Table of Contents
“The Book”Anything You Want” in One Sentence
“Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers is a concise and unconventional guide to entrepreneurship, emphasizing the importance of staying true to one’s values, serving a genuine need, and pursuing a purpose-driven approach to business.
“Anything You Want” is a book written by Derek Sivers, an entrepreneur, musician, and writer. The book was published in 2011 and offers insights into Derek Sivers’ personal experiences and philosophy of entrepreneurship, business, and life. The central theme of the book is finding success and fulfillment by following your own path and staying true to your values. Here’s a brief review of the book:
Derek Sivers presents his ideas in a concise and straightforward manner, drawing from his own experiences of building and eventually selling CD Baby, an online store for independent musicians to sell their music. The book is not a traditional business guide filled with strategies and tactics, but rather a collection of short, reflective essays that convey his unconventional approach to entrepreneurship.
“Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers is a collection of short essays that provide a unique perspective on entrepreneurship and business success. Sivers shares his insights based on his experiences in building and eventually selling CD Baby, an online store for independent musicians. Throughout the book, he emphasizes the significance of staying true to one’s values, focusing on serving a genuine need, and maintaining a purpose-driven approach.
1. Start with a Genuine Need:
Sivers emphasizes the importance of identifying a real problem to solve or a need to fulfill. He recounts how CD Baby was born out of his own need as a musician to sell his CDs online. This genuine need translated into a service that resonated with others. Sivers writes, “The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you want to use.”
2. Say No to Almost Everything:
Sivers advocates for selective decision-making, encouraging entrepreneurs to decline opportunities that don’t align with their core values or objectives. He states, “It’s a big mistake to think that by focusing on one thing, you’ll miss out on making all other options. In reality, you’re just avoiding mediocre distractions.” He exemplifies this by recounting his choice to keep CD Baby focused on selling music rather than diversifying into other ventures.
3. Stay Small, Stay Independent:
Sivers argues against the conventional idea of pursuing rapid growth at all costs. He believes in maintaining control and independence by keeping your business manageable in size. He contrasts his approach with the typical startup narrative, stating, “To me, that was success: control over what I was doing and the pleasure of doing it.”
4. It’s About Serving, Not Selling:
The book underscores the importance of genuinely helping and serving customers rather than just focusing on making sales. Sivers shares an anecdote where he answered a customer service email with a personalized and caring response, leading to a loyal customer who later wrote a song about CD Baby.
5. Trust is Everything:
Sivers highlights the value of trust in business relationships. He narrates how he entrusted the responsibility of CD Baby to a colleague while he took a sabbatical, and how that trust resulted in a smoother operation. He writes, “When you trust people, they take responsibility and do good work.”
6. Make a Dream Business:
Sivers encourages readers to envision their business as a dream scenario rather than a get-rich-quick scheme. He shares his philosophy by saying, “To me, a ‘rich’ life means having the freedom to do what you want with your time.” He further emphasizes the importance of defining success on one’s own terms.
7. Ideas Are Just a Multiplier of Execution:
Sivers stresses that the value of an idea lies in its execution. He illustrates this with the equation: “AWE = Ideas x Execution.” He explains that even the best ideas are worthless without effective execution.
8. Business is Not About Money:
While acknowledging the importance of money, Sivers challenges the notion that business is solely about financial gain. He shares a personal anecdote about refusing a buyout offer because it didn’t align with his values and didn’t contribute to his personal fulfillment.
In “Anything You Want,” Derek Sivers delivers his entrepreneurial wisdom through personal stories, reflective insights, and unconventional advice. The book is a reminder that success in business is deeply intertwined with personal values, purpose, and the desire to genuinely serve others.
Ten Key Takeaways
1. Start with Authentic Need: Building a business that addresses a genuine problem or fulfills a personal need provides a strong foundation for success. Sivers’ creation of CD Baby stemmed from his own need as a musician to sell his music online.
2. Say No to Irrelevant Opportunities: Focus on what truly matters and aligns with your core goals. Sivers advocates saying no to distractions that deviate from your business’s essence.
3. Purpose Over Profit: While money is important, it shouldn’t be the sole driver of your business decisions. Prioritize values and personal fulfillment over purely financial gains.
4. Trust and Delegate: Entrusting capable individuals with responsibilities fosters a smoother operation and encourages innovation. Sivers’ trust in his colleague during his sabbatical led to positive changes at CD Baby.
5. Customer-Centric Approach: Genuinely serving customers and responding to their needs can create lasting loyalty. Sivers’ personalized customer service response resulted in a customer who wrote a song about CD Baby.
6. Independence and Control: Pursue sustainable growth that allows you to maintain control over your business. Sivers advocates for staying small and independent rather than chasing rapid expansion.
7. Ideas Require Execution: The value of an idea is fully realized through effective execution. A great idea without proper action remains insignificant.
8. Define Success on Your Terms: Formulate your own definition of success instead of adhering to societal norms or external expectations. Your business should align with your personal values and goals.
