or vice-versa.

So, I think it’s a good thing to ask yourself. My confidence and my motivation and everything come internally. I don’t depend on the outside world for motivation or much. But I have noticed, especially in that conversation with my friend this morning, that there are aspects in my life where I’m entirely dependent on people’s compliments [laughter].

Because it’s just something that’s outside of me, like I don’t have an opinion on this thing about myself. I need other people to tell me if it’s good or bad. So, my opinion is just the collection of what I’ve heard.

Jovana:

Yeah. I guess it’s also good advice if you’re really confident in one area to replicate what brought you there into some other, if it’s applicable.

Derek:

Yeah. Or even just ask yourself, “Is this internal or external?” And if it seems external, then I don’t know what to do about that.

Jovana:

Oh, then you just open an Instagram and take photos. [laughter]

Derek:

Go fishing for compliments, yeah.

Jovana:

And get a ton of validation [laughter]. No, that doesn’t really work.

Another question we had is to tell us more about your methods for seeing if your goals are “shit or legit.” You mentioned in one interview how you test to see whether some goal is shit or legit.

Derek:

This was such a good lesson to learn – that a good goal is one that makes you jump into action today, like right now. And a bad goal is one that makes you feel like, “Yeah, I should probably do that,” and then you don’t actually do anything about it.

So, I don’t want to sound new-agey about this because I’m not. But there really is no such thing as the future. The future is what we call our imagination. If we’re thinking about something that we might want to happen, we call that the future.

Yeah, but the future doesn’t really exist. And same as the past. The past doesn’t exist anymore. It’s gone. What we call the past are our memories. And what we call the future is our imagination. All we really have to work with is this moment right now. So, a good goal is not about the future because you can’t do anything about the future. All you can do is your actions right now.

If you look at your different goals that you’ve had and some of them seem like they’re good goals, but if you haven’t acted on it, then it’s just not a good goal. You can get rid of it. You can say, “Never mind, I’m going to shut down this goal.” In fact, I think this might be like a future book or article of mine, the idea of letting go of goals.

Jovana:

Maybe it’s somebody else’s goal that just landed in your brain.

Derek:

I think so much about the difference between “in theory” and “in practice.” So, it’s like, in theory that’s a good goal. In practice? Well, is it making you jump out of your chair and jump into action? Is it improving your actions today?

Well, if it is, then it’s a good goal, but if it’s not, then it’s just not a good goal. It’s not that you need more discipline or more willpower. You just need a different goal. You need a goal that makes you act right now, today.

Jovana:

Yeah, I agree with that a lot, especially when it comes to business and women who are starting their businesses. Nowadays, it’s a trend and everyone wants to have a business. But if it doesn’t make your heart open and your brain explodes with ideas, then you just probably should chill out and read books and do something else until that idea comes to you and you really need to do it. Not want, but need.

Derek:

Yeah. You find the thing that makes you stay up late and get up early and take action. You find the thing that makes you stop procrastinating and start acting.

And no matter what that is, even if it’s something that you were not expecting. To rewind 20 years, I was a full-time musician. All I cared about in the whole world was music and that’s it. And then I surprised myself when I started this little website as a hobby. It was just a stupid little something I thought I would spend three days on.

But it became so interesting to me that I was staying up late, all night, just to work on my web site. And I’d get out of bed at 6:00 or 7:00 in the morning, excited. I’d run downstairs and immediately start working on the web site again because it was just so fun.

And it took me a couple weeks to admit that this was a better goal than going and doing more gigs as a musician. I was like, “This is a lot more exciting to me now,” but it was completely unexpected. So, I never would have said that that was a goal that I would have come up with, in theory. But yeah, that that was the thing that was making me jump out of my chair every morning.

That was my goal for 10 years. For 10 years of my life, my single goal was to just run my website company business called CD Baby and make it great. And that goal got me jumping out of bed every morning at 6:00 a.m. and kept me up every night until midnight, for 10 years. It was a great goal until it was done. And then suddenly I didn’t want to do it anymore.

Jovana:

From goal to gone.

Derek:

Yeah [laughter].

Jovana:

Your web site is really specific. I like it because it’s clean and minimal, and I like that kind of a design in a website because I like minimalism. It makes me feel better and more productive in a way.

So, how did you decide that was going to be the type of website you create? Was it inspired by your view of things in life and the idea of subtracting instead of adding? Because the website has that feel, just like your words and your books.

Derek:

[Laughter] Thank you. Wait until you see the cover of my book. I just chose the cover.

I worked with a few different artists. God, I hired people and I even paid them a lot of money.

Jovana:

And then put all of them in one cover [laughter]?

Derek:

In the end I said, “Never mind.” I threw them all away. And . . .

Jovana:

You did it.

Derek:

I’m just putting the text of the title and my name on the cover. That’s it. No graphics. Just the book title, my name. That’s it. So yeah, this is in every aspect of my life.

People who come visit my house will step inside and the first time they visit, they say - more than one person has said this - they come in and they say, “Do you live here?” [Laughter].

I say, “Yeah, I live here.”

“You don’t have anything. There’s no stuff. It looks like you haven’t moved in yet.” And I say, “Thank you.”

Jovana:

[Laughter] What a great compliment.

Derek:

So, with my site, I learned HTML programming years and years ago at the beginning of the Internet. My first Web site was in 1994, so there were no tools. There was no WordPress. There was no Wix or anything like that.

