“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.” -Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness
Yay hooray – it’s a new Rousing Review! This month I’m reviewing Delivering Happiness, the new book by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh. I know it’s a bit of a deviation from my usual creative career books, but I was interested in it because (a) I’ve always been intrigued by the stories I heard about Zappos, from offering their trainees $2000 to quit to sending a client flowers when they heard that her mother passed away(b) I was sent an advance copy of the book with the promise that I’d review it on my blog. But, the former is what lead to the latter, & I’m so glad to have gotten my hands on a kick-ass book that might’ve taken me some time to pick up otherwise.
Delivering Happiness is, essentially, Tony Hsieh’s autobiography, despite his young age. I’ll admit, it was tough to get through the first half of the book without really wanting to hate the guy, who sold his first business, LinkExchange, to Microsoft for $265 million before his late 20s. But I liked him in spite of myself, as he’s a self-made guy who has built his success around creating a life he loves. He walks the walk, talks the talk & even ate $40 million, which Microsoft offered him to stick around for a year as an advisor. At first, he took it (he ain’t no idiot), but when it led to multiple weeks of waking up late, heading to the office, checking/sending emails, & going home, he walked. Tony writes:
“I didn’t know exactly what I was going to do, but I knew what I wasn’t going to do. I wasn’t going to sit around letting my life and the world pass me by. People thought I was crazy for giving up all that money. And yes, that decision was scary, but in a good way…I had decided to stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion.”
The middle part of the book is all about the founding of Zappos – the highs, the lows, the smart decisions, the big mistakes – but it wasn’t until they asked themselves the question, “What do we want to be when we grow up?” (yes, really – it’s on page 120) that they realized that customer service was the key to not only to the successful growth of Zappos, but to the happiness of Tony & his partners. Once they decided to actually make the changes to offer “the very best customer service” (instead of just talking about it), that’s when the magic happened: hiring employees not only for their skills & experience but their weirdness (if your head didn’t fit in the door, you weren’t hired – despite the money or intelligence that Big Head could bring into the company); making Customer Service be the entire company instead of a department within the company (every new hire goes through training & mans the phones, despite their title or position); not giving their call center reps scripts, but allowing them to use their own skills & personality (& weirdness!) to respond to customers. I can go on & on, but (a) I think you get my drift & (b) I don’t wanna ruin the really great stories for ya!
The last third of the book really, truly, awesomely hit home for me. In going into how Zappos became not only a ridiculously successful company, but did it by claiming & staying true to their uniquity (yes, Amazon recently bought ’em for billions, but they’re unallowed to touch Zappos’ “weirdness”) & out-of-the-book thinking, it made me think that Corporate America doesn’t have to be evil – it just doesn’t know any better. Hopefully, with more people like Tony at the helm, the Zappos mindset & culture will become The Rule as opposed to The Exception.
Here are some kick-ass questions, exercises & ideas that Tony used in his own life, both personally & professionally, that I just couldn’t not include here:
- Make a list of the happiest periods of your life, & find the connecting threads. For Tony, it meant “building stuff and being creative and inventive(…)connecting with a friend(…)” Once you find the connections, figure out where/how you can go do it. Where’s the opportunity for you to live your happiness?
- Ask yourself: What is success? What is happiness? What am I working towards? Make sure that the answer to the last question supports the answers you gave for the first two.
- What is the 1% improvement you can make today? If you make a 1% change each day, that’s a 37% improvement by the end of the year.
- A nice chunk of the book is all about Core Values – how Zappos found theirs, the questions that surrounded them (seriously, I can take all those questions & have a Tough (Question) Tuesday every day for a year), & the importance of ’em. To find your own/your business’, bookmark The Delivering Happiness Core Values page & put aside time to go through it. Uh, there’s nothing there yet, but since they list this page as a resource in the book, I assume (hope!) it’ll be live soon.
In summation (I love saying that), Delivering Happiness not only allows you to see that you can use your happiness to create an extremely successful business (& not screw anyone along the way), but it will make you think about what you wanna do in your own life / biz to deliver happiness in your own way. By the time I was finished, my head was swimming with awesomeness & I ran to book a brainstorming session with Tara Gentile to sort it all out. I’ll also be joining the Delivering Happiness movement, which I know will end up being the foundation to not just my business, but my personal life as well. In summation summation, this is really, really good stuff.
I’ll be on the panel at Blog Out Loud 6 on Monday, June 14th at 7:30p at Tonefarmer (yes, Tonefarmer) in NYC. I’m there, there’s free deliciousness in wine & Fanny & Jane desserts, there are 2 giveaways (one from Effervescence Photography!), there’s a goody bag, & oh – it’s free. You’re so coming.
Get Danielle LaPorte’s Nuggets of Genius in your own home, on your own time. The Digital Firestarter Sessions from my “cult leader” have launched!
What’s your Joy Equation? Find out with Molly Hoyne’s Pay-What-You-Can-Afford Program!