What I learned about Happiness from Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh tells the riveting story of his business life and the story of building Zappos in Delivering Happiness.

The book dives into the philosophical, defining the root of happiness. And from there it explains how these things drive Hsieh to make life and business decisions.

Happiness comes from four things:

  1. Perceived control

  2. Perceived progress

  3. Human connection

  4. Being part of something bigger than yourself

Perceived Control

Work happiness level correlates to how much control you feel you have over your work. For example, Zappos empowers employees to use their own judgment to best serve customers. There is no call center script. The folks answering the phones are happier because they have control over what they say and how they best serve you.

Perceived Progress

Work happiness level correlates to how much progress you feel you are making at work. For example, Zappos has developed a system for training employees. Mastering new skills earns badges. Employees who invest more time in learning earn more badges, their progress is measured and visible. They are happier as a result because they feel they are moving forward. Are you going in circles, backwards, or forward? Having clarity, competence, and confidence feels good.

Human Connection

Happiness correlates to the number of relationships and depth of relationships. One of the more controversial questions from the Gallup Q12 asks “do you have a best friend at work?”. Gallup found that answering ‘yes’ to this question correlates to higher performance, engagement, and work satisfaction. Having a best friend at work is surprisingly important for being happy at work.

Being Part of Something Bigger than Yourself

Happiness correlates to being a part of a movement or a mission. If you do something for the sole reason of collecting a paycheck you will be miserable and eventually you will quit. What is your “why”? You are a tiny spec of dust on one tiny blue planet in the grand, wide universe.

How to Apply All of This

  • Build career capital for later investment. Invest your capital to gain more control of your work and your life. Read more about this in my So Good They Can’t Ignore You post.
  • Set incremental SMART goals to progress on. Write down your goals. On paper! Amazingly, data shows that people who write down their goals are measurably more successful than people who do not write them down.
  • Make time to reconnect with friends and family.
  • Seek to understand why you are here. What is your mission?
  • Remember how large the universe is compared to you.

How to Waste your Summer Internship without getting Fired

Warning: sarcasm in use

Make no attempt to learn from mentors or experts. Learning is over-rated, and everything you need to know is in a book somewhere, anyway.

Arrive as late as possible every single day, without violating policy. This way you have less face-to-face time with your co-workers.

Go to all meetings you are invited to, arrive late, do not prepare, and avoid participation as much as possible.

Never ask any questions. Admitting you don’t know what a term or acronym means is unacceptable. Try to figure it out on your own or make up your own meaning. If that fails, just give up.

Don’t bother taking any notes at any point of time. Note taking is a sign of weakness.

When you get stuck on something, remain stuck for at least a week before asking for help. Asking for help is also a sign of weakness.

Never attempt to understand “the why” of your project. Just follow instructions verbatim, with as little creativity as possible.

Always have social media, YouTube, or CandyCrush open on your computer’s screen. This will help the time pass faster. If anyone says something about it, just say you are taking a break.

Avoid all social activities. You’ll never see those people again after your internship. Even if you did connect with them later via the Internet, they will never be helpful to you in any way.

Always eat lunch alone. Bonding time with your smartphone is the best way to spend lunch time.

Avoid helping others as much as possible. What did they do to help you, anyway?

Avoid old-fashioned phrases like “good morning”, “please”, “thank you”.

Avoid old-fashioned gestures like holding open doors.

Don’t bother to remember any co-workers names. You’ll never see them after the internship, anyway.

Reply to emails 3 days after receiving them, never sooner. Your own agenda is much, much more important than any request for help.

Better yet, create an inbox rule to auto-delete all incoming messages. If they contained any information that was actually important, someone will tell you in person, anyway.

Don’t bother to brush your teeth 2-3 days per week. You’re avoiding social situations, remember? Similar for showering and doing laundry, these things are a waste of your time.

Stretch your project out as long as possible. Obviously there are no other projects or problems that need solving.

On the last day of your internship just leave the building as usual without saying anything to anyone you have met. See ya!

What I learned from asking companies for money

I did something unusual as a 3rd year undergraduate computer science student at UCLA. I went to a crowded career fair on campus, and I didn’t give anyone my resume or apply for a internship. I walked around politely introducing myself and asking for money.

My cause was a good one. I needed a few hundred dollars (pocket change to a corporation) to buy dinner for students at a hack-a-thon. The event focused on building software for people with disabilities. An example project was a smartphone app for identifying currency denominations, for people with impaired vision.

My request was met with a wide range of reactions. One person quickly, but not rudely, told me she only has budget for collecting resumes. If I could promise a stack of resumes, she could give me money. I walked away and I later I figured out she was a “recruiter”.

Another person I met represented a semiconductor company. No students were lined up to talk to her. When I approached and gave my pitch I was surprised by her rude answer, delivered in a nasty, sarcastic tone. “Why would I sponsor your event for computer science students? I’m only interested in Electrical Engineering students.” I wonder why no students wanted to talk to her. I will remember this forever and I will never consider working for her company.

