Due to my schedule in May, I didn’t get a chance to starting reading the Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh’s new book, Delivering Happiness until just yesterday. The book is broken up into three sections, which Tony has labeled:

  1. Profits
  2. Profits and Passion
  3. Profits, Passion and Purpose

I completed the first section this morning and rather than wait until I finish the book later this week, I thought I’d begin today with my first impressions of this beginning section. The book is so full of things to talk about, that discussing them all in one blog post would be impossible anyway. So, I’m going to write a few posts throughout week to discuss more of the book and hopefully hear from you with your opinions on the subjects discussed here.

I’ve been a fan of Zappos since September of 2009, when I made my first order and had to exchange it. I wonder if I had become such a fan if I’d chosen the proper shoe size the first time through, because, though I was impressed with the mind-boggling shipping turn around it was really the customer service I received when exchanging the shoes that converted me to a life long member of the Zappos movement. I know it was only shoes I was buying, and yet the way I was taken care of, caused me to see the company as more than just a business. I won’t review that experience again, since I wrote about it here, but I will say that it was that experience and being contacted by Tony himself on Twitter due to my review, that my interest in Zappos and Tony himself began. I started paying attention to what Tony was saying on blogs, and at his speaking engagements. All that led to my interest in reading his book, and looking back, I’m so very happy that I ordered that first wrong size.

As I said above, Tony split the book into three sections. Having only read the first at this point, I can’t comment on the direction he takes in the other two sections, but for me, after reading the first, I have the impression that the title of the first section really should be, ‘Discovering Happiness’, because that is the focus of the first segment of his life’s experiences and it really builds toward his ability to ‘deliver happiness’ through his work at Zappos. Tony begins with his childhood entrepreneurial endeavors, which sounded so much like my life that I made an immediate connection with him. As he experiments with various jobs, including programming, and various opportunities, he discovers that his passion really lies in building things. Again, I could relate to this so well, as I’m sure many of you will, and often reading about a successful entrepreneur who goes through the same challenges and discoveries that you have, can really help you see your own life from a different perspective, and also helps you connect with his wisdom and experience better and apply that to your own situation.

Here are a few ideas and quotes that stood out to me from this first section. I’ll be giving away a free copy of the book at the end of the week to someone who has commented on one of my book related posts. So if any of these ideas and quotes stir your thinking, leave a thought in the comments below and you’ll be entered to win a free copy of the book.

  • As I said, Tony spends the first part of the book chronicling his entrepreneur adventures as a child, from worm farms, to selling greeting cards, to button making. It shows his entrepreneur leanings as a kid. I doubt there are too many real entrepreneurs that don’t have a similar story. Those that don’t may be more of a small business owner, and less of a serial entrepreneur. There is a difference, and it’s an important difference to understand and be able to identify in yourself.
  • In high school he tried to find creative ways around actually doing any hard work. He did the same while attending Harvard. (if that’s not an attribute of a true entrepreneur, I don’t know what is!)
  • He said, “School-related activities aside, my biggest focus during high school was trying to figure out how I could make more money.”
  • Discovered the power of crowdsourcing while attending Harvard and collecting and reselling study notes for college classes.
  • Held various programming jobs, including working for Microsoft before graduating and going to work for Oracle.
  • Tried doing freelance work for clients building web sites, but found out how unsatisfying that can be.
  • Created LinkExchange and sold it for $265 million to Microsoft
  • Burned out at LinkExchange because he still hadn’t identified what it was that truly made him happy
  • Finally realized it was, “building stuff and being creative and inventive” that made him happy, along with, “Connecting with a friend and talking through the entire night until the sun rose”. (This is so true in my own life, but love the way he states it and enjoyed watching him come to this realization, which is worth price of the book alone).
  • Started an investment firm
  • Discovered poker and realized the similarities between poker and business strategy. This part you can read online at the Delivering Happiness web site. Very interesting correlations, and once again, I could relate to it because I enjoy poker for the same reasons.
  • From what he learned from poker he said, “one of the most important decisions for an entrepreneur or a CEO to make is what business to be in.” He goes on to say that it doesn’t matter how great your product is (in other words how great a poker player you are), if you choose the wrong market (ie. the wrong poker table), you’ll lose anyway.
  • “Without conscious and deliberate effort, inertia always wins.”
  • Discusses how Zappos got started, what his involvement was initially and how it changed to what it is now.

In all, though this first part is technically not yet about how Zappos became successful, it’s easy to see how Tony’s view points developed and what led him to lead Zappos in the way that he has, which led to the environment that formed the basis for all the success we see coming from the company.

I’m looking forward to reading the rest and sharing my observations and reading yours.