How to Live: 27 conflicting answers and one weird conclusion by Derek Sivers

raulmazilu's review

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The format? Each chapter argues in favour of a way to live your life.

The twist? The chapters contradict each other. Eg, "Be independent" vs. "Commit; "Fill your senses" vs. "Do nothing".

Why it works? Because you're reading a section and thinking "Yes, I totally share this view." But 3 minutes later, you read the exact opposite and think "Wait, no, *this* is actually who I am."

The even bigger twist? Realizing that both thoughts are true, perhaps equally. We contain multitudes, and the weird conclusion is that it's up to us to decide how to balance them.

amlaing's review

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informative inspiring reflective fast-paced


dieseife's review

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4.5/5 - 'How to Live' by Derek Sivers is an incredibly dense and thought-provoking read. With a multitude of perspectives and concepts, it provides readers with the opportunity to create their own unique interpretation and experience. The author offers extreme examples of each lifestyle, helping readers identify where they may align or where they may need to make changes.

The book has a "Bible"-like quality, in that it encourages readers to revisit it periodically to reassess their priorities and values. However, it's important to note that not all world-views are represented in the book, as it has a heavy bias towards Western and American perspectives. While the author acknowledged this blind spot in the past, it is still a significant limitation in the book.

I personally recommend reading only one or two chapters at a time, as the content is so dense and requires time for reflection. It's evident that the book has been meticulously revised and condensed to distill an essential message into each sentence, making it a challenging but rewarding read.

One common critique of the book is that it presents conflicting stances, where you can't possibly follow all of the advice simultaneously. However, that is the point - it encourages readers to pick and choose what works best for them and not try to follow everything simultaneously. It's an essential reminder that there is no one-size-fits-all solution to living a fulfilling life.

Despite some limitations, 'How to Live' is a thought-provoking and challenging book that will help readers identify their values and priorities.

probefahrer's review

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eines der unglaublichsten Bücher, das ich seit langem angepackt habe. Dereks andere Bücher habe ich immer os in eins weggelesen.

how to live ist anders.
spätestens alle 3 Sätze muss ich es weglegen und nachdenken.

ein wenig wie ein modernes Selbstbetrachtungen von Marc Aurel oder das Tao

mattstein's review

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challenging hopeful informative inspiring relaxing fast-paced


matthewjackson's review

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Very contradictory but it becomes clear why as you get through the book. The crux? - balance.

architr's review

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The writing style is wacky yet hard hitting with occasional contradictions (for eg. there are 2 contradictory principles - "Chase the future i.e. chase the new stuff" versus "value what has endured" (Lindy effect).
Thus, the best way to gain insights from this book is to "interpret objectively and adopt subjectively"

Key takeaways:
1. Be independent.
a. All misery comes from dependency. If you weren’t dependent on income, people, or technology, you would be truly free.
Avoid social media and the zeitgeist. Its stupidity will infect you.
Don’t align with any religion, philosophy, or political stance.

Don’t believe anything anyone says.
Listen if you want, but always decide for yourself.
Never agree with anything the same day you hear it, because some ideas
are persuasively hypnotic.
Wait a few days to decide what you really think.

Being independent means you can’t blame others.
Decide everything is your fault.
Whoever you blame has power over you, so blame only yourself.
Everyone has their own lives to manage.
Nobody is responsible for you, and you aren’t responsible for anybody.
You don’t owe anyone anything.
Learn the skills you need to be self-reliant.
Learn to drive, fly, sail, garden, fish, and camp.
Learn emergency medical and disaster preparedness.
Assume nobody will help you.
Don’t depend on any company, especially not the big tech giants.
Use only open-source software and open communication protocols.
Keep your own backups.
Get your own domain.
Run your own server.

Be a perpetual traveler, living out of a suitcase.
Move to a new country every few months, never a registered resident of
Spread the different aspects of your life across different countries to
avoid depending on any one country.
Earn multiple passports.
If a country enters into war or makes your life hard, just leave

2. Commit.

When you commit to one outcome, you’re united and sharply focused.
When you sacrifice your alternate selves, your remaining self has
amazing power.

