Derek Sivers
from the book “How to Live”:

Here’s how to live: for others.


Focusing on yourself seems smarter and easier, but it’s short-sighted.
It’s ignoring the huge benefit of cooperation.

Compare survival strategies.
You could prepare for disaster by stocking food and ammunition in a bunker by yourself.
But what if, instead:
You made yourself an integral member of your community.
You built a reputation of being helpful and generous.
And many people around you cared about your well-being.
Obviously, this is a better strategy.

Even if you prefer solitude, you have to admit that being a valuable member of a group is smarter.
The best way to be safe is to help others be safe.
The best way to be connected is to help others be connected.
People look out for each other.
But nobody helps the unhelpful.
You can’t actually pull yourself up by your bootstraps.
Ultimately you are lifted by those around you.

Never say, “Not my problem.”
We’re all in this together.
What’s good for your community is good for you.
Whatever affects others affects you.
The quality of your life is tied to the quality of your community, neighborhood, and country.
You can’t be healthy in a sick society.

Psychologists, philosophers, and religions all agree on one thing.
Helping others is a better path to happiness than helping only yourself.
Giving makes you happier than receiving.
People with strong social ties live longer, healthier, happier lives.
The most miserable people are self-absorbed.
So aim to be the opposite.

Living for others is how to live.

After age twenty, you need deliberate effort to make new friends.
Friends are made, not found.
If you sincerely appreciate someone, and really engage with their interests, you will become friends.

Ask open-ended questions, asking people’s thoughts.
Ask them to elaborate on whatever they’ve said.
Show that you’re interested.
Allow silence.
Don’t fill it.
Silence gives space to think, and an invitation to contribute without pressure.

Small talk is just a way of matching the other person’s tone and mood.
It helps them be comfortable with you.

Be warm, open, and fully present with everyone you encounter.
Confidence attracts.
Vulnerability endears.

Assume everyone is just as smart and deep as you.
Assume their temperament is just their nature, and not their fault.
Don’t be mad at them for being that way, for the same reason you can’t be mad at someone for being tall.

Appreciate differences.
A conversation with a clone of yourself would be boring.

Whenever you’re thinking something nice about someone, tell them.
A sincere compliment can put a lot of fuel in someone’s tank.
People don’t hear enough compliments.

Be consistent.
People can only depend on you if you’re consistent.
Meet up regularly to maintain each friendship, so the connections grow stronger.
Be patient with your friends, even for years at a time.
Real friendship doesn’t end.

Relationships are more delicate than people.
Relationships can be ruined with one inconsiderate word.
Withhold angry thoughts, and let the feeling pass unexpressed.
Never lose your cool.
Never vent.
Always be kind, no matter how you feel.

Imagine if you found out someone was going to die tomorrow.
Imagine how much attention, compassion, and generosity you’d give them.
Imagine how you’d forgive their faults.
Imagine what you’d do to make their last day on Earth the best it could be.
Now treat everyone like that, every day.

Sometimes you really need emotional support.
You’re going through a hard time or a big decision.
You need someone else’s perspective on your situation.

Friends or family can give wonderful comfort.
You share your problem, and they share the burden.
They care for you deeply, but aren’t as distraught, so you see yourself through their eyes, and realize it’s not as bad as it feels.

An objective mentor can give this effect even more so.
This person has less sympathy, and a dispassionate perspective.
You summarize the facts of your situation with less indulgence and hyperbole.
Hearing yourself tell this version of your story reduces the intensity of your emotions.
You see yourself as they do: as a smaller character in a bigger picture.

Some people like support groups for this same reason.
Telling your tale to a group of indifferent strangers both shares and dilutes the pain.

Success in business comes from helping people — bringing the most happiness to the most people.
The best marketing is being considerate.
The best sales approach is listening.
Serve your clients’ needs, not your own.
Business, when done right, is generous and focused on others.
It draws you out of yourself, and puts you in service of humanity.

The most extreme version of living for others is becoming famous.
Do everything in public, for the public.
Share everything you do, even though it’s extra work.
It’s giving yourself to the world.
But being famous means you’ll never be able to reciprocate enough.

Your caring should grow until it reaches past your community, past your country, past your generation, and past your species.
Care about strangers across the world as much as you do your family.
Care about all forms of life as much as you do humans.

Living for others is how to live.