If you had lived in the neighborhood where Tony Hsieh grew up, you might have met an earnest little door to door salesman just discovering his entrepreneurial spirit. Now at the ripe old age of 36, Hsieh shows us the path that took him from selling earthworms and photo buttons to running the success story known as Zappos.

As highly publicized as Hsieh and his company have been, his new book Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose  tells a far more complex story. In the first part of the book, we get to know Hsieh; in the second part we get to see the evolution of the unique culture that is Zappos.

Hsieh’s story is so captivating (and I assume that his youth contributes to his recall of details) that you may find yourself identifying with his ups and downs—and cheering for him even though you know how the story  turns out. 

To my delight, I discovered Tony Hsieh and I have a number of things in common.

1. We both became fascinated with mail order when we were kids.

2. We both adopted Las Vegas as our hometown.

3. We both believe that business is about much more than just making money.

4. We both look for lessons from diverse places (i.e. poker) that apply to running a successful business.

Much of his story is wonderfully unique, of course. From his student days at Harvard where he was more excited about building his pizza business than he was about studying to his partying days in San Francisco, Hsieh seemed to be perpetually looking for opportunities.

Although many people start a business because they fall in love with a product or an idea for a service, Hsieh is one of the ones who are fascinated and challenged by  the entrepreneurial journey. By his own admission, he isn’t all that crazy about shoes, but bringing them to the marketplace in an innovative way is the object of his passion. 

Happily, for the reader, you don’t have to dream of building an online empire in order to find the useful ideas in Delivering Happiness. There’s a stunning lack of corporate hubris and plenty of examples of how Zappos walks the talk every single day in each and every part of the business. 

Numerous Zappos folks share their stories giving us even clearer insight into how the much-quoted core values influence their daily lives. Even the story of how those values evolved shows us that this is not a business as usual operation. 

 Zappos Core Values

1. Deliver WOW Through Service

2. Embrace and Drive Change

3. Create Fun and A Little Weirdness

4. Be Adventurous, Creative, and Open-Minded

5. Pursue Growth and Learning

6. Build Open and Honest Relationships with Communication

7. Build a Positive Team and Family Spirit

8. Do More With Less

9. Be Passionate and Determined

10. Be Humble

While each of those values is described in great detail, it seems obvious to me that they provide a foundation for building a standout operation, even if you’re a one-person enterprise—or a school or nonprofit organization.

You’re going to be seeing Tony Hsieh and hearing a lot about Delivering Happiness in the coming weeks. There’s even a DH site to share in the festivities. I urge you to pay attention. This isn’t just a smart book—it’s a wise one as well.

After all, Zappos isn’t just a company that’s making it better; they’re also showing us how we can do the same.

When I think about my Dream House, it’s not a big glistening kitchen, high-tech family room or backyard swimming pool that catches my fancy. 

No, my perfect home has a library, a real library, with  floor-to-ceiling books, and aladder on wheels for exploring the top shelves. There’s a fireplace with a cozy reading chair and a good light.

I’m am not alone in thinking that would be exquisite. “When I have a house of my own,” said a character in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, “I shall be quite miserable if I have not an excellent library.”

Eda LaShan once said that middle age begins when you realize you won’t live long enough to read all the books you want to explore. According to that definition, I was born middle-aged.

Fortunately, I landed in a family that assumed reading was an important part of a well-lived life and we were always surrounded by books. As much as I love the library, I can’t imagine living without books of my own at my fingertips.

Libraries are as unique as the people who assemble them, of course. When I scan my own shelves, I see a record of my life as telling as a photo album. 

Creating a wonderful personal collection can be both haphazard and intentional. If you are serious about success, your library will reflect this. 

What kinds of books show up in libraries of the Joyfully Jobless?

Inspirational. We quickly learn the truth of the adage that you can’t outperform your own self-image. 

While we all have our own favorites, I know that on the days I feel stuck or frustrated or conflicted, I can get back on track more quickly if I spend time with an old friend like The War of Art. 

The books that inspire us the most are often those that stand up to repeated visits. They help us reconnect with our own best selves and nudge us to move past pettiness. 

Informational. Of course, we require different kinds of information all along the way as we build and grow. How-to books are hugely popular, although not everyone is keen about putting what they’ve read into action.

With the avalanche of  information which abounds today, there’s really no excuse for saying, “I don’t know how.”  You can fill in the gaps easily.

 Whether you need help with marketing or how to start a profitable petsitting business or how to write a killer book proposal, a book written by a reliable source can get you pointed in the right direction.

Heroes and heroines. A well-rounded library for an entrepreneur would also include some great biographies and autobiographies from successful self-bossers. 

I’ve just finished reading an advance copy of Tony Hsieh’s Delivering Happiness, the upcoming story of the entrepreneurial evolution of Zappos founder. It will be taking its place alongside numerous stories of inspiring entrepreneurs in my library. 

If you’d like to see some other biographies that I’ve loved, check out my list, First the Business, Then the Book over at Flashlight Worthy Books.

And speaking of Flashlight Worthy, pay them a visit for hundreds of great book recommendations compiled by all sorts of experts and aficionados

“We are all pilgrims on the same journey,” said Nelson DeMille, “but some pilgrims have better road maps.” 

Fill your library with the best maps you can find and consult them regularly. Going places may just start in the quietest room of the house.


Did you know that May is Get Caught Reading Month? Participate.