Book Review: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos)

4 minute read

This is a fabulous book! Tony Hsieh (pronounced Shay), CEO of the phenomenally successful online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos, shares his perspective about what I think of as more about the ‘happiness of pursuit’ more than the ‘pursuit of happiness’. His perspective, and their underlying principles, are at the core of what Hsieh lived by in his amazing success in building Zappos (which was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion). Happiness is that elusive concept that most of us all strive for in work as well as play. Happiness sells, as evidenced for example by an immensely successful TV advertising campaign run by a UK cigar manufacturer toward the end of the last century, with the tagline, “Happiness is a cigar”.

For readers of this blog, the question might be “What’s the happiness blueprint for the selling organization?” In selling, the traditional view was that sales people are motivated solely by money. The more they sell, the more they make, the happier they become, the more they sell, and so on in that supposedly virtuous circle. As regular readers will know, that’s not been my view, and research shows that perspective to be erroneous. I’ve debunked that myth in a previous post.

The routes to happiness in work and play, however, have been considered separate, because they encompass such different things. We more or less sleep for 8 hours, work for 8 and play for 8, and we preserve the division to keep our sanity and health.

Until now, perhaps. I was fortunate to receive an advance copy of ‘Delivering Happiness – A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose’, which went on general sale yesterday. In this book, Hsieh argues that building a company culture around the pursuit of happiness for employee and customer alike is the true route to long term success for business. Hsieh’s book is essentially autobiographical, and charts the life of a born entrepreneur, starting as a nine-year old breeder of earthworms and moving onto other projects as soon as the interest had waned and the motivation had gone. Throughout his life Hsieh has worked hard and played hard, but as you read the book you realize that the secret of his success is that he has taken what makes him happy and made it the basic condition of his working life.

Whether it’s rave parties, playing poker, or the bonds forged as college students, Hsieh has taken the good things from what has made him happy and put them to work. Delivering Happiness is a joy to read. Mercifully free from graphs or tables (until the very end where he gets into the science of happiness), it brims with personal highs and lows and flows in a jaunty, chatty narrative which is ideally suited to its subject matter. The book is (Malcolm) Gladwellian in the simplicity of thought which got the author, and gets the reader, to the ‘aha’ moment. The book is the gift that keeps on giving, with a wealth of pay-it-forward and give-without-expecting-a-return resources to help us recreate a happy blueprint and achieve a higher calling, and they don’t come much higher than the Zappos calling of delivering happiness to the world. And let’s face it, the world includes companies, customers, employees, investors, managers and directors. According to the lessons Hsieh has learned and shares with us, if you don’t have the long-term alignment of all your stakeholders, you won’t find happiness.

So while planetary pleasure may seem beyond our purview, most of us have lofty goals in our own lives and business. The ‘Delivering Happiness’ trick is to make being happy the endgame, and to establish a culture where we can follow through on our happiness goals, stay true to them, and not lose sight of them, time and time again. So for the sales person, what matters less is the path you take. It’s where you want to end up that counts. And if you keep asking yourself why you want to end up there, the answer is always happiness.

It’s an overused phrase these days, but this book could change your life. I recommend you read it, so that you make happiness your long term selling and life goal, not just your end of quarter target.

If this floats your boat, you might also be interested in posts I’ve written about ambition and trust.

Reliable products. Real results.

Every day, thousands of companies rely on Upland to get their jobs done simply and effectively. See how brands are putting Upland to work.

View Success Stories