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Presented and produced by Seán Delaney.

This week on the podcast my guest is Derek Sivers, a musician who founded the CD company CD Baby before leaving it to write and practise philosophy. His website is well worth checking out. Among the topics we discuss on the podcast are:

  • We all have the ability to be smart or to be stupid and how some environments reward stupidity and others reward being smart
  • Thriving educationally in and out of school: being engaged and receiving direct feedback
  • The power of finding the intersection between students’ interests and a nudge from parents’ towards learning/growing experiences
  • Why being smart (critical thinking, challenge assumptions, look past the obvious, to question the world) is more impressive than being educated (you’ve done the assignments)
  • Naval Ravikant is an example of someone he thinks is smart.
  • Smart is something you do, not something you are
  • A list of books Derek Sivers has read and the notes he made on them.
  • A great teacher or educator interrupts expectations: teaching a mindset (questioning assumptions, interrupting expectations) rather than delivering information. Teaching students how to carry on or learn on their own, to be smart out in the world).
  • You don’t have to copy the teacher's example all the time; as long as you get the gist of an idea, you can get creative within it.
  • Impact of Kimo Williams on Derek.
  • Why the typical school curriculum goes way too slowly
  • Being in awe at the patience of public school teachers
  • Intrinsic interest in music following an initial foundation in music
  • Moving from being passive in the education system to taking control of his own education: from mediocrity to excelling. His love of learning came after school
  • The importance of having something to pursue, something you want, something you’re driven towards – whatever it is. By learning to be great at that one thing, you learn everything else (how to learn, improve, practise, mastery) as a side effect.
  • How well his education prepared him for being an entrepreneur
  • Why he things entrepreneurship cannot be taught successfully (it’s very holistic, about psychology, thinking about things from the customer’s, client’s, partner’s point of view), being out in the world staying at the forefront of people’s minds, bring flexible.
  • Seeing learning as a key to his success; loving having his brain tickled – learning new ways of looking at things
  • The need to have a focus for what you want in life. His current focus is on being a great writer, programmer and dad.
  • Recognising that sometimes we just stumble into things (e.g. circumstance or a recommendation from someone we admire) or deliberately spreading out in other directions.
  • Audio version of The Odyssey translated by Emily Wilson:(listened to after hearing a podcast between Tyler Cowen and Emily Wilson)
  • Avoiding distraction by finding work that is not so easy that it’s boring and not so difficult that it’s overwhelming as described in Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
  • Maintaining focus by hating having something unfinished
  • Learning for the sake of creating something
  • Pain and anger as sources of ideas.
  • Things he wants to create (build a house from scratch; a company that will host websites after you die); a forum on which to highlight the next generation of musicians (BMajor); build a 100-acre forest over 15 years; create an app to connect people who like talking on the phone; and Cloud Free a service to teach people technical independence
  • Finding something that is endlessly interesting (computer programming for him)
  • Learning from different media and perspectives: reading diverse books, listening, multi-media videos, courses that give assignments
  • Mastery School (with coaches) sivers.org/masch: Pick something to do and make it happen
  • The Flipped Classroom

He recommends the following books, article and pieces of music in the course of the interview:

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