Anything You Want Summary (Derek Sivers)

Sivers didn’t stay out wanting to be an entrepreneur.

He was a musician and simply starting by solving his own problem of selling his music, a pain shared by his peers.

He created CS Baby, which finally sold for $22 million.

Key takeaway

  • You don’t need a business plan
  • Start small, which is often better than the opposite
  • Care about your customers more than yourself
  • Run your business like you don’t need the money
  • Do it because it makes you happy! 

What’s your compass?

Don’t be on your deathbed having squandered your life. Know your personal philosophy and chase your dream. Don’t waste time on insignificant distractions. 

Create your utopia

When you create a little business, you’re in control. Make it amazing for yourself and it will naturally be an amazing experience for your customers. 

Simple business plan

Start simple: The best types of business plans only take 2 mins to 2 hours. Common sense should tell you if it’s got legs. The rest are details.

Forget revolution

Your idea shouldn’t feel revolutionary. If it does, you might forget the cardinal rule of giving your customers the best experience. When you’re onto something with potential, it shouldn’t be a revolution, but rather, uncommon sense.

Pivot when required

Persistence is misunderstood. Don’t continue to follow an approach that isn’t working. Success is derived from persistently improving and inventing. If people are providing great feedback and saying they’d pay you for the product or service, you should probably persist. Anything less and it’s probably not worth it.

Either “hell yes or no”

Consider every event invitation and project request against this criteria. If you’re not truly excited by it, simply say no. We’re all overworked and focusing on less is the antidote.

Be adaptable

Steve Blank, serial entrepreneur, says that “no business plan survives the first contact with customers”. Be prepared that your business might morph and won’t resemble your initial vision.

No funding

By not having money to waste, you don’t waste money. Lacking resources to hire a developer, Derek taught himself to code. Necessity is a great teacher. Every decision should be in the best interest of your customers.

Start now

While others are busy imagining their grand vision, you can start making progress, however small. Even 1% improvement puts you in the game.

Ideas are just half of the equation

Ideas are just a multiplier of execution. They mean nothing unless you start taking action. Multiply ideas and execution to make a great business.

Formalities play on fear

As your business grows, people try to sell you unnecessary services by playing on your fears e.g. protecting you from lawsuits. Ignore them and focus on your mission.

The strength of many

Building your business around many customers allows you to cater to the majority rather than pander to the few. If one customer isn’t a good fit, you can part ways amicably.

Proudly exclude people

Don’t try to be everything to everyone, or you’ll be nothing to no-one. When your target market knows that you represent them alone, they’ll experience even greater value.

No advertising

When you’ve ever asked for customer feedback, has anyone ever said, “Please fill your site with more advertising?” Exactly.

Many options

You can never predict the future of your business – make 10 radically different plans to meet with any potential scenario.

No grand plan or vision needed

Derek never had a grand vision for how his world or industry would look in 20 years, so don’t worry if you don’t.

Don’t forget your why

Never forget your why. Are you helping people, making them happy and are you profitable? That should be enough.

Judging yourself

Focus on what’s important. Grade yourself and performance by pre-considered metrics to avoid being led astray by what people think you should do.

Care about customers more than yourself

Rule number one. It’s all about solving their problem. But the well-meaning vision of solving the problem once and for all obviates the need for the business, so the problem has to remain and continue to be solved.

Act like you don’t need the money

We can sense people who are in it for the wrong reasons. Act from a place of trust, love and passion, This will trigger the law of reciprocity.

Don’t blanket blame

If you have one terrible customer, don’t blame the rest of your loyal customers for their behaviour. You can’t prevent these incidents, so simply shrug and move on.

Treat customers like people

In our technological wonderland, it’s easy to treat customers like the zeros and ones that Neo sees in the Matrix, abstract and without meaning. Remember these representations for the real people they are.

Seek clarity

Spend time making your message clear. Eliminate necessary fluff or feel the pain of being ignored and misunderstood.

The best email

It’s tempting to think that massive action plans catapult your business when it’s often the tiny details. Something as simple as a thoughtful email can excite your customers into marketing your message.

Little things make all the difference

Derek customised his ‘From’ email field to say “CD Baby loves Susan”. In return, customers loved CD Baby for brightening their day. Even if you have grand visions, you never need to act like a big boring corporation – it’s often about the fun little touches, the human elements.

Be casual

It’s hard to tell whether new employees are a good fit unless they have a trial, so Sivers would hire lightly and fire lightly.

Make your own way

It’s often better to be somewhat naive about the norms of the world. Rather than follow the crowd, decide for yourself the best way to proceed, and proceed.

Be prepared

Don’t be the type of small business that’s overwhelmed with its quick success. Design your current systems to handle twice their current load, sending a strong signal of attraction to new customers.

Being vs having

The whole point of doing anything is being happy, which largely involves the joy of learning and doing. While you may leave money on the table by not using certain tactics to grow faster, it’s ok to do things yourself and enjoy it.

The day Steve Jobs dissed Derek

Derek had previously promised his customers something which was outside of his control and was subsequently called out by Jobs in a keynote speech. Offer only what’s in your control.

Delegate or die

Many of us fall into the self-employment trap, tasting the illusion of freedom, but soon realising it’s contingent on our continued presence. To be a true business owner, we must create a well-oiled machine which doesn’t care if we’re there or not.

Make it anything you want

The real reason we do anything is happiness. Money is just a means to an end, and after a certain point, might just make you miserable. You may be happier with a $1 million business vs a $1 billion business.

Trust but verify

An essential lesson when delegating.

Don’t abdicate

Again, delegate, don’t abdicate. 

When to call it quits

After a time, Derek knew he was done with the business. He’s a man who lives simply and realised he’d accumulated enough. You too, will know.

Selling CD Baby

Prizing his freedom, Derek revels in the ability to own less and explore the world. Visit his website to check out more of his backstory.

Create your perfect existence

So too, you should know what excites and drains you and ignore the detractors. Rather than impressing an invisible jury, above all, do what makes you happy.

Anything You Want Summary 

For some great life and business wisdom, you can’t go wrong with the book.

Derek is a much-needed voice for simple living and focusing on the essentials of a good existence: getting curious, taking action and having fun.

His blog is a reflection of this: Highly recommended.

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