We Are All Tony Hsieh

Surrender by teZa Lord

Surrender by teZa Lord


When I first heard of the tragic passing of billionaire tech-genius Tony Hsieh, I knew something very weird had happened to him. In the back of my mind, I felt the odd recollection of past lives banging on my today-door. I suspected monkey business. Either murder or suicide. But today, when I read how he’d been caught in the spiraling downward hell of alcohol and drug addiction, spurred on by feeling isolated when confronted by the aloneness of the Covid-19 pandemic—I knew how vulnerable we all are to Tony’s plight.

The Pandemic Brings on Loneliness

It’s a natural thing, for each of us humans, to want to feel connected to something much bigger than ourselves. Now, in the pandemic’s promised long winter months ahead, many of us are feeling lonely, missing our usual outer expression of gathering with others, having uninhibited fun, enjoying dining out or grabbing a show, or taking a cruise.

For a person who has no partner in life, like Tony Hsieh, being alone during this rough time in our pandemic world is much more severe. And trying.

Ways of Feeling Connected

Some get this feeling of “being connected” we usually have from friends and group activities, or from more quiet things like religion or reading. For myself, I feel connected via my creative pursuits, and yoga and meditation practices, plus I am lucky to be married to my best friend, Carter. Others, not so lucky, like Tony Hsieh, who early on in life got his sense of self-identity by rising above the pack and accomplishing greater, materially-rewarding things that many others can only dream of, felt a heightened sense of bereavement since Covid struck. Still other folks, less motivated or lacking focus, reach for another piece of chocolate, a puff of weed, or pour another drink. And extremists are certainly turning to more intense induced-experiences, like those from ingesting the vine, Ayuhuasca, or taking a psilosybin-smushroom vision quest to get out of their small self in their attempt to experience a higher self.

To the detailed story of Tony Hsieh’s extreme searching for Oneness, explaining his self-inflicted spiral of isolation fueled by taking substances related in today’s Wall Street Journal, I relate, perhaps more than most.

Like Tony Hsieh, I, too, wanted to feel connected to that grand Oneness that I immediately sensed from taking my first hit of LSD. Which was then quickly followed by more acid, then peyote, then mushrooms, then …. on and on until I finally bottomed out, years later, on plain ol’ booze. An ordinary drunk looking for a spiritual connection. There’s a reason why alcohol was nicknamed “Spirits” long ago. The state in which the human brain is drawn after ingesting an appropriate amount of the otherwise poisonous stuff is akin to the transcendent state referred to as Oneness, or unity-with-All. People glimpse the Oneness more easily, if temporarily, with booze. People feel more relaxed, more beautiful, more competent with a few stiff drinks. And for people like me, and Tony Hsieh, perhaps like you, too, we don’t stop with wanting to experience that state of interconnectedness just when we’re partying. We’re gluttons for feeling the ultimate available. We want it all the time. That’s when addiction kicks in.

What Is, Exactly, Addiction?

For me, it took bottoming out on booze and alcohol to finally discover that the sense of Oneness can never be sustained, or truly felt, using substances. It took me nearly dying, like Tony Hsieh unfortunately had to, to uncover the truth about this yearning that many of us, I’d venture to say, ALL of us, have. Of course, a person would have to get very real with themselves to answer the following questions honestly, in order for that brazen statement of mine, that we all want the ultimate in life, happiness, to bear truth.

So ask yourself, honestly, truthfully: Do you desire to feel comfortable in your own skin, knowing that you’re connected to everything, all the time? To never feel lonely, left out, separated?

I bet you’re nodding your head at these simple questions I’m asking.

For the relatively small percentage of people who risk our lives, pouring substances down our throats in pursuit of this “feeling” that could be ours in other less damaging ways … they know full well they face death. An addict is willing to risk that. An addict is also in denial of the severity of the risks they take. Lucky me, I didn’t die living my risky addictive ways. I managed to live through my driven-ness, in pursuit of that sensation of feeling sublimely connected. Until the day I almost did die. Then, and only then, did I decide to embrace life, and not pursue death, as every addict does. Addiction is embracing death little by little, instead of just going for it and committing suicide in one blow. I survived my addictions and learned (with a great deal of help and guidance) how to live sober, clean, and finally … discovered that the thrill of Oneness that I’d been seeking all along through various addictions, was right within me, all the time.