9. Focus on What Matters: Channel your energy into what truly excites and fulfills you. Sivers emphasizes the importance of creating a business that resonates with your passions.
10. Be Authentic and Different: Differentiation comes from being yourself and expressing your unique approach. Sivers’ unconventional viewpoints and refusal to follow the crowd set CD Baby apart.
“Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers is organized as a collection of 46 short essays rather than traditional chapters. However, I can provide you with a summary of the book’s key concepts and examples in sequential order based on the essays presented in the book:
1. “Life’s Too Short”
Sivers starts with the idea that life is short and precious, and that pursuing anything other than what you truly want is a waste of time. He emphasizes that it’s important to focus on things that excite and fulfill you.
2. “What Do You Want?”
Sivers introduces the concept of the book’s title: focusing on what you truly want in your business and life. He highlights the importance of starting with a genuine need, citing his experience with CD Baby, which originated from his own need to sell his music online.
3. “Ideas Are Just a Multiplier of Execution”
Sivers emphasizes that even the best ideas are worth little without effective execution. He introduces the equation: “AWE = Ideas x Execution,” stressing that execution is the most valuable part of the equation.
4. “The Revolution Will Not Be Funded”
Sivers discusses his approach to funding CD Baby, sharing how he started the business with $500 and grew it organically. He suggests that businesses don’t necessarily need outside funding to succeed; instead, they should focus on creating value for customers.
5. “What’s Your Compass?”
Sivers encourages defining your own values and principles to serve as your compass in decision-making. He shares a story about refusing to sell MP3s on CD Baby because it went against his values of providing a tactile experience for musicians and fans.
6. “Business is Not About Money”
While acknowledging the importance of money, Sivers argues that business should be about something more meaningful than just financial gain. He narrates how he turned down a $22 million buyout offer for CD Baby because it didn’t align with his values or sense of purpose.
7. “Make a Dream Business”
Sivers urges readers to envision their business as a dream scenario, where they do exactly what they want and are fully content. He advocates against pursuing others’ ideas of success and instead creating a business that aligns with your personal definition of fulfillment.
8. “The Importance of Focusing”
Sivers discusses the significance of staying focused on what you want to achieve. He shares how CD Baby’s success came from its clear focus on selling music, despite tempting opportunities to diversify.
9. “A Real Person, a Lot Like You”
The chapter emphasizes the importance of treating customers as real people, not just transactions. Sivers shares an example of how a personal, caring response to a customer’s email led to a loyal fan who even wrote a song about CD Baby.
10. “The Seinfeld Strategy”
Sivers introduces the concept of the “Seinfeld Strategy,” which is about consistently showing up and doing the work. He stresses the value of consistency and persistence in achieving long-term success.
11. “Never Forget to Celebrate”
Sivers reminds entrepreneurs to celebrate their achievements along the way, rather than waiting for some distant goal to feel successful. He emphasizes the journey and the small wins that make up the business-building process.
12. “The Importance of Persistence”
Sivers shares a personal story about his persistence in selling his music and building CD Baby. He underscores the value of not giving up and continuing to push through challenges.
13. “If It’s Not a Hit, Switch”
Sivers introduces the idea of pivoting when things aren’t working as expected. He shares how CD Baby initially started as a hobby to help his musician friends, and when it gained traction, he switched to making it a business.
14. “Three Years of Lessons Learned”
Reflecting on the early years of CD Baby, Sivers shares various lessons he learned, such as the importance of listening to customers and continually improving. He underscores that these lessons came from direct experience, not from business textbooks.
15. “You Need a Why”
Sivers discusses the necessity of having a strong reason behind what you’re doing. He narrates how he wrote the guiding principles for CD Baby, which helped him make decisions aligned with the company’s purpose.
16. “What’s Obvious to You Is Amazing to Others”
Sivers emphasizes that the things you find simple and ordinary might be incredibly valuable to others. He illustrates this with the story of his decision to create a simple PDF receipt for CD Baby customers, which turned out to be a significant selling point.
17. “Never Mind the Presentation, Feel the Experience”
Sivers talks about the value of providing a great customer experience, even if it means disregarding traditional presentation norms. He shares how CD Baby’s unconventional, personal touch set it apart from other corporate entities.
18. “The Second Time Around”
Reflecting on the idea of starting a new business, Sivers discusses the differences between his first and second ventures. He underscores that your experience and knowledge from previous endeavors can significantly influence your approach to the next one.
19. “What’s In It For Me?”
Sivers addresses the misconception that business is about exploiting others. He argues that successful businesses are built on creating value for others and providing win-win solutions.
20. “Simplify Until the Answer Becomes Obvious”
Sivers advocates for simplifying complex problems until the solutions become clear. He shares how he simplified CD Baby’s user interface, resulting in a more intuitive experience for customers.
