Derek Sivers, (Sivers 2009)


There’s no speed limit.


This is one of my Favorites.


I was seventeen and about to start my first year at Berklee College of Music.

I called a local recording studio with a random question about music typesetting.

When the studio owner heard I was going to Berklee, he said, “I graduated from Berklee and taught there, too. I’ll bet I can teach you two years of theory and arranging in only a few lessons. I suspect you can graduate in two years if you understand there’s no speed limit. Come by my studio at 9:00 tomorrow for your first lesson, if you’re interested. No charge.”

Graduate college in two years? Awesome! I liked his style. That was Kimo Williams (a).

I showed up at his studio at 8:40 the next morning, super excited, though I waited outside before ringing his bell at 8:59.

He opened the door. A tall man in a Hawaiian shirt and a big hat, with a square scar on his nose, a laid-back demeanor, and a huge smile, sizing me up, nodding.

(Recently I heard him tell the story from his perspective. He said, “My doorbell rang at 8:59 one morning and I had no idea why. I run across kids all the time who say they want to be a great musician. I tell them I can help, and tell them to show up at my studio at 9:00 if they’re serious. Nobody ever does. It’s how I weed out the really serious ones from the kids who just talk. But there was Derek, ready to go.”)


The pace was intense, and I loved it. Finally, someone was challenging me — keeping me in over my head — encouraging and expecting me to pull myself up quickly [Desirable difficulty]. I was learning so fast, it felt like the adrenaline rush you get while playing a video game. He tossed every fact at me and made me prove that I got it [Testing effect].

Kimo’s high expectations set a new pace for me. He taught me that “the standard pace is for chumps” — that the system is designed so anyone can keep up. If you’re more driven [Ben Kuhn | Be Impatient] than most people, you can do way more than anyone expects. And this principle applies to all of life, not just school.


Sivers, Derek. 2009. “There’s No Speed Limit.”