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Psychology of Disproportionate Results
Master Class with Derek Sivers



$100 MILLION IN SALES actually very practical, both when I was living in
L.A. and when I moved to New York—in both plac-
Ramit Sethi: Hi, everybody. This is Ramit Sethi
es I had a really nice place. Like I’m quite a mini-
from I Will Teach You to Be Rich and Earn 1k.
malist, I don’t own a lot of stuff, but I really like to
live in a place that makes me happy. So the funny
Today I’m thrilled to have my friend, Derek Siv-
thing is, I was living in a great place, and I would
ers—a very illustrious guy. I’d like to tell you a little
often meet people out at Starbucks or something.
bit about him. Derek Sivers founded CD Baby, the

And then I thought: what am I doing. Like the
largest seller of independent music on the Web,
reason you kind of splurge on a place that you

and drove it over $100 million in sales, and for
love, is because you love it, so why not just have
selling it to focus on helping musicians. Esquire
people over. I’ve got the best coffeehouse in the
Magazine said: “Derek Sivers is changing the way
world, right here, at home. So cook, I’m glad you

music is bought and sold—a musician’s savior;
liked that. Now you’re living there, the same place
one of the last music business folk heroes.” And
I invited you to,; and that’s where you live now.
I’m delighted to have him here on the call with us.

Ramit Sethi: Exactly! No, I couldn’t resist, it was
Welcome, Derek.
such a nice place. The other thing, by the way,
that I noticed which I loved was, on your table you
Psychology of
Derek Sivers: On the Internet no one can see you
Disproportionate Results
didn’t have too much except you had old journal
Master Class with Derek
issues of—I Sivers
believe it was the Journal of Social
Psychology—is that correct?
Ramit Sethi: [LAUGHS] Derek, I want to just talk
about the first time we actually met, because I
Derek Sivers: Yeah—I think it might be called Psy-

thought it was pretty illustrative of just your per-
chological Science, but yes, something like at.
sonality. We got introduced by somebody, I don’t
even remember who it was, and I got your phone
Ramit Sethi: And you told me that after you sold
number and I was just texting you because BY IRAMIT
your company, which we will get to in a second.
just gotten to New York, and I was saying; hey,
That you just realized you loved the stuff and you
why don’t we meet up and we can grab coffee,
wanted to stay up-to-date, so you may be the only
or something; and you actually said: hey, are you
non-academic I know who actually subscribe to
hungry? If so we can eat. Otherwise why don’t you
that journal and got it delivered every month.

just come up to my place and we can have tea.
Derek Sivers: Yeah, I loved it, and it was damn
And so, for the first time I met you I actually went
expensive too, it was like $295, I think for a one-
up to your apartment; and I thought it was a pretty
year subscription, but it was like: uh, if I come
intimate gesture, actually, because in this day and
up with even just a few great ideas from this it’s
age, people don’t usually invite other people up
worth it, and it was—it was wonderful.
to their apartments. So that was the first time I met
you, and I thought it was just a very nice gesture
Ramit Sethi: Yes, so you and I share a love of both
that you made.
understanding social psychology and also under-
standing human behavior, and we apply it in very
Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS] You know what—it was
different ways, but today I thought it would be


fascinating to kind of go through four or five major the only way to get into our website is basically to
areas. And the first one that I wanted to ask you go get a record deal, and get into the major labels
about is your CD Baby story. It’s one of the most distribution and that will get you on our website.
interesting stories of business anywhere online,
and particularly of music. So I wonder if you can And I said: well, can’t I just be my own distributor?
walk us back to 1998 and tell us the story of what How about I just makeup a company name and I’ll
CD Baby was and what it became. be a distributor that you sign up into your system?

And they said: no, it doesn’t work that way.
Derek Sivers: Sure. Well a little context first, that

last time I had a job was 1992, so I was already And I thought: damn, you know, how hard can it
a fulltime musician, and I decided at 14 years old be? I mean, it’s a credit card merchant account
that I want to be a musician and that was just all I and a shopping cart—and damn it. So I thought

wanted to do. So even as I had a job for just two fuck it, I’ll do it myself. [LAUGHS] So you’ve got
years from 1990 to 1992, that was just what mu- to understand the context though—in 1997 when
sicians call a ‘day job’ it was a thing I had to do I was doing this PayPal didn’t exist yet. Amazon

to pay the rent while I was really working on my was just a bookstore, and there was not a single
music. business anywhere on the Internet that would sell
your music if you were an independent musician
And in 1992 I had savedPsychology
up enough money of and
without a recordResults
had enough musical income toMaster Class
quit my last with
job. So Derek Sivers
I was making a fulltime living as a musician, and I So, I went to go get a credit card merchant ac-
put out my own CD in 1996, and 1997 I had sold Transcript
count, and back then it was hard. It was like
about 1,500 copies of it just off the stage. And I $1,000 in set up fees. They actually had to send

was trying to get it up and selling online, even an inspector to my location, and made me incor-
though most people didn’t do this at that time. porate, set up a separate bank account. It was
about three months of paperwork.
Amazon was still just a bookstore, the only big RAMIT SETHI
online music stores at the time were CD Now, Mu- But after three months of hard work I had a credit
sic Boulevard and Tunes.Com and I loved the fact card merchant account and then I had to figure
that they are all gone now. [LAUGHS] out how to build a shopping cart. Which, again, it’s
easier these days, but back then you had to buy a

So I wanted to get it selling online, so I called book and copy down some CGI-BIN, Perl Scripts,
up each of those three companies and said: Hi, and a lot of work to get a shopping cart work. So,
I would like to sell my CD with you, I’ve already again, it’s like after three months of hard work, I
sold 1,500 copies on my own. I know there are had it. I had a Buy Now button on my website. I
people around the world that want to buy it, so was so proud and it was so cool, like I told some
how do I get it selling with you? And they all said: of my friends around New York and most of my
who is your distributor. And I said: I don’t have a musician friends said the thing.
distributor, can’t I just send you a box of CDs and
you sell it and pay me? And they just said: sorry, It was like: hey, could you sell my CD through that
kid, it doesn’t work that way. Look, our website is thing. And I went: oh, yes, I guess so—sure. So
really just a front-end to the major distributors, so what I did was just literally on my band’s website I


had a little section which was like a big: Click here and I don’t think it will work out really well, but at
to buy my CD. And then below it, it said: Or, some least it will make me happy.
of my friends’.
So what is my musician’s dream-come-true sce-
Ramit Sethi: Nice. nario? It’s like: number one-as a musician I would
want to be paid every week. Number two—I
Derek Sivers: And it had a little picture feature wanted to know the full name and address of

there, and pretty soon, I started getting calls from everybody who buys our music. Number three—
strangers saying: hey, man, my friend, Dave, said you’d never kick me out of the system for not

you could sell my CD. And I’m like: Yeah, sure— selling enough, and number four—there would
here’s my address, send it on in and I’ll take care never be any paid placement, because I hated in
of it. And I was doing this as a favor to friends— those situations where like, the big boys with the

right. deep pockets get to, like, buy up all the front page
space and those of us without...you know, it’s
So after a few months I realized that this was start- never fair those who can’t afford it.

