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Tony Hsieh has died (yahoo.com)
1598 points by MrMcDowall on Nov 28, 2020 | hide | past | favorite | 298 comments

In 2008 I was consuming as much entrepenuriship content I could (while building my first company). For obvious reasons I ended up watching a Tony's presentation. He was sharing a lot of stories about Zappos and in the end he talked about their Culture Book (a book entirely written by Zappos employees, with no editing).

Immediately after watch it I sent an email directly for him (at the time a CEO of a company that would be sold to Amazon for 1.2B 8 months after) asking if I could have a digital version of the book since I was living in Brazil. For my complete surprise I received a response in less than 1 hour just asking for my address. One day after I received a physical copy of the book, signed by the very own Tony Hsieh. He even invited me to visit Zappos offices if I ever were in Las Vegas!

Today I woke up with this sad news. Definitely, a huge loss to the world. I'm sure you'll always be an inspiration to many.

Rest in peace Tony Hsieh, A big fan

Beautiful words. Thanks for sharing.


WHat a great story.

Would you mind sharing a link (or just a title) of that video?

Interesting that he would start the talk by sharing a story about a Zappos employee pulling up the billing history for the wife of someone on an office tour. That would be a fireable offense at every place I've worked and would certainly not be condoned by any C level.

Not GP, but it might have been this one of Tony presenting:

at Startup School 2009: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nlop3TwaMJM (poor AV quality, unfortunately)

but seems most likely to be this one (which includes the offer for the culture book) Web 2.0 Summit 2008: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JQ2DmNk3YjQ (good AV)

Wow, obrigado por compartilhar. Thanks for sharing

great story

In 2013, Tony invited me and other entrepreneurs to Vegas to give us his tour of what he and his team were doing to the Downtown area to revive it. It was amazing. But what really has always stuck with me is how fresh Tony’s ideas and thinking were. He looked past a ton of criticism and naysayers to see his new ideas come to life. Tony had the courage to try new thing after new thing. Often with great results. I’ve been back to the downtown area of Las Vegas, and the impact he’s had, whether it perfectly met his vision or not, has been remarkably improved. It’s 100 times safer. Employs a ton of people for non-gambling related things. And is a huge net improvement. I’m at a loss this morning. I didn’t know Tony very well, but the few convos I’ve had with him left me inspired to learn about something new or look at something differently. He was incredibly generous with his time and resources. I encourage all of you to go deep into the legacy Tony left behind. There’s important lessons and advice all over his work and life.

I was on this tour as well (Nate -- that's where we met!) and really enjoyed it. He was so busy with his company and his development project, but he still seemed to have infinite time for us scrappy entrepreneurs. We had a tour of downtown LV and his apartment, lunch and dinner with Tony and we got a deep dive into a lot of his visionary ideas, even ones that didn't really make sense to me (I fondly remember a brief argument I had with him about the merits of holacracy vs traditional company hierarchies). You have to admire someone who can think out of the box all of the time. Some of his ideas didn't work, but he was always willing to experiment, and the ideas that did work will have a lasting impact. I learned so much from Tony in that short time about urban development, real estate, customer happiness, the entrepreneurial spirit, and even the finer details of Nevada gaming licenses.

Thank you, Tony. You are a real loss to the world. RIP.

I’m a little disheartened by how much e-commerce has changed for the worst since the Zappos heydays, and how the most successful cos now often employ anti-consumer dark patterns and tactics to squeeze more revenue and profits all while limiting investment in customer service.

Wayfair at a $30B market cap comes to mind...dropships almost everything eg zero control of inventory and shipping times, dynamic pricing and fake discounts makes it difficult to know if you’re getting a good deal, customer service very inconsistent, returns not free, etc.

The think that stucks out to me about trying idea after idea is how many of them are abject failures. If you get a run of bad beats, it can seem like you're just headed in the wrong direction, even if on average you'd make winning ideas. Having the fortitude to make a bunch of smart bets AND to not be results-oriented if they don't break your way is such a strong, difficult-to-identify skill.

Im feeling sad. I just want to start by saying that. I think one of the most special moments in my life was going to the Zappos holiday party many years ago, where it was me and a friend from SF and all Zappos employees, including Tony. He is still one of the most humble, inspiring, kind, and impactful leaders I have met, and I have been in a room with Elon Musk and his family. Why do I remember this party of so many parties globally that I have attended? It was because how he CHANGED LIVES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR WOMEN / MEN IN VEGAS. I listened to stories of many people while riding the bus to this cowboy ranch Themed Xmas party. At the time I was a tech blogger. One story sticks out, a story of a woman who said she had no options than to work in a casino before Zappos, like many people in Vegas. She said, also many of her friends who wanted regular jobs were ostracized if they left adult industry to find jobs that were stable... Zappos was not just secure, but people mattered. Tony cared. His vision wasn’t some bullshit PR communication, he was a legit leader who cared. I left that holiday party inspired and hopeful for the downtown project... my takeaway from his death: recognize good leaders, highlight them, support them, and relèvera, when such people and companies succeed, it is not just success in funds, but more importantly communities get positive impact! Love to Tony’s family and condolences to them and all those feeling the sadness of his loss...

>He is still one of the most humble, inspiring, kind, and impactful leaders I have met, and I have been in a room with Elon Musk and his family.

Great story, but this anecdote confused me. Musk is one of the two least humble people I'm aware of, and I certainly wouldn't associate "kind" with him either.

It was comparison to people that are seen as major leaders today. Perhaps to you, kindness matters, but most get excited just by the execution and success. Thanks for asking clarity. N

You are absolutely right. Thank you so much for sharing this!

This is terribly sad news.

I saw Tony speak at YC Startup School in 2009, and his talk stuck with me far more than any other that day.

