Tag Archives: Entrepreneurship

Delivering Happiness by Tony Hsieh


  1. Tony Hsieh is the CEO of Zappos and wrote this book to help people avoid the mistakes he made and encourage people to be more entrepreneurial
Key Takeaways
  1. Tony was very curious and entrepreneurial as a child, starting many small businesses and once he graduated from Harvard he eventually founded LinkExchange  which was sold to Microsoft for $625M
  2. He formed an investment group and one of his investments was Zappos, which he eventually became CEO of and devoted all his time to
  3. Being conscious of what you want your culture to be and taking steps towards that every single day is maybe the most important decision you can make for your business. Decided to make Zappos bigger than shoes by making their core competency customer service regardless of what space they were in
  4. Never confuse a good outcome with a good process
  5. Choose experiences over material things every day
  6. Never outsource your core competency
  7. Look at all decisions through a customer experience lens as opposed to a cost minimization lens
  8. People are terrible at predicting what will make them happy long term.
  9. 4 frameworks to happiness – perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself)
  10. 3 types of happiness – pleasure (short lived), passion (flow) and higher purpose (longest lasting)
  11. Happiness only increases when shared with others
  12. Zappos 10 Core Values
What I got out of it
  1. Interesting and inspiring book by someone who is clearly passionate about what he does and has created a company and culture which aligns shareholders, customers, and employee incentives
  • 3 sections – profits, profits and passion, profits, passion and purpose
  • Tony was very curious and entrepreneurial as a child, starting many small businesses – worm farm, newsletters, button making, study guides, selling McDonald’s burgers at Harvard, pizzas stand at Harvard…
  • Learned early that telling the truth is important but equally as important is the presentation of truth
  • Went to Harvard and skipped pretty much every class his freshmen year. He got lazy and watched a lot of TV since he didn’t know how to handle the newfound freedom
  • He quickly resigned from Oracle in order to pursue his own thing with his friend and roommate Sanjay – they founded LinkExchange 
  • LinkExchange grew really quickly but they made the mistake of just “hiring bodies” and not making sure they were hiring great people. No single incident ruined the culture but over time it deteriorated. Drop by drop
  • After selling LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265m, he did a lot of thinking of what success means and what truly made him happy and it was creating companies and being around smart, ambitious and fun people
  • Throw ideas against the walls, see what sticks, iterate and make it happen
  • Never confuse a good outcome with a good process 
  • Respect inertia 
  • Tony got pretty into poker for a while and found that many of the principles could be applied to business as well
  • Tony and some link exchange guys formed an investing group and one of their investments was Zappos. They decided to invest more instead of let it go out of business even when Sequoia turned them down
  • Determined that his tribe, his connectedness to others, made up a large part of his happiness
  • Choose experiences over material things every day
  • Wasn’t a big fan of EDM until he went to a warehouse rave with his friends and felt an unbelievable sense of connectedness and non judgment
  • Dislikes networking events – believes you should genuinely try to help and build a relationship with everyone and you’ll get so much more out of it
  • Envision, create and believe in your own universe and the universe will form around you 
  • Never outsource your core competency 
  • Decided to make Zappos bigger than shoes by making their core competency customer service regardless of what space they were in
  • Created a Zappos library with required reading for all their employees
  • Moved their HQ from SF to Las Vegas and 70/90 employees decided to move with them
  • Ask their employees to write a short paragraph on what the Zappos culture means to them. The paragraphs are compiled annually into a culture book to see how the culture is evolving
  • Culture is so important and you have to think of it as a long term investment. Zappos 10 Core Values
  • Look at all decisions through a customer experience lens as opposed to a cost minimization lens
  • Your culture is your brand
  • Hiring may be the most important part of building and maintaining your culture
  • Do something that wows people every day
  • Things are never as bad or good as they seem in the moment 
  • For their different departments, they hire people who are already passionate about those topics (running department hires marathoners…)
  • If you deliver a product or service which wows people, the news will eventually spread 
  • 3 rules for public speaking – be passionate, give personal stories, be real
  • Alignment with shareholders, board and employees is so important. The board and the employees were not on the same page so Hsieh looked to buy out the board. Eventually they agreed to be acquired by Amazon in an all stock transaction
  • Bezos – must obsess over customers, invent (can invent your way out of any box), must think long-term (5-7 year time frames), it is always day one (you can always do more, try new things, etc.)
  • What is your goal in life? – For me, it is to learn as much as possible, experience as much as possible, see as much as possible, meet as many interesting people as possible and give back as much as possible
  • Why are these things your goal in life? – most people get to a simile core answer – it will make them happier
  • People are terrible at predicting what will make them happy long term. Make certain your goal will truly bring you sustained, long term happiness
  • 4 frameworks to happiness – perceived control, perceived progress, connectedness and vision/meaning (being part of something bigger than yourself) 
  • 3 types of happiness – pleasure, passion (flow) and higher purpose (longest lasting)
  • Are you working towards your happiness each day? Are you bringing happiness to others?
  • Happiness only increases when shared with others 

