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Happy at Any Cost

The Revolutionary Vision and Fatal Quest of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh

About The Book

From award-winning Wall Street Journal reporters, “a startling portrait of one of our greatest tech visionaries, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh” (Robert Kolker, author of Hidden Valley Road), reporting on his short life, untimely death, and what that means for our pursuit of happiness.

Tony Hsieh—CEO of Zappos, Las Vegas developer, and beloved entrepreneur—was famous for spreading happiness. He lived and breathed this philosophy, instilling an ethos of joy at his company, outlining his vision for a better workplace in his New York Times bestseller Delivering Happiness. He promoted a workplace where bosses treated employees like family members, where stress was replaced by playfulness, and where hierarchies were replaced with equality and collaboration. His outlook shaped how we work today.

Hsieh also aspired to build his own utopian cities, pouring millions of dollars into real estate and small businesses, first in downtown Las Vegas, Nevada—where Zappos is headquartered—and then in Park City, Utah. He gave generously to his employees and close friends, including throwing notorious Zappos parities and organizing gatherings at his home, an Airstream trailer park.

When Hsieh died suddenly in late 2022, the news shook the business and tech world. Wall Street Journal reporters Kirsten Grind and Katherine Sayre discovered Hsieh’s obsession with happiness masked his darker struggles with addiction, mental health, and loneliness. In the last year of his life, he spiraled out of control, cycling out of rehab and into the waiting arms of friends who enabled his worst behavior, even as he bankrolled them from his billion-dollar fortune.

Happy at Any Cost sheds light on one of our most creative, yet vulnerable, business leaders. It’s about our intense need to find “happiness” at all costs, our misguided worship of entrepreneurs, the stigmas still surrounding mental health, and how the trappings of fame can mask all types of deeper problems. In turn, it reveals how we conceptualize success—and define happiness—in our modern age.

About The Authors

Nicole Mercado

Kirsten Grind is an enterprise reporter for The Wall Street Journal, where she has worked since 2012. She has received more than a dozen national awards for her work, including a Pulitzer Prize finalist citation and a Loeb Award. Her first book, The Lost Bank, was named the best investigative book of 2012 by the Investigative Reporters & Editors association, and is coauthor of Happy at Any Cost. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Erich Schwartzel

Katherine Sayre is a reporter with The Wall Street Journal, where she has worked since 2019. As the gambling reporter, she writes about the Las Vegas Strip, sports betting, and the global casino industry. Before joining the Journal, she was a lead reporter for the Times-Picayune’s investigative team in New Orleans, Louisiana. Her reporting on failures in the state’s mental health care system won a national prize from the Association of Health Care Journalists. Happy at Any Cost is her first book. She lives in Los Angeles. 

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 15, 2022)
  • Length: 320 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781982187002

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Raves and Reviews

“Silicon Valley has an insidious cult-of-personality problem. We idolize our most successful entrepreneurs, presuming that they're infallible, and we excuse and enable their worst tendencies, expecting only more and more success. Now, with detailed, revelatory reporting, Kirsten Grind and Katherine Sayre offer a much-needed reality check—a morality tale for our age. Happy At Any Cost is a startling portrait of one of our greatest tech visionaries, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh—his celebrated innovations and his infectious capacity for joy; but also, behind the curtain, his wild excesses and addictions, his poignant mental-health struggles, and the coterie of enablers who hastened his decline.”
—Robert Kolker, New York Times bestselling author of Hidden Valley Road and Lost Girls

“Kirsten Grind and Katherine Sayre’s Happy at Any Cost presents a powerful and important case study of a leader overcome by mental health issues and addiction. Tony Hsieh’s story compels us to recognize: as the tech industry grows ever stronger, the eccentric genius founders it idolizes are vulnerable and human first.”
—Sarah Frier, author of No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram

"Happy at Any Cost is a captivating story about one of the most innovative and complex entrepreneurs of our time, but it's also about the quixotic pursuit of happiness and the darkness many secretly battle."
—Gregory Zuckerman, Wall Street Journal reporter and author of A Shot to Save the World

Happy at Any Cost is a beautiful, heart-breaking story that renders the late Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh in all his complex dimensions. On one level it’s a story exploring outside-the-box business aspirations, but there is a bigger lesson about the enormous, hidden burdens of people who pour all they have into their work and creative vision. I was sad to read Tony’s life story, but very glad to know it.”
—Bradley Hope, co-author of the New York Times bestseller Billion Dollar Whale and Blood and Oil

"Grind and Sayre’s volume focuses on a flawed man struggling to make happiness part of his business and his life....Beyond their discussion of Hsieh’s tragic death and legacy, Grind and Sayre also provide insight on the larger issue of mental illness and addiction hidden under Silicon Valley’s sunny surface."
—Library Journal

"[A] gripping cautionary tale....an eye-opening look at the dark side of success."
—Publishers Weekly

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More books from this author: Kirsten Grind