It was exciting and inspiring to hear that you could build a company that was sincere about being good to its employees and customers whilst also being large and commercially successful, and that’s influenced how I’ve gone about trying to build products and businesses ever since.

I haven’t managed a big success that accomplishes this yet, but if I ever manage to do it, it will be in no small part thanks to Tony.

Thanks and blessings to Tony, and love and strength to his family and friends.

He talked to me for quite a while when I met him at one of his book launch events, around the same time. I asked him what he thought of my startup (at the time), and he said he didn’t like it because it relied on being able to keep certain information secret, but that the world was only going toward more and more transparency. He said it was essentially betting against the mega trend. A difficult lesson at the time, but definitely some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten, and something that’s been permanently added to my collection of mental models.

He spoke at my backwater state university. And then had lunch with a few of us misfits. It gave me a kick in the rear to persevere, despite my perceived station, and in no small way contributed to my later start-up, exit and success. Terrifically sad news.

Here’s the talk:


I never met Tony but I saw him speak at an event in 2009 (Startup School 2009) in Berkeley.

I just remember before his presentation he had TechCrunch up on his laptop and one could tell he didn’t have the pretense of any other speaker (and all the speakers that day were very successful like him). His talk on Delivering Happiness was good. It was memorable how unique and kind of a culture he had created throughout Zappos. That was unique in that it was the only talk about doing moral things, from the only startup that was successfully employing these practices.

But before he started, the most memorable part — and to be honest the saddest thing now - was just seeing him browsing TechCrunch real quick on the screen in the auditorium in front of everyone. I remember thinking — whoa he is just one of us. Nor was he concerned about not being who he was in front of other people. You could tell he was very good at socializing but slightly introverted (moved quickly around the room but wasn’t much for small talk).

And that behind a very successful entrepreneur was just a person trying to figure it out like everyone else and I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the point (ie unconsciously or not if leaving TechCrunch up on the projector briefly wasn’t intentional).

It meant a few things to the audience: (a) it doesn’t matter what people think (b) we’re all human (c) there’s nothing special about my success (d) other than I’m so focused on doing important things with it it doesn’t matter what you think.

And that was way more of a leadership by example situation — for a few brief moments — than anything else (and there were a lot of great talks that day).

Rest In Peace.

Reading "Delivering Happiness" inspired me to quit a legal career I hated, learn to code on nights and weekends. Today, I'm the CTO of a promising startup. Thank you, Tony.

He showed us a different path. Awesome story!

It's interesting to me that every thread about Tony Hsieh prior to this one was filled with criticism and skeptics. Why does it take someone's death to start appreciating his body of work? I think many skeptics believe they're speaking truth to power and therefore making the world a better place. There's certainly an element of truth to this, but I think if you take the ten thousand foot view, you'll find that we can be a more powerful agent of change by building good people up rather than tearing bad people down (or even worse, tearing net-good people down).

My condolences go out to Tony's family and friends. As a fellow founder who's faced similar challenges as Tony, I remember tearing up in the airport reading Delivering Happiness. Rest in peace.

He arguably played have played a tangential role in the establishment of Google's business model. Some really interesting history from Ali Partovi, cofounder of Tony's first startup, LinkExchange: https://techcrunch.com/2010/08/29/bubble-blinders-the-untold...

It's worth reading the whole thing but the summary is: Scott Banister, then founder of a startup called Submit-It, seems to have been the first person to have conceived of an AdWords-like business model...

> In 1996, he brilliantly conceived an idea he called “Keywords”: to sell search listings based on pay-for-placement bidding – more or less the same as today’s AdWords. Banister began pitching the idea to anybody who would listen to him, including, among others, Bill Gross of IdeaLab, and the principals of LinkExchange: Tony Hsieh, Sanjay Madan, and me.[...] Tony, Sanjay, and I also loved the idea, because we had the benefit of the right context. [...] LinkExchange proceeded to acquire Submit-it; and I became obsessed with the idea of realizing Banister’s vision via deals with the world’s top search drivers [...] In late 1998, Microsoft bought LinkExchange for $265 million, telling us they liked the “Keywords” vision. As Microsoft employees, we continued pitching the Keywords deal not only to Yahoo, but also to the up-and-coming Google. I wasn’t surprised to find that these companies were wary of partnering with Microsoft.

Thanks for the story. I got to hear a lot about Tony through a colleague of his from the LinkExchange days and was able to meet him briefly once.

Sounded like and seemed to be a very singular human being. Makes me think about how much he shaped the landscape of the internet and the world.

This is crazy, he's a veritable legend (and so young). RIP. My condolences go out to his friends and family. Maybe related to his stepping down 3 months ago[1]?

My comment from that 3-month-old thread, regarding Hsieh: From 2015-2017, I worked at Edmunds.com which was (to put it lightly) a bit obsessed with "Delivering Happiness" and Zappos' culture. So much so, that the leadership team visited Vegas to get a tour of the Zappos HQ (this was before I joined). But Edmunds based their entire cultural approach, including hiring, interviewing, and onboarding on Zappos.

The Edmunds onboarding experience has been by far the best out of any company I worked at. Sure, it was silly games and scavenger hunts that didn't really have anything to do with "work," but I look back at the entire experience with a lot of nostalgia. I loved the onboarding so much, I've been contemplating doing a startup that literally just focuses on improving cultural onborading at companies. It made my first few months at Edmunds not only incredibly productive, but also intellectually and socially stimulating.

And they were doing something right. Over there, I had the honor of working with one of the best managers I ever had (he's now at Amazon), and with one of the best software architects I've ever worked with (he's now at Facebook). My team was made up of motivated, smart, folks from all walks of life (recent grads to data science PhD's in their 50s). I still keep in touch with my old team even though we're spread all over these days: doing our own startups, at Facebook, Uber, Amazon, and beyond.