ing to take over my life, and I’d better start charg-
ing some money to do this. I think I’ve accidentally So that was like my very utopian idealistic idea of
started a little business. But you have to under- what I was doing here, and honestly, the reason
stand this context, that IPsychology of Disproportionate
was living the musician’s Results
I tell you that is because I’m really proud. Like
Master Class
dream. In fact, I was living in Woodstock, New with Derek
those sameSivers
[few 08:44] musicians really just fu-
York at the time. I bought a house with the money eled the entire company and stayed all the way to
I made touring and producing people’s records Transcript
the end, like stayed through to its original mission.
and playing on people’s records. Like, I was living

the musician’s dream, so the last thing I wanted So anyway—I started this thing, and for the first
was for some business to distract me from that year it was me in my living room in Woodstock,
dream—right? doing this in my spare time. Then I was doing it
fulltime, and then after a whole year I hired
Ramit Sethi: Mm-hmm. one person to help me, and after a whole other
year I hired a second person, so it was growing
Derek Sivers: So all of this was done really reluc- really, really slowly. You know, sometimes I think
tantly. It was like a hobby. I wasn’t trying to make a lot of people these days, they start a company

money, and you will see that this will, of course, and they are upset if it isn’t going gangbusters
play later into the story, but there was just one key by month-three or something. But you’ve got to
night when I realized that—okay, like it or not I’ve understand, like I was just doing it for two years. I
accidentally started a business. I mean, people had no investors, I started it with 500 bucks, just
are contacting me every day wanting me to sell did everything myself, it didn’t cost any money.
their CD. So what am going to do?
And it really wasn’t until like four years into it that
I thought—okay, well if this is going to be a busi- it really started taking off around 2002, that’s
ness anyway, I really want to make it like a utopian when I had about eight employees and then 20,
kind of musician’s dream come true scenario, be- and 30 and 50 and then it just kind of ran out of
cause I don’t think that will make a lot of money, control. And still the whole time I was just doing


what I originally set out to do, it was selling the al- yeah—and I miss mob.
bums of independent musicians, kind of in the last
few years out of that, after the ITunes Music Store Ramit Sethi: [LAUGHS]
launched, we became a digital distributor, kind of
distributing music to Apple, iTunes and the rest, Derek Sivers: I said: what! He said; I miss the
and then selling [to industries 9:52] but really just mob; and I said: okay, why? And he said: you
stayed true to its original mission. know when the mob was around this town, it was

fun. He said: there were only two numbers that
And I don’t know—do you want me to the end of mattered—how much money is coming in and

my CD Baby story? how much is going out, and as long as more was
coming in than going out, everybody is happy.
Ramit Sethi: Yes, let’s get to the meat. Tell us what

happened. He said: now, the goddamn multinational cor-
porations come in and they try to maximize the
Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS] Okay, well everything profitability of every square foot of floor space,

was just cruising along and a lot of your readers and now the hot dog stand charges me an extra
are money focused, so what’s interesting, that I try 20 cents for ketchup, and now every square foot
to explain to friends—is this weird, surreal situa- of floor space in this entire city is maximized for
tion of becoming rich. ThatPsychology
I didn’t set outof
do profit. It sucked Results
all the fun out of this town.
that, but I was really just doingMaster Class
what I loved. I waswith Derek Sivers
just focusing on CD Baby, I absolutely loved doing And I really took his point to heart, because there
it. I loved helping musicians, building the system, are so many ways, when you’re running your busi-
constantly working on it, like just trying to figure ness you can try to absolutely maximize every bit

out how to make the store better, more effective, of profitability out of your business, or you can just
how to call more attention to my friends’ music. kind of relax a bit and remember like what’s the
real point that you’re doing this.
And by this time we had like 200,000 musicians RAMIT SETHI
using the system, and two million customers buy- So often people would come to us and kind of
ing music. say: where is your terms of conditions, where is
your privacy policy, where is your legalize on the
Ramit Sethi: Wow! website. And I’m like: I don’t have it and I don’t

want it. And they’re like: what if somebody sues
Derek Sivers: But what was interesting is like, I you some day? I’m like: well, they haven’t—so I’m
really wasn’t focused on the money. In fact, here— fine.
there’s a story I’ve got to tell you.
Ramit Sethi: Yes.
Ten years ago I was in Las Vegas for a confer-
ence, and took a taxi to my hotel, and I was just Derek Sivers: And then people would me like:
chatting with the cab driver, and I said: so, how what’s your official policy on this. And I started
long have you been here. And he said: I’ve been telling my employees like: look, this place has all
here since 1976. And is aid: wow, I bet the place of the formality of Doug’s and Bob’s Tackle Shop
has changed a lot since then, uh? And he said: in Key West. Like, just think along those terms.


Like things don’t need to be hyper-efficient and when you’ve finished an artwork and you have the
maximized, and I’m not trying to get rich. final brushstroke and you look at it, and you step
back and you go—Yeah, that’s it! I’m done—that’s
So anyway, with that said—as I was just doing everything I ever wanted to do. I had no future vi-
this and doing what I love, I would just look at the sion about it anymore.
bank every now and then. Like I really had this—
like the taxi driver said, I just had this mentality, Ramit Sethi: So what did you do?

like I really didn’t pay that attention to the money,
but the numbers just kept going up. And one day Derek Sivers: So, although I had vowed that I

I noticed that my bank account—or I should say would never sell the company, and I really meant
rather—like the company’s bank account, but I it for the ten years that I said it, all of a sudden I
was the sole owner. The company bank account was realizing, well, if I’m done, then that means

had $100,000. And then one day it had $200,000 I’m actually doing a disservice to my customers
then I noticed it had $300,000 and then it hit by staying at the helm because I’m anti-ambitious
$500,000 and then it hit one million, and then it about it at this point, I would actually rather it be

was like $1.5 million then it hit $2 million—it was smaller not bigger.
just so surreal, and it really didn’t change anything
about my life. I got a little comfortable sense of So I decided I was doing clients a disservice
knowing that I’d be fine Psychology
no matter what. of Disproportionate
because they wantedResultstheir careers to grow not
Master Class with
So like even if all of my customers went away
shrink, Siversto sell it, and it was just coin-
so I decided
cidental actually—like about the time when I was
tomorrow for the rest of my life I knew that, like, feeling done, I got three phone calls in one week
I had enough money in the bank, that I would be from three different companies offering to buy CD

okay and wouldn’t be desperate. But other than Baby, but I had actually been receiving these calls
that it didn’t change anything in my life. It’s not all along for ten years. And so for ten years I had
like I bought something that I didn’t want before been telling them no, and so this one week where
because there was a good reason I didn’t want it RAMIT SETHI
I got three calls in one week I told them all no. But
before, you know—why want it now. that weekend I kind of stopped to think, like—take
a hint. I’m feeling done; three people are willing to
So anyway, let’s just now go to the end. Then buy it in one week.
around...after I had been doing it for ten years,

I had just recently rewritten a software from the Ramit Sethi: Yeah.
ground up, and it worked, and it was beautiful—it
was, honestly, one of my proudest accomplish- Derek Sivers: I think this is what’s called a seller’s
ments to date. Like a rewritten version of CD Baby market, and I should just take a hint and go for
I did in 2007. It was kind of the culmination of it, and I had to do a lot of soul searching to real-
everything I had ever learned about programming ize like: am I really, truly done with this—and the
and marketing and site design. It was perfect and I answer is, yes. So I sold it.
was so proud of it. We had a great Christmas sea-
son, and then at the beginning of 2008 I just real- Ramit Sethi: And you sold it for a pretty good
ized I was done. It really kind of felt like the way amount. I don’t know how comfortable you are
that a—I don’t know—a painter or a sculptor feels revealing whatever the ballpark was...


