Book Summary: Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

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“Don’t be on your deathbed someday, having squandered your one chance at life, full of regret, because you pursued little distractions instead of big dreams. You need to know your personal philosophy of what makes you happy and what’s worth doing.” – Anything You Want

Anything You Want Summary

“Anything You Want” is a book by Derek Sivers, a musician, and entrepreneur best known for founding CD Baby, an online CD store he built from the ground up and eventually sold for over $22 million. The book is a collection of lessons Sivers learned from his experiences building and running CD Baby. It is intended to guide and inspire entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses.

“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.” – Anything You Want

One of the book’s central themes is finding your path and following your vision. Sivers argues that the most successful businesses are driven by a clear and unique purpose rather than a desire to make money or achieve some other external goal. He suggests that entrepreneurs should focus on creating value for their customers and solving problems they care about rather than trying to fit into a predetermined mold or chase the latest trends.

“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.” – Anything You Want

Another critical theme in the book is the importance of simplicity and focus. Sivers argues that many businesses try to do too much, which can lead to confusion and complexity. Instead, he suggests that entrepreneurs should keep things as simple as possible and focus on a few key goals rather than trying to do everything at once. This approach can help businesses to stay agile and responsive to change and avoid getting bogged down in unnecessary details.

“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 only do what makes you happy.” – Anything You Want

Sivers also emphasizes the importance of taking care of your customers and treating them well. He argues that businesses should be willing to go above and beyond to meet their customers’ needs and should be proactive in addressing any problems or concerns that arise. He suggests that businesses should be open and transparent with their customers and be willing to listen to feedback and make changes as needed.

“Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working. Improve or invent until you get that huge response. If you’re not saying, “Hell, yeah” about something, say, “No.” When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than, “Wow, that would be amazing. Absolutely. Hell, yeah.” Then 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.”” – Anything You Want

Throughout the book, Sivers also touches on other topics related to entrepreneurship, including the importance of developing a solid culture, taking risks, and the challenges of scaling a business. He also shares stories from his own experiences building CD Baby, including the highs and the lows, to provide a real-world perspective on how to succeed in the business world.

“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. It’s counterintuitive, but the way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers. Just thrill them, and they’ll tell everyone.” – Anything You Want

Overall, “Anything You Want” is a thought-provoking and practical guide for entrepreneurs looking to build their businesses. Sivers offers a wealth of insights and wisdom based on his experiences, and his writing is engaging and accessible. Whether you are just starting as an entrepreneur or looking to grow your business, this book will provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

Anything You Want Notes:

  • If you want to be useful, you can always start now with only 1% 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% 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.
  • As your business grows, don’t let the leeches sucker you into all the stuff they pretend you need.
  • 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.
  • You need to confidently exclude people and proudly say what you’re not.
  • Just stay focused on helping people today.
  • Of course, you should care about your customers more than you care about yourself. Isn’t that rule number one of providing good customer service? It’s all about them, not about you. Care about your customers more than yourself, and you’ll do well.
  • It’s important to resist that simplistic, angry, reactionary urge to punish everyone and step back to look at the big picture. When one customer wrongs you, remember the hundred thousand who did not.
  • Please know that it’s often the tiny details that really thrill people enough to make them tell all their friends about you. If you find even the smallest way to make people smile, they’ll remember you more for that smile than for all your other fancy business-model stuff.
  • But no matter what business you’re in, it’s good to prepare for what would happen if business doubled. But that’s not forgetting about the joy of learning and doing.
  • I had to make myself unnecessary to the running of my company. 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 can leave for a year, and when you come back, your business will be doing better than when you left.
  • Make sure you know what makes you happy. Don’t forget it.
  • I learned a hard lesson in hindsight: Trust, but verify. Remember it when delegating. You have to do both. Then I realized that there’s such a thing as over-delegation. I learned an important word: abdicate. To abdicate means to surrender or relinquish power or responsibility. Lesson learned too late: Delegate, but don’t abdicate.
  • Quote from Seth Godin: “If you care, sell.”
  • Business is as creative as the fine arts. You can be as unconventional, unique, or quirky as you want. A business is a reflection of the creator.
  • No matter which goal you choose, there will be lots of people telling you you’re wrong.
  • 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 okay. It’s your choice to remain small.

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