Book Review: “Delivering Happiness” by Tony Hsieh

It was about building a lifestyle that was about delivering happiness to everyone, including ourselves. (it’s not all about money)

Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos

A business can be more than just about money.

It can be about making customers, stakeholders, employees, and families happy.

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh shares the insights and learnings he developed during his tenure as CEO at Zappos.

Let’s dive in.

What it’s all about

Delivering Happiness shares the insights and learnings Tony developed during his time at Zappos and with the sale of his first startup.

Despite selling his first startup, he noticed something about the culture:

We knew the outside world probably thought we were jumping up and down and doing cartwheels, but instead our mood was a strange mix of apathy and relief. The excitement of LinkExchange had disappeared long ago.

Knowing this, he set out to create a culture at Zappos that focused on making employees, teams, and customers happy.

For example, whereas every business at the time hid its phone number, Zappos displayed it right on its homepage.

Over the years, the number one driver of our growth at Zappos has been repeat customers and word of mouth.

Short story, Zappos did incredibly well.

They eventually sold to Amazon with Tony continuing to manage the business.

The key message

Businesses can be fun and still serve their purpose of helping people.

Focus on an amazing culture.

Focus on making customers love your business.

And as always, do what’s best for the customer (forget KPIs).

Why I loved it

I share a lot of the same feelings Tony has about business.

My near-decade in Corporate Finance showed me culture is a problem for many businesses, small and large.

Additionally, I’ve seen many businesses not do what’s in the best interests of their customers.

This book will remind you why having a great culture, focusing on customers, and, overall, making people happy matters.

Why you should read it

I believe all founders and company executives should read this book.

It’s a great reminder that businesses thrive when people are happy.

It’s also a reminder that businesses ALWAYS start at the top.

No amount of MBA and studying can teach you that people are people.

Customers, stakeholders, employees, executives.

Focus on happiness.

You can buy the book here.

Memorable quotes

Over the years, the number one driver of our growth at Zappos has been repeat customers and word of mouth.

We also offer a 365-day return policy for people who have trouble committing or making up their minds.

We believe that customer service shouldn’t be just a department, it should be the entire company.

To WOW, you must differentiate yourself, which means do something a little unconventional and innovative.

We must all learn not only to not fear change, but to embrace it enthusiastically and, perhaps even more important, encourage and drive it.

They told me they really enjoyed the personal stories, and they said that, even though many of them had already read about Zappos in the press, it made a huge difference to actually hear it come from me. They told me they could really feel my passion for company culture, customer service, and Zappos in general.

In the end, it turns out that we’re all taking different paths in pursuit of the same goal: happiness.

I believe that there’s something interesting about anyone and everyone—you just have to figure out what that something is. If anything, I’ve found that it’s more interesting to build relationships with people that are not in the business world because they almost always can offer unique perspectives and insights, and also because those relationships tend to be more genuine.

Your thoughts?

Have you read Delivering Happiness?

How did you feel about the book?

Any interesting takeaways?

Let me know!

Book Review: “Driven” by Larry Miller

Driven: An Autobiography

I recently finished reading “Driven”, an autobiography by Larry Miller.

It’s a powerful story of a man who climbed through the ashes, worked inhumanely hard (100-hour workweeks for years), and rose to become an extremely rich man.

The problem?

It all came at the expense of his health and family.

He worked years on end, that eventually his health succumbed to its’ effects.

He would end up dying from health complications as a result.

What it’s all about

Driven is the autobiography of Larry Miller, a Car Parts Manager turned Entrepreneur whose net worth would eventually hit more than $500MM by the time of his passing.

Despite his incredible entrepreneurial success driven by a work ethic that’s unheard of, he was also a very generous and giving person.

What struck me about Miller as we talked over the course of many months is that his entrepreneurial career wasn’t fueled as much by money as it was by a sense of duty and community. He saw himself as a bridge builder—another appellation he embraced—someone who could organize efforts between people and organizations to make things happen.

But you might be wondering.

Why was he like this?

A large part was due to his upbringing (was kicked out at a young age and couldn’t understand why), and his anxious need to care for his family.

Here I was, soon to be 27 years old, married, with two children and one on the way, and I was responsible for raising and supporting those children, providing food and shelter and college and housing and much more, while preparing for old age and retirement, and I realized I had nothing to fall back on.

It was at this critical moment he decided he had to be great at something in order to achieve financial security, not only for himself but for his family.

I decided I had to be extremely good at something, and the thing I was best at was being a Toyota parts manager. That night I worked until 10:00. It was the start of my 90-hour-a-week work schedule.

All in all, that work ethic and drive would lead him to purchase the Jazz basketball team, open multiple car dealerships, and have legacy wealth.

The key message

Achieving incredible (financial) success requires an unimaginable work ethic.

But it could come at a cost — your health and your family.

Be wary of the lessons from Larry Miller and decide when enough is enough.

Why I loved it

The book is written very clearly and concisely.

