Anything You Want Book Summary and PDF

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers [Book Summary & PDF]

In Anything You Want, author Derek Sivers highlights the main lessons learned while building his business, CD Baby. This quick read is full of actionable and sometimes controversial lessons that go against the norm. Derek challenges conventional business thinking and turns a lot of assumptions on their heads.





Who is this summary for?

Anything You Want is the story of Derek Sivers journey to building his successful business CD. He shares the lessons he learned along the way, some controversial and all actionable. Derek challenges conventional business thinking and turns a lot of assumptions on their heads. The perfect read for any budding entrepreneur wanting to build a business and looking for some advice.

About the author

American born Derek Sivers is probably best known for his business CD Baby which he began in 1997 following a career as a circus clown and a musician. CD Baby was designed to be an online store for independent musicians and was loved by many. Sold in 2008, Sivers has since moved to Wellington, New Zealand and spends the majority of his time writing. He’s dedicated his life to creating and learning as much as possible and loosely follows the Stoic philosophy.

In this summary

This summary will touch on the different lessons Sivers learned on his business venture, ranging from dreams and business plans to delegation and selling up. It’s a quick read but full of useful information.



Sivers stresses the importance of understanding what makes you happy, what makes you tick, what makes you you. Figuring out your own personal philosophy is going to help guide you through some tough times and help you to thrive.

Sivers paints the picture of realising you’re at the end of your life, you realise there were chances you missed and you didn’t pursue your dreams, instead you got caught up in the little things. Don’t let this be you.

”When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your utopia. When you make it a dream come true for yourself, it’ll be a dream come true for someone else, too.”


Sivers explains that a business plan does not need to be a month-long affair with hours spent planning, re-planning and analysing. In an ideal world, Sivers believes a business plan can take only a matter of minutes, and never more than a few hours. The reason-being is that simple plans are normally the best kind of plans. If you can glance at the plan and see what needs to be done then that’s all you need. The rest are details that can be worked out as you go.

”If you think revolution needs to feel like war, you’ll overlook the importance of simply serving people better. When you’re onto something great, it won’t feel like a revolution. It’ll feel like uncommon sense.”

Also important to remember is that plans are just that a plan. And they are going to change. From the day you write your first business plan to the day you go to market with a new product or service, you’ll realise just how many amendments and adaptions need to be made. As entrepreneur Steve Blank once said:

“No business plan survives first contact with customers.”Click To Tweet

The plan that you first come up with, is the first of many. There’s never only one option or one way to do it. Sivers explains that businesses never go as planned, so have more than one plan!

It’s often assumed that you need a big vision, or ambitions to radically change the industry with your business. But Sivers points out that it’s not always necessary. He never had the vision or ambition. And look how that turned out!


Persistence is something that a lot of authors talk about when it comes to business. But Sivers explains that the concept is often misunderstood. Rather than persistently working on something that doesn’t seem to be working, you need to shift your focus to persistently improving and inventing.

And each time you make an invention or an improvement, Sivers suggests you show it to the ‘world’. What you want is feedback, if people respond positively, then you’re on to a winner. But if they don’t then you need to re-asses. Either re-invent or ditch it.


“Saying yes to less is the way out.”Click To Tweet

The phrase ‘No more yes. It’s either a HELL YEAH or a no’, has become popular among authors in this field, Mark Manson has even put his own spin on it; ‘F*ck Yes or No.’ And Sivers strongly backs this statement, if you’re not excited about something or if you aren’t passionate then say no. It’s easy to take on more than you can handle, and rather than feel like your juggling too many things, start saying no. As Sivers states;

“Saying yes to less is the way out.”


Can having no funding ever be a good thing?

Sivers believes that in some situations, no funding can be seen as an advantage, not a disadvantage. If you don’t start with a lump sum of money, there’s no risk of you wasting it.

Sivers tell the story of learning how to program, he simply could not afford to hire a programmer. So what did he do? He spent $25 at a local book store on programming and dedicated his time to learning. The need to learn and the lack of ability to pay anyone else to do it was his key motivation here.

”Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers. Make every decision—even decisions about whether to expand the business, raise money, or promote someone—according to what’s best for your customers.”

