How to live book summary

How To Live By Derek Sivers: Book Summary

27 conflicting answers and one weird conclusion

Rating: 10/10

Get It Now

What is This Book About?

If there is one book, I would recommend people to read, it would be this. It presents you with ideas that will contradict most of the things that you believe. Yet it will feel like the author is saying the right thing. It covers a lot of areas of life. Some of the chapters contradict the others even in the book itself. This book invites you to change your beliefs and think, act and live as a completely different person. 

There is 0% fluff in this book. Every sentence is thought-provoking and there’s so much to digest in this book.

How to Live: Book Summary

This is a collection of all the notes that I took from the book ‘How to Live’ by Derek Sivers structured in a summary format. It contains quotes as well as my own thoughts from the book. It also includes key lessons and important passages from the book.

Be Independent

  • Dependency brings misery. Be independent of everyone and everything. This is the only way to be deeply happy.
  • Don’t believe anything anyone says. Listen but conclude yourself. Take your own responsibility. Don’t blame anybody.
  • Don’t worry about being lonely.
  • Be minimalistic. Own as little as possible.
  • Want nothing and nothing will disappoint you. Want nothing and nothing is outside your control.
  • Make friends wherever you go, so that no one place has all of your friends.
  • Be willing to walk away from anything. Then only you will be free and independent


Most people lack commitment. No choice is great. Your dedication to action makes it so. 

  • Don’t change your mind every second day. Unlimited choice makes your life worse. It keeps you miserable.
  • Dive deep with one option. Be focused and committed. Let go of all the unnecessary obligations.
  • You are what you repeatedly do. Habits create a character. Commit to your habits and make their rituals. 
  • If it’s not important, never do it. If it’s important, do it every day.
  • It will be hard at first but the rest is easy. Decide once and let go of all the unnecessary obligations. Commitment will give you expertise and power, love, and happiness.
doing vs not doing

Fill Your Senses

  • Maximize your inputs. See it all. Hear it all. Taste it all. Do it all. Life is short and if you want to experience it all, you have to stop doing the same things twice.
  • Always be a stranger in a strange land. Every month do something new. A new hairstyle, a new dressing style.
  • Never think the same thought twice. Keep nothing in your mind.
  • Experience the pain, anger, sorrow, and every emotion. Don’t judge them. Just notice.

Do nothing

You don’t need to be doing something always. Sometimes all you have to do is nothing and it is often the hardest, to not react.

  • People who try too hard are the ones who fail in their mission. Be still and silent.
  • Say nothing unless it needs to be said. Stop reacting. Observe yourself. The more you do, the more information you gather.

The unintelligent jump to conclusions. The wise just observe.

Think Super-long Term

  • Serve your future. Do small things that will benefit your older self. 
  • Use time machine in your mind to predict the future self and your children’s world. And act now to influence that time.
  • When you are making a decision, ask yourself how will your future self feel about it when you’re old.
  • Delay gratification. Don’t spend, invest.
  • The survivors are the ones who plan ahead.
  • Be a great ancestor. Write your will now.

A few short-term decision can lead to centuries of destruction.

Interwine With The World

  • Meet people who have opposite cultures. Move across the world. It will not only make you smarter but also make you better at life.
  • Move to a different place without baggage and plan to live there. 
  • Ask questions until you understand why things are the way they are.
  • Once something feels like home, move somewhere new and repeat that process. Don’t have a permanent home and live like a nomad.

Make Memories

If you can’t remember something, it’s like it never happened. Time flies and one way to capture it is to make memories.

  • Do memorable things. Experience the unusual. Journal every day. Write down your activities, thoughts, and feelings for future references.
  • Capture everything, videos, photos. Turn your experiences into stories.
  • Remember only what you want to remember. Summarize the painful stories in under a minute.

Without memories, you have no sense of self. Making memories is the most important thing you can do with your life. The more memories you create, the longer and richer your life feels.

Master Something

Mastery is the ultimate goal of life. The rich can’t buy it. The impatient can’t rush it. The privileged can’t inherit it. Nobody can steal it. You can only earn it through hard work.