I have the utmost respect for the cultural revolution that entrepreneurs like Tony Hsieh brought to the fore. People that call it a "cult" are missing the point. It's no more a cult than cheering for your school mascot or being in a club. We seem to forget that people are inherently social and need a sense of belonging.

[1] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=24268522

What sticks out to me in your comment is that in spite of all your nice words about their culture, the nicest/best people you worked with still left for other companies. I suspect it was probably a 20% pay raise that convinced them to.

A better work environment doesn't have any effect on tenure. Only the extremes make a difference. That is, lower when extremely bad and a bit longer when extremely good.

According to the BLS, median tenure is 2.x years for those 25-34. For those 35-44, it's 4.x years. Keeps going up with age, peaking at 10.x years starting in the 50s.

Not much seems to change it in a relevant way, maybe another many companies are blah in this regard: not worth the money/time/effort. Just mumble some BS to look good to the world, then repeat as the same dead company. The BS isn't even mumbled to recruit, as it also doesn't have any effect there.

The only ones in a position to be affected by such marketing are new grads, a group typically viewed as worthless and that have to take what they get. It's all just air in the winds.

I don’t doubt what you’re saying, but can you link to a source on this? Highly relevant to some work I’m considering, and I’ve been looking for additional data on this for a bit.

That's interesting. The first job I had starting in college was a 7 year stint. I started in one of the entry level jobs, but the company had lots of upward positions and they liked to hire from within. The second job I had was another 7 year stint. It wasn't until after that before my resume started to have those shorter durations at various places.

I left to do my own startup -- which will, (un)fortunately, probably always be my end-game :) and in the months following my departure, the company really did take a cultural hit (after significant layoffs), so a lot of good folks left.

I have no knowledge of either company mentioned, but sometimes people leave and it's not personal, especially with the passage of time.

Although, reading that comment again, 2015-2017 was not that long ago.

If you look it from a different angle, the culture allowed Edmunds access to talent who were motivated enough to reach these bigger companies.

to be fair, with FB it was probably more like 50 or over 100% pay raise

>Maybe related to his stepping down 3 months ago

He died from injuries related to a house fire. So likely not.

> Maybe related to his stepping down 3 months ago

The cause of death has been released. He died in a house fire.

Edit: Died of injuries sustained in the fire, not in the house itself.

My point was just that there seems not to be any behavioral reason that this happened.

Sounds like he died some time after the house fire, due to the injuries incurred.

"Tony Hsieh, the former CEO of Zappos, died peacefully and surrounded by family on Friday, according to a statement emailed to CNN by Megan Fazio, a spokesperson for DTP Companies, a Las Vegas-based enterprise for which Hsieh served as the visionary.

Hsieh, 46, died from injuries sustained in a house fire that occurred in Connecticut while he was visiting family, according to Fazio."


Too young, too young. Not that there's ever a time when it feels right to lose a loved one, but wow, he was in the prime of his life.

Where could I learn more about the onboarding practices? Sounds super interesting!

Las Vegas Review-Journal says he “died Friday after being injured in a house fire.”


> due to complications from injuries sustained in a house fire

Sounds like a very painful way to go... I wonder if we'll get any more details in the coming days.

EDIT: He passed away in Connecticut, see child comments.

It happened in Connecticut.

Do you have a source?

"The entrepreneur passed surrounded by his family in Connecticut, the organization said to the station in a separate statement."


Thanks. Sorry about that.

Could you give this a rest? It's ghoulish and unnecessary.

With anything this public, such questions will inevitably arise. It was not my intention to be ghoulish or inconsiderate in asking the question.

A family member of mine died in a house fire as well, and her death prompted the development of new insulation safety standards in Germany (this being a number of decades ago). Knowing what led to this fire is of interest to me.

I've edited my grandparent comment to remove the link to his Wikipedia page, and default to the heavy.com link posted above.

Though I don't think I ever met him personally, I like many here was very moved by his ideas and his ethics and his works and am really saddened to hear this news. Like you I also have questions and would like to hear more. I always find it helpful in grief to just hear what happened. Was it a mechanical malfunction? Was it a lack of fire alarms? Was it arson or murder? Was it suicide? It's extremely sad, and only 1/1000 deaths in the US are now caused by fire, and am just wondering how it could happen to such a smart, young, generous person.

Thanks for lending more context to my questions.

You're right — it is helpful to know what happened. It's tragic to hear of Tony's death, and it's even more disquieting to speculate about the causes. Arson/murder paints the event in a very different light from a mechanical malfunction or, god forbid, suicide. And, as you mentioned, fire deaths are exceedingly rare, so the whole matter is cloaked in mystery.

I'm pretty shocked to hear of Tony's passing, as I was also very moved by his ethos and writings. That he died in a fire is all the more shocking — a death from cancer or something similar would be easier to accept. Perhaps this is because cancer and serious illness feels almost inevitable, and this doesn't.

The WSJ article has a lot more details: https://www.wsj.com/articles/former-zappos-ceo-tony-hsieh-di...

Very sad. Feel really sorry for his family and friends. Sounds like he was a really incredible individual.

What a tremendous loss to the startup community and to the world.

Tony was an innovator not just in terms of product vision, as almost all successful founders have to be, but also in the very idea of what business should be.

It is striking to me that this happened the same day as pg's essay on thinking differently from your peers came out, as I can imagine no greater example. As founders we spend time thinking about how our product can change the way things are done, but the way that companies themselves are structured and run is largely formulaic and taken for granted. This makes Tony truly special, as someone who decided to rethink what a company should be and how it should impact people's lives.

