Tony Hsieh was living proof that you can be a good human being and successful in business

When people describe what it takes to succeed in business, the words they use often sound combative. We assume a certain ruthlessness is necessary to make it, that you must destroy the competition and step on and over others to climb to the top. It's almost a given that exploitation of employees and deceptively clever marketing to customers are they keys to big profits.

Then along comes someone like Tony Hsieh, who spent two decades obliterating those assumptions as the visionary CEO of Zappos.

Hsieh, who tragically passed away last week at age 46 following a house fire, took a unique approach to running a business on practically every level. From a decentralized management model to a completely relationship-centered customer service philosophy, he created an innovative alternative to traditional business practices. But it was his generosity of spirit in helping others succeed that clearly defined his legacy.


Hsieh's customer service philosophy was all about creating and maintaining relationships with people. Rather than make it hard for customers to find contact information on their website like many companies do, Zappos posted their 1-800 number prominently on the top of every page. And rather than try to get customers off the phone as quickly as possible, they made sure that every customer truly felt taken care of—even to the extent of helping them find shoes from competitors if Zappos didn't have what they were looking for.

Hsieh's family says that his mantra was "delivering happiness." It seems he instinctively understood that truly happy customers are loyal customers, and that business could involve both making money and making people happy.

But it wasn't just customers that Hsieh focused his energies on. After his passing, story after story of his thoughtfulness and helpfulness toward other businesses and individuals have circulated, proving that not only was Hsieh a good businessman, but also a truly good human being.

For example, Josh Reich, former CEO of the online bank Simple, told a story about trying to poach Zappos' head of customer service when Simple was starting up. He said Hsieh found out and made a counter-offer for Reich's team to come meet the Zappos team and learn how they operated.

"We got to spend time with agents in the call center, watch them take calls," Reich wrote on Twitter. "Learn about how they were hired. Speak with the engineers about how they built the CRM stack to be both efficient and foster moments of delight.

We spent time with his exec team and went back to his apartment and chatted over pancakes. He went above and beyond. He liked our mission and wanted to help. He helped us deliver happiness. He left an outsized mark on this world. He will be missed."

Praise for Hsieh has come from people of all backgrounds, especially those who have worked in the startup business world or who lived or spent time in Las Vegas, where Hsieh lived.

He embraced and encouraged his employees uniqueness as human beings.


He was successful and thoughtful, but also refreshingly humble.

And his generosity extended to all he came in contact with.

The outpouring of gushing eulogies are how we should all strive to be remembered.

If you are not familiar with Hsieh's life story, investor Sahil Bloom offered a synopsis on Twitter that illustrates what makes Hsieh such a unique figure.

"Tony Hsieh was a builder, investor, philanthropist, and self-proclaimed weirdo.

He inspired millions to think differently about happiness and embrace their own inner weirdness.

Here is the story of a beautiful man gone way too soon.

Tony Hsieh was born on December 12, 1973.

His parents, both Taiwanese immigrants, placed a strong emphasis on education, always pushing Tony and his younger brothers to excel in school.

Upon graduating high school in California, he left home to enroll at Harvard University.

Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the very early days of the internet, he wanted to be a part of that world.

He graduated in 1995 with a degree in computer science, determined to build.

As a first step, he accepted a job at Oracle as a low level programmer.

But his ambition and creativity was not suited for the large corporate life.

Within a few months, he left Oracle with a colleague to build something new.

Their idea: to build an ad network for the new world of internet advertising.

So it was that LinkExchange was born.

Riding the internet boom, it took off immediately.

Within 90 days, they had 20,000 participating web pages.

Within 2 years, they had over 400,000.

In 1998, just 2 years after starting the business, Hsieh and his co-founders sold LinkExchange to Microsoft for $265 million. Working at Microsoft while waiting for all of his shares to vest, Hsieh yet again grew tired of the big corporate culture.

Deciding that time was his most precious resource, he left early, leaving millions of unvested shares on the table, and launched a startup incubator.

Venture Frogs (the name originated from a dare) invested in and supported startups.

It was in this role that Hsieh first met Nick Swinmurn, the founder of @Zappos, a company that wanted to sell shoes online.

In 1999, this seemed crazy, but Hsieh was intrigued.

Believing in the massive market opportunity, Venture Frogs decided to invest in Zappos.

