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The 3 things I learned when I met Tony Hsieh

Meeting Tony Hsieh was one of the highlights of my professional career. Most people have heard of Zappos and some have even read Tony’s book, Delivering Happiness, but few get a chance to spend the afternoon hearing about how it all happened. So, I wanted to jot down what Tony taught me immediately – and share it with you.

Joe Mechlinski and Tony Hsieh

Joe Mechlinski and Tony Hsieh

He gave a personal tour of Las Vegas, Zappos and his $350 million dollar project in “Old Vegas.” It was amazing to hear straight from Tony’s mouth his lessons learned, struggles and real vision moving forward.

Tony is shy but had a lot to share. Some of my biggest take-aways weren’t necessarily from what he said, but what he did. Here are the top three things Tony taught me:


Tony joined us in jeans and t-shirt. Explained his desk is with everyone else’s because he believes he is equal to his team. And his apartment was modest, similar to many of our own homes.

It was very cool to see someone with his amount of wealth unconcerned about being someone he is not. I think we all lose this from time to time. We lose sense of self, get caught up in the Real Housewives of (insert any city) and forget that true happiness starts with the journey of exploring yourself.


I am reminded of something Tony Robbins said about 15 years ago, “we should do a lot but we tend to should all over ourselves.” Raising the expectation level of your capabilities is something you know you “should” do. But you need to make it a “must.”

I relate this directly to Zappos’ culture. Sure, every company has its values but how many truly believe it is possible to get everyone to buy it or live it? Most people default to stupid analogies, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, people will never change.” Tony specifically talked about making your values non-negotiable. I loved this idea: Values + Non-negotiable = Standards.


Tony doesn’t think big – he thinks WAY big.

* He took on the largest competitor in his industry: Zappos vs. Amazon.

* He built a business that sells shoes online and through a call center – for the very first time.

* He grew a world-class customer service based company that happens to sell shoes and blazed the trail for a new wave of client experience.

* He is spearheading the revitalization of his company’s hometown in “Old Vegas.”

Inspiration is when hard work and aspiration come together. It’s about vision. We all have it. We have to let ourselves go there. As a person who got a 400 on the SAT’s verbal section, I had to believe we could write a book in Grow Regardless that would be the #1 book in the world. It wasn’t easy… but we worked hard and thought WAY big.

All in all, it was inspirational to see someone with massive success who hasn’t lost his mind, become too big for the world, is really giving back, was honest about his struggles…and looks like he is just getting started!

Quick Note of Thanks: 

I want to thank Derek Coburn and Yanik Sliver for making this happen. Both are also following Tony’s lead in their own way.

Derek co-founded the organization, cadre, with his wife Melanie. cadre offers successful professionals a new approach to networking. In all of my time being an entrepreneur, it is the single BEST networking group I have ever joined. It’s an authentic group of people in DC (hard to say that coming from Baltimore) that are looking to learn together and truly help each other without being that “slimly” sales guy.

Yanik started a group called Maverick1000. This invitation only, global network of industry transforming entrepreneurs connect in bold new ways to challenge and collectively support each other’s biggest business goals, engage in reinvigorating experiences and co-create a worldwide multiplier impact. This is a remarkable concept and Yanick has assembled Mavericks form all over the world.

I hope you enjoyed reliving my afternoon with Tony and challenge yourself to be you, raise your standards and think WAY big!