I’ve made billions of dollars of failures, at Amazon.com. Literally billions of dollars of failures.
It’s easy to have ideas; it’s very hard to turn an idea into a successful product.
Do something you’re very passionate about. And don’t try to chase what is kind of the hot passion of the day.
– Jeff Bezos
Evan: He’s best known as the founder, chairman, and CEO of Amazon.com.
He’s also the founder of Blue Origin, a human space flight company.
Currently listed as the third wealthiest person in the world, with a net worth of $72.8 billion.
He is Jeff Bezos, and here’s my take on his Top Ten Rules of Success, Volume Two.
Also guys, as you’re watching, if you hear something that really resonates with you, please leave it down in the comments below, and put quotes around it, so other people can be inspired.
Also when you write it down, it’s much more likely to lock into yourself as well. Enjoy.
Rule #1: Take Bold Bets
My job, one of my jobs as the leader of Amazon, is to encourage people to be bold. And people love to focus on things that aren’t yet working. And that’s good, that’s human nature, that kind of divine discontent can be very helpful.
But it’s incredibly hard to get people to take bold bets. And you need to encourage that, and if you’re going to take bold bets, they’re going to be experiments, and if they’re experiments, you don’t know ahead of time that they’re going to work.
Experiments are, by their very nature, prone to failure. But big successes, a few big successes, compensate for dozens and dozens of things that didn’t work. So bold bets AWS, Kindle, Amazon Prime, our third party seller business.
“It’s incredibly hard to get people to take bold bets. And you need to encourage that. And if you’re going to take bold bets, they’re going to be experiments.” – Jeff Bezos
All of those things are examples of bold bets that did work, and they pay for a lot of experiments. I’ve made billions of dollars of failures at Amazon.com. Literally, billions of dollars of failures. You might remember Pets.com, or Cozmo. I’d give myself a root canal with no anesthesia very easily.
None of those things are fun. But they also don’t matter. What really matters, is companies that don’t continue to experiment, companies that don’t embrace failure, they eventually get in the desperate position, where the only thing they can do is make a kind of Hail Mary bet at the very end of their corporate existence.
Whereas companies that are, you know, making bets all along, even big bets, but not a bet the company bets. I don’t believe in bet the company bets. That’s when you’re desperate. That’s the last thing you can do.
Rule #2: Step Ferociously
We know, from our past experiences, that big things start small. The biggest oak starts from an acorn. And if you want to do anything new, you’ve got to be willing to let that acorn grow into a little sapling, and then finally into a small tree, and then maybe one day, it’ll be a big business on its own.
“You can’t skip steps, you have to put one foot in front of the other, things take time, there are no shortcuts. But you want to do those steps with passion and ferocity.” – Jeff Bezos
And in fact, that’s one of your mottos for one of your initiatives. And forgive my pronunciation in Latin, but gradatim ferociter. What does that mean to you?
Well, it means step by step ferociously. And it’s the motto for Blue Origin. Basically, you can’t skip steps, you have to put one foot in front of the other, things take time, there are no shortcuts. But you want to do those steps with passion and ferocity.
Rule #3: Earn Good Reputation
I think probably our most important piece of intellectual property is our brand name. And I think this is very important for anybody who’s going to start a company, or marketing invention to understand, is that brands for companies are like reputations for people.
And reputations are hard-earned and easily lost So, the most important intellectual property that a company can have, is for us, it’s Amazon. It’s that name, but what it stands for. We work very hard to earn trust. You can’t ask for trust, you just have to do it the hard way, one step at a time. You make a promise, and then fulfill the promise.
“Our most important piece of intellectual property is our brand name.” – Jeff Bezos
You say “we’ll deliver this to you tomorrow,” and we actually deliver it tomorrow. And if you do that over and over again, then it ultimately, you can instill your company’s name with the reputation. And that’s, I think, sometimes people talk about brands in this very amorphous way. But for me, I like to think of it as a person, and what is the reputation that that person has, and how have they earned that reputation?
Rule #4: Take Action
I think stress, you can be, one of the things that’s very important to note about stress is that stress primarily comes from not taking action over something that you can have some control over. So, if I find that some particular thing is causing me to have stress, that’s a warning flag for me.
“Stress comes from ignoring things that you shouldn’t be ignoring” – Jeff Bezos
What it means is, there’s something that I haven’t completely identified, perhaps in my conscious mind, that is bothering me, and I haven’t yet taken any action on it. I find, as soon as I identify it, and make the first phone call, or send off the first email message, or whatever it is that we’re going to do to start to address that situation, even if it’s not solved, the mere fact that we’re addressing it, dramatically reduces any stress that might come from it.
So stress comes from ignoring things that you shouldn’t be ignoring, I think in large part. So stress doesn’t come. People get stress wrong all the time, in my opinion. Stress doesn’t come from hard work, for example. You can be working incredibly hard, and loving it. Likewise, you can be out of work, and incredibly stressed, over that.
