October 16, 2010
Leaders of happiness come from all different walks of life. Tony Hsieh’s journey happened to start with shoes – Zappos shoes. He wrote “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose ” which still ranks #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Now Tony Hsieh and Jenn Lim are jumping on the global ‘Happiness Movement’ – and bringing throngs of followers with them.
Tony, Jenn and the happiness team are tapping into communities of businesses, education and other organizations interested in striving for greater happiness. They have a vehicle to deliver their message; a big blue bus crossing the country, ‘Delivering Happiness’ along the way.
I first met up with Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos and Jenn Lim, Chief Happiness Officer, in Chicago at a fundraiser for Imerman Angels. This just happened to be the one year anniversary when Tony started writing the book. I also snagged an interview a few days later with the Happiness duo, squeezing me in between stops at 37 Signals new digs and a Groupon headquarters visit. In this interview, Tony Hsieh and Jenn Lim expand on how Delivering Happiness, LLC has taken on a life of its own.
Tech Cocktail (TC): The Delivering Happiness Movement is very exciting! Can you tell me about the movement?
Tony: We have a separate LLC for Delivering Happiness that Jenn and 13 other people have started.
Jenn: It is another start up on the side actually. It started as a book tour but it became a little more than that. The theme is “Inspire and Be Inspired”. People like you are reading the book, sending us email and calling us saying this is what we did to change my life and change my company. We have been getting input from everywhere around the world. When people get inspired by the book, we get equally inspired back.
TC: The tour targets companies, colleges and organizations. Can you tell me more about how you are choosing the stops?
Tony: It’s been different for different cities. We came from the University of Iowa where a professor there is teaching a class and the book is actually required reading. We thought it would be fun to go and talk with the students. That is less of a business focus and more to encourage students who are just trying to figure out what to do after college to follow their passions.
Jenn: The class is called Life Designs. It’s about what is success, what are you trying to get out of these years of college and what to look forward too. It was really nice because we usually have a business oriented audience. This was our first university of the tour and such a different kind of energy. The way the book is disseminating in people’s minds is really interesting.
TC: Your message is “Inspired and Be Inspired”. What has inspired you so far?
Tony: Just hearing stories from people that talk about how big an impact the book had and how far people have driven to come to one of these events. It is not just one isolated case; it kind of blows my mind.
Jenn: An example in Iowa, there was a woman who drove 7 hours to get to the event. She was going to drive back to Wisconsin but decided to drive to Chicago to follow us because she was so inspired. That’s just one story. There are people that we met online like teacher Cindy Trent. She is big on the community boards and she came to our event on Friday. It was amazing the whole team being able to meet her in person. Cindy is implementing all these changes in her school. She is a high school teacher and hearing it first hand is just “WOW”! This is what we are doing.
TC: Tony, why are you inspired to help entrepreneurs?
Tony: I think part of the reason is you may end up an entrepreneur or have what I like to call the entrepreneurial spirit. I would define that as a combination of optimism and creativity. That way of looking at the world is pretty much set by the time you are 12 or so for most people. Beyond that the rest of your life is generally viewed through a certain lens.
So many people go through life where they fail at something and label themselves as a failure. That is part of the reason for writing the book. Even though from the outside Zappos may seem like an overnight success, the truth is we made a lot of mistakes along the way and learned a lot of lessons. Prior to that I made a lot of mistakes and learned a lot of lessons.
I know very few entrepreneurs where the first thing they try is successful and it then becomes more and more successful. It is more about learning and recognizing that failure is part of the path, not where you will eventually end up and to not be discouraged by that. So I think that is super important especially for younger people.
TC: The next leg of Zappos’ journey is to help change the world. What is your vision? What would you like to see happen?
Tony: I think prior to this our focus was just on the Zappos company culture. The way that has evolved has been very organic. It’s not like I said the Zappos culture needs to look like this 5 years from now. It was really having every employee contribute something and come up with their own ideas. Over time this has blossomed into something I could not have positively predicted and it continues to grow. I don’t know what it will be like 5 years from now.
I think this is a similar thought process for how we can use this idea to Deliver Happiness. Whether it is schools, businesses or organization, I don’t have a vision of what exactly that will look like. It’s more I just want to see something change for the better, being excited about it and seeing what happens.
TC: When I read the book I got very excited about this passion to change the world. It feels very important to connect to this movement. How can people get involved?
Tony: There is www.deliveringhappinessbook.com and Jenn can talk about joining the movement.
Jenn: The last epilog of the book is where it says come with us and join the movement. To be pretty fairly honest when Tony wrote that there was no master blueprint of that vision or that movement. But that is part of what this tour is about. We are actually seeing firsthand how we are moving people and how to mobilize people that are sharing their stories online. They come and meet us in person. It is about creating a community of people that are like minded and are influenced by the book in some way. It’s using that energy to have discussion on what Cindy Trent is doing at her school or what a 100 person company in Atlanta is doing. First of all getting that knowledge together and using that energy for other things.
TC: Are there plans for a new book about the Happiness tour and what you learned?
Tony: We will see after the tour.
He ended the interview with a smile and I can see the future possibility of another book, similar to the Zappos Culture Book, about Delivering Happiness.
Image of Tony Hsieh and Jenn Lim courtesy of James Richardson Photography.
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