Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What's "Delivering Happiness" for you?

I've always been a reader, but these days I find a generous amount of my reading is done for work. I'm always delighted to find a business book that's also fun to read, which is why I am excited to be participating in the Q2 Indie Business Book Club. A dozen of us are reading Tony Hsieh's "Delivering Happiness," and meeting every two weeks for the next few months to discuss it.

I read "Delivering Happiness" last year and really enjoyed it, but reading it for a book club gives me a chance to reread it with new focus. So much of what Tony Hsieh talks about makes sense to me, but I'm wondering this time around how much of it could be applied to any person? Any job? Any company?

When offered the chance to sell his first business (he was offered $20 million when his company wasn't even a year old), Hsieh made a list of what he'd do with the money. One of the things on his list was: "I would start another company, because I really enjoyed the idea of building and growing something." Hey, I can relate to that! When he decides not to sell for $20 million, it's partly because "even if we failed, going after the opportunity was the right thing to do." Even at this early point he seems motivated more by the experiences of starting and growing a business than by a large sum of money.

Contrast that with one of the delivery guys who brings packages to my business. In several of our many interesting conversations, he's told me how much he hates his job. He's looking forward to his approaching retirement and the pension that he stuck around for. When I asked him about this path, why he didn't quit years ago to do something he enjoyed, he said he didn't know what else he'd do, and he'd already put in time with this job and didn't want to lose it. He has worked 30+ years doing a job he hates largely because he wanted that pension. What amazes me is that even 25 years ago, when he hadn't put in much time, he already felt that it was too late to change. He didn't want to go after any opportunity if it meant losing the promise of that cash 30 years later. I know that it's important to commit to things and stick around for the long haul, but is every job worth that? WWTD? (What Would Tony Do?)

Actually Tony Hsieh did sell his company to Microsoft for $265 million (worth the wait, right?!). Part of the deal involved staying with the company for a year. When deciding whether to walk away from that deal and lose about 20% in the process, he returned to his lists. He said, "I made a list of the happiest periods in my life, and I realized that none of them involved money. I realized that building stuff and being creative and inventive made me happy." He walked away from the additional cash, acknowledging the shift that he'd made: "I had decided to stop chasing the money, and start chasing the passion."

When I was a kid I spent a lot of time with my best friend's family. Her dad worked for the local shipyard, a terrific employer in my community. Sometimes he talked about his work, but he often talked about his vacation time. I could tell by the way he talked about his vacations—hunting, fishing, camping—that these were the things he really loved. I remember thinking then (I was probably 10 or 11) that I would rather work 52 weeks at something I loved than work 49 or 50 at something I hated in order to have 2 or 3 weeks to enjoy. We spend so much time in our lives working, shouldn't we find something we love?

What is it about some people that makes them willing to dive in? I'm not a particularly good example because my husband's job has always supported us, but there are so many people who really risk everything to do what makes them happy. They follow their passion instead of always focusing on the salary or pension or accrued vacation time. And that's a scary thing, when you think about it. Why are some willing and able to do it?

What is it that's "delivering happiness" in your life right now? Is it your job? (If not, you aren't alone; almost 3/4 of people would switch if they got a better offer.) Have you dreamed of making your hobby into your life's work? What is stopping you? Please share your thoughts! And please consider reading "Delivering Happiness" so you can follow along as I talk about it in the coming weeks! I'd love to know what you think about it!

3 comments:

  1. I'm a big Zappos and Tony fan and I love this book! It's so inspirational and entertaining at the same time =)

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  2. What a super post, Emily! It is nice when a business book is not dry and boring. Thankfully, there are lots of fun ones these days!

    I am enjoying being a part of the book club with you. I love this quote from your post: "I would rather work 52 weeks at something I loved than work 49 or 50 at something I hated in order to have 2 or 3 weeks to enjoy." Those were practically my precise word when I quite my jog in 2000 to lead IBN full-time. I love serving my members all 52 weeks of the year, and I still get to take time off for things I like! I was willing to risk the corner office, and I'm so glad I did. I'm happier than ever with my choice. Now, if someone would just offer that $265 million -- LOL!

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  3. I agree, Anne-Marie! He clearly has a great sense of fun and his personality comes through in his writing.

    dM, I knew you could relate to that! You were one of the brave ones to leave a Fortune 500 company and start your own. The job is its own reward...but you're right, $265 million would probably be more than tempting!! Thank you both for commenting!

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