Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Book Reviews - Ghost Rider by Neil Peart and Anything You Want by Derek Sivers

Anything You Want by Derek Sivers.

I can't remember who recommended this one.  Anyway if you want a great insight in how to start a business from nothing with the only attitude of helping out a few mates and grow it into a business with 85 employees, international recognition and then can sell it for £22million then this is the book for you.  Derek has a very different approach to business, no doubt since he'd been a professional musician and songwriter most of his working life, trained and the Berkley School of Music (just being there is a definition of a hugely talented musician) and therefore had no idea about the "right" way to set up and run a business.  He didn't bother with things like privacy statements and T&Cs for example... my legal advisors will be shaking in their boots at this point!  He describes his method of hiring people as "ridiculous" - i.e. he asked current employees if they had any friends who might be able to do the job and were they cool and could they start tomorrow!  However his company won awards in "best place to work" reviews.   CDBaby was an amazing model in that it bucked the trend of the music industry when set up and frankly probably still is today.  Today even I could get my music onto iTunes and have anyone in the world buy it from there.  That is radical compared with 10/15 years ago and CDBaby was a catalyst in that change. 

For me I've considered many times - "What business could I do?".  Problem I have like no doubt virtually everyone else who things about it are manyfold.  How do I pay the bills whilst setting it up?  Do it in spare time... right I spend 13 hours a day going to and from work and working so not impossible but you know...  Then what can you do?  CDBaby was an idea that no-one else had and that was why it grew so incredibly well.  An original idea - now that is a real stretch isn't it.  Derek argues - go for small and what makes you happy.  For me - I'd love to be a professional singer/songwriter - but sales of music are contracting in double digit percentages as free downloads are the way to go now etc.  And I'm not original...   Ok guitar teacher or guitar tech - I'd love that everyday just about music.   But... limit income you can't grow and really luxury market - when the going gets tough (as it is now and for the foreseeable future) paying for the kids lessons and paying somebody to set your guitar up is hardly going to be high on a list of priorities...   All this really goes to show is my instantly pessimistic nature and my ability to negatively project any future scenario.

Great book - made me laugh in many places, good lessons if you are an entrepreneur in the making.  A definite double thumbs up... really have to get the "Thumbometer scale" paper published ....

Ghost Rider - Tales from the Healing Road by Neil Peart.

Ok - Neil Peart is a genius and I am a huge fan of his.  He is one of a few musicians who don't play the guitar who I'd say have genuinely influenced me musically - Jaco Pastorius, Stephen Grapelli,Chick Corea being other notables.  He also writes fantastic lyrics and clearly is a master of prose.  I've been a fan of Rush since the 70s and continue to love their music to this day.

I found this book a hard read - in the space of less than a year in 1997/98 he suffered the double tragedy of his teenage daughter's death in a car crash and his partner of over 20 years dying of cancer - although he maintains it was of a "broken heart".  I defy anyone to read the first chapter of this book covering those events and not be moved by it to feel the immense grief the man suffered.  The rest of the book covers his recovery over the next couple of years or so.  Already he had been a keen motorcyclist often riding on his bike with his friend Brutus between shows on Rush tours.  He set out on a series of long adventures through Canada, USA, Mexico and Belize.  He covered 55,000 miles in total.  The book is his reflections through that time as he tries to come to terms with his grief, rebuild his "baby soul", as he calls it, and determine a way forward.   For a long time he turned his back totally on music not even able to face playing the drums, he told the other members of Rush to "consider me retired".  They had the grace and patience to wait for him to recover.  He refers to his old life as "that other guy" as he felt such a dramatic change in him as a person.  He had intended for much of the trip to be taken with his friend Brutus but he unfortunately was unavailable due to a bit of a brush with the law!  Much of the book is actually copies of letter from Neil to Brutus and others as he makes his journey.

I recommend this book with a reservation that whilst the final ending is a good place where Neil gets back to drumming, writing lyrics and working with the band again with a new love in his life and at peace it is at time deep, dark and melancholy.  It does make me grateful though that I haven't suffered these tragedies though.  So a single thumbs up and a slight warning to consider if you want to look under that particular hood of emotions.

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