Book Review: Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

Book Review: Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
Anything You Want - Derek Sivers

The Book In 3 Sentences

This book explores 40 lessons for a new kind of entrepreneur that believes that everything that they do should be for their customers. One should pursue a life of building a business about making dreams come true for others and for themselves as making a business is a great way to improve the world while improving oneself. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what's not working.

My 411

In his book detailing lessons acquired from 10 years of running a successful business called "CD Baby", Derek Sivers expands on how he created his business from scratch and eventually sold it for $22 Million.

Written as if an old friend was giving some sage advice to you while you are in the gestation period of ideation of a new business, Anything You Want provides a unique way to think about and act while running a business that's devoid of the hackneyed jargon and formalities that don't serve the customers. One other aspect of this read I thoroughly enjoyed was the nugget size pieces of wisdom peppered in micro-chapters reminiscent of The War of Art by Steven Pressfield.

I first heard about this book by a video by famous Youtuber, Ali Abdaal entitled the "3 Books that Changed my Life". Although I don't agree with everything written about in the book, namely, the lack of need of advertising or not needing terms and conditions or your privacy policy until it's needed, I was immediately drawn by the simplicity yet potency of the underlying message and thoroughly enjoyed this short yet extremely enticing read.


What's Your Compass?

  • 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.

Make a Dream Come True

  • Write down the utopian dream-come-true world that your business will try to achieve.
  • When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your utopia.
  • When you make it a dream come true for yourself, it’ll be a dream
    come true for someone else, too.

A Business Model With Only Two Numbers

  • A business plan shouldn't ever 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.

This Ain't A Revolution

  • When you’re onto something great, it won’t feel like revolution. It’ll
    feel like uncommon sense.

If It's Not a Hit, Switch

  • Once you’ve got a hit, suddenly all the locked doors open wide. People
    love the hit so much that it seems to promote itself. Instead of trying to
    create demand, you’re managing the huge demand.
  • Success comes from persistently improving and inventing,
    not from persistently doing what’s not working.
  • Present each new idea or improvement to the world.
  • Don’t waste years fighting uphill battles against locked doors. Improve
    or invent until you get that huge response.

No “yes.” Either “Hell yeah!” or “no.”

  • 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.

Just like that, my plan completely changed

  • 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.”

The Advantage of No Funding

  • 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.
  • 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.

Start now. No funding needed.

  • For an idea to get big-big-big, it has to be useful. And being useful
    doesn’t need funding.
  • You also don’t need an MBA, a particular big client, a certain person’s endorsement, a lucky break, or any other common excuse not to start.

Ideas are just a multiplier of execution

  • Execution is everything.

Formalities play on fear. Bravely refuse.

  • 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.

The strength of many little customers

  • 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

Proudly exclude people

  • You know you can’t please everyone, right?
  • 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.

Why no advertising?

  • When you’ve asked your customers what would improve your service, has anyone said, “Please fill your website with more advertising”?

This is just one of many options

  • No business goes as planned, so make ten radically
    different plans.

You don’t need a plan or a vision

  • Please don’t think you need a huge vision. Just stay focused on
    helping people today.

“I miss the mob.”

  • Never forget why you’re really doing what you’re doing.
  • Ask yourself:

  - 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

Care about your customers more than about yourself

  • Care about your customers more than about
    yourself, and you’ll do well.

Act like you don’t need the money

  • Set up your business like you don’t need the money, and it’ll likely come your way.

Don’t punish everyone for one person’s mistake

  • It’s important to resist that simplistic, angry, reactionary urge to punish
    everyone, and step back to look at the big picture.
  • In the moment, you’re angry, focusing only on that one awful person who did you wrong.
  • Your thinking is clouded. You start believing everyone is awful and the whole
    world is against you. This is a horrible time to make a new policy.

A real person, a lot like you

  • 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.

You should feel pain when you’re unclear

  • E-mail blasts are the best training for being clear.
  • Be clear otherwise, any confusion will cost money.

The most successful e-mail I ever wrote

  • When you make a business, you’re making a little world where you control
    the laws. It doesn’t matter how things are done everywhere else. In your
    little world, you can make it like it should be
  • 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 worldchanging
    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.

Little things make all the difference

  • 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.

It’s OK to be casual

  • The author asked his current employees if they had any friends who needed work - this was his hiring policy as he was too busy.
  • The thought was that 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.
  • Don’t try to impress an invisible jury of MBA professors. It’s OK to be

Naïve quitting

  • There’s a benefit to being naïve about the norms of the world—deciding
    from scratch what seems like the right thing to do, instead of just doing
    what others do.

Prepare to double

  • 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.

It’s about being, not having

  • 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.

The day Steve Jobs dissed me in a keynote

  • "But I never again promised a customer that I could do something that
    was beyond my full control."

My $3.3 million mistake

  • Don't fall into the whim of people who want to make their jobs easier at the cost of your business.

Delegate or die: The self employment trap

  • 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.

Make it anything you want

  • Never forget that you can make your role anything you want it to be.
  • Make sure you know what makes you happy, and don’t forget it.

Trust, but verify

  • Trust, but verify - remember it when delegating. You have to do both.

Delegate, but don’t 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"

How I knew I was done

  • "My answer is, “You’ll know.”

Why I gave my company to charity?

  • "I get the deeper happiness of knowing that the lucky streak I’ve had in
    my life will benefit tons of people—not just me. I get the pride of knowing I
    did something smart and irreversible before I could change my mind."
  • "But most of all, I get the constant priceless reminder that I have enough."

You make your perfect world

  • 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
  • Whatever you make, it’s your creation, so make it your personal dream
    come true.