The Hard Thing About Hard Things by Ben Horowitz


  1. Famed investor and entrepreneur Ben Horowitz brings us through his personal accounts of the stresses and euphorias experienced while building a successful business
Key Takeaways
  1. There is no recipe to reach your goals. That is what makes your goals difficult
  2. No shortcuts to knowledge
  3. Aim to have different groups of friends as this helps you gain new, broader perspectives
  4. Impossible to do everything so make sure you set and stick to your priorities
  5. Imagine what the best version of you would do in any given situation and act accordingly
  6. When raising money privately, look for a market of one
  7. Need two types of friends – those you call with good news and are genuinely excited for you and those you call when all hell breaks loose
  8. “If you’re going to eat shit, don’t nibble”
  9. Set artificial deadlines to push yourself and your team and keep people focused
  10. Conventional wisdom has nothing to do with the truth
  11. Consistently ask, “What am I not doing?”
  12. CEOs should not play the odds – simply do whatever it takes
  13. Must be able to make the best decision even if all your options are terrible
  14. As terrible as the struggle seems in the moment, that’s where greatness comes from
  15. As a CEO, don’t be overly optimistic, be real and trust others
  16. Nobody takes the bad news worse than the CEO
  17. Right way to lay off people – focus on the future, don’t delay, be clear about why they’re being fired, train managers as they should be the one’s firing their people, address the company (more for those staying than leaving), be visible and present (show you care)
  18. If need to fire/demote a friend, understand that you need to take the action which is best for the company (be decisive, admit reality, acknowledge contributions)
  19. You must not fool yourself and you are the easiest to fool
  20. Often there will be no silver bullet – simply need to bunker down and work through the problem
  21. Hire for strength rather than lack of weakness
  22. Take care of the people, the products and the profits – in that order
  23. Can’t just tell people what to do, but more importantly why
  24. Training employees extremely important – productivity, performance management, product quality, employee retention
  25. People tend to quit because they hate their manager or aren’t learning anything
  26. Training your people might be the most important thing you do
  27. Make training mandatory
  28. Bringing big executives into a startup role isn’t easy as its a different rhythm and skill set even if they’re focusing on similar things
  29. Sometimes an organization doesn’t need a solution, simply clarity
  30. Have strict processes in place to avoid political behavior (compensation, promotion, territory, etc.)
  31. No matter how good/talented, smart heretics, flakes and jerks are not worth hiring
  32. If you are launching a tech product, it must be 10x better than the competition as it must take the market
  33. Get a mentor and hire those with experience
  34. Being a CEO is so difficult because there is no way to prepare for it – must learn many of these skills while on the job
  35. Focus on what you need to get right, not what you’ve done or might do wrong
  36. As CEO, don’t take thigns too personally but also beware of not taking things personally enough
  37. The most difficult skill the CEO must master is their own psychology
  38. As an investor, look for brilliance and courage in your CEOs
  39. Generally, there are two types of CEOs – decision makers and those who enjoy making the company run well
  40. Important to get people to follow you – ability to articulate the vision, having the right kind of ambition and the ability to achieve the vision
  41. Peacetime CEOs need a different mentality and skill set than war time CEOs – most people have a hard time being successful as both
  42. Watered down feedback can be worse than none at all
  43. Try to see things from people’s perspectives
  44. Embrace the struggle
What I got out of it
  1. Very interesting read and especially useful if you are currently or soon to be “in the trenches” of your start up and need some guidance on how to handle some common situations

Read The Hard Thing About Hard Things