You just opened up a text document and you started from scratch and you wrote, , , . You put your title, then you close bracket, . So, I still make web sites like that. I make everything by hand.

So of course, I’m not going to include a single line of unnecessary code, because I’m typing it all out by hand. So, everything that’s on my site, I put there by hand. There’s no WordPress, no nothing. I typed it all out.

I always want to have the minimum necessary in everything in life. It makes the site run faster. It makes my life simpler. It makes it easier to maintain. It makes it look better on a phone or any tablet or anything. It’s just feels better. I’m such a fan of this.

I even do it with the graphics. When I do need to use a graphic, I do everything I can to make it as small and simple as possible, and the minimal number of bytes it can be. Yeah, it’s a passion of mine.

Jovana:

Do you also do the same thing when it comes to food and routines and things like that?

Derek:

Probably, yeah. I like simplicity. I’ve noticed that a lot of people make their lives heavier and heavier, and more complicated. Even my sister is like this. If you go to my sister’s house, it’s just filled with stuff. And she has three kids and two dogs and a house full of so much stuff. And she can’t move house. If she were to ever think about moving, it would just be overwhelming because she just has so much stuff.

Whereas to me, because I don’t have anything, I just could move every few months just for the fun of it, you know, because why not?

And so, I found that life is simpler when you have less stuff. And I’ve thought about this a lot. I think about energy. I don’t know if you do this, but if I’m feeling really low energy, I usually think, “I need to get something to eat.” I think that getting a little something to eat will give me energy.

Jovana:

Yeah. I’m like, “Eat or sleep.” [laughter]

Derek:

Right. I don’t sleep, so . . . [laughter].

Jovana:

“Eat or eat.”

Derek:

“Eat or eat.” Yeah. But if you do that too much, it makes you fat and it makes the problem even worse, right? It’s kind of the same with life.

People are maybe a little bored with their life, so they think they want a little more fun, or to add a little more energy to their life. So, they think, “Well, what can I get? What can I add to my life? I want to get some new thing.

Retail therapy. I’m going to go buy something. I’m going to get something to make my life more fun.” But if you keep doing that, your life gets heavier and heavier and more complicated and more filled, and you have so much stuff. It makes everything else in life harder when you’ve made your life so complicated.

So, I think that we can do with our life what we can’t do with our body, which is that we can just drop all of our weight instantly, you know? Like think of how many people would love to just lose 20 kilos immediately, right? But you can do that with your life. You can just use your local eBay or whatever it may be. There’s always a way that you can get rid of stuff.

Jovana:

We give it to the shelter houses here in Serbia.

Derek:

Exactly.

Jovana:

And to some friends, as well, because we say maybe something that I consider trash or “I don’t want this anymore,” that someone else is like, “Wow, this so cool.” [laughter].

Derek:

Exactly. Somebody always wants it.

Jovana:

Yeah, somebody always wants it. I find that is so liberating. I’m also very passionate about moving around the world and the freedom it gives me. It’s always one suitcase and it’s carry-on.

Derek:

Even with friends and things that aren’t physical stuff.

Yeah. People are surprised how simple my life is. They think that because I’ve sold a company and made lots of money or whatever, that I probably have a big life. But no, my life is actually very wonderfully small.

Jovana:

That’s the best way. It’s reaching the things that are real, true wealth and abundance.

Derek:

My life is very rich in time because I say “no” to everything and I have no stuff. And so, I have lots of time.

Jovana:

Yeah, that’s the best. What brings you joy in this moment in your life?

Derek:

Really, just three things. My life is very simple right now. I spend all of my time doing one of three things: either writing, programming, or being with my kid. And that is it.

That’s my whole life. And sleeping. I do sleep sometimes. But anytime I’m awake, I’m doing one of those three things. I’ve just let go of all the other things I was doing and that was distracting me and I’m just always either writing, programming, or being with my kid.

Jovana:

It’s like three types of different meditation. With your kid, it’s active meditation [laughter].

Nice. And what’s your preference? Coffee or tea?

Derek:

Tea, baby. A hundred percent!

Jovana:

I love tea, also!

Derek:

I’m a tea fanatic.

Jovana:

Me too. I didn’t know you were. Cool.

Derek:

Absolutely, I’m like a tea connoisseur. Aficionado. I have tried it all. And I’m kind of a snob about tea. I mean, I also just enjoy cheap black teas. Fine. I love it all.

But I’m saying all this because, I have just recently found a tea company originally started in Australia. They’re called T2.

Jovana:

Oh, I know. Oh, I know.

Derek:

You know T2?

Jovana:

Oh, they’re good.

Derek:

If you look them up, they have outlets around the world and I think you can order mail-order.

Jovana:

London, and everywhere. . .

Derek:

Yes. So, we have one here in Oxford, England. And walking by the shop, I was not impressed. The first time I saw it, I thought it was just some kind of corporate bullshit, you know?

Jovana:

Generic.

Derek:

Yeah, like, “These people don’t know tea. Look at this corporate bullshit.”

Jovana:

That looks too nice [laughter].

Derek:

Yeah. But I lived in Singapore for two and a half years. So, I Just peeked my head in the shop, and I saw that on the wall was a box of tea called Singapore Tea or Singapore Breakfast Tea or something like that. And I said, “Yeah, yeah, we’ll see about that.” And I opened up the box to smell it and I was just like, “Oh, my God. They did it.”

