The impactful life of Tony Hsieh

I got up Saturday morning and was sitting down after my morning exercise and shower with my phone. Some Saturdays’ are slow, and this was one of them. I was watching the Formula 1 qualification session of the Bahrain Grand Prix whilst sipping my second cup of coffee.

One of the widgets installed on my iPhone is a Wikipedia photo of the day widget. I click on these beautiful pictures each day to learn where they are from and the details behind them — and it was no different this time. Since I already ended up in Wikipedia, I often glance at the top 20 list of Wikipedia searches. I am always curious about knowing what people are searching for and I come up with theories on why they are searching for it. For e.g., searches about various members of the British Monarchy, Diana, and Margaret Thatcher on the Top 20 list were most probably triggered by people watching “The Crown” on Netflix.

Anthropology and curiosity aside, I saw a Wiki page called “Notable deaths in 2020” and on opening the page, the top hit was “Tony Hsieh” of fame. OMG. Wait? What? I could not believe it. And of course, googling his name for news showed that he had indeed died overnight in a house fire in Connecticut where he was visiting.

I spent the rest of the day and Sunday asking myself “Why, why, why, why…” in my head. Tony was forty-six and it was too early to die, but indeed he did, and such is life. A few days later, it is still in my head… though there is no meaning to this and especially he is not personally close to me, as a human he has been emotionally close to me (by who he was as a person)

I have been following Tony for several years reading his book “Delivering Happiness” a few years ago. His organization offers cultural examples to learn from and use. I also have been using as a key example in my teaching and coaching in things like MVP (building a shoe store through experimentation) to how he treated “humans as humans” and the various success stories of customer service stories like the call center rep who stayed on the phone with a bride for over 24 hours until her replacement shoe was delivered for her wedding and stories of Zappos reps helping with any question they were asked — like calling their customer service line and asking them where one could get Pizza somewhere in SFO at 2 AM in the morning and the rep faithfully helping them with the request.

Tony was an outlier. He will forever be remembered for being such a human in the way he treated others. His organization was a Holocracy practitioner. In my books, there are only two types of humans in the world — the ones that are remembered for the impact of their work (the good not the “bad” kind) and the rest that barely scratch the surface and are forgotten. Tony is one of those who created impacted in a variety of ways in the work that he did — as a person, in his organizations, and in the community and he will be forever remembered for that. And he will be forever in my heart and in my memories… deeply etched somewhere in my neurons as part of me.

This article was first published at:


Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Holacracy: The New Management System for a Rapidly Changing World




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Srikanth Ramanujam

Srikanth Ramanujam

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