The Inner Demons of Powerful CEOs: Why the Late Zappos Founder Failed at Life & Why It Matters

  • Wylie-McGraw
  • Hey!

    My name is Wylie McGraw and I’m not a Coach; I’m a Performance Accelerator.

  • The shoe-selling sensations, turtle-neck-wearing techies, and other multi-millionaires of the world may look like they have it all together. Most don’t, though. They’re not the Zen masters they present to be; they’re the dog from the “This is Fine” meme - and you probably are, too, regardless of how calmly you sit there sipping your proverbial coffee.

    I get that’s hard to admit. As a culture, people love scoffing at the idea of anyone middle class or above struggling. It’s a knee-jerk reaction, one that many with thriving businesses and seemingly limitless pockets have likely been guilty of once or twice.

    But this needs to stop, because suffering isn’t limited to any one kind of person or tax bracket.  

    Anyone - and I do mean anyone - is capable of suffering. 

    Anyone and everyone are allowed to have problems, to have emotional struggles and mental hurdles pushing down on them. We all can and do feel pain, no matter how big our houses are or how many zeroes are attached to our income.

    Need an example? Look no further than Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ late Founder and CEO.

    He looked like someone who had everything he could ever want. He was a successful entrepreneur and venture capitalist. He owned several beautiful, high-valued properties, was highly respected by his employees, and even had time to write a New York Times best-selling book and engage with passion projects like his downtown Vegas revitalization program. 

    Yet, none of it was enough.

    Why? According to countless news outlets after Tony’s death, the retired CEO had been constantly seeking - and failing to find - happiness and peace despite his massive success in business. Reportedly driven by stress, fear, and incessant loneliness, he’d allowed himself to fester in his pain and take himself further and further away from a life of satisfaction and meaning.

    It’s a tragic story, and it makes you wonder. What else could Tony Hsieh have accomplished if he could’ve lived unencumbered? What else could he have offered the world? What kind of impact could he have made, if things had been different?

    It brings up another question, too, one that touches even you: what are other high achievers doing to combat their own so-called “demons?”

    Well? What are you doing?

    Because you can’t just sit around and do nothing. You have to be proactive. Problems don’t just rise up out of the blue. 

    Unfortunately, Tony didn’t get this. 

    He swept everything under the rug; all those pesky negative emotions trapped and compartmentalized where they didn’t have to be acknowledged. He let them fester his whole life, covered it all up with drugs and extreme bodily challenges thinking they’d never touch him again.

    Nobody, not even Tony Hsieh himself, knew what to do to truly fix things. Though, it shouldn’t have been such a question.  

    What Tony needed was a radical shift. 

    What you need is a radical shift. 

    You see, successful leaders like Tony struggle to be a whole person. They do not know how to simply be with themselves amidst their accumulated successes. They don’t truly know where their power, their natural-born strengths are derived from. They feel trapped and restless, constantly grinding for more. 

    Sound familiar? If so, this is your wake-up call!

    Make no mistake, success feels good. However, you can’t rely on it alone. 

    Just like Zappos’ late founder, you need something else in your life - something other than facts and figures or materialistic things to bring you fulfillment. And you need sustainable solutions, not another quick fix. 

    Alright, but what if you’re fine avoiding your problems? What if you’re content to just let everything build up until it explodes?

    That’s all well and good for you in a vacuum but…it’s not all about you.

    That was another reason Tony struggled so much in life. He forgot that he had bigger responsibilities outside himself, ones that significantly affected the lives around him.

    Family, staff, employees, community members, investors, clients, and partners; they all relied on him - on you.

    The experiences of those associated with you directly hinge on how well you live your life. 

    Sure, stuffing all your feelings down and hiding from the truth can seem easier. But fully understanding who you are at the core, naming and facing your demons, that’s the only true path forward to a life worth living. 

    Read on to learn about the lost art of shaming and what that means for your productivity.

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