A Short Sweet Guide to Big Cool Things

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Derek Sivers is an interesting cat…

A grad of the prestigious Berklee College of Music, he trained for years as a musician, before making the jump into the world of entrepreneurship (not that he stopped being a musician).

Over 10 years, he built industry-leading indie-music distributor/retailer, CDBaby, then sold it for $22 million in 2008…but not before transferring the entire company into a charitable trust that set aside only a modest sum for him to live on after the sale.

Derek’s blog is one of the few I subscribe to by email, I don’t want to miss what he writes. In his new book—Anything You Want—from Seth Godin’s Domino Project, he shares a collection of stories, insights and ideas that emerged from his 10 year journey launching, stumbling, learning, growing, then selling CD Baby.

What I loved about this lightning-fast read (seriously, it took an hour) is not only Derek’s genuine, easy-going voice, his insights and strong contrarian outlook, but his transparency and willingness to scale by staying true to his original vision – to help musicians – in an entrepreneurial climate that increasingly values VC over bootstrapping, systems over people, speed over congruity and exit over evolution.

A few nuggets that really resonated include…

We’ve all heard about the importance of persistence. But I had misunderstood. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.

If you’re not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no.”

…even well-meaning companies accidentally get trapped in survival mode. A business is started to solve a problem. But if the problem was truly solved, that business would no longer be needed! So the business accidentally or unconsciously keeps the problem around so that they can keep solving it for a fee.

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 a desperate lover. It’s a turnoff….When someone’s doing something for love, being generous in stead of stingy, trusting instead of fearful, it triggers this law: We want to give to those who give.

To have something (a finished recording, a business, or millions of dollars) is the means, not the end. To be something (a good singer, a skilled entrepreneur, or just plain happy) is the real point.

Will every one of Derek’s collection of 40 lessons ring true for every businesses and quest? Maybe yes, maybe no.

But, that’s the point. It’s about the conversation. These are his learnings born of his life and experiences. The questions he raises around some of the major inflection points in any business’ growth and the conversations they prompt have value. HELL YEAH value.

And, when you buy Anything You Want (at least for now), Derek’s giving away more than 200 hand-selected mp3 tunes, too.

Go, check it out. Then share your thoughts…


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17 responses

17 responses to “A Short Sweet Guide to Big Cool Things”

  1. Great review, I’m loving the book as well. Thanks for calling out those quotes. When I read the “Hell Yeah” post on his blog a few years ago it made me realize that I was saying yes to way too much.

  2. gwyn says:

    I have been resisting this book since the release as my reading list is out of hand, but this sold me. A week at the beach is in order now. Thanks!

  3. andreea says:

    sounds like a great book! thanks for sharing. heading over to amazon to get my own copy 🙂

  4. Ryan says:

    I’ve been waiting for this book. But you keep calling it “Anything for You” and it’s “Anything You Want”.

  5. Thanks for sharing this, Jonathan. The HELL YEAH test is perfect. Subscribing to his blog now. 🙂

  6. Barbara Winter says:

    I whizzed through the book the other evening and believe I yelled, “Hell YEAH” a number of times. I share your enthusiasm for this little treasure.

  7. Loved the book, Jonathan. Read it in an hour ( I actually missed my subway stop because I was so engrossed in it.) What resonated most was how doing something for the sake of doing it (i.e. because you feel “hell yeah!” about it) can amount to a brilliant business plan. Great post. Thanks. Susan

  8. Paula says:

    Thanks for the insight into this book. The “hell yeah” approach sounds good to me. That’s how I shop. If an outfit or piece of clothing doesn’t shout “hell yeah” I don’t buy it. If that’s how I dress, it certainly should be how I work.

  9. Paul Salvage says:

    Thanks for the article Jonathan – Derek’s blog is a real find. Just bought the book for kindle:)

  10. Razwana says:

    I first encountered Derek Sivers on Ramit Sethi’s blog where he interviewed him. What an inspiration – and such a humble guy. I love the notion that his business gew because he simply loves what he does. Of course this is not the only reason, but it just goes to show doing something for the love, rather than the cash, is a wonderful alternative.

    I will definitely be buying his book (not just for the free music !)

    – Raz

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Yep, it’s also about being committed more to a community and a need than a particular solution. That’s a powerful way to grow a business, though it’s often a difficult mindset for entrepreneurs to wrap their heads around because so many start businesses as a way to push “their” solution, rather than as a way to continuously search for and deliver the best solution.

  11. Rob says:

    Thanks Jonathan,

    I’m going to sign-up to Derek’s blog, he’s quite an inspiration and I’m a proud CDBaby artist – great service.

    I like Derek’s approach in so many ways, and he’s an advocate of knowing when to quit – as he did with Tour Baby and Agent Baby.

    There’s a cool interview with Derek Sivers on Ariel (Hyatt’s) Publicity blog that I’m reading right now.

    • Jonathan Fields says:

      Totally agree, I had a similar experience and “feeling” when I sold my last business. It needed a new steward, I was ready to move on.

  12. Ilana says:

    I just finished the book. I loved your take-aways especially the one about not focusing on the money. I found a particular moment in the book – the one about the best email he every wrote, to be the one that resonated with me and blogged about it today.

  13. John Sherry says:

    Yea that’s true – we can all smell desperation be it a business, a relationship, or when job hunting. Even at the top the simple things are as powerful as ever. Which means Derek knows his stuff.

  14. Tazz says:

    I love Derek Sivers! Hv always read his blog. Hes an amazing guy n very humble too. I love how he is willing to share what he knows with others rather than keepingit all to himself.