To Derek Sivers, success means helping others

Yesterday (well, late last night) I wrote about the danger in equating one’s wealth with one’s value.

I set aside all metrics for a person’s value besides money, because it was convenient for my point. In fact, I believe wealth has very little to do with one’s value to society.

A similar question is, what makes a person successful?

Tim Ferriss’s two recent interviews with Derek Sivers are both excellent. One highlight from the second episode is Derek’s definition of success.

The more you think it through, the more you realize that you have to define success first by your inner game, not some outside measure of money or fame, right? Mastering yourself, your mind, and your actions.

But now if you only master yourself, and you don’t help anyone else, well then we’d call you happy, but no one would define you as successful. So the very definition of success must include how much you helped others.

The point is, if you want to be undeniably successful, you need to both master yourself, and help others.

This has the ring of sage truth to me.

Some other big takeaways from Tim’s two-part interview:

  • Derek may be the world’s most focused person. He claims to do one thing he is excited about at a time for hours, days, and weeks. Science suggests multitasking is terrible for productivity, and it sounds like Derek’s almost completely eliminated it in his own life. I’m sure his high output stems from that.
  • “To me, ‘busy’ implies that the person is out of control of their life.”
  • The “Hell yeah! or No” approach to life, which means only say yes to things you want to enthusiastically say “Hell yeah!” to. Derek explains in more detail here.
  • Derek is collecting lessons learned in the form of directives for a good life. It’s the core of what most of us need to read books for anyway, so why not distill things down for people to save time, and to share them with people who are too busy to read, anyway? The power of these is evident when you hear them. For instance:

How to be useful to others:

  1. Get famous. Do everything in public and for the public. The more people you reach, the more useful you are. The opposite is hiding, which is of no use to anyone.
  2. Get rich. Money is neutral proof that you’re adding value to people’s lives. So by getting rich, you’re being useful as a side effect. Once rich, spend the money in ways that are even more useful to others. Then, getting rich is double useful.
  3. Share strong opinions. Strong opinions are very useful to others. Those who are undecided or ambivalent can just adopt your stance. But those who disagree can solidify their stance by arguing against yours. So even if you invent an opinion for the sole sake of argument, boldly sharing strong opinion is very useful to others.
  4. Be expensive. People given a placebo pill were twice as likely to have their pain disappear when told that that pill was expensive. People who paid more for tickets were more likely to attend the performance. So people who spend more for a product or service value it more and get more use out of it. So be expensive.

I really enjoy that Derek’s directive #2 above directly contradicts what I wrote yesterday, which has indirectly proven his directive number #3!

Derek has a happy, wise, and yet not smug quality that I really like. Check out interview parts one and two.