How to Think Like Jeff Bezos

Success always leaves clues
(Pic: Steve Jurvetson/Flickr/CC BY 2.0).

Logic = the science of knowing ‘how,’ not ‘what’

A week or so ago, I had a chance to catch up with my old roommate. Christophe no longer takes his daily bite from the Big Apple. Instead, he’s now living in Boston as a “Harvard Man.”

Ever one to tease, I joked: “Ahem, too bad a Princeton alum is on pace to become the first trillionaire in history!”

Christophe chuckled. “Ahh, Bezos! Yes, yes. I’d sure like to spend a day roaming that guy’s mind.”

Without blinking I fired back, “But you can.”

Christophe’s blank expression suggested I needed to fill in the blank.

“So far as all forms of thinking must be logical to qualify as reasonable,” I continued, “it must be the case, then, the logical form that Bezos’ line of thinking takes must be accessible.”

Given that Christophe is well familiar with my Pure Mathematics Code, which has struck success among academics and delves into pure logic, he didn’t take my suggestion lightly. “I’m all ears, Genius! Give me some examples.”

I rubbed my hands. “Because talking is nothing but thinking out loud, to converse with another is to essentially receive access to the speaker’s mind. Hence the word ‘interview’ breaks down to — enter + view.”

Christophe flashed a smile.

“In short,” I said, “I may not know what Bezos is thinking but I sure as heck know how he thinks.”

How Bezos thinks about friendships

“Life’s too short to hang out with people who aren’t resourceful.”

The chief principle on which science rests — the law of causality — can best be summed as follows: like causes always produce like effects. No wonder, then, Bill Gates loves playing Bridge with his pal Warren Buffett, as does Bezos delight in attending parties with his pal Barry Diller.

Diller, IAC Chairman, famously predicted that “Jeff Bezos will be the richest person in the world in 5–7 years.” How’s that for a confidence booster!

Apparently, Bezos relished the opportunity to rub shoulders with the media executive responsible for “The Killer Dillers” — the star-studded list of people, mentored by Diller, who later became hugely successful media executives.

Because Experience is the hard teacher that gives tests before study guides, wisdom dictates the older a person becomes, the more resourceful. Diller is old enough to be Bezos’ father. Perhaps Bezos embraces the insight once expressed by Mike Tyson’s legendary trainer, Cus D’Amato:

There are very few new things in this world, very few. That’s why people that are young, if they’re smart, try to profit from the experience of an older guy so they won’t have to go through all the pain and suffering.

Takeaway insight for entrepreneurs #1:

What more is wisdom than, well, hearing a cobra is poisonous without having to lose your life for proof? Bezos, then, makes a concerted effort to surround himself with wiser, more mature minds. Sure, hanging with people you’re smarter than boosts your ego, but hanging with people smarter than you boosts your intellect.

In short, to think like Bezos — in this respect — merely calls for, as he puts it: “Surrounding yourself with people who challenge you, teach you, and push you to be your best.”

How Bezos thinks about his passions

(Pic: StickerGiant/Flickr/CC BY 2.0.)

“You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.”

It was 1994, and Jeff Bezos had a lucrative job as a senior vice president at D.E. Shaw & Co., a Wall Street-based investment banking firm. As Fate would have it, Bezos came across a report forecasting an impending internet boom.

“I don’t want to be 80 years old and in a quiet moment of reflection, thinking back over my life and cataloging a bunch of major regrets,” Bezos recalls.

Bezos abruptly quit his job, packed up, and drove across the country to set up, of all things, an online bookstore. His family and friends not only thought he was nuts but also — I would presume — his parents weren’t too thrilled about having to loan him a quarter of a million dollars.

In short, Bezos didn’t choose his passion, but rather the passion chose him! Hence he cautioned:

One of the huge mistakes people make is that they try to force an interest on themselves. You don’t choose your passions; your passions choose you.

