Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur

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Do You Zoom, Incorporated, 2011 - Business & Economics - 77 pages
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When anyone can start a business (when everyone is running their career like a business), it begs a question. This is your one chance at life, you can have anything you want, what is worth doing?

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.

They spend decades in pursuit of something that someone convinced them they should want, without realizing that it won't make them happy.

Anything You Want is a manifesto about living life, appreciating enough, and doing what matters. It's most of what fabled entrepreneur Derek Sivers learned in ten years of starting and growing a small business, compacted into something you can listen to in an hour and a half.

A life worth living starts with knowing your personal philosophy of what makes you happy and what's worth doing.


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I love how Sivers isn't focused on money or success, but just on one thing: helping other people in a way that you enjoy. For such a small book, there's a lot of practical insight. a lot of candid hindsight, and a lot of good karma.

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A couple of Derek Sivers stories:
My first CD Baby order was #17697, for 8 discs, in 2000. When I got the now-famous colorful shipment notice I thought I’d actually been the first brand new
customer to order as many as 8 albums. I thought the email had been crafted for me, in particular. I felt special.
A little later, I placed an even bigger order, and it happened to be while CD Baby was moving across the country. It was delayed long enough that I eventually contacted support, and I promptly got a very nice and apologetic email from Derek Sivers himself (along with the discs, in short order). Again, I felt special.
Later on I learned that everyone got the crazy shipment notice, even for ordering a single disc, and that at the time Derek emailed me, he was one of just two people in the CD Baby “organization.”
And for a little while I felt less special. But eventually I realized that a key part of CD Baby’s value proposition for customers — artists and purchasers alike — was making everyone feel special.
Which, when you think about it, is no small trick.
Reading Sivers’ story of how and why he started, grew, and sold CD Baby, I was strongly reminded of interviews with Dischord’s Ian MacKaye. Partly because they say some of the same things, particularly about not having business growth as a goal. Both describe awkward conversations with “suits” who really can’t grasp this.
But both also display an element of self-contradiction. Sivers says the money didn’t matter — an easy thing to say when your life is not severely constrained by the lack of it — but he did, after all, build a music store, not a music give-away service. Perhaps more tellingly, some of his biggest regrets are about decisions with significant cost impacts. And although Sivers repeatedly says that growth wasn’t a goal, but not only did he consistently make decisions that furthered growth, one of his most provocative epigrammatic guidelines is explicitly about facilitating growth. (It’s to try to make your business practices support double your current volume, which sounds very smart. If you, you know, want to grow the business.)
These cavils aside, this is a pretty great book. Sivers is unusually candid about his mistakes as well as what he did right, and he’s lucid and entertaining. (He says he learned to prize clarity and brevity when crafting emails to CD Baby’s subscriber list, and demonstrates mastery of both here.) You’ll probably be thinking about the contents of this brief book for much longer than the time it takes to read it.

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About the author (2011)

In 2008, Derek sold CD Baby to focus on new ventures to help musicians. Since then he's been sharing everything he's learned as an in-demand writer and speaker at conferences, including three TED talks. Join the Anything You Want conversation and learn more about Derek's current projects at

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