Jovana:

Time machine.

Derek:

They captured the smell of Singapore. Oh, my God, that’s amazing. So, I got this Singapore Tea and it’s black mixed with green, mixed with coconut, mixed with toasted brown rice, mixed with . . .

Jovana:

Oh, my God.

Derek:

Yeah, “Oh, my God” is right.

Jovana:

It’s like a Genmaicha meets coconut - [laughter].

Derek:

Yes. Oh, wow, you do know your stuff.

Yeah, it’s a Genmaicha mixed with black, mixed with coconut. It’s amazing. And I’ve since tried a few of their other teas. Their Singapore Tea is still my favorite. But wow.

Jovana:

Nice. I have never been there. I never knew about Singapore Tea. I’m reading this book now. It’s called Infused.

The author committed her life to tea and she talks about regions where it is good for which tea and the combinations. Do you do like matcha tea?

Derek:

Yes [laughter]. The last time I had a great matcha tea was 1995, and I still remember it. I haven’t had a great one since. I would love to find another. . . I like strong tea.

A friend of mine is really into tea, but he does that really weak tea thing where he kind of puts some leaves in and brews it for like one minute and pour, and it’s almost clear, and that’s the way he likes it. But no, I like it strong.

Jovana:

Yeah, me too.

Derek:

I would love to find a strong matcha.

Jovana:

We’ll send you one. There is one here in Serbia. There’s a man who is 70 years old, and he dedicated his life to making matcha chawans – the ceramic thing that you drink matcha tea from.

Derek:

Wow, I didn’t know that.

Jovana:

And it is so special. He makes each one by hand. I will send you a photo. It is beautiful.

What are your top three values in life? From tea to values in life.

Derek:

[Laughter] I think creating is number one. I used to think that creating and learning were equal. But I realize that I think that learning without creating – learning just for learning’s sake and not using what you learned to create something – feels a little wasted in life.

Jovana:

Yeah, it’s like buffering.

Derek:

Yeah. On the other hand, I can imagine creating without learning to a certain extent. I think of the band AC/DC that basically made the same record for 40 years. I wouldn’t want to be like that.

But ultimately if I had to pick one, creating is my top value. Learning is my second value. And I think being considerate . . . I’m actually thinking about the thing you said earlier where you asked what gives me joy, and I said, “Writing, programming and being with my kid.”

Being with my kid is mostly about being considerate. I’m constantly trying to see the world through his eyes and imagining what it must be like to be him in this moment. And it’s hard to be . . . He’s only 7 years old. It’s hard to be like a little kid when the world is confusing or overwhelming.

Jovana:

Oh, it’s overwhelming to me. I can’t imagine. [Laughter]

Derek:

And you’re eleven now, right?

Jovana:

Yeah. [Laughter] Thirty. In two weeks.

I remember when you talked about the Tim Ferriss question on what would be on the billboard. I’m still laughing when I remember that [laughter]. Like really laugh in my tummy. And what you talked about – those parrots and the penguins. [Laughter]

That was the best.

Derek:

That was funny. I was telling a story about when I used to live in California. And in California we have pelicans with the big beak and they carry fish in their big beak, and they fly. And so, I was telling the story about pelicans.

But I was living in New Zealand literally right across the street from a penguin nest. We actually had penguins on my street. And so, yeah, I got them mixed up in my story, on the air. That was funny.

Jovana:

So, what would you write on the billboard now? Would it be the same thing?

Derek:

Yeah, I think so. Just two days ago, I was in central London in the rich part of town called Mayfair, and I walked through a street and then I passed through the hotel called The Mayfair. There was a Lamborghini and a Rolls Royce parked out front. There were all these people in rich clothes spending a lot of money at a little high society cocktail party.

And then after that, I was looking for a bookstore, but I had to go through a shopping mall. And again, it was in the Mayfair neighborhood, so it was one of these really upscale shopping malls where you just knew that everybody’s paying ten times more than they should for everything because it has a famous name on it.

They’re trying to impress somebody. All of this stuff. And it just makes me so sad because I think that they’re all thinking that, “This next thing I buy is going to make me happy. The next thing I do will make me happy.”

And so, yeah, I feel like that’s still my message for the world that I wish I could share. These things you’re thinking of buying or thinking of doing, it’s not going to make you happy. Things don’t make you happy.

You’ve got to make yourself happy. It’s a different act. Making yourself happy is a different action than buying something. It might make you happy a minute or an afternoon but not long-term.

Jovana:

Unless you buy tea. [Laughter]

Derek:

[Laughter] Nice. So, yes, I think it’s the same message.

Yeah, the thing you’re referring to is I thought it would be fun to train a bunch of parrots to say, “It won’t make you happy,” and then set them free into the shopping malls of the world. A little parrot in the background goes, “It won’t make you happy. Won’t make you happy.” Maybe it’ll help.

Jovana:

Are you the kind of person that likes to try out new things? Or are you more into the repetition – doing the same thing day in, day out?

Derek:

I thought about this recently because in theory, I like variety. I would like to move to a new house every month. I would like to live in a new country every year for the rest of my life. I would like to constantly do new things and try new inputs and expand my horizons. That’s what I want, in theory. And I really do want that.