Even before Zappos he was wildly successful: the first company he co-founded, LinkExchange, sold to Microsoft for $265MM in 1998. In spite of this, he lived in a trailer in Las Vegas. He just didn't think about things in the way most people do.

He is, and will continue to be, an example and inspiration to look to for any founder, especially those who have a nagging feeling that the way companies are run should be better. May he rest in peace.

This makes me really sad.

10 years ago around Thanksgiving, I got my first Kindle - the keyboard one with an AT&T 3G card, one of the first few books I read was his "Delivering Happiness". Amazon was not the juggernaut it is today, the book stayed in my mind for such a long period was unprecedented.

My current Kindle Oasis is much better than my first Kindle, a lot of books have been read as well. However, I might never able to get same experience / inspiration again.


The Zappos website now has a Steve Jobs-like tribute on the first page (as well as a banner), which seems appropriate given how amazing Hsieh has been (not merely founding Zappos, but the renewal of DT Las Vegas, plus cool stuff he did back in SF before Zappos -- the 1000 Van Ness place was quirky and awesome.) A really amazing person.

I first learned about him (and Zappos) from a blog post about the In-N-Out 100x100 burger: http://whatupwilly.blogspot.com/2006/01/in-n-out-100x100.htm...

I knew I remembered him at 1000 Van Ness! I never made it to any of those parties, sadly.

Really sad , I remember when I was setting up Myntra (Indian zappos) customer experience department, Tony and his book were a huge influence and everything that we did was measured up with the zappos way of customer experience. We were one of the few large companies having in house call centre with a five day week and training period of one month to all customer cate executives, plus a mandatory call listening session once a quarter for all senior leadership.

There are still some question marks on the ROI of trying to ensure customer delight especially via call center since discounts are such a huge factor in buying shoes and clothes online that even an NPS of 60 will not help if you don’t price lower especially for the value conscious Indian buyer however he definitely brought a new dimension of thinking for a lot of customer care folks

Here's a post on how he influenced companies halfway across the globe https://helloworld-adi.medium.com/delivering-happiness-an-ev...

I don’t find it surprising given that NPS is a terrible metric. Check out this article: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1509/jmkg.71.3.039

> There are still some question marks on the ROI

How did you solve this in practice?

Honestly haven't seen a clear answer till now. We had tried multiple ways to link high satisfaction scores with purchase behavior - correlation/regression of NPS with frequency/value of purchase.

At least in myntra case, the detractors turned out to be much more valuable than the entire universe, we put it down to customers who love us enough to hate us!

Yesterday, God told me to pray for Tony Hsieh without any knowledge of his condition. I am ashamed to admit that I often forget to pray at all, so this was very striking. Tony has had a huge influence on me from working for startups downtown and at Zappos. The Lord told me he needed love and prayers sent his way. I sent him a message that I don't think he got. I'm praying he was well received in heaven. He was one of the good ones- full of light that radiated to everyone he met. He knew how to have fun, not take life or work too seriously and always treated people better than himself. He lived in a trailer with his friends downtown for years, even though he had unlimited resources. He understood servant leadership, supported the dreams and aspirations of thousands of employees, small business owners and entrepreneurs around the world. He helped the poor and unfortunate. He invited my kids to play at his airstream park for a community breakfast. He was generous, kind, welcoming, visionary, and had an incredibly contagious vibe about him. He will be remembered and honored by countless thousands for a long time to come. I cannot believe he is gone. It is too unreal and sad to contemplate. I want everyone who reads this to pray, have faith, and be inspired. Tell your friends and loved ones how much you care because we never know what will happen next. We are here only a short while. Rest in peace, Tony. We miss you.

Don’t beat yourself up about it.

What a wonderful comment. Thanks.

Seems short on details, so I was curious. These articles [1,2,3] may be referring to the fire in question. And this [4] seems to be the property.

[1] https://www.theday.com/article/20201118/NWS04/201119437

[2] https://www.fox61.com/article/news/local/new-london-house-fi...

[3] https://www.wfsb.com/news/crews-rescue-person-from-burning-n...

[4] https://www.compass.com/listing/500-pequot-avenue-new-london...

And the property was only purchased a few months ago (August 2020 close date as per Redfin). In the Tech Crunch article[1] it says he was staying with his brother, so not sure if it was his or his brothers' house.

[1] https://techcrunch.com/2020/11/28/tony-hsieh-iconic-las-vega...

More on the Stratford fire as well:


Altho I doubt it from the search of property records and who owns that house: https://gis.vgsi.com/stratfordct/Parcel.aspx?Pid=11893

Also, the report has it that the person injured in Stratford fire was a 42 yr old male, not 46 as Tony was. Altho reporting isn't always accurate: https://www.burgsimpson.com/colorado/2020/11/stratford-ct-ma...

Curiously, images of the Stratford fire is available here: https://www.ctfirephoto.org/Ryan-Blake1/Structure-Fire---45-...

So many house fires. That time of year.

> According to publicly available property records, the home where the fire occurred was purchased in August by a woman named Rachael Brown. A woman by the same name is a longtime employee of Zappos.

per: https://www.insider.com/tony-hsieh-connecticut-fire-death-20...

Some more information about Rachael Brown (the Zappos employee) here: https://www.zappos.com/about/stories/womens-history-zappos

That doesn't look like 3:00 AM to me. (?)

I don't think there's any reason to assume this was the fire, is there? Reddit is speculating on a different fire in Stratford, and doesn't appear to have any reason other than "fire in Connecticut within the rough timeline".

Much appreciated / I was trying to get details on the fire as well.

I've never been in a raging fire, but the property seems to be very open and spacious with no obvious choke points, how does one end up so trapped, and without realizing a fire is breaking out?