Ramit Sethi: You know it’s funny; I get this ques-
Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS] Well I’ll tell you—you tion a lot, especially when I’m talking to the media
know I was never ever going to tell anybody, and and they go—are you rich? Like very antagonisti-
then one friend asked me once a few years ago cally...
and I answered him and I thought it was confiden-
tial, and then he went and [blogged/blabbed 16:14] Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS]
about it, so...

Ramit Sethi: And so of course I would test re-
Ramit Sethi: Wow! sponses, because I love testing everything. And

so I tested: well, rich is not...just a number, but
Derek Sivers: So it’s public, so anybody can find their eyes kind of glaze over. So I started going:
out now, so I just decided to...oh, well, so yes, I yes. And what happened was they would actually

sold it for $22 million U.S. and I was the sole own- be startled, and almost step backwards, and then
er and it was an all-cash deal so, yeah, I got out. I would say: notice how that conversation just kind
of ended, because rich isn’t really just a number.

Ramit Sethi: Terrific! Now you told us how your For example, is having a million dollars the same
life changed after $100,000 and $200,000 it in Kansas as it is in Manhattan? Or is it the same
wasn’t much. How have things changed after $22 at age 28 versus 58? It’s very different, so I think
million? Psychology of Disproportionate
we both have come Results
to understand that rich is not
Master Class with
Derek Sivers: Not at all. It’s really...I think once I
about someSivers
number. And in fact, the journey is
also about what are your values. And if you love,
hit that point, maybe it really was like this change Transcript
as you said, living in a nice place, you can do that.
around 100,000 bucks, where it’s like I’m not But it’s not really about some number. It’s not a

broke anymore, I can afford what I want to do, but finality of the number—that’s what I’ve found at
then you really have to get philosophical like— least.
don’t make yourself want things that you didn’t
want before just because you can wantBY themRAMIT SETHI
now. Derek Sivers: That is so well put, and you’re right.
Like you’ve got to, kind of...if you don’t cure insa- What feels rich to me at 28, it might...for example,
tiability, you will never be happy. my lawyer who is actually more of a friend than
a lawyer at this point, he has been kind of living
Ramit Sethi: Yeah. high for 20 years, and so when I mentioned the

number to him he said: honestly, that’s not that
Derek Sivers: So I never fell into that trap of insa- much money. [LAUGHS]
tiability, so I’m still just, you know, in this little one
bedroom apartment with no stuff in it, it’s what Ramit Sethi: [LAUGHS]
makes me happy, so still just living the same life
but it’s just—it’s just nice to know there’s a safety Derek Sivers: Because in his life—it’s like he
net, I guess that’s the only difference. And that pictures a life where life costs one to two million
was, you know—that safety net, I was feeling that dollars a year—that’s his life, and so for him, 20
after a couple hundred thousand, and at twenty million, well that will last a decade, but then what?
million it doesn’t make any difference.
Ramit Sethi: I love that.


Ramit Sethi: Mm-hmm.
Derek Sivers: So to me, I make a life that costs
$100,000 a year, and then it’s infinite because I’m Derek Sivers: And I could be anywhere and I
living on less than the interest is generating. So don’t have to be anywhere. It’s almost too much
that’s my general rule with the money, is like I just freedom, that we are not used to like that much of
don’t touch the principal, I just live off the interesta blank slate every day of your life. We are used
for life now. to living within certain restrictions, so yeah. But

anyway—so around that time I just decided like: I
Ramit Sethi: I love that. After you had this success was born in California, I’ve lived my whole life in

and after you lived in New York for a while, which the U.S. it’s a big world out there, and I don’t to
I know you wanted to do—now you’ve basically just go visit and snap a picture and come back to
taken upon and you started traveling the world, California, I want to live in that world, and really

which I thought was a really cool thing to do. Just immerse myself and understand, like living with
like, I can do this now and I’m going to do it. this grand plan of understanding the world—like I
want to know what it is to live in China and speak

Derek Sivers: Thanks. Yeah, that was something Mandarin, at least conversationally, and really get
I’ve been wanting to do anyway. You know, it’s to...you know, where my circle of friends were
funny, all along in this kind of 20-year journey and all born and raised there, and I really started to
ever since I got out of high ofI’ve
school, I guess, Disproportionate
understand whatResults
it’s like to grow up in China, and
always been making every decisionMaster
pass...with freedom as the compass.
the com-with
liveDerek Sivers
there long enough—to the point where I get it
and it feels comfortable, and it feels like home.
Ramit Sethi: Hmm? And then once that happens, then go somewhere

else. Then you go to Brazil, and you learn Portu-
Derek Sivers: It’s which decision would give me guese, and you surround yourself with all your
more freedom? So that’s why I don’t own many friends who are from Brazil, and you really start
things, it’s because everything you own is kind of to SETHI
understand what it’s like to be born and raised
one little weight that’s restricting your freedom. and grow up in Brazil, and you understand that
And so I made this kind of laptop life for myself, mindset, and you live there long enough until it
where I didn’t have to be at the office, and made feels really comfortable, and it feels like home.
sure that my business was set up in such a way

that I could be anywhere and all this kind of stuff. Ramit Sethi: Yeah.

What’s funny is around 2007 or so; I hit this point Derek Sivers: And then you move to Berlin and
where I was absolutely, totally, completely free. you do it again.
Like my business didn’t even need me anymore,
they didn’t even know where I was living—they Ramit Sethi: Yeah!
didn’t even know what country I was in, and I real-
ized like every morning I would wake up with this Derek Sivers: You know, it’s like I just have this
feeling of like: wow—today I could do anything vision of life that when I’m 90 years old, 100 or
and I don’t have to do anything. something, I want to be looking at the globe and
there will be no part of it that feels too foreign, like


it all feels...like I’ve seen...like I know people from beginning of this call, that I kind of took longer
every corner. Which gets you very, kind of, anti- than usual to kind of tell you some background
territorial, and anti-patriotic, you know. There’s a context things about me, is because I knew we
funny thing, that the ones who shout: my country were going to talk about these things. So at 14
is number one—the loudest, are the people who when I decided I wanted to be a musician for life,
have never left. knowing that you want to be a musician is—under-
standing your life is going to be hard. You know,

Ramit Sethi: Mm-hmm! So let’s talk about how you deciding you want to be a musician means: I’m
do that. never going to have insurance, I’m never going

to have a job, I’m never going to have a steady
Derek Sivers: Okay, yes. income. Every dollar for the rest of my life, I’m go-
ing to have to fight hard for, and I’m fighting for a

Ramit Sethi: So we’ve got...I have four major dream that a million people want and only a few
things I want to ask you about, and the first one is get, so I’m going to have to work as hard as an
not about tricks on how to do it, it’s actually quite Olympic athlete works to win a gold medal.

