My mother recently lent me the memoir of Tony Hsieh, a founder of the online shoe company Zappos. Hsieh is known for innovative ideas about how to build group culture (he also likes to make lots of money, but we’ll leave that aside for now). The title of his memoir is Delivering Happiness, which reminds me a little bit of the Dalai Lama’s book The Art of Happiness. Hsieh’s book is interesting for me because it’s way outside of my normal reading list: a wide and diverse one, but certainly one that has never contained memoirs by rich guys talking about building companies.
Reading Hsieh’s memoir, I’m finding that he’s really not talking about happiness. What he seems to be talking about is connection to something larger than yourself, developing quality friendships, liberating your imagination, finding your passions and talents, and putting all that into building something together with others (in his case, companies). Somehow, this certainly feels bigger and more interesting than the pursuit of happiness, although perhaps my view of the concept itself is just colored by ‘jadedness’.
However, I often wonder what it is people really want when they speak of happiness. Even though I can point to plenty of examples in my life when I experienced something I can label as “happiness,” there’s still something really vague about both the word, and also how most of us talk about it.
At the same time, paradoxically, it seems that most of the time people link happiness to getting something specific. A good job. A house. A life partner. A child. Money. Spiritual enlightenment. There’s an endless list of people, places, things, and experiences that people chase after, believing that they’ll be happy once such and such is in their life.
What do you make of happiness? What is it to you and how does it manifest in your life?
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