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Anything You Want by Derek Sivers - Book Summary

Haikal Kushahrin
Haikal Kushahrin
9 min read
Anything You Want by Derek Sivers - Book Summary

In this book, Derek Sivers deconstructs his experience and lessons he learnt from running CD Baby until he sold it for $22 million. While I’m not an entrepreneur, I found it to be full of life advice that wasn’t so obvious to me. If you’re a budding entrepreneur or just someone who likes to read good advice, read the book! It’s full of insights that provoked my usual way of thinking. You can find more books written by Derek Sivers here.

Take-Home Message

When you have a business, you can do anything you want with it. You don’t have to think about money and investors, all you need is to serve your customers. The real point of doing something is to be happy, so do what makes you happy. Forget about the complicated side of business and focus on what you want.

My Highlights

  • Most people don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. They imitate others, go with the flow, and follow paths without making their own. They spend decades in pursuit of something that someone convinced them they should want, without realizing that it won’t make them happy.
  • Business is not about money. It’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself.
  • Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself.
  • When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.
  • Never do anything just for the money.
  • Don’t pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help.
  • Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working.
  • Your business plan is moot. You don’t know what people really want until you start doing it.
  • Starting with no money is an advantage. You don’t need money to start helping people.
  • You can’t please everyone, so proudly exclude people.
  • Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business.
  • The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy.
  • So, I thought that by taking an unrealistically utopian approach, I could keep the business from growing too much. Instead of trying to make it big, I was going to make it small. It was the opposite of ambition, so I had to think in a way that was the opposite of ambitious.
  • When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your utopia.
  • And that’s it! Six years and $10 million later, those same two numbers were the sole source of income for the company: a $35 setup fee per album and a $4 cut per CD sold.
  • A business plan should never take more than a few hours of work—hopefully no more than a few minutes. The best plans start simple. A quick glance and common sense should tell you if the numbers will work. The rest are details.
  • When you’re onto something great, it won’t feel like revolution. It’ll feel like uncommon sense.
  • We’ve all heard about the importance of persistence. But I had misunderstood. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.
  • Present each new idea or improvement to the world. If multiple people are saying, “Wow! Yes! I need this! I’d be happy to pay you to do this!” then you should probably do it. But if the response is anything less, don’t pursue it.
  • If you’re not saying, “Hell yeah!” about something, say no.
  • When you say no to most things, you leave room in your life to throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say, “Hell yeah!”
  • Anytime you think you know what your new business will be doing, remember this quote from serial entrepreneur Steve Blank: “No business plan survives first contact with customers.”
  • Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers. Make every decision—even decisions about whether to expand the business, raise money, or promote someone—according to what’s best for your customers. If you’re ever unsure what to prioritize, just ask your customers the open-ended question, “How can I best help you now?” Then focus on satisfying those requests.
  • If you want to be useful, you can always start now, with only 1 percent of what you have in your grand vision. It’ll be a humble prototype version of your grand vision, but you’ll be in the game. You’ll be ahead of the rest, because you actually started, while others are waiting for the finish line to magically appear at the starting line.
  • Starting small puts 100 percent of your energy into actually solving real problems for real people.
  • To me, ideas are worth nothing unless they are executed. They are just a multiplier. Execution is worth millions.
  • To make a business, you need to multiply the two components. The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $200,000,000.
  • As your business grows, don’t let the leeches sucker you into all that stuff they pretend you need. They’ll play on your fears, saying that you need this stuff to protect yourself against lawsuits. They’ll scare you with horrible worst-case scenarios. But those are just sales tactics. You don’t need any of it.
  • When you build your business on serving thousands of customers, not dozens, you don’t have to worry about any one customer leaving or making special demands. If most of your customers love what you do, but one doesn’t, you can just say good-bye and wish him the best, with no hard feelings.
  • Have the confidence to know that when your target 1 percent hears you excluding the other 99 percent, the people in that 1 percent will come to you because you’ve shown how much you value them.
  • In a perfect world, would your website be covered with advertising? When you’ve asked your customers what would improve your service, has anyone said, “Please fill your website with more advertising”? Nope. So don’t do it.
  • You can’t pretend there’s only one way to do it. Your first idea is just one of many options. No business goes as planned, so make ten radically different plans.
  • So please don’t think you need a huge vision. Just stay focused on helping people today.
  • Never forget why you’re really doing what you’re doing. Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?
  • How do you grade yourself? It’s important to know in advance, to make sure you’re staying focused on what’s honestly important to you, instead of doing what others think you should.
  • A business is started to solve a problem. But if the problem were truly solved, that business would no longer be needed! So the business accidentally or unconsciously keeps the problem around so that they can keep solving it for a fee.
