Your music and people: A non-musician’s perspective

Your music and People by Derek Sivers

When the book was initially released, I wasn’t quite sure what value this book could provide to someone like myself because I’d no connection to music or playing music.

The book is designed to be referenced towards individual who are pursuing or are in contention of pursuing a career in music. Derek enlightens readers with his knowledge of business and psychology, which I found to be an advantage even to a non-musician like myself.

His mini-chapters as I like to call it breaks down the rhythm of the book and the insights are ever so different from the previous or next chapter.


  1. This is my summary and interpretation of the book, in the hopes that people are encouraged to reach out and read this book for themselves.
  2. My bias perception will be different to others.
  3. I’ll be highlighting some of the influential points from this book. Any errors or omissions are my own.

Restrictions are subjective

Restriction – the connotation associated with this word is seen as:

i. a means to limit something from happening.


ii. a parameter set in place to narrow down our choices in avoiding decision fatigue.

We are defaulted into thinking the basis of restriction limits us from accomplishing our goals. But, that’s where Derek suggested implementing restriction is a means of establishing a parameter that is used to assist us in limiting juggling between options.

Creative freedom can be achieved by setting restrictions. For instance, if an artist is to create a painting from a selection of paints, he’s confounded by the thought which primary colour to use. However, by placing restrictions in his path with a single colour let’s say, the colour blue is to be used as a primary colour. The artist can avoid decision fatigue and begin his process of creativity.

The ladder of success

Success is a process. The book expresses multiple ideas that I view as a recipe to climb the ladder of success.

  1. Giving gifts to those that are under-appreciated – the ability to make a small gesture has tremendous value, this brings about appreciation and gratitude one notices and will be remembered for the longest time.
  2. Being patient and persistent – being persistent in chasing a goal but having patience in the process to accomplishing that goal highlights value. The value can be seen as expanding your network, making mistakes and acquire a reflective understanding of what’s next after achieving that goal.
  3. Make your own success, before you ask for help – achieving success at your own merit highlights independence. It signifies you’re able to achieve your goal and build on your momentum. Initially, I found to disagree with this because asking for helping from someone who’s already achieved that goal is a means to accelerate the process. But, I realised that the dependence of someone’s help shields you from the enjoyable mistakes that are part of the process. 
  4. The importance of feedback is a core component for making improvements. Allowing others to provide their inputs can be viewed as a progressive growth – with any feedback you become aware of your strengths and weaknesses. And, there’s power in such practice, here’s what I recently experienced.
  5. Rejection at its core hurts. And why shouldn’t it? We raise ourself to this ‘imaginary hope of wanting something’ – this could be a promotion or an increase in salary increment. Constant exposure to rejection is a means to overcoming fear, a practice that doesn’t raise your false hope. I’ve been practicing this whenever I get a cup of coffee – asking the cashier for a 10% discount on my coffee, only to see his awkward face and a blunt response for a ‘NO’. The point being rejection allows us to create unusual situations where we are either asking difficult questions or having difficult conversations.
  6. Heed the advice of everyone around you, but only act on those that are spontaneous enough to make you want to pursue. Ignore advice that is masked with confusion, fear and manipulation. As Derek mentions ‘Nothing is worth losing your enthusiasm‘.

Why is it important not to wait for help?

Being creative, determined and working with an unwavering desire to learn something new is a direct result of asking for help, but not waiting for it. In taking responsibility for one’s learning, it makes us accountable.

We can approach this in two ways:

  1. Write down what we know
  2. Research what we don’t know

Let’s provide an example to demonstrate this – Learning to code

  1. What I know? – I want to become better at JavaScript – with a mediocre foundation. I know I have resources like DataCamp, codecademy or Udemy at my disposal to improve.
  2. What I don’t know? – how could I use what I’ve learnt as a means to monetise – can I create an app, a website or should I freelance with my new skill. What path would provide me with the exposure to new challenges?

A third point to highlight – where you can apply restrictions to pursue one single path. Because learning a new skill expands a world of opportunity – rather than placing our foot in each door. The focus on opening one door completely is a means to experience the depth of that skill.

Waiting for help is a means to ‘walking in blindly’. Assume no one is going to help you by focusing what’s in your control and not completely relying on outside circumstances. By working with what’s in your control – you’re able to highlight a ‘go-get’ attitude, like building the momentum of your flywheel. It enables you to work outside your comfort zone and acquire new skillset.

I love to know your thoughts on this – please leave a reply 🙂

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I am a writer and a graduate engineer working in Leicester, UK.

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