Culture, Passion and Happiness: Lessons From Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh's journey to create shoe retailer Zappos and 'Deliver Happiness', as stated in his book of the same name, inspired YuLife CEO to reflect on how he's influenced the business world.

Sammy Rubin - 2 December 2020

Taking inspiration from Tony Hsieh's journey and the legacy he has left.

At YuLife, gratitude is at the heart of how the company operates. We often take joy in showing gratitude to each other, our customers and the network of people around us that have allowed us to continue on our mission to help YuLifers to live their healthiest lives.

The recent passing of Tony Hsieh deeply saddened me and also brought forward feelings of gratitude - for what he brought into the world of business and wider society. His book, Delivering Happiness, is part of the ‘YuLife library’ that every new member of the YuCrew receives on joining. In it, Hsieh talks of what it means to create a business with a purpose beyond just making profits, but bringing positive change to the world and making a difference.

Tony Hsieh was most known for building Zappos. He was successful in previously building a business that then got sold to Microsoft before investing in the online shoe retailer. He was so excited by the company that he became the CEO and really grew the business to over a billion dollars in sales before venturing into a partnership with Amazon.

The journey that Tony Hsieh went on and the lessons he learned really inspired me to look at what we’re achieving at YuLife. I want to share three core lessons that I've learned which are relevant to all of us, both individually and collectively as a business.

Lesson 1: The importance of company culture

Tony Hsieh was able to articulate and demonstrate how culture is so important when building a business. In terms of the people that joined the Zappos journey, the team were very particular that they were not just looking for people who had the right skills but really believed in the Zappos mission.

He created a whole culture around energy beyond just making money. To talk about culture at the time when he was building Zappos was something quite unusual and groundbreaking.

Lesson 2: Passion, Purpose and Profits as priorities for businesses

The whole of Delivering Happiness is centred on three core priorities: passion, purpose, and profits. Tony Hsieh talks about priorities because many companies focus firstly on profit. Hsieh instead decides to start with passion.

Hsieh talks about this a lot in this order: passion, purpose, and then profits. Find what you’re passionate about instead of focusing on the bottom line. This has been my experience in building startups. What are we passionate about at YuLife? We're passionate about making a difference in people's lives. If we can deliver on that, then profits will flow.

Lesson 3: Deliver happiness

Happiness is a very interesting concept - since writing Delivering Happiness, Hsieh spoke about his journey around really getting into the Science of Happiness. He talked about three levels of happiness:

Three levels of happiness

  1. Pleasure - The happiness we get out of having a pleasurable experience, something caused by a stimulus. The surge of happiness that would come from having a great meal, watching a film you enjoy, or even winning the lottery. It is a momentary feeling of happiness based just purely on pleasure.
  2. Passion, or engagement - This form of happiness comes from being passionate about something: a cause, a hobby, or a business. This is a deeper form of happiness that is more about doing something, and being in the flow. When you’re in the flow, time flies.
  3. Purpose - The third level of happiness runs deepest, and that is having a purpose, being part of something bigger than ourselves which is ultimately long-lasting. Tony Hsieh made it his mission to share his experiences through his book and business seminars because he wanted to inspire other businesses to take on these concepts.

When I think of what YuLife is doing and our own excitement from the journey, we get pleasure. There are so many momentary pleasures, like winning awards and getting to celebrate together.

The second level of happiness came from really finding our passion. I believe that is something that we're really focused on doing in YuLife in terms of making tech a force for good. That is something that we can all get behind and when we're in that flow, we know that we are really passionate.

The third and final level, which I believe is really important and central to what we're doing here at YuLife, which is the level of happiness that is derived from purpose, which is that we are looking to make a difference to millions of people and to create a life insurance product that inspires life. When we see the impact of what we're doing on the lives of people, that is when we’re part of something bigger. We're bringing in service and delivering happiness, delivering wellbeing, into the world.

Remembering Tony Hsieh

When the unfortunate news broke, everyone took to talking about this man who had the foresight to build a different type of company. That wasn't just about business as usual but embarking on a big mission. I think his legacy will live on - not just for now, but for an eternity in terms of what he's brought to the world.

YuLife will continue in that measure, and redouble our mission to take this idea, this legacy, of making a difference to millions of people around the world.

Sammy Rubin

Sammy Rubin is the Founder & CEO of YuLife, a life insurance company that strives to offer effective life cover and improve the health and overall wellbeing of its users.