The more social ties we have, the happier we are.
The bond of friendship is one of the deepest joys in life.
Notice those words: ties, bond.
These are words of commitment.
We say we want freedom, in theory.
But we actually prefer this warm embrace

This even goes for technical choices, whether hardware or software.
Pick one.
Commit to it.
Learn it deeply.
This is much more rewarding than always switching and searching for
the best.

Commitment gives you peace of mind.
When you commit to one thing, and let go of the rest, you feel free.
Once you decide something, never change your mind.
It’s so much easier to decide just once.
Commitment gives you integrity and social bonds.
Commitment gives you expertise and power.
Commitment gives you love and happiness.
Committing is how to live.

3. Fill your senses.

See it all.
Touch it all.
Hear it all.
Taste it all.
Do it all.
Appreciate this wonderful physical world.

Here’s the key:
Here’s your mission:
Nothing twice.
Never eat the same food twice.
Never go to the same place twice.
Never hear the same thing twice.
Everything only once.
Be systematic.
Follow guides.
“Top Places You Must Visit”
“Greatest Movies of All Time”
“Best Restaurants in Town”

Go through them all.
That’s the optimized way to experience the most, without repetition.
4. Do nothing.

You don’t need recognition to feel pride.
Recognition doesn’t give you pride.
You don’t need a beach to feel tranquility.
Places don’t make emotions.
You do.

Junk may reach your senses, but don’t let it reach your mind.
Don’t accept the false stories people tell.
Things are neither good nor bad — they’re as neutral as a rock.
When people give opinions, add a question mark.
If they say, “Immigration is bad,” change it to, “Immigration is bad?”
Let the questions drift away, unanswered.

5. Think super-long-term.

The actions are obvious.
Put money in an investment account and never withdraw.
Eat mostly vegetables.
Exercise always.
Get preventative health checkups.
Make time for your relationships.
Do these, yes, but let’s look at less-obvious ones.

You owe your quality of life to people in past generations.
We say someone is lucky if they are born into a rich family, in a stable
country, full of opportunity.
But that luck was created by the grandparents that moved to that
promising place, then worked hard and saved money for the next
generation instead of spending it themselves.
Make your grandchildren lucky like this.
Move to a place with good values that’s headed in the right direction.
Climate change might make everything between 40° and -40° latitude
quite unlivable, so start getting legal resident status in a country outside
of that, like Canada, New Zealand, or the Nordics.
These might be the last livable places on Earth.
Make sure your grandchildren will have citizenship.
Be a great ancestor.

6. Intertwine with the world.

part of the world feels foreign.
From Brazil, learn to live in the present, and embrace every stranger as a
Leave before you forget about the future.
From Germany, learn rationality and directly honest communication.
Leave before you start scolding strangers.
From Japan, learn deep consideration for others, social harmony, and
intrinsic perfection.
Leave before you get so considerate that you can’t express yourself or
take action.
From China, learn pragmatism and the multi-generational mindset.
Leave before you get superstitious or prioritize social status.
From France, learn idealism and resistance.
Leave before you oppose everything in theory.
From America, learn expressive rebellious individualism.
Leave before thinking you’re the center of the world.
From India, learn to improvise and thrive in complexity.
Leave before feeling a divide between what’s inside versus outside your
In all cultures, avoid the madness of the crowd.

7. Make memories.

When you’re young, time goes slowly because everything is new.
When you get older, time flies by, forgotten, because you’re not having
as many new experiences.
You need to prevent this.
Monotony is the enemy.
Novelty is the solution.
Go make memories.
Do memorable things.
Experience the unusual.
Pursue novelty.
Replace your routines.
Live in different places.
Change your career every few years.
These unique events will become anchors for your memories.
Remember them all.
Document everything, or you’ll eventually forget it.
Nobody can erase your memories, but don’t lose them through neglect.
Journal every day.
Write down your activities, thoughts, and feelings for future reference.
Video everything.
Compile and edit them, so they’re appealing to watch.

To enjoy your past is to live twice.
Nostalgia links your past and present.
Nostalgia protects against stress and boredom, and improves your mood.
Nostalgia makes you more optimistic, more generous, more creative, and
more empathetic.
Nostalgia is memories minus the pain.
Being nostalgic makes you less afraid to die.

