Delivering Happiness

I admit it. I love tech books. Especially insightful books by tech people. And this includes Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh. Here’s my story about discovering happiness:

As an undergrad — way back in 1997 — Elizabethtown College required all students to take a Junior/Senior Colloquium outside of their major. I chose one about science and religion that was team taught by the astronomy/physics professor, a psychology professor, and a religion professor. It was one of the best classes I ever took because

  1. No textbook needed. All articles!
  2. I found the professors fascinating.
  3. Debates between the Catholics and the atheists.

A bit of background on the college: It sits just east of Lancaster, PA and was founded by the church of the Brethren (one of the more liberal sects of Anabaptists). The area is fairly conservative, although the college was much more diverse than the local population. In class, the staunch Catholics sat up front. The atheists sat in the back. The Lutherans and Baptists were in the middle. I don’t think there were any Jewish people in the class.

And there I sat, the lone agnostic.

The whole concept of the class was to solidify and formulate your personal world-view. Each week we would discuss a topic, such as creationism vs. evolution, the psychology of evil vs. a “God” who creates evil, etc. Heated discussions for those 90 minutes were the norm. Many times, those of us with middle ground views couldn’t get a word in between the Catholics and atheists. Which, to me, I found the whole black and white debates rather amusing.¬†Our final for the class was a 5 – 10 minute presentation of your world view to the class. We were only allowed 2 or 3 note cards, so you really had to believe in and understand your world view.

[Bear with me here… we’re getting to the relevance to the book right now.]

I remember my presentation fairly well. After hearing classmates whose Worldviews were all God or all science, I got up there and said that every human is seeking happiness. From the earliest man who found happiness in staying alive, finding food, or the rush of the hunt to modern day where some people find happiness in God, others find it in science, while some people need a family or money to make them happy. It differs for each person, but we — as a human race — strive to find happiness.

This shocked the class. No one had any questions for me after my presentation (a first if memory serves me well). All three professors had a slight smile on their face like they knew exactly what I was talking about yet amazed to hear it all at the same time. I knew that I had hit on one of life’s pure truths in that moment. For once, the great debate had been momentarily quelled. It was a WOW learning moment. I still have the index note cards stashed away someplace.

When I heard about the Delivering Happiness book and movement, I figured I needed to read it. It’s an easy read and good story, perfect to get those sluggish summer thoughts running again. Personally, the Epilogue about the science of happiness spoke to me the most mostly because I didn’t realize how much research was conducted on happiness. So, go read it. Check it out from your local library, buy it online or at a bookstore, or borrow a copy from a friend. There’s a reason why it’s spent 4 weeks at the top of the New York Times Bestseller List.

[Note: I did receive a complimentary copy of the book via an online promotion. I was not required in any way to provide a review (either positive or negative), and received no other compensation for writing this post.]

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Sara Written by:

I'm an Information Architect and Taxonomist in the greater Philadelphia, PA area. Mad about metadata. Incessant organizer. Knowledge monger. Information seeker. Wisdom chaser. Curiosity has yet to kill this cat!

2 Comments

  1. 2010/07/11

    I remember that class, but not with you. It's the one where after I said something about God of the Gaps the religion department started to deftly lead me to what to me seemed an accidental religion major but was really a plot.

    Anyway, I've read through the book some. It strikes me as common sense that local mom and pop stores know about. They stay in business even though they have higher prices due to interpersonal relationships. You feel better at the pet shop down the street, or the local coffee house, because they serve you, not your demographic. I don't know why on earth a book about this by a flavor of the month CEO is considered so revolutionary.

    • 2010/07/11

      Reason why it's done so well:

      1) Release date — right at the beginning of the summer, prime time before people are headed out to the beach.
      2) A feel-good, easy read that's material is light and happy.
      3) Promotion, promotion, promotion. Many of the Twitter thought leaders & influencers got to experience the DH Bus during SXSW, many received copies, and could spread the word.

      Knowing a number of people who work at Zappos, I can truthfully say that it's not your normal workplace or business operations. I think they even even beat out Cirque on the weird (if that's even possible). People are intrigued by their business and operations, and that's why it's the CEO-flavor-of-the-month is considered revolutionary.

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