But like you just asked me a minute ago, about my top three values in life, my number one top value in life is creating, which for me means writing. It’s either writing words or writing code, but it’s all just writing.

And the way that I write is to sit down and type. So, because that’s my top value, what I end up doing more than anything is sitting and typing.

Especially if I’m on a great roll and I’m loving what I’m writing. I’ll wake up at 6 a.m. and write for 18 hours until midnight. Typing all day long, so full of ideas. Then I fall asleep at midnight, and I wake up and I do it again.

I’ll just do that for weeks or months. And then I think, “Oh yeah, I actually really did want to go traveling and exploring and trying new things, but I just want to create, even more.”

So ultimately, yeah, in theory, I like a lot of variety. In practice, my life looks very, very much the same every day because it’s just a lot of typing.

Jovana:

Do you have some special chair that you work from? I’m asking for myself because my back always hurts when I sit a lot and type.

Derek:

No. When I moved here to Oxford last year, I found, what are they called? The Herman Miller Aeron.

Jovana:

Oh, I know, mhm. Pricey chairs.

Derek:

Yeah, and they’re famously expensive. But I found an office that was shutting down and selling 200 of them for $100 each.

Jovana:

Wow.

Derek:

So I thought, “Okay, yeah, I’ll take two of them.” I bought two and it’s been good. It feels good on my back.

Jovana:

So, they’re worth the money.

Derek:

I think so. Especially if you find them used. Don’t spend $1,000. But if you find a used, cheap one, yeah.

Jovana:

The majority of us have a tendency that when we are asked something, we need to answer as soon as possible so people don’t think we’re dumb. That’s what we’re taught in school in Serbia. We don’t want to be laughed at. So, it’s easier for us to say something stupid than to wait and give our brain time and space to process. To think and breathe before we give an answer to the question.

How do you take the time to think before you answer? To not let it look for the shortcut and rapid-fire answer?

Derek:

Right. I think that’s not just Serbia. I think that’s everywhere. Unless you live in Finland or Japan, we’re used to filling up silence. You’re not supposed to have silence. Even with a friend.

A friend asks you a question and says, “What do you think is the most important thing in the world?” And you go, “Oh, I think the most important thing . . . ” [Laughter] You just start talking, when actually, you probably need ten minutes to think about that, at least.

And this was why I stopped doing interviews for four years. I didn’t like the format of trying to sound like a know-it-all, like we’re hitting “Record,” we’re on the air, you ask me a question, and I’m supposed to have a good answer right away.

Derek:

So, the point is, I don’t think that’s just a Serbia thing. I think that’s an everybody, everywhere thing.

But what’s made a huge difference for me is writing in my journal. You should let your brain run around. Get it all out. Everything that’s in your brain, just write it all down. Every question you have, every answer to every question.

Just get it out of your head and into your journal, even if it takes you 10 hours to write it down. If you’re going through a major life decision and you’ve got a lot on your mind like you’re thinking of quitting your job, or moving across the country, or whatever it may be – just write it all down and ask yourself questions and then answer those questions.

And then even more important, question your answers. For example, if you asked yourself a question like, “What’s the most important thing in my life?” And you wrote “my family.” Then I think you should question your answers like, “Is it really? Is my family really the most important thing in my life? Maybe it’s not. I can be honest with myself in my private diary.

Nobody’s going to read my answer [laughter]. I think maybe that’s actually not the most important thing in my life. Maybe my personal ambition is the most important. What if my family told me to give up my dreams? Would I say, ’Oh, okay, family. Whatever you say. Because you’re the most important thing,’ or would I say, ’I’m sorry, family, my ambitions matter more to me than making you guys happy. I need to make myself happy for it.’”

As you go through this and you start questioning your answers, and you keep asking yourself questions, you just work through it. And I think if you keep doing this long enough, you find your peace. You find your real answer. At some point you feel like, “Yeah, I think that’s my truth on this subject. I think this is what I think.”

In English, we call them “essays.” You write an essay on the subject. But that English word comes from the French verb, which is “essayer”-

Jovana:

Ah, to try.

Derek:

To try. And so . . . Michel Montaigne was one of the first essayists, and he called them essays because when he would sit down to write, he was trying to figure out what he thinks about something.

This was his way of asking himself, “What do I think about this subject? I’m going to write an essay on the subject of having pets because I don’t know what I think about having pets. I’m going to go explore the subject of having pets to help figure out what I think.”

Jovana:

Beautiful. I didn’t know that, and I love French.

How long have you been journaling? When did you start? How old were you?

Derek:

Ever since I was a teenager, I would do it when I was confused. If I was feeling stuck in a dilemma or really confused on a subject, then I would open up my diary and start writing to help straighten out my thoughts.

But then I found myself, later in life, wishing that my old diaries included more than just my dilemmas. Because if life was good then you’ll see nothing in my diary about it.

Jovana:

I know [laughter].

Derek:

When I’m trying to make a decision about something, I would look back and think, “Well, what was I doing for those two weeks? Was I having a great time? Was I just working too hard? I think I remember my past, but I don’t remember it that well. I wish that I would have kept a daily diary.”

So, starting eight years ago, I started keeping an every-single-day diary no matter what, even if it’s just like five minutes before bed. Sometimes, I just write things like, “Typed all day. Working on my new book.”

Jovana:

It’s beautiful. I’ve been writing my journal since I was five, and I have them all for every day since I was five. And I’m 30 soon. And it’s amazing when I go back in time and I see what I was I thinking when I was seven years old. What was I upset over? [Laughter].

