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Derek Sivers on Academic Success

Derek Sivers is the musician and entrepreneur behind CD Baby.

CD Baby is a little online record store that sells albums by independent musicians.

[In•de•pen•dent: (adj.) Not having sold one's life, career, and creative works over to a corporation.]

This year he resigned as an employee, but remains owner (a la Tim Ferriss). Derek returned to his alma mater to deliver a speech to incoming first-year students titled “6 things I wish I knew the day I started Berklee.” My favourite sound bites follow.

#1 : Focus. Disconnect. Do not be distracted.

This is your #1 most important challenge. If you master focus, you will be in control of your world. If you don’t, it will control you.

#2 : Do not accept their speed limit.

Luckily, when I was 17, a few months before starting Berklee, I met a man named Kimo Williams who used to teach at Berklee and convinced me that the standard pace is for chumps.

In just 3 intensive lessons, he taught me 3 semesters of Berklee harmony, so on opening day I started in Harmony 4.

#3 : Nobody will teach you anything. You have to teach yourself.

Do not expect the teachers to teach you.


They will present some information to you, but it is entirely 100% up to you to either make the most of it, or waste your time here, and go home and get a normal dumb job.

#4 : Learn from your heroes, not only theirs.

My favorite glitchy electronic music by Björk is nothing they’d ever teach in a Rock Arranging For Live Performance 1 class.

#5 : Don’t get stuck in the past.

Innovation is needed more than imitation.

#6 : When done, be valuable.

Money is nothing more than neutral proof that you’re adding value to people’s lives.

The full video (10 minutes) can be seen below. For me, it rivals many commencement speeches of recent memory.

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