Derek Sivers

Programmer, writer, avid student of life. I make useful things, and share what I learn.

Anything You Want” → This is just one of many options

I used to take voice lessons from a great teacher named Warren Senders.

For each lesson, I’d bring in one 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 screeching squeaking falsetto, sounding like a choking mouse. But by the second half of the song, it was almost charming.

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

I’m taking an entrepreneurship class now. I’ve never studied business before.

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:

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: