Anything You Want: Summary & Review

anything you want book cover

In Anything You Want, author Derek Sivers talks about entrepreneurship, happiness, and life philosophy.

Bullet Summary

  • Self-awareness is important for good business and good life: what makes you happy?
  • Prioritize your business decisions based on what will benefit your customers
  • You don’t need “change the world visions”: you can do great if all you want is to do what you love while making enough to live

Full Summary

About the Author: Derek Sivers is an entrepreneur who launched and then sold a successful tech business during the Dot-com era and then focused on doing things he likes, without caring about money.
He describes himself as an introvert and a bit of a loner, and one of his quirks is that he takes pride in answering all emails people write him. I wrote to him by the way and I can testify that his claim of replying to everyone is indeed true -albeit it’s one-line replies and, for full disclosure, I’ve heard a fellow entrepreneur say he’s got an automated system for quicker replies :)-

What Makes You Happy?

Anything You Want talks a lot about happiness and the intersection of money, business, and happiness.

One of the keys to getting all three of them right, says Derek Sivers, is to understand what makes you happy, what you’re passionate about, and what makes you unique.

Once you know that, you will have a huge advantage in finding and doing what really stimulates you. It’s going to make your highs higher and it’s going to help you and guide you through the tough times.

Sivers uses a rather popular image in the self-help literature to help you figure out what you want: think you’re nearing the end of your life.
What do you regret you haven’t done? What do you wish you had done more if you hadn’t let yourself get caught up in the pettiness and small things of life?
Then do more of what you really wanted to do.

It’s Either Hell-Yeah or No

This is a concept similar to Essentialism and The One Thing.
In a nutshell, it says that you either do something because you really love it, or don’t do it all.

I find this is a great way to prioritize in life and make the most of your time.

You Don’t Have to Change The World

We live in a world where everyone is aiming for the moon.

Indeed several books, like Bold and The Magic of Thinking Big want you to believe that you should have outsized goals to succeed.

But Derek Sivers says that you don’t really need any ambition to change your field -or the whole world- with your business.
Sivers for one, never had such grand ambitions. And he did just fine.

Similarly, if you only want to pay your expenses or free your time, that’s a very valid goal.

My Note: I really loved this part. I want to be and do the best I can, share the best information possible with this website, and sell the best information-based products you could find. Yet, I don’t really care about making huge bucks. 
All I want is the freedom to do what I love.

Also, read:

Persist With New Ideas

The concept Derek Sivers has of entrepreneurship and ideas is similar to Jay Samit’s “zombie idea” concept (read Disrupt You).

Such as, yes, keep persisting, but not on the same ideas. But keep persisting in generating projects that add value and improving on them.
Do the bare minimum and then show it to the world. Get the feedback and keep working on them if they’re good or move to the next thing (similar to The Lean Startup).

Keep Your Business Plan Simple

Sivers explains that there is no need to make your business plan long or full of jargon. You won’t make a better impression, but a poorer one if you try to embellish it.

Keep it simple instead and keep only the high-level figures in it.
That’s all you need in the beginning -and that’s all you know often: the rest you figure out as you go-.

Define Your Target – And Say No To Everyone Else

The author says that once you define your target audience you should keep it large enough that you don’t come to depend on one single customer or modify your product for one single customer.

But at the same time, you remain focused on your values and target audience so that you stay true to your goals.
As you grow successful you will receive more and more requests, and it’s not only OK to let some requests go unfulfilled, but that’s exactly what you should do sometimes.

For example, the author received a lot of solicitations from music executives who wanted their latest hottest talent on his website CD Baby.
But he always refused because he designed his website for musicians without a label.

You Don’t Need Big Money

The author says that you don’t need much money to get you started.

It’s not money that makes the business grow, it’s the value added to helping people.
So start helping out.

As a matter of fact, being low on cash can boost your productivity and become an advantage (also read: The Obstacle is The Way).
You will build your business on the foundation of a lean company based on your vast knowledge, creative problem-solving, and maximizing resources.

Make Decisions Based on Your Customers

When you have to make decisions, always ask yourself: what do your customer want and need?
Then do what’s best for them.

If Troubles: Move to Next Idea

If you are struggling to keep your business afloat, it might mean you need to move on.

Every business fixes a problem, and if that problem disappears, then it’s simply time to change. Worry not: as long as you keep adding value people will be happy to come to you.

Delegate While Keeping an Overview

Derek Sivers says that not learning to delegate is a crucial mistake for self-employed people.

You need to free your own time to focus on the strategic vision and grow.
Or maybe because in the future you want to take time off or dedicate yourself to something else. Sivers echoes a bit of The E-Myth when he says that a good business is a business that you can leave for a year and come back to find has grown without you.

The author makes a good point that you should let your employee know that you delegate to them because you trust them.
This helps develop a culture of trust and faith (also read: Drive)

But the opposite is also a common problem: delegating too much. Make sure you keep a system that allows you to keep an overview and approve the most critical decisions.

Trust. But verify.

Do It If You Like It

I love this part.

Derek Sivers says that if you really like doing something by yourself, you should probably do it even though that could mean doing it less efficiently, a bit more slowly, or a bit more expensively.

anything you want book cover

Real-Life Applications

Don’t Get Spiteful
You will eventually stumble upon a customer who will scam you or try to rip you off. Don’t let that poison you to the point that you take it out on all customers or that you change your business in a way that would penalize many of your customers.

Prioritize Fulfillment
Chasing money will hardly make most people happy.
If you enjoy a lot doing something, it might make sense for you to keep doing that. Even if it might mean slightly less explosive growth or even making less money.


I vibe deeply with Derek’s philosophy and that’s why I really loved “Anything You Want“.

Reading this book reminded me of the English saying “preaching to the converted”.
It’s in a way similar to The 4-Hour Workweek, but less geeky, more philosophical, and, well… It comes from a guy who’s built a relatively big business and who, in my opinion, has a lot of credibility for putting his money where his mouth is.

Overall, I could recommend this book to entrepreneurs. But, most of all, I can recommend it to solopreneurs, as they are called today. It’s especially good for introverted solopreneurs and people who want to live life their way, on their own way.

Read the best entrepreneurship books, or get the book on Amazon

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