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Happiness Guru Never Found His Own Happiness

Tony Hsieh (pronounced “Shay”) wanted to promote happiness and world peace. The brilliant business guru took over Zappos soon after it was founded. Under his leadership, he propelled it from a company on the verge of collapse to a successful online retail enterprise that sold to Amazon for $1.2 billion in 2009.

After the publication of his book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose, he became a workplace-happiness guru. Thousands of business leaders, government officials, and Wall Street analysts flocked to Zappos’s downtown Las Vegas headquarters each year to take tours of its fun-filled offices and learn from Mr. Hsieh.

When Hsieh stepped down as CEO of Zappos in August of 2020, he thought he could achieve world peace. He moved to Park City, Utah, and wanted to attract intellectuals and artists with outsize salaries to create a sort of utopia. The blueprint for this model town could then be applied to other cities across the world.

But behind his swift success, Mr. Hsieh had for years struggled privately with social anxiety, autism, and alcohol abuse. Five months before his death, he suffered a breakdown after abusing drugs, in particular a drug that some describe as “spiritual.” He had also developed a fascination with fire. He liked fooling around with it and performing magic tricks. Candles were sometimes perched dangerously on his bedspread, and Mr. Hsieh kept a small fire ring in his bedroom that shot flames into the air without any barrier. Sadly, he died at 46 in November 2020, from injuries sustained in a house fire that was ruled an accident by local authorities.

Possible Preaching Angle:

This tragic tale shows what happens when we work for “happiness” or “world peace” or making a difference in the world without first dealing with our own sin and brokenness.

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