Embracing the Way of Oneness

In a life without substances, one gets to feel the truth of Oneness on a consistent, constant basis. If one cultivates this connection to the higher state of consciousness, by being in a natural state, without substances or addictive behaviors, one achieves happiness, true happiness.

Not Embracing the Way of Oneness

Tony Hsieh somehow didn’t make this choice. He got stuck on the first floor of the elevator in the skyscraper leading to the heights of personal transcendence. He made it out of the basement, just barely, by having honed his talents. He made a bundle of money. But that wasn’t enough to give him happiness. He gave the world several successful businesses and proved to us that money can’t buy happiness. When he arrived at the first floor of altering one’s consciousness in the continuous search humanity has been on, looking for the ultimate in life … Tony Hsieh’s spirit, his soul, got hijacked by the demon of addiction.

Addiction, in all its many guises (whether to screens, shopping, substances, or sex) is the bad cousin of the only true way to experience Oneness: naturally. Tony Hsieh got high on experiencing the Wow! Of Being One by taking mind-altering substances (along with booze), and dancing his ass off at Burning Man extravaganzas, and then with the Dancetronauts, the performing troupe he brought from California to Las Vegas to help fulfill his vision of making Sin City devoted to this newfound Oneness Consciousness he was addicted to. Many of his friends referred to Tony as “The Giving Tree,” after the selfless tree that can’t stop giving herself away, depicted in a lovely illustrated story by the masterful psyche-insightful artist, Shel Silverstein.

Tony Hsieh, like you, like me, wanted to be happy, and he wanted to spread happiness and fulfillment to as many people as he could. But, like me (perhaps not like you), he got caught up in his wanting happiness so badly that he forgot that the natural way of Being, just living, just simply loving, or caring, or sharing with others compassionately, is the only tried and true way to first find, then sustain, the highest high of All—feeling the Oneness in everything, everywhere, all the time.

I truly believe we are ALL Tony Hsieh, in various stages of discovery. Tony started flipping out, today’s report said, when he sold his wildly successful last business, Zappos, the online multi-brand shoe delivery service. Without a next clear vision, he then jumped from his secure set of homies, from San Francisco and Las Vegas, and decided to start anew in Park City, Utah, where the Sundance Film Festival is annually held.

The Danger of Extremism

Without his steady circle, his trusted tribe, the aloofness Tony Hsieh was known for (having a hard time with one-on-one relationships) kicked in. He became susceptible to the new, less caring-for-Tony, more caring-for-themselves gang in Park City. And then … he had this weird thing with extremes. Extremes like depriving himself of food and air, climbing three mountains in the state of California in one day. And fire. It was known he surrounded himself with candles up the kazoo! Thousands of candles! Tony had a thing for them when you and I might like a nice little candle glow for a special dinner, every now and then. Yes, Tony Hsieh went all out for extremes.

Whatever way he could find it, the state of being connected to All that he himself claimed was his new quest (after taking ecstasy, mushrooms, etc), Tony Hsieh sought. He didn’t seem to realize that we all have to juggle real life with the moments of ecstasy we’re allowed, or allotted.

For me, through being sober and having learned that addiction is another way of a soul screaming, “I want Spirit in my life,” I’ve put down the liquid spirits, the booze, and substances and drama … and have learned how to cultivate, and most importantly, sustain … that feeling of I am … One with All.

Finding Oneness Within Your Self

Stilling the busy monkey-mind is where this journey to Oneness begins. Its final destination? Right inside your own Self. Your Higher, less noisy, not so addicted to distracting, purely entertaining things, Self. The part of you that recognizes how every person you greet is the same as you, regardless of their station in life, their culture, their wealth, or their knowledge. To see yourself reflected back in another person’s eyes … is what opens the door poor Tony Hsieh just missed somehow, no matter how much money he poured into forcing that entry to open. The portal to his embracing Oneness stayed shut tight for poor misguided Tony.


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