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In Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, Tony Hsieh shares how he built Zappos from nothing to its eventual sale (or marriage) to Amazon for $1.2 billion. It’s a valuable biography with insights on how to develop a successful start-up, create a happy workplace that generates sustainable returns, and how to follow your passions to create your own path to success. In this free Delivering Happiness summary, we’ve organized the key highlights from the book into 3 parts:
• Insights from Hsieh’s personal journey and philosophies
• Business insights from Zappos’ success story
• Finding your Path: 4 Frameworks for Happiness.

What is Delivering Happiness About?

From young, Tony Hsieh has had an entrepreneurial streak in him. From attempting an earthworm breeding business at the age of 9, to running garage sales, to trying his own newspaper to sell ads, to running a mail-order button business in middle school, to crowd-sourcing for a study guide and selling pizzas in college, he has developed a real understanding of money, profits and what matters to him. He shares about each of these ventures in great detail and with a lot of humour. Through these stories, we get a glimpse into his learning experiences and insights, many of which also shape his philosophy and approach to business.

Key insights and takeaways

Here are some of the highlights and “aha” moments we took away from his journey:

The Importance of Company Culture

In 1996, Hsieh co-founded LinkExchange, an internet advertising cooperative. During the first year, they hired friends and people who were attracted by the fun and excitement of what they were creating. The team was dynamic, close-knit and the company grew rapidly. As they grew beyond 25 employees, they started to hire people who were smart but more motivated by money and career growth, and the culture started to shift. By 1998, when the company was sold to Microsoft for US$265 million with about 100 staff, Hsieh realized that he was no longer enjoying his business. This was his first major lesson on the importance of company culture.

Discovering Your Passion and Path

Like most people, Hsieh discovered his true passions through real-life experience. Hsieh left his job at Oracle after 5 months (because he was bored) to focus on a web-design business. He learned quickly that he didn’t enjoy web design either, and moved on to start Link Exchange, which was sold to Microsoft in 1998.

By early 1999, Hsieh decided to forgo a large sum of money to leave Microsoft and pursue his passions. “I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was a turning point for me in my life. I had decided to stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion.”

He moved on to start Venture Frogs, a $27 million investment fund (of which Zappos was one of the investments). Hsieh lost a lot of money in investments, the stock market, movies, etc., but learned more about himself, his passions and business along the way. He drew many parallels between business and poker (something he got interested in for a while), and shared one of his key insights about business and life: “I learned that the most important decision I could make was which table to sit at. This included knowing when to change tables…In business, one of the most important decisions for an entrepreneur or a CEO to make is what business to be in.”

The Power of Connectedness

When planning for his 26th birthday party, Hsieh had a transformational experience at a party, when he experienced a profound sense of connection with the other people and the rest of the universe. He started to immerse himself in rave culture, and learned in the process how to be genuinely interested in other people, with no hidden motives. “The rave culture was a reminder that it was possible for the world to be a better place, for people to simply be appreciative of the humanity in one another”.

The Zappos Story: Lessons for Business

In many ways, Zappos is an embodiment of Hsieh’s values and passions. Hsieh details how he and his partners successfully grew Zappos from scratch to achieving annual gross merchandise sales of over $1 billion.
Delivering Happiness summary_zappos story

Zappos went through its share of challenges, especially in the first 2 years of business. Hsieh attributes Zappos’ success to their initial investment and focus in 3 areas: customer service, culture and training. Here’s a quick overview. Do check out our Delivering Happiness summary bundle for more details!

1. Customer Service.

Repeat customers and word-of-mouth are the key drivers for Zappos’ growth today, and this foundation is built through its commitment to customer service. Hsieh shares many examples of how Zappos deliberately builds customer service as an integral part of their brand, including 10 ways to instill customer service in the company.

2. Culture.

With the internet, everything has become transparent. The best way to develop an authentic brand is to ensure that your company’s brand and culture are one and the same, i.e. everyone in the company genuinely embraces the core values as an integral part of their lives. Hsieh shares in detail Zappos’ 10 core values, how they were derived through a feedback process to identify what Zappos really meant to each employee, and how they bring these values to life at Zappos. In particular, Zappos uses several unique ways to shape and strengthen their culture, including the Zappos Culture Book, hiring right and training, and creating alignment across all stakeholders. Interest to learn more, do check out our complete 12-page version of the Delivering Happiness summary.

3. Employee Training and Development.

Zappos’ commitment to its core value of Growth and Learning has led to the creation of their pipeline concept. Rather than focus on individual talents, they develop pipelines of people in every department, with various skills and experience. They aim to hire passionate people at an entry level, and grow them internally, with the opportunity to be a senior leader in 5-7 years. Books and courses are offered by their Pipeline Team to develop their staff.

Finding your Path to Happiness

Here’s a brief overview of the 4 frameworks which Hsieh found most useful in guiding himself on this path to happiness.

1) Happiness Ingredients

Hsieh identified these 4 ingredients – perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness and vision/ meaning – which you can apply to your own job, team or businesses to create more happiness for you and your staff.

2) Happy Stakeholders

He explained how we can apply Maslow’s Hierarchy in business to serve the needs of different stakeholders including our customers, employees and investors, to create meaning/ fulfillment beyond monetary rewards .

3) Types of Happiness

Hsieh shared the 3 types of happiness – pleasure, passion and higher purpose meaning – and how we can align our daily tasks and activities to our higher purpose.

4) Parallel between Business and Happiness

Hsieh ends off with the powerful idea of how we can use happiness as a principle to build great, long-term organizations. When you focus on bringing happiness and fulfillment to yourself, your team and stakeholders, you are actually laying the foundation for a sustainable business.

The formula = Profits + Passion + Purpose

Getting more from Delivering Happiness

To learn more about the ideas above and gain insights on launching a successful startup with sustainable returns, do check out our complete summary bundle. This includes a one-page infographic summary in pdf, a 12-page text summary in pdf, and a 20-min audio summary in mp3.

Delivering Happiness summary - book summary bundle

Delivering Happiness is now a full-fledged company with the goal to spread and inspire more happiness in the world. Find out more at, or purchase the book  here for all the details.

If you found this book useful, you may wish to check out:

  • From Good to Great by Jim Collins: Learn how to build a great company that out-performs your competitors
  • Drive by Daniel Pink: Learn how to unlock the intrinsic motivation in you and your team
  • Finding Flow by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi: Discover how to convert your daily activities into opportunities for flow, growth and fulfilment.

About the Author of Delivering Happiness

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose was written by Tony Hsieh–an American entrepreneur, venture capitalist and CEO of Zappos. In 1996, he co-founded LinkExchange which was sold to Microsoft in 1998 for $265 million. In 1999, he started as an adviser and investor in Zappos, before becoming its CEO. Hsieh grew the company from almost no sales in 1999 to over $1 billion in gross merchandise sales a year. Tony continued in his role as CEO after Zappos was acquired by Amazon in 1999 for about $1.2 billion.

Delivering Happiness Quotes

“Without conscious and deliberate effort, inertia always wins.”

“Your company’s culture and your company’s brand are really just two sides of the same coin.”

“It doesn’t actually matter what your company’s core values are…What’s important is the alignment that you get from them when they become the default way of thinking for the entire organization.”

“Your personal core values define who you are, and a company’s core values ultimately define the company’s character and brand”

“Rather than focusing on individuals as assets, we instead focus on building as our asset a pipeline of people in every single department with varying levels of skills and experience.”

“If you just focus on making sure that your product or service continually WOWs people, eventually the press will find out about it.”

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

Click here to download Delivering Happiness book summary and infographic

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