  • That’s the Tao of business: Care about your customers more than about yourself, and you’ll do well.
  • If you set up your business like you don’t need the money, people are happier to pay you.
  • It’s another Tao of business: Set up your business like you don’t need the money, and it’ll likely come your way.
  • When one customer wrongs you, remember the hundred thousand who did not. You’re lucky to own your own business. Life is good. You can’t prevent bad things from happening. Learn to shrug. Resist the urge to punish everyone for one person’s mistake.
  • So when we yell at a website or a company, using our computer or our phone, we forget that it’s not an appliance but a person that’s affected.
  • It’s dehumanizing to have thousands of people passing through our computer screens, so we do things we’d never do if those people were sitting next to us. It’s too overwhelming to remember that at the end of every computer is a real person, a lot like you, whose birthday was last week, who has three best friends but nobody to spoon at night, and who is personally affected by what you say. Even if you remember it right now, will you remember it next time you’re overwhelmed, or perhaps never forget it again?
  • E-mail blasts are the best training for being clear.
  • When you’re thinking of how to make your business bigger, it’s tempting to try to think all the big thoughts and come up with world-changing massive-action plans. But please know that it’s often the tiny details that really thrill people enough to make them tell all their friends about you.
  • Even if you want to be big someday, remember that you never need to act like a big boring company. Over ten years, it seemed like every time someone raved about how much he loved CD Baby, it was because of one of these little fun human touches.
  • My hiring policy was ridiculous. Because I was “too busy to bother,” I’d just ask my current employees if they had any friends who needed work. Someone always did, so I’d say, “Tell them to start tomorrow morning. Ten dollars an hour. Show them what to do.” And that was that.
  • Don’t try to impress an invisible jury of MBA professors. It’s OK to be casual.
  • There’s a benefit to being naive about the norms of the world—deciding from scratch what seems like the right thing to do, instead of just doing what others do.
  • Never be the typical tragic small business that gets frazzled and freaked out when business is doing well. It sends a repulsive “I can’t handle this!” message to everyone. Instead, if your internal processes are always designed to handle twice your existing load, it sends an attractive “come on in, we’ve got plenty of room” message.
  • Point is: It’s not that I wanted to get it done and have good vocals. It’s that I wanted to be a great singer.
  • Being, not having: When you want to learn how to do something yourself, most people won’t understand. They’ll assume the only reason we do anything is to get it done, and doing it yourself is not the most efficient way. But that’s forgetting about the joy of learning and doing. Yes, it may take longer. Yes, it may be inefficient. Yes, it may even cost you millions of dollars in lost opportunities because your business is growing slower because you’re insisting on doing something yourself. But the whole point of doing anything is because it makes you happy! That’s it!
  • In the end, it’s about what you want to be, not what you want to have. To have something (a finished recording, a business, or millions of dollars) is the means, not the end. To be something (a good singer, a skilled entrepreneur, or just plain happy) is the real point.
  • But I never again promised a customer that I could do something that was beyond my full control.
  • There’s a big difference between being self-employed and being a business owner. Being self-employed feels like freedom until you realize that if you take time off, your business crumbles. To be a true business owner, make it so that you could leave for a year, and when you came back, your business would be doing better than when you left.
  • Never forget that you can make your role anything you want it to be. Anything you hate to do, someone else loves. So find that person and let her do it.
  • Happiness is the real reason you’re doing anything, right? Even if you say it’s for the money, the money is just a means to happiness, isn’t it? But what if it’s proven that after a certain point, money doesn’t create any happiness at all, but only headaches? You may be much happier as a $1 million business than a $1 billion business.
  • I learned a hard lesson in hindsight: Trust, but verify. Remember it when delegating. You have to do both.
  • I learned an important word: abdicate. To abdicate means to surrender or relinquish power or responsibility; this word is usually used when a king abdicates the throne or crown. Lesson learned too late: Delegate, but don’t abdicate.
  • But just to be open-minded, that weekend I opened my diary and started answering the question, “What if I sold?” I had done this a few times in previous years, but the answer had always been, “No way! There’s so much more I want to do! This is my baby. I can’t stop now!” This time it was different. I thought about how nice it’d be to not have eighty-five employees and all that responsibility. I wrote about how nice it’d be to get outside a bit and feel free of all that. I got excited about all the cool new projects I could do instead.
  • I’ve been asked a few times by other entrepreneurs, “How do you know when it’s time to sell?” My answer is, “You’ll know.” But I hope this detailed story describes how it will feel.
  • But most of all, I get the constant priceless reminder that I have enough.
  • Just pay close attention to what excites you and what drains you. Pay close attention to when you’re being the real you and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury.
  • Even if what you’re doing is slowing the growth of your business—if it makes you happy, that’s OK. It’s your choice to remain small. You’ll notice that as my company got bigger, my stories about it were less happy. That was my lesson learned. I’m happier with five employees than with eighty-five, and happiest working alone. Whatever you make, it’s your creation, so make it your personal dream come true.

Get the Book

Get it the physical book or Kindle here.

Library

Haikal Kushahrin

3rd-year medical student. buy me a coffee :) ko-fi.com/haikal


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