  • Striving for something makes you happy. Pursuit is the opposite of depression. Happy people are the ones who have spent their whole life pursuing something.
  • Mastery will take time. Only bad things happen quickly.

People don’t fail by choosing the wrong path- they fail by not choosing.

  • Passion only starts after you start getting good at something.
  • Goals don’t improve your future. They only improve your present action. A good goal is one that makes you take action immediately.
  • A goal will show you what’s right and wrong. What takes you towards your goal is the right thing and what takes you away is bad.
  • You need rituals and practice them with the highest priority and unbreakable commitments. Protect this time against the demands of the world.
  • Do your work and nothing else.
  • Spend time with people where obsession is normal and ambition is rewarded. If you do what everyone else is doing, you will get the same exact results.
  • Don’t be normal. Society’s guidelines are for the lost, not for you.
  • You don’t need to make small talk. You don’t need to sleep at normal hours. You don’t need to marry. Anyone who has rised above the level of mediocrity doesn’t have a well-balanced life. They are only focused on that one thing.
  • Get away from the drama. It’s a distraction.

Let Randomness Rule

Life is more random than you think. There are no patterns no matter what we think.

  • Randomize your life. Use an app, dice, or deck to make all of your life’s decisions. Let the random generator decide what you do, what you eat, where you go, and who you meet.
  • Life is determined by randomness and odds, not causes.
  • Making your life random will help you learn acceptance. You can’t take the blame for failures. You can’t take credit for success. You can’t regret what you didn’t cause.

Pursue Pain

Life is full of pain and struggles. If avoid suffering, you avoid improvement. If you avoid embarrassment, you avoid success. If you avoid risk, you avoid reward.

  • The moments of struggle are the ones that describe a hero.
  • The goal of life is not comfort. It will only make you more miserable. Ignore your instincts and always push into discomfort.
  • Put yourself in stressful situations. Try to get rejected. Put yourself in embarrassing situations. Eventually, nothing will stress you and nothing will ever make you feel rejected.
  • Life is pain. The sooner you suffer, the less it will cost. Take painful consequences.
  • Don’t just sit inside at the glaring screens. You aren’t meant to be idle. You are meant to live, climb, push, and grow.
  • Problems are everywhere. Your goal should be to find good problems and solve them.

Do Whatever You Want Now

  • The past is memory. The future is imagination. The only thing that exists in the present. 
  • Don’t put something for later. To think you will have more time in the future than you have right now is the stupidest thing.
  • If you want to do something, do it now.

Be a Famous Pioneer

Show others that they can also do whatever they want. Be a pioneer. One pioneer can do more than a million humans who live a normal life.

  • Go to new extremes. Try new ideas. Visit new cultures. Show others to live an exciting life.
  • Record everything and show it to the world.
  • Always keep pushing to find how far you can go. Escape anonymously into your new life.

Chase The Future

You will live in the future. So stay on the cutting edge of things so new that they barely exist. 

  • Learn the basis of every new field so that you can understand new innovations faster than anyone else.
  • Look for what new is coming next. Avoid any places or people that live in the past. Anything that resists change has no vision.
  • Avoid religion because it is not meant to be questioned. Oppose convention. Chase the future.

Value Only What Has to Be Endured

  • Don’t go after every shiny thing that comes out. Let the test of time filter. Value only what has endured.
  • The truly important things are quiet. Modern life is shallow and distracting.
  • Be the last to adopt a technology, after it’s cheaper, better, and no longer changing.
  • Find happiness and perspective in nature. You don’t need anything that the modern world is pushing.


Learning is understanding. You get healthy by learning healthy habits, wealthy by learning valuable skills.

  • The biggest obstacle to learning is assuming you already know.
  • Ask questions. Don’t believe everything you hear, everything you read, everything you see. Doubt everything.

If you’re not embarrassed by what you thought last year, you need to learn more and learn at a faster pace.

  • Find something exciting to learn every single day.
  • Do whatever scares you until it no longer scares you.
  • Talk with people you usually avoid.
  • Remember what you are learning. Know why you’re learning. Take notes. have fun. Internalize what you have learned.
  • Communicate what you have learned to make sure you understand. Don’t just quote. Tell it in your own words without referencing.
  • Practice writing. Practice public speaking. Practice learning and teaching.
  • Be wise. You will lose your muscles as you age, but you won’t lose wisdom.