Takeaway insight for entrepreneurs #2:

Though “all the world’s a stage,” the earthly platform appears overpopulated with lead singers playing the drums and drummers who sing. Why? To put food on the table! Too many entrepreneurs set their sights on reduplicating the success of the Big Four instead of merely “following their own passions.”

Find out which business you’re good at and you’ll then know which business you’re good for, which can only lead to good business decisions! In short, if you chase money, you’ll never catch it; but if you chase passion, the money will chase you.

How Bezos remains comfortable being uncomfortable

“Entrepreneurs must be willing to be misunderstood for long periods of time.”

It has long been suggested the line that separates genius from insanity is fine indeed. For this reason, only one thing distinguishes the “genius” from the madman, and that one thing is a word called — SUCCESS.

As Bezos noted, for years he struggled to get his fledgling start-up off the ground. From being jeered at by friends and family — for quitting a secure and good-paying job — to the seeming absurdity of staking it all on some online bookstore, Bezos endured being “misunderstood for long periods of time.”

It’s not by accident that no one has ever become great by accident! For this reason, it has long been suggested — success leaves clues. And so, just as Michael Jordan called his repeated failures the key that ultimately unlocked success, Bezos — the “Jordan of Business” — echoed such sentiments:

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.

Takeaway insight for entrepreneurs #3:

Because success leaves clues, one need not be Sherlock Holmes to detect the following theme. Of the famed Big Four: Jobs dropped out of college (initially considered a failure), Zuckerberg dropped out of college (initially considered a failure), Page dropped out of college (initially considered a failure), and Bezos quit his lucrative job (initially considered a failure).

“Life can only be understood backwards,” said Kierkegaard, “but it must be lived forwards.” For this reason, when viewed thru the perfected lens of hindsight, each “setback” shows itself to have moved us to a road that initially appeared worse, yet ultimately led to an even better destination. In short, it’s apparent Bezos fully embraces being misunderstood, so far as the end justifies the means.

In closing: the DNA of Jeff Bezos’ mindset

Jeff Bezos = the Babe Ruth of Entrepreneurs (Pic: Richard Bartlaga/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0.)

“The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms.” — Socrates

Armed with the Socratic method, the following insight becomes apparent: the word entrepreneur means “anyone operating a business that willingly embraces extraordinary financial risks in hopes of gaining extraordinary rewards.”

The greater the risk, the greater the reward, goes the saying. For this reason, Bezos embodies the spirit of a true entrepreneur. Here lies the key insight into knowing how Jeff Bezos thinks, not what he thinks. And the DNA of how he thinks boils down to this: if you’re not willing to risk it all on your own entrepreneurial dream, then who else will?

In the interview — enter + view — conducted by the Academy of Achievement, Bezos discusses his “regret minimization framework.” As for how Bezos thinks about this go-to framework, as he notes:

“I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, ‘OK, I’m looking back on my life. I want to minimize the number of regrets I have.’
“And I knew that when I was 80, I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed, I wouldn’t regret that.
“But I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day.”

To truly grasp how Bezos thinks is to know, at the core, he’s an entrepreneur willing to bet it all on his vision of what serves as the most profitable next move.

According to Business Insider’s Eugene Kim’s report, Bezos “says nine times out of ten, you’re going to fail. But every once in a while, you’ll hit a home run that in business terms is more like 1,000 runs. ‘Given a ten percent chance of a 100 times payoff, you should take that bet every time,’ Bezos says.”

It’s apparent the reason Bezos towers above all his competitors is for the very same reason Babe Ruth once towered over the plate. Whereas baseball players before Ruth embraced Ty Cobb’s model of merely swinging for base hits, not Ruth! “Never let the fear of striking out get in your way,” said Ruth, while swinging for the fences.

In short, Jeff Bezos is the “Babe Ruth of Entrepreneurs.” After all, it’s apparent how Bezos thinks about business mirrors the same logical fashion as to how Ruth thought about baseball.

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run!”
— Babe Ruth

By Genius Turner