Book notes
Anything You Want

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

Read in October 2020

"If you want to be useful, you can start now. Just put one percent of your vision, and you are in the game."

Your Company is Your Utopia

Business is not about money. It's about making dreams come true for others and yourself.

Starting a company is a great way to improve something and learn while doing. Your company is your little utopia; run it as you're in charge of your ideal world.

A business is a reflection of the creator. Pay attention to what excites you or what drains you. Make your company and role anything you want. Don't aim to grow; don't aim to drive the busy bandwagon. The real point of doing anything is to be happy, do whatever makes you happy.

How CD Baby became a thing: Derek solved his problem first, which could be re-used for another person having the same problem. It started as an independent business for independent artists to sell their music online, without waiting for some big label to sign them and do it.

Business Plan

A business plan should not take more than a few hours.

CD Baby just followed the idea of charging 4$ per copy for albums, which was the same as local stores around that time.

No business plan survives from initial contact with the customers.

Hell Yeah Or No

Persistence is undoubtedly essential, but don't persistently do the wrong thing. Success comes from persistently improving and innovating.

We are all busy. Saying "hell yeah, or no" helps choose what to do with enjoyment.

If you want to be useful, you can start now. Just put one percent of your vision, and you are in the game.

No Investors

I didn't have to please anybody but my customers and myself. By not having any money to waste, you never waste money.

No Big Clients

When you have many small clients instead of several juicy ones, you will be less hurt when they want to leave you.

The cruel fact you can't please everyone will also be easier to accept.

Ideas and Execution

Ideas are just multipliers for execution.

An awful idea (-1 points) multiplied with brilliant execution (100) would make you waste a hurtful amount of resources. On the other hand, a great idea (100 points) with no execution (0) could also make you earn nothing.

You can't pretend like there's only one way to do something. Make N radically different plans. Always have a backup plan.

Why You Are Doing What You Are Doing

In a perfect world, would you need advertising? Think about this before you eagerly invest in having more people on board.

  • Are people happy?
  • Are you happy?
  • Are you profitable?
  • Isn't that enough?

"I miss the mob. Wall Street MBA's optimizing everything, and now I need to pay 25 cents for ketchup on my hotdog."

— NY Taxi Driver

How Do You Grade Yourself?

  • How much money?
  • How much Trump Towers?
  • How much people?
  • How many useful things you create?

Customers are Always More Important

If problem you are trying to solve is truly solved in a more natural way, business might be no longer needed. You don't have to get into the survival mode to push for weird things.

Act Like You Don't Need the Money

Do it for love, be generous and trustworthy, then the money will come, eventually.


Be ready to handle at least double the size of customers when it comes to operational stuff.

But, for real...

In the end, it's not about what you want to be. It is about what you have. Taking time to learn doing stuff by yourself is actually becoming someone who knows that. When you sign-up to run a marathon, you don't want a taxi to take you to the finish line.


Never promise a customer doing something beyond your control. The CD Baby and iTunes Store story...


Aim to make yourself verbose by teaching, documenting, and training people along the philosophy.

Let them take care of the daily problems and onboard new employees.

Move away and spend time on improvements.

Delegate, but don't abdicate

Too much delegation resulted in a weird situation. Employees get to choose the revenue sharing model. They end up giving all profit to themselves. Fixing it in a conflicting way was the beginning of the end for CD Baby. People's relationships got broken, and Derek stopped going to the office.

Eventually, he sold CD Baby and donated money to music education, where it all started for him.

A sentimental ending for a great story.