Anything You Want: 21 Inspiring Ideas From Derek Sivers

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Anything You Want: 21 Inspiring Ideas From Derek Sivers


I first met Derek Sivers at the Business of Software conference. I'd heard about him, but I hadn't actually met him.

Derek has done at least two remarkable things:

1. He created a successful business, from scratch.

2. He gave the business away to charity when he was done.

Derek recently spoke at the Business of Software conference.  You should go watch his presentation.  Inspiring.

Derek just came out with a simple, highly readable book called “Anything You Want”. It's short, to the point and inspiring. Also, the book is published through "The Domino Project" by Seth Godin.anything you want

Before I could get this article published, the book has climbed from a 12,000 ranking on Amazon to about 1,000. [Update it's all the way at #6 now]

Inspiring Ideas From “Anything You Want” By Derek Sivers

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

2. When you make a company, you make a utopia. It's where you design your perfect world.

3. Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what's not working.

4. A quick glance and common sense should tell you if the numbers will work. The rest are details.

5. “Revolution” is a term that people use only when you're successful. Before that, you're just a quirky person who does things differently.

6. When you're on to something great, it won't feel like revolution. It'll feel like uncommon sense.

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

8. Start now. No funding needed.

9. After we grew to 50 employees, people started pitching me on how I needed an official employee review plan, sensitivity training, Terms and Conditions postings, and all this corporate crap. I got such joy out saying no to all of it.

10. In a perfect world, would your website be covered with advertising?

11. Resist the urge to punish everyone for one person's mistake.

12. If you find even the smallest way to make people smile, they'll remember you more for that smile than for all your other fancy business-model stuff.

13. Don't try to impress an invisible jury of MBA professors. It's OK to be casual.

14. No matter what business you're in, it's good to prepare for what would happen if business doubled.

15. In the end, it's about what you want to be, not what you want to have.

16. When you sign up for a marathon, you don't want a taxi to take you to the finish line.

17. There's a big difference between being self-employed and being a business owner.

18. Never forget that you can make your role anything you want it to be.

19. Anything you hate to do, someone else loves it. Find that person and let them do it.

20. Why he gave his company away to charity: I get the pride of knowing I did something irreversibly smart before I could change my mind. Most of all, I get the constant, priceless reminder that I have enough.

21. Whatever you make, it's your creation, so make it your personal dream come true.

So, what do you think? Are you working towards being happy?  What's your favorite idea from the list?  Tweet it out and tell the world.  Thanks.

Posted by Dharmesh Shah on Wed, Jun 29, 2011


Love the high level recap. I was first introduced to Derek on TED talks. Awesome stuff! Buying that book right now.

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 9:44 AM by Casey

This is quite inspiring. I particularly like #7 and #19. Do what inspires you. If there is any doubt in your mind, don't do it. 
The stuff that bogs you down and makes you nuts? Someone else will love it, so by all means let them have at it.

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 9:44 AM by Alice Phinizy

Derek is a real stand-up guy. He sent email to his CDBaby subscribers some time ago and said "stay in touch". So I did. And he replied. I'm so impressed with him... I will buy the book. You should too.

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 9:49 AM by Peter Alberti

Two thumbs way up on this simple, efficient article.

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 9:53 AM by Karl Treier

Awesome quote recap. You just inspired me to buy the book.

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 9:59 AM by Andy Cook

Awesome points. 
By any chance did you mean to write "No" in stead of "Now" in #8?

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 10:59 AM by Mohit Bansal

"Business is not about money. It's about making dreams come true for others and for yourself." 
(Were all your businesses non-profits? The dreams that don't require money don't seem to require a business. Even being kind to many others requires money.) 
"When you make a company, you make a utopia. It's where you design your perfect world." 
I'm sorry but you cannot change people. To make a successful company you must create THEIR perfect environment.  
"If you're not saying “HELL YEAH!” about something, say “no”." 
Sorry, but for most that's 'paralysis by analysis'. It's more important to give up some of your decision to others who are smarter/better than you and follow it. That really does work. Perfectionist business owner ain't good. 
"There's a big difference between being self-employed and being a business owner." 
Wow.. you are so very right on that! 
Otherwise wonderful article.

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 11:24 AM by JOhn hadings

Great ideas and concisely put - especially the first one re making dreams come true. Just finished listening to Guy Kawasaki's session at Social Media Success Summit in which he also talks about the role of the dream in 'enchanting' people.  
Also really liked No. 5 i.e. before success you are just a quirk person....

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 12:43 PM by Donna Neumann

I am trying to run a business for last 3 years and i completely agree with your point no 17.

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 2:23 PM by rakesh kumar

like your style

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 4:23 PM by jim collier

I love #16. It doesn't need to be easy. It feels good to earn it and sweat along the way!

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 5:49 PM by Rick Roberge

The 'charity' he gave his business to pays him at least 1.1 million USD every year until he dies (1). 
Also, this charity is no charity like the ones you know from TV. It does not give away it's money to good causes, no it 'passively invests' it's money with the goal of making more money (2). 
Sure, after his death, this 'charity' has to spend all remaining money in line with it's goals, but when you tell someone you gave money to a charity, they don't assume you get paid a lot of money every year until you die. 
It's not fair to tell only half of the story... 

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 6:55 PM by Wouter

And from an 1000 ranking to #6! 
Great write-up. Thanks, Dharmesh for sharing.

posted on Wednesday, June 29, 2011 at 7:00 PM by Amber Rae

A remarkable and even breathtaking list that every MBA or any other business course should have for their students to go through profoundly. What if majority of the Fortune Global 1000 corporations would begin behaving like this...? 
BTW, does this CRUT ( setup mean that the assets remaining are distributed to charity Only after the settler has passed away?  
Why not setting up a trust fund that gives yearly grants to e.g. young, gifted musicians in need of funding? 
Anyway, the book is well worth reading. Thanks for your thoughts. Respect.

posted on Thursday, June 30, 2011 at 2:56 AM by Paul

I like number 1 the best. The reason is the venture I am working on right now does exactly that. Helps people to accomplish their dreams in a way that was not previously possible.  
I believe that a business that truly helps people reach their goals and dreams will succeed. 

posted on Friday, July 01, 2011 at 1:08 PM by Don Tarinelli

Caught this blog entry on VentureBeat via Facebook. This was exactly the source of inspiration I needed today. Thanks!!!

posted on Wednesday, July 06, 2011 at 9:09 AM by Patrick Poon

@Wouter - The 5% payout is an IRS minimum requirement. I assume that's to prevent everyone from creating a charitable trust and avoiding taxes forever; this results in at least some of the money to get taxed. Would you have preferred him to take 100% of the sale money for himself and donate $0 to charity? Or is it better to have it go - eventually - to a good, charitable cause? Why can't people appreciate the positive side of things like this?

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