This was just the beginning for Hsieh.

Anxious to get back to building, he joined Zappos as its CEO and got to work.

Sales were growing, but there was nothing smooth about road ahead.

The business was unprofitable, and with a backdrop of the dot-com crash, the idea of raising money for an internet shoe sales business was laughable.

So Hsieh buckled down, selling off his own real estate holdings to fund the business.

He became a true servant leader. 9/ As Zappos grew, Hsieh focused on building a company he could be proud of.

He prioritized people and built a unique culture that embraced individualism.

Zappos famously asked the question, "How weird are you?" of new applicants.

By 2009, the company hit $1 billion in sales.

Zappos was acquired by Amazon in 2009 for $1.2 billion.

Having rejected previous offers, Hsieh finally relented when Amazon promised to allow Zappos to run independently.

For Hsieh, the success of Zappos was intertwined with its culture.

This was simply non-negotiable.

Tony Hsieh remained at the helm of Zappos until August 2020, when he stepped down after 21 years as its CEO.

A natural introvert, he likened his role as CEO to that of a greenhouse architect, designing an environment that would allow employees to learn, grow, and thrive.

Outside of his day job, Tony Hsieh always sought out ways to give back.

His book, Delivering Happiness, was a #1 @nytimesbooks best seller, remaining on the list for 27 consecutive weeks.

He also invested heavily in rebuilding underdeveloped parts of downtown Las Vegas.

Tony Hsieh showed the world that being different was not only ok, but actually a competitive advantage.

He inspired millions to embrace their inner weirdness.

Above all else, Tony Hsieh loved life.

He will be sorely missed, but his legacy will live on."

Indeed it will. Thank you, Tony Hsieh, for being an inspiring example for us all.

Courtesy of Amita Swadhin
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In 2016, Amita Swadhin, a child of two immigrant parents from India, founded Mirror Memoirs to help combat rape culture. The national storytelling and organizing project is dedicated to sharing the stories of LGBTQIA+ Black, indigenous people, and people of color who survived child sexual abuse.

"Whether or not you are a survivor, 100% of us are raised in rape culture. It's the water that we're swimming in. But just as fish don't know they are in water, because it's just the world around them that they've always been in, people (and especially those who aren't survivors) may need some help actually seeing it," they add.

"Mirror Memoirs attempts to be the dye that helps everyone understand the reality of rape culture."

Amita built the idea for Mirror Memoirs from a theater project called "Undesirable Elements: Secret Survivors" that featured their story and those of four other survivors in New York City, as well as a documentary film and educational toolkit based on the project.

"Secret Survivors had a cast that was gender, race, and age-diverse in many ways, but we had neglected to include transgender women," Amita explains. "Our goal was to help all people who want to co-create a world without child sexual abuse understand that the systems historically meant to help survivors find 'healing' and 'justice' — namely the child welfare system, policing, and prisons — are actually systems that facilitate the rape of children in oppressed communities," Amita continues. "We all have to explore tools of healing and accountability outside of these systems if we truly want to end all forms of sexual violence and rape culture."

Amita also wants Mirror Memoirs to be a place of healing for survivors that have historically been ignored or underserved by anti-violence organizations due to transphobia, homophobia, racism, xenophobia, and white supremacy.

Amita Swadhin

"Hearing survivors' stories is absolutely healing for other survivors, since child sexual abuse is a global pandemic that few people know how to talk about, let alone treat and prevent."

"Since sexual violence is an isolating event, girded by shame and stigma, understanding that you're not alone and connecting with other survivors is alchemy, transmuting isolation into intimacy and connection."

This is something that Amita knows and understands well as a survivor herself.

"My childhood included a lot of violence from my father, including rape and other forms of domestic violence," says Amita. "Mandated reporting was imposed on me when I was 13 and it was largely unhelpful since the prosecutors threatened to incarcerate my mother for 'being complicit' in the violence I experienced, even though she was also abused by my father for years."

What helped them during this time was having the support of others.

"I'm grateful to have had a loving younger sister and a few really close friends, some of whom were also surviving child sexual abuse, though we didn't know how to talk about it at the time," Amita says.

"I'm also a queer, non-binary femme person living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, and those identities have shaped a lot of my life experiences," they continue. "I'm really lucky to have an incredible partner and network of friends and family who love me."

