Derek Sivers

from the book “Anything You Want”:

This is just one of many options

2008-10-23

I used to take voice lessons from a great teacher named Warren Senders. For each lesson, I’d bring in a song I was trying to improve. First, I’d sing it for him as written. Then he’d say, “OK — now do it up an octave.”

“Uh... up an octave? But I can’t sing that high!”

“I don’t care! Do it anyway! Go! 1.. 2.. 3.. 4..”

I’d sing the whole song again, in squeaking falsetto, like a choking mouse.

Then he’d say, “OK — now do it down an octave.”

“Down an octave? But I don’t think I can!”

“Doesn’t matter! Go! 1.. 2.. 3.. 4..”

I sounded like a garbage disposal or lawn mower, but he made me sing the whole song that way.

Then he’d make me sing it twice as fast. Then twice as slow. Then like Bob Dylan. Then like Tom Waits. Then he’d tell me to sing it like it’s 4 a.m. and a friend woke me up. Then he’d give me many other scenarios.

After all of this, he’d say, “Now how did that song go again?”

It was proof that what I thought was “the” way the song went was really just one of an infinite number of options.

Years later, I took an entrepreneurship class. We analyzed a business plan for a mail-order pantyhose company. Like all business plans, it proposed only one plan.

After reading the whole thing, I felt like saying things my old voice teacher would have said:

“OK — make a plan that only requires $1000. Go!”

“Now make a plan for ten times as many customers. Go!”

“Now do it without a website. Go!”

“Now make all your initial assumptions wrong, and have it work anyway. Go!”

“Now show how you would franchise it. Go!”

You can’t pretend there’s only one way to do it. Your first idea is just one of many options. No business goes as planned, so make ten radically different plans. Realizing the initial choice you made was just one of many brings all kinds of weathered wisdom and insight into your business.

Same thing with your current path in life:

Now you’re living in New York City, obsessed with success. Go!

Now you’re a free spirit, backpacking around Thailand. Go!

Now you’re a confident extrovert and everyone loves you. Go!

Now you’re married and your kids are your life. Go!

Now you spend a few years in relative seclusion, reading and walking. Go!