If you’ve built or run a company in the last 10 years, you’ve probably had occasion to read about Tony Hsieh, the Zappos founder who inspired considerable study and fascination among entrepreneurs worldwide. I’m a hard sell when it comes to studying other CEOs, but I loved Hsieh and knew a ton about him. First, of course, he built and ran Zappos, which to this day tops my list of companies who provided the best customer experience, bar none. Second, his massive investment in revitalizing downtown Vegas fascinated me to no end. Much has been written on his management style so I won’t belabor that here, but it’s voluminous.
So I was shocked to find out he’d died last week, and even more shocked to read the circumstances leading up to his death. The guy was in a massive spiral of drugs and alcohol, in addition to some extremely weird behavior. I hesitate to call anyone “mentally ill” when I don’t know them personally, but he was intermittently starving himself, trying to live on minimal oxygen, fascinated with fire, testing how long his body could go without urinating…all kinds of super odd stuff. He was almost exactly my age, too, so for whatever reason that resonates with me and makes the whole thing seem even more tragic.