The most important lesson from Jeff Bezos' success

Invent & Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos offers hidden-in-plain-sight lessons for Amazon's success.

Jeff Bezos was baptized with fire.

After leaving his six-figure job in 1994, he started Amazon as an online bookstore in his garage. Today, Amazon is worth more than $1.7 trillion, making it the second most valuable company in the US, behind only Apple.

He is also the richest person in the world with a fortune of $200 billion.

Invent & Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos offers hidden-in-plain-sight lessons for Amazon's success. It's a treasure trove of information for entrepreneurs and investors, and further explains Amazon's core values.

Today, many technology companies have a core ethos:

Google: “Do not be evil”
Manzana: “A computer for the rest of us

Technology companies are so powerful that they need a legal code. A religious dogma that all the people of Silicon Valley can worship.

One of Amazon's first commandments is: determine who is a missionary and who is a mercenary.

Mercenaries are ruthless. We all know one. They are cold, task-oriented killers who will do whatever it takes to destroy the competition. He is that coworker that no one invites to the bar.

Mercenaries are usually successful. But its success has a limit.
Once they killed everyone and burned several bridges with their cut-throat, do-whatever-it-takes attitude, there is no one left to support them. Mercenaries can create businesses, but they will never create empires.

Missionaries, on the other hand, can change the world.

Here's what Bezos has to say about them:

“I always try to realize one thing first and foremost: Is that person a missionary or a mercenary?” Bezos writes on the first page of his book. “The mercenaries are trying to invest their value. Missionaries love their product or their service and they love their customers and they are trying to build a great service.”

«By the way, the great paradox here is that normally it is the missionaries who earn the most money». –Jeff Bezos

He added in another interview that he believes being a missionary is vital to being a successful businessman. In fact, they are the people who care who wins, he says.

Entrepreneurs think like a good quarterback. They know they are just a piece in a bigger game. So they put the right people around them that will make the team win. Or in the case of Bezos, making the team extremely rich.

The life of a missionary is not easy. Many people will spit in your face. Some people will shit for everything you do. But you can't let these people get to you.

Accept failure and the fact that your kindness will not always be well received by others. Focus on the long game and don't let some idiot ruin your life as a missionary.

Bezos himself has fallen on his face many times. Many people laughed at him as he climbed to the top. For example, skeptics doubted that customers would pay $79 a year for Amazon Prime when it launched in 2005.

Today, the service has 126 million subscribers worldwide.

“We need big failures if we are going to move the needle”, “failures on a billion-dollar scale”Bezos said in Amazon re: Mars. “And if we don't do it, we don't do it hard enough.”

Many of us like to think we are missionaries like Bezos, but in reality we are mercenaries and we don't even know it:

  • We ignore our friends or never take five minutes to call them.
  • We get lazy and decide not to respond to an email with a potential opportunity.
  • We use lame excuses like “we're too busy” to cover up the lack of contact with valuable connections.

Mercenaries are all around us, and you can be one of them. Venture capitalist John Doerr explains that even petty jealousy is a mercenary attitude.

“Mercenary companies are paranoid, obsessed with competition, and have managers who are wolf pack bosses rather than team mentors and trainers.”

Going back to our quarterback analogy earlier, there's always the guy who's too self-absorbed to realize he's ruining the team. I think Johnny Manziel, Tim Tebow or pre-New England Patriots Cam Newton are great guys off the field, but during the game they make it all about themselves. They don't elevate the team around them. It's probably not intentional. They were mercenaries murdering their own success without even knowing it.

To close out 2021, I'm doing what Tim Ferriss recently recommended on Twitter: «A review of last year». Remember the times when you were a missionary and the times when you were more mercenary.

For me personally, I was able to run 30 miles straight and become an ultramarathon runner with the help of my friends. We planned it, they followed me, filmed everything, and brought me two bottles of Gatorade for the last five miles.

I couldn't have done it without them. As a team, we went beyond something I never thought I was capable of.
Be more like a missionary and your success will be limitless.

Be more like a missionary and your success will be limitless.

“A brand for a company is like the reputation of a person. You earn your reputation by trying to do difficult things well. .

Jeff Bezos