Follow The Great Book

Book is wiser than you. Find ancient books. Books that have endured the test of time. Because nothing is new. Books written thousands of years ago sound like they could have been written today.

  • Change yourself and let others know that you have changed. Bring your book everywhere with you.
  • Don’t follow your heart or your mind. Don’t follow your emotions. It has been hacked. Following it is not freedom. Being free from emotions is freedom.
  • Follow the rules of the book. Make them unbreakable. It’s efficient. You don’t have to stop and re-think every situation.
  • Rules save you from deciding.
  • Discipline is what turns your intentions into action. Discipline means now.
  • Choose the path of discipline not the path of regret.
  • Practice self-control. It’s the right thing to do. If you don’t the modern hackers of your brain will pull you their way.
  • Resist temptations. Contribute and be the best you can.

Laugh At Life

Humor means using your mind beyond necessity, beyond reality, for both noticing and imagining.

  • To laugh at something is to be superior to it. Humor is the internal control.
  • If you take life seriously, you are at a disadvantage. There’s always a playful way to do whatever you do.
  • Besides, it makes you more appealing. Everybody wants to be with someone who’s having more fun.

Prepare For The Worst

  • Train your mind to be ready for whatever may come. Don’t worry. Just anticipate and prepare.
  • Disasters happen without a warning and when it’s most unexpected. But if you expect it, you take away its power.
  • Anticipating the worst will help you realize that the worst is not that bad.
  • Never take anything for granted. Never forget how bad things can be.
  • Practice being uncomfortable even in small ways. Befriend discomfort so that you’ll never fear it. 
  • Don’t try to control anything. It will make you disappointed and resentful.
  • Don’t change the world. Change your reactions. Detach from the outcome and be OK no matter what happens
  • Don’t seek pleasure. Seek happiness. Seek fulfillment. It is more fun than fun.
  • Appreciate everything you do and everyone you met as if it might be the last time you are doing it.

Live For Others

Focusing on oneself is short-sighted. It ignores the benefits of co-operation. A better strategy is to be helpful and generous. You help people around you and they will also care about your well-being.

Even if you are an introvert, being a valuable member of a group is smarter. It’s the best way to keep ourselves as well as others safe.

  • People will help the helpful. Nobody cares about the unhelpful.
  • You are lifted by the people around you.
  • Helping others is a better path to happiness than helping only yourself.
  • Giving makes you happier than receiving.
  • Make friends. You don’t find them. Be warm, open, and fully present with everyone you encounter. Appreciate the differences.

Get Rich

People think money is evil. Not it’s not. Money is neutral. Money is what you do with it. It is a sign of freedom and safety, power.

why make money
  • If you are making money, it means that you are adding value to the life of people. Aiming to be rich means that you are aiming to be useful to society.
  • You are doing more for others. You are contributing.
  • Money doesn’t care about your gender, race, education, nationality, or anything else. Making money is a skill as much as sketching is. The more you learn and practice, the better you will be at making money.
  • The world is full of money. You can capture any amount.
  • People like to pay for the value someone provides. The more you value yourself, the more others will pay.
  • If you want to be rich, you have to be committed. You have to think bigger. You have to be bold. You have to take risks. You have to jump on opportunities before you are ready.
  • Only having ideas will not make you rich. You have to execute. You have to bring a tangible outcome out of your idea.
  • Don’t fight for scraps. No one will pay you for doing something that anyone can do. Separate yourself from the crowd. Find a niche and own it.
  • Create something. As soon as you have extra money, invest it into something. Investing is easy until you try to beat the market.
  • Be humble, not arrogant. Never think for a second that you know the future.
  • Don’t act rich. Be frugal. Stay frugal. The less you have the more you are in control. Say no to more stuff. Say yes to more choices.
  • Money makes problems go away but amplifies personality traits. It won’t change you but amplify who you are.

