Debate Magazine

Anything You Want

By Stevemiranda

I ordered a book from Amazon last week, and I was just a few dollars short of qualifying for free shipping. So I found another title that looked interesting, and added it to my cart.

It was Anything You Want, by Derek Sivers. It’s a brilliant little book that took me no more than 90 minutes to read.

Sivers started a company back in 1997 called CD Baby that was dedicated to helping independent musicians sell their music. Over the years, the business grew and venture capitalists would call and say, “Do you need capital to grow the business?”

He would tell them he didn’t want to grow the business. In fact, he was having a hard enough time stopping the business from growing. He didn’t really care about the money, he just wanted to help independent musicians sell their music. Of course, when you focus on helping people, the business is going grow.

Derek’s co-workers would tell him the company was losing out on millions of dollars in revenue because he stubbornly insisted on writing all the program code himself instead of outsourcing the work. He writes, “But that was OK with me. I loved the process. I was happy.”

He focused on helping musicians, and so the business kept growing. More investors called, asking if he would sell to them. “No thanks.”

Finally, the business grew so big that he stopped enjoying it. He had 100,000 customers and was managing 85 people. It had gotten too big. He decided to sell for $22 million. He put the money in a trust fund that pays him 5 percent per year for the rest of his life. When he dies, all the money will go towards music education. He could have sold for more, he says, but chose the buyer that he felt understood his customers the best.

“It’s not that I’m altruistic,” he writes. “I’m sacrificing nothing. I’ve just learned what makes me happy. And doing it this way made me the happiest.”

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There’s a lesson here, of course. When people challenge themselves to experience real joy, when they reject the path that others tell them they should want, when they pursue things that make them happy—especially when that joy comes from serving others—they often end up doing well for themselves.

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