Highlights from "How to Live"

By Derek Sivers

Cover of the book How to Live

Quit a harmless habit for a month, just to prove you can.

You make it the best through your commitment to it. Your dedication and actions make any choice great.

Commit to your habits to make them rituals. If it’s not important, never do it. If it’s important, do it every day.

Fill your senses as if this was your last day on Earth. One day that will be true.

Life is short. How to experience it all? Here’s the key: Here’s your mission: Nothing twice.

The smart choice is sales. It will always be valuable. Learn to sell, and you can go anywhere. You’ll be paid well at any age.

When a problem is bothering you, it feels like you need to do something about it. Instead, identify what belief is really the source of your trouble. Replace that belief with one that doesn’t bother you. Then the problem is solved. Most problems are really just situations.

Like a person’s outlook on life is shaped by what they’ve been through, a culture’s values are shaped by its recent history.

Monotony is the enemy. Novelty is the solution. Go make memories. Do memorable things.

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.

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.

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.

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

The easy road leads to a hard future. The hard road leads to an easy future. Steering towards the pain is how to live.

Bad feelings mean you need to take action. Good feelings mean you took the right action. Following your feelings is the most natural and rewarding thing to do.

Happiness is something to do, someone to love, and something to desire. Heaven is not what’s at the end of the path. Heaven is the path itself.

The world of news is noisy, because they have to hype it. They try to get you to pay attention to something that’s not actually important. They create a false sense of urgency, social status, fear, shock, or any tricks possible to manipulate your psychological triggers, and ultimately help them profit.

Spend time outside. Find happiness and perspective in nature. It reminds you that you don’t need anything the modern world is pushing. Everything they’re shouting about will soon be gone.

Don’t be consistent with your past self. Only idiots never change their mind.

Own as little as possible. When you realize you’re dependent on something, get rid of it to prove you don’t need it. The less you have, the less you have to lose.

Everything that happens is neutral. Your beliefs label it as good or bad. The only way to change your happiness is to change your beliefs.

To get rich, don’t think about what’s valuable to you. Think about what’s valuable to others. To do the opposite is the cliché of the starving artist: creating something that’s valuable to you, but not to others.

Be separate — in a category of your own. Invent something completely new. Instead of fighting to split an existing dollar, inventing creates a dollar out of thin air. Invent for a very small niche of people who need something that doesn’t exist. Instead of making a key, then looking for a lock, find something locked, then make its key.

Sell your business before you have to. Sell before it peaks. The fun is in creating a business, not maintaining it.

“I’m an introvert, so that’s why I can’t.” No. Definitions are not reasons. Definitions are just your old responses to past situations. What you call your personality is just a past tendency. New situations need a new response.

If you say what you think someone wants to hear, you’re preventing a real connection. Manners are shallow. Honesty is deep. Always tell the real truth, or they’ll never know the real you, so you’ll never really feel loved.

Beware of the feeling that someone completes you or will save you. You have wounds in your past. You have needs that were ignored. You seek someone to fill these gaps — someone that has traits you crave. But nobody will save you. You have to fill those gaps yourself.

You must both be free and able to live without each other. Be together by choice, not necessity or dependence. Love your partner, but don’t need your partner. Need is insatiable. Need destroys love.

Which would you rather be? Someone who hasn’t created anything in years because you’re so busy consuming? Or someone who hasn’t consumed anything in years because you’re so busy creating?

Don’t wait for inspiration. Inspiration will never make the first move. She comes only when you’ve shown you don’t need her. Do your work every day, no matter what.

Stay in situations where you’re forced to show your work to others.

If you’re not surprised, it means the new information fits in with what you already know. So try to be wrong. Try to disprove your beliefs.

Mistakes are the fountain of youth. The old and successful get fragile. They think they know everything. They over-invest in one solution. They have only answers, not questions. If you’re never wrong, you never change. Keep making mistakes, so you can keep changing, learning, and growing.

Even creative work needs scheduling. The greatest writers and artists didn’t wait for inspiration. They kept a strict daily schedule for creating their art. A routine triggers inspiration because your mind and body learn that ideas emerge at that time. The world’s greatest achievements were squeezed into existence by deadlines.

These highlights are sourced from my Kindle using Readwise. Readwise automatically syncs all your highlights from various sources. It's cool. Referral link if you'd like to try.

Get letters from me 🙌

Get a behind-the-scenes look on the stuff I build, articles I write and podcast episodes which make you a more effective builder.

Read the archive 📬

One email every Tuesday. No more. Maybe less.