Happy at Any Cost

Happy at Any Cost

The Revolutionary Vision and Fatal Quest of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

Kirsten Grind, Katherine Sayre2022

From award-winning Wall Street Journal reporters, an in-depth look at Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s short life and untimely death—and what it means for our pursuit of happiness. Tony Hsieh—CEO of Zappos, Las Vegas developer, and all-around beloved entrepreneur—was famous for spreading happiness. He lived and breathed this philosophy, instilling an ethos of joy at his company and outlining his vision for a better workplace in his New York Times bestseller Delivering Happiness. He promoted a workplace where bosses treated employees like family members, where stress was replaced by playfulness, and where hierarchies were replaced with equality and collaboration. His outlook shaped Silicon Valley and the larger business world. Hsieh used his position at work to integrate levity into a normally competitive environment. He aspired to build his own utopian cities, pouring millions of dollars into real estate and small businesses, first in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada—where Zappos was headquartered—and then in Park City, Utah. He gave generously to his employees and close friends, including throwing infamous Zappos parties and organizing gatherings at his home, an Airstream trailer park. When Hsieh died suddenly in November of 2020, the news shook the business and tech world. Wall Street Journal reporters Kirsten Grind and Katherine Sayre quickly realized the importance of the story because of Hsieh’s stature in the industry, but as they dug into the details of his final months, they realized there was a bigger story to tell. They found that Hsieh’s obsession with happiness masked his darker struggles with addiction, mental health, and loneliness. In the last year of his life, he spiraled out of control, cycling out of rehab and into the waiting arms of friends who enabled his worst behavior, even as he bankrolled them from his billion-dollar fortune. Happy at Any Cost sheds light on one of the most venerated, yet vulnerable, business leaders of our time. It's about our culture’s intense need to find “happiness” at all costs, our misguided worship of entrepreneurs, the stigmas still surrounding mental health, and how the trappings of fame can mask all types of deeper problems. In turn, it reveals how we conceptualize success—and define happiness—in our modern age.
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