"These realizations put me on the path of my life's work to end this violence quite early in life," they said.

Amita wants Mirror Memoirs to help build awareness of just how pervasive rape culture is. "One in four girls and one in six boys will be raped or sexually assaulted by the age of 18," Amita explains, "and the rates are even higher for vulnerable populations, such as gender non-conforming, disabled, deaf, unhoused, and institutionalized children." By sharing their stories, they're hoping to create change.

"Listening to stories is also a powerful way to build empathy, due to the mirror neurons in people's brains. This is, in part, why the project is called Mirror Memoirs."

So far, Mirror Memoirs has created an audio archive of BIPOC LGBTQI+ child sexual abuse survivors sharing their stories of survival and resilience that includes stories from 60 survivors across 50 states. This year, they plan to record another 15 stories, specifically of transgender and nonbinary people who survived child sexual abuse in a sport-related setting, with their partner organization, Athlete Ally.

"This endeavor is in response to the more than 100 bills that have been proposed across at least 36 states in 2021 seeking to limit the rights of transgender and non-binary children to play sports and to receive gender-affirming medical care with the support of their parents and doctors," Amita says.

In 2017, Mirror Memoirs held its first gathering, which was attended by 31 people. Today, the organization is a fiscally sponsored, national nonprofit with two staff members, a board of 10 people, a leadership council of seven people, and 500 members nationally.

When the pandemic hit in 2020, they created a mutual aid fund for the LGBTQIA+ community of color and were able to raise a quarter-million dollars. They received 2,509 applications for assistance, and in the end, they decided to split the money evenly between each applicant.

While they're still using storytelling as the building block of their work, they're also engaging in policy and advocacy work, leadership development, and hosting monthly member meetings online.

For their work, Amita is one of Tory's Burch's Empowered Women. Their donation will go to Mirror Memoirs to help fund production costs for their new theater project, "Transmutation: A Ceremony," featuring four Black transgender, intersex, and non-binary women and femmes who live in California.

"I'm grateful to every single child sexual survivor who has ever disclosed their truth to me," Amita says. "I know another world is possible, and I know survivors will build it, together with all the people who love us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Gage Skidmore/Wikimedia Commons

Wil Wheaton speaking to an audience at 2019 Wondercon.

In an era of debates over cancel culture and increased accountability for people with horrendous views and behaviors, the question of art vs. artist is a tricky one. When you find out an actor whose work you enjoy is blatantly racist and anti-semitic in real life, does that realization ruin every movie they've been a part of? What about an author who has expressed harmful opinions about a marginalized group? What about a smart, witty comedian who turns out to be a serial sexual assaulter? Where do you draw the line between a creator and their creation?

As someone with his feet in both worlds, actor Wil Wheaton weighed in on that question and offered a refreshingly reasonable perspective.

A reader who goes by @avinlander asked Wheaton on Tumblr:

"Question: I have more of an opinion question for you. When fans of things hear about misconduct happening on sets/behind-the-scenes are they allowed to still enjoy the thing? Or should it be boycotted completely? Example: I've been a major fan of Buffy the Vampire Slayer since I was a teenager and it was currently airing. I really nerded out on it and when I lost my Dad at age 16 'The Body' episode had me in such cathartic tears. Now we know about Joss Whedon. I haven't rewatched a single episode since his behavior came to light. As a fan, do I respectfully have to just box that away? Is it disrespectful of the actors that went through it to knowingly keep watching?"

And Wheaton offered this response, which he shared on Facebook:

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Images courtesy of Mark Storhaug & Kaiya Bates

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The experiences we have at school tend to stay with us throughout our lives. It's an impactful time where small acts of kindness, encouragement, and inspiration go a long way.

Schools, classrooms, and teachers that are welcoming and inclusive support students' development and help set them up for a positive and engaging path in life.

Here are three of our favorite everyday actions that are spreading kindness on campus in a big way:

Image courtesy of Mark Storhaug

1. Pickleball to Get Fifth Graders Moving

Mark Storhaug is a 5th grade teacher at Kingsley Elementary in Los Angeles, who wants to use pickleball to get his students "moving on the playground again after 15 months of being Zombies learning at home."

Pickleball is a paddle ball sport that mixes elements of badminton, table tennis, and tennis, where two or four players use solid paddles to hit a perforated plastic ball over a net. It's as simple as that.

