Delivering Happiness book.

Last week I finished reading Delivering Happiness book by Tony Hsieh. The book has also has its own resourceful website: http://deliveringhappiness.com/

I work in Customer Support and have plans to advance my career in this area because I love learning things, solving problems, and helping people. So reading this book made perfect sense.

Most of this book is about Tony’s personal entrepreneurial story leading to acquisition of Zappos by Amazon.com, with an emphasis on company culture and its importance. The action oriented tiny chapter at the end got my thinking hat on and articulate what happiness means to me personally. I did that exercise but am not yet ready to share my happiness plan publicly. But this was an interesting exercise to do.

The wowing customers part particularly resonated with me. I would be cheeky if I claim that I wow my customers all the time. But I try my best and be as close as possible to the utopia. So this wowing thing did not feel foreign to me. If you are a business, I can’t think of anything else that can take precedence over delighting customers.

Taking cue from the book, I pinged one of the Zappos customer support team to check if they ship to New Zealand. I really felt like ordering something, if they can ship. But it seems down under is too far for Zappos to ship their “Happiness Box”. However as I read in the book, the customer service rep offered me a visit to Zappos facilities in Las Vegas. If I ever visit Vegas, I will remember Zappos and would be glad to visit their facilities and understand their culture first hand.

As an aside, I have been making a list of what some companies I admire (including my current employer) call their customer facing teams. So far I listed Customer Support, Customer Happiness, Customer Success, Customer Loyalty, Customer Care, and Customer Service. I would be glad to know if you are aware of any other name that is not in this list.

Just Learn

Today I read the latest Paul Graham’s essay that’s lying in my Read Later list.

Before the startup is a good read even if you have no plans to start up.

Following are few paragraphs that couldn’t be more correct:

Larry Page may seem to have an enviable life, but there are aspects of it that are unenviable. Basically at 25 he started running as fast as he could and it must seem to him that he hasn’t stopped to catch his breath since. Every day new shit happens in the Google empire that only the CEO can deal with, and he, as CEO, has to deal with it. If he goes on vacation for even a week, a whole week’s backlog of shit accumulates. And he has to bear this uncomplainingly, partly because as the company’s daddy he can never show fear or weakness, and partly because billionaires get less than zero sympathy if they talk about having difficult lives. Which has the strange side effect that the difficulty of being a successful startup founder is concealed from almost everyone except those who’ve done it.

Mark Zuckerberg will never get to bum around a foreign country. He can do other things most people can’t, like charter jets to fly him to foreign countries. But success has taken a lot of the serendipity out of his life. Facebook is running him as much as he’s running Facebook. And while it can be very cool to be in the grip of a project you consider your life’s work, there are advantages to serendipity too, especially early in life. Among other things it gives you more options to choose your life’s work from.

I try not to forget these lines:

The way to become Larry Page was to become an expert on search. And the way to become an expert on search was to be driven by genuine curiosity, not some ulterior motive.

So here is the ultimate advice for young would-be startup founders, boiled down to two words: just learn.

Sharing versus lurking

Are you actively sharing or passively lurking?

I encourage people to find themselves in the former group because sharing is a great thing. It doesn’t matter what you share as long as it is your authentic content. A blog, a tweet, a speech, or a photo. Anything that you created. It doesn’t have to be the coolest thing. It just has to be something that piqued your interest in whatever way. Something that is dear to your heart.

I value sharing because I appreciate the fact that someone tried to come up with something regardless of the fear of being judged. It takes lot of courage and thick skin to put oneself out there.

By standing up voluntarily, you are contributing something to this world. Most of your contributions, like mine, will in fact be trivial and might not matter much to others. But that is not the point. By opening up, you are showing the world how you think, how you do things and what matters the most to you. It might not be the world’s best way of doing things. It is still invaluable for fellow open minded people like me who are always willing to learn and find different (not necessarily better) ways to do things. And to people who understand different points of view, not just theirs.

So please stand up and share anything that you think is worthwhile. As Theodore Roosevelt said, be anyone but those timid and cold souls who know neither victory nor defeat.

Practice, practice and more practice.

Writing is a skill. As with any skill, writing improves with practice. But practice is inconvenient and hence it is hard to persevere. Which is the reason why I keep putting off writing. But all the greatest and latest advice I get can be summed up to two words: Just write. Which is what I believe I am doing right now.

Sometimes I wonder what do I want from writing. What will happen as I write, improve and find my rhythm and voice on the page.

I am equally good at instantly identifying great writing and its feckless counterpart. I have a few role models who are both writers, normal people I interact on daily basis and online personalities I follow on various forums. I look everywhere for interesting instances of prose, like billboards, adverts, and basically anywhere and everywhere.

So it is my hope that with regular practice, I will be able to master the use of words to express myself succinctly, effectively, sans language errors  and take my writing skill to a level that is as close as possible to the best.

And so I write.

I love writing. It is creative to play with words. I don’t aspire to be a professional writer though.

I want to be articulate. I want to write with correct grammar, spelling and punctuation. I intend to master the principles of a great prose.

Why?

Because writing allows me to cement my thoughts in time. It tells me how I think and articulate. It lets me go back in time and ponder about my life. I can’t explain how much joy my past words give me whenever I read my archives. I don’t care if they are great or not. All that matters to me is, those are the words I wrote at certain point in my life. So they have a special meaning for me. I can read them for myself later. I can show them to my children once they are old enough to read.

I still hold dear the 333 blog posts I made in the internal blogging platform between the years 2006 and 2010 of my then employer. They are not amazing or out of the world. They are just plain and simple thoughts. But comments on my concluding post revealed that at least a handful of people will miss me and my blogs. That is amazing because writing helps connect people with each other.

And so I write.

Why I read what I read

If you look at the Books I Read page on this blog, it is pretty clear that I only read non-fiction. Fiction has no place in my reading list.This is not because I hate fiction but I need to be judicious with my limited time. In fact, earlier this year I thought of completely stop reading even non-fiction and focus on pursuing my goals. But then I realized I need to maintain a balance between motion and action.

I primarily read to learn. And learning is fun. So I propose one can read non-fiction as well for fun.

Reading takes time. So I’d rather invest my time in reading something practical and valuable that maximizes my return on investment rather than reading fictional drama between some funny characters.

Before we part, I encourage you to read this great post on Medium titled How to Read. And then act.

This post is written in response to today’s Daily Prompt (The Great Divide) on WordPress.com

Iterate until done.

It does not matter whether you fail in achieving your dreams. Failure is inevitable especially if you are aiming for something higher. What matters is whether  you are iterating or not. As long as there are continued efforts backed by refined plans,  achieving any dream is eventual.

I am lucky enough to live three major dreams, all achieved in the last 10 years. Every single one was iterated more than few times.

I am currently working on my next dream and I already failed once.  I am unsure how many more times I will fail given its magnitude. But what I am sure about is, I  will never stop iterating.