It wouldn’t be an exaggeration to say eCommerce wouldn’t be where it is today if it wasn’t for Jeff Bezos.
Currently the second-richest person in the world, only next to Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos carved his name in the business world with the commerce giant Amazon in 1994.
Today, Amazon is an integral part of the lives of billions of people worldwide. So, undoubtedly, his success is a source of inspiration.
From humble beginnings to becoming one of the world’s most successful entrepreneurs, his journey encapsulates a lot of wisdom about life and business.
Read on for 15 incredible life and business lessons from Jeff Bezos.
- 1. No idea is too outrageous
- 2. Focus on long-term value
- 3. Minimize your regrets in life
- 4. Go step-by-step, courageously
- 5. Experiments breed invention
- 6. Embrace failures to really succeed
- 7. Make customers your focal point
- 8. Surround yourself with the right people
- 9. Have a student mentality
- 10. Let your business and mind wander
- 11. Stay at Day 1
- 12. Be stubborn yet flexible
- 13. Follow the two-pizza rule
- 14. Find your true calling
- 15. Get enough sleep and do nothing for some time
1. No idea is too outrageous
We all dream, but most of us let go of them, thinking they are outrageous.
But, this is where Jeff Bezos outshines others.
Jeff was born in New Mexico to a humble family and grew up in the USA. He was inventive and experimental from a very young age and excelled in academics throughout school and college.
“It’s hard to remember for you guys, but for me, it’s like yesterday I was driving the packages to the post office myself and hoping one day we could afford a forklift.”
He even worked with many reputed companies and rose to top positions.
However, the idea of starting an online business took him over, and he decided to take a shot at this seemingly crazy business idea.
So, he left his lucrative career on Wall Street to start Amazon from his garage.
We all are witnesses to how his gamble paid off!
And not to forget, he recently turned his childhood dream to go to space into a reality with Blue Origin.
2. Focus on long-term value
Along with his intelligence and drive, one of the biggest contributors to Jeff’s success is his long-term vision.
Before he started Amazon, he could visualize the Internet’s future potential.
In fact, he was so determined to start an online business because he found that the Internet was growing at a lightning-fast rate of 2300% every month.
“If we think long term, we can accomplish things we wouldn’t otherwise accomplish.”
His focus on long-term value brought Amazon unparalleled success.
In an interview with Wired, he shed light on how very few companies are willing to invest in a seven-year time horizon, which makes the real difference.
3. Minimize your regrets in life
One of the most powerful things one can learn from Jeff Bezos is his approach to decision-making, which he calls a “regret minimization framework.”
While thinking of quitting his job to start Amazon, he used this framework to reach the right decision.
He imagined if he would regret leaving the job or missing out on an incredible business opportunity when he was 80 years old.
“I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not trying.”
You know what he chose to go with and how it turned out.
If you’re in two minds about something, think if the outcome would matter in 5 years, 10 years, 30 years, or 50 years down the line.
If the outcome doesn’t matter, it’s your hint at taking the plunge.
However, you may need to accept small regrets to avoid bigger ones.
4. Go step-by-step, courageously
Jeff Bezos lives by the motto gradatim ferociter, a Latin term which translates to “step-by-step courageously.”
When starting Amazon, he had a long-term vision of becoming the world’s biggest online retailer as well as the first one to do so.
At the same time, he was aware that it would take time.
“Things take time. There are no shortcuts, but you want to do those steps with passion and ferocity.”
So, he kept taking small steps, like reinvesting short-term profits back into the business, which eventually turned Amazon into today’s giant.
Going step-by-step is essential for a business and everything else in life.
For everything you want to achieve, make long-term goals but keep braving those small steps that ultimately lead to the end goal.
5. Experiments breed invention
Amazon was a first of its kind of business. Internet was a new phenomenon with little known about it.
There was no way for Jeff or anyone else to predict if his business would succeed.
But, what worked for Amazon (still does today) is that he was looking to invent the future. And, that was possible only with experimenting.
“To invent, you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment.”
At Amazon, Jeff Bezos made sure experimentation was a part of the company culture.
In his speeches and interviews, he always stresses that experiment is the key to inventiveness, innovation, and a business’s success in the long run.
Experimentation allows you to test and prove (even disprove) what’s never been done before and solve real problems.
However, experiments come with the risk of failure, which brings me to the next lesson.
6. Embrace failures to really succeed
Talking about experiments, Jeff always highlights that many of them will fail, and that failure is a natural part of success.
The important thing is to keep trying new things without focusing much on the failures.
Since its inception, Amazon has seen a fair share of experiments fail.
In the early years of Amazon, Jeff invested millions in Kozmo.com and Pets.com. Both ended up in failure.
Several of Amazon’s products, like Fire Phone, Amazon Tap, Askville, Amazon Local, flopped badly.
“As a company grows, everything needs to scale, including the size of your failed experiments.
If the size of your failures isn’t growing, you’re not going to be inventing at a size that can actually move the needle.”
But Bezos embraces all his failure and never shies away from experimenting.
And that’s what is the biggest reason for his success.
7. Make customers your focal point
The success of any business almost entirely depends on its customers.
Jeff Bezos has always been customer-focused and made sure it’s hardwired into Amazon’s culture. He calls Amazon a “customer-obsessed” company.
During Amazon’s expansion stage, he emailed over 1000 customers to understand what they wanted to buy on their site.
Early on, he introduced customer-centric features like product reviews on his site.