My guess is he passed out from the smoke inhalation first while asleep and was burned.

I can tell you from having been in a building that had a major fire, the speed with which smoke and fire spreads is hard to imagine. Within 30 seconds of the alarm, halls where filled with choking smoke.

I managed to exit without too much difficulty, but even with covering my face with my shirt, I was still coughing and black gunk coming out my nose for the rest of the day. Others needed oxygen support even after being in the smoke for minutes at most.

If you’re ever in a house or building when an alarm goes off, don’t think you have time to ponder the situation... just move outside to safety immediately.

Edit: Found some photos from that day.


A demonstration of how much can happen with a fire in 30 seconds:


I used to work at the Davenport and recognized the building immediately from the pictures. I didn’t realize there was a major fire at One Broadway. Glad you made it out safely and thanks for the advice.


Maybe worth people checking up on videos like these from time to time: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zeiN_A-OSt8

(Turns out Thanksgiving is peak season for house fires.)

Thanks for sharing your story and important advice. I'm glad you made it out ok!

Everyone underestimates how fast house fires can grow. You can go from ignition to full raging everything-is-on-fire flashover in 3 minutes.

Yes smoke, it's also very disorienting. It can even trap you in a 10 by 10 room.

He apparently arrived at the hospital at 3 AM, [1] so there's a good chance he was asleep when the fire started.

> after arriving at a hospital in New London, Connecticut, at 3 a.m. on Nov. 18.

1: https://www.reviewjournal.com/business/former-zappos-ceo-dow...

Flashover happens amazingly fast.


Given that it seems to have occurred overnight, that seems pretty plausible.

My fire alarm goes off when I make toast. How can this happen?

People remove the batteries from smoke alarms precisely because they go off when they make toast...and then this happens.

In addition to what the other user said, people don't always have as many alarms installed as they should. There should be at least one on every floor.

But besides that, sometimes the fire just starts in an area that doesn't immediately set off the alarm due to whatever quirk of the floor plan and the passageways. If you're a heavy sleeper, and alone, in the time the alarm takes to wake you, the fire might have grown from that spot enough to block an exit.

Oh wow, this is so sad. An incredible entrepreneur. I met him once in Vegas and struck me as such a simple guy, yet, so bright.

The family hasn’t reveal any details, he was surely very young.

Died from a house fire. Terrible way to go.

Source: https://www.reviewjournal.com/business/tony-hsieh-key-figure...

It's 2020, people talk a lot about self-driving cars and travelling to Mars, and yet such terrible preventable tragedies still happen even in successfull countries to successful people. So sad.

A good reminder to have fire alarms installed in every part of your house. We have one in each bedroom, each common area, and the hallways too. They are ten year alarms, so if we still live here in ten years, when one of them starts going bad we will just replace them all at once. Very simple step you can take to reduce your risk without much effort.

In 2020, our firefighters here in Toronto are bored. They go to car accident scenes to simply block traffic, they show up at 911 calls to talk with people and see if they can offer aid while waiting for paramedics/ambulance, two or three trucks will show up for our small walkups occasional false alarms. My brother and nephew are cops, they end up shooing the fire trucks away from minor accidents because they clog up traffic with their trucks and multiple firefighters just hanging around.

The reasons for this boredom are fantastic news: smoke detectors, safer vehicles, mandatory sprinklers even in small complexes, mandatory fire escapes, laws around flamability of furniture/clothing/bedding, reduced smoking, better awareness of fire hazards.

Yes, these tragedies still happen, but don't make it sound like we're not doing anything because right now one of our biggest issues is too many fireman for the drastically reduced number of vehicle and house fires we have: we paid for all of these safety programs and we still pay for the fireman they should have replaced.

The reason firefighters are often the first on the scene of an accident or 911 call is because fire stations are spread throughout the community. They’re the closest first responders and can get there faster. Not because they’re bored and have nothing better to do.

They probably do have nothing better to do, and that's a good thing. Basic queuing theory says that a system needs excess capacity in order to be able to respond to peak demand - you can't just tell a second fire to wait for an hour while fighting the first one. If three engines respond to a fender bender and a more pressing call comes in, they will leave and go there.

I had an immediate family member in the hospital when that "nurses playing cards" ignorance was going around. I wish nurses did have some time to play cards, because it would mean they'd answer when they were needed, rather than being busy with other patients for an hour and then forgetting. We truly are optimizing ourselves to death.

Another recent example was when the pandemic team of the National Security Council was disbanded, and the reason given was that the president doesn’t like to have people “just sitting around.”

Thank you for sharing. 5 hours ago all news reports were unable to share the cause behind his death.

Very sad news. Downtown Las Vegas is the place it is today thanks to him. Rest in peace.

House fire while he was with family without any details. I must say it doesn't sound good. I'm sure the police will investigate. Big loss.

The fire is “still an active investigation.”


,,due to complications from injuries sustained in a house fire.”

Wow, I don't want to think about how painful it must have been :(

Huge loss. His book Delivering Happiness is a must read for any entrepreneur.

Very surprised and sad to hear this. I mentioned this here before but it's worth going for the self narrated audio version as his book is best told in his own voice. It's one of the only few business books and business stories Iv'e read that iv'e found truly inspiring.

Hsieh's Downtown Project building a startup city in Downtown Las Vegas had some very dark aspects, as this 2014 article detailed.


Thanks for this link. One of the entrepreneur suicides that resulted from the Downtown Project was a friend of a friend, but I hadn't made the connection to Hsieh until reading this. I strongly suspect that Hsieh's repressed emotions were a causal factor in recent events.

What’s the point of sharing this on an article about his passing?

It's an excellent real world critique of Hsieh's ‘Delivering Happiness’ holacracy ethos.


