Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

July 2015
Derek Sivers is someone I respect. He has a talent for distilling ideas into short, pithy statements. He inspired me to create my /now page. This book sounds like self-help by its title but it’s actually a historical perspective of his journey building CD Baby, told in tiny little stories. It’s hilarious and straight to the point. Each chapter takes about 2-3 min to read.
Kindle Highlights
  • Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself.Location: 67
  • Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working.Location: 71
  • Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business.Location: 76
  • Even years later, the desks were just planks of wood on cinder blocks from the hardware store. I made the office computers myself from parts. My well-funded friends would spend $100,000 to buy something that I made myself for $1,000. They did it saying, “We need the very best,” but it didn’t improve anything for the customers.Location: 179
  • It’s counterintuitive, but the way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers. Just thrill them, and they’ll tell everyone.Location: 185
  • Watch out when anyone (including you) says he wants to do something big, but can’t until he raises money. It usually means the person is more in love with the idea of being big-big-big than with actually doing something useful. For an idea to get big-big-big, it has to be useful. And being useful doesn’t need funding.Location: 187
  • If you want to be useful, you can always start now, with only 1 percent of what you have in your grand vision.Location: 190
  • 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. And it will let you change your plan in an instant, as you’re working closely with those first customers telling you what they really need.Location: 200
  • Awful idea = -1 Weak idea = 1 So-so idea = 5 Good idea = 10 Great idea = 15 Brilliant idea = 20 No execution = $1 Weak execution = $1,000 So-so execution = $10,000 Good execution = $100,000 Great execution = $1,000,000 Brilliant execution = $10,000,000 To make a business, you need to multiply the two components. The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $200,000,000.Location: 212
  • Never forget that there are thousands of businesses, like Jim’s Fish Bait Shop in a shack on a beach somewhere, that are doing just fine without corporate formalities.Location: 232
  • When you build your business on serving thousands of customers, not dozens, you don’t have to worry about any one customer leaving or making special demands. If most of your customers love what you do, but one doesn’t, you can just say good-bye and wish him the best, with no hard feelings.Location: 253
  • Have the confidence to know that when your target 1 percent hears you excluding the other 99 percent, the people in that 1 percent will come to you because you’ve shown how much you value them.Location: 267
  • When you’ve asked your customers what would improve your service, has anyone said, “Please fill your website with more advertising”?Location: 274
  • Journalists would ask, “What’s your long-term goal for CD Baby?” I’d say, “I don’t have one. I surpassed my goals long ago. I’m just trying to help musicians with whatever they need today.” So please don’t think you need a huge vision. Just stay focused on helping people today.Location: 310
  • We all grade ourselves by different measures: For some people, it’s as simple as how much money they make. When their net worth is going up, they know they’re doing well. For others, it’s how much money they give. For some, it’s how many people’s lives they can influence for the better. For others, it’s how deeply they can influence just a few people’s lives. For me, it’s how many useful things I create, whether songs, companies, articles, websites, or anything else. If I create something that’s not useful to others, it doesn’t count. But I’m also not interested in doing something useful unless it needs my creative input. How do you grade yourself? It’s important to know in advance, to make sure you’re staying focused on what’s honestly important to you, instead of doing what others think you should.Location: 330
  • That’s the Tao of business: Care about your customers more than about yourself, and you’ll do well.Location: 351
  • It’s another Tao of business: Set up your business like you don’t need the money, and it’ll likely come your way.Location: 357
  • It’s dehumanizing to have thousands of people passing through our computer screens, so we do things we’d never do if those people were sitting next to us. It’s too overwhelming to remember that at the end of every computer is a real person, a lot like you, whose birthday was last week, who has three best friends but nobody to spoon at night, and who is personally affected by what you say.Location: 397
  • Phones were everywhere, so even if the customer service rep was busy, someone in the warehouse could pick up.Location: 436
  • If you bought us a pizza, we’d do any favor you wanted. When we’d tell people about this on the phone, they’d often laugh, not believing we were serious. But we’d get a pizza every few weeks. I’d often hear from musicians later that this was the moment they fell in love with us.Location: 447
  • Even if you want to be big someday, remember that you never need to act like a big boring company. Over ten years, it seemed like every time someone raved about how much he loved CD Baby, it was because of one of these little fun human touches.Location: 457
  • if your internal processes are always designed to handle twice your existing load, it sends an attractive “come on in, we’ve got plenty of room” message.Location: 494
  • But I never again promised a customer that I could do something that was beyond my full control.Location: 579
  • Ten minutes later, a new question. Same process: Gather everybody around. Answer the question and explain the philosophy. Make sure everyone understands the thought process. Ask one person to write it in the manual. Let everybody know they can decide this without me next time. After two months of this, there were no more questions.Location: 626
  • 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.Location: 642
  • He said, “I know. Every album to every company every week no matter what. But I’ve been swamped. I just couldn’t.” I flew up to Portland and let him go. I’ve never fired anyone so fast, but this was extreme. Our company’s reputation was permanently damaged.Location: 676
  • He said, “Did you know that they’re giving all of the profits of the company back to themselves?” Oops. When I canceled the profit-sharing program, I became a very unpopular guy. In our weekly company meetings, the general message from the employees was, “We need to get Derek out of here, so he stops telling us what to do. We don’t need to answer to him! He needs to answer to us!” Then I realized that there’s such a thing as over-delegation. I had empowered my employees so much that I gave them all the power. After a complete communication breakdown, it was eighty-five people (my employees) against one (me). I became the scapegoat for all of their dissatisfaction.Location: 690