It gives you so much more perspective and grace. Sometimes we’re just so judgmental towards ourselves. Then we find those little things and it’s just heart-melting. It’s beautiful.

I try to talk all the time about the importance of journaling in my life. I believe, really, that journaling saved my life, in certain periods.

Derek:

And we should to it, even if it seems boring. I think we should write down - even if it takes a minute - what you did today. Because it might seem boring for you today, but the future you in 20 years might really wonder what you were doing all the way back in the year 2020. [Laughter]

You might really wonder about your past self. Like, “How was I spending my time? Was I happy? Was I busy? Was I bored? So, I think that every day, you should write down what you did along with your emotions and your dilemmas and your questions and all of the other stuff. I think it’s so important.

Jovana:

It helps you analyze some patterns that you have and are so used to them that you don’t even notice them. But when you look back you think, ”Damn, this explains everything.“ [Laughter]

You can also look back to see the results that you’re having. So, if you say, for example, ”Family is my priority,“ then you see, ”Oh, I haven’t spent any time with my family last month,“ then you really need to talk to yourself.

How do you feel about doing the things that are hard right now that bring you short-term pain but bring you the long-term gain?

Derek:

Well, I think it’s about how badly you want it. There are times when we know that we should go to the gym, but we don’t. And we know we shouldn’t eat the cake, but we do. There’s what you want now, and what you want most. I like that way of putting it.

So, what do you want now, and what do you want most? But sometimes the thing you want most is kind of foggy and faint. You know that you want this thing, but it’s not like punching you in the gut. It’s not grabbing you.

Jovana:

Yeah, like a fit body. ”Yeah, it’s nice to have, but these gummy bears are damn good now.“ [Laughter]

Derek:

Exactly. But there are other times in your life where what you want most is like, ”I need this more than anything. Fuck everything else. Forget everything else. No to everything else. Yes, to this one thing.“ So, that’s kind of where I’m at right now in my life, writing-wise.

It’s so tempting to do so many other things. I’m living here in Oxford outside of London. And people come through and they want to hang out and they want to meet up. And I say, ”No, I have to finish my book. Nothing else. Unless you’re my kid, who’s the only thing more important to me than my book [laughter].

Other than that, “No, I’m working on my book and I just need to keep doing it.”

And of course, there are days that I want to go out and see a movie or stop and do something else. But I think about that for a second, and then I think, “Or I’ll keep finishing my book.” I think, “Okay, I’ll just get up for one second, stretch my legs, go to the kitchen, get a glass of cold water, and come back and keep finishing my book.”

So, right now I’m at a time where you could say I’m going through some short-term pain every day to finish this thing, because I so badly want the long-term gain of finishing this thing.

Jovana:

And we want it, too. [laughter]

Derek:

Yeah. Well, thank you.

Jovana:

For you to finish. [laughter]

Derek:

But there was a time a year and a half ago, where all at once, in two months, lost 40 pounds – about 18 kg.

Jovana:

Whoa, that’s a lot.

Derek:

Yeah. And my friends were like, “Dude, how the fuck did you do it? Oh, my God.”

And I said, “It became my top priority, above everything else.”

I thought, “You know what? No. I’m going to have a bowl of vegetables every evening and some hard-boiled eggs with the yolks removed for protein. I’m going to go to the gym, and I’m going to walk an hour in the forest every day. And this is my top priority. Like, damn it, I’ve been saying I’m going to do this for too long. Now, I want this so badly that this is the most important thing.”

So, I think the short-term pain versus long-term gain is just a matter of how badly you want it.

Jovana:

Oh, I agree. People usually ask me about balance, and I don’t believe in balance.

I believe in going all-in, and no matter how long it takes, if the cause is worthy, you just go all-in. Some relationships were a priority for some time. Sometime books, sometime business, sometime something else. But not at the same time. Because then you’re not exceptional in anything.

Jovana:

You’re averaging everything.

Derek:

But, you know, some people work better that way. Some people really like to have the kind of day where they do one hour of this, three hours of that, one hour of something else. And then two hours. And that’s how they like to live. Some people really do.

Jovana:

Sounds very overwhelming. [laughter]

Derek:

Well, for some people, it’s the only way to be. They can’t imagine sitting down and writing for 18 hours. But to me, I can’t imagine doing eight different things for two hours each. No way.

Jovana:

My brain would burn. [laughter]

Derek:

I think you have to know yourself. Kind of like introvert, extrovert. Like if you’re an introvert who’s tried to be social for a long time. Then you admit it to yourself and say, “You know what? It’s not working for me. It makes me unhappy.”

Jovana:

If you were an animal, which animal would you be and why? [laughter]

Derek:

What animal likes to be alone?

Jovana:

Wolf.

Derek:

Wolf. There you go. I’ll be a wolf. Because I like to be alone and do whatever I want [laughter].

Jovana:

Or you can be a bear because bears eat the berries and I love berries.

Derek:

Yeah, there you go.

Jovana:

What were the last three books you read and liked?

Derek:

The first one that comes to mind was called The Courage to be Disliked. It is so fucking good.

Jovana:

Okay, I’m ordering it.

Derek:

Yeah, please write it down. The Courage to be Disliked. Don’t worry about the title. The book is actually about many things, and this idea of being disliked is a minor point near the end. I don’t know why they chose that as the title.

