Zap! (a book review)

The promoter sent Robroy a couple of advance copies of Delivering Happiness ( by Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, and asked me to write “an honest review.”

The request alone made me happy.  There is so much horrible writing out there, and it’s so much fun to criticize.  I was really hoping to hate this book.

Unfortunately, I liked it.  You take a shine to Tony as a kid, and come to admire the selfless, tireless leader as an adult.  Though I’ve never sold a company for $265M, as he did with LinkExchange, or gambled it all for a chance to sell another company for $1.2B, as he did with Zappos, I feel like I did.  I feel like we did it together.  His story-telling is that good.

But the real value, and the reason I’d recommend the book to business folks, is Chapter 5.  There you get 70+ pages on how to move your business forward with Zappos’ structured “Pipeline” for connecting customer satisfaction and employee satisfaction.  It makes sense.  Everyone gets happier the happier they make others.

Everyone, that is, but Tony.  His happiness is temporary.  He’s thrilled at the moment of conquest, or “checking it off the list,” like the time he risked his life on Mt. Kilimanjaro, an important experience, for sure.  But he doesn’t seem to experience the other kind of happiness.  The sustainable kind.  Intimacy.

It’s a business book, not a romance; I get it.  But as a man, Tony seems to have no interest in that stuff.  No wife, no kid, no dog, no prospects.  He’s so busy working, no one really gets close, and in the end, you feel that this amazingly successful, super positive businessman is unfulfilled personally.  Which is a bummer.  You love him too much to see him to fail now.  Yet all you can do is close the book and hope it turns out that Delivering Happiness is only half the story.  Maybe the title of his next book will be Receiving Happiness.

If so, on that day, Robroy will give an honest review.  I’ll stand up with tears in my eyes and cheer.

(Read my column “Working Life” in the Baltimore Business Journal)

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10 Responses to “Zap! (a book review)”

  1. Mike Sweeney says:

    Interesting take Rob. We were fortunate enough to receive an advance copy as well, and although I’ve only “scanned” the book, it seems like a regurgitation of the stories I’ve already heard in blogs, articles, etc. Hoping that when I sit down for a full read that I find original material.

    • Robroy says:

      Thanks for your comment, Mike. Unlike the articles I’d seen previously, the book is written in first person point of view, which makes for a different read. I kinda liked his raw, straightforward style.

  2. Beth says:

    Scout, you’re talking directly to me today. I can feel it.

    Again, this reader learns more from the reviewer than the book itself.


  3. Susan Carr says:

    Hi Rob, well said. We all need to reflect back on this at the end of the day. PS I am thinking of getting a dog.

  4. Pseudonym says:

    Haven’t read the book, but I did work at Zappos for a year+, and I would tend to agree with the assessment of Tony. For someone with so much success and money, whatever happiness he finds always seemed to me to be very internalized. He may be receiving tons of happiness, but he doesn’t show it or share it on an interpersonal level. I was always surprised by the lack of connection I felt with him when conversing. He’s generous, and seems to go to lengths to make customers/employees happy, but he is very guarded and I never personally felt that he let his guards down and allowed the vulnerability needed to make you feel like you’re having a personal interaction. Dealing with him always felt very hollow.

    • Robroy says:

      I really appreciate your inside scoop. You’ve added more contrast to such a multi-sided character. Great comment; stop by anytime.

  5. Shelby says:

    Saw this article in the CAAN Linkedin Group.

    I am very eager to read this book as I wait to get my copy in the mail.

    I am glad to have this perception of the book prior to the read. It is easy from a student’s point of view to get caught up in the excitement of the idea of “success.”

    • Robroy says:

      Shelby, thanks for your comment! If you do end up reading it, feel free to check back and let us know what you thought.

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