the contrary, because you and I both have a love
for working harder than anyone else, but working That was just my outlook on life at 14, so I just
on the right things to get disproportionate results. became...I found what I loved, like I had found my
So, I Will Teach You to BePsychology
Rich readers, I of
this calling and I justResults
threw myself into it completely.
hustling, in a positive sense ofMaster
the word. Class
But I’ll with
So Derek
in college,Sivers
for example, I went to Berklee
just give you an example, where you think about School of Music, and my nickname in school was
anyone who really studied hard for their SATsTranscript
or The Robot, because nobody ever saw me sleep
their GMATs or whatever. I mean, some people or drink or relax or party. I would wake up at 6:00

put in hundreds of hours, and maybe they get a a.m. and I would go running and I would practice
terrific score. all day and I’d write and I’d be in the practice
rooms, and even at meal times, everybody else
Five years later they look back, they don’t remem- would SETHIlike hang out in the cafeteria for a couple
ber how hard they studied but they’re still getting hours. I would dash through—slap together a
residuals from really crushing that test and get- peanut butter sandwich and head straight to the
ting into the best schools or whatever it may be. practice rooms.
The same thing is true of working hard to get into

a great job, or even working hard to find...being And everybody would head to bed at midnight,
open enough to find a great partner, or whatever and I’d be up until 2:00 a.m. practicing and I’d
it may be. sleep for four hours and do it again. That was my
college experience.
I want to ask you about a story I read of yours
about Kimo Williams and you have this line, it’s But Kimo Williams, the guy that you mentioned,
actually in a different part of your site, where you was a real turning point in my life because I have
say: you don’t get extreme results without ex- this passion already but I didn’t have a role model
treme work. I wonder if you could talk about that. who had set my expectations high enough, really.
Like I still kind of thought that maybe I’d spend
Derek Sivers: Sure, yes. Part of the reason at the my life being a music teacher or something. Like


I though that...I knew I wanted to be in music, but telling me: I think you can graduate college in two
I didn’t...I don’t know, he just kind of set a new years and here is how. And what he did; he said:
model for me. okay, sit down at the piano, open up his book.
And he gave me this intensive music harmony les-
Let me explain what happened. He was a music son.
teacher in Chicago that I met just a couple months
before I left to go to Berklee School of Music, He was like—okay, what’s a major scale, how is

and when I told him I was going he said: Berklee built. Okay, this and that—so play for me in C-
School of Music, eh. He said: well—why don’t major scale; now if you build a scale; if you build

you come by my studio. He said: I used t teach at a triad—do you know what a triad is? Okay, good,
Berklee, I think I can show you a few things. you build a triad starting on the E, what’s that
called? If you built it off the B what’s that called.

Ramit Sethi: Right. Okay, this, now if you were to place this note with
that note, what’s that called? Come on, come on,
Derek Sivers: So I went to his studio and he said: you can do this—go!

look, here’s the deal— Berkelee School of Music,
like most colleges, it moves at the pace of the And it was like that kind of pace, you know, it was
lowest common denominator. They have to make a little bit like that scene in The Matrix where—
sure that every student in Psychology of Disproportionate
the class understands, Results is showing Neo how
what’s his name—Morpheus
so therefore they go at the pace
Master Class with
of the slowest Derek
to fight Sivers
in that assimilated karate thing. Come on,
you can do this! He said: let go of those limita-
tions, you can do this.
Ramit Sethi: Ah—interesting!

So that was my music harmony lesson, and in only
Derek Sivers: He said, if you’re bright, like you two 3-hour lessons, Kimo taught me four semes-
are, and if you’re driven, like you are—you can ters of harmony.
graduate college in two years. You don’t have RAMIT SETHI
to accept the standard pace. And in fact he said Ramit Sethi: Wow!
another line that really stuck with me. He said: the
standard pace is for chumps. That’s like, whenev- Derek Sivers: And then in two more 3-hour les-
er you hear somebody telling you this is how long sons, he taught me four semesters of arranging.

it takes to get a degree, this is how long it takes to So by the time I went to Berklee only two months
be an accredited counselor, whatever it is you’re later, I took the entrance exams and I tested out of
setting out to do in life, that’s the standard pace like 12 classes already. Like I basically just passed
they’re telling you, and that’s for chumps, that’s the exam, and then he told me: for all those re-
like for the lowest common denominator. quired classes that you’re not to [psyched 28:32],
he said, just go to the head of the department—he
If you know what you want, like what you call the said: buy the books, do all the homework yourself
hustle, you can go for it, and not even by cheat- in your spare time and then go to the head of the
ing. You can—just by not accepting the standard department and take the final exam. You don’t
pace that you’re given, you can find a way to do it have to attend the class, just take the final exam.
faster. So here I am at 17 years old and this guy is


So I said: really? He said: yeah, trust me. So I went one of the top negotiators I’ve ever met, and she
there and did it. So I bought all the books for all would be like...she would see these guys who
the classes that I was not signed up for, did all the were, like, building porches and stuff, and the next
homework and just went there and took the final door neighbor they bought some guys in to build
exam and passed. So, yes, I graduated college in a porch, and she needed some work done on the
two years plus one summer semester. back porch. And she would just say: Hey, can you
guys come over, would you be interested in help-

Ramit Sethi: I loved that you highlighted the fact ing out a little bit and I can bake you some Indian
that most organizations are built for the lowest food... or make you some Indian food. And she

common denominator. I mean, and you can see got like $1,000 worth of work done for one plate
this everywhere. When you think about, some- of saag paneer.
times by law, the way the ballots are made, or the

way that when you go into the DMV, things have Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS]
to be accessible to everyone...
Ramit Sethi: And I’m like—what! You could do

Derek Sivers: Yes. that. I didn’t even know that. And sometimes it’s
seeing someone who is just taking it to the next
Ramit Sethi: But then when you go into compa- level, or they have sidestepped, or they’ve been
nies they—or organizations Psychology of Disproportionate
like schools—they do taught by someone, Results
and it makes us realize our
Master Class
cater to the lowest common denominator. So what
you said just makes a lot of sense—right. If you’re
own Derek Sivers
self-imposed limitations.

smart and you’re motivated and driven, you can Transcript

Derek Sivers: Yeah, I mean...if you don’t mind,
sort of leapfrog others. But I guess my question here, let’s just throw in one other...

is—why don’t more people do that?
Ramit Sethi: Yeah.
Derek Sivers: I think, you know, I might not have
if I hadn’t have run into Kimo. I wouldn’tBY haveRAMIT SETHI
Derek Sivers: Example of this—that once you’re
known. It takes somebody to show you that you in that mindset, you look at the world in a whole
can. I mean, I love what—in your book—what you new way. Like there are musicians, for example,
do. Showing people: look, just call your credit card I’ll just keep using this musician example because
and say this. And they hang up the phone going: it’s what I know best—who kind of like bitch about

oh, my god, I did it. I can’t believe I just did that, the system. They’re like: man, radio stations suck,
and it’s showing people that they can—it’s crucial. they don’t play any good music, it’s all controlled
by the corporations, man. And they will just like sit
Ramit Sethi: Yes, sometimes we don’t even know around and bitch about it. I just imagine the typical
the boxes that we live in... musician just kind of going like: whoosh, whoosh...

Derek Sivers: Exactly! Ramit Sethi: [LAUGHS]

Ramit Sethi: Until we see someone who’s Derek Sivers: Yeah, man—that’s fuck man; it’s
stepped outside it. And I remember, my sister, for bullshit. And they’re just sitting there bitching
example, who talked about a negotiator. She is about it, not doing anything. But then once you


start to look at the world in this way, you think, He said: look, you don’t have to do anything. I’ll
well—then let’s make a radio station. Or if you provide the sound system, I’ll book my friends,
don’t like the radio stations, make a radio station. I’ll promote it; just let me use your space. And so
If you don’t like the distribution out there, make they said—okay, tentatively. And so he did it on
your own distribution. I mean, even when I look Tuesday nights and it got more and more popular,
back at what I did with CD Baby, I wasn’t really and then they started doing it like every Tuesday
looking at it through that lens at the time, but basi- and Thursday; then it was seven nights a week,

cally I was dissatisfied with the state of distribu- there was music there and he was taking care of
tions, so I started a new distributor. everything. And now Hotel Café is like the hottest

club in L.A. the most desirable place to play and
And there are people who...My friend, Gary all that. And he made that venue exist, and I just
Jules—check out this story—he was a musician in love that mentality.

