Anything you want.

Did you ever meet these always-on type of online addicts? The type who can’t stand the thought of being offline for an hour or two? The type who’ll buy a new phone charger when faced with the fact that they left their’s at home when already having started a trip?

I’m not one of these kind of people. I lend a charging cable from our office’s hardware department after being scared to death by the thought I could be offline on the go during my weekend trip ;–). Said but true but the four hour train ride I’m currently undergoing through offline booneyland finally let me come to a rest. No E-Mails or IMs to reply to. OK I replied one or two mails which will be sent when I’m online again, but: I managed to read one of the books I ordered earlier this week, yeah! It was Derek Sivers’s “Anything You Want” where he described the ten years in which he built a company he loved and what drove them apart. Pretty inspiring read. While the title of the book “Anything you want” is intended to point at creating a company as your personal utopia shaped according to your ideas & virtues, there are also inspirational thoughts concerning personal development in it.

As the company grew, everyone was surprised that I still did all the programming myself. But for an Internet business, outsourcing the programming would be like a band outsourcing the songwriting. — Derek Sivers

Working as an IT Consultant I was writing the songs for other peoples' bands. Changed that recently and right now I assist teaching start-ups how to write their own songs until they are able to continue on their own. Which I learn a lot from, not only since I changed the instruments but also because there’s one or two gifted singer/songwriter type of guys in my surrounding.

I also keep writing songs for my own personal pleasure. Some of them even start to hit people’s nerve from time to time, which is quite an amazing feeling. It’s always about making things happen. Currently, there are one or two bands that also aim for some money, but that’s not the core motivation. It’s about making it a bit more easy for people to achieve their goals. Or even improving the quality of peoples' lifes. Or just having some fun. Like that twitter crawler – have a look at the chords & some gigs if you’re curious. I’m excited about the fact that it enabled some quite entertaining projects to prosper.

Just pay close attention to what excites you and what drains you. Pay close attention to when you’re being the real you and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury. — Derek Sivers

My job. My life. My work. Earning my living. Bringing joy and meaning to me and my peers. And something in between.

I enjoy what Derek calls “the solitude of the craft” – but I also enjoy to participate in identifying the right decisions. Which confuses most people. And all of the employers I worked for so far. It’s either building things on the tech side. Or on the conceptual / business side. The side where the relation between people is in clear focus. Most employers react the same: “A programmer who’s able to network & deal with people? We’re in some serious trouble!”.

The author of the book we’re talking about seems to have been in the same kind of situation. A guitarist who is also able to produce. Oh, and design & implement an online music store in a time without paypal and no long tail music store at all. Impressive!

Derek’s solution to my problem would probably have been the same he chose for his business plan. He would deny having a plan at all, but it all burns down to “proudly excluding people”:

You need to confidently exclude people, and proudly say what you’re not. By doing so, you will win the hearts of the people you want. — Derek Sivers

Working with the Ruby on Rails webapp framework, this rang a bell of course. One thing I love about that framework is the fact that it is opinionated. Which is on the other hand the reason people do not like it, too. It does not aim to offer every possible solution, but exactly the one its creators judged as the best way. So there’s a lot of people who aren’t too happy with it because you are bound to these decisions. The people who share these point of views are attracted by its concepts beyond any description.

Personally I proudly excluded some companies during the last couple of years. In one case someone critisized a lack of endurance. But my point of view always was: if one of the key skills you need to work for a company is the ability to endure painful situations: congrats for finding these kind of employees. But please understand that I do not aim for adrenaline rushes, I aim for autonomy, mastery & purpose. Which is quite painfull sometimes too. But I love it. And I do not have the time nor the interest in politics, lowered quality standards or carrots & sticks.

On the bottom line, the book made me think. It reassured me in some decisions I took lately. And points my attention to my personal utopia of the “perfect business”. I don’t think the concept of a company is suitable for sustaining these ideals. One way or the other you’ll always end up with horses pulling a chariot, skinners controlling the horses & people above the skinners who collect the profits. So I wouldn’t use the classical concept of a company at all. There should be equal shareholders with no obligation to stay. But a common understanding of how things should be done that keeps the group together. There could be groups enjoying their waterfall projects, other groups with agile concepts. The important thing is a common understanding and shared values that lets people stick together. Perhaps a group of people that gathers for projects. Adjusts slightly. Re-gathers when applicable. Some sort of freelancer network. A new form of collaboration.

Just brainstorming, how about you? Any thoughts provoked? Totally disagree? Have something completely different in mind? Go ahead & tell us.