Derek Sivers
from the book “How to Live”:

Here’s how to live: Master something.


Be a monomaniac on a mission to be truly great at something difficult.

Pick one thing and spend the rest of your life getting deeper into it.

Mastery is the best goal because the rich can’t buy it, the impatient can’t rush it, the privileged can’t inherit it, and nobody can steal it.
You can only earn it through hard work.
Mastery is the ultimate status.

Striving makes you happy.
Pursuit is the opposite of depression.
People at the end of their life, who said they were the happiest with their life, were the ones who had spent the most time in the flow of fascinating work.

Concentrating all of your life’s force on one thing gives you incredible power.
Sunlight won’t catch a stick on fire.
But if you use a magnifying glass to focus the sunlight on one spot, it will.
Mastery needs your full focused attention.

The more you learn about something, the more there is to learn.
You see what normal people don’t see.
The path gets more and more interesting as you go.

The pursuit of mastery helps you think long-term.
It keeps your eyes on the horizon.
You resist the temptation of what you want now.
You remember the importance of what you want most.
You spend time intentionally.
Every month has a milestone.
Every day has a goal.
The most rewarding things in life take years.
Only bad things happen quickly.

Decisions are easy when you have only one priority.
Your destination is a huge mountain peak on the horizon.
You can see it from everywhere.
Yes to that mountain, and no to everything else.
You’ll always know where you’re going, and what you’re doing next.
All paths go either towards that mountain or away from it.

Because of this perspective, problems won’t deter you.
Most people look down at the ground, upset by every obstacle.
With your eyes on the horizon, you’ll step over obstacles, undeterred.

If you haven’t decided what to master, pick anything that scares you, fascinates you, or infuriates you.
Don’t ask, “Is this the real me?” or “Is this my passion?”
Those questions lead to endless searching and disappointment.
People don’t fail by choosing the wrong path — they fail by not choosing.
Make your choice, then make a lifetime commitment to constant improvement.
The passion comes after you start getting good.

Define “success” for yourself.
Describe the outcome you want.
You can’t hit a target you can’t see.

You need to understand something very counter-intuitive about goals.
Goals don’t improve your future.
Goals only improve your present actions.
A good goal makes you take action immediately.
A bad goal doesn’t.
A goal shows what’s right and wrong.
What moves you towards your goal is right.
What doesn’t is wrong.

When you first start learning, you improve massively every week.
Beginning is fun.
But real expertise comes only after years of hard work.
The challenge is staying on the path.

You need ritual, not inspiration.
Every day, no matter what, you must practice.
Your practice ritual is your highest priority — an unbreakable commitment.
Stubbornly protect this time against the demands of the world.

Once you get momentum, never stop.
It’s easy to continue, but if you stop, it’s hard to start again.
Never miss a day.

When you’re not practicing, remember: someone somewhere is practicing.
When you meet them, they will win.

During your work time, do nothing but work.
Keep your hands on your work, and your mind will follow.
If you get stuck, just stop and close your eyes.
The vacuum will extract your actions again.

How many push-ups could you do right now?
But how many could you do if you took a ten-minute break between each set?
Many more.
That’s the secret.
Take tiny breaks when working, to go longer than most.

Focus means head down.
Big picture means head up.
The more you’re doing of one, the less you’re doing of the other.
If you’ve been head-down on a task for too long, lift your head up to make sure you’re going the right way.
Don’t do well what you shouldn’t do at all.

Pursuing mastery is ambitious, which helps your chance of success.
Most people fail in life not by aiming too high, but by aiming too low.
If you aim high and miss, you don’t actually fail.

Move to the most ambitious place in your field.
(Actor? Hollywood. Tech? Silicon Valley. Etc.)
Expectations there are so high that they’ll help push you to be the best.
You want the pressure.
You want the stress.

Don’t live somewhere pleasant surrounded by normal people.
Live among your fellow freaks, where obsession is normal and ambition is rewarded.

You don’t get extreme results without extreme actions.
If you do what most people do, you’ll get what most people get.
Don’t be normal.
Society’s guidelines are for the lost — not for you.

You don’t need a spouse or kids.
You don’t need to hang out, make small talk, or join in common rituals.
You don’t need to sleep at normal hours, keep a tidy home, or even relax.
Be sharply focused, not well-rounded.

Think of the legendary achievers: the geniuses, brilliant artists, record-breaking athletes, or self-made billionaires.
Do you think those people were well-balanced?
Of course not.
They focused all their energy only on one thing.
That’s why they were great.
Pursue your mission at the expense of everything else.

Nobody cares what you’re bad at, and neither should you.
Amplify your strengths.
Nobody will see the rest.

Keep the rest of your life boring.
Drama is a distraction.
Your personal life and other concerns can shrink to almost nothing.
Focus everything on your work.

Mastery is not about doing many things.
It’s doing one thing insanely well.
The more you take on, the less you’ll achieve.
Say no to everything but your mission.
This is your one contribution to the world.

You don’t need new ideas.
You need to master the idea you’ve begun.
That’s why you can ignore all distractions.
The world has no information that you need.

Resist the urge to branch out into something new.
You can do anything, but not everything.
Remember the saying “jack of all trades, master of none”.
That’s the opposite of you.
You are master of one.

Your focus will almost certainly lead to success.
When you live, dream, and work with one single mission, you will achieve that mission.
But beware of money and fame.
Money can pull you towards your mountain, but sometimes it pulls you away.
Fame tries to pull you out of the deep path of mastery into the shallow gutter of flattery.
The best response to fame’s endless requests is a simple mantra: “No. No. No. No. No.”

How long will it take you to become a master?
It doesn’t matter.
Imagine getting to a mountaintop after a long hike through a gorgeous forest.
Achieving your goal would feel like taking off your backpack.
That’s all.
You do it for the journey, not the destination.

Pursuing mastery is how to live.