Lessons From the Richest Man in the World
By Danilo Kawasaki
Last month, Jeff Bezos gave an inspiring talk at the Economic Club in Washington, DC. Having recently passed Bill Gates for the title of the richest man in the world (a title he doesn’t care much for), Bezos discussed the beginning years of Amazon, the pillars of his success, and his views on how to live a happy and healthy life. Here are a few things you can learn from the richest man in the world.
Be a Missionary, not a Mercenary
Jeff Bezos quit a lucrative career with a prominent hedge fund to start Amazon back in 1994. The internet was in its infancy stage and quitting a promising Wall Street career to sell books online was considered by many people a crazy idea. However, Jeff Bezos was focused on building a great service, by providing his customers a different way to shop for books. That belief he was doing something important made Amazon to be what it is today.
From the very beginning, Jeff Bezos made a point to always put the customer first, not the stock price. “Don’t let the stock market be your score keeper,” he says. Instead, be obsessive about your customer experience and the rest will fall into place.
Amazon started with a handful of employees. For the first few years, Jeff Bezos himself would drive packages to the post office in his minivan. Even as Amazon grew to become a giant company, his new initiatives such as Blue Origin and his newly formed foundation, started with a few people and limited financial resources. His reasons are simple. He wants people to have a start-up mentality, what he calls a Day 1 mentality, encouraging people to think outside the box and stretch every dollar to the max. This is also a way to limit your losses in case these new ideas don’t take off. Lastly, as your business starts to grow, don’t let up. It is a competitive world out there. You must always be thinking 2-3 years ahead.
Power of Wondering
Jeff Bezos talks about making decisions with your heart, your gut, not just your head through analysis and spreadsheets. He encourages creative thinking and outside-the-box ideas. He claims Amazon is a great place to fail. Getting it wrong is not a bad thing. It is a step closer to getting it right.
Jeff also promotes surrounding yourself with smart people, who complement your skillset and even challenge your views. You must be a great listener if you want to be a great leader. You also must be realistic about your capabilities. Know your limitations and accept that the power of ‘We’ is stronger than the power of ‘I.’
Laugh Easily and Often
Undoubtedly, one of the secrets to Jeff Bezos’ success is his amazingly positive personality. “I can’t maintain unhappiness,” he says. Jeff Bezos also talks about the importance of minimizing regrets in life. Most regrets are acts of omission, of decisions you didn’t make, so don’t be afraid to go for it. Bezos is also extremely task focused and doesn’t pay much attention to distractions. There will always be people doubting you or trying to bring you down. Don’t let them derail you from your goals.
To keep his sanity, Jeff sleeps 8 hours a day and exercises daily. He schedules his important meetings, what he calls high IQ meetings, to 10am, when he is fresh and alert. He avoids scheduling important meetings to the end of the day, when he is more tired and prone to make bad decisions. According to Jeff, as the CEO of one of the largest enterprises in the world, his role is to make a small number of high-quality decisions. He is happy if he makes 3 good decisions a day.
Being the richest man in the world doesn’t mean anything to Jeff Bezos. He highlights the importance of being humbled and giving it back. Jeff recently pledged $2 billion to start a new foundation to fight homelessness and create child care centers for working parents. At the end of his talk, Jeff thanked his parents for giving him the greatest gift he could have ever received, their unconditional love.
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