Tragic news recently surfaced–at the young age of 46, former Zappos CEO, Tony Hsieh, has passed away, on November 27th, 2020.
Whenever the world loses a great man–someone who challenged the status quo to move society forward–it’s a time for mourning and reflection.
In the next coming weeks and months, you’ll be hearing stories from all over the internet of the man who viewed himself as an architect–who cared more about people than things, and who wanted to cultivate environments that promoted great company culture.
While all of this is undoubtedly true, what a lot of those articles won’t be focusing on, is that in his own personal life, Hsieh–despite being worth $880 million dollars–worked to construct a tiny house community that would allow people to become the best versions of themselves.
This is what this article is about.
Before Tony Hsieh passed, he granted us access to interview the residents of his tiny house community (called Llamalopolis) to share with you guys what it’s like to live in a tiny home community.
In a Western world that struggles with chasing elusive dreams that often lead to isolation, burnout, and depression, Llamalopolis provides a different possibility for what life can be like.
Who Is Tony Hsieh?
Before we dive into the survey, I want to dive into who Tony Hsieh was a person.
And a great place to start is the NPR podcast, “How I Built This,” which interviews entrepreneurs and gives them a platform to share their stories.
When asked to describe himself, Hsieh stated:
“I’m probably different from a lot of typical CEOs. Imagine a greenhouse, where maybe at a typical company, the CEO might be the strongest and tallest, most charismatic plant that all the other plants strive to one day become. … For me, I really think of my role as more about being the architect of the greenhouse, and then all the plants inside will flourish and thrive on their own.”
Tony Hsieh has a rich entrepreneurial history–one that started during the 1990s “.com” bubble that resulted in him creating an ad service to help companies advertise on other websites–which was ultimately purchased by Microsoft for $265 million.
His next venture led to him create Zappos, an online shoe retailer, at a time when no one thought people would purchase something like shoes online.
Needless to say, it was a successful venture–ultimately selling to Amazon for $1.2 billion in 2009.
And while most billionaires are buying yachts and private jets, in 2014 Tony Hsieh had a mission–to transform a Las Vegas asphalt lot into a fully functioning, sustainable village with an emphasis on self-expression–like Burning Man, but in real life.
And thus, Llamalopolis–an eccentric tiny home community with 2 alpacas roaming freely–was formed.
Getting Access To Interview The Residents Of Llamalopolis
About a year ago, after following Tony Hsieh for years and hearing the “How I Built This” podcast, I came to appreciate his values and was dying to do a story on his tiny house community, to provide insight into what tiny living is actually like.
It was a long shot to get a response but I wanted to try anyway–so I went on Zappos’ website and I sent him this email:
And well, sometimes amazing things happen, and Tony responded by forwarding that email to Llamalopolis’ tiny house community director, Jen Taler.
Jen’s awesome and offered to have us create a questionnaire to give to the residents of Llamapolis!
We got some insightful responses from Llamalopolis residents, which includes the “good,” the “bad,” and the “yeah, why would anyone choose this lifestyle again” reasons to live in a tiny house community.
If you are considering making the jump to living in a tiny house, are curious why a sane person would ever choose to live in a tiny house if they don’t have to, or are just interested for some random reason I can’t think of, you will love to hear what the people of Llamapolis had to say about their experience living in a tiny house community.
What Is Llamalopolis… & What Is It Like To Live There?
Before we dive into the answers we received from residents of Llamalopolis themselves, I think it’s important to provide some deeper background into what the Llamalopolis tiny house community is like, and what values make it so unique.
And this video from HGTV below does just that.
It’s super well made and gives an awesome inside look into the community–and it’s only 5 minutes
Tiny House Living – What’s Actually Like From Real Tiny Home Dwellers
I’ve been going back and forth regarding how to best present the responses we got back from our survey.
Sometimes, the packaging can distort the meaning and substance, so I want to present the answers of the 12 community members who responded as raw and unfiltered as possible.
The feedback and insight is amazing, and to prevent any chance I ruin it by summarizing them or omitting important information, I’ve decided to literally present every answer we received without doing any editing.
So without further ado, below you’ll find 11 questions and the community’s answers to those questions. Enjoy!
What Inspired You To Adopt A Tiny House Lifestyle?
What Is The Most Valuable Lesson You Learned From Living In Llamalopolis?
What would you say to someone who is dying to live in a tiny home/airstream community?
What would you say to someone who is hesitant to live in a tiny home community/airstream?
What advice would you give to aspiring tiny living individuals?
Would you rather live 120 years that are comfortable surrounded by loved ones, or live half as long, but have an exciting adventure-packed life?
If you had to get a tattoo right now, what would it be? Is there any significance behind this idea?
Do you trust anyone with your life?
What is your Myers-Briggs Personality Type?
If you could have dinner with one person, dead or alive, who would it be?
If you could only listen to one band or group for the rest of your life, who would it be?
Leaving A Legacy Behind
It’s always easy to iconicize someone who has passed. Maybe it’s a human thing to turn tragedy into triumph, but at the very least it allows us to take a second and reflect on someone who followed a unique path and provided breadcrumbs for how to live more fully and with purpose.
Besides the articles I’ve read and the books I’ve watched, I don’t know much about Tony Hsieh, the person, but I do know what Tony Hsieh symbolizes to me.
Tony Hsieh, to me, is someone who challenged convention, went against the grain, and carried through on his visions. In most cases, when people gain the level of power and wealth Tony Hsieh amassed, they become arrogant, unrelatable, and status-driven.
Tony Hsieh, however, represented something different. In many ways, he was a hippie-turned-entrepreneur who didn’t forget his ultimate mission–to bring people together and facilitate environments that optimize human happiness.
In a world where everyone is chasing the elusive dangling carrot that promises happiness behind the next purchase–to see someone who could have everything he could ever want but choosing to give back and live the way Tony did, is beautiful.