46. RIP.

"Let us prepare our minds as if we’d come to the very end of life. Let us postpone nothing. Let us balance life’s books each day. … The one who puts the finishing touches on their life each day is never short of time.” - Seneca

“Zhuangzi's wife died. When Huizu went to convey his condolences, he found Zhuangzi sitting with his legs sprawled out, pounding on a tub and singing. "You lived with her, she brought up your children and grew old," said Huizu. "It should be enough simply not to weep at her death. But pounding on a tub and singing - this is going too far, isn't it?"

Zhuangzi said, "You're wrong. When she first died, do you think I didn't grieve like anyone else? But I looked back to her beginning and the time before she was born. Not only the time before she was born, but the time before she had a body. Not only the time before she had a body, but the time before she had a spirit. In the midst of the jumble of wonder and mystery a change took place and she had a spirit. Another change and she had a body. Another change and she was born. Now there's been another change and she's dead. It's just like the progression of the four seasons, spring, summer, fall, winter.

"Now she's going to lie down peacefully in a vast room. If I were to follow after her bawling and sobbing, it would show that I don't understand anything about fate. So I stopped.”


“Live each day like it’s your last.”

“Live like you’ll never die.”

The more I think about these two sentiments, the more I think the more popular one is bad advice, and the less popular one is good advice.

"Live like you’ll never die" can be a reason to put things off because you'll do them in the future. And then the world changes and possible paths are suddenly closed to you.

Anecdata: my father died relatively young in his 50s after a decade of ill health that had forced him to give up some of the things that he loved, like sailing. This made a very big impression on me (I was in my mid-20s), specifically that you only get one life and you must make the most of your health while you have it. I am now older than he was when he died and I don't have a bucket list of things that I want to do in the future. That's because I've already done those things, rather than postpone them until I retire. That said, I'm currently in the process of seeing if I can bootstrap a totally new career for myself, in the outdoor conservation space after decades in the office in the s/w industry. I might not make it but at least I've tried.


One of the last things my mother told me before dying in her fifties was “but there’s still so much I wanted to do”. I drew a “life calendar”, crossed out all the years I had already spent, marked her age when she died and more statistically relevant life expectancies and hung it over my desk. I quit my job and started something new not long after.

Good luck!

Personally, I believe the key is to reconcile the two. Operate on that fine line that optimizes best for both this being your last day or just one link in an unending chain.

Save money like you'll need it forever, work hard for more money so you can spend it on what you love, and actually spend it, all in balance.

You need to live each day as if it may be one of many days to come or it may be your last.

Be ready for either possibility.

I'm curious what you think is which? For me, "live like you'll never die" is more motivating than "live each day like it's your last".

I don’t see any value in being dogmatic about it one way or another. Personally I’d just shorten it to “Live your life.” It will mean different things to different people, but perhaps that is ok.

Nice to see some Stoic Memento Mori here. I'm actually currently going through Seneca's Dialogues and Essays.

How does one accomplish a semblance of this? Has someone tried and written down what worked (or did not work)?

I'd love to read up more on this.

One approach is to live every day as if you would live it forever again until eternity.


The concept of "eternal recurrence"––"the idea that all events in the world repeat themselves in the same sequence through an eternal series of cycles"––is central to the mature writings of Friedrich Nietzsche.

Nietzsche calls the idea "horrifying and paralyzing", [citation needed] referring to it as a burden of the "heaviest weight" ("das schwerste Gewicht") imaginable. He professes that the wish for the eternal return of all events would mark the ultimate affirmation of life:

> What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: 'This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more; and there will be nothing new in it, but every pain and every joy and every thought and sigh and everything unutterably small or great in your life will have to return to you, all in the same succession and sequence' ... Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: 'You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.' [The Gay Science, §341]

To comprehend eternal recurrence in his thought, and to not merely come to peace with it but to embrace it, requires amor fati, "love of fate":

> My formula for human greatness is amor fati: that one wants to have nothing different, not forward, not backward, not in all eternity. Not merely to bear the necessary, still less to conceal it—all idealism is mendaciousness before the necessary—but to love it.

Seneca’s Epistles no doubt touches on his views of death through the lens of his Stoic practices. I’ve found Ward Farnsworth’s ‘The Practicing Stoic’ to be an accessible, light, introduction to some of Seneca’s works among others. William Irving, in his book ‘Guide to the Good Life’, labels the technique hinted at in the quote: negative visualization.

Montaigne did some writing on how to live life.

And Seneca wrote on how to die.

Stoicism comes to mind.


I didn't know much of Tony TBH, but a simple customer service interaction with Zappos still ranks as the best experience I've had. It was pre-Amazon, so directly influenced by the culture he put into place.

RIP, his book Delivering Happiness was such an inspiration early in my career

RIP Tony Hsieh, his philosophy of delighting the customer will live on. It has influenced the culture at my company. Thank you for the wisdom.

Did Tony used to have a Twitter account? I recall exchanging tweets with him, but can't seem to find his account anymore.

He was a great, humble guy. When he said he'd email you back (when I was a perfect stranger), he meant it. RIP Tony Hsieh

Didn’t know much about the dude but reading about Holocracy was definitely a huge impact on my career and leadership / org principles. Damn. Rest In Peace. Wow. Wow. Wow. Didn’t think to connect it to the guy but it’s probably only Valve and Zapppos that actually cared enough to push it on the org design front. Legends.

One thing I admired about this guy where his stoic tendencies.

He was worth $800 million bit he slept in an airstream[0].

[0]: https://www.businessinsider.com/llamapolis-las-vegas-trailer...

