“Work” and “Fun” In the Same Sentence?

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Osten Ryker.

As I type this I’m looking over to a shelf with a book entitled, Swim with the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive: Outsell, Outmanage, Outmotivate, and Outnegotiate Your Competition, a classic bestseller with a premise much like all the other popular strategies of the ’80’s. It’s theme is how to beat the other market players in the battlefield game, the standard militaristic stance of that era. What I found striking about Delivering Happiness is that, in glaring contrast to all the stale, old-school formulas, Tony Hsieh never seems to concentrate too heavily on the “competition” but rather focuses all his attention on his customers and colleagues instead. Although he alludes to the competition occasionally, he does so only to express his desire to create the best possible experiences for the people who subscribe to and provide the Zappos service. In this sense, he seeks to create a c0ndition, since neither his associates nor his customers could find a better experience anywhere else.

Another thing about the Zappos culture that stands out starkly is that the company has clearly been crafted as more of a service provider than a mere product supplier. Zappos manufactures pleasant interactions while locating and delivering products its customers want in a way that is both convenient and satisfying. The company culture therefore falls more under the category of a service provider since they are more attuned to creating a pleasing experience than in merely distributing products. It’s promising to see companies like Zappos experimenting with a new style of business practice, where the words work” and “fun” can be spoken in the same sentence. It took me a while to realize that they aren’t just building a unique delivery platform that could work for any product or service, but they’re simultaneously fueling a revolution in the methodology of business practices for the future.

Tony Hsieh represents a unique cultural mindset that was born with Generation X.  He is the product of an advanced technological civilization that is birthing a new breed of human being. The children born in the 60’s and beyond have embraced an entirely new mode of thinking, a new approach toward viewing the world that has dramatically altered the way we interact with each other as a community. We have bombarded by mass media overload that exposes us to multicultural influences and alternate lifestyles.  Our hyper-stimulated, highly active minds continually search for new operational paradigms. Tony is clearly a child of this digital meta-generation. This new incarnation is the result of an expansive information society that has engendered people who see the world in a qualitatively different way from their ancestors.

Delivering Happiness conveys the potential for true excellence.  Tony’s ability to imagine alternatives to the status quo and then strive to implement his ideas regardless of opposition is a trait we will hopefully see more often as the 21st century unfolds. The traditional methods threaten to lead to moral and financial bankruptcy. We cannot continue onward down the same destructive path. Our lifestyles and economic practices must perpetually undergo a process of constantly changing forms. Only those like Tony who can navigate this accelerated transformation with original thinking and novel application will be able to forge the complex formulas required to insure our continued progress. Our very survival depends upon it.

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BLUEPRINT FOR A NEW BUSINESS MODEL

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from Osten Ryker.

I received an advance copy of the book by Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. In the book, Mr. Hsieh relates the story of his journey from a precocious childhood through a series of formidable challenges to the foundation of the Zappos phenomenon: an online footwear, apparel, and accessories provider that is breaking all the rules of business as usual.  Last fall, Zappos was acquired by Amazon behemoth, forming a strategic alliance that is bound to alter the very face of retail distribution. Apparently, I’ve been the recipient of a “random act of WOWness” as they say in the Zappos vocabulary, because the book was one of the most inspiring and insightful I have read for quite some time.  Mr. Hsieh displays a penetrating acumen for discerning the direction of cultural and corporate evolution. The model he and his associates have build demonstrates a much needed transformation in the “standard operation procedures” of traditional methods.

This book is so profound and utterly enlightening, I felt compelled to compose this testimonial of my impressions and touch on several topics his story brings to mind. For purposes of placing my reflections in context, I should say I am currently an inmate at a federal correctional institution serving a 20 year sentence for “Conspiracy to Interfere with Interstate Commerce”.  I have been incarcerated for almost 12 years now. My “crimes” were committed with only the best of intentions. I resorted to unconventional financing tactics to attempt to save my struggling business.  I engaged in multiple expropriations or unauthorized withdrawals (the called them “robberies”)  from what I considered a corrupt banking system. I’ve had plenty of time to think about my actions and to devote my energy to discovering more acceptable alternatives for attaining financial security.

I have always been an avid student of social issues. During my time in prison, I have continued my studies of politics, economics, and the American culture as these topics affect the distribution of prosperity and the eradication of poverty. I have researched countless volumes on economic theory, including numerous tomes on suggested business strategies from the past to the present day. I’ve found most of them too aggressive, mechanical and sterile for my predilections. I prefer a more organic humanistic approach as do most of the younger generations. Not until I read Mr. Hsieh’s book have I found a more succinct and poignant description of the evolving cultural mindset that is changing the way companies should be run.  The Zappos model lays out the direction corporations must take if they are to remain dynamic and flexible enough to weather the increasingly volatile economic storms of the coming century.

