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Posted on: Sunday, August 21, 2011

The book, Delivering Happiness by Zappos CEO, Tony Shieh is moving on more fronts than one for anyone who has ever tried to work on building a team, a product, a business or an organization. The book is an insight into Tony's mind and his core values which continue to drive Zappos towards success.

But what is even more fascinating about the book is the openness with which it addresses and describes the fears of the early entrepreneurs or anyone who has ever tried to walk a different path.

Tony tells the tale of his quitting Oracle to chase a dream of starting his own organization. The story is fascinating because it provides a chilling account of the brutal reality of walking a different path and at the same time reassuring because of the way it ends. Tony tells the story with a remarkable blend of facts and emotions:

As it turned out, the adventure we were waiting for to happen to us didn't end up happening on its own. We ended up sitting around in our apartment, occasionally doing some Web design work, and going out every once in a while to try to drum up some more sales.

By the end of the first week, it dawned on me that neither of us was actually passionate about doing Web design work. We loved  the idea of owning and running our own business, but the reality ended up being a lot less fun than the fantasy.

My parents were not exactly thrilled that I’d quit my job at Oracle without a real plan for what to do next. When I told my dad that Sanjay and I were planning on running a Web design business, he told me that it didn’t really sound like that could ever become a big-enough business to be meaningful.  And now, one week into it, both Sanjay and I were starting to wonder if we’d made the right decision to leave Oracle. The next few weeks were tough and somewhat depressing. We started to spend most of our time just surfing the Web to combat the boredom and to keep ourselves entertained.

Watching Sanjay go into the coat closet to nap there in the middle of the day was only sort of funny the first time. We were starting to get a bit stir-crazy.

Luckily, we both had enough savings from the jobs we had in college that we didn’t need to worry about whether we would be able to pay the rent for the rest of the year. We didn’t know what we wanted to do, but we had learned what we didn’t want to do. We didn’t want to work for Oracle. We didn’t want to do any more Web design work. We didn’t want to make any more sales calls. And we didn’t want to be bored out of our minds. So we spent our days and nights trying to figure out the next great Internet business idea, but we really couldn’t come up with anything that sounded good.

One weekend, out of sheer boredom, we decided to do some computer programming to test out an idea for something we initially called the Internet Link Exchange (ILE), which we eventually renamed to just LinkExchange.

What Tony and Sanjay had stumbled upon out of sheer boredom, would later be acquired by Microsoft for 265 million dollars. On one hand the book describes the Zappos values and culture and on the other it also has stories which form  a constant roller costar ride of up's and down's in Tony's life where on multiple occasions Zappos was inches away from getting wound down because of lack of finances. From overcoming his fears of failure to selling his assets to keep Zappos afloat, the book is not just an insight into Tony's mind but and insight into why entrepreneurs and developers build organizations and products.

More often than not, artists and builders don't work on building stuff just for the profits associated with building stuff. They build stuff because they have an unstoppable itch that they have to scratch. The itch of delivering happiness.