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You don't have to be local (sivers.org)
235 points by joeyespo on Dec 2, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 51 comments

The words "pick your brain" are virtually never good ones to lead with, by the way, because they turn off many people who have useful things to say, in addition to dsivers. (Close second: "Can you mentor me?") They suggest the interpersonal equivalent of the planning meeting from heck, with no agenda, no goals, and no way to safely declare failure and thereby avoid the next meeting. If you want a specific thing, asking for it is better. If you do not know what you want, a) strongly consider whether that problem will be alleviated with another person using cycles on it or not and/or b) figure out what you want, and how helping you get it helps them, prior to asking for anything.

Yours is an interesting reply in context, because his reaction is not one of dismissal, but of exhaustion: he didn't get anything out of the meetings to pick his brain. The person asking very well may have.

I'm guilty of the 'let me pick your brain.' And your advice, which is directed to me, is spot on - and I'll take it seriously. But the true wisdom lies in the depths of it: treat everyone like their human. Don't exhaust a man just because he's successful.

Interesting viewpoint on "pick your brain". As a 40-something business owner I am always happy when someone less experienced at business wants to pick my brain. I have told many people that if they buy me a beer they can ask business questions all night. I have a few like minded (and aged) friends who I meet with every thursday night at a local pub. We always welcome people to meet with us - the only condition is that they have to be running a small business or trying to start one.

So for me personally I enjoy having my brain picked or mentoring someone. Of course, dsivers seemed to go a little overboard with 400 meetings in two years which would be 4 per week roughly. Compare that to the once per month I do it for perspective. To each their own of course.

(side note: there's a lot of lorem ipsum text on your website) (I was trying to find your location to get in on a mentoring beer session :-)

you can email me: gregpilling@gmail.com

our website was hacked, and while it gets 200 visits a day (hardly anything), keeping up with orders has been more important than fixing lorem ipsum on the new site.

I prefer to be global with peers and local with customers.

In person, I rarely meet like minded souls with whom I can have intimate technical discussions, but on-line it's easy (thank you Hacker News friends).

But with customers, I've never found a good substitute for being there with them. I want to see everything they're doing, listen to them bitch, and feel their pain. I want to suffer with them during the day and celebrate with them over beers at night. You just can't do that the same way on-line.

I've found in the past, for on-premise consulting, that I'm being paid to consult/develop, but being used as a psychiatric sounding board. I don't give advice I'm not qualified for, but being there under the guise of development and just listening seems to be a worthy use of my time (and their money) for some clients.

I can get more work done remote, but there's a greater personal connection locally. It's interesting what a consulting gig can turn into.

P.S. to my Hacker News peers : This is a one reason why I decided not to live in the SF/Bay area. So many people so like me that I felt pulled into all the in-person kind of stuff. I feel more productive & more balanced when living in a more remote place.

It definitely is more relaxing in a remote place, and that sometimes leads to less stress and anxiety. But I think in a remote place you need a lot of self-discipline or intrinsic motivation to keep focus and create some amazing things. In a high-density area (ie, Bay Area) there's a lot more distractions, but because of the high energy sometimes it can help with motivation (ie, peer influence) to keep focus. In a high-density area, I find it helpful to take regular getaways out of town.

I find this conflicting ... Get away so that you're not surrounded by people the same as you. Then, once there, you don't get to know any of these different people. At least not deeply enough to call friends. Maybe this is good work productivity advice, but I think this is bad life advice.

He prefers to interact with many people at a distance(email, blog posts, phone calls, occasional visits etc.) rather than many people face to face (lunch meetings, networking events etc.)

It is just a matter of personal preference, being very local might be the right thing for other people.

i left the bay area for the same reason

Curious, how does Portland compare from that standpoint?

Similar, but less intensely so. Great city. Love it.

I can't imagine living in a place for three years and not making any friends.

For me, regular in-person contact with friends is essential to feeling motivated and connected with the world. They don't have to be close friends, and they don't need to share my career or understand the work I do as a web developer. Most of the programmer friends I would sling code with on a weekend project are global — scattered across the world. Whereas, many of the friends I hang out with the most locally use feature phones, have old or no computers, and think Twitter is pointless.

But that doesn't matter because what I need them for is to sit down and have a good conversation. Or play a game of table tennis. Or ride our bikes out to the suburbs and back. If I don't get these kinds of outlets, a week spent sitting down and coding leaves me feeling strangely unphysical, unhinged from the world around me.

I've grappled with the local/global issue because my life does feel like a duality, where local (mostly offline) and global (online) are separate. I'm not sure how to resolve that (maybe living somewhere with more early adopters of tech would help). But Derek's solution is an extreme one. You don't have to be exclusively local or global.