I don't think that he was necessarily 'stoic' in the ascetic sense. He was down-to-earth and preferred creating and transforming things over simple conspicuous consumption. He did big stuff like founding companies and revitalizing downtown Las Vegas and smaller stuff like turning a parking lot into a vibrant, artsy micro-community and creating a co-living community with his friends in SF after his first company acquisition. (According to his book.)

I have mad respect for Tony. He was creative and didn't let money or the desire for status get in the way of what he thought truly mattered. He focused on fostering interpersonal connection and creating new things.

What a cool, one-of-a-kind dude.

I'm sad cause he's younger than me and I feel that I'm not done with my life yet. He probably other dreams he wanted to pursue and based on his history, he would have succeeded. We will never see what he wanted to do next.

What a loss for us all.

I really loved his work, he was my personal hero. Great thought leader and entrepreneur, but also humble and caring human being. I would often ask myself, what would Tony do, when I have some business challenge or problem.

Rest in peace Tony.

What a shame. He was the rare combination of great businessman and great guy.

I came across Tony in his Mixergy interview in 2008, he was always inspiring. Even though I didn't meet him it hit home when I saw the news. Rest In Peace, you inspired millions.

What a terrible way to die. Seems like deep suffering. I hope not.

He really was a visionary who was able to take action.

I’m gutted to hear this news. His gentle demeanour and the awe and wonder I experienced reading his book in one sitting has left a lasting impression on me.

Rest In Peace

I will always remember the Zappos culture and the way the company interacted with customers and supported them. It’s rare to see companies of that kind.

Horrible news. Like many others here his book Delivering Happiness reached me. He was one of the good ones. He won't be forgotten.

My condolences to his friends and family.

spoken in 2017

they discussed the hypothetical question, "If your house was on fire and you could only save one thing, what would it be?" As Hsieh surveyed his possessions, he couldn't think of a single item he cared about enough to single out.


I didn’t know him personally, but I always thought he was a great guy. What a loss for the community. RIP Tony, you will be dearly missed.

Sobering. If you died at his age, would you be satisfied with your life? I wonder if he was. Entrepreneurs can be hard on themselves.

I loved his How I Built this Episode - probably one of my favorite podcast. This is so sad and shocking.

Makes me so sad, he was as much (if not more) a humanitarian as an entrepreneur. Thankful for his impact.

Everything I read about this guy had positive things to say.

I'm sad I didn't get the chance to meet him. :(

Will we remember tony in 100 years? What will be his legacy in society?

This is sad and unexpected, condolences to his loved ones, he will be missed.

Life is short. Rest in peace.

Tony Hsieh has died at the age of 46. He died of injuries sustained during a house fire in Connecticut. Tony Hsieh is most well-known for his work as the former CEO of Zappos, a company that sells shoes on the web. His family, friends and co-workers mourn his loss.

Was holacracy at Zappos his idea or it came from the original founder?

Holacracy was developed at a software company by Brian Robertson who then took it and started another company, HolacracyOne, to refine and spread it. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holacracy. Tony Hsieh brought it into Zappos which was IMO incredibly influential in increasing the visibility of Holacracy. His passing is very sad.

Thanks for replying instead of downvoting. HN seems to be so toxic these days.

Wow that's a young age to pass away. Really shocking.

Such a precious life; gone like a blow of wind

Very sad...A great loss for industry. :(

Shocking! His book, "Delivering Happiness" is one of the best book about establishing a business and giving awesome customer support.

Hope HN management will set a black bar in his honor.

> Hope HN management will set a black bar in his honor.

How is that "hacker" news?

Hacker news is NOT about hacking systems.

Alright, but most news here are about computers or technology. This guy apparently was a shoe commerce middleman. I don't understand why he's so famous around here, I've never heard about him.

they have!

the black bar needs a link (say mouse over) to the story explaining why its there. I had to guess by going to the front page.

RIP, Tony Hsieh.

A person of color, he proved that a business doesn’t have to be souless in order to be successful.

Not sure why this was downvoted?

humble leadership at its best. too early. RIP Tony.

> It's no more a cult than cheering for your school mascot

To just react to this part: from the perspective of someone growing up in a country without school mascots or inter-school sports competitions, the whole US treatment of school sport teams and their mascots (or, at least, their depiction in media) is rather cultish behaviour.

> the whole US treatment of school sport teams and their mascots (or, at least, their depiction in media) is rather cultish behaviour

It’s tribal. Or team like. We don’t have a good word for it in English.

Being strongly affiliated with a group isn’t a bad thing. It drives innovation in companies and research groups and campaigns. It’s easy to mock. Often, there is some totem Kool-Aid everyone rallies around.

This cult-ish mode isn’t antithetical to individualism. We freely choose to associate this way. Unlike cult members, there is an out. And at a certain level we know it isn’t life and death. Though it’s fun to pretend it is, since so infrequently does the modern world let us fight with a team to life or death.

> This cult-ish mode isn’t antithetical to individualism. We freely choose to associate this way. Unlike cult members, there is an out.

There is an incredible amount of social pressure to conform, whether it be to cheering for school mascots, or daily pledging your unconditional allegiance to a nation, years before you are old enough to understand what half of those concepts mean.

> or daily pledging your unconditional allegiance to a nation

Wut, that's some serious 1984 shit, where is this common?

Every schoolchild in the United States starting at the age of ~six is expected (but not legally required) to participate in a daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

"I pledge Allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with Liberty and Justice for all."

There are a number of obvious questions about the ethics of indoctrinating children with this sort of thing, but that is left as an exercise for the reader.

I think there's a few states where it is not required. And the state requirements only apply to public schools so who knows what all the private and parochial schools are doing.

I believe that the courts have ruled that it's not required anywhere.

My point about social pressures still stands. The stuck-out nail gets hammered down.

I meant required of the school.

