Three years ago Zappos founder Tony Hsieh launched a ambitious project to transform downtown Las Vegas into a tech startup hub. It hasn’t exactly as planned. Nellie Bowles reports on a series of suicides by people involved in the project, and how the cult of positivity in the tech community may have contributed:
Hsieh seemed to work hard to keep each suicide quiet. Entrepreneurs told me there were few community resources made available, no large-scale gatherings, no cathartic outpouring, and that they felt confused about what was happening and why it was never addressed. Many in the Downtown Project, including a crisis counselor who worked with the parents of one entrepreneur, pointed to Hsieh’s philosophy — his obsession with happiness, and with imposing it upon the community — as one of the problems.
“Suicides happen anywhere. Look at the stats,” Hsieh said, sounding agitated, when I asked him about it one evening on folding chairs in the Learning Village, where speakers regularly come to lead sessions. “It’s harder for people who are really good students in school. Then they move in to this, where there is no instruction manual, and you have to be MacGyver on your own.”
My question appeared to make him uncomfortable. He scooted two seats away.
Full Story: Re/code: The Downtown Project Suicides: Can the Pursuit of Happiness Kill You?
The rest of the series looks interesting for anyone interested in cities and/or startups. (Wired did a big feature as well.)
I’ve linked to stuff about the downsides of positive thinking often. Here are some highlights:
The Powerlessness of Positive Thinking
Smile or Die: Bright Sided as a 10 Minute Marker Board Cartoon