By Kelvin Tan, Editor for Men’s Health Singapore
What were you doing on the 17th of July, 2018? Whatever it is, it couldn’t have beat Amazon boss Jeff Bezos. who’s personal fortune cracked a new record at USD $151.4 billion, according to Forbes.com.
What that means is Jeff Bezos has become the richest man ever in history. That means no single dude has ever accumulated as much wealth personally ever. The closest that anyone has ever got was Bill Gates, who was worth $149 billion, only if you adjust for inflation in 1999. To give some context- when we spend $1, it’s like $88,000 to him!
Good for you Jeff. But the question for the rest of us mere commoners is- how did he get to this stage of wealth, and how can we? Here’s some life lessons to take in if your goal is to win the Monopoly of life.
No, Jeff didn’t come from money. But it didn’t stop him from making it.
Born on January 12, 1964, as Jeffrey Preston Jorgensen, he was what we might call a product of a “shotgun marriage”, as we say in Singapore, according to this report in CNBC.
His father and mother were 18 and 16 respectively when he was conceived and got married. Jorgensen had a drinking problem, according to “The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the age of Amazon”, and his mother, Jacklyn Gise, remarried Miguel Bezos in 1968, with Jeff taking on his step-father’s surname.
I won the lottery with my mom. Thanks for literally everything, Mom. pic.twitter.com/gEuVgxotdw
— Jeff Bezos (@JeffBezos) May 14, 2017
Yes, the whole quit your job and startup in a garage thing is real
In 1994 Bezos was still working on Wall Street in fiance, but saw the internet revolution kicking in. He quit his gig and decided to start an internet company.
“The wake up call was finding this startling statistic that web usage in the spring of 1994 was growing at 2,300 percent a year. You know, things just don’t grow that fast. It’s highly unusual, and that started me about thinking, “What kind of business plan might make sense in the context of that growth,” he revealed in an address to Princeton students in 2010.
He had just been married for a year and at 30, it was the kind of decision most don’t make easily. “I told my wife MacKenzie that I wanted to quit my job and go do this crazy thing that probably wouldn’t work since most startups don’t, and I wasn’t sure what would happen after that!”
His wife told him to go for it.
“As a young boy, I’d been a garage inventor. I’d invented an automatic gate closer out of cement-filled tires, a solar cooker that didn’t work very well out of an umbrella and tinfoil, baking-pan alarms to entrap my siblings,” he says. “I’d always wanted to be an inventor, and she wanted me to follow my passion.”
But there’ll always be “safe advice” to ignore.
Bezos’ boss took him to a walk through Central Park and told him that, while the concept of an ‘internet business’ sounded like a “really good idea,” it wasn’t worth risking a good career.
“That logic made some sense to me, and he convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision,” says Bezos. “Seen in that light, it really was a difficult choice, but ultimately, I decided I had to give it a shot. I didn’t think I’d regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision to not try at all.
“After much consideration, I took the less safe path to follow my passion, and I’m proud of that choice.”
Be garang with your business
Amazon started with only books, and Bezos would drive the packages to the post office himself in a 1987 Chevy Blazer. but he was aggressive, always looking to add new products to sell, adding music and videos.
“I sent an email message out to the customer base, actually a thousand randomly selected customers, and I said, besides books, music and video, what would you like to see us sell? And the list came back incredibly long,” explained Bezos to Charlie Rose in a 2016 interview.
“It was basically just whatever the person had on their mind right now,” says Bezos. “One of customers said, ‘I wish you sold windshield wipers because I need windshield wipers for my car.’ A light kind of went on in my head. You know, people — people will want to use this new fangled e-commerce way of shopping for everything”
“”People are very convenience-motivated,” says Bezos. “So that really started the kind of the expansion into all categories, consumer electronics, and then apparel, and so on.”
Don’t be scared if you don’t understand stuff
Fashion is still an industry that e-commerce companies are trying to perfect, and while some see confusion Bezos sees oppotunity. “I am never disappointed when we’re not good at something because I think, well think how good it’s going to work when we are good at it,” Bezos told Rose.
“And apparel is like that. There is so much opportunity. Nobody really knows how to do a great job of offering — apparel online yet. And we have tons of invention and ideas and working our way through that experimental list.”
“We are very happy to invest in new initiatives that are very risky, for five to seven years, which most companies won’t do that,” Bezos added. “It’s the combination of the risk-taking and the long-term outlook that make Amazon, not unique, but special in a smaller crowd.”
Success is about the small details
“Taking real pride in operational excellence, so just doing things well, finding defects and working backwards — that is all the incremental improvement that in business, most successful companies are very good at this one. … [Y]ou don’t want to ever let defects flow downstream,” Bezos says to Rose. “That is a key part of doing a good job in any business in my opinion.”