Jovana:

Because it’s catchy.

Derek:

The book is fascinating. I’m not going say too much more about it. You can see my book notes on it if you go to sive.rs/book

Jovana:

Oh, they know. I shared it like 100 times. No joke.

Derek:

[Laughter] If you go to my book page, just search the page for the word “disliked” and you can read my notes on it there.

And just yesterday, I finished a really damn good book called The Beginner’s Guide to Japan, which is a really interesting insight into Japanese culture from an Indian British man who’s been living there for 32 years as a tourist. He doesn’t know how to speak Japanese. He tries to maintain his outsider’s perspective on the country.

Jovana:

I am reading it right now in my Kindle.

Derek:

Really?

Jovana:

Yeah. A friend from Google sent me the book and I see all the nerds are now reading it, so . . . [laughter]

Derek:

Really? Oh, wow. Yeah, it’s a really interesting book.

And Culture Shock! Finland. I went to Finland for the first time a couple of months ago, and before I went there, I got a little book from Amazon after searching “Finland culture.”

And I found this little book called Culture Shock! Finland. And it was surprisingly good. It had some wonderful insights into understanding the culture of Finland.

And by culture, I mean the mindset. I don’t mean things like native dance. I mean the way that people from Finland are and why they’re like that. That’s one of my favorite subjects.

Jovana:

Yeah, I’m going to find that book, as well. I’ve never been to Finland, but I like culture books. There was that one book about France that was recommended that was amazing.

Derek:

Did you read it?

Jovana:

Yes.

Derek:

Oh, good. Au Contraire.

Jovana:

Oh, it’s beautiful. I bought it for my professor of French, so she can have it for her other students.

It’s such a good book.

And now another question, which is not related to books. It’s related to your no-planning strategy, which I personally love because I function in a similar way.

So, can you share more? What does that mean to you and why don’t you plan?

Derek:

In some aspects of my life, I plan a lot. And in some I don’t.

So, the place in my life where I have no plans is with my kid. He’s seven years old. We almost never make plans. We wake up, we look at the weather, and we decide what he feels like doing right now. All day long, he leads the way and I follow.

So, you might be referring to an article I wrote on my site a few months ago about this, where we went into London for the day, and at first, I thought, “I’m going to make plans in order to make the best of our day in London. We’re either going to go to the zoo or go to the museum.”

But then as the train pulled into the station, he said, “I don’t feel like doing either one. Let’s just walk around.” So, we just walked around London with no plans and at every intersection, he said, “Oh, let’s go down here. Oh, let’s go that way now.”

He just found interesting little details. He found a little paintbrush. He found a cardboard box and just played with the world. And I was so glad that we didn’t follow my plans.

Jovana:

It’s a beautiful story. I think you also did a podcast on it.

Derek:

There’s a huge difference between “in theory” and “in practice.”

I think I’ve found that most of our planning “in theory.” Like, “in theory, I think I will want to do this thing in the future.” But then when you actually go try it, you might find out that you don’t like this thing.

So, it’s not that I don’t plan. It’s that I do make plans, but then I feel completely free to abandon them immediately [laughter] if I try something and I don’t like it.

Even if I’ve announced my plans to friends if I don’t like it, I’ll immediately stop and say, “Nope, never mind,” and completely change my plans.

Jovana:

I do the same thing and it pisses people off. [Laughter]

Derek:

Yeah, exactly. But oh well, that’s fine.

Jovana:

Planning no strings attached.

Derek:

Yeah. I also really like the freedom. Sometimes people ask if they can meet up in two weeks. And I think, “Well, I don’t know. Ask me that day. I’ll see how I feel that day.”

I don’t want to say yes to something two weeks in advance because if on that that day I’m doing amazingly well with some programming or writing, I’ll have to say, “Sorry, I just want to keep doing this thing.”

Or, vice versa. With my good friends, we do everything spontaneously. So, if my friend is in a bad mood or really sad and suddenly, on a Tuesday afternoon asks, “Can I come over?”

I say, “Yeah, of course, just come over right now and I’ll just stop whatever I’m doing.”

I think that whatever is going on in the present moment is the newest information we have, and your plans were old information trying to predict what you might want in the future.

But the longer you wait, the more information you get about what you actually want.

Jovana:

How many countries have you visited, and how many countries have you lived in? And what was the most bizarre thing that you saw or ate?

Derek:

I haven’t visited that many. I don’t do the tourist thing much. So, I’ve probably visited less countries than a lot of people, but I’ve lived in more countries. I’ve probably visited maybe 25, but I’ve lived - like actually been a legal resident with a local ID card or passport and residency - I’ve lived in US, Dominica, Singapore, New Zealand, Belgium, Portugal, England. I think right now I have five driver’s licenses.

Jovana:

Wow.

Derek:

I like becoming a legal resident in countries. It’s a lot of paperwork, but I like the rights that it gives you in return. But no, I haven’t been a crazy tourist. I haven’t taken pictures in a lot of places.

I don’t usually eat a lot of bizarre things, but there was a fun time in Iceland where I went to a sushi restaurant in Iceland, but it was one of those sushi restaurants where the little plates just go around on the belt and you pick up a plate.

Jovana:

And you never know what’s there. [laughter]

Derek:

Well, it’s usually just pretty obvious. “Okay, there’s the salmon, there’s the shrimp, there’s the tuna.”

