Tony Hsieh on Life, Business, and Being Happy

I was one of the fortunate bloggers to receive two free advanced copies of Tony Hsieh’s new book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.

For those of you who haven’t heard of Tony Hsieh, he’s the CEO of Zappos.com the shoes and clothing e-tailer known to its customers for WOW-factor customer service and known to social media types (like me) for its amazing culture of openness.

While bookstores will likely stock it in the “Business” section, the book reads more like an autobiography with a bit of social commentary thrown in. The breezy, jokey style makes for an easy read but Tony’s storytelling brilliance really comes through when he turns anecdotes into fables. When he goes through his entrepreneurial exploits from childhood through university, we’re treated to the evolution of an inventive mind and lessons learned both through failures and successes. Along the way we also see an evolution in mindset from the boy who “always fantasized about making money, because to me, money meant that later on in life I would have the freedom to do whatever I wanted” to a multi-millionaire adult (following the sale of LinkExchange) asking the questions “What is success? What is happiness? What am I working toward?” That’s when the epiphany hits him,

“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.”

And that’s when the Zappos ethos forms. Tony realizes that he’s happiest when he’s creating something and then even happier when the people around him are happy too. So the customer service WOW is about making customers happy and the company’s “Core Values” is partly about giving employees the ability and freedom to pursue their own happiness.

You’ll notice throughout this review that I haven’t mentioned social media once despite the title of this blog. And that’s because this book isn’t about social media even though Zappos is known in certain circles for embracing the technology. But I’ll leave that to Mashable and ReadWriteWeb to expound on that. What I took away was some whose taken some values shared by socially mediated culture i.e. radical transparency, openness, sharing information, along with many others and incorporated them into the DNA of the corporation, not only because it makes Tony and everyone around him happy (though that’s a pretty good reason in and of itself) but because it’s good for business.

Delivering Happiness launches today (June 7, 2010)
To learn more about Delivering Happiness visit www.deliveringhappinessbook.com

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