L.A. who was dissatisfied with the venues. All his
friends were just bitching: man, you know all these Like if you start to feel powerful in this world, you
places you can play in L.A. they are all people realize, you don’t have to just stand in line and just

posturing, trying to get a record deal. Nobody is do what everybody else is doing, that anything
just playing just to actually listen to the music any that you’re dissatisfied about, you can change it.
more. And all the people that come to clubs, they It’s almost like—there’s this idea of the...you know
are like seensters, they just of Disproportionate
want to be seen, and this saying: when Results
you’ve been given a shitty end
it’s all about how you look. And Master
why isn’tClass
venue where people can play music that people
there a with Derek
of the Sivers
stick in any deal. So I just figure, you can
flip the stick around. If somebody is saying like:
want to hear and people who want to hear music Transcript
man all these banks are ripping me off man, banks
go there to just listen to music? Why doesn’t that suck. Well, start a bank you know.

Ramit Sethi: Yeah.
So while the rest of his friends were just bitching
about it, Gary kind of was walking around BYHol-
Sivers: Why not, somebody did, why not
lywood and just took a very determined stroll you?
through all the streets in the county...central
neighborhoods of Hollywood, and he found this Ramit Sethi: You and I have such a similarity in
one little coffee shop called Hotel Café, and it our blogs and in our whole outlook, which is—you

was just kind there in a prime location, but really don’t have to be a genius to change the way that
not doing anything except croissants during the you interact with the world. In fact, there are some
day. And they had a wonderful little area by the small, simple tweaks you can take, and those first
window that would make a great stage, and they tweaks really are just designed to show you that
were closed at night. the world is actually way different than you think.
As Steve Blank said; there’s a whole game going
So he went to them and said: look , why don’t you on around you and you don’t even know that it’s
let me run like a singer, song-writer acoustic night being played. And I find that if you can get like
here on Tuesday nights? And they said, no, no, those scripts, for example, in my book, those are
no—that’s not our thing, we are just a coffee shop. carefully designed to be in the first chapter of my
book, because what happens is people pick up


the book. It already looks like a scam. I Will Teach a musician. You see, there are a lot of cultures
You to Be Rich sounds like—who is this dude? And where the big ambition in life is to get a job at a
then if they, if they kind of read through the first multinational corporation. Like that’s the goal of
few pages, they say: hey, let me try this script, I’ve a lot of people going to engineering school, and
never seen a script like this. whatever, is to just get some job. And with that
mindset then maybe like, fitting in, is what they’ve
And they use it, and it works, and all of a sudden been told will get them hired, and not fired.

they say—whoa, I don’t have to just take this bank
that’s been gouging me for the last four years. Ramit Sethi: Hmm!

Now, number one—maybe I’ll take this guy’s ad-
vice and read the rest of his book, so that’s kind of Derek Sivers: But you’ve got this kind of mind-
my own selfish purpose, because now it works for set of being a mover and a shaker, then yeah,

them. But more importantly after doing all these the name of the game is to stand out, whatever
things, they say like—wait a minute—I can actually you’re doing, so just look at what everybody else
have a totally different relationship with the com- is doing and do the opposite. Or even whatever...

panies that I deal with; with my friends. Warren Buffet talks about that from an investor
point of view; but from a career point of view or
In some of the stuff that we’ve done on I Will just...what is everybody else who wants what you
Teach You to Be Rich, we Psychology
tell people, justof Disproportionate
take want doing? So Results
find a way to do the opposite in a
somebody interesting out to coffee. Class
It’s 20
it’s the best 20 bucks you’ll ever spend. And
bucks;with Derek
better way. Sivers

when people do that for the first time it’s scary Transcript
Ramit Sethi: Yeah. I look at people...I have this
and nerve wracking, and then they realize like: thing I call the 10-year savings strategy, but it’s

wait a minute, I just learned so much form this guy also just a 10-year strategy, and that is: look at
and most people...and I’m sure this has been the people 10 years older than you, and say, do I like
case with you—with me as well—most people are who they are and what they’re doing.
happy to give advice. They love doing it because RAMIT SETHI
it makes them feel good and they’ve been given Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS]
advice too.
Ramit Sethi: And the funny thing about us—espe-
So your whole story, the one you just told I love, cially in America—we love to believe that we are

because it’s really about standing out from the different, that we are highly individualistic, and I
crowd. have agency—but the truth is, you know, we live in
a system, and odds are that we are like everyone
Derek Sivers: Yes. else. We have a job, we go to it, we are going to
have kids, we are going to have a house. I mean,
Ramit Sethi: And it doesn’t take you being genius, we are creatures of habit. And so if you look at
it just takes you off into taking some initiative. someone in your field or who is doing what you’re
doing, and you see what they’re doing ten years
Derek Sivers: You know, I’ve got to admit that I ahead of you—they’re ten years older than you; if
still kind of think this mindset was partially formed, it’s a lawyer and that lawyer is working say 60, 70
or mostly formed by me deciding I wanted to be hours a week, or 80 hours a week as a partner—


chances are that you are going to be doing just whatever is because they want money. And that’s
that. not my case, so if I look at somebody like Richard
Branson, for example, is a role model to me in
Do you like that? If so, great, now you know what some ways, but his kind of insatiable appetite for
to work towards. If you don’t, how can you change like, what makes somebody not stop when they
to do something a little different? I think that’s very hit $20 million or $100 million but be driven to
important for people to look and realize they’re make $1 billion then $10 billion then $500 billion

not that different than others. Chances they are and still be driven that person wants something
going to be the same, so use that information to different out of life than those who might just hit a

inform your decisions today. certain point where you’re cool, and then focus on
reading books or something—you know.
Derek Sivers: Yeah, although...let me add one

thing to that though, it’s not just look at the ‘what’ Ramit Sethi: Right.
but the ‘why’. What I mean is, imagine four people,
two of them are doctors, two of them are lawyers. Derek Sivers: You want a different thing out of