8. Master something.

Define “success” for yourself.
Describe the outcome you want.
You can’t hit a target you can’t see.

9. Let randomness rule.

Life is determined not by causes, but by randomness and odds.
By taking a minute to do the math, you’ll have a clearer understanding of
why things are the way they are.

Randomness helps you learn acceptance.
You can’t take the blame for failures.
You can’t take credit for successes.
You can’t regret what you didn’t cause.
How liberating to not decide and not predict anything.
Stoics and Buddhists work hard to feel indifferent to outcomes.
But you’ll feel detachment as a natural side effect of every day being

10. Pursue pain.

Practice taking on the various kinds of pain.
Attempt something that seems impossible — something that terrifies
Give a speech.
Do a ten-day silent meditation.
Quit a habit.
Apologize to someone you wronged.
Don’t congratulate yourself if your attempt avoids failure.
Remember: you want the pain.
The sooner you pay a price, the less it costs.
You weren’t meant to be idle.
You weren’t built for sitting and staring at screens.
You live to push, pull, climb, and grow.
11. Do whatever you want now.

The past?
That’s what we call our memories.
The future?
That’s what we call our imagination.
Neither exists outside of your mind.
The only real time is this moment.
So live accordingly.

12. Be a famous pioneer.

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.
Make great adventures, but tell greater stories.
Pursue massive media attention, not for vanity or ego, but so your stories
can open minds, spark imaginations, and lead to further explorations.
Here’s the best way to do it:
First, make a stage name.
Create a company with the same name, and have it own all the rights to
everything you do.
Never reveal your real name.
This is to manage the trappings of your upcoming fame.
Find a writer and a publicist to create your first pioneering adventure.
Collaborate with the writer to make a great story arc before you begin.
So, for example, it’s not just a story of how you escaped a cult, but how
you joined the cult, uncovered a surprising history, fell in love, were
almost discovered and captured, then escaped by changing the mind of
your captor, and finally learned some interesting counter-intuitive
lessons along the way.
Consult with the publicist to make sure it’s interesting to the media.
Then begin.
Record everything on video.
Find ways to make the story arc happen in real life.
When you’re done, have your writer make it a fascinating story of
various lengths for various outlets — making it a great article, book,
video, screenplay, stage talk, and more.
Have the publicist get it everywhere — on every popular platform of the

13. Chase the future.

Live in the world of tomorrow.
Surround yourself only with what’s brand new and upcoming.
That’s where life is made.
It’s the most optimistic environment, full of hope and promises.

Work as a futurist and technology journalist.
Stay on the cutting edge of things so new they barely exist.
Every new invention will come to you first, before the world has heard
of it.
Learn the basics of every field, so you can understand new innovations
in logistics or chemistry or anything else.

Give away everything you haven’t used in a week.
Ownership binds you to the past.
Don’t get invested in any one thing.
Stay immersed only in what’s coming next.

Avoid Europe and anywhere that lives in the past.
Places that resist change have no vision, only memories.
Yesterday is gone for good.
The past is dead.
Resurrecting it makes ghosts and zombies.
Avoid religion because faith is not meant to be questioned.
Tradition is the opposite of what you want.
Nothing worshipped will change.
Oppose convention because that’s how things were.
Slavery was a convention.
Human sacrifice was a convention.

14. Value only what has endured.
Time is the greatest filter
So the way to live is to ignore everything new.
All of it.
Let the test of time filter everything.
Value only what has endured.
The modern life is shallow and distracted.
The timeless life is deep and focused.
Learn time-tested skills that were just as useful in your grandparents’
time as they are today.
Speaking, writing, gardening, accounting, persuasion, and survival skills.
These skills have hardly changed in a century

15. Learn.

Never consider yourself an expert.
It’s the strong swimmers who drown.
Don’t believe what you think.
Have questions, not answers.
Doubt everything.
The easiest person to fool is yourself.
Take notes.
Review them often.
Make flash cards to remind your future self what you learned today.
Quiz yourself with spaced repetition.
Knowledge fades and eventually disappears unless you keep it refreshed.

