Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Guest Review: Bob Lefsetz on Derek Sivers' "Anything You Want"

The great Bob Lefsetz graciously alowed us to repost his review. For more Lefsetz, please visit his blog, here. To subscribe to the Lefsetz Letter by e-mail, click here.

Anything You Want
Anything You Want. Derek Sivers. Domino Project. 88 pages.

This book is so good, so chock full of nuggets, that I had to stop reading it and e-mail you, even though Derek says it will only take an hour to finish.

Derek is you. An outsider. Who’s not trying to be an insider, just looking to find a way to make his life work.

In case you don’t know, Derek started CD Baby. And sold it ten years later for $22 million.

Minus startup costs…


You’re gonna like this book because it’s deals with something you’re familiar with, the music business. It’s not like buying a business book written by a corporate kingpin or an entrepreneur with a personality brighter than a 100-watt bulb who could sell ice to Inuits.  This is a musician, telling his story.

And his story is so different from the one being told by everybody else.

First and foremost, he made money.

And he did it by himself.  His way.

Let’s start with a few lessons…

1. "Start Now. No funding needed

Watch out when anyone (including you) says he wants to do something big, but can’t until he raises money.

It usually means the person is more in love with the idea of being big big big than with actually doing something useful. For an idea to get big big big, it has to be useful. And being useful doesn’t need funding."


If you’ve got a good idea.

Every day I get e-mail from people waiting to start, getting their ducks in order, bitching that they can’t get funded. All you’ve got to do is begin.

2. "Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.

We all have lots of ideas, creations, and projects.  When you present one to the world, and it’s not a hit, don’t keep pushing it as-is. Instead get back to improving and inventing."

If no one reacts to your music, write new tunes.  If you still don’t get traction, change styles.

People hate to hear this. BUT WHAT ABOUT MY INVESTMENT!

You never forget what you’ve learned. Yes, read "What Color Is Your Parachute?", you’re developing transferable skills.  Don’t be married to failure. This doesn’t only apply to the music business. If you can’t make it as a lawyer or a doctor…change course!  Doesn’t matter if someone else is successful, they’re not you.

3. "A business plan should never take more than a few hours of work. Hopefully no more than a few minutes. The best plans start simple. A quick glance and common sense should tell you if the numbers will work. The rest are details."

You can do the business plan in your head.  It should be just that simple. If you’re paying an MBA to write it, you’re just justifying the price of his education. As for impressing investors, Derek didn’t take any money. He built upon his success. If you’ve got no success, stop.

4. "Any time you think you know what your new business will be doing, remember this quote from Steve Blank: No plan survives first contact with customers."


You’ve got no idea what’s gonna happen until you open your store, until the audience hears the first note. Turns out people like a different track than you do. Turns out that little thing you do that embarrasses you audiences love. Maybe your instrumental passage is the highlight of the show. Or vice versa, maybe it’s when you sing a cappella. You won’t know until you try.

Last night Jim e-mailed me to ask if I too wouldn’t take the $1.3 million paid to Nathan Hubbard. If they offered me that gig.

They’re never gonna offer me that gig. I’m not the right person. I don’t play well with others. You’ve got to kiss a lot of ass to succeed in the corporation. You’ve got to hold your tongue when the President acts like an idiot. It’s about being a member of the team, and you’re not the coach, you’re not even the star player.

I don’t work that way.  I’m in an endless pursuit of the truth. I can’t suffer incompetency. Even worse, I can’t handle when people don’t work. I’m paying you, PAY ATTENTION!

But if you run your own business…

I know Derek Sivers. He’s not like the people at Live Nation.  He confided personal information to me right off the bat, unafraid I would use it against him, that I would hurt his career by revealing it to his superiors. When you run your own operation, you can be free!

And Derek is nice. But he’s not Steve Jobs. He’s not so charismatic that you’d follow him anywhere, he’s not a super-salesman. He’s a musician who thinks. Who is willing to get his hands dirty. Who will try something new and make mistakes. We all hate making mistakes, but when we own the company we’re not worried about retribution, we’re not worried about losing our jobs. And we learn from our mistakes.

5. "Five years after I started CD Baby, when it was a big success, the media said I had revolutionized the music business.

But ‘revolution’ is a term that people use only when you’re successful. Before that, you’re just a quirky person who does things differently."

And there’s no room for the quirky person who does it differently at the corporation. They call that person an artist. Maybe that’s why Derek could be so successful, at his heart he’s an artist, willing to take his own path, not susceptible to corporate reviews and not beholden to the HR department.


6. "Business is not about money. It’s about making dreams come true for others and for yourself.

Making a company is a great way to improve the world while improving yourself."

That ain’t Wall Street. That ain’t Pandora or LinkedIn.

Do you know how boring it is to work for Goldman Sachs? How unfulfilling? Working with numbers just so you can make enough coin to vacation in a first class way, buy tickets to the shows of people you wish you could be if you could only take a risk?

Life isn’t about money. It’s about personal fulfillment.

But you can’t do it without money. And Derek Sivers acknowledges this.

Just like I could never be Nathan Hubbard, I could never be those people writing business books. Which is why I’ve completely given up on self-help tomes.  They’re not me. Yeah, that guy could become rich, BUT ME?

But reading Sivers’s book I feel like I’m listening to a soul brother. It gives me hope.

Read it. It’ll inspire you too.

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