The second week of my 52 books in 52 week journey ended on Monday after I finished the outstanding book by Tony Hsieh titled Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose. I had been meaning to read this book for quite some time but never really got around to it. After embarking on my 52 week journey this year however I knew I wanted to read it right away as I had heard so many positive things about it from friends, family and business colleagues. After I began reading the book it didn’t take long for me to realize that the title should’ve been “Path to Culture, Risk Taking and Happiness”, and I mean that in the best of ways. Im going to talk about each of those three things below and give you all a better idea of what I mean and of course what I learned in the reading of this book.
While it takes a little bit for it to get going, the end of the book is all about the culture of Zappos, how it was formed, what it means and why its important. For me, working as a sole proprietor at a desk by myself with no physical employees to speak of the term “culture” never really meant much to me, although it had been something that i’d heard in the past. Anyone who has ever order a product from Zappos or called their customer service can tell pretty quickly that this is not your typical company. In fact, if every company embodied the values set forth by the Zappos culture the business world (and entire world for that matter) would be a better place. Unlike most companies, Zappos doesn’t time their phone conversations nor do they give their customer service agents any kind of script to work with. They want you to talk to a customer like you’re talking to a friend as you help them resolve whatever issue it is that they’re having. The book goes into great detail about what the culture of Zappos is all about, and for me it all boiled down to making your customers, employees, vendors, buyers, etc. all as happy as possible. Whether its a surprise upgrade to free overnight shipping, paying more severance than is required after a round of layoffs, or paying for dinner with the likes of Steve Madden, its all apart of what Zappos such a great company to work for and deal with. I could go on for days (and so could Tony) about how important the culture is to Zappos, what it means and how it was created, but I won’t. Rather, if it sounds like something that is of interest to you (and it should be) I would advise you to read the book.
A short while after graduating from college, Tony was employed at Oracle, a job that most of his peers would’ve killed for. What he realized however that sitting at a desk all day running tests as an engineer didn’t really interest him, and so he left, taking the first major risk of his life to start a company with a co-worker and former college roommate. The company, “LinkExchange” would be a primate startup by todays standards, but after working tirelessly on their product they were eventually bought out by Yahoo for $165 million dollars. For most people that is the end game, never again would you need to work to live happily and its time to pack up your things and start traveling the world. For Tony however that wasn’t the end game, and while the book goes into more detail the long and the short of it is that he and a friend launched a venture capital firm “Venture Frogs” and began investing in startup companies in the Bay Area of San Francisco. Then one day a man approached him with an idea for an online shoe store that he’d started; he had a website to take orders, and was selling shoes out of his home. He knew that it was the next big thing and ultimately Tony did as well. It didn’t take long for Tony to fund the startup and become the CEO. What then happened however was a resistance from Sequoia Capital and other venture capital firms in terms of investment. Over time this amounted to Tony eventually selling all of his worldly possessions and putting (literally) every dollar he had into what became Zappos. Their were times wherein he and the company almost went broke, but he believed in what he was doing and we obviously know how it turned out. The moral of this story is simple, don’t be afraid to think big and take bigger risks. For more information in regards to the story of Zappos you should of course read the book.
Towards the end of the book Tony talks quite a bit about what it means to be happy. Theirs a pretty interesting chart that talks about the three biggest things that people want to achieve in life. They include; growing a company, getting a great job, finding the perfect soulmate, and being healthy. In the chart it goes through a condensed version of what each leads to for instance if you grow a company you’ll get to retire early, spending more time with the family and it ultimately leads to happiness. If you are healthy, and can run faster and then ultimately run a marathon whats it all for? So that you can be happy. If you get a great job, and make a lot of money and someday buy a home whats its all for? So that you can be happy. I think you get the idea. He then talks about how happiness is really about perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness, and vision/meaning. The end result of all this is to help you realize that if you want to be happy you really need to do something that has a higher purpose beyond just money, profits or being number one in a market. Tony talks about some of his happiest moments in his life and surprisingly none of them revolved around money, for instance he talks about climbing to the summit of Mount Kilamanjaro and just being overcome with emotion and thats just one of the many things he delves in to.
Beyond those three things I highlighted a few passages from the book that I thought were pretty educational and interesting.
“I walked away from that experience with the lesson that sometimes the truth alone isn’t enough, and that presentation of the truth was just as important as the truth”. Full story on page 19.
“I thought about how easily we are all brainwashed by our society and culture to stop thinking and just assume by default that more money equals more success and more happiness, when ultimately happiness is really just about enjoying life.” Full story on page 53
“Never outsource your core competency.” Full story on page 130.
While the book might sound like a hip hip hooray type of journey, its actually super informative and takes you inside the mind and thought process of one of the worlds best entrepreneurs. I would HIGHLY recommend this book to anyone who wants to run their own company, as you’re sure to walk away from it with a greater understanding of what it means to have a good company culture, what it means to be happy and why takings calculated risks is sometimes worth it.
To purchase this book and read it for yourself, simply click here
Next weeks book is Through My Eyes by Tim Tebow and Nathan Whitaker. Im only 4 chapters into this one and I can already tell that its going to be a great book from start to finish.
For those of you that have read the Tony Hsieh book, what were your thoughts? Id love to converse a bit about the book, its teachings and whatever else you found interesting. Please feel free to leave a comment below and lets chat!