If you’re just looking at the what, you would think life. So just make sure that when you’re looking at
that the doctors have more in common and the these people that are ten years ahead of you that
lawyers have more in common with each other you’ve found people that match not just the ‘what’
than they do with the otherPsychology
doctor lawyer.ofButDisproportionate
you that you want butResults
also the ‘why’ you want it.
get to talk to them and you askMaster
about theClass
why, with Derek Sivers
and one doctor is a doctor because their mother Ramit Sethi: I love that. Incidentally, speaking
died of leukemia and they want to make sureTranscript
that of books, you read a lot of books and then you
no one dies of leukemia ever again. And the other turn around and write up some of the best book

doctor just had kind driven it into them that you reviews that I’ve read anywhere on line non your
need to be a doctor so that you can support your blog www.sivers.org. Why do you do that? You
family. It’s about money go for it. don’t have to do it, why do you do it?
And then you meet the other lawyer, and one Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS] Well, actually I’ve been
lawyer says, if you ask why that person is a lawyer, doing it for years just privately, just keeping it on
their family drove that into them that they need my hard drive only. The idea was that being a min-
to be a lawyer to support their family. And then imalist type of nomadic, traveling guy, I don’t want

the other lawyer is a lawyer because his dad was to bring my books with me everywhere, so very
wrongly jailed and he is like passionate this and often I would read a book and go: God, that was
wants to make sure that nobody ever has to have brilliant, that was amazing, that was wonderful.
that injustice again. So in way it’s like doctor-1 and And then I’d have this fear that I’m going to forget
lawyer-4, have more in common than... everything I learned three years form now, and I
don’t want to bring the book with me everywhere
Ramit Sethi: Right! I travel and then reread, so instead, what I started
doing is, as I’m reading a book I’m underlying and
Derek Sivers: So make sure...so I’ve found that, circling my favorite bits, and then when I’m done
for example, the reason a lot of people are start- with the book, and then I write down those bits
ing their own business, are entrepreneurs or and I open up a blank text file and I type up those


bits into a text file named with the name of the going to tell how good they are, you are just going
book, so that I just have this directory on my hard to plop down this portfolio and say—look, I’m go-
drive just called books with the text file notes of ing to show you. and that was one of the reasons
every book I’ve read for the last, I don’t know— that I was the only weirdo student in my school,
five years at this point. that I know of, that used to take my essays I wrote
for class and post them on my website. Like I did
And then when I’m just researching, like anytime one about Stockholm syndrome, and this like

I’m like: what was that book that mentioned that when I’m some 20-year-old cocky kid. And all of a
Italian word ‘sprezzatura’ what was that? Then I sudden I get someone from Scotland saying: we

can just grab sprezzatura—there it is—oh, yeah, are doing a law enforcement conference and we
okay. Wow, I forgot about this book, and I can would like to use your research in our conference.
reread my notes and remind myself of my favorite

bits. Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS]

So I’ve been doing that for a few years anyway, Ramit Sethi: And I’m like this 20-year-old kid.

and then I realized, I guess maybe I should share And I’m like—go for it. And by the way can you
these with people. So I put them up online. I’m fly me out there too? And then the other thing of
always, kind of, wincing a little bit, like some day a building a portfolio is so important—and the other
publisher might tell me, Psychology
you know, to takeofit Disproportionate
down thing is giving toResults
others. And one of the things I
or something. But on the otherMaster
hand, I lookClass
at mywith Derek
think about Sivers
when it comes to expertise and get-
little Amazon affiliate sales and I’ve generated a ting good at something is—that’s just a first step.
lot of book sales for people. Transcript
The second step is turning around and making
that useful to other people. Otherwise what’s the

Ramit Sethi: Yeah. point?

Derek Sivers: So maybe it’s all good, but I mostly Derek Sivers: Yes.
do that just for me. BY RAMIT SETHI
Ramit Sethi: So if you’re a musician you can learn
Ramit Sethi: To me the reason you do that em- it all. But then you play, and if you are good at
bodies two things, I think, that are just powerful building a blog, or investing, or whatever it might
for people to know. Number one—is to build a be, you give that away too, because that actu-

portfolio, and I learned this from one of my men- ally encourages more people to come to you, but
tors—and he taught me this in college, he said: more importantly they get good and I think in this
build a portfolio and the first thing I though was world we are looking for people who can guide
like: Hey, I’m not like an artist, I don’t have a port- us along. So I’m struck by your story, even though
folio. And he said: no, no, like the projects that it’s just book reviews—it’s not really just book
you work in class. Build a portfolio, meaning just reviews.
sketch, or glue, or whatever it is, what you were
thinking as you developed that project. So a couple more questions for you, Derek, one
is passion. And then we will talk about low value
Why? Because when you go to get a job, other and high value activities. This question I get a
people are going to walk in there and talk, they’re million times and a lot of people just love talking


about their passion, I haven’t found my passion, small moment-to-moment level, that’s your pas-
what’s my passion? This is such a large area. Any sion.
thoughts, it’s seems you have a unique perspec-
tive on some of this. What would you suggest? So it’s like, if you find yourself—say you’re dab-
bling with something online, like you play with
Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS] I also...it’s funny, we must PhotoShop and you will play with PhotoShop for
get the same people email us. I get a lot of people hours into the night, then just go for it, maybe

who ask that: like, I don’t know—I love how you’re that’s actually your new calling. And I like the idea
just so passionate, but I haven’t found my thing of what scares you too. So if there’s something

yet... that you notice that every time you think about it,
it feels kind of terrifying, like you get kind of but-
Ramit Sethi: Yes, yes—oh, my god, I get similar terflies in your stomach thinking about it. Maybe

emails. you actually would love to be a Hollywood screen-
writer. Like actually write major blockbuster mov-
Derek Sivers: I don’t know what my... ies, but just me saying that makes me go like: oh,

oh, oh—no way—I can’t do that. I don’t know who
Ramit Sethi: Yes. those geniuses are that write those things, but it’s
not me.
Derek Sivers: And so I thought about thisof forDisproportionate
a Results
long time, and I realized that the problemClass
is that with
people who say that are expecting it to be like this
Ramit Sethi:Sivers

massive thunderbolt flash of lightening like—yes! Transcript

Derek Sivers: Even if you’re just feeling that kind
I’m going to cure malaria—ta-dah...And they’re go- of nervous terrified feeling that means it’s prob-

ing to get this giant passion and purpose in their ably a worthy endeavor for you. I think you just
life, and I think the media, storytelling books, or go. Any time you just do whatever—it excites you,
movies, or whatever they kind of build it up so we whatever interests you and whatever scares you,
BY then
think it has to be this big, magic thing. And RAMIT
are on the right track and that is your passion
realized it’s a lot like Romeo and Juliet... and it’s just maybe people like you and me who
just share it a little louder than others, it makes it
Ramit Sethi: Yes. look like it’s some big, giant, burning passion. But
really it’s just following whatever interests you.

Derek Sivers: But if you read too many love
stories or watch too many movies, or whatever— Ramit Sethi: I like that. My friend Ben Casnocha
you’d think that love needs to look like Romeo says: Think about doing more of what you do on a
and Juliet. That it has to be this anguished, pas- Saturday afternoon.
sionate, driven—the moment they saw each other
they couldn’t stop. They did this, and it’s intense Derek Sivers: Mm-hmm.
and it’s burning—and you must die—otherwise if
it’s anything short of that it was not true love. And Ramit Sethi: You know, when nobody is around,
I think people kind of expect that their passion when you’re reading that book on fashion, and
needs to feel like that. But, instead, like if you just you’re just sitting in your apartment, maybe that’s
notice what excites you and what scares you on a a route that you could take. Nobody is forcing you


to read it. Think about what is it that excites you; Ramit Sethi: Hmm!
and I’d like to deconstruct it. So I think two things.
One is—if you’re reading a fashion magazine, Derek Sivers: I think I’m actually more interested
sometimes people will jump to a very tactical con- in this side than that. Don’t stick with something
clusion. They’ll say: I want to create my own fash- just because it’s what you set out to do, or just
ion magazine. Well maybe, or maybe you might because it’s what you announced. Like keep true
want to be a fashion reviewer, or maybe you just to your current interests.

want to be a fashion photographer.
Ramit Sethi: Do you find that being honest with

