What Jeff Bezos can teach us about success and innovation

Jeff Bezos’ story is one of persistence. It’s amazing to think the world’s richest man was strongly advised against ever starting on Amazon. His story is a testament to following your heart and pursuing your goals, no matter what anyone thinks — even those closest to you.

Like Steve Jobs at Apple, Bezos was a brilliant man gifted at making money and connecting ideas to marketable products. During the massive tech boom of the 1990s, Bezos, like Jobs, capitalized on finding a market where it previously didn’t exist.

You see, prior to Amazon, everyone bought books in brick-and-mortar bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Some went to smaller bookstores or their local library. Jeff Bezos was here to deliver your reading experience in the palm of your hand — all by mail in just a few days.

Bezos completely changed the shopping and reading experience for billions of people all over the world. From books, he moved on to countless millions of other products that could be sold online and shipped right to your door.

A big part of Bezos’ story was almost, “What could have been?” Amazon wasn’t built in a day, nor even a few years. In fact, right out of Princeton University, Jeff Bezos wasn’t all too interested in selling books and every other product under the sun on a digital e-commerce site. He was busy becoming a senior vice president at a prestigious investment firm, D.E. Shaw, by the time he turned 30.

“I believe we (Amazon) are the best place in the world to fail (we have plenty of practice!), and failure and invention are inseparable twins,” Bezos said in his 2015 shareholder letter.

Like a lot of future entrepreneurs, despite earning a very nice income and having prestige and status, Bezos knew something was missing in his life. He had a dream for creating an online bookstore that would bring products to the fingertips of consumers in a way never before experienced in human history. When he left his job, everyone thought he was crazy. He faced a lot of criticism.

Driving Forward

Bezos drove forward and found enormous success, peaking with the success of the internet becoming a massive part of life in the late 1990s. Bezos’s good fortune wasn’t just fortuitous timing. The man was determined and focused on being the very best. This is summed up in the Amazon Leadership Principles around insisting on the highest standards:

“Leaders have relentlessly high standards — many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high-quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.”

Insist on the highest standards for yourself. Never, ever settle for second best. Had Bezos stopped at first resistance, we’d know a far different e-commerce landscape today. Amazon pushed this into the future by thinking about ways to connect people to products like never before. He then moved on and expanded into Amazon Web Services, realizing the power of data.

Additional Lessons from the life of the world’s richest man

1. Never, ever stop innovating

Even when you find success with one thing, never stop thinking of ways to make it better. And don’t be afraid to start another venture.

2. Always be willing to make tough decisions

One of his brilliant decisions was starting Amazon Web Services, then expanding further into advertising. Today, advertising accounts for nearly $10 Billion per year for the Seattle-based tech giant. Some people would’ve shied away from a new opportunity to do things differently and profit. Not Bezos.

This article originally appeared in Medium.

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