Life & Business Lessons from Derek Sivers’ Anything You Want

anything you want derek sivers

Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur who have founded and sold his company for millions of dollars without getting any funding. In his book Anything You Want, he put together the 10 years of experience he had, from building to selling his company, into some great lessons that can be read within two hours. It is a book that is very real and I also like how he emphasizes that his way of achieving success is only one way to do it and there should be many other ways. Here are some of best ideas from his book.

You Need to Have a North Star

To actually achieve your goal, you need to know what is your real purpose, or north star. It is the real goal that is not altered by your ego. It should be closer to a final or really long term goal rather than a two-year-or-shorter goal. All your actions should be aligned to move yourself towards your north star. Without the north star, you are just shooting a bunch of arrows at a moving and unclear target.

If You Can Solve a Problem of Yourself or Someone You Know, You Have a Shot

A business has two parts, to solve a problem and to make money. The first part can in a degree lead to the second part, so the problem solving part is extremely important. Your best problem to solve is probably not an imaginary problem or a distant problem that you don’t care about at all. Well, you may see many sexy new startups solving the problem but it is not yours to solve. The problem you want to solve should be something that is either your own problem or some problem that you see happening very close to you. At the end of the day, the problem you are solving should be aligned with your own north star.

“If It’s Not a Hit, Switch” – Derek Sivers

When you are working on a new project, you definitely need to spend enough time on it to see whether it is something that works or just something that would never work for you. Knowing how often to review and decide whether to switch to another project is often more of art than science. From my experience, I would say that nine months to two years is usually a good length of time period to see whether the project you are working on is something that works.

Keep Your Business Model Simple

A good business model is usually a very simple business model. It is very interesting that many things in life are like that. That best thing is usually the simplest thing, and sticking to the simplest thing is also often the hardest task. If you can’t explain how your business make money in a simple way, you better be careful and check whether you have complicated things to make it look like that you are progressing while you are not.

Say Yes To Everything Before You Have Enough Money

Before things are going your ways or before you are comfortable with making living, you should almost always say yes to every opportunity that you meet. There are times when you would find yourself into bad situations where you simply hate the job opportunities that you said yes to. But sometimes, you only need one of the many things to which you say yes to work out to turn the game around. That’s why you should keep betting on these opportunities before you have any big enough victory.

When You Have Enough Money, Say Yes to Things that Excite You Only

After you have a big enough victory that allows you to make living in a much more comfortable way, you should change your strategy because the situation has changed. By that time, you should know what is the best way to use your time to move yourself toward your north star.

You Don’t Need Funding to Build a Business

The point is not about suggesting that having funding is either good or bad, the point is that not being able to get funding or not wanting funding will not stop you from building a successful business. Sivers mentioned in the book that he actually denied all the potential investors who wanted to invest in his company. To extend his point a little bit, since building a business today is so much cheaper than before, you don’t need a big funding to start but you do need to have the hustle and patience to work as a employee or a freelancer until you can make living with your business alone.

Everyone Has a Different “Right Way” to Succeed

Have you ever read some advice from a really good book and read the exact opposite advice from anther good book? They can both be right. But more importantly, you have to know which one is the right way for you. Sometimes, I think of a good mentor as someone who has a great method for achieving something and that method also works well for you. These methods are like weapons. Someone may be naturally better with using a sword, while someone else is better using a knife.

Delegate, But Don’t Ignore

Eventually, when your business grows bigger, you need to delegate your work to others. It is human nature that you just want to pay the person and let him or her get rid of all your problems. It is great to trust people, but this is laziness, not trust. You need to have a system to keep people accountable and make sure that things are going well.

Running a Business is a Way to Grow Personally

You can’t really separate a business from the person who runs it. It should be a reflection of that person. By building and running a business, you can learn a lot of great lessons. Lessons like working under pressure, communicating better and leading a team are just a small part of the many great lessons that you can learn.

I really enjoyed reading this short yet real book. This is especially a great book to read if bootstrapping a business is something you want to do. If you are using the lack of funding or saving as your reason for not starting a business that you want to start, may be you should answer yourself the question of why you cannot start a business while you have a full time job. There are always trade offs. They are all choices of yours.