Anything You Want Re-read - #01

"Anything You Want Re-read" is a series of posts where I will publicly post my notes from reading "Anything You Want" by Derek Sivers a second time. In these posts, I will share the things I find interesting, or that I disagree with, or that inspire other thinking, or that reinforce principles I have seen elsewhere.

These are mostly for me but can act as a taste sampler for the book in case you are curious about it.

What's Your Compass?

In Which

Derek Sivers shares a list of directives that he thinks will allow a person to pursue a business that will not end in regret.

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

At some point, all activity involves money. Either spending it, or making it, or doing something instead of worrying about it. Contextually one could argue that Derek is wrong because eventually you gotta pay the bills. I think this bullet doesn't stand alone.

It stands better when combined with one of the later bullets:

Never do anything just for the money.

When taken together, I can see what Sivers is getting at. Money has the potential to be a distraction and is dangerous to pursue for its own sake.

It's a way to lose touch with your internal compass.

I think Sivers is saying that chasing money is a way to end up some place you never intended to be and uncertain of why you do what you do.

Don't pursue business just for your own gain. Only answer the calls for help.

Sivers insists that you will know you should start a business by the fact that people are already asking for help; for this thing you will do for your business. Forget about crafting the perfect business plan or waiting until you have enough money... just start helping people.

I think this is very interesting. And, I need more elaboration on how, in this day and age, I can be in a position to hear the calls for help. At my comfy desk job, I am surrounded by very similar people who are hard-working but have solved or resigned themselves to the problems in their context. I don't hear very many calls for help. I am isolated from those calls and I wonder what I could do to increase my exposure to them.

Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business.

Sivers makes a point that I have seen elsewhere. And it is important. If you go into business you need to go to work on the business, and not just at your business.

You have to make it run whether you are present or not.

This topic is covered in detail by a book called The eMyth Revisited by Michael Gerber, which is a very interesting cautionary tale about what happens when technician types, like me, try to create a business in what the author terms an "entrepreneurial seizure". Often technicians end up self-employed in a business they have to manage as well, which they are not prepared to do. Or they abdicate managing the business to someone else.

Gerber and Sivers are in accord: A business has to be a system that you design (and iterate upon) to achieve a goal without requiring that you are present for the business to happen.

What I notice

Because this section is a list of bullets I put most of what I noticed in line above. One additional observation occurs to me.

Sivers opens with the cash value of his books. I figure that the rest of the stories in the book will reinforce these themes and vice versa. They are predicated of his stories and make short lessons of them.

Just selling my CD

In which

Sivers tells the story of how CD Baby came to be. At this point in his life, he had achieved some success as a musician including having saved enough to buy a house.

He was selling his CD in local record stores but wanted to sell online as well. So he called the online record stores to see if they could sell his CD they all told him that you needed to go through a major distributor.

That wasn't going to work. So he went to his bank and got a credit card merchant account and put his CD on his own website with a "buy now" button. And then then friends asked him to sell their CDs on his site, to which he agreed. And this happened many times over.

What I notice

This may not be mind blowing to you, but it is to me. He called the online record stores!!

You mean, I can just pick up the phone and call people?? Perhaps I can make an exercise of this.

Also, he was scratching his own itch, as Tim Ferriss likes to put it. And he belonged to a demographic which had the same need. One by one, they asked him for help to do the same. The growth was slow and organic, requiring no promotion on his part.

Finally, his credit card merchant account was, at the time, a difficult to acquire resource that he shared. Sivers refers to his conception of business as "the Co-op model of business" where he simply splits the cost of an expensive but shareable resource by acquiring it and then making it available to others.

Make a dream come true

In Which

Sivers goes from realizing that he had accidentally created a business to applying a utopian dream-come-true stance to prevent the business from growing too much.

He lists 4 points that are a dream come true for an indie musician (unsigned to a major record label) trying to sell his/her own music:

  1. Pay me every week
  2. Give me the name and address of everyone who bought by CD
  3. Never kick me out for not selling enough.
  4. Never allow paid placement.

Sivers closes saying he wasn't trying to make a business. "I was just daydreaming about how one thing would look in a perfect world.

What I notice

Sivers claims he hadn't intended to create a business but he created a business anyway. Perhaps "the reluctant businessman" is the right kind of business man to avoid the soul-crushing corporatization that seems pervasive in America.

We are much too good at creating soul-less businesses. That's why it's amazing when a company like Apple becomes a big deal. I suspect even Apple has long been in the process of becoming soul-less and most of us haven't admitted it.

Apple have become the establishment in certain spheres. I understand their original purpose to be to disrupt the establishment and to empower individuals. And I think this will be much more difficult if they are trying to protect their hegemony over certain domains.

Back to Sivers. I don't know if he's right in a categorical sense. What he says feels good to me. Stay small, and stay true to your utopian purpose. There is a part of me that wants to believe that this kind of good is possible in our universe. But examples are rare.

Next Time

That's it for this time. Thanks for reading along and see you next time!