Blog

Wisdom from Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and CEO of Washington Post

By December 18, 2017 March 22nd, 2018 No Comments
screen shot of Forbes World's Most Powerful People - Jeff Bezos, CEO, Amazon Ranked #14

In this blog series, “Wisdom from,” we look to successful leaders around the world,  past and present, to see what insights they can share with us to make us better people, personally and professionally. Below is a window into Jeff Bezos.

ABOUT JEFF BEZOS

Note:  Numbers in parenthesis refer to the sources in the Additional Reading at the bottom 

  • Son of a Cuban immigrant. His father came to the United States when was 16
  • As a teenager, he worked on his Grandfather’s (whom he called Pop) ranch, the Lazy G. He worked the cattle, laid pipes, and repaired tractors (1)(8)
  • Graduated from Princeton University in 1986 with degrees in electrical engineering and computer science (3)
  • Founded Amazon in 1994 after making a cross-country drive from New York to Seattle. He wrote up the business plan for his idea of Amazon during the trip (3)
  • Early investor in Google (3), Air BnB, Nextdoor, Twitter, Uber, and many more (3)
  • Opened Amazon’s doors on July 16, 1995, after inviting 300 friends to best test the site. Named the company after the South American River, “Amazon” (5)
  • Began selling CDs and videos in 1998 (7)
  • Released the Kindle in 2007 (7)
  • Networth:  >$1B and became the richest man in the world in October 2017, according to Forbes (2)
  • Seems himself as a “Change junkie” (1)
  • Named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year  in 1999 (3)
  • Selected by U.S. News & World Report as one of America’s best leaders in 2008 (3)

1  KEEP COMMUNICATION SIMPLE

Bezos pursued his idea of a decentralized, disentangled company where small groups can innovate and test their visions independently of everyone else. He came up with the notion of the “two-pizza team”: If you can’t feed a team with two pizzas, it’s too large. (1)

2  SLOW TO HIRE, FAST TO FIRE

Bezos told friends in the early days of Amazon, “I’d rather interview 50 people and not hire anyone than hire the wrong person.”

3  TAKE RISKS

“One of Jeff’s most recurrent phrases when someone has a good idea is, ‘We can measure that,’ ” says Patty Stonesifer. She adds: “It’s one thing to be a data junkie who just looks at history, Jeff takes a prospective view. He takes risks and he changes and changes.” (1)

“The best way to think about it was to project my life forward to age 80,” he told his brother about deciding to start Amazon. He wanted to make a decision that “minimized my regrets. You don’t want to be cataloguing your regrets,” he said, adding that if his project did fail, “I would be very proud when I was 80 that I tried.” (8)

4  STICK TO YOUR CORE MISSION/VALUE

From the earliest days of founding Amazon, Bezos’ vision was “to create the world’s most customer-centric company, the place where you can find and buy anything you want online.”

5  MAKE DECISIONS…WITH DATA AND WITHOUT DATA

Bezos states, “the most junior person in the company can win an argument with the most senior person with regard to a fact-based decision.” For intuitive decisions, on the other hand, you have to rely on experienced executives who’ve honed their instincts. (1)

6  TAKE LEAPS OF FAITH

Over the years, Bezos has taken some big risks with some paying off and others failing big. For example, there much anxiety and push back inside Amazon when they were contemplating letting visitors search the full texts of hundreds of thousands of books. It paid off tremendously with an increase in sales and an increase in word of mouth. On the side of failure, Amazon’s foray into auctions was not successful. It did lead Amazon to begin allowing competitors to advertise on its site, thereby providing consumers more choices–something that goes back to Amazon’s mission (see #4 above).

7  BE RESILIENT

Pop, Bezos’ Grandfather, once tore the top of his thumb off. He was so mad that he threw it on the ground and then drove himself to the hospital. Now the doctors could only do a skin graft from his butt. Bezos distinctly remembers how from then on “his thumb grew butt hair”. Rather than complain, Pop would just shave his thumb along with his face. “Each time you have a setback, you’re using resilience and resourcefulness, and inventing your way out of a box” says Bezos. (8)

8  ON CHOOSING A ROMANTIC PARTNER

When Bezos decided he was ready to settle down, his friends set him up on tons of blind dates. He knew he had “found his wife,” when he met someone truly resourceful. “I wanted a woman who could get me out of a third-world prison,” Bezos said.

9  ON WHAT DEFINES YOU

“We all get to choose our life stories. It’s our choices that define us, not our gifts. You can only be proud of your choices,” Bezos says. You either choose a life of “ease and comfort” or of “service and adventure. When you’re 80, you’ll be more proud of the latter.”

Additional Reading

  1. Fast Company:  Inside the Mind of Jeff Bezos
  2. Forbes
  3. Wikipedia
  4. Twitter
  5. Biography
  6. TED Talk Page
  7. Biography on Britannica
  8. Conversation with his younger brother Mark: What does Jeff Bezos believe in? Focus, harmony and optimism … inspired by his grandfather, and Star Trek

Photography Source: DepositPhotos

Ira Koretsky

About Ira Koretsky

Ira Koretsky has built The Chief Storyteller® into one of the most recognized names in business storytelling. He has delivered over 500 keynote presentations and workshops in nearly a dozen countries, in more than one hundred cities, across 30 plus industries. His specialty is helping you simplify the complex and when the stakes are high. He is also an adjunct professor in public speaking and storytelling at the University of Maryland's Business School. With over 25 years of experience, he is a sought-after global speaker, trainer, consultant, and executive communication coach.