Read This Book: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh
I’ll admit, I had never heard of “Delivering Happiness” until very recently. There is a startup called Buffer that I dream of working at one day and they recommended reading it as part of the prerequisites for applying. I of course had heard of Tony Hsieh, the brilliant entrepreneur behind Zappos and LinkExchange, but I didn’t realize he had written this book in 2010.
It’s not your average business book, in a very refreshing way. While I’m a big fan of books that lay out advice and strategy, what I like about Delivering Happiness so far (no, I’m not finished with it at the time that I’m writing this) is that Tony shares honest and relevant stories. Instead of laying out the “rules of the game”, Tony gives readers a glimpse at his past and his evolving mentality in a humble “take it or leave it” manner. The book’s tone and content is not much different than what you may expect to hear from an interesting person at a networking event (the kind you would want to keep in touch with), except it’s from one of the most successful and seasoned entrepreneurs of our time. It’s life lessons shared from a life story perspective.
Here are some core lessons I’ve learned from the book so far:
Company Culture is King: Unless we already have our dream job, we all strive to have an occupation that has us jumping out of bed in the morning. The hard truth is that it’s very difficult to find a product or service that you can stay passionate about. You can, however, find a job that you love. For example, if you work for a SaaS company, the product itself may not be exciting enough to make you jump for joy, but the environment and team can be what keeps your heart pumping and your mind racing. In the case of Zappos, this philosophy works. Shoes are not the most exciting thing in the world to sell. But being part of an environment that aims to make people happy (via shoes) is phenomenal.
Customers Matter Most: A business idea that seems great is not actually useful unless it’s what people want. One of the most difficult challenges a designer or developer faces is coming to terms with the idea that what they think is best is not actually what is best for the customer. This is just the tip of the iceberg of what it means to be a “customer-centric” or “user-centric” company. I recently had the chance to very briefly chat with Mark Hull of LinkedIn about a struggle I was having at work, translating needs between Product, Design and Development. His answer was simple yet powerful, “Do whatever is best for your customers.”
Communicate: Tony Hsieh went through some very difficult times throughout his professional life. Survival stories are not foreign to me, but then trend I noticed in how he made his way through failures and potential failures was his high level of transparent communication. When people are on the same page and when light is shed on the entire situation, it allows others to thrive at a greater level. Communication gives birth to collaboration, which is key to the success of any company and culture.
You can find the book on Amazon in hard copy, e-book or audio form. There are a million and one more lessons in the book than what I’ve included here. I don’t usually push books this hard, but trust me, this one is totally worth your time.