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Book Review: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (@Zappos)


Pictured: My hand, simulating the Facebook “Like” icon.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links to the book’s listing on Amazon.com.

Reviewed: “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, Inc.

Introduction

I enjoyed reading “Delivering Happiness” more than any other book of the past five years. It’s not your typical “business book.” Rather, it includes key insights that you can apply to your own business, but it provides so much more.

It covers culture, happiness, theories of happiness, inside stories about Zappos and entertaining stories about Hsieh’s life. Rather than provide a formal review, I’ll highlight sections that I found particularly interesting.

Great Stories

In the first paragraph of Chapter 1, we find the heading “Worm Farm.” Hsieh writes that at age 9, his parents spent $33.45 “for a box of mud that was guaranteed to contain at least one hundred earthworms.”

Hsieh built a worm box and every day he’d dump a few raw egg yolks on top of the “farm,” in hopes that the worms would reproduce. After 30 days, Hsieh checked on his “crop”, only to discover that the worms were all gone. He had placed chicken wire beneath the mud, and the worms had all escaped.

According to Hsieh, “my burgeoning worm empire was officially out of business.”  A book that begins with a story about a worm farm. I was immediately hooked.

The Inside Scoop

In this era of “inbox overload,” we tend to bad-mouth email. But reading this book made me realize how powerful email can be as an archival tool. Emails capture a moment in time and are great at telling stories. Hsieh supplements his great stories by including archived emails.

Hsieh includes emails from the earliest days of Zappos, through to 2009, when Zappos joined forces with Amazon. Hsieh includes his company-wide email concerning the Amazon transaction, which was posted publicly to the Zappos blog.

In addition to email as a storytelling tool, Hsieh draws upon the extended Zappos team to tell their own stories. As an example, page 61 features “My First Shoe Show as a Zappos Employee, by Fred,” which was contributed by Fred Mossler, a member of the founding team.

The Culture Book

The Culture Book started with a simple idea from Hsieh, “We should just ask all of our employees to write a few paragraphs about what the Zappos culture means to them, and compile it all into a book.”

The Culture Book is published once a year and contributions from employees are not edited or censored. The book documents how the Zappos culture evolves over time. In addition, the process of compiling the book has the positive side effect of gaining insights into employee satisfaction. Complaints and criticism, for instance, can serve as a wake-up call on a particular issue.

If you visit the Culture Book web site, you can fill in your mailing address to receive a free copy of the book!

Risking It All to Chase a Dream

All entrepreneurs chase dreams. When they reach a critical juncture, however, some entrepreneurs cut their losses, while others risk it all and forge ahead. Hsieh and his team are obviously the latter – they were down to 2 weeks of cash and Hsieh needed to sell a loft (40 percent below the price he paid for it) to keep the company afloat.

Hsieh writes, “Even if Zappos failed, we would know that we had done everything we could to chase a dream we believed in.”

A Movement to Deliver Happiness

“Delivering Happiness” is more than a book. It’s now a movement. On the movement’s web site, you can join an online community, take a pledge, read real stories,  submit your own story and find in-person meetups to connect with other deliverers of happiness.

Related Resources

  1. Buy the Book: On Amazon
  2. The book’s web site.
  3. Delivering Happiness Movement on Twitter (@DHMovement).
  4. Delivering Happiness on Facebook.
  5. How Twitter Can Make You a Better (and Happier) Person” – article by Tony Hsieh.
  6. The Zappos blog.
  7. A page showing tweets from Zappos employees.

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