First, is to understand the whole universe of op- yourself is difficult? I find it increasingly difficult.
tions when it comes to what excites you and what Like, for example, I’ll say things like: yeah, I really
makes you scared. So if you talk about screen- should sort that pile of papers that’s been sitting

writing, there are all kinds of different writing and on my table for nine months.
screenwriting and things in Hollywood.
Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS]

The second point I was going to make is—search.
Do searches, investigate, talk to people. In about Ramit Sethi: Well, if I’m honest with myself I’m not
10 to 15 hours you can become really, really smart going to sort that pile of papers, and the reason I
on any given area, in general. of IDisproportionate
So if you say, really say pile of papers,Results
is that every time I go home to
love fashion, or fashion magazines, that’sClass
That’s not sufficient though, go deeper. Start
good. with myDerek
parents Sivers
house, I would take this pile of pa-
pers that I needed to sort and I would stick it in a
searching, talk to people, go to a couple of meet Transcript
plastic bag, and I would take it home. And I would
ups, and you will be a lot smarter within just two say—yeah, I’m going to have a lot of free time

weeks. when I’m at my parents’ house. And of course,
what do I do during my free time there? I eat and
Derek Sivers: Nice, I like that. And then there’s I sleep. And it happened to me like ten times,
this idea, like don’t be afraid to change. I think SETHI
where I would go back and never sort those pa-
some people say—get into music, for example, pers. Finally, I had to admit to myself this is not go-
because they love music, and they learn to play ing to get done. So either hire someone to do it,
bass and they join a band, and now they’re tour- or just throw it out. And I find that pattern of being
ing around the country, but they are often the one honest with myself very, very difficult sometimes.

that’s actually booking the gigs, for example, and Have you had that experience?
as time goes on they notice that they actually are
more passionate about booking the gigs than Derek Sivers: Yeah, the minimalist thing was kind
they are just standing on the stage thumbing the of...that’s one stage I think of like what you’re
E-string again. And so when you hit a situation like talking about where I started looking at so many
that, you just need to admit it to yourself. things in my life, like saying, I’m holding onto this
because I told myself that I might need it some
Like, you know what, actually even though this day just in case. Or, some day 20 years from now
isn’t what I had announced to all my friends and I might want to look at that. Then I just kind of
family... do this cleansing thing of looking at it and going:
you know what—fuck it. I haven’t looked at that in


one year, I’m not going to look at it in ten years.
And so I just throw out everything. I mean, dude, Ramit Sethi: Sometimes it’s just so close to you to
I threw out my old diaries, my old love letters, my force you to look at them. It’s not always bad, it’s
old photos, my old everything. Like I just realized, not always good, but that’s interesting—okay. Can
I don’t need it—I don’t need any of this stuff. So I we talk about low value versus high value activi-
just threw it all in a big dumpster and I gave every- ties?
thing away I couldn’t throw away. But the real one

to me, that’s been harder to admit—it is what an Derek Sivers: Yeah.
introvert I am.

Ramit Sethi: You are a guy that gets a lot of stuff...
I think this world is getting more and more social, Okay, here is the thing. I just sent you an email a
and especially now for those of us who live on- couple days ago by the way, I was like: hey, this

line so much, everything is more and more so- is a nice article that you’ve put together—actually,
cial. Meet with your friends, for real, check in let I’ve sent you a few emails because I see your ar-
your friends know where you are at all times. I’m ticles everywhere. Okay—like I’m on this website

like—ugh. It’s my nightmare, I don’t want people to and it’s linked to you, I’m reading that blog and it’s
reach me, I don’t want to be contacted...I like sit- linked to you, and I’m like—dude, this guy, I can-
ting alone. I like sitting alone for 5 to 12 hours at a not escape Derek Sivers.
time in total silence just Psychology
thinking, writing, of Disproportionate Results
that’s what I love. And meetingMaster Class with
up with friends— Derek
Derek Sivers
Sivers: [LAUGHS]
yeah, maybe a couple hours a week [LAUGHS]—
Ramit Sethi: And so, I want to just talk to you
But it’s funny like even, I got married this past year about how you think about what’s worth work-

and so we’ve spent every hour together for the ing on? And, for me, I talk a lot about cost versus
past year. She, a few months ago, said: you know, value, and I think sometimes people overly focus
I think you are even less social than you admit to on the cost of something. Like, oh, my god, that
yourself. Or I think she might have said—you’re RAMIT SETHI
course costs 500 bucks, or whatever it is, that’s
more antisocial than you admit yourself. too much, and really the value, if that course
makes you $2,000 or it makes you happy, like
Ramit Sethi: [LAUGHS] lattes is a classic example where every personal
finance expert in the world says: don’t spend

Derek Sivers: She goes: you really just want to be money on lattes. But the truth is, first of all it
alone pretty much all the time. I’m like—yeah. It’s doesn’t cost that much, and second of all the
just a very unpopular opinion to have. value is there. People love it and it makes them
happy in the morning.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah.
So how do you think about cost versus value? It’s
Derek Sivers: Everybody expects you to be so- obviously not just dollar related, and also can you
cial, be connected, meet up with everybody. And maybe talk about what’s worth working on?
I’m like: no, I just like to be alone—thinking, writ-
ing, reading, learning, creating. So it’s hard to kind Derek Sivers: Yeah, I mean, I could talk about the
of admit those things... stuff that I think has already been covered enough


by you and even people like Tim Ferriss, this idea then you become self-employed, where you’re
that...look at what you’re working on and think: earning money by stuff that you’re doing with your
can somebody else be doing this? And if you can own two hands, and somebody is paying you to
pay somebody else $15 an hour to do this and do it. And that’s great at first until you realize that
you consider your time to be worth than that, then you’re kind of trapped.
what the hell are you doing, just let somebody
else do it. So that’s one way of looking at it, and Meaning like, if you want to take a few months off,

that’s an important point to get first. So let’s say like if you can just imagine some horrible that hap-
that that’s the...make sure you understand that pens in your life like you get hit by a car and break

mindset first. a bunch of bones or something, your income is
going to dry up completely, if you’re not—if you’re
But then what’s interesting is you have to get kind two hands are not on the project. And that’s not

of philosophical. Like you said a little bit about the real freedom to me. And I always make decisions
latte; what makes me happy? Like truth, the most in life based on what gives me more freedom, so I
optimized life I could live may not have lattes in had to kind of go through the hard work of teach-

it. And the most money optimized life I could live ing everybody else at my little small business
would be me spending all my time just selling and how to do everything I was doing. Every question
doing the stuff that brings in $1,000-an-hour, and they asked me I made sure that every...I wouldn’t
somebody else can do the Psychology
other stuff. of Disproportionate ResultsI would make sure ev-
just answer the question
Master Class with
But you do have to ask yourself: what do I love
erybody Sivers
heard my answer and understood the
thought process behind it, so that they wouldn’t
doing; because I’ve met a lot of miserable million- have to ask me this kind of question anymore.
aires... Made sure that it was clear to everybody—they

could do it themselves.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah.
So anyway after about a year of doing this I had
Derek Sivers: They are a lot of people that are RAMIT SETHI
made myself unnecessary to the running of my
trapped and bitter...I’ll tell you what the biggest company, and I moved down to L.A., really just
one was—it’s like when I finally kind of set up my because my girlfriend was down there at the time.
business so that I was not required for the day-to- So I moved to L.A. and everybody I met with—I
day operations of my company. Like it was hard was meeting some really successful people—I

