Jeff Bezos 1997 interview

Taped in June 1997, the founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos outlines his vision for his company's music and books webstore model.

Flash forward 21 years later, and the company is not only corroding the retail sector by selling everything online, it also owns everything from grocery stores, newspapers, its own web services, to who know's what next.

“Inventing and pioneering requires being misunderstood for long periods of time.” — Jeff Bezos

What's your vision?

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Jeff Bezos in 1990
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Decisions are either ‘irreversible or reversible’

'Failure to experiment sufficiently', #quotes, ralph waldo emerson, experiment quotesSometimes your work is just going to be a 5 out of 10. It's not worth scrutinizing every performance. The only ill is in hesitating, not starting what you think you should do.

Jeff Bezos has an interesting system for making decisions. He sees them as either irreversible or reversible. The simple heuristic pushed him to start Amazon, knowing that he could just go back to his old job if things didn't work out. Writes the Farnam Street blog:

“Bezos considers 70% certainty to be the cut-off point where it is appropriate to make a decision. That means acting once we have 70% of the required information, instead of waiting longer. Making a decision at 70% certainty and then course-correcting is a lot more effective than waiting for 90% certainty.”

First we try, then we deduce

If the door swings both ways, why not give whatever we're passionate about our best shot. The worst that can happen is that someone slams the door in our face or locks the other side. And that may be just the message that it's time to pivot. They’re meant to astonish us, to jolt us out of our everyday thoughts:

We don't need to collect all the information before we endeavor. We can reduce indecision by replacing it with the astonishment of doing. There is little reason to think in absolutes. Wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson: “All life is an experiment. The more experiments you make the better.”

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The case for playing the long game

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Jeff Bezos in 1990

Good things take time. If we all settled for immediate results, there would be no Apple, Amazon, or Tesla.

The world's best leaders are visionaries. They work years ahead, having planted the seeds for what's happening now to springboard them into the future.

When asked what he thinks when analysts congratulate him on a good quarter, Jeff Bezos said:

“Those quarterly results were fully baked three years ago. Today I'm working on a quarter that will happen in 2020, not next quarter. Next quarter is done already and it's probably been done for a couple years…If we have a good quarter it’s because of work we did 3, 4, 5 years ago. It’s not because we did a good job this quarter.”

So what type of futurists should we be, the tortoise or the hare, the fox or the hedgehog?

Get ready to go years being misunderstood.

Tick tock you don’t stop ⏲

“This is a unique object”

“It glows. It seems to be getting brighter. It’s also running backwards, it’s not so much keeping time but, counting down to something. And look at the back it’s..it fits into something. It’s like a key” — Lara Croft Tomb Raider

Everybody’s fixated on the clock. It’s what we use to countdown to the weekend. It’s what professional sports uses to determine a winner. Clocks constrict time when them as points of reference.

Jeff Bezos built a clock that will keep time for the next 10,000 years. It demonstrates Bezos’ vision for long-term thinking.

Coldplay created a hit song called “Clocks” in 2002. More importantly, it’s also the name of a track from Elementz of Sound that appeared on John Peel’s FabricLive 07.

Did you know that 2016 will be one-second longer? Says science author Dan Falk:

“If you don’t insert a leap second, eventually time based on those atomic clocks will be out of whack with solar time.”

Clock in, clock out. Everybody's got the same amount of time on Earth. It's what you do with it that matters.

Written for the Daily Prompt: Clock ⏲

Jonathan Franzen: what’s wrong with the modern world

Maybe an economically significant number of readers will come to recognise the human and cultural costs of Amazonian hegemony and go back to local bookstores or at least to barnesandnoble.com, which offers the same books and a superior e-reader, and whose owners have progressive politics. Maybe people will get as sick of Twitter as they once got sick of cigarettes. Twitter's and Facebook's latest models for making money still seem to me like one part pyramid scheme, one part wishful thinking, and one part repugnant panoptical surveillance.

Franzen is nostalgic about the pre-Internet world and could care less about design. I never understood why people completely reject technology and only look into its negative aspects. True, technology is a terrible distraction, has outsourced our thinking and obviated face to face conversation but technology has also unleashed a lot of creativity and democractized an unheard world with a public microphone. Understood, a lot of the Internet is just noise but it can be filtered so that you can still keep your eyes on the most important things in the world.

The book store and record store aren't coming back in their traditional format. People want the conveniency of lower costs and instant delivery to their device. Possibly sad, possibly lazy, but the same was probably said of travel before cars and trains were invented. You can still just get away from it all and walk if you wish.

Some advice from Jeff Bezos

He said people who were right a lot of the timewere people who often changed their minds. He doesn’t think consistency of thought is a particularly positive trait. It’s perfectly healthy — encouraged, even — to have an idea tomorrow that contradicted your idea today.

Most people say that you should make a decision and stick with it.  What they don't say is how long.  There's always new factors that come into play.  Maybe you learned something the next day that tweaks your opinion slightly or completely reverses your position.  

Flip flopping is not necessarily a bad thing if you can back it up with your gut and experience.  

The most important thing to to is decide and then deduce.  Unfortunately, sometimes you don't know if you're wrong until after you take the action.  In some instances, such failure can have consequences, such as Tim Cook's outing of Scott Forstall who messed up Apple's maps and Siri launches.  

Forstall mistakenly believed that he could replace a good product (Google Maps) with a shoddy one and grow it quickly as user data came in. It turns out people can quickly assess quality and convenience and complain about it loudly on the Internet.  

If you do change your mind often, make sure you do it on decisions that don't have a massive impact.  Or simply delay that decision until you've done more market research.  Even Steve Jobs was wrong a lot but he gave himself time to reflect until he felt more confident about a decision.