Reinvent Yourself Regularly

Doing what you have always done is bad for your brain. If you don’t change you will age faster and get stuck. Learn to reinvent yourself.

  • Change what you do every couple of years. Change the place where you live. Move somewhere new. Change the way you eat. Change the way you look. Chang your preferences. Change your responses. 
  • Try the opposite of what you used to do.
  • At every moment in life, choose the thing that you haven’t tried. You should change. Never stay the same for too long.


  • Love doesn’t happen to you. It’s something you do. It is a combination of attention, appreciation, and empathy.
  • Communicate. Connect. Share. Learn. This is what love is about.
  • Don’t exaggerate to be more entertaining. When with others, be the same person you would be when you are alone. Be direct. Be honest.
  • Life is sad without love. The happiest life is filled with love. Choose to love as much as you can.
love doesnt happen


Most ideas are found in the graveyard. Most people die without doing anything. Get every idea out of your head and into reality.

  • Stop consuming 24/7. Start creating something.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration. It will never make the first move.
  • It’s better to create something worse than creating nothing at all. You can improve something bad but you can’t improve anything.
  • Create as much as you can. Be creative. The more creative you be, the more creative you will be. Only creating will make you creative.
  • Express yourself. Discover yourself. Find questions. Not answers.
  • Imitate your heroes. Imitating is not copying. 
  • There are no new ideas. Every seemingly new idea is a combination of existing ideas. 
  • Originality just means hiding your sources. 
  • Separate creation from release or publishing.
  • Once your creation is good enough, let it go out. Wait sometime before releasing something. The comments won’t matter much to you because they are about your past work.
  • Collect ideas in-crowd. Create in silence and solitude. Let your boredom create something beautiful.
  • When you are gone, let your work show who you were. Not what you took in. Only what you put out.

Don’t die

  • Life is not about being more right. Just be less wrong. You win by not losing. Reduce risks.
  • Life is long enough if you use it wisely. Don’t waste a single minute. 
  • Wasting time will bring death closer. Time is the only thing that can’t be replaced.
  • Death is the only thing that reminds us how little time we have. On the face of death, everything looks fickle.
  • Make death your biggest motivation. Always keep your eye on death. Avoid things that make your life short or bring death closer.

Make a million mistakes

  • You should make as many mistakes as possible. But never make the same mistake again and again. Capture the lessons and move on.
  • You don’t need to be perfect. It’s okay to fail. It’s okay to sing badly. It’s okay to draw bad.
  • Deliberate mistakes teach us a lot. They are inspiring. Trying to create great art is hard. But trying to create bad art is easy and more fun.
  • Jump into action without any hesitation. This will make you faster than everyone. Making mistakes will help you learn faster.
  • Try to be wrong. If you are not wrong, it means that the new information fits in with what you already know. You should be surprised to know new things.
  • Keep a log of your mistakes. Record what you have learned and review it. Otherwise, it’s a waste of life.
  • When you are prepared for endless failures, nothing can take you down. You have a different mindset. You won’t quit no matter how many times you fail.
  • Making a million mistakes will turn you into someone who can’t be knocked down.
  • Most people think they know everything. They have answers but no questions. They are never willing to be wrong. Here’s the truth, if you are never wrong, you will never change. If you never make a mistake, you will never learn anything new.

Make change

  • Change the world with all your learning and thinking. What have you done with your life if you have changed no one?
  • All progress comes from changing the conventional.
  • Start changing by righting what’s wrong. 
  • Don’t fix things. Destroy them and replace them with better ones.
  • People will be furious when you want to change. If you see people being mad at you, know that you are doing the right thing.

Balance everything

Every bad thing in life comes from extremes. So avoid it. People focus on wealth completely ignoring their health. They are focused on the present completely ignoring their future.

  • Nothing good should be taken to the extreme. You should balance everything for stability.
  • Make a schedule for everything. It prevents procrastination, distraction, and obsession. 
  • Act according to the goals of your highest self, not your mood.
  • Obey your schedule every hour of the day no matter how you feel. Schedule every hour of your day. Distraction will steal what’s not locked in.
  • By balancing everything in life, you postpone nothing.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.