A few companies took me seriously, and I formed a relationship with one. That company, Symantec, sent me ~$200 which went towards Inn-N-Out burgers for 2 dozen hungry engineering students. It helped that I knew Jeff, a guy on the inside, and one of the hack-a-thon mentors, who was able to explain the event and convince the manager to support my cause. My relationship with Symantec turned into an internship, then a full-time software QA engineering position, then a supervisor position, and now a manager position. 7 years of contributions, multiple patent filings (2 approved by USPTO!) That’s a huge return on that $200 investment.

What I learned from all of this is:

* First impressions really matter.
* The way you carry yourself in one context reflects how you will carry yourself in other contexts.
* People can smell it when you don’t care about connecting with them, and they will act accordingly.
* Supporting someone’s cause can forge a very strong relationship.
* Who you know can really make a difference for opening doors.
* Don’t be afraid of rejection! Just move on and ask the next.
* Relationships matter, a LOT.
* Even the most trivial business interaction is an opportunity for relationship building.


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What I learned about Trust

Trust is the Currency of Relationships

You have a very small group of friends you could call at 3am to bail you out of jail. You built trust with these people over years if not decades. You know they would rescue you without second thoughts, because you would do the same for them. If trust could be put in a joint bank account, this account would pay dividends.

You trust your spouse 100% (hopefully), and this allows you to accomplish feats otherwise impossible. Telling your partner ‘I trust you’ is more powerful than saying ‘I love you’. Since you feel safe at home, you focus your energy on threats outside.

Relationships make or break your business, inside and out. According to the Gallup Q12 Employee Engagement Study, having a best friend at work is a key factor for employee engagement. The best friend satisfies the need to build trust in the workplace. Since you feel safe at work, you focus your energy on working together to reach your potential.

Currency is Trust

When customers buy your product they trust you will deliver to them value. This trust starts before they buy; it starts with a relationship. Often, the relationship is formed through public speaking and media.

An inspiring idea comes from Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba: If you have 1 billion dollars, that’s not your money, that’s trust society gives you; they believe you can manage the money better than others. The people of the world are putting their trust in you to use resources to bring good into the world.

Trust Cycle

The Trust Cycle illustrates how trust grows between two parties. First, trust is given. Second, trust is received. Then, mutual trust is born and exchanged.

The Trust Cycle

Think of it this way: trust starts with you. You can go around waiting for your family members to repair the relationship, or you can “be the bigger person” now and give them trust.

Flow of Trust

Where does trust start? It starts where anything else starts, with leaders. Giving trust without expectation of return requires courage, a risk taken, a leap of faith.

Flow Of Trust

The leader serves a group of followers. The leader takes the first step by giving trust. The followers return trust to the leader. Trust starts at the top and flows downhill.

360 Degree Trust

Trust flows in all directions. This model helps you analyze your relationships and focus on those with weaker trust. By carefully listening to your peers you may find unexpected hints of mistrust. The mission and the process are abstract. There is no mutual exchange of trust for mission and process; instead, trust comes from understanding.

360 Degree Trust

Observe these many angles:

  • Trust in leaders
  • Trust in the processes
  • Trust in peers
  • Trust in the teams
  • Trust in the mission
  • Trust in partners
  • Trust in partner teams

Thanks for reading!

Do smart phones make stupid humans?

I like to observe how people act and think about why. Smart phones have become pervasive enough to change human behavior. What are the consequences?


Do smart phones make stupid humans?

Have you ever wondered if smart phones make us stupid? Now we have an answer and we know how stupid they make us. “Even if you’re not using it, just having your smartphone on your desk reduces your working memory capacity by 10% and fluid intelligence by 5%.” Adam Grant shared this study via this LinkedIn post.

The solution is simple: keep it in your pants, out of sight. Leave your phone in another room.


If a smart phone sabotages it’ owner, what do they do to everyone else in the room?

Simon Sinek has something interested to say about this topic. Placing your smartphone on the table at a meeting sends a signal to everyone in the room “you’re just not that important to me.” When the phone is face up, every notification lights up the screen and draws attention. When it’s face down, notification vibrations trigger nearby attendees to check their devices.


Does social media get in the way of social bonding?

You might feel sad when you see a family at dinner staring at jeejahs and not engaged in conversation. Consider an alternate point of view from Gary Vaynerchuck: smartphones didn’t create this problem. The old way to endure failure-to-connect meant drowning in awkward silence. The option to stick the nose in social media means those silences suck a little less.


How can attention spans be lengthened?

There was a time when the hat rack was a symbol of transition from public to private space. When entering the private space, one was expected to hang up their hat. Now, imagine docking smartphones in the charging rack upon entering a pricate space.  This is a great way to remove a huge source of distraction from the meeting and keep everyone engaged.


I think we are all still learning ‘proper’ smartphone etiquette, as we must do for inventions that change the way we live and work. Slowly people settle on unspoken rules of when and where putting it on the table is appropriate or inappropriate.


Thank you for reading!

Together we build a world free of fear.  What would you do if you were not afraid?