Business and life lessons from a musician who accidentally became an entrepreneur when he found himself running a multi-million dollars business.
Derek Sivers was a full-time musician in 1998 making a comfortable living. One day he decided to sell his music CDs online and found that there was no way for a small-time musician to sell online. So, he learnt to program and built a website to sell his CDs. Very soon his friends started requesting him to list their CDs on the website. That’s how CD Baby was born and 10 years later it was doing $100 million in sales. In 2008 Sivers sold CDBaby.com and gave away the proceeds ($22 million) to a charitable trust.
Sivers never wanted to start a business and when he was running CD Baby, he intentionally wanted to restrict the growth so that he could run it the way he wanted. Ironically, those self-imposed constraints became the trigger for CD Baby’s growth.
Selling my friends’ CDs was starting to take up a lot of my time. I realized I had accidentally started a business. But I didn’t want to start a business! I was already living my dream life as a full-time musician. I didn’t want anything to distract me from that. So, I thought that by taking an unrealistically utopian approach, I could keep the business from growing too much. Instead of trying to make it big, I was going to make it small. It was the opposite of ambition, so I had to think in a way that was the opposite of ambitious.
“The key point is that I wasn’t trying to make a big business. I was just daydreaming about how one little thing would look in a perfect world. 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 is the best example of what they call ‘an accidental entrepreneur’ and Anything You Want is the account of his entrepreneurial journey and the lessons he learnt. I found that a lot of these lessons can be extended for investing success too.
So here are my favourite ideas from the book.
If It’s Not a Hit, Switch
Einstein once said, “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
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