Anything You Want: 40 Lessons for a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

Reading Time: 4 minutes


Writer and entrepreneur Derek Sivers reveals what he learned in scaling his business from 0 to 20+ million in revenue. In this one-hour engaging read, you’ll learn a bunch of unconventional principles that will help you rethink the way you approach your life, work, and business.

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Key Takeaways

Stop doing what’s not working

“Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.”

Persistence is important, but not even persistence will allow you to overcome an idea, tactic, or strategy that simply is not working. So instead of working hard at the thing that doesn’t work, keep improving and inventing to find the one thing that does work.

Do it for the customers

“Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers. Make every decision—even decisions about whether to expand the business, raise money, or promote someone—according to what’s best for your customers. If you’re ever unsure what to prioritize, just ask your customers the open-ended question, “How can I best help you now?” Then focus on satisfying those requests.”

As an entrepreneur, it’s easy to get lost in your vision and goals. But if your goals don’t align with what your customers want, then you’re doing your business a disservice. Your customers are the ones who are paying you for your product or service. Focus on them first.

Start small

“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.”

Don’t spend your early days procuring large amounts of funding and trying to build a complicated structure around your business. Keep things small and simple. In doing so, you can better test ideas, iterate, and solve problems in an agile manner.

It’s okay to exclude people

“You need to confidently exclude people, and proudly say what you’re not. By doing so, you will win the hearts of the people you want.”

Your product, service, or words of wisdom aren’t for everyone. Instead of trying to please the crowd, focus on the people who love your product. Get comfortable being explicit about who your product is for and who is isn’t for. In excluding the people who you don’t want, you’ll increase the loyalty amongst the people who you do want.

Don’t forget why you’re in the game

“Never forget why you’re really doing what you’re doing. Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?”

Don’t fall into the trap of constantly scaling your business. Who are you scaling that business for anyways? Does growing the business make you any happier? If you’re profitable, happy, and serving people, that might be enough.

Don’t do it for the money

“If you set up your business like you don’t need the money, people are happier to pay you. When someone’s doing something for the money, people can sense it, like they sense a desperate lover. It’s a turnoff. When someone’s doing something for love, being generous instead of stingy, trusting instead of fearful, it triggers this law: We want to give to those who give. It’s another Tao of business: Set up your business like you don’t need the money, and it’ll likely come your way.”

Be a giver. If you do it just for the money, people will sense that. While it may seem like a riskier strategy to be generous, in the long-run, it will pay off in ways that you may not expect or be able to predict.

The tiny details matter

“When you’re thinking of how to make your business bigger, it’s tempting to try to think all the big thoughts and come up with world-changing massive-action plans. But please know that it’s often the tiny details that really thrill people enough to make them tell all their friends about you.”

Instead of thinking about a complicated plan to improve your business, try to do something that will make each customer smile. If you make someone smile, they’re more likely to feel good about your business and tell others. A simple, fun email might do the trick.

Keep the human in your process

“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.”

Just because you’ve reached a particular size or want to create more efficient processes doesn’t mean you have to lose the human touch of your business. The human touches are what people remember, so don’t fall into the trap of making your company boring just because it got big.

Self-employment vs. business ownership

“There’s a big difference between being self-employed and being a business owner. Being self-employed feels like freedom until you realize that if you take time off, your business crumbles. 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.”

Being a business owner means that your business can operate without you involved. Being self-employed means that the business depends on you. When you’re self-employed, you’re a slave to the business. When you’re a business owner, you can enjoy the freedom that you envisioned when you first started thinking about starting a company.

Don’t do stuff that you hate

“Never forget that you can make your role anything you want it to be. Anything you hate to do, someone else loves. So find that person and let her do it.”

As the owner of your business, you can create the dream role you’ve always wanted. Instead of slogging through the things you hate, find someone who loves doing that, hire them, and then focus your attention on something else.

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