"This is your one chance in life, you can have anything you want, what is worth doing?"
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When Derek Sivers started CD Baby in 1998, he simply wanted a way to sell his own CD.
He didn’t plan on starting a multi-million dollar business.
Nor did he envision that he’d one day sell it for $22 million dollars.
In fact, as Derek writes in Anything You Want, he did everything he could to keep CD Baby as small as possible. “Funny thing is, I didn’t want CD Baby to grow at all,” Sivers explains. “Even from the start, I didn’t want this website hobby to take away from my career as a musician, but it did. I didn’t want it to have more than a couple employees or outgrow my house, but it did. When I had twenty employees, I vowed to keep it that small, but customer demand kept growing, and I had to keep the customers happy. When I had fifty employees, I swore that was enough, and we needed to curb this growth, but the business kept growing.”
Derek’s journey from a musician, to business owner, to entrepreneur, has been filled with many life and business lessons which he shares in Anything You Want. And perhaps the most powerful lesson is just that: you can have anything you want.
The Big Idea
You Will Make Your Perfect World
"I started CD Baby focused on the importance of making a dream-come-true perfect world for musicians. Along the way I learned the importance of making business dreams come true for myself, too."
On any given day, at any given time, it’s up to you how to think, act, and behave.
The choice is always yours. No one else’s.
The same applies when you start your project or business.
“When you make a business, you’re making a little world where you control the laws,” writes Sivers. “It doesn’t matter how things are done everywhere else. In your little world, you can make it like it should be.”
From implementing a “We’ll do anything for a pizza” policy to having a “ridiculous” hiring policy, Derek wholeheartedly believed that it was up to him to decide how to run his business; no one else’s.
“My hiring process was ridiculous. Because I was ‘too busy to bother,’ I’d just ask my current employees if they had any friends who needed work. Someone always did, so I’d say, ‘Tell them to start tomorrow morning. Ten dollars an hour. Show then what to do’ And that was that.”
“Don’t try to impress an invisible jury of MBA professors. It’s OK to be casual.”
No "Yes." Either "HELL YEAH!" or "No."
"If you’re not saying ‘HELL YEAH!’ about something, say ‘no.’"
The projects you choose to pursue are at the heart of creating your perfect world. And these projects most likely take up most of your time and energy, so it’s important to remember:
“When deciding whether to do something, if you feel anything less than ‘Wow! That would be amazing! Absolutely! Hell yeah!’ – then say ‘no.’ When you say ‘no’ to most things, you leave room in your life to throw yourself completely into that rare thing that makes you say ‘HELL YEAH!’”
Focus On Being, Not Having
"In the end, it’s about what you want to be, not what you want to have."
When Derek started CD Baby, he only knew very basic HTML programming. Since he couldn’t afford to hire a programmer, he bought a book on PHP and MySQL programming and developed the site himself. Even as the company grew, he continued to do all the programming himself.
And since Derek insisted on doing all the programming, even in the last few years, new features weren’t added as quickly as they could have, and his employees strongly voiced their opinions because they felt they were losing millions of dollars in business.
So why did Derek insist on being the sole programmer, even after knowing it meant losing business?
Because he was happy.
He knew full well that it would take longer and that it might be inefficient.
But he enjoyed the creative process and challenge.
And he was happy doing it – that’s what matter most.
Not having more money.
“To have something (a finished recording, a business, or millions of dollars) is the means, not the end,” writes Sivers. “To be something (a good singer, a skilled entrepreneur, or just plain happy) is the real point. When you sign up to run a marathon, you don’t want a taxi to take you to the finish line.”
When Derek was at the crossroads of deciding whether to take on the traditional CEO role at CD Baby, he again went with what made him happy.
Business deals and management didn’t make him happy.
He loved “sitting alone and programming, writing, planning, and inventing.”
He loved “thinking of ideas and making them happen.”
So that’s exactly what he did.
He hired someone to take care of the business deals and management, while he focused on what truly made him happy.
“You have to just do whatever you love the most, or you’ll lose interest in the whole thing… Happiness is the real reason you’re doing anything right?”
Anything You Want truly is “a manifesto about living life.” It’s a reminder of something we tend to forget: You truly are in control of everything you do – It’s your choice.
“Whatever you make, it’s your creation, so make it your personal dream come true.”
In the comments below, let us know…
Why do you do what you do?