“When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your Utopia.” – Derek Sivers.
Most business books are too long. Far too long. And they only contain one idea. One idea that is padded and prodded to fill an entire book. Anything You Want is not like that. It’s short and pithy. Focused.
Reading the whole book takes less than an hour, but you might want to take longer. I kept stopping to take notes and ponder each lesson. I forced myself to put the book down and come back to it the next day.
Derek Sivers made a bunch of money selling CD’s on the Internet in the Nineties. It was hard to sell things on the Internet then. So he made it easier.
Each lesson is only a page. There’s a story or anecdote and the lesson. And that’s it. Dude drops his pen and walks off with the page half empty.
Much of the advice goes against the tide. He’s not a grow at all costs type and never intended for his business to grow so large. He didn’t like it when it. But now he knows that he prefers five staff to eighty-five, and works best by himself.
The general tone of of the advice is cheerful and positive, ‘make your customer smile’, and the way to grow your business is to ‘thrill’ your customers. But he also goes into his mistakes and errors. That’s the stuff I love, the lessons of what not to do.
Derek’s book contains enough on page nine alone to base a whole book around. He lists a dozen points that other writers would smear into whole chapters.
- Don’t have a business plan as, ‘you don’t know what people really want until you start doing it’.
- Never do anything just for the money. I love this point, always more reasons than just profit to do something. Work with people because you like them or want to help. Don’t work with dicks. Or be one.
- You can’t please everyone , so proudly exclude people. Not being selective with your customers is an area where I see many cafes and restaurants fail. They try to have something for everyone, by doing so they have a large and unwieldy menu that it’s an operational nightmare to deliver. Stay small and focused and do what you do well. But don’t do other things.
- Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business. I love that one. I think that a good business is like a machine that performs the task you set it up for, and turns a profit. While it is very important that the owners are involved and passionate and driven they should also make themselves redundant. A real business can operate and thrive without the owners and if you ever want to sell you business then the sooner you start to think like this the better.
I could just take a quote from each page and be done with it. One of the lessons sums this up. ‘You should feel pain when you are unclear’.
‘Delegate but don’t abdicate’. Sivers tells an amazing story of giving his staff so much autonomy that they almost kicked him out. He sorted out the situation, left the warehouse and never went back.
I first came across Derek Sivers on the Tim Ferriss Podcast. My lady and I listened while driving our one year old around New Zealand. Even in a small car with a little boy who wanted to get out, Sivers cut through the noise. The guy is fun but not goofy, he seems to be able to get the best out of life while still getting it all done.
I try and take one solid piece of advice from each book that I read. Something I can use and apply and put into action. From Anything You Want I took, ‘Hell yeah!’ or ‘no’. Don’t say yes to things that sound OK or even good. By saying yes to less, you leave space and energy to attack those opportunities that excite you the most.
Derek’s given three TED talks with my favourite being on keeping goals to yourself. He also has a fantastic website with an excellent book notes page where he puts all his thoughts on the books he reads. Like Harder to Destroy but smarter.