Just make a start

Another common theme amongst entrepreneur authors is the need to just get started. To make the first move and start the process. Sivers stresses this point and explains that even if you feel like you are starting with absolutely nothing, and you dream seems practically unreachable, the only way to make progress is to make a start. Get in the game and you can consider yourself leading the pack, anyone who hasn’t started yet is already falling behind you.

All of the ideas none of the execution

As far as Sivers is concerned, ideas are pretty useless. You can have the best ideas in the world but if you never take action on them then they are worth nothing. Sivers places emphasis on the execution of ideas. That’s where the money is made.

”To make a business, you need to multiply the two components. The most brilliant idea, with no execution, is worth $20. The most brilliant idea takes great execution to be worth $200,000,000.”

It’s normal to have fears

When you’re building a business, it’s inevitable that you’re going to have fears, in fact, you’ll probably think of new ones almost every day. But Sivers stresses the importance of not letting them get in the way, don’t let your fears make you buy stuff you don’t necessarily need. Scaremongers will use worst-case scenarios to trick you into making big purchases or investments into unnecessary things.


”Never forget why you’re really doing what you’re doing. Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?”

Sivers points out that lots of little customers are just as valuable as few big clients. If you have a business focused on as many customers as possible, then the concern about losing one or two here and there is not nearly as relevant. If you’ve only got 4 large clients and you lose one, there goes one-quarter of your revenue. Hopefully, you can build up a large customer base where the majority love the brand and are passionate about what you do. The few that don’t agree can leave, and you won’t miss them.

Sivers explains the importance of knowing exactly who your target market is, down to the 1%, and focusing on them:

”Have the confidence to know that when your target 1 percent hears you excluding the other 99 percent, the people in that 1 percent will come to you because you’ve shown how much you value them.”

Customers before you

This is a rule we should all know, as Sivers points out, it should be common sense.

”Of course you should care about your customers more than you care about yourself! Isn’t that Rule No. 1 of providing a good service? It’s all about them, not about you.”

However, Sivers acknowledges that sometimes businesses and companies may have the best intentions, but when they are facing a crisis, this can sometimes go out the window.

Sivers explains that the key purpose of most businesses is to solve a problem. But in reality, if they could truly SOLVE that problem, then the business would become entirely unnecessary. So more often than not, businesses intentionally ensure that the problem is never 100% solved so they can keep charging their customers to solve it.

Pretend you don’t need the money

Any business who is essentially directly asking for money is going to find themselves losing customers. Sivers explains that if a customer can sense that the business is only doing it for the money, then they are instantly put off. Sivers stresses the importance of creating a business out of passion and being generous as a business. Make it seem like you really are not doing it just for the paycheck and you’ll find that people are more likely to pay up.

And remember, your customers are people too, they have feelings and they don’t want them hurt.

There will always be a bad seed

Sivers explains that you will come across a customer who will rip you off or scam you. But it’s important to remember all of the other customers you have who haven’t done anything wrong. Bad things are going to happen occasionally but it’s not fair to punish all of your customers in spite of one person.




When you write an email to your customers, you have to over analyse every sentence and word. The worst case scenario is sending out an email that can be misunderstood and this can turn into a disaster.

Successful emails

Sivers finds that the most successful emails he sends contain all of the teeny tiny details, he offers enough detail to his customers so they want to go around and tell everyone they know about you. These details are the thrill-factor.

Little things make all the difference

Sivers found every opportunity to be personal and to make his customers smile. He explains that each email sent from his business has a “From” section, with a little bit of simple coding he set it up so that every email would say “CD Baby loves (customer name)” and his customers loved it. It made them feel special.

Giving your business these little human-like touches is going to build a loyal following, people aren’t going to assume your some big business who couldn’t care less about their customers.


Double everything

It’s easy as a small business to get overwhelmed as soon as business starts going well. All this says to people is that you can’t handle the pressure or the traffic. Sivers explains that you always need to prepare for double your normal load of work, this way, when business picks up you’ve got it under control. No-one will be able to doubt you or your abilities.

