Movie Review: The Expendables
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I got a chance to see the Expendables. With a line up like that, I’ve been looking forward to it for a long time, and I didn’t even know Charisma Carpenter was in this! Here are some thoughts:

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Delivering Happiness: A Way of Life
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I finally had a chance to finish up reading the Delivering Happiness book I’ve been reading and writing about for the last few weeks. In all, I do recommend the book both to startups, and to those running a larger company. The book is almost two books in one. The first half, as I covered in my posts, Discovering Happiness and Now This is Real Passion, are about Tony’s early startup experience and the path he was on that led to his personal discovery of what his passions really were. This was the part of the book that I enjoyed the most as it focuses on my situation and on one of my favorite areas of interest: internal motivation and discovering one’s passions.

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Flying Home
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Sitting in my window seat on the flight home from this weekend’s conference, my mind swirling with thoughts from the weekend, I look out the window, and am pulled away from my contemplation by one of the most remarkable visions I’ve ever seen while flying. There is a thin sheet of wispy clouds below me just thin enough to still reveal the city night lights beneath. Off in the horizon is an amazing lightning show visible from behind a much thicker mass of dark clouds. Most of the lightning flashes fill the distant sky without actually seeing the lightning bolt itself, but every few minutes a solid bolt breaks through the clouds, lighting up the entire scene. In all, it’s an awe-inspiring contrast of man made and natural light, creating a mood altering and surreal scene before me.

As I look down through the clouds onto the homes, businesses, churches, and communities below, I think back to a woman waiting in the airport with me just an hour ago. She had been bumped from a previous flight, and while waiting at the airport, had received a call that her young son had been in a serious car accident while she was out of town. He was on his way to the hospital when I first overheard the situation. After a few minutes of nervous pacing, she received another phone call. I could not hear what was being said, but she collapsed in uncontrollable grief and sobbing. A friend finished the call for her, and several minutes after I heard the update: her son was unresponsive, and was being airlifted to a different hospital in a last attempt to save his life.

I missed my kids. I longed to hold them.

Surely every home spread about below me had some kind of problem, difficulty or stress facing it. Many of them probably facing multiple issues, from strained parent-child relationships, to crumbling marriages, to financial issues caused by poor money management or unfortunate circumstances in their work situations, to health issues for family, friends, and loved ones, and even devastating loss. It reminded me of the recent loss of my grandmother, my grandfather’s failing health, the closing this week of my families church for the last 20 years, a fire that burned the church down a few years ago (we rebuilt it), and even back to the tornado that destroyed our home back in ’92. At some point in our lives, we all face many of these problems, but I wonder how often we remember to be thankful and appreciative during the times when we aren’t dealing with severe issues, and I wonder how empathetic we are to those going through them now, and more importantly how willing we are to help those dealing with an issue.

As I head home, I also have thoughts of the projects I’ll get back to work on and what direction I should take with several of them. I have new thoughts and ideas stirring in my mind, inspired by the speakers and conversations from the conference I attended. I can’t wait to take action, to have more conversations with my like minded friends and partners, and get back to doing what I love. But though I love what I do and I love working with some truly great people on some really exciting projects, I can never forget the big picture; the other things in life that matter, and I’m thankful for the little reminders in life that come along, often just in time.

I’ll never know what happened to that woman’s family, nor how the outcome will shape her family for generations to come. All I know is I prayed for her many times on the flight home. I felt her pain, and I used it to remind myself to really cherish the times I have with my children and my loved ones.

The next time you’re feeling overwhelmed with grief or stress from a situation you find yourself in, stop and get some perspective. Sit by a busy place, perhaps in a mall at a coffee shop, and watch the hundreds of people walking by and remember that each one of them is facing difficult times, at least at some point in life. Remind yourself you aren’t alone and your problems aren’t a unique curse on you. It’s just part of living life.

Then, find someone in need, and offer to comfort them, pray for them, or help them in some way that you can. Remind yourself of your blessings and enjoy them, guilt-free, while you have them. Gather your loved ones, and express your appreciation for them. Embrace what you have, while you have it, even in the face of difficult times. That’s all we can do in the end, because the troubles on our path ahead are out of our control. As scary as that is, we have only one choice: live each day to the fullest, love life, love others, give and serve in all we do, enjoy the fruits of our labor for as long as we have them, and handle trials and troubles with integrity, honesty, faith, and perseverance.

The Zappos Culture Book
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1088508-p-DETAILED.jpgAs I continue to read through the Delivering Happiness book from Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, I’ve come to the introduction and discussion of the Zappos Culture Book. If you are a fan of Zappos you have probably already heard about this famous book. The idea for it came when Tony and others at the company wanted to improve the chances that any new employees hired would fit in with the company culture. To Tony, company culture at this point had become the number one focus of the company. They not only wanted to be sure new employees fit in at work, but also that they were a fit personally with everyone. They wanted a manual to hand out that discussed the company culture, and then decided the best way to do that was to ask the current employees to write it themselves.

They invited all employees to submit 100 to 500 words describing what the Zappos culture means to them. They committed to using everyone’s contribution, unedited, even if it was a complaint. Management learned a lot from the book, and it is now published yearly and made available not only to prospective employees, but also to vendors, and even customers. In fact you can request a free copy of it, as I did over the weekend, by sending an email to ceo@zappos.com.

This middle section of the book, ‘Profits and Passion’, goes into a lot of detail on what that culture was, how they established it and why. Tony believes that in the end, the only competitive edge Zappos has over anyone is: Brand, Culture, and Pipeline. Everything else can be copied. The section goes on to give some great tips on creating culture in your company.

Don’t forget to leave a comment on this post or either of the other two Delivering Happiness posts (Discovering Happiness or Now This is Real Passion) in order to have a chance to win a free copy of the book.

Delivering Happiness: Now this is real passion
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skitched-20100609-005336.jpgIn my previous post I wrote about the first section of Tony Hsieh’s book where Tony discusses discovering his true happiness and passions. I began the second section today, and while I haven’t finished it yet, I had to write about the period during which Zappos was struggling to make any profit. They had sales, they had employees, offices, a warehouse, and a real growing business model, but they still weren’t making any profit.

Tony was only working for $25/year full time at Zappos. He had invested millions from the investment fund, Venture Frogs, that he’d started, to the point that there was no money left. He then began to invest money from his own personal funds but that began to run out. They had to layoff some employees and significantly cut the salaries of the others, but in order to make that work and still keep the employees, Tony put them up in his own loft without charging rent. He also began selling off the property he had purchased as an investment in order to put that money into Zappos and keep it going. He even listed his favorite loft at less than market value, and then dropped it by 40% in order to quickly turn it around, get the cash and keep Zappos going.

VC’s said it was a bad investment; naysayers said people won’t buy shoes online. The business plan, should someone have ever bothered to put one together, would not have indicated any of this was a good decision. But Tony believed in the idea, he believed in the team, and he believed in himself and he was willing to risk everything for his passion of building something. In the end, he decided to liquidate everything he had and have a “fire sale” in order to raise the final round of money to keep hope alive.

We all know how it worked out in the end, though I can’t wait to read more and learn how. This book will teach you lessons in commitment and following your dreams, as well as motivate you, so I highly recommend it…again. And don’t forget, leave a comment on this post or the last one, or the next one, for an opportunity to win your own copy.

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