So, I picked up a tuna sushi and it tasted a little different. I thought, “Huh, that’s a strange taste. That’s kind of interesting.” And I got another one and I thought, “I think that’s tuna, but maybe isn’t.”

As I was paying and leaving, I said, “Sorry, what was on that blue plate?” They said, “Oh, that was whale.”

I thought, “Oh, I ate whale sushi?” I think Iceland is like one of two countries in the world where that’s not illegal, I guess.

Jovana:

Yeah, they are very interesting. I was there a few years ago and the food is very, very interesting. There is everything. Good and the bad.

Derek:

Yeah. Put finger quotes around the word “interesting.”

Jovana:

And what is your favorite lesson from being a dad?

Derek:

I learned to shut myself off and just be there for him. It’s like meditation, I think. I’m not an expert meditator, but to me, the basic idea of meditation is that things come into your head and you just let them go right back out again.

So, I think that when I’m with my son, I think about the things that I’m working on, like my writing or my programming or whatever, and is whatever enters my head, I let it go right back out again.

I think, “You know what? I’ll do that later when I’m not with him. Right now, I’m with him.”

I shut off my phone. The computer is off. The phone is off. My dreams are off. My ambition is off. My plans are off. And I’m just living in his world. That’s my favorite thing.

Jovana:

That’s beautiful. And what about relationships? Favorite lesson about relationships.

Derek:

[Laughter] I’ll tell you one if you tell me one. I think I need lessons on that. Do you have one?

Jovana:

For me, it was communication. I studied so much about communication last year. I have like ten books on communication and relationships and the one that was really good was Getting the Love you Want.

Jovana:

It’s so good. The philosophy in the book was very interesting because I haven’t found it elsewhere. What was specific about that one was when choosing a partner, it doesn’t really matter who the partner is. It’s more about what you both want to make out of it.

I like that philosophy in life, that it’s really not about changing other people. It about changing your own viewpoint.

If you can actually learn from what you have in life, no matter where you are and who you’re with, you can decide to make him the one. There is no “one.” There is just the one you chose.

If you decide to grow through that relationship, there will be 50% shit, 50% legit, beautiful things. It’s just a decision. Do you want to be committed like you are to work or do not want to? And both are okay.

I like the perspective that it’s not about the other person because I feel that it doesn’t really matter who the person is. Each and every one of us has pros and cons, you know?

We have good stuff. We have stuff that piss other people off, and it’s just learning to dance with both the good and the bad. That was my lesson. This past year, I was learning about that in communication.

Derek:

Have you put that into practice?

Jovana:

Yeah, yeah. I put it into practice.

I put it into practice, and it works really well because my boyfriend is completely different than me in communication style. And he is extremely opposite, very analytical. He takes a lot of time to process information, to read.

And I’ve learned a lot about being open and not judging any way as better because there is no such thing as better. It’s all about context. Better for what? Better in what time? Better for what activity?

It’s amazing how much you can learn when you always ask questions and never make comments or make decisions because it’s all about openness and what you can learn.

So, communication would be my top lesson when it comes to relationships. Whoever you choose, whoever life sets you up with. You should be who you are at that point in time and always aim to level up as a person, as a human being. So, you can offer more to the world through your work, through connection to your family, to anyone on the street, in the supermarket.

It’s not just a relationship with that one person, but the level that you excel.

Derek:

But I think some people meet and they date, and they’re attracted, and they have fun in the moment. And then as time goes on, the real-life preferences come out. Like one person is really adventurous and wants a lot of adventure and variety and wants to go out and conquer the world, and the other person just wants to take it easy and watch their favorite TV show. Come home and have a drink and chill.

You say it doesn’t matter who it is, but I think sometimes these major life differences come out later that ultimately can be really incompatible. Like if one person said, “I really want to go adventuring,” and the other person’s like, “Well, I just really just want to sit right here.”

Jovana:

But I think that’s cool. There are some things that I do that my boyfriend will never do, and the opposite. I feel that’s also freedom in that because when you don’t have a manual for other people, you just let them be who they are.

And you actually get more free time. And that’s amazing.

Maybe it depends on how much somebody likes to be alone.

I like to be alone a lot and think and write and process. So, for me, that’s a good thing if somebody goes to does their own different activities – maybe even travel separately, maybe have different circles of friends.

It brings some spice. It depends on how open the people are to being alone. But if somebody is looking for someone to share activities with, then yeah, it’s important.

But why find everything in one person? There are different people. With one person, you can go mountain climbing, and with someone else you can go skiing, and with someone else you can go to a tea house.

I never had this idea that there is one person in the planet to do everything with because it’s just impossible. I feel expectations in relationships fucks things up. And in life, [laughter] generally.

If you don’t expect a lot or anything, then you get satisfied. You’re happy with every good day that comes.

Derek:

Oh, I like your answer much better [laughter].

Well, I’m going to make a metaphor for that. Ten years ago, when I was more into entrepreneurship, it seemed like everybody was saying, “You really should have a co-founder. Every startup needs to have a co-founder. Don’t try to do it by yourself. You need a partner. You need a co-founder. You need a partner to bounce ideas off of. You need a partner to go through this thing together with.”

