67: Four Different Ways to Live
I recently re-read Derek Siver's book "How to Live" and really enjoyed it.
For those not familiar, the book comprises of 27 chapters each telling you 'how to live' - and each coming to different, contradictory conclusions.
The end result is a series of passages that present different worldviews. Some consolidate things I'd already thought about, while a few opened my eyes to a new way of looking at things.
A famous pioneer does more for human progress than a billion others who live a normal life.
If someone else innovated in obscurity, they didn’t make an impact. Marco Polo wasn’t the first European to reach China, but he was the first to write a book about it. Then his book inspired Christopher Colombus, and so on.
So if you want to help humanity while having the most exciting life, then the way to live is to be a famous pioneer. Go to new extremes. Try new ideas. Visit undiscovered cultures. Show what can be done. Your job is not just to act, but to tell a fascinating story of how you did so, and inspire others to do it.
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.
I had never really looked at fame this way. I often default towards scepticism for people who are actively seeking fame - but I guess it really depends on the underlying motivation.
Reading this chapter gave me more enthusiasm to learn and build in public. I often only want to share my best work, but I'm going to try and lower the threshold for what I put in public.
Money can represent freedom, safety, experience, generosity, attractiveness, power, or whatever you want. But really, money is as neutral as math. Because it’s neutral, people have projected all kinds of meaning onto it.
Your biggest obstacle to getting rich is the harmful meaning you’ve attached to it. Your biggest advantage can be projecting a helpful meaning onto it. Make it mean you’re on the right path. Make it a game. Make it mean you’re free.
Don’t aim to just be comfortable. You don’t make the world a better place by just getting by. If you aim to be comfortable, you won’t get rich. But if you aim to be rich, you’ll also be comfortable. Aiming to be rich makes you think bigger, which is more exciting, more fun, and less conventional since most people don’t think big.
Then you’ll get philosophical, since you’ll have all the options in the world. You’ll find your riches are worthless, and maybe even an obstacle, when it comes to friendship and love. Money makes problems go away, but amplifies personality traits. Money won’t change you, but it will amplify who you are.
Again, I'm already a believer that making money is an important step towards making a real impact in the world. But I found a lot of truisms in this chapter that were helpful reinforcement.
Create more than you consume
Most people die with everything still inside of them. The way to live is to create. Die empty. Get every idea out of your head and into reality.
When most people see modern art, they think, “I could do that!” But they didn’t. That is the difference between consumer and creator.
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?
Most of what you make will be fertilizer for the few that turn out great. But you won’t know which is which until afterward. Keep creating as much as you can.
When you’re gone, your work shows who you were. Not your intentions. Not what you took in. Only what you put out.
I'm already sold on this, but it was a really helpful reminder to keep pushing myself to create more.
Reinvent yourself regularly
What you call your personality is just a past tendency. New situations need a new response.
People love stories, so they connect two events, calling them cause and effect. But the connection is fiction. It’s a hard fiction to escape. “My parents did that, so that’s why I did this.” No. Those two events are not connected. There is no line between moments in time. Same with definitions. “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.
Should you try to be consistent with your past self? Should a newspaper try to be consistent with past news? You’re an ongoing event — a daily improvisation — responding to the situation of the moment.
Every year or two, change your job and move somewhere new. Change the way you eat, look, and talk. Change your preferences, opinions, and usual responses. Try the opposite of before.
I've been practising this in my career; I trained as a doctor, then re-trained as a data scientist / machine learning engineer, and am now building my own company. I've loved the experience, so fully support the message here.
In terms of my personal 'self', I'd say that I have made less of an effort recently. I had micro-experiences of this when I spent time in other countries - where I was meeting new people and there was no expectation of my past self. But with COVID, I've been mostly in the same place for quite a while. Reading this chapter prompted me to consider ways for further personal 're-invention'.
Have you read the book? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
And have a great week! :)
👋 Hi, I'm Chris Lovejoy.
I'm a medical doctor 🩺 -> machine learning engineer 👨💻 -> start-up founder 💡
I'm on a mission to improve how we manage our health - and share my learnings and experiences here and on YouTube.
I also throw in my favourite things from the internet, and the occasional joke (humour is work-in-progress).