I think you're vastly overstating the social pressure. It's nothing compared to adolescent pressure to wear the right clothes and ingest the right chemicals. Among adults, the far right wingers get outraged by those who refuse while the far left wingers get outraged by the existence of the pledge. The 70 percent in the middle care far less.

Wow I did not know that. Scary shit!

Most schoolchildren do the Pledge of Allegiance every morning, but in my experience, the only people who think it's some sort of dystopian practice are foreigners whose primary knowledge of America comes from watching Netflix. For actual Americans, it's a mildly respectful gesture that simply implies patriotism...and it's not a particularly huge deal.

As someone who had never heard of the practice before moving to the US as a teen, it seemed pretty culty to me.

I understand most Americans aren't that bothered, but that makes it even more creepy to us foreigners.

I'm sure North Koreans are used to the Kims' pictures in every room, but that doesn't make it less weird from an outsiders perspective.

I think this is a bit unfair. I grew up in Europe -- which had no mascots or crazy "American" sports -- and during my childhood, Maradona (who also sadly passed away just last week) was absolutely idolized.

I was about to comment something very similar.

I grew up in the UK and that sort of thing was often viewed as just a step away from the nationalism of the nazis.

Aren't there literally violent gangs associated with soccer teams?

Yes, but the hooliganism of the 70s and 80s has largely gone away. It was conducted by gangs of thugs who were mostly associated with a small number of first division teams, and generally roundly denounced. I don’t think it’s fair to imply it was representative of the countries cultural approach to group affiliations.

In what way is it like a cult? It's more like cheering for your country in international sports competitions. If that's a cult then I guess fans of any competitive sports are a cult to you.

If you're talking about the actual guy in the mascot suit some schools have, they're just clowning around to entertain people. Drunk fans appreciate them the most.

European and South American obsession with football and footballers goes far, far beyond anything Americans do with sports. Unless you live in West Texas, it's fairly easy to avoid anything to do with it.

Yeah, the US has nothing like the "Soccer hooligan" culture that's found in Europe. I'm not sure why someone would think high school sports are a massive deal. I think it's due to media depictions of small towns being engrossed with them.

Where could I learn more about the onboarding practices? Sounds super interesting!

.. and this was supposed to be a comment on another thread..

Are the circumstances suspicious or is there nothing to worry about here? So sad and sorry for your loss.

No. Better to let law enforcement & the family consider that then speculate on an internet forum without any substantial or additional information.

We detached this subthread from https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=25236310.


Can't get more HN and SV than commenting about AMZN stock price in a reply to a emotional personal story of a recent passing.

I don't think this kind of behaviour is reflective of HN as a whole- there are very many thoughtful people sharing their thoughts here

No, I know for a fact that it's not reflective of HN as a whole. But I did find it funny if not tragic that it's fairly common place. The amount of upvotes my comment received (about 100) seems to confirm I'm not alone in thinking so too.

HN as a group does things that aren’t representative of most users.

So don’t take it the wrong way. A pedantic comment which is downvoted and flagged doesn’t represent you, but the fact someone said it is very much in the flow of HN’s community.


I can't see anything from those pictures.

I find your armchair detective-ing here deeply distasteful.


Ugh. What an inappropriate post.

RIP, can't believe 2020 is this hard

<img src="s.gif" height="5" width="100%" title="Tony Hsieh has died.">


I was moderated for commenting about stuff like this in response to someone comparing him to Jobs. Not enough of us old guard spoke up when Jobs died, a book was released and kids started dropping acid and pulling Theranos scams on all different levels because of the distortions in it. Speaking up now with facts about Hsieh, whom I have first hand knowledge of, but since my own opinion cost me, here is history lesson...


The explanation is here: "if we negate the negative emotions in our lives, it takes us away from happiness and brings around shame. The whole idea of Downtown is grand and wonderful and purposeful, but sometimes the way we’re going about it isn’t psychologically healthy."

This is a big weakness of the "feel good" culture, people don't know how to handle unavoidable negative emotions.

How do I get my -4 post about this 8 days ago "unflagged" now that MSM is stepping up to prevent the kids from following this self-absorbed a-hole?


When a prominent person in their 40s dies and there's no information released as to the cause of death, it's always a challenge not to make assumptions.

Possibly a fire? Take it with a few grains of salt.


What would the assumption be? Honestly I have no idea what you’re implying.

I would guess suicide is what the poster is implying.

I did not find it hard to not make assumptions. Perhaps it's your approach to life that needs examining?

Okay - so is your implication that he is some kind of failure if he struggled with depression and committed suicide?

I've never understood or been able to relate to the seemingly common intense curiosity as to cause-of-death. Is it related to the desire to fit names we know into a narrative structure that lets us reason about them as entities? It seems like an irrelevant detail, to me personally.

I think it's likely just part of human nature. When something bad or tragic happens, we want to know what happened and why. It seems plausible that there's an evolutionary explanation for it, to do with learning how to avoid such happenings.

The desire to know is usually in proportion to the unexpectedness. Perhaps its an evolutionary curiosity (Avoid how they died)?

Why is it hard to understand?

Two days ago, a cousin (who I only barely know because we connected on facebook, genealogically) informed me that her father - my mother's brother - had passed. My mom's first question was "any particulars?" It's natural to want to know what happened, and it's not shameful to be curious.

For some, it comes from wanting to avoid death. The desire to add it to your database of how death happens in order to know your enemy. I'm not arguing this is following a scientific principle. This is more emotional.

I think it’s human nature. I have it intensely and not sure why. Maybe a desire to make it make sense in your head somehow?

Human nature. If your child is late from a party, say, the mind wonders and eventually thinks the worst.

Sometimes it's just fun to speculate.

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