This a collection of almost everything including stories, lessons, short quotes which I will keep updating often. Happy Learning!
Feel free to jump anywhere,
I live my life in such a way that when in quiet moment of reflection thinking back in my life, I have as few regrets as possible.
I believe in power of wandering. All of my best decisions in business and in life have been made with heart, intuition, guts, not analysis.
As a senior executive you get paid to make small number of high quality decisions. Your job is not to make 1000s of decisions everyday. Is that worth it if the quality of decisions is low because you are tired, grouchy or any number of things.
The secret sauce of Amazon, the number one thing that has made Amazon a successful company by far is obsessive, compulsive focus on customer as opposed to obession over the competitor.
I always tell people, you know have a good quarter conference call or something and Wall Street are like good quartely results. People would stop me and say congratulations for the quarter and I say thank you but what I really thinking is that quarter was baked 3 years ago.
The great things about we humans in general is, we are always improving things. Entrepreneurs and inventors, they follow their curosity, their passions and they figure something out and they figure how to make it better and they’re never satisified. In my view, you need to harness that energy primarily on your customers instead of on your competitors.
I see the companies, even the young small startups companies, entrepreneurs go awry as they start to pay attention to their competition than they do to their customers.
When you think of all things you regert when you are 80, it’s always the things that you did not do. They are acts of omission.
I think that if you stay focused and the more drama there is and everything else, no matter what the drama is, whatever the external distraction is, what your response to it should be to double down on the customers not just satisfying them but delighting them.
I have been asked for years, are we going to open physical stores and I always say yes but only when we have differentiated offer, something that’s not me too. If we offer me too product offering, it’s not gonna work. We are also not very good at that. Whenever we have tried something that’s a me too service, we tend to get beaten. It doesn’t work. Our culture is much more about pioneering, inventing, so we have to have something that is different.
My approach to criticisms, what I teach and preach inside Amazon is when you are criticized, first look in the mirror and decide are your critics right? If they are right, change, don’t resist.
There are two kind of critics, there are well meaning critics, they are worried it’s not gonna work but they do want it to work. There’s second kind of critic which is self-interested critic, they come in all shapes and sizes.
The work lige balance has a strict trade-off, if I am happy at home, I come into the office with tremendous energy and if I am happy at work, I come home with tremendous energy. And so, it actually is a circle, it is not a balance. And I think that is worth everybody paying attention to. This work life harmony is what I try to teach young employees and senior executives at Amazon.
For 21 years whenever we have an all-hands meeting at Amazon I say, “Look, when stock is up 30% in month, don’t feel 30% smarter. Because when stock is down 30% in a month, it’s not going to feel so good to be 30% dumber”. I never spent any time thinking about daily stock price.
Invention requires a long-term willingness to be misunderstood. You do something that you genuinely believe in, that you have conviction about, but for a long period of time, well-meaning people may criticize that effort … if you really have conviction that they’re not right, you need to have that long-term willingness to be misunderstood. It’s a key part of invention.
Stock is not the company and the company is not the stock.
If you’re good at course correcting, being wrong may be less costly than you think.
Life’s too short to hang out with people who aren’t resourceful.
People who were right a lot of the time were people who often changed their minds.
I think, I always wanted to launch a company ever since as a kid, had the idea everytime I look at something, it looks like it could be improved. So, I always had that kind of idea.
I started at Montessori when I was 2 years old, and teacher complained to my mother that I was too task focused and that she couldn’t get me to switch task and she had to just pick up my chair and move me.
I have been pastionate about some things forever. I fell in love with computers in 4th grade. I got very lucky. I got very lucky in my early childhood. We all get gifts, we get certain things in our life that we are very lucky about and one of the most powerful one is who your early role models are. For me, it was my grandfather, also my mom and dad.
My mom had me when she was 17 years old and she was still in high school in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1964. I can assure you that being a pregnant teenager in high school was not cool at that time. So, it was difficult for her. So, the gift I had this incredible family. I spent unusual amount of time with my grandparents especially with my grandfather on the ranch in South Texas. I would spend my summers there from age 4 to 16. And when I was 4, they were taking my for summer to kind of give my parents a break cause they were so young and it was useful. I was handful, I am sure!
My grandfather created a illusion for me that I was helping him on the ranch when I was 4 years old which of course could not have been true but I believed it. And by time I was 16, I was actually helping him on the ranch. And we fixed windmills, laid water pipelines, built fences and barns and fixed the bulldozers. So, one of things that’s so interesting about that lifestyle and about my grandfather is he did everything himself. He didn’t call a vet if one of the animals was sick, he figured it what to do himself.
I made my grandmother burst into tears and the way I did it was we were driving on a long road trip and she was a chain smoker. It was around 1974, when there were heavy anti-smoking advertisements on the radio trying to convince people to stop smoking. And one of the advertisments had this figure in it and he said something like, every puff of a cigarette takes so many minutes off from your life. I think it was 2 minutes but I don’t know, I can’t remember. So, I sat there in backseat on this long car ride and calculated how many years she had taken off of her life and in my 10 year old mind, I had been extremely clever to do this. So, when I was finished with my arithmetic, I proudly announced to her how many years she had taken off of her life and I got a reaction that I did not expect with her bursting into tears. So, my grandfather stopped the car and he took me out of the car and I had no idea what was about to happen because he had never said a cross word to me and I thought, he might actually be angry with me but he wasn’t. He took me out so we had our privacy from her and he said these incredible words, “You are going to figure out one day that it’s harder to be kind than clever”.
