Anything You Want

40 Lessons For a New Kind of Entrepreneur

30 second summary


2 more minutes of summary


So far I only have a collection of quotes and notes. Will break out into a series of posts at some point!

Solve Real Problems

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

When Sivers realized that there was no effective way to get an album distributed in the mid-90’s, he created a website to sell his CD. He learned how to code, wrote a website, and started selling. This is before itunes, before it was easy to make a website, before the music industry was changed forever.

I have no idea if Sivers’ album was any good, but the website must have been, because a few of Derek’s musician friends asked if they could put their albums on the website too. He said sure.

For the next few years, Derek’s sole focus was on serving his customer – the musician – and solving his or her key problem: getting distribution. He was absurdly focused on this, to a fault, but it’s absolutely beautiful to read about someone who just wants to solve problems, as opposed to “scale” and “pivot” and “leverage.”

Sivers’ writing is extremely straightforward and free from ambiguity.  Solve real problems. If you want to educate millions, start with one (Sal Khan). If you want to build an empire, start with a single customer.

Sivers On Vision

“Do you have a big visionary master plan for how the world will work in twenty years? Do you have massive ambitions to revolutionize your industry? Don’t feel bad if you don’t. I never did.”

Derek Sivers is very unique. He really didn’t care about growing his business.

Over and over he talks about how he was focused on keeping it from getting too big. He insisted on writing all the code for the website, which everyone pretty much agreed was costing the company millions.

But the guy sure can simplify a concept. And he can write with clarity. You don’t need a vision.

Take heart in knowing that multi-million dollar businesses can grow organically, simply by solving problems as they come and focusing on the customer. It does not require a master plan or strategic long-term vision. Those things might help, or they might not, depending on the situation. (If you’re looking for certainty, then you’re being unrealistic…annoying but true.)

As everyone loves to quote, “No business plan ever survives contact with a customer.”

Book Summary

To understand the tone and message of this book, I’ll explain who Derek Sivers is:

  • Musician
  • 1990s
  • Wants to sell CD
  • Makes a website to sell said CD
  • Starts selling his friends’ albums on website
  • Relentlessly focuses on doing right by musicians and being chill as fuck for better part of a decade
  • Sells company for $22 mil
  • Puts this money in a trust for music education

The book is: simple, to the point, insightful. Sivers basically says “here’s my story; some of this might be useful; hope you get something from it; cheers brah.”

You can read this book in less than an hour. I’d recommend it.

Key topics

  • Start a business because you want to solve problems
  • Do what makes you happy, not what makes you rich
  • Focus on customer value
  • Don’t stress the bullshit
  • Empower employees
  • Execution is critical
  • Sometimes being small and broke is a huge advantage

Execution More Important Than Ideas

“The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $200,000,000. That’s why I don’t to hear people’s ideas. I’m not interested until I see their execution.”

Sivers calls execution a multiplier.

The value of an idea scales linear as it gets better. A shitty idea might be worth nothing. A pretty good idea is maybe worth $10 and the best idea in the world is worth $20.

Execution is where the value is added.

Think about some of the ideas behind successful companies and businesses. Are the ideas that amazing, or was the magic in the execution?

Google – a new method of ranking pages for search

Apple – a new execution of the smart phone

Tesla – an electric sports car

Facebook – myspace but for college kids