Anything You Want

40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur
A memoir about Sivers' experience building and selling CD Baby for $22m. Plenty of against-the-grain startup advice.
Derek Sivers

This book in three sentences

  1. Do what you love, not what others think you should do.
  2. Think of your business as a mini utopia where you control all the laws.
  3. What matters most in business is keeping your customers happy.

Book Notes

  • Most people don’t know why they’re doing what they’re doing. They imitate others, go with the flow, and follow paths without making their own.
  • Don’t be on your deathbed someday full of regret because you pursued little distractions instead of big dreams.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your utopia.
  • If you think your life’s purpose needs to hit you like a lightning bolt, you’ll overlook the little day-to-day things that fascinate you.
  • Before you build something people want, you can make progress only with massive effort. Creating a product people want is like writing a hit song. Instead of trying to create demand, you’re managing the huge demand. (Note: another way to define product-market fit)
  • Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.
  • 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!”
  • None of your customers will ask you to turn your attention to expanding. They want you to keep your attention focused on them.
  • Watch out when anyone (including you) says he wants to do something big, but can’t until he raises money.
  • Ideas are just a multiplier of execution... that’s why I don’t want to hear people’s ideas. I’m not interested until I see their execution.
  • As your business grows, don’t let the leeches sucker you into all that stuff they pretend you need.
  • You have to custom-tailor your product to please a very few specific people.
  • The problem with selling to a few big clients: 1) Those people might change their minds or leave the company. 2) The client is now your boss 3) You lose touch with what the rest of the world wants.
  • Do you have a big visionary master plan for how the world will work in twenty years? Don’t feel bad if you don’t. I never did.
  • We all grade ourselves by different measures: ... For me, it’s how many useful things I create.
  • It’s important to know in advance, to make sure you’re staying focused on what’s honestly important to you, not what others think you should.
  • If you set up your business like you don’t need the money, people are happier to pay you.
  • E-mail blasts are the best training for being clear.
  • 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.
  • Even if you want to be big someday, remember that you never need to act like a big boring company.
  • In the end, it’s about what you want to be, not what you want to have. To have something is the means, not the end. To be something (a good singer, a skilled entrepreneur, or just plain happy) is the real point.
  • 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.
  • Trust, but verify. Remember it when delegating. You have to do both.
  • Delegate, but don’t abdicate. There’s such a thing as over-delegation. I had empowered my employees so much that I gave them all the power.
  • 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.”
  • 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.
  • Pay close attention to what excites you and what drains you. To when you’re being the real you and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury.
© 2023 Mike Fiorillo
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