The Silicon Valley Voice

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Who’s Happy Now?

If you ask me, it’s quite an accomplishment to drag yourself out of bed in the morning, brush your teeth, eat an Eggo and go to work. To do this every day of your working life is about all anyone can ask of you. But these days, it’s not enough.

That’s right! It’s no longer sufficient to waste your life away doing meaningless, drudgework for peanuts — while your bosses get the cashews. Now, you’re also supposed to feel happy about it.

Or so says Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos.com. In addition to running a successful internet business catering to our pedal extremities, Hsieh also found the time to author a book, “Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose.”

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I found the time to find Hsieh on the official website of Dylan Ratigan, the perennially angry television host on MSNBC. Frankly, I can’t believe Mr. Ratigan is very happy himself, but he did interview Mr. Hsieh, which is how I learned that “groups of happy people working together with shared values and a common purpose will lead to growth and success of companies across the country.”

Where exactly we are going to find these groups of happy people, I’m not quite so sure. Perhaps they’re sitting in the boardroom of Goldman Sachs, divvying up gazillions in profits so that everyone will get a bazillion or two to take back home.

Let me tell you, those people are happy. Or maybe not.

“Money does buy happiness,” Mr. Hsieh believes, “but only to a point. There’s actually some evidence that a lot of additional money will actually increase your stress and bring your happiness levels down because you’re too busy trying to worry about how to protect it.”

Assuming this is true — and, frankly, I’ve never had enough money to test the theory — I suggest you explain to the decision makers at your company that significantly boosting your salary would, in turn, significantly boost their happiness levels. It’s not that you’re greedy, or even believe that you deserve the bump. You’re simply and unselfishly trying to put into your wallet, and onto your shoulders, some of the misery upper management must feel after stuffing their pay packages with way too much money for way too long.

And don’t think management won’t appreciate the gesture. When you consider the rampant greed we see from CEOs all across the nation, it’s clear that our leaders definitely do not know what Mr. Hsieh knows — that “doing meaningful work isn’t just about money or paying the bills.” In other words, if you think you get a certain satisfaction from being able to pay your cable bill, so you can watch the latest episode of Extreme Couponing in HD, you’re wrong. What everyone needs to really experience happiness is “something that actually contributes to a higher purpose that they really believe in.”

(Of course, if watching Extreme Couponing in HD is exactly the higher purpose you really believe in, get all the money you can. For everyone else, at least now you know you won’t have to pay the bill for those snappy new Ferragamos you bought from Zappos. The company would like the money, I’m sure, but it’s obviously much more important to them that you’re happy.)

Another one of author Hsieh’s core beliefs is that happiness is “about being able to combine pleasure, passion and purpose.” I agree. If you’ve ever wondered why you feel so elated when you can stuff your stomach with free jelly donuts at the Monday morning staff meeting, at exactly the same time you are satisfying your passion for playing footsy with that hot new intern, all the while executing your purposeful plan to snicker at every new idea brought up by management, then you’ve got your happiness combo down cold!

CEO Hsieh also suggests that in your search for happiness you “take money out of the picture to figure out what will make you want to go to work every day.”

What makes me happy is that our bosses are so concerned about our happiness that they have already done us the great favor of taking money out of the picture — without our ever having to ask! When you look at our stagnant salaries and declining prospects, it’s clear that whatever it is that makes us go to work every day — it ain’t the money. And if that doesn’t make you happy, I don’t know what will.

Bob Goldman has been an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company in the San Francisco Bay Area. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at bob@funnybusiness.com.

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