One thing that makes a BIG difference is how much you travel. In my case, I've spent less than half of my weekends at home during the last year. For me, having local friends isn't super important because one way or another, I'll end up seeing my close friends several times. Plus, I have yet to live in the same city for more than a year since college.

If Derek's travel situation is similar, I can see why he wouldn't care too much about having local friends.

Edit: this seems to be the case. From one of his comments below: "Home was the place that I would just work. I was going to so many conferences and such, that all my social time was out of town."

I don't know the author, but my initial take is: loner, work-a-holic, egotist. None of that is meant as an insult. To "socialize" in a local sense doesn't need to mean you meet "with over 400 people, one-on-one, went to every conference and get-together, and said yes to every request". It means making friends: the kind that build decks together (with free beer); go bowling, watch the big game together at the pub instead of at home, go for a hike with the kids, meet up at the coffee shop every Thursday morning, and simply help and grow together. Its not work. Its natural. Fun. Community. The author is missing out.

I saw the link to friends in the article. I think that page is a good idea. But I also read that in the 3 yrs in Woodstock - he "never met anyone". In the 3 yrs in Portland - "some dear and deep friends (made) worldwide, but none in Portland". I'm certain there were great folks in both places that could have been great friends that changed the authors life for the better. Unfortunately, these folks were local and probably provided little support for either cd baby or host baby.

Home was the place that I would just work. I was going to so many conferences and such, that all my social time was out of town.

No disrespect intended, Derek. I got a different message from your post - one that glorifies isolation to intimacy because intimacy is hard(er). Balance is a passionate mantra for me. Peace.

or he's not, and this is a happy balance for him.

not everything is what you see on tv

Let's eliminate any social interactions to pursue maximum effectiveness, then we can finally focus on the things that matter - like programming! Beep, boop.

I think you're missing the article point. If some social interactions bring you nothing, then you should remove them from your life !

Quoting Nassim Taleb : "If someone is a drag on me, I cut them out. If someone lifts me up, I bring them closer. Nobody is sacred here. When the plane is going down, put the oxygen mask on your face first. Family, friends, people I love – I always try to be there for them and help. But I don’t get close to anyone bringing me down. This rule can’t be broken. Energy leaks out of you if someone is draining you. And I never owe anyone an explanation. Explaining is draining."


"If someone is a drag on me, I cut them out. If someone lifts me up, I bring them closer. "

That is incredibly selfish. Sometimes the person doing the lifting is the one being "brought down", so you're essentially depending on the fact that people are less selfish than you for this to work. Like anything taken to the extreme, this extreme individualism can only be harmful.

It doesn't depend on altruism, if everyone does it it just results in assortative mixing and you wind up hanging out with people who can stand you, if any.

It also avoids the common human-behavior anti-pattern where two people remain in a mutually self destructive relationship because each is under the delusion that the other can't live without them.

No, you are simply associating with people who compliment your own interests (and presumably vice-versa). Not everyone can be friends with everyone. Trying to make relationship "work" when the individuals are fundamentally incompatible is the source of much unhappiness.

I think the problem is that we're all interpreting this differently... I'm not saying you should force relationships at all. I'm saying cutting someone off just because they're going through a rough patch is no way to treat a human. You can afford to slow down your life a bit to help out a loved one.

I don't think the quote is advocating cutting out people who are going through a negative time, just those who are negative to YOU.

There's a difference between supporting someone through their difficulty and someone who is not supporting you, whether that means (consciously or unconsciously) belittling, undermining, or dismissing you or your ideas, or just not meshing well or productively with you.

This assumes a zero sum "lifting up" equation. People can lift each other up and be mutually beneficial.

This isn't exactly a new idea. http://bible.cc/proverbs/27-17.htm

I don't believe this is what Sivers is talking about.

He is talking about the Noble price effect: What happens when people that earn a Nobel price that makes impossible for them to continue working in the field that made them to earn the price, they get invited to so many parties and given so many distinctions and honors and everybody wants to be with you, learn from you or be your friend.

You can help a lot of people in an individual basis this way, locally whenever you go. Those Nobel prices could make millions of people to be interested in science.

Most people can't understand how much of a problem this could be.

Ha! Good call. Yes, you're right.

I have a natural tendency to prefer to be remote, anyway. But yeah my current situation, amplified by being in a very central social city like Singapore, really amplified it.

Thanks for bringing this up.

Yet, not matter how 'cool' remote working seems, the majority of companies (YC ones included/especially) won't seem to entertain anyone that isn't local.

The number of companies that I find who are willing to allow remote work are the exception, not the norm. The number who will accept remote people on the business side of things are even lower.

The number of companies that I find who are willing to allow remote work are the exception, not the norm. The number who will accept remote people on the business side of things are even lower.

