Monday, June 7, 2010

Delivering Happiness Book Review

Book Recommendations

Tony Hsieh’s new book, Delivering Happiness, was released today.  You can purchase a copy on Amazon.com. I was exposed to this book a couple of months back when I signed up to receive a free pre-release copy in exchange for writing an honest, unbiased review on this blog. 

After signing up for the review, I received two pre-release copies: one to read and one to give away.  Through various means, I came by some additional copies of the book and I’m giving away all NINE copies, six of the pre-release and three of the hard cover.  If you’re interested in getting a copy, please follow the posted guidelines here.

Overall
The book is an easy read that chronicles Tony Hsieh’s growth from a childhood entrepreneur through various businesses and eventual Amazon investment / buyout of Zappos.com, his latest venture. 

He stresses and exemplifies the idea of not only finding your passion, but using experimentation to find what your passion is.  In other words, he promotes living a life free of fear of the unknown, where you learn what you want to do through trial-and-error of your business ideas. 

I only wish he had more chapters on how to deliver happiness outside of the context of his business.  Unfortunately, he only devotes the last short chapter to this that leaves the reader wanting more.  May be that’s intentional.

Overall, I highly recommend reading this as an inspirational and down-to-earth book about following your dreams.

Pros
Tony explains at the start of the book that he used his everyday language to write this book, rather than highly correct grammar.  Having seen him speak recently, as well as viewed some of his video blogs, I see how true to form this is.  He maintains a very friendly tone throughout the book.  In fact, you almost feel like you’re sitting at a bar, having drinks, while he retells his success story. 

The book isn’t meant as an autobiography, though he retells parts of his childhood experimenting with various small business ideas, his college days selling pizza on campus, and years developing his three businesses.  These transitions are meant as a device to help the reader arrive at the conclusion he wants you to reach: the want to deliver happiness.  I enjoyed reaching this conclusion with him, though I think he fell short in delivering the message to the full extent he could have.  More on this in the Cons section.

Tony stresses the importance of having the right people in your business, as well as knowing the purpose of your venture.  He uses his missteps, the reasons for the demise of some of his ventures, as guiding posts why it’s important to know why you do what you do.  I found many of his conclusions in line with concepts put forth by others like Simon Sinek who advises us to know why we want to pursue a particular venture, and to stay true to that vision throughout in order to attract the people, business, and success we wish to have.

A take away lesson from this book is the value of experimenting with various ideas in our lives to determine our passions.  Tony tried many ventures, like developing websites before offering pay-per-click advertising services through his link exchange company. He also tried his hands at becoming an early stage investor for startup companies, only to realize he preferred to be involved directly with a company on a day-to-day basis, leading to his full investment and leadership role at Zappos.com.  He espouses the idea of finding your calling through trial-and-error, rather than some cerebral exercise.

Cons
I mentioned earlier that I think Tony fell short in delivering the message of how we can deliver happiness.  The conclusion seems natural, but lacks any depth for implementation.  He stresses that what it means to deliver happiness will differ from company to company and person to person.  Nevertheless, the final chapter devoted to this seems short and abrupt. 

I would’ve hoped for a few more chapters devoted to examples of how this could be done.  One method may have been to share stories of others with whom he was privately involved and who took the message of delivering happiness to make it their own.  I would’ve liked to have read what challenges these others faced and how, by putting to practice a particular set of guidelines, they too reaped the rewards of their success. He almost achieves this by sharing stories of how his employees and coworkers put to practice the idea of over-delivering on customer service, even to complete strangers in supermarkets. Nevertheless, I was hungry for more. 

This apparent vacuum may be intentional.  After all, what would be the purpose of asking your readers to experiment if you give them step-by-step instruction on how to achieve success?  May be the true message of the last chapter was to tease us enough to start experimenting.  May be all he wants is to be the first domino in the great chain of people delivering happiness worldwide!

May be!

What Do You Think?

Feel free to share your thoughts below.  You can also add comments here in order to win a free copy of Tony Hsieh’s book,  per posted guidelines here.

Photo Credits: Amazon.com