“Happy at Any Cost: The Revolutionary Vision and Fatal Quest of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh” – published March 15 by Simon & Schuster – looks at the rise and fall of the shoe company’s beloved former CEO and clothing line Zappos.
It is written by Kirsten Grind and Katherine Sayre. The Library Journal, writing about the book, said it “focuses on a flawed man who struggles to make happiness part of his business and his life. … Beyond their discussion of death tragedy and the legacy of Hsieh, Grind and Sayre also provide insight into the larger problem of mental illness and addiction lurking beneath the sunny surface of Silicon Valley.
Grind, who grew up in Encinitas and is now a reporter for the Wall Street Journal, took the time to talk about the book.
Q: How was “Happy at Any Cost” born?
A: Tony Hsieh was found in a burning shed in Connecticut in November 2020, thousands of miles from his Las Vegas home, and later died of smoke inhalation. He was only 46 years old. Right away at the Wall Street Journal, where I work, we knew something very strange was going on – how could such a thing happen to a very successful and beloved entrepreneur? My co-author Katherine Sayre and I immediately began investigating.
Q: Was it difficult to paint a picture of Tony Hsieh’s life after his tragic death?
A: It was really very hard. The hardest thing was that Tony, like a lot of successful people, had built that public image that was very hard to achieve. It took us a while to get his close friends to trust us enough to reveal what was really going on – his mental health issues and his alcoholism and drug addiction. We also relied heavily on public records, photos and documents from sources.
Q: Tell us about the San Diego connection.
A: There are two! The first is that singer Jewel figures prominently in this book, as a good friend of Tony Hsieh, who ultimately tried unsuccessfully to save him. When Jewel was a homeless folksinger in the 1990s, she played in cafes around San Diego, including one I went to. And that’s the second connection – I’m originally from San Diego, grew up in Encinitas, and was the first class of San Dieguito High School Academy. My whole family still lives there, although now I’m in the Bay Area.
Q: What was the hardest part of working on this book?
A: It was truly a heartbreaking report. Tony was such a generous and good person and an inspirational business leader and entrepreneur, and seeing how a group of people took advantage of him and his billion dollar fortune was hard to research and write about.
Q: The most rewarding?
A: I think we really hope his story helps people. Tony didn’t like addressing his own mental health issues and wanted to focus only on finding and spreading happiness, and I think our wish is for someone to read his story and realize the problems with that approach. Trying to get that message across has been rewarding.
“Happy at Any Cost: The Revolutionary Vision and Fatal Quest of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh” by Kirsten Grind and Katherine Sayre (Simon & Schuster, 2022; 320 pages)
Grind will make an appearance at Warwick’s on Wednesday, April 13 at 7:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, but reservations are required. For more information visit warwicks.com/event/grind-2022