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Anything You Want Hardcover – June 29, 2011
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Best known for creating CD Baby, the most popular music site for independent artists, founder Derek Sivers chronicles his “accidental” success and failures into this concise and inspiring book on how to create a multi-million dollar company by following your passion. In Anything You Want, Sivers details his journey and the lessons learned along the way of creating CD Baby and building a business close to his heart. “[Sivers is] one of the last music-business folk heroes,” says Esquire magazine. His less-scripted approach to business is refreshing and will educate readers to feel empowered to follow their own dreams. Aspiring entrepreneurs and others trying to make their own way will be particularly comforted by Sivers straight talk and transparency -a reminder that anything you want is within your reach. Anything You Want is also available in a 5 pack, 52 pack and very limited edition Collectible, signed by Derek.
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But I get him. I think.
I get that he likes to solve problems. I get that money isn't his sole or main goal. I get that he wants to live life on his terms.
I get that some of the best, most enriching ideas in the world never started out that way.
And that's what this book is about. How to create, maintain and let go of an dream that morphed into an idea that morphed into a solution that morphed into a business that morphed into something that made money.
Too many of us are always looking for the next thing. We're looking for whatever comes next.
We'd be well served just solving problems now and see where that goes.
I think Derek would agree.
I bet this guy has no family that is counting on him to be the provider. Funny how that changes your priorities.
He is tone deaf to that reality.
"Do what you wanna do
as long as what you wanna do
is what everyone wants you to."
In other words, he thinks you should do what you love. He also thinks you should only do what is successful and abandon stuff that isn't making you money.
What isn't blatantly contradictory advice is simply rambling nonsense (I'm making a leap of faith by separating the two). Like how Derek recounts how incredibly customer-centric it was for him to ship a guy a squid. Why? Because the guy asked for one. Of course this generated some internet video that Derek thinks you should go watch.
Like many books of this mold, it is ridiculously well loved by people who like the guy who wrote it. But that doesn't stop it from being a waste of time and money for anyone who bought this expecting to find any level of insight, no matter how shallow it might be.
"Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself."
"Never do anything just for the money."
"Don't pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer calls for help."
"Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what's not working."
"For an idea to get big it has to be useful and being useful does not need funding. Start now with a humble prototype of your big vision and you will be in the game."
"Make every decision--whether to expand the business, raise money, promote someone--according to what's best for your customers."
In some ways he built CD Baby while he was on his way to somewhere else. The first part of the book is a portrait of an artist as a young entrepreneur. Sivers' fundamental goal--as he states repeatedly--was not to become a successful entrepreneur. He wanted to be a singer in a rock and roll band and continued to take vocal lessons and play in bands. The very first iteration of CD Baby was just designed to sell his own band's CDs until other musicians asked him for help when learned he had solved the on-line distribution problem for himself.
He details how at various points he had unwittingly given his father 90% of the company for a token amount of money, he had delegated so much authority to his employees that they designed a profit sharing plan that allocated all of the profits to their profit sharing plan, and he didn't come to company headquarters much in later years.
I don't think this detracts from his observations about what was required to get CD Baby off the ground and up to a several million dollars a year run rate.
CD Baby was started by Derek Sivers in 1997 as a web-page for selling his own CD online. Friends started asking if they could sell their CD too and suddenly Derek had a company selling independent music on the internet. His company grew far beyond what he wanted or expected. During the startup and growth of the company he did set some important company values such as putting the customer and musicians often above the company itself. This in itself isn't exceptional, but Derek backs it up with interesting and funny stories on how he has been able to continuously surprise his customer.
During his journey with CD Baby, he learned himself about what he wanted and didn't wanted and learned that he just wanted to focus on the things for himself. After the company grew to a certain size, he had enough of it as he felt he wouldn't achieve anything anymore that he wanted to achieve. He sold his company and moved on to enjoy his life.
The book is well written, quite funny at times, insightful and very short. I've enjoyed reading the story of Derek and CD Baby and would recommend it to people as an interesting and funny story about starting companies. Yet, there wasn't any moment that was shocking or where I was very surprised. Compared to traditional companies, yet, CD Baby and what Derek did was definitively different. Derek does not follow the same greedy-make-lots-of-money attitude that you sometimes read in business books... and that was good. Yet it wasn't too extreme. All in all, I enjoyed reading the book, recommend it and perhaps might go and grab a beer with Derek (as he lives in the same city as me, it seems)