Buy This Book: Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

I'll admit, when I first received an unsolicited copy of this very slim hardcover for possible review on the blog, I was less than thrilled. Written by Derek Sivers, founder of CDBaby (a website that has since sold for millions), Anything You Want, appeared to be a business book--not something I would normally read. But it was published by Seth Godin's upstart The Domino Project, and I'd so liked their last offering, Stephen Pressfield's Do the Work, that I thought I'd go ahead and give it a few pages...

An hour later, I had wolfed down the book. (Did I'm mention its thinness?) I came away inspired by Sivers' grounded, happiness-first approach to his business, enlightened by the lessons he had learned (including those arising from his biggest blunders), and genuinely impressed by his smart and grounded approach to life.

An accomplished, working musician, Derek describes how he accidentally fell into his business by recognizing and responding to his own unmet need. Though he was making a good living at his craft, music distribution was such a racket in the Nineties that independent artists had no shot of getting their CDs into the hands of customers wanting to buy them. Frustrating, Derek picked up a few books on coding and wrote his own html, then set up a website where people could buy his stuff. (This was pre-Paypal, so it was a huge hassle.) Soon, friends were asking him to put up their CDs as well--so many that he began charging a small fee for his time. As word spread, the site grew exponentially, but through it all, I had to admire how Sivers kept his head, stuck to his values, and very literally, put his money where his mouth is.

So many of the lessons in this story are applicable to writers, along with anyone else valuing quality of life above blind material/financial gain. Here are a few of my favorite examples from the book:
1. Never do anything just for the money.
2. Don't pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help.
3. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what's not working.
4. Your business plan is moot. You don't know what people really want until you start doing it.
5. You can't please everyone, so proudly exclude people.
6. The real point of doing anything is to be happy, so do only what makes you happy.

I enjoyed the book so much, I quickly passed it on to my son, who is finishing college and about to start out in the world. The two of us agreed that Derek Sivers' vision is refreshing, slightly subversive (in as much as being an idealist in the business world is an act of defiance), and entirely likable. This is a guy who understands what makes him tick and quietly but steadfastly resists societal pressure to conform. I guess maybe that make Sivers some sort of rebel after all.

Highly recommended.

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