Mackenzie bezos (Jeff Bezos wife) had married this stable guy (Jeff) working on Wall Street and a year after we got married, I went to her and said, “I want to quit my job and move across the country to start this Internet bookstore”. And she like everybody that I had explained this to her first question was “What is the Internet?” Even before she asked what’s the internet she said, “Great, let’s go”. When you have such loving and supportive people in life like Mackenzie, my parents, my grandfather, my grandmother, you end up being able to take risk because I think it is one of those things, like somebody’s got your back. So, we moved, and Mackenzie did our accounting for like first year, and she did it well, that’s what’s amazing having no expertise in accounting. She was very talented novelist but not she was not an accountant but she pulled it off.
I graduated from high school in 1982, there were 750 kids in my graduating class and I love high school. I had so much fun. We lost my library privileges because I laughed too loudly in the library.
I came across the fact in 1984 nobody has heard about the internet that the world wide web was growing something like 2300% a year. Anything growing that fast is gonna be big. And I looked at that and I said I should come up with a business idea on the internet and let the internet grow around this.
I picked books because there were more items in book category than any other category. So, you could build unviersal selection. There were 3 million books printed in 1994, and largest physical book store had almost 150,000 different titles. And so, I could see how you could make a bookstore online with universal selection, and every book ever printed, and even the out of print ones, it was the original vision for the company and so that’s why books.
We had only 10 people in the company and most of them were software engineers. So, everybody including me and software engineers were all packing boxes. We didn’t even have any packing tables and we were on our hands and knees on concrete floor packing the boxes. And at about 1 or 2 in the morning, I said to one of my software engineer colleagues, I said, “Paul, this is killing my knees, we need to get knee pads”. And Paul looked to me and said, “Jeff, we need to get packing tables.” And I was like that such a good idea and next day we bought packing tables and double our productivity. Probably saved our backs and our knees too!
We had a lot of dramatic events. I remember early on, we had ony 125 employees and Barnes & Noble, the biggest US bookseller, opened their online website to compete against us. We had about 2 year headstart. We opened in ‘95, they opened in ‘97. And at that time, all of the headlines and the funniest were about how we were about to be destroyed by this much larger company. We had 125 employees and $60 million a year in annual sales and that compared to B&N, at that time had 30,000 employees and about $3 billion in sales. So, they were giant, we were tiny and we had limited resources. The headlines were very negative about Amazon and one of the most memorable was “amazon.toast”. So, I called in all hands meeting which was not hard to do with just 125 people and we got in room, cause it was so scary for all of us, this idea that now we finally had a big competitor that literally everybody parents were calling and saying, “Are you okay?”. And I said, “Look, it’s okay to be afraid but don’t be afraid of our competitors because they are never gonna send us any money. Be afraid of our customers. And if we just stay focused on them instead of obsessing over this big competitor that we just got, we’ll be fine”. And I do really believe that.
In the early on with the kindle, maybe the first year of the kindle or second year, we had accidentally illegally sold or given away I guess, copies of the famous novel 1984 because it had complicated copyright history, it was copyright in US not in UK or something strange like this. It was in public domain only in certain geographies and we had screwed that up and somehow, this type of mistake only corporation can make, an individual can’t make this mistake because somehow it happens at the intersections of the different teams. So, you got the legal department saying, “Oh crap, we have made this mistake” and you’ve got books team. Anyway the answer that the company came up with was to without any notice or warning just electronically go into everybodys kindle who had downloaded that book and just disappear it. So, we were rightly criticized for that and we responded to that.
When we did customer reviews 20 years ago, some book publishers were not happy because some of the reviews were negative so it was very controversial practise at that time. But we thought it was right and stuck to our guns and had a deep keel to that and didn’t change.
I am interested in space because I am passionate about it. I have been studying and thinking about it since I was a 5 year old boy. But that is not why I am pursuing this work. I am pursuing this work because I believe if we don’t, we will eventually end up with a civilization of stasis which I find is very demoralizing. I don’t want my great grandchildren’s great grandchildren to live in a civilization of stasis.
First of all, I was not looking for newspaper. I had no intention of buying it (The Washington Post), had never thought about the idea, had never occured to me. It was never something like childhood dream, nothing. My friend Don Graham, whom I have known for 20 years now, he approached to me through intermediary and wanted to know if I am interested in buying The Post. I sent back word that I would not because I didn’t really know anything about newspapers. And Don over series of conversations convinced me that it was unimportant because we inside Washington Post had so much talent that understands newspapers. That wasn’t what the problem was, the need was to have somebody who understand internet. And so, that is who it got started. And I did some soul searching and my decision process is again intuition and gut not analysis. The financial situation of Washington Post in 2013 was very upside down. The problem was that Internet was roding all of the traditional advantages the local newspaper had, all of them. And I said, “You know, is this something I wanna get involved in. If I am going to do it, I am gonna have to put some heart into it, work into it and I decided I would only do that, if I believed it was really important institution”. And as soon as I had passed that gate, I only had one more gate that I had to go through before telling Don yes and that was I wanted to look myself in mirror, be rellay open with myself and sort of think about the company and be sure that I was optimistic that it could work. I was super optimistic.
AWS is greatest piece of business luck that has ever happened so far as I know. This never happens. We faced no like minded competition for 7 years. It’s unbelievable. When I launched Amazon.com in 1995, Barnes & Noble launched barnesandnoble.com in 1997, 2 years that’s very typical if you invent something very new. We launched Kindle, Barnes & Noble launced NOOK 2 years later. We launched Echo, Google launched Google Home 2 years later. When you pioneer, if you are lucky, you get 2 years headstart. Nobody gets a 7 year headstart.