The art of wishing for “Anything You Want”


I’m a tough sell. I’m not into self-help books, don’t watch Dr. Oz, and am generally not looking for unsolicited how-to advice on starting a business, getting on-the-job training or fixing my personal relationships. You can call me reticent or jaded, but I’m not easily moved by the average how-to guide. That’s what makes this blog post unusual. Rather than sharing a specific SharePoint solution or talking about how to calculate your Return On Investment (ROI), I’m dedicating this blog post to a truly inspirational book. So read this blog post. And then go pick up a copy of Anything You Want by Derek Sivers (ISBN 978-1-936719-11-2).

To be fair, I’ve been a Derek Sivers fan for a while. I referenced his “Obvious to you. Amazing to others” video in my Easy. Obvious, even. blog post last fall, and have been meaning to read Anything You Want since then.

Let me start off by saying that this is not a SharePoint book. It’s a compilation of thoughts, ideas and key learnings from the conception, launch, operation and eventual sale of CD Baby. (If you’re not familiar, CD Baby is the single largest web-based seller of independent music. Derek Sivers founded CD Baby as a hobby and grew it to become a $100 million business before selling it in 2008.) Sivers’ experiences with CD Baby are universal, though. In many ways, Anything You Want is the story of how a hobby reached the tipping point–the point when it gained its own momentum and became a product of its enthusiasts. Isn’t this, after all, what many SharePoint enthusiasts and coaches are after? Aren’t we trying to convince our business users of SharePoint’s inherent value and working to build momentum for this platform we all believe can make a critical difference in the way people work together?

So while Anything You Want may not have been written with a SharePoint bent, its message relates to struggles SharePoint coaches/evangelists face every day. Here are 3 key messages I took away from Sivers’ experiences with CD Baby:

  1. “Never forget that absolutely everything you do is for your customers” (page 15). This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how often we fail to adhere to this basic tenet of customer service. And Sivers’ focus on customer service has a twist. He encourages focusing all your efforts on your current customers. If you thrill them, they’ll spread the word on your behalf, attracting more new customers than you ever could (page 15). Those of you that have seen my presentations know that I often contrast SharePoint with online knowledge bases. While I’m a librarian at heart, I recognize that online knowledge bases are, at their core, never-ending holes of need. No matter how much care and feeding you give them, they will always require emotional propping and vast amounts of evangelism and marketing. SharePoint is just the opposite. If you build compelling SharePoint sites that improve your users’ work lives, SharePoint will market itself. No emotional propping required.
  2. “You can’t please everyone, so proudly exclude people” (page 3). I’m a people-pleaser, so this message is completely foreign to me. But I find it intriguing… Sivers’ point is simple–by confidently stating who you are and who you’re not, you’ll attract the customers you’re looking for. Here’s his business case:

    “Have the confidence to know that when your target 1 percent hears you excluding the other 99 percent, the people in that 1 percent will come to you because you’ve shown how much you value them” (page 23).

    The point is clear–focus on the people who value your time and talent. Don’t stop the train for the nay-sayers, because ultimately they don’t matter.

  3. “Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working” (page 11). This is the silver bullet. If you feel like you are expending a massive amount of energy to push a rock up the mountainside, please stop. Gravity is sending you a message and you are failing to get the point. If you have a vision and the world fails to recognize it and make it a hit, then it’s time to continue iterating and inventing. This doesn’t mean you should scrap your idea. But you shouldn’t keep on pushing it as-is. This video says it all:

Intrigued yet? I recommend going and picking up a copy of Anything You Want. It’s a quick (and valuable) read.

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