Derek Sivers
Ikigai - by Sebastian Marshall

Ikigai - by Sebastian Marshall

Date read: 2013-07-06
How strongly I recommend it: 6/10
(See my list of 360+ books, for more.)

Go to the Amazon page for details and reviews.

Essays on history, power, self-discipline, negotiation, and the hustle. I especially liked his philosophy on luck, building universally valuable skills, and producing/shipping something from even fleeting interests.

my notes

I'm not going to compare myself against people my age any more. I'm going to start comparing myself to the greatest men of all time.

Suddenly I was not doing excellent; in fact, I was behind schedule.

A clear understanding of cause and effect: the outcomes of different actions. You might think "trust" is a good ethic, and if you trust people, things will work out. However, you discover that people either forget or lie. So you make contracts and operating agreements, and you see that people then refer back them later, and things are better.

Why not be a hedonist? Because really, who gives a shit about having more serotonin and dopamine in your brain?

You need enough low happiness to function. It's as important as having good respiration or circulation. Without enough low happiness, you stop functioning well.

The Japanese view of work, or the Vietnamese view of the value of life: I didn't even realize that I had the American view of work. I thought that was just the way things are, not just how my culture does it.

Everyone thinks their culture is "the way things are."

Studying history to learn what's possible.

Study other cultures that have goals other than happiness.

Imagine you wouldn't experience any pleasant or unpleasant emotions and would have to decide rationally what to pursue. Then what you want to do with your life?

He's got 10 billion dollars? Why does he need so much? Rarely do people who found nations care about what's in their belly. They wouldn't reach the height of greatness if they did.

When someone eats, sleeps, breathes, walks, works, lives with one purpose, he will usually achieve that purpose.

Normal people can't understand this. People with mixed and conflicted goals can't understand this. And occasionally they try to position themselves between the single-minded person and his goal. This usually ends in tragedy for the normal person.

By doing an action repeatedly, eventually you become the kind of person who does that action.

High born people expect to be treated well. Low born people frequently expect to be treated poorly. And thus, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. If you grow up watching people snap to attention and treat your parents well, you expect it. Thus, paradoxically, you become kinder, friendlier, and less adversarial. High born people tend to have a an expectation that the situation will work out favorably for them, that people will do right by them, and that they're going to get what they want. Thus, they do. Low born people frequently have an expectation that the situation is going to go poorly, that people do wrong by them, and that they're not going to get what they want. Thus, they don't.

Someone who is successful or was raised by successful parents is more likely to do you a favor, introduce you to someone, or otherwise help you out. Low born people tend to be more paranoid and stingy about everything. High born people don't look to get paid back immediately. They know that you help people who seem friendly with a good character, and a lot of them will do right by you someday, sooner or later.

Pursue wealth and power. These are virtuous things, and there are unlimited amounts of them available.

The victors are the ones who are most patient, who are most rational, who have the most self-control. You can win 10,000 battles, but have it all undone in one rash misstep.

Patience means restraining one's inclinations. There are seven emotions: joy, anger, anxiety, love, grief, fear, and hate, and if a man does not give way to these he can be called patient.

Do things for reasons.

This is not the way most people run their lives. Most people's daily lives are done out of custom, with no carefully evaluated and explicitly defined reasons for their actions.

The way to start doing that is to ask, "What is my objective here?" Then, "What course of action makes me most likely to reach that objective?"

Over-intelligent people spend more time being clever than being effective. Over-researching relatively minor things.

Take a quick look, get an understanding, choose one. Change later if it becomes an issue. Trying to reinvent the wheel constantly.

Positive sum games don't require natural talent. By building more, accomplishing more, facilitating more in a way that makes it possible for others to build more, accomplish more, and facilitate more, then you never run out of spots.

Cross-reference two important disciplines that haven't talked to each other enough yet, BAM.


Life is a series of probabilities. Every day, there's a chance that a given set of things will happen.

Expose yourself to high-upside probability.

How about people who are born into a good situation vs. a bad one? Were they "lucky"? No, of course not. They've got their background, training, country they live in, city they live in, whatever, as a result of the conscious decisions of the people that came before them.

Dad decided he wanted to work really hard, save his money, raise his kids well, and build the next generation instead of just consuming for himself.

Hustle, yes. Hard work, yes. Discipline, yes. Strong family ties, yes. Luck? No.

Well, how about when someone dies senselessly, in a car crash or some such? Well, that's the closest you can get to something that's "bad luck", but even then, were you as careful about safety as you could be? You go to a Third World country, your chance of dying this year goes up quite a lot.

You're not one in a multitude unless you want to be.

You can never ascribe someone else as part of a multitude without their consent.

To work with talented and driven people, you gotta show you belong in that crowd, which means self-starting.

Once you do start doing lots of interesting and engaging things, then it becomes a lot easier to meet and connect with people.

Build universally valuable skills: Things you can start doing, no matter what you are passionate about. Skills that are going to be useful when you do discover what juices you up.

* Starting to study and develop your own ethical system
* Making good friends, advisors, and mentors who are strong and decent people
* Learning universally useful skills
* Earning a few credentials
* Putting money in the bank
* Getting your credit up
* Studying history to learn what's possible
* Establishing good habits that'll carry you through life
* Becoming very fit and healthy
* Learning how to think

The difference between a generalist and a dabbler is just shipping the work.

The dabbler moves on when things get tough. The generalist keeps going until he puts enough work out that he feels complete in a particular field.

How you discover passions: Take a crack at it once and see if you like it at all. Then start studying and improving your craft, and see if you like that too.

Produce and ship things while you have a current interest. Even on fleeting interests, try to ship something or produce somehow.

Why executives and big companies hire consultants: So someone less emotionally attached can tell them what to do.

I would rather die than be average.

I don't believe in equality. What sort of cowardice would you need to feel to wish for everyone to be the same? Isn't it obvious that 4 out of 5 don't even bother trying to improve the world and themselves?

Something going wrong is an expensive lesson I already paid for - might as well take it.

Nobody gives you what you're "worth" in the abstract. They give you what you force them to give you.

Thinking strategically: Very few people do this. This is saying, "What am I trying to accomplish?" instead of "What should I do?"

The hierarchy is something like: Not thinking < Tactics < Strategy < Philosophy

Philosophical people get treated the best and paid the best and live the best lives.

* The non-thinking designer says, "Yes, I'll color on the page for you for $50."

* The tactical designer says, "I'll find a good way to color the page for you."

* The strategic designer says, "I'm going to understand your fundamental goals for this piece, and make this piece work hard for your goals." (Note: Being strategic is enough to get paid a lot and live well.)

* The philosophical designer says, "The nature of art is art, and the nature of commerce is commerce. I can make a beautiful and amazing piece of art that will serve all of your strategic and commercial goals, and will also be a timeless aesthetic. I am an eternal devotee of this craft, and I can fuse art and commerce into extreme practical beauty, for you, if you are enlightened enough to work with."

Study how Paul Rand worked.

Today, I turn my attention to the fundamentals. I will exert my will over my body. I will communicate my spirit and intentions through my actions.