And likewise, if you kind of use that as an analogy for what I was just talking about, if you’re out of work, but you’re going through a disciplined approach of a series of job interviews and so on and are working to remedy that situation, you’re going to be a lot less stressed than if you’re just worrying about it and doing nothing.
Rule #5: Find Work Life Harmony
If you’re giving great customer experience, and the only way to do that is with happy people. You can’t do it with a set of miserable people, watching the clock all day.
Interviewer: So does that include work-life balance, and all those things?
Yes, but I teach three leadership classes a year at Amazon, well part of it, they’re bigger classes but I come in and teach a session.
“If you’re giving great customer experience, and the only way to do that is with happy people. You can’t do it with a set of miserable people, watching the clock all day.” – Jeff Bezos
And I always talk about work-life balance, except I like to use the phrase work-life harmony, rather than balance, because to me, balance implies a strict trade, whereas, I find that, when I am happy at work, I come home more energized, I’m a better husband, a better dad.
And when I’m happy at home, I come in a better boss, and better colleague. You can be out of work, and have terrible work-life balance. Even though you’ve got all the time in the world, you can just feel like, oh my god, you know, I’m miserable, and you would be draining energy. And so you have to find that harmony, it’s a much better word.
And I think for most people, it’s about meaning. People want to know that they’re doing something interesting and useful. And for us, because of the challenges that we have chosen for ourselves, we get to work in the future. And it’s super fun to work in the future, for the right kind of person.
Rule #6: Execute Your Idea
It’s easy to have ideas. It’s very hard to turn an idea into a successful product. There are a lot of steps in between, it takes persistence, relentlessness. So, I always tell people who think they want to be entrepreneurs, you need a combination of stubborn relentlessness, and flexibility.
And you have to know when to be which. And basically you need to be stubborn on your vision, because otherwise it’ll be too easy to give up.
“It’s easy to have ideas. It’s very hard to turn an idea into a successful product. There are a lot of steps in between, it takes persistence, relentlessness.” – Jeff Bezos
But you need to be very flexible on the details. Because as you go along pursuing your vision, you’ll find that some of your pre-conceptions were wrong. And you’re going to need to be able to change those things.
So I think taking an idea successfully all the way to the market and turning it into a real product that people care about really improves people’s lives. It’s a lot of hard work.
Rule #7: Have Role Models
I had some family role models, and I had some other people, you know some sort of historical role models that I looked at too. So certainly my grandfather was a serious role model for me. I just had spent so much time, you learn different things from grandparents than you learn from parents.
I would encourage anybody to try to spend time not only with their parents, but with their grandparents. And I also had two people I always would read about were Thomas Edison, and Walt Disney. Those were sort of my two biographical heroes.
I’ve always been interested in inventors and invention. And Edison, of course, just for a little kid, and probably for adults too, I still feel this way at least, is not only the symbol of that, but the actual fact of that. The just incredible inventor.
I’ve always felt that there’s a certain kind of important pioneering that goes on from an inventor like Thomas Edison. And then Disney was a different sort of thing. He also, a real pioneer and inventor, and doing new things. But it seemed to me that he had this incredible capability to create a vision, that he could get a large number of people to share.
Because the things that Disney invented, like Disneyland, the theme parks, and so on, they were such big visions, that no single individual, unlike a lot of the things that Edison worked on, no single individual could ever pull them off. And Walt Disney really was able to get a big team of people working in a concerted direction.
Rule #8: Do What You Love
I don’t really remember the exact day or anything, but when I was in college, is when I started thinking about wanting to be an entrepreneur someday. So I was not the kid with the lemonade stand. I wasn’t one of these kids who was always trying to raise money.
I always wanted to be a scientist when I was little. But I’d also always loved computers. I was lucky, ’cause at my age this was unusual to have access to a mainframe computer from my elementary school when I was in 4th grade, and quickly learned that there was a pre-programmed Star Trek game on that computer, so I never did anything except play Star Trek with that computer, so I don’t know how formative that was.
It certainly helped my Star Trek knowledge considerably. But I’ve always loved computers. Somewhere in college, I started watching some of the people who were setting up college pizza delivery services, and kind of the core entrepreneurs, and thinking, you know, this looks like a really fun thing to do.
Rule #9: Be A Team Player
Science is a very rare idea, that can be done by a single individual. Almost everything that is going to change the world, solve a problem, improve something, these are usually big efforts, and they require a team working together to really get something important done.
“Every step along the way, we’ve had a team here that is making this work. Even at the smallest scale, you have to figure out how to get help from your friends, from your family members, from people that you can hire in those early days. I think without that, it would never work.” – Jeff Bezos
And that has been the story of Amazon.com. Every step along the way, we’ve had a team here that is making this work. Even at the smallest scale, you have to figure out how to get help from your friends, from your family members, from people that you can hire in those early days. I think without that, it would never work.
