I’ve thought about two topics more than anything (excluding constantly thinking of my family and those important to me in my life):
1) The pursuit of happiness – this is really what success is all about – nothing much more.
2) Loving your job – after all, most people spend more time at their job than any other area (if you subtract out sleeping hours).
So I was very excited to read Tony Hsieh’s (CEO Zappos) book “Delivering Happiness” because this book really addresses the intersection of the two.
(Full disclosure … I received an advance copy of “Delivering Happiness: A Path To Profits, Passion, and Purpose” by Tony Hsieh (CEO, Zappos) with an agreement to review the book on my blog on the week of June 7th. BUT – I would have reviewed this even without my agreement, and I want to share this with you before June 7th.)
For much of my life I have been putting so much mental energy into work – looking at it to deliver a perceived success and happiness. Problem has been that I viewed myself professionally and personally as two different people. What a major mistake. In “Delivering Happiness” Tony interjects his personal experiences that have influenced his approach to business. Whether it was the influence of a strict academic and musical arts upbringing from his (self described) Asian culture, his love for Rave in the early days with the PLUR (Peace, Love, Unity, Respect) motto, or his interest working with friends and creating a friend/family culture at Zappos, the positive end result is obvious – but the path to get there is not.
The book does an excellent job of spotlighting the importance of self assessment – know what you are really looking for in your definition of success and happiness. Repeatedly, there are examples of pursuit of wealth when in fact that is not an element of happiness. Hsieh reveals his own questioning of himself as he dealt with issues of acquisition of Link Exchange, staying on as a consultant after the purchase from Microsoft, and a similar scenario when Amazon acquired Zappos.
Another key theme of his success has been complete acceptance of change. Really a proactive drive for change, constantly. Most people look for routine. It sets a level of comfort in most. But adaptation as the world around you changes is imperative. More importantly, true leaders set the change. I love the addition of the quote from George Bernard Shaw … “Life isn’t about finding yourself. Life is about creating yourself.” No quote could be so true for me in the past few years. While the past few years have been a challenge for so many (me included), I must say they have been most rewarding for me. For I have recreated myself. Some impart for my love and passion for social media, and some impart for a new found form of meditation called “Conscious Breathing.” (A shout out to my mentor, Disia, here.) For now, maybe for the first time in my life, I feel like I am shaping the world external to me rather than the reverse.
For the first time in my life, I love what I am doing. I absolutely love my position as the social media leader at Hachette Filipacchia Media (Elle, Elle Decor, Car and Driver, Road & Track, Woman’s Day, Cycle World). True – the culture at Hachette does not resemble what is described in “Delivering Happiness.” But I have untapped what I love and now I take some of the characteristics described by Tony to make a positive impact at Hachette. I do find that the book is probably more applicable to start-ups, but it certainly has best practices and other suggestions applicable to mature companies. The reality is it will take longer to influence change at established companies. But nothing gets built in a day and it is never too late to take on things that should change for the good of all.
If there is one thing that any company can take from Zappos and learn, it is their relentless pursuit of a customer focus and a TOTAL commitment (under any circumstance or economic climate) to WOW them. I have worked for numerous companies (as a consultant and employee), and my experience is that there is too much looking inside as opposed to having a complete understanding of and focus on the customer.
There was one area I would be a little critical of in the book – the ending discussion on happiness. Tony talks about his interest and research on happiness from a personal pursuit and scientific investigation. For me, the most important life impacting source was ignored, “The Art of Happiness” by Dalai Lama and Howard Cutler, M.D. Dalai Lama’s views on the difference between pleasure and happiness have set a tone for my life. Hsieh’s discussion of “Pleasure, Passion, and Higher Purpose Meaning” could definitely use some influence from “The Art of Happiness.”
All-in-all, I highly recommend “Delivering Happiness” for anyone – business professionals and nonprofessionals. It makes no difference. What is most compelling is Hsieh’s blogger style of writing – that is, a lack of polished prose, but rather a story from a real person with real experiences beneficial to just about everyone. Tony has no facade to put up and is willing to share (and learn and laugh off) his mistakes. As I learned in one of my first professional courses I ever took, “It takes more failures to succeed, than it does to fail.” Bottom line – here is a book written from the heart with many great teachings. Can you really pass that up?
Make It Happen!