Book Notes – Anything You Want: 40 Lessons For a New Kind of Entrepreneur by Derek Sivers

The book | Read Jan 2016 | Rating 5.0/5.0

If you want to build your own utopia by starting your own business, read Anything You Want. It’s short, full of wisdom, and if you’re like me, you might end up highlighting most of it.

Notes and takeaways

  • When you build a company, you have the freedom to create your own utopia. You’re making a little world where you control the laws. It doesn’t matter how things are done everywhere else.
  • “In a perfect world, would your website be covered with advertising? When you’ve asked your customers what would improve your service, has anyone said, “Please fill your website with more advertising”? Nope. So don’t do it.”
  • Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently promoting what’s not working.
  • For an idea to get really big, it has to be useful. Helping others doesn’t need funding.
  • Make yourself unnecessary to the running of your business.
  • When you’re onto something great, it’ll feel like uncommon sense, not a revolution.

If you’re not saying, “Hell yeah!”, say no. We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out… 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!

  • Don’t waste years fighting uphill battles. Improve or invent until you get that huge response. 
  • Once you’ve got a hit, doors will suddenly open wide and the idea will seem to promote itself without you doing anything.
  • None of your customers will ask you to turn your attention to expanding. Just thrill them, and they’ll tell everyone.
  • Starting small puts 100 percent of your energy into actually solving real problems for real people.
  • Ideas don’t mean anything without execution.
  • Don’t think you need a huge vision. Just stay focused on helping people today.
  • Don’t forget about the joy of learning and doing, even if it takes longer or is inefficient.
  • Even if what you’re doing is slowing the growth of your business—if it makes you happy, that’s OK. It’s your choice to remain small.
  • To be a true business owner, make it so that you could leave for a year, and when you came back, your business would be doing better than when you left.

I loved sitting alone and programming, writing, planning, and inventing—thinking of ideas and making them happen. This makes me happy, not business deals or management. So I found someone who liked doing business deals

  • You have to just do whatever you love the most, or you’ll lose interest in the whole thing.
  • “In 2007 I did a ground-up rewrite of the website from scratch. And man, it was beautiful code. The proudest achievement of my life so far is that rewritten software. Wonderfully organized, extensible, and efficient: the culmination of everything I’d learned about programming in ten years.”
  • “I already had enough. I live simply. I don’t own a house, a car, or even a TV. The less I own, the happier I am. The lack of stuff gives me the priceless freedom to live anywhere anytime.”
  • Business is as creative as the fine arts. You can be as unconventional, unique, and quirky as you want.

It’s not that I’m altruistic. I’m sacrificing nothing. I’ve just learned what makes me happy. And doing it this way made me the happiest.

Just pay close attention to what excites you and what drains you. Pay close attention to when you’re being the real you and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury.


Start now: “If you want to be useful, you can always start now, with only 1 percent of what you have in your grand vision. It’ll be a humble prototype version of your grand vision, but you’ll be in the game. You’ll be ahead of the rest, because you actually started”

Define your target 1 percent: when they hear you, they will come to you because you’ve shown how much you value them

Clarify what you want (and don’t want): you can make your role anything you want it to be. Anything you hate to do, someone else loves. So find that person.

Make ten radically different plans (or at least remember the freedom to do so any time), as there’s no one way to do it, and no business goes as planned

Same thing with your current path in life: ▸ Now you’re living in New York City, obsessed with success. Go! ▸ Now you’re a free spirit, backpacking around Thailand. Go! ▸ Now you’re a confident extrovert and everyone loves you. Go! ▸ Now you’re married and your kids are your life. Go! ▸ Now you spend a few years in relative seclusion, reading and walking. Go!

Decide what you want to learn next: “Since I couldn’t afford a programmer, I went to the bookstore and got a $25 book on PHP and MySQL programming. Then I sat down and learned it, with no programming experience. Necessity is a great teacher.”

Ask: Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?

Define how you grade yourself:  “For me, it’s how many useful things I create, whether songs, companies, articles, websites, or anything else. If I create something that’s not useful to others, it doesn’t count. But I’m also not interested in doing something useful unless it needs my creative input. How do you grade yourself? It’s important to know in advance, to make sure you’re staying focused on what’s honestly important to you, instead of doing what others think you should.”

Think about the tiny details: it’s often the tiny details that thrill people enough to make them tell all their friends about you.

Remember: Whatever you make, it’s your creation, so make it your personal dream come true.