Rule #10: Think Long-Term
Do something you’re very passionate about. And don’t try to chase what is the hot passion of the day. I think we actually saw this, I think you see it all over the place in many different contexts.
I think we saw it in the Internet world quite a bit, where, at the sort of peak of the Internet mania, in say 1999, we found people who were very passionate, somebody that kind of left that job, and decided I’m going to do something in the Internet.
Because it’s almost like the 1849 gold rush, in a way. You find that people, you go back and study the history of the 1849 gold rush. You find that at that time, everybody who was within shouting distance of California was, they might have been a doctor, but they quit being a doctor, and they started panning for gold. And that almost never works.
“Do something you’re very passionate about. And don’t try to chase what is the hot passion of the day.” – Jeff Bezos
Even if it does work, according to some metric, financial success, or whatever it might be. I suspect it leaves you ultimately unsatisfied. So you really need to be very clear with yourself, and I think one of the best ways to do that, is this notion of projecting yourself forward to age 80, looking back on your life, and trying to make sure you’ve minimized the number of regrets you have. That works for career decisions, it works for family decisions.
I have a 14-month-old son, and it’s very easy for me to, if I think about myself when I’m 80, I know I want to watch that little guy grow up. I don’t want to be 80 and think shoot, I missed that whole thing, and I don’t have the kind of relationship with my son that I wished I had, and so on and so on.
So if you think about that, so I guess another thing that I would recommend to people, is that they always take a long-term point of view. And I think this is something about which there’s a lot of controversy. There’s something a lot of people and I’m just not one of them, believe that you should live for the now.
“There are a lot of paths to satisfaction. And you need to find one that works for you.” – Jeff Bezos
I think what you do, is you think about the great expansive time ahead of you, and try to make sure that you’re planning for that in a way that is going to leave you ultimately satisfied. This is just my, this is the way it works for me. Everybody needs to find that for themselves. So, I think there are a lot of paths to satisfaction. And you need to find one that works for you.
Evan: Thank you guys so much for watching, I’d love to know what did you think of this video? And in general what do you think of our Volume Two series? Leave it down in comments below, I’m super curious to find out what you have to say.
Also I’d love to learn, what did you take from this video? What did you learn from Jeff today? Which clip resonated the most with you, and what are you going to immediately apply to your life or your business somehow? Please leave it down in the comments, and I’m going to join in the discussion.
Finally, I wanted to give a quick shout out to Carolyn Owens. Thank you so much, Carolyn, for picking up a copy of my book “Your One Word,” and posting a picture of it on Twitter. I really really really appreciate the support, and I hope you’re enjoying the read.
So thank you guys so much for watching, I believe in you, I hope you continue to believe in yourself and whatever your one word is. Much love, and I’ll see you soon.
Develop A Thick Skin
The best defense to speech that you don’t like about yourself, as a public figure, is to develop thick skin. It’s really the only effective defense, because you can’t stop it. You know you are going to be misunderstood. If you’re doing anything interesting in the world, you’re going to have critics. If you absolutely can’t tolerate critics, then don’t do anything new, or interesting. And then you can insulate yourself. Then think how wonderful your life-
Interviewer: Is that the Bezos principle?
Yeah. Usually people, if you see something, I don’t know, you’re kind of a public figure, you’ve probably, things have probably been written about you that you didn’t think were nice.
“If you absolutely can’t tolerate critics, then don’t do anything new, or interesting. And then you can insulate yourself. Then think how wonderful your life” – Jeff Bezos
Interviewer: That’s true.
And, my advice if you came to me and said “Jeff, somebody wrote this and it really hurt my feelings. What should I do?” I would say, go stand on a street corner. In a crowded urban area. And watch all the people walk by. And think about what they’re thinking about.
I bet you none of those people are thinking about you. If you stay on that street corner, and really in your mind, you can do this thought experiment. Like, okay, there’s a woman who just walked by. What is she actually thinking about? Maybe what she’s going to cook for dinner that night. Or the argument that she had with one of her employees. Or, whatever it is. It’s not about us.
Earn You Keep
Interviewer: A lot of small book publishers, and other smaller companies, worry that the power of Amazon, give them no chance.
You’ve got to earn your keep in this world. When you invent something new, if customers come to the party, it’s disruptive to the old way.
Interviewer: But I mean, there are areas where your power’s so great, and your margin, you’re prepared to make it so thin. You can drive people out of business, and you have that kind of strength, and people worry, is Amazon ruthless in their pursuit of market share?
The Internet is disrupting every media industry, Charlie. People can complain about that, but complaining is not a strategy. Amazon is not happening to book selling, the future is happening to book selling.
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What's up, Believe Nation? It's Evan. My one word is believe and I believe in people more than they believe …