21. “Guidelines vs. Superpowers”
The author discusses the balance between setting guidelines and allowing flexibility. Sivers shares how he gave his employees guidelines at CD Baby but also trusted them to exercise their creativity.
22. “Judge by the Results”
Sivers stresses that results matter more than intentions. He narrates how CD Baby’s decision to offer a money-back guarantee yielded positive results, even though some criticized it initially.
23. “Speed Versus Quality”
The chapter explores the tension between speed and quality. Sivers advises finding the right balance based on your business’s needs. He gives an example of how a software update at CD Baby was delayed to ensure quality.
24. “Planning is Guessing”
Sivers challenges the idea that detailed planning is essential for success. He advocates for a more adaptive approach, using the analogy of a compass and a map, where the compass represents your values and the map is flexible.
25. “Starting with ‘No'”
Sivers discusses the power of saying “no” to opportunities that don’t align with your core mission. He shares an example of how CD Baby refused to add intrusive ads to its website, even though they could have generated revenue.
26. “Happy Now”
Reflecting on the success of CD Baby, Sivers emphasizes that happiness should be experienced in the present, not postponed until achieving a specific goal. He encourages readers to appreciate the journey.
27. “Hell Yeah or No”
Sivers introduces the principle of only committing to things that evoke a strong “Hell yeah!” response. He suggests that lukewarm commitments lead to dissatisfaction and detract from what truly matters.
28. “The Day Steve Jobs Dissed Me in a Keynote”
Sivers shares a humorous story about his product, the CD Baby manual, being criticized by Steve Jobs during an Apple keynote presentation. He underscores the value of keeping a sense of humor and not taking things personally.
29. “How to Thrive in an Unknowable Future”
Sivers discusses the uncertainty of the future and the inability to predict market trends accurately. He advocates for adapting to changes and staying true to your guiding principles.
30. “Two Kinds of Loyalty”
Sivers distinguishes between contractual loyalty (where people are loyal because they have to be) and true loyalty (where people are loyal because they want to be). He emphasizes building the latter through genuine care and service.
31. “No ‘Yes.’ Either ‘HELL YEAH!’ or ‘No.'”
Sivers revisits the “Hell Yeah or No” principle and reinforces the idea of being selective about commitments. He suggests that it’s okay to decline opportunities that don’t align with your passions and values.
32. “In the World of Ideas, Everyone Is a Leader”
The author explains that anyone with an idea can become a leader by sharing and acting on that idea. He encourages readers to contribute their unique perspectives and make a difference.
The final chapter reiterates the importance of embracing the present moment and enjoying the journey. Sivers emphasizes that the pursuit of goals should not overshadow the experience of living.
34. “My $750 Business Card”
Sivers shares a story of how a simple business card led to a significant opportunity. He illustrates that sometimes even the smallest actions can lead to unexpected outcomes.
35. “Why I’m Happy I Didn’t Get Investment Offers”
Reflecting on CD Baby’s growth, Sivers explains why he’s content he didn’t take outside investment offers. He highlights the value of retaining control and independence over his business decisions.
36. “The Day I Became a Millionaire”
Sivers candidly recounts the day CD Baby was acquired, making him a millionaire on paper. He discusses the emotional and practical implications of this significant moment.
37. “How to Delegate and Get More Done”
Sivers provides insights into effective delegation, sharing how he handed off responsibilities at CD Baby. He emphasizes that delegating well requires clear communication and trust.
38. “You Should Profit from Your Passion”
The author challenges the notion that making money from something you’re passionate about is wrong. He argues that aligning your passion with business can lead to fulfilling work.
39. “Remembering Why You’re Doing It”
Sivers discusses the importance of periodically reconnecting with your initial motivations. He uses the analogy of touching home plate to remind entrepreneurs why they’re in the game.
40. “A Boring Business is a Good Business”
Sivers explores the idea that boring businesses, which solve practical problems, can be highly successful. He contrasts this with flashy, trend-based businesses that often fade.
Reflecting on the acquisition of CD Baby, Sivers highlights how circumstances are beyond our control. He encourages readers to embrace uncertainty and navigate challenges with grace.
42. “How I Decide What to Do Next”
Sivers shares his decision-making process, focusing on projects that create genuine excitement. He suggests using a litmus test of whether the project makes you say “Hell Yeah!”
43. “Confusing ‘Interesting’ with ‘Valuable'”
The author cautions against pursuing interesting but ultimately unimportant endeavors. He shares a personal story of a project he pursued that, while interesting, didn’t contribute real value.
44. “Guiding Stars”
Sivers emphasizes the importance of having clear guiding principles for your business and life. He uses the metaphor of stars to represent these guiding lights.
45. “I Miss the Mob”
Sivers reflects on the changing landscape of entrepreneurship and the nostalgia for a time when it was less crowded. He acknowledges the pros and cons of the evolving business world.
46. “Finish with a Bang”
In the final essay, Sivers shares his approach to finishing projects and ventures with enthusiasm. He uses the analogy of leaving the stage with a bang after a great performance.
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