work, and I think that’s the thing you’re talking mean, really successful business owners and mul-
about—it was an article I just wrote on my site just timillionaires or whatever, and when they would
two days ago called: Delegate or Die... see that I’m in L.A. and they will...how are you able
to be here while your company is running? And I
Ramit Sethi: Yes. would tell them, and they would say: who is run-
ning it then?
Derek Sivers: And it was just my tale of how I
realized that it’s kind of the self-employed trap. I’d say—well, I am. I’ve built a system that works.
If you’ve been an employee, you dream of being And they’d say—oh, man I could never do...I
self-employed. You think, oh finally, I won’t have haven’t taken a vacation in 12 years man, I work
an asshole boss; I will be my own boss. And so my ass off. And sometimes people are really


proud of telling you... afford it. I’m like—yeah, I can afford but this is
what makes me happy.
Ramit Sethi: Yeah.
So, instead, I found the stuff that I didn’t like doing
Derek Sivers: How many years it’s been since which was going to conferences and schmoozing
they had a vacation. I’m like—it sounds like hell to and talking to other businesses and doing busi-
me. ness deals, I hated all that stuff. I mean, I did it

for a couple of years, and just every time I would
Ramit Sethi: [LAUGHS] leave feeling exhausted and drained. And I said:

Why am I doing this? Because I think that I’m sup-
Derek Sivers: So you realize that there is a lot of, posed to, I’m the business owner, I should be the
kind of, really successful people but, unfortunate- one doing the big deals. And I was like, no, but I

ly, got themselves tied up doing the stuff that they don’t care if that’s what most people do, I hate it. I
don’t really love. You see that they’re kind of suc- like sitting there alone on my little UNIX Terminal,
cessful but miserable. So I think it’s important to programming. That’s what makes happy.

always notice that very, kind of, quiet voice in your
gut. Like what excites you and what drains you. So yeah—I outsourced everything else, I out-
So if you’re doing something that’s draining your sourced the running of the company—even the
energy. Like you just noticed of Disproportionate
that every time you business dealing,Results
the hiring, the firing, all that was
do this, you just feel like—uh, IMaster
hate doingClass with
this, but doneDerek Sivers
by others so I could just sit there—alone—
I have to do this—and just stop immediately. Just and programming, that’s what I love the best.
find a way to stop doing that. Transcript
Ramit Sethi: I just want to make a point about all

Everything that bores you, there’s somebody that automate and delegate or die story you made
somewhere that it excites them, so just let them for the people listening. Not all of us have com-
do those things, and whatever you notice excites panies with 85 people. Not all of us can automate
you—like you said—what are you doing on a Sat- RAMIT SETHIout of a job, and still keep making mon-
urday afternoon. Or what is the thing that’s keep- ey, but the whole point of everything you’ve said,
ing you up until in the morning, in a good way. You Derek, today, is you start small. I mean, the way
can’t sleep because you’re so excited about this that you were able to build that business and sell
thing you’re doing, make sure you’re doing more it so successfully, it didn’t start in 1998, it started

of that. so much before that.

And, again, it may be unconventional; so at CD When you talk about your mindset when you went
Baby I had 85 employees, but I was the only tech to Kimo Williams; and you talk about how you be-
person, I was the only programmer, and every- came a guitarist when nobody else could do the
thing you saw on CDBaby.Com both front-end, job that you got. And all these great stories you’ve
backend, Internet, outside, inside—it was all me, told us about tonight, and that you have on your
I just did the whole thing myself. Because that’s blog, it’s about starting out small.
what I loved and so everybody that would look at
the company would say, why don’t you outsource So for those of you listening who don’t have
that? What are you—nuts? Like come on you can 85-person companies, there’s probably some-


thing at your job today, that you don’t like and you it’s free, so everyone should go and download
could find a way to have somebody else do, you that.
could ask your boss. Maybe you could figure out
a way to negotiate to work from home on Fridays. Derek, your blog: www.sivers.org/blog is that cor-
There are so many ways, and I think the whole rect?
point of what Derek and I are talking about tonight
is, when you crack that code, when you unlock Derek Sivers: Yes.

the fact that you are in control, even in the small-
est way, then the whole world starts changing and Ramit Sethi: Okay, and anything else people

you then say: hey, I can also be in control of this, should know about?
and that, and this—and that is how opportunities
unfold over the long term Derek Sivers: No, that’s it. I mean, right now I’m

in this...since selling CD Baby...I think, you go
Derek Sivers: Hell, yeah—well said. through different phases in your life to distinguish-
ing between, like, your head down and head up,

Ramit Sethi: Okay, beautiful. Anything else, so it’s like for 20 years of my life I was absolutely
Derek, that we should cover? I want to give a link just head down, nose to the grindstone, just com-
to your site, and I also want to tell people about pletely focused on my work, and when I sold CD
this amazing PDF that you Psychology of Disproportionate
have, really quickly. Results my next company. I
Baby I actually incorporated
You didn’t even know I was going
Master Class
to mention thiswith Derek Sivers
immediately put my nose to the grindstone to do
that one—and I said: hold on, what am I doing?
If my life is ever going to change and improve, I
But Derek has this PDF on his site which is at need to actually make a change in my life, not jut

www.sivers.org/PDF, and it’s a PDF you put to- keep doing the same thing.
gether for musicians on how to market them-
selves, and how to market their music. It’s one of Ramit Sethi: Hmm!
the best pieces of marketing that I’ve ever read, SETHI
and particularly with musicians who are some of Derek Sivers: So I forced myself to stop, and so
the most people to sort of change. for the last two years, I’ve just been kind of very
much like head up, like looking around at the
Derek Sivers: [LAUGHS] world, doing a lot of writing, a lot of reading. I’ve

been going to the Ted Conferences, and I spoke
Ramit Sethi: Actually, I’m glad you’re a musician at Ted three times—oh, I think four times now—
because, like you are probably the poster child and so everything...I think sometimes people look
for...You know what, even though you’re a musi- at my Sivers.Org website and they kind of wonder
cian you can do marketing and it’s not evil to like: what’s the motive, what’s the catch; like what
make money. are you trying to sell...

Derek Sivers: Right. Ramit Sethi: Yeah.

Ramit Sethi: You know what I mean, all the classic Derek Sivers: But I’m actually not trying to sell
things. So you put together this beautiful PDF and anything. It’s just like, I’m enjoying just sharing


and the people that I’ve met through doing this
are amazing. So if I’d just encourage if anybody...if
you actually listened to this whole hour conversa-
tion, please just feel free to click the email-me link
and drop me a hello-email. It’s one of the lovely
side effect of being head up right now, is people
often start an email to me by saying: I know you’re

incredibly busy.

I’m like—no, I’m not busy. I’m in control of my life,
and I don’t do anything I don’t want to do, so I’m
not busy, I’m happy to talk to people, so feel free

to contact me—I’m glad to help.

Ramit Sethi: It’s a motto we can all live by—I’m in

control of my life. Thank you, Derek. It’s always a
pleasure and not just in a professional sense, of
course, but since we’ve become friends over the
last couple years, it’s been of oppor-
a great learning Disproportionate Results
tunity for me, and every time weMaster Class
talk I learn
thing ten times newer than I ever expected to.
some-with Derek Sivers

Derek Sivers: Oh, thanks, man. You too, I love our

conversations, so thanks a lot.

Ramit Sethi: Thank you, I’ll talk to you soon.

Derek Sivers: See you.


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