Notes from Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

anything you want review derek siversRating: 10/10
Finished: 04/2017
Related Books: Choose Yourself, The 4-Hour Workweek, The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

Buy the book on Amazon here // See all my lessons from books and smart people HERE.


The Short Summary Of Anything You Want – 40 Lessons For a New Kind of Entrepreneur

Entrepreneur and practical philosopher Derek Sivers shares his best wisdom in this short book that you can read in an hour or two. It is JAM PACKED with great advice – primarily about business, but he also adds a good deal of life advice to the mix. Read it if are or aspire to be an entrepreneur of any kind.


Lessons Learned

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.

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.

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.

Five years after I started CD Baby, when it was a big success, the media said I had revolutionized the music business. But revolution is a term that people use only when you’re successful. Before that, you’re just a quirky person who does things differently.

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. We all have lots of ideas, creations, and projects. When you present one to the world and it’s not a hit, don’t keep pushing it as is. Instead, get back to improving and inventing. 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.

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!”. For every event you get invited to, every request to start a new project, if you’re not saying, “Hell yeah!” about it, say no. We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.
[More on this: Read the rest of Derek’s short but legendary “Hell Yeah, or No” blog post.
Also, Mark Manson’s application of this principle to relationships can be explored in his post “Fuck Yes or No”.]

I’m so glad I didn’t have investors. I didn’t have to please anybody but my customers and myself. No effort was spent on anything but my customers.

By not having any money to waste, you never waste money. Since I couldn’t afford a programmer, I went to the bookstore and got a $25 book on PHP and MySQL programming. Then I sat down and learned it, with no programming experience. Necessity is a great teacher.

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.

None of your customers will ask you to turn your attention to expanding. They want you to keep your attention focused on them. 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.

Watch out when anyone (including you) says he wants to do something big, but can’t until he raises money. It usually means the person is more in love with the idea of being big-big-big than with actually doing something useful.

Starting small puts 100 percent of your energy into actually solving real problems for real people.

It’s a big world. You can loudly leave out 99 percent of it. 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”?

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.

It’s almost impossible to tell what someone’s going to be like on the job until he’s actually on the job for a few weeks. So I’d hire lightly and fire lightly.

But no matter what business you’re in, it’s good to prepare for what would happen if business doubled. Have ten clients now? How would it look if you had twenty at once? Notice that “more of the same” is never the answer. You’d have to do things in a new way to handle twice as much business. Processes would have to be streamlined. 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.

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. When you sign up to run a marathon, you don’t want a taxi to take you to the finish line.

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.

I learned a hard lesson in hindsight: Trust, but verify. Remember it when delegating. You have to do both.

Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller were at a party at a billionaire’s extravagant estate. Kurt said, “Wow! Look at this place! This guy has everything!” Joseph said, “Yes, but I have something he’ll never have. . . . Enough.”

When I decided to sell CD Baby, I already had enough. I live simply. I don’t own a house, a car, or even a TV. The less I own, the happier I am. The lack of stuff gives me the priceless freedom to live anywhere anytime.

Business is as creative as the fine arts. You can be as unconventional, unique, and quirky as you want. A business is a reflection of the creator.

 


Also published on Medium.

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