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Summary: Anything You Want: 40 lessons for a new kind of entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

“Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself. When you make a company, you make a utopia. It’s where you design your perfect world.” – Derek Sivers

How to Start a Business

Solve your own problem

In 1997, Derek wanted to sell his CD without having to land a huge record deal. PayPal hadn’t been invented yet, so he had to set up his own online credit card merchant store with a ‘BUY NOW’ button in order to sell his CD. He formed partnerships with existing merchants and taught himself how to program. After months of work, he had a ‘BUY NOW’ button on his site and people could buy his CD.

Book Summary: Anything You Want - 40 lessons for a new kind of entrepreneur

Share your solution

“When I told my musician friends about my BUY NOW button, one friend asked, ‘Could you sell my CD, too?’ I thought about it for a minute and said, ‘Sure. No problem.’ I just did it as a favour.” – Derek Sivers

People have the same problems you do. Find people with the problem you’ve just solved for yourself and show them your solution. If providing this solution to others starts taking up too much of your time and it brings in more money than your day job, then turn it into a full-time business.

If it’s not a hit, switch

Our solutions might not be the best solution for others. Derek urges us to keep improving and inventing ideas until we get a hit: “Don’t waste your time persistently doing what’s not working.” When you discover a hit, the product or service will promote itself.

How to Grow a Business

Focus on a utopian customer experience (from the customers point of view)

Derek wrote down his utopian-dream-come-true experience for his customer: “In a perfect world, my distributor would: Pay me every week. Show me the full name and address of everyone who bought my CD. (Because those are my fans, not the distributor’s.) Never kick me out for not selling enough. (Even if I sell only one CD every five years, it’ll be there for someone to buy.)” – Derek Sivers

Inject moments of unexpected generosity

At CD Baby this meant answering the phone after two rings between 7am – 10pm, no matter what. When shop floor employees would take the time to talk about a customer’s CD for 30 minutes, the customer would rave about their experience at CD Baby.

“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.” – Derek Sivers

Delegate or Die…

When asked a question regarding an operational decision, complete the following steps:

  • Gather everyone together
  • Explain your philosophy (why you would do what you would do)
  • Ensure that everyone understands (simulate an example and ask questions)
  • Get one person to write down the philosophy in the company manual
  • Let everyone know that they can make the decision next time without having to ask you for permission

When to Sell a Business

  • If selling your business is what’s best for the customer

“I asked Seth Godin’s advice. All he said was, “If you care, sell.” (I think his point was that my lack of enthusiastic vision was doing a disservice to my clients. It’d be better for everyone if I put the company in more motivated hands that could help them all grow.)? – Derek Sivers

  • If staying in the business is stunting your personal growth

“I got excited about all the cool new projects I could do instead (of working on my company). I realized that the bigger learning and growing challenge for me was letting go, not staying on.” – Derek Sivers


“Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers is a concise and insightful book that offers valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs. With a refreshing perspective on business and success, Sivers shares his personal experiences and provides practical advice on building a meaningful and fulfilling business. The book emphasizes the importance of staying true to oneself, embracing simplicity, and focusing on customer satisfaction. Sivers’ conversational writing style and concise chapters make this book an enjoyable and informative read.

“Anything You Want” is a gem of a book that challenges conventional wisdom and offers a fresh take on entrepreneurship. Derek Sivers, a successful entrepreneur himself, shares his journey and distills his experiences into 40 concise lessons. The book is not a step-by-step guide or a blueprint for success, but rather a collection of insights and anecdotes that encourage readers to think differently about business.

One of the book’s strengths is Sivers’ ability to communicate complex ideas in a simple and relatable manner. Each lesson is presented in a concise and conversational style, making it easy to digest and apply to one’s own entrepreneurial endeavors. Sivers’ writing is engaging and filled with personal anecdotes, which adds authenticity and credibility to his advice.

The central theme of the book revolves around the idea of staying true to oneself and pursuing a business that aligns with one’s values and passions. Sivers emphasizes the importance of finding joy and fulfillment in the process of building a business, rather than solely focusing on financial success. This refreshing perspective challenges the traditional notion of entrepreneurship and encourages readers to prioritize their own happiness and well-being.

Throughout the book, Sivers emphasizes the significance of customer satisfaction and the power of word-of-mouth marketing. He shares his own experiences of building CD Baby, an online music store, and highlights the importance of providing exceptional customer service. Sivers’ emphasis on creating a remarkable customer experience resonates strongly with readers and serves as a reminder that customer satisfaction should be at the forefront of any business venture.

Another notable aspect of “Anything You Want” is its brevity. With concise chapters and a total length of around 80 pages, the book can be read in a single sitting. This brevity allows readers to absorb the lessons quickly and revisit them whenever needed. It also makes the book accessible to busy entrepreneurs who may not have the time for lengthy reads.

While “Anything You Want” offers valuable insights and inspiration, some readers may find the book lacking in specific actionable advice. The lessons are more philosophical in nature, focusing on mindset and approach rather than providing detailed strategies or tactics. However, this does not diminish the book’s value, as it serves as a thought-provoking guide for entrepreneurs seeking a different perspective on business.

In conclusion, “Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers is a concise and thought-provoking book that challenges traditional notions of entrepreneurship. With its emphasis on authenticity, customer satisfaction, and personal fulfillment, the book offers valuable lessons for aspiring entrepreneurs. Sivers’ conversational writing style and relatable anecdotes make this book an enjoyable and insightful read. While it may not provide detailed step-by-step guidance, it serves as a valuable source of inspiration and a reminder of what truly matters in business.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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