“Amazon is not too big to fail. If we start to focus on ourselves, instead of focusing on our customers, that will be the beginning of the end.”
Even today, Amazon’s focus is to deliver the lowest prices and a vast selection to its customers because that’s what customers want.
Moreover, he firmly believes in the power of word of mouth. Unless your customers are happy, your business is sure to wear out.
8. Surround yourself with the right people
Be it business or life, the kind of people you’re spending time with can greatly influence the outcomes in your life.
Hence, Jeff Bezos has been cautious about the people around him, both in work and personal life.
Amazon is known to have one of the most rigorous hiring processes. Jeff always made sure the right people were working for him.
“Make sure you’re hiring people that not only you can teach, but make sure you’re hiring people who are also going to teach you things.”
Even in his dating life, he was particular about the woman he would share life with.
The right people can help you achieve your dreams in more ways than you can imagine.
9. Have a student mentality
Jeff Bezos is undoubtedly one of the most intelligent business people on the planet. And it has played a massive role in his success.
However, another critical factor to his success is taking a beginner’s approach to things and his willingness to learn.
“The smartest people are constantly revising their understanding, reconsidering a problem they thought they’d already solved.
They’re open to new points of view, new information, new ideas, contradictions, and challenges to their own way of thinking.”
He believes growth comes when you’re open to new ideas and ready to let go of your existing belief systems.
No matter how much you already know, it will limit your growth if you start thinking of yourself as an expert and not a student.
10. Let your business and mind wander
Every business wants to achieve the highest efficiency and operational excellence. Countless people, too, want to achieve maximum productivity.
But, according to Jeff Bezos, it may not be the best idea.
He believes wandering is crucial for a business. It allows you to invent, iterate, and deal better with setbacks.
“Wandering is an essential counterbalance to efficiency.”
Some of the best inventions for Amazon have come out of wandering. For example, Fulfillment by Amazon.
In his letters to the shareholders, Jeff always touches on the importance of wandering for Amazon.
Letting your mind wander from time to time can also be valuable for improving your creativity, productivity, and enjoying life more.
11. Stay at Day 1
Imagine the first day of your school, the first day of your job, or the first day of your business.
Can you feel the enthusiasm?
The Day 1 of anything is usually the most dynamic and high-spirited.
Hence, Jeff Bezos wants Amazon to have the “Day 1” outlook forever. He wants his employees to have the spirit of a start-up and focus on customers, invention, and long-term focus.
“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”
Businesses, as they grow, often rely on what has worked for them in the past.
According to Jeff, Day 2 brings comfort and content, leaving your business irrelevant.
So, you need to stay at Day 1 for as long as you can if you want real growth.
12. Be stubborn yet flexible
When you want to achieve something, it is not just enough to want that. You must be dead set on it, be stubborn about it.
In the initial days of Amazon, Jeff Bezos approached over 60 people for funding. Many didn’t see any potential in the idea.
But it couldn’t deter him from building the world’s largest online retail business.
Over the years, many of his plans didn’t work. So, he tried numerous things to reach his goal.
“If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall, and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.”
Jeff always stresses being stubborn about your long-term vision but being flexible on the details.
Fixation on details can block you from finding different routes to solving a problem.
13. Follow the two-pizza rule
Another gem of business lesson from Jeff Bezos is his two-pizza rule of efficiency.
According to this rule, no internal team should have more members that two pizzas can’t feed.
Big groups often run into unclear and time-consuming meetings, which ultimately hits the productivity and outputs of the business.
“This decentralized distribution of invention throughout the company – not limited to the company’s senior leaders – is the only way to get robust, high-throughput innovation.”
Smaller teams with decision-making power can get much more done than larger teams.
The two-pizza rule makes sure meetings are efficient, and everyone’s ideas are put forth. It also speeds up the decision-making and quality of decisions.
14. Find your true calling
Jeff Bezos’s success is not just limited to Amazon.
Over time, he ventured into many such as Blue Origin and The Washington Post.
All of his ventures have one thing in common – passion.
He has always been passionate about space and realized it was his true calling. So, he now devotes most of his time to his space venture, Blue Origin.
He frequently advises young employees and entrepreneurs to find something they’re passionate about, something that’s their calling.
“If you can somehow figure out how to have a calling, you have hit the jackpot, cause that’s the big deal.”
Realizing your true calling and your gifts can accelerate your way to success.
Pursuing your passion keeps you in the motivated zone and helps you succeed sooner or later.
15. Get enough sleep and do nothing for some time
Jeff Bezos is a busy person. If you imagine his schedule, his day should be filled with meetings. He would not have enough time to sleep or spend in leisure.
Well, it’s not exactly so.
Jeff swears by 8 hours of sleep and spends his mornings doing nothing to get more done over the day.
In his book, Invent & Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, he mentions he likes to putter in the morning and doesn’t take meetings before 10 am. It helps him make high-quality decisions.
“My puttering time is very important to me. That’s why I set my first meeting for ten o’clock.”
Today’s entrepreneurs are continuously hustling. Jeff’s productivity tip can help you improve the quality of your decisions.
Jeff Bezos’s journey is indeed a treasure of business and life wisdom.
Personally, I find his approach to decision-making incredibly valuable.
Daring to achieve our dreams and embracing failures is something we all can learn from him.
In these 15 lessons, I tried summing up some of his most admired insights.
I hope you got some useful takeaways that you can apply to your work and personal life.