It also contains Gail’s — Larry’s wife — post thoughts, which are insightful and you get to understand her position through it all.

Most of all, it was relatable.

It’s a great reminder success has a cost and can burden those we love around us.

Why you should read it

This book is long.

But thankfully, each chapter is very short — about 5-10 minutes long.

Each chapter is packed with key insights and stories that you can take away for yourself.

Most importantly, it’s a great reminder of focusing on what matters to us — family, health, etc.

Memorable quotes

What struck me about Miller as we talked over the course of many months is that his entrepreneurial career wasn’t fueled as much by money as it was by a sense of duty and community. He saw himself as a bridge builder—another appellation he embraced—someone who could organize efforts between people and organizations to make things happen.

Did you know that he worked six days a week, dawn to bedtime, for 20 years and missed his children’s youth, and that it was his greatest regret?

His body finally organized a boycott to slow his pace. A heart attack was followed by kidney failure, gastrointestinal bleeding, and other problems associated with diabetes.

Larry listened intensely and sympathetically, trying to understand and get to know the person.

People ask me if I set out with a plan. No way. The chain of events that began my entrepreneurial career was sparked by three failures: I dropped out of college, got laid off, and got demoted.

She did everything quietly, with no complaint. I couldn’t have done what I did if she had been nagging me and not minding the home front.

I didn’t really learn much the first couple of times I was mistreated by employers, but the third and fourth time it happened, it really sank in. I remember thinking that if I ever got my shot at being a general manager or owner, I would treat my employees better than that, because I know how it feels to work hard and do a good job and then have my employer fail to live up to promises, even though I had helped make him profitable.

Initially, it was fear that drove me to work those 90 hours a week for 20 years—this overwhelming feeling of being responsible for the needs of my wife and children and not having a college degree to fall back on.

When we returned to Utah, I had saved $88,000—which I used to buy my first car dealership. By saving that money, I was able to start my own business, and everything in my professional and entrepreneurial career began with that purchase.

He was afraid if he changed into a person who wanted worldly things he’d lose sight of the reason he had money, which was to help people.

“We all stood around him and said our good-byes,” says Gail. “He took a deep breath and sighed and then he was gone. A tear fell from his left eye.”

Gail picked out a plot that she could see from her bedroom, and every day she looks out to gaze down at Larry’s gravesite. There you are and here I am, she finds herself thinking; after all these years together, we’re still close.

Now, it’s Larry who is waiting for Gail to come home.

Book Review: “Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers

Anything You Want

I recently finished reading the book “Anything You Want” by Derek Sivers.

Anyone who wants to become an entrepreneur, is leaning towards being one, or is just feeling stuck should consider reading this.

Very few books leave me asking, “Why didn’t I read this sooner?”

This is one of them.

You can also refer to Amazon for reviews.

❓ What is it

Derek dives deep into his business, how he came up with the idea CD Baby, how he operates his business, and why he eventually decided to sell it.

? Key message

When you launch a business, it’s only objective is to satisfy and make its customers happy. That’s it.

? Why you should read it

Some books are fluffy. This isn’t one of them.

If you’re looking for key insights behind how a Founder thinks and their motivations, Derek’s got you covered here.

In fact, the entire book can be read in one hour.

? Memorable quotes

They spend decades in pursuit of something that someone convinced them they should want, without realizing that it won’t make them happy.

When you make a business, you get to make a little universe where you control all the laws. This is your utopia.

And that’s it! Six years and $10 million later, those same two numbers were the sole source of income for the company: a $35 setup fee per album and a $4 cut per CD sold.

If you think your life’s purpose needs to hit you like a lightning bolt, you’ll overlook the little day-to-day things that fascinate you.

Success comes from persistently improving and inventing, not from persistently doing what’s not working.

Don’t waste years fighting uphill battles against locked doors.

Improve or invent until you get that huge response.

We’re all busy. We’ve all taken on too much. Saying yes to less is the way out.

Any time you think you know what your new business will be doing, remember this quote from Steve Blank: No plan survives first contact with customers.

Since I couldn’t afford a programmer, I went to the bookstore and got a $25 book on PHP and MySQL programming. Then I sat down and learned it, with no programming experience. Necessity is a great teacher.

It’s counterintuitive, but the way to grow your business is to focus entirely on your existing customers. Just thrill them, and they’ll tell everyone.

It’s a big world. You can loudly leave out 99 percent of it.

So please don’t think you need a huge vision. Just stay focused on helping people today.

Are you helping people? Are they happy? Are you happy? Are you profitable? Isn’t that enough?

For some people, it’s how many people’s lives they can influence for the better.

Your company should be willing to die for your customers.

That’s the Tao of business: Care about your customers more than about yourself, and you’ll do well.

When someone’s doing something for love, being generous instead of stingy, trusting instead of fearful, it triggers this law: We want to give to those who give.

One unclear sentence? Immediate $5000 penalty. Ouch.

