Anything You Want


Derek Sivers is one of my mentors. I e-mail him whenever I make big life decisions. His book, Anything You Want, is a collection of all his blog posts that relates to his company CD baby, and his views on business and life. Derek started CD baby from scratch in 1997 having invested $500. He eventually sold the company in 2008 for $22 million.

In the book, you will find raw and honest accounts on Derek’s wins and losses in building CD Baby.


10 Big Ideas

  1. Business is not about money. It’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself.
  2. Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself.
  3. When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.
  4. Never do anything just for the money.
  5. Don’t pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help.
  6. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working.
  7. Your business plan is moot. You don’t know what people really want until you start doing it.
  8. Starting with no money is an advantage. You don’t need money to start helping people.
  9. You can’t please everyone, so proudly exclude people.
  10. Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business.
  11. The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy.

Customer-centric business

Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers. Make every decisions about whether to expand the business, raise money, or promote someone – according to what’s best for your customers.

Start small

For an idea to get big-big-big, it has to be useful. And being useful doesn’t need funding.

Starting small puts 100 percent of your energy into actually solving real problems for real people. It gives you a stronger foundation to grow from. It eliminates the friction of big infrastructure and gets right to the point.

Ideas are worthless unless they are executed. 

The strength of many little customers

Having many little customers allow a business to be flexible. Big customers (corporations, re-sellers, etc.) could make a business less flexible because it has to please these big spenders.

Proudly exclude customers

You can’t please all customers so exclude ones who don’t appreciate your business and its values. It is important to know your target customers.

You don’t need a big vision. Focus on helping people.

Enough with the MBA bull…

Derek had a conversation with a taxi driver in Las Vegas. The taxi driver has lived in Vegas for 27 years, and Derek asked what changed since then. Taxi driver said, he misses the mob.

Then the taxi driver goes:

When the mafia ran this town, it was fun. There were only two numbers that mattered: how much was coming in, and how much was going out. As long as there was more in than out, everyone was happy. But then the whole town was bought up by these damn corporations full of MBA weasels micromanaging, trying to maximize the profit from every square foot of floor space. Now the place that used to put ketchup on my hot dog tells me it’ll be an extra twenty-five cents for ketcup!

Derek approached CD Baby like the mob in the story. He was not into numbers. He says, “Never forget why you’re really doing what you’re doing. Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?

Focus on what’s honestly important to you, instead of doing what others think you should.

Care about your customers more than about yourself

A business is created to solve a problem. When you solve the problem, perhaps there is no need for your business. Be prepared for that. Be happy. That is because you help your customers solve their problem.

Some business accidentally or unconsciously keep the problem around so they can keep solving it for a fee (think pharmaceutical company or online productivity subscription tools). Any business that’s in business to sell you a cure is motivated not to focus on prevention.

Paradox of life

Bank loves to lend money to those who don’t need it. Record labels love to sign musicians who don’t need their help. People fall in love with people who won’t give them the time of day.

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