It’s about being, not having

One of my favourite points from Sivers book is that there is joy in learning and doing. Doing things yourself is going to be so beneficial to you. Regardless of the time it may take or the money it costs. Do it because it makes you happy. If you insist on learning and doing something yourself instead of paying someone else to do it, your business may progress a bit slower or you may miss a few opportunities because it took more time, but the next time, you’ll know exactly what to do. And look at what you learned!

Sivers shares an insightful moment in his career, the day Steve Jobs dissed him in one of his keynotes. But Sivers learned an extremely valuable lesson that day. And he never promised a customer something that he couldn’t directly control himself. It goes to show that what may feel like a low-point, always has a silver lining or a lesson. You can learn from it.


”There’s a big difference between being self-employed and being a business owner. Being self-employed feels like freedom until you realize that if you take time off, your business crumbles. 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.”

Sivers explains that abdicating is not the same as delegation and that was an important lesson in his time at CD baby. To abdicate is to literally give up all power and responsibility. This is not what you are aiming to do when you delegate. Understand the difference!

”I learned a hard lesson in hindsight: Trust, but verify. Remember it when delegating. You have to do both.”

Be happy

Really we are all constantly chasing happiness. It’s the motivation behind every move. And Sivers explains that those who say they are in it for the money, believe that the money is essentially their road to happiness. But Sivers believes that there’s a limit to how much happiness money can bring. A 1 million dollar business will likely bring you more happiness than a 1 billion dollar business. Why? Because all the extra dollars bring extra stress and drama.


Sivers explains that a question he got asked often was: “how do you when it’s time to sell?” And Sivers always responded with the same answer: “you’ll know.”

When Sivers realised it was time to sell, he acknowledged that he already had plenty. As a man of few possessions, no house, car or TV, he feels a sense of freedom to go anywhere, anytime. So, he decided to give his company to charity. Selling it for money wasn’t going to provide any more happiness or freedom than he already had.

Sivers has talked about the road to happiness a few times throughout his book, and he explains that no matter what you’re working on, people will disagree, they’ll think you are wrong. But as long as your doing what makes you happy, what drives you, what your passionate about, then you’re doing the right thing.

”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.”


Key takeaways

  • Understanding what makes you happy is essential.
  • You don’t want to look back on your life and realise you didn’t follow your dreams.
  • Business plans aren’t as important as you think they are. It’s a rough plan that will change over time.
  • It’s either a HELL YEAH, or a No. Utilise this mindset when you are considering agreeing to new opportunities.
  • You just need to get started.
  • Having fears and being scared is totally normal.
  • Remember, the customer comes before you. Always.
  • Emails are important, and even more important are the personal touches you can make.
  • Learn how to delegate, but don’t abdicate.
  • Continuously pursue your own happiness.

Further reading

Zero to One by Peter Thiel is a must read for startup entrepreneurs everywhere. The book looks at how companies can engineer radical changes and in doing so, move the human race forward. Good to Great by Jim Collins is another great read. Collins examines what it takes to turn an average company into a great one.

The Third Wave by Steve Case is an insightful look into the future of startups and entrepreneurs in our ever-evolving technological world. Examining experiences form his own life, large global companies and recent stir-ups such as Uber, Case shares plenty of advice for those looking to achieve more and succeed in what he is calling ‘the third wave’.

The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau has two key themes; freedom and value. Freedom is what we are all looking for and value is the way to achieve it. The concept of having your own startup is the ultimate form of freedom according to Guillebeau. He discusses different lessons on the road to beginning your own startup. With a focus on ‘micro businesses’ this book has plenty of tips and advice for every step of the journey.

Guidelines is my eBook that summarises the main lessons from 33 of the best-selling self-help books in one place. It is the ultimate book summary; Available as a 80-page ebook and 115-minute audio book. Guidelines lists 31 rules (or guidelines) that you should follow to improve your productivity, become a better leader, do better in business, improve your health, succeed in life and become a happier person.

Action steps

  • Assess yourself, are you doing what makes you happy? Do you know what makes you happy?
  • Check out Sivers site for some interesting info.
  • Download the complete book on Amazon

This summary is not intended as a replacement for the original book and all quotes are credited to the above mentioned author and publisher.