And I always felt like, “I don’t want a partner. To me, making a business is like painting or writing a book. You don’t hear people saying, ”get a partner to write a book.“

Writing a book is a solo endeavor and so is making a painting. You don’t get a few friends together to paint a canvas. It’s something that one person does.

I think I started feeling that way about a romantic relationship. I just found that I really like doing almost everything alone. I don’t picture myself in a partnership.

I started questioning the assumption that we’re supposed to have a romantic relationship. It was one of my diary topics to come to the thought that I think I really like not being in a relationship.

Jovana:

Yeah, it has its perks. I believe it’s really healthy to follow your gut and know that you have a whole lifetime.

There are times I feel that you work better alone and that’s the most productive for you, your community and people you serve. So, if it feels right, then it has to be right.

Do you remember what was the last dream you had?

Derek:

No. Sorry.

Jovana:

Yeah. I also don’t remember dreams.

Do you usually have similar dreams or no?

Derek:

It’s usually only when I wake up suddenly, like when something wakes me up that’s I remember my dreams the most.

I said ”No“ when my real answer was ”Yes.“

Two days ago, I woke from a dream with an old friend of mine from Hong Kong and she was pregnant, which she was in real life a year ago. Now her kid is a year old. But in the dream, she was still pregnant.

Jovana:

Maybe she’s pregnant again. Maybe you should call her.

Derek:

Maybe. [laughter] Probably not.

Jovana:

Because I think your dreams are psychic.

Derek:

Oh, God, no. That was the one and only time in my life – that Sammy Khan story.

To the person who asked that question, go to either to my podcast or on my blog. There’s a story about ”When Sammy Khan Said Thank You.“ It’s a really interesting - it is the single most interesting dream I’ve ever had. So, if you’re interested in dreams, go read that story. It’s a good one.

Jovana:

Did you write it the moment you woke up that night? From that dream?

Derek:

Yeah. It was at a time in my life when I was 22. I was keeping a dream journal. So, every morning for around 45 minutes, I would write down my dreams from the night before.

Jovana:

[Laughter] I did that two years ago. I enjoyed that.

And the last question is in reference to your article about how titles expire.

So, what is now your current title? What do you now call yourself? A writer?

Derek:

There are two answers. But it can change any day. I don’t think you should be loyal to something you said just because you said it.

You could go tell the world, ”I am a marketer. I’m into marketing and sales. This is my passion,“ or, ”I’m going to be an athlete.“ But just because you said it doesn’t mean you need to stick with it.

Every day we learn something new. Every day we get new information. Every day we get a new insight. I think we should always honor our newest, smartest insights, and feel free to let go of whatever we said in the past.

Let go of old goals. Let go of old titles, old identities. And just be who you are today and feel free. If that ”today“ carries on for another 500 days, that’s great. But I think it’s really good to honor what you’re feeling today. So, that was one answer.

And another answer: until just two years ago, if you asked me for the 10 previous years what I was, I would have said, ”I’m an entrepreneur and a programmer.“ And that’s it. Sometimes I write some little articles, but really I’m an entrepreneur and a programmer.” Or I might have said programmer first then entrepreneur.

But then two years ago, I did an interesting exercise where I asked myself, “Who are my heroes? Who do I look up to the most?” And I wrote down my answer to that question.

I listed about eight or 10 people. I realized that all of my heroes are authors. This was a hint, that what I really am and really want to be, more than anything, is a writer.

I’ve been calling myself an entrepreneur, but I haven’t actually started a business in many years. Why am I still calling myself an entrepreneur? And yes, I know how to program computers, but it’s usually a means to an end. Like there’s a tool I want to make so that people can use it on my web site, to buy my books or whatever it may be.

I like that I know how to program computers and make things happen. I find it fun. But really my main goal, if I had to pick just one thing, is being a writer.

So, that’s like my bigger answer.

Now, I’m going to combine the two answers. Because last month, I was writing around 18 hours a day, every day. I was doing nothing but writing. I was ignoring everything else in my life.

And then, about a week ago, my assistant reminded me that I really need to finish building the store on my website where people can place their advance order for my next book.

And I thought, “Oh yeah, shit. I really want to keep writing my next-next book, but I should actually pause what I’m doing to finish writing the store where people can buy my book.” So, for the last 10 days, I haven’t been doing any writing. I’ve just been programming.

So, if you were to ask me today, I’ve felt more like a programmer the last 10 days. But in the bigger picture, I’m usually more of a writer. That’s the big picture versus the right now.

Jovana:

That’s a beautiful story. I really like it, especially how sometimes when we journal and write things down, it’s like, “What? I didn’t see this one coming.” And it’s beautiful when you see that.

And I want to thank you so much for your time. It means the world to me. You’re one of the three people I admire most in life.

And in the last 10 years, you infected my life in a way that I can’t even explain. Someday I’ll write it in my book, so you will get to read it. [laughter]

Derek:

Thank you. And anybody listening to this, the main reason I do these interviews to meet the people that I listen to. I found the coolest people I’ve met, like a lot of my friends through these conversations.

I met by best friend in Australia because she heard a podcast I was on and sent me a hello. We’ve only ever met in person for half a day once in the last six years, but we talk all the time. So, the coolest people I meet are the people that find me through things like this. So, if you listened all the way to the end of this conversation, go to sive.rs and send me an email and introduce yourself.

Jovana:

And read the blog. And listen to the podcast. I like the podcast a lot.

Derek:

Thank you.