One reason is that there is quite a lot of evidence that, all other things being equal, it's considerably less efficient than co-located teams - see http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4800412 for some references.

Don't know if Derek has children. They sure make you intensely local. While raising a family, if you have a company/product that is aimed globally as well, then you don't have much of a choice in focussing globally if you are to succeed. The choice is not necessarily so stark for others as it is for Derek. I do understand his personal preference and that's perfectly fine.

Children could be local while you would still stay global.

Children could be quite global too - Internet and Internet games in particular are appealing for children too.

Nice article.

Coincidental timing for me. I'm Singapore for a few weeks, and even though I've spent months here in the past and have a long-term visa, I have almost no local friends here. I feel like I should feel guilty about it. But I don't feel guilty about it, except in an abstract way.

I spend most of my time coding and working on music. And eating Thai food.

Curious about this. You have no local friends there and spend most of your time coding or making music. Why the heck would you do this in Singapore rather than its various 3-5x cheaper neighboring countries?.. money no object?

I've lived almost all my life in Singapore and don't feel incredibly connected locally anyway. Most of my friends have no particular interest in tech/coding. A few are interested in entrepreneurship, though.

Shoutout to anyone else here. HN meetup sometime?

Hit up with those in HackerSpaceSG maybe?

> And eating Thai food.

Get acquainted with Malaysian/Singaporean while you're there too.

Also, the dum byriani (sp?) and various forms of masala in little India are freaking amazing.

Don't worry, I'm pretty local as far as eating is concerned.

There are many great insights, but I wonder how appliable they are in the real life.

I mean, I especially loved the answer based on the idea of "not favoring anyone", when the author was asked about what he did for the local market.

But this requires some "enlightenment" - as the author said, he lived in many places, so he can now relate to human being as equals - wherever they come from or live.

It seems to me it is just wishful thinking to believe most people - or just a significant enough mass - will be able to think like this.

Most people are lost in their own thoughts and community. They just can't think global, and certainly don't want to.

They just care about the ones they know - and cronyism is just an artifact. It's the same story again an again - dozens of people dying is the news, but having a deep cut in your little finger is a tragedy.

I feel like I think globally. I didn't get there by living in many places, or "pursuing enlightenment" in any other way; I just lived in the middle of nowhere (not particularly by choice). The internet was my local community. I feel like there are a lot more "global-thinking" people like me (who have no locale), than people who got to be that way like Mr. Sivers did (who have too many).

It made me reflect on how different people are. If someone like Mr. Sivers has found a way for himself to be happy and productive, more power to him. CD Baby alone has done a huge amount for others.

I certainly know people who seem very local - or very global. But I think that it's a false dichotomy to think that there's only those two groups.

For example I'm pretty mixed. I have a lot of local connections and a lot of global ones. I personally feel energised and enthusiastic about both at different times. There have been times when I've been more "local". There have been times when I've been more "global".

In fact I generally get worried when I see statements like this:

One will feel more natural to you. Like your tendency to be an introvert vs extrovert, or conservative vs liberal, these base world-views will shape your preferences for being local-focused or global-focused.

Because - well - they're not true. Some people change. In the long term and the short term. I know folk who've gone left-to-right politically over the years (and vice versa). The introvert/extrovert divide is notoriously context dependent for many people. From my own experience I've been "local" and some points in my live, "global" in others and now very happy getting energy from both.

Not trying to say that any of these groups are better or worse than any other - but there's more than the two extremes. Not everybody stays the same. There isn't a problem with that.

Do what the OP did and try different options. If you don't like it or it doesn't work for you - stop and do something else. But don't just say "I'm local" and set your life course from there on. Things might change. Keep you're eye out for that.

Oh, just as I was moving to Singapore (where Derek now lives).

But Derek has been incredible helpful more than once in my life already. He is an example to follow.

This kinda hit home for me. I live in the city I grew up in yet hardly have any friends here. I work remotely with people around the world and my best friends are thousands of miles away and we meet up any various places around the world.

Definitely feeling the need to strike a balance.

Great article. After having lived most of my life in urban areas, I married a great woman who has a very rural job and we live in an incredibly small town. I'm an introvert and solo entrepreneur, but had found that I thrived via in-person collaboration at a co-working space or via meetups.

What I've been struck by is the difficulty in shifting. Maybe I'm not looking in the right places online, but I've found it difficult to make new friends on the internet, or get the same sense of camaraderie as in-person contact.

Anyone have any advice on how to break the ice and make "internet friends" ?

My mix is that I sell global, but buy local when possible, care for local friendships, talk to neighbors, and I am a member of several clubs. But thats perhaps a common Hanseatic culture.

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