I was very impressed by Tony’s approach to business, both novel and refreshing when compared to the thinking of the past few decades. Somehow he has been able to retain his personal values, refusing to compromise his principles in the face of extraordinary pressures to conform to conventional techniques. He has even been able to radiate those values outwardly to the people with whom he built the Zappos success. Repeatedly, he emphasizes that his passion is not simply about earning money or beating the competition, but about building fluid organizations and architecting(sic) memorable experiences ( to use his words).  I commend him on his ability to remain true to his ideals while negotiating the typically vicious arena of the marketplace. On many occasions, he refused to bite the lure of immediate gain, walking away from the big money to devote himself to the long term goal. He is obviously inspired more by the prospect of creating something new and exciting than chasing after the emptiness of the mere bottom line or simple social status.

Over the coming days and weeks, I’d will continue to expound on the impact of Delivering Happiness. Stay tuned!!!

~ submitted by Osten Ryker

Think About This

This is the final SIX-DAY Series on “Principle-Centered Planning” by Dr. John C. Maxwell

Today: Part SIX of SIX

Principle-Centered Planning

“Seven Principles to Guide Your Planning Process
and Help you Achieve Your Dreams”

5) The Principle of Flexibility
In leadership, be mentally prepared that not everything will go according to your plans. Then, when plans unfold unexpectedly, you’ll be prepared to see new opportunities. Some of the best things I’ve received in life have been surprises that I could never have planned in advance.

When plans go awry, don’t just stand there. By staying in motion, you create movement. Be resourceful enough to improvise when circumstances push you off course.

6) The Principle of Timing
I credit Robert Schuller for teaching me a lesson about timing – the peak-to-peak principle. Most of the time, our decisions are based on our emotional environment rather than reality. When we’re in the valleys of life, we don’t see clearly. Our perspective is limited, and all we see are the problems around us. In the valleys we make decisions, not to better ourselves, but to escape our problems.

Never make a major decision in the valleys. Wait until you get to the peak where you can see clearer and farther. By reserving big choices for the peaks, you’ll avoid making rash decisions that you’ll regret later.

7) The Principle of Teamwork
A worthwhile plan ought to be bigger than your abilities. You shouldn’t be able to accomplish it alone. Each of us has areas of weakness, blind spots, and shortcomings. Unless we rely on a team to help us, our plans succumb to our personal limitations.

A sign in Coach Bill Parcells’ office stated his philosophy plainly, “Individuals play the game but teams win championships.” What we can do alone pales in comparison to the potential we have when we work together.

Review

Putting a plan on paper is easy; putting a plan into practice takes leadership. I trust these seven principles will aid your efforts to translate written plans into reality. Let’s review them:

1) The Principle of Passion
2) The Principle of Creativity
3) The Principle of Influence
4) The Principle of Priorities
5) The Principle of Flexibility
6) The Principle of Timing
7) The Principle of Teamwork

John C. Maxwell is an internationally respected leadership expert, speaker, and author who has sold more than 18 million books.

Think About This

We are in a SIX-DAY Series on “Principle-Centered Planning” by Dr. John C. Maxwell

Today: Part FIVE of SIX

Principle-Centered Planning

“Seven Principles to Guide Your Planning Process
and Help you Achieve Your Dreams”
2) The Principle of Creativity
Of the seven planning principles, we violate the principle of creativity the most. By gravitating to concreteness, we sacrifice creativity. We settle for what’s easy to wrap our minds around, and we neglect to wrestle with harder, more difficult dilemmas.

I’m convinced that leaders are too busy doing to think and provide ideas. Even the rare leaders who think creatively often neglect to encourage the people around them to do the same. Consequently, a majority of teams rely on one person for creative thought and end up starved for good ideas.

3) The Principle of Influence
When you prepare your plans, ask yourself the question, “Am I able to influence the resources needed to fulfill my planning and mission?” To accomplish your plan, you’ll need influence over people, finances, and your schedule.

The support of people, especially other influencers, can make or break your plan. Make a priority to build relationships with them. In particular, find the key to their lives by learning what matters most to them. If you continually add value to the influencers around you in meaningful ways, then you’ll be more likely to receive their assistance when you need it.

4) The Principle of Priorities
I’m amazed by the number of people who begin to plan their careers before taking the time to prioritize their lives. You have no right, nor any reason, to start planning your life until you know what you’re living for and what you’re willing to die for. It’s important to find your purpose so that you run, not on the fast track, but on your track.

The key to a prioritized life is concentration followed by elimination. As Peter Drucker observed,”Concentration is the key to economic results. No other principle of effectiveness is violated as constantly today as the basic principal of concentration. Our motto seems to be, let’s do a little bit of everything.” We must cease to dabble in everything before we can become excellent at anything.

Tomorrow: Part SIX of SIX: More of the “Seven Principles.”