Kingsley Elementary is in a low-income neighborhood where outdoor spaces where kids can move around are minimal. Mark's goal is to get two or three pickleball courts set up in the schoolyard and have kids join in on what's quickly becoming a national craze. Mark hopes that pickleball will promote movement and teamwork for all his students. He aims to take advantage of the 20-minute physical education time allotted each day to introduce the game to his students.

Help Mark get his students outside, exercising, learning to cooperate, and having fun by donating to his GoFundMe.

Image courtesy of Kaiya Bates

2. Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids

According to the WHO around 280 million people worldwide suffer from depression. In the US, 1 in 5 adults experience mental illness and 1 in 20 experience severe mental illness, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Kaiya Bates, who was recently crowned Miss Tri-Cities Outstanding Teen for 2022, is one of those people, and has endured severe anxiety, depression, and selective mutism for most of her life.

Through her GoFundMe, Kaiya aims to use her "knowledge to inspire and help others through their mental health journey and to spread positive and factual awareness."

She's put together regulation kits (that she's used herself) for teachers to use with students who are experiencing stress and anxiety. Each "CALM-ing" kit includes a two-minute timer, fidget toolboxes, storage crates, breathing spheres, art supplies and more.

Kaiya's GoFundMe goal is to send a kit to every teacher in every school in the Pasco School District in Washington where she lives.

To help Kaiya achieve her goal, visit Staying C.A.L.M: Regulation Kits for Kids.

Image courtesy of Julie Tarman

3. Library for a high school heritage Spanish class

Julie Tarman is a high school Spanish teacher in Sacramento, California, who hopes to raise enough money to create a Spanish language class library.

The school is in a low-income area, and although her students come from Spanish-speaking homes, they need help building their fluency, confidence, and vocabulary through reading Spanish language books that will actually interest them.

Julie believes that creating a library that affirms her students' cultural heritage will allow them to discover the joy of reading, learn new things about the world, and be supported in their academic futures.

To support Julie's GoFundMe, visit Library for a high school heritage Spanish class.

Do YOU have an idea for a fundraiser that could make a difference? Upworthy and GoFundMe are celebrating ideas that make the world a better, kinder place. Visit upworthy.com/kindness to join the largest collaboration for human kindness in history and start your own GoFundMe.

Chris Evans is playing the lead role in the upcoming Pixar film "Lightyear."

Chris Evans was already skilled at squeezing hearts on social media, cavalierly sharing sweet pics of his adorable dog and piano-playing videos on Instagram, as if we could just casually watch him be a near-perfect man without swooning. And now he's being even more delightful with his gushing giddiness over getting to play his dream role.

The guy is already best known as the studly Marvel superhero Captain America, so what could possibly top that? Pixar, apparently. Evans' ultimate acting dream is being in a Pixar movie. And now that his dream is coming true, the most eligible of the Chrises could not be cuter in his expressions of joy.

Sharing the new trailer for "Lightyear"—Pixar's origin story about the astronaut the Buzz Lightyear toy was based on in the "Toy Story" universe—Evans wrote on Twitter:

"I'm covered in goosebumps. And will be every time I watch this trailer. Or hear a Bowie song. Or have any thought whatsoever between now and July cause nothing has ever made me feel more joy and gratitude than knowing I'm a part of this and it's basically always on my mind."

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Logan Kavaluskis holds his new puppy for the first time.

At 47, Joe Kavaluskis lost his nine-year battle with multiple myeloma, a rare blood cancer, on January 8, 2020, leaving behind a wife and two sons. But that didn't stop him from fulfilling one of his son's dreams a week later on his 13th birthday.

In the final days of his life, he told his wife, Melanie, to buy their son, Logan, a puppy after he passed. He thought the dog would brighten his spirits after such a loss and it was something he always wanted but couldn't have. Joe was allergic to dogs so he couldn't have one in the home.

"He said, 'Just promise that when I do pass, that you get Logan a puppy as soon as you can, because I know that it will bring him a lot of comfort,'" Melanie Kavaluskis told Inside Edition.

Throughout his childhood, Logan had hermit crabs and lizards, but never the puppy he always wanted. When he was 3 years old he got a stuffed Boston terrier and named it Puppers and took it everywhere he went for years.

Joe thought it was the right time for him to have a real Boston terrier of his own.

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