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Derek Sivers on Focus

 

Tim:

What advice would you give your 30 year old self? And place us, if you would, for where you were at 30 and what you are doing.

Derek:

At 30, well let’s see, I had just started CD Baby, that I think the biggest advice I would give to my younger self or more likely knowledge learned like “hey younger self, you should know this now”, is that women like sex. I didn’t know that until I was 40. I think I didn’t get that. I think through teenage movies or whatever, what kind of taught the opposite. That’s like men always one sex and women don’t. I don’t know why the media portrays it like that. But later I found out that’s not.

But I think the more interesting answer is that my advise to my 30-year-old self would be don’t be a donkey.

 

Tim:

What does that mean?

Derek:

Well, I meet a lot of 30-year-olds that are trying to pursue many different directions at once. But not making progress in any, right? Or they get frustrated that the world wants them to pick one thing, because they want to do them all, and I gets a lot of this frustration like “but I want to do this AND that AND this AND that, why do I have to choose? I don’t know what to choose?”

But the problem is if you’re thinking short-term then you’re acting as if you don’t do them all this week that they won’t happen. But I think the solution is to think long-term, to realize that you can do one of these things for a few years and then do another one for a few years and then another.

So what I mean about don’t be a donkey is, you’ve probably heard the fable about Buridan’s donkey. It’s a fable about a donkey that is standing halfway in between the pile of hay and a bucket of water. And he just keeps looking left to the hay or right to the water, trying to decide hay or water, hay or water, he’s unable to decide. So he eventually falls over and dies of both hunger and thirst.

So the point is that a donkey can’t think of the future. If he did he’d clearly realize that she could just go first drink the water and then go eat the hay.

So my advice to my 30 year old self is don’t be a donkey. You can do everything you want to do, you just need foresight and patience.

Say, for somebody listening, you’re 30 years old now and say you have like five different things you want to pursue, right? Well then, you can do each one of those for 10 years, and you have them all done by the time you’re 80. You’re probably going to live to be 80. It sounds ridiculous to plan to the age of 80 when you’re 30, right? But it’s a fact that’s probably coming, so you might as well take advantage of it.

Use the future. That way you can fully focus on one direction at the time without feeling conflicted or distracted, because you know that you’ll get to the others in the future.

 

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