I wanted to say yes but let him know that this was really hard to do, so I made a policy that made us both smile: “We’ll do anything for a pizza.” If you needed a big special favor, we’d give you the number of our local pizza delivery place. If you bought us a pizza, we’d do any favor you wanted.

Over ten years, it seemed like every time someone raved about how much he loved CD Baby, it was because of one of these little fun human touches.

But no matter what business you’re in, it’s good to prepare for what would happen if business doubled.

But the whole point of doing anything is because it makes you happy! That’s it!

Never forget that you can make your role anything you want it to be.

Kurt said, “Wow! Look at this place! This guy has everything!” Joseph said, “Yes, but I have something he’ll never have…. Enough.”

It’s not that I’m altruistic. I’m sacrificing nothing. I’ve just learned what makes me happy. And doing it this way made me the happiest.

But most of all, I get the constant priceless reminder that I have enough.

Business is as creative as the fine arts. You can be as unconventional, unique, and quirky as you want. A business is a reflection of the creator.

No matter which goal you choose, there will be lots of people telling you you’re wrong.

Just pay close attention to what excites you and what drains you. Pay close attention to when you’re being the real you and when you’re trying to impress an invisible jury.

Even if what you’re doing is slowing the growth of your business—if it makes you happy, that’s OK. It’s your choice to remain small.

Whatever you make, it’s your creation, so make it your personal dream come true.

When D. Sharon Pruitt snapped this photo of a boy in the sand, she momentarily isolated what it is to be an entrepreneur. Stuck in a sand pit of your own devising, held immobile by tiny rocks, and enjoying every moment of it.

For some, it’s a trap. For others, it’s the only way, a passion and a mission, not a job

Book Review: “Can’t Hurt Me” by David Goggins

❓ What is it

David Goggins, a former Navy Seal and ultra-marathon runner, details his life’s story.

He shares how he grew up in an abusive home to then becoming one of the best athletes in the world.


Through grit, hard work, determination, and callousing his mind.

A “take no prisoner” mindset but for himself.

? Key message

Callous your mind, harden and sharpen it through grit.

Overcome every challenge through persistence, determination, and with a “no bullshit” approach.

? Why you should read it

Learn how you can overcome your own personal demons and obstacles by hardening and callousing your mind.

Mindset is everything.

Be determined to take action. Don’t allow yourself to be comfortable.

Take the hard road.

? Memorable quotes

Very few people know how the bottom feels, but I do. It’s like quicksand. It grabs you, sucks you under, and won’t let go

The bad hand that was my life was mine, and mine alone to fix.

“What you said is true for most people, but not 100 percent. There will always be the 1 percent of us who are willing to put in the work to defy the odds.”

Only you can master your mind, which is what it takes to live a bold life filled with accomplishments most people consider beyond their capability.

She smiled, but I noticed the tears in her eyes and remember smelling the scotch on her breath when she scooped me up in her arms as tenderly as she could.

You will use your story, this list of excuses, these very good reasons why you shouldn’t amount to a damn thing, to fuel your ultimate success.

If you have worked for thirty years doing the same shit you’ve hated day in and day out because you were afraid to quit and take a risk, you’ve been living like a pussy. Period, point blank. Tell yourself the truth!

But facing that mirror, facing myself, motivated me to fight through uncomfortable experiences, and, as a result, I became tougher. And being tough and resilient helped me meet my goals.

How much longer would I wait, how many more years would I burn, wondering if there was some greater purpose out there waiting for me? I knew right then that if I didn’t make a stand and start walking the path of most resistance, I would end up in this mental hell forever.

The first step on the journey toward a calloused mind is stepping outside your comfort zone on a regular basis.

Remembering that you’ve been through difficulties before and have always survived to fight again shifts the conversation in your head.

Most of us sweep our failures and evil secrets under the rug, but when we run into problems, that rug gets lifted up, and our darkness re-emerges, floods our soul, and influences the decisions which determine our character.

I remembered as a kid, no matter how fucked up our life was, my mother always figured out a way to stock our damn cookie jar.

The reason I embrace my own obsessions and demand and desire more of myself is because I’ve learned that it’s only when I push beyond pain and suffering, past my perceived limitations, that I’m capable of accomplishing more, physically and mentally—in endurance races but also in life as a whole.

The only person you are playing against is yourself. Stick with this process and soon what you thought was impossible will be something you do every fucking day of your life.

If you want to master the mind and remove your governor, you’ll have to become addicted to hard work. Because passion and obsession, even talent, are only useful tools if you have the work ethic to back them up.

Life will always be the most grueling endurance sport, and when you train hard, get uncomfortable, and callous your mind, you will become a more versatile competitor, trained to find a way forward no matter what.

Whatever failures and accomplishments pile up in the years to come, and there will be plenty of both I’m sure, I know I’ll continue to give it my all and set goals that seem impossible to most. And when those motherfuckers say so, I’ll look them dead in the eye and respond with one simple question.

What if?

Stay hard; love you, Mom.