16. Follow the great book.

You know what your great book is.
Whether the Bible, Tanakh, Upanishads, Quran, Think and Grow Rich,
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, or another, follow it diligently.
Your book is wiser than you.
It’s describing natural law — the way our world works.
17. Laugh at life.

Humor is the spirit of life — a sign of a healthy, vibrant mind and soul.
Life is meaningless. That’s what’s funny
Besides, it makes you very appealing.
Everyone wants to be with someone who’s having more fun.
18. Prepare for the worst.

How can you thrive in an unknowable future?
Prepare for the worst.
Train your mind to be ready for whatever may come.
This is how to live.
The future is unpredictable and uncontrollable.
Picture all the things that could go wrong.
Prepare for each, so they won’t surprise or hurt you.
Never worry.
This isn’t emotional.
Just anticipate and prepare.
Remember the fable of the ant and the grasshopper?
The grasshopper was just enjoying the summer, teasing the ant for
working instead of relaxing.
Then winter came, and the grasshopper starved, but the ant was ready.
Expecting life to be wonderful is disappointing.
Expecting life to be disappointing is wonderful.
If you expect to be disappointed, you won’t be.
19. Live for others.

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.

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.
20. Get rich.

Suspend judgment.
Making money isn’t evil, greedy, shallow, or vain.
Money isn’t your worth as a human being, or a substitute for love.
But don’t pretend it doesn’t matter.
Money can represent freedom, safety, experience, generosity,
attractiveness, power, or whatever you want.
But really, money is as neutral as math.

Or consider this:
Money is nothing more than a neutral exchange of value.
Making money is proof you’re adding value to people’s lives.
Aiming to get rich is aiming to be useful to the world.
It’s striving to do more for others.
Serving more.
Sharing more.
Contributing more.
The world rewards you for creating value.
Pursue wealth because it’s moral, good, and unlimited.
Money is social.
It was invented to transfer value between people.
One job pays way more than another because it has more social value.
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.

21. Reinvent yourself regularly.

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.
Disconnect from your past.
Cut all common threads.
Keep nothing permanent
22. Love.

Love is a combination of attention, appreciation, and empathy.
To love something, first you have to connect with it.
Give it your full attention.
Deliberately appreciate it.
Try this with places, art, and sounds.
Try this with activities and ideas.
Try this with yourself.
23. Create.

Live in a city.
Cities are more conducive to creativity.
Geniuses come from cities.
It reminds you of your audience.
Ultimately, you need to connect with people, not trees.
Stay in situations where you’re forced to show your work to others.
Collect ideas in a crowd.
Create in silence and solitude.
Like your bedroom, your work space needs to be private.
This is where you dream and get naked.
Keep a counterweight job.
Something effortless that covers your bills.
Something you can do a few hours per day, but otherwise not think
It gives discipline and regularity to your life.
It gives deadlines and freedom to your art.

24. Don’t die.
25. Make a million mistakes.
26. Make change.
27. Balance everything.

Notice the similarities in the physical and emotional definitions.
Physical upset: to knock something over.
Emotional upset: to be disturbed.
Physically unstable: likely to fall.
Emotionally unstable: prone to dangerous, impulsive behavior.
All related to a lack of balance.

Imagine the different aspects of your life as the spokes in a wheel:
health, wealth, intellectual, emotional, spiritual, or however you divide
If any of these are lacking, it makes a lopsided, wobbly wheel, causing you to crash.
But if you keep the parts of your life balanced, your wheel is round, and
you can roll easily.

astark's review

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laszlovad's review against another edition

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If this book is an elaborate joke, a satirical middle finger to the chic-stoic, tech bro philosophers of the 2010s and 2020s, then it’s an amusing read, I chuckled, 4 stars.

If it’s serious, then it’s a baffling journey through arguments taken to their ridiculous extremes that ends at one of the oldest clichés in life: “the truth is in the middle”, “everything in moderation”, “find your Goldilocks zone”, etc-etc. In this case, it was three hours of reading yielding minimal to no value. 1 star.

I read the thing from cover to cover and still have no idea, if it’s a joke or not, so let’s average the scores and round down: 2 stars.

commonpriya's review

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reflective fast-paced


It was very preachy and no tangible steps or revolutionising ideas