Your Music and People by Derek Sivers

Dec 4, 2020 16:57 · 789 words · 4 minute read books


This book comes with my highest recommendation. It’s short, and every page packs a punch. Reading it will be a good use of your time.

My thoughts

Upon purchasing this book, I was a bit disappointed that it was so short. I felt a bit duped for spending $15 on the digital copy of a short book. I’m a big fan of Derek Sivers, and I’d picked up that he’s kind of minimalist and concise, so I hoped that I’d get the value out of it. I totally did.

I listen to most books as audiobooks and feel like I can zone out occasionally because if I miss a bit, I won’t lose much. I listened to a few minutes of this book, and it was too dense and too impactful for me to try to listen to as an audio book. I have read many books that really should have been blog posts; this was the opposite.


To me, the clearest message about marketing in the book is that it is “considerate”. The word I have always used when discussing this with others is “kind”. That is: there is a difference between being nice and being kind. The nice person will waste peoples’ time for fear of offending them or because they feel some social pressure to behave in a way that is in neither person’s interest.

Be proud of who you are and what you sound like. I think the reason that corporate speak sounds so stilted is because it must pass muster with a bunch of lawyers and because it’s what all the other corporations do. It sounds “professional”; but also boring and impersonal.

Rejection therapy

This was a new word for me, but I recognized that some exercises I’d done in the past were intended to provide rejection therapy. The idea is that you should try to get people to say “no” to you. If you can’t get someone to tell you “no” today, then you have failed. This is a really good ways to test the boundaries, and discover if the guard rails are actually where you think they are.


Brainless escapes

Derek talks about not falling into the trap of using your business to escape the work of actually moving the ball forward. He calls this a brainless escape that is used to avoid the difficult work of making music; but it could be any difficult activity. My friend once gave me a one-liner that really drives this point home:

Activity is not the same thing as progress

Though updating your website and doing market research are important to your business, they can become a way to make yourself feel like you’re doing stuff without actually making progress. This is a massive problem in corporate America.


There is some time spent discussing how people approach bad news and bosses, and I think the lesson can be boiled down to the following:

No bitching

This was the number 1 rule at my favorite meetup during college. It was a bunch of programmers and computer system administrators who liked talking about how broken everything was, and this discussion was allowed so long as it did not devolve into “bitching”.

Breaking up goals

I have a friend who invented this thing called the “Reverse Morden Chart” after the character from Babylon 5. The idea is to ask “what do you want?”, and create a circle with that goal. Then ask “what do I need to get there”, and you write those things down and connect them to your original circle. You follow this path until you have as much detail as you want - it will likely be very messy. Then you clean it up, and now you have a path to follow.


This book makes the (compelling) argument that you should assume that no one is going to help you. This will make you much more successful. It reminded me of a quote from Sun Tzu:

Throw your soldiers into positions whence there is no escape, and they will prefer death to flight. If they will face death, there is nothing they may not achieve. Officers and men alike will put forth their uttermost strength.

The same is true for yourself. I’ve heard from several investors that commitment makes a huge difference in the success of entrepreneurs. If you have a backup plan, the odds of making the startup successful are much lower. This similarly aligns with one of my favorite mantras:

Do the hardest thing first

Which I learned from Chris Waters at Aha!

If you made it to the end of this blog post, you can certainly make it through the book. It is well worth a read.