The Genius of Jeff Bezos
Intelligent fanatics hit targets that no one else sees. Jeff Bezos was able to see differently than nearly everybody else in the early 2000’s, and continues today, largely in part to his fanatical preparation. In Jeff Bezos’ biography The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon, childhood friend Joshua Weinstein recalled, “He was excruciatingly focused. Not like mad-scientist focused, but he was capable of really focusing, in a crazy way, on certain things. He was extremely disciplined, which is how he is able to do all these things.” Part of that focus and discipline was vacuuming up details from history. This vast storehouse of details has given Bezos the ability to frame his present situation with the best historical examples. In other words, by looking at the past he has been able to throw out all of the useless noise and draw accurate conclusions to how the future might unfold based on the past.
This phenomenon is perfectly observed in 2003 and is repeating again today.
Seeing Differently in 2003
First, lets look back to 2003 right after the dot com bubble had burst. Jeff Bezos did a Ted Talk on the proper analogy for the internet (found below).
When you think like everybody else thinks, don’t be surprised when you get what everybody else gets. Divergent thinking, and action, pays in business and investing. Jeff Bezos clearly demonstrated his early divergent thinking in this presentation. While others viewed the early internet’s boom and bust as akin to the gold rush, Bezos saw the evolution of the electric industry as a better analogy. This mental model provided him the proper framework to be “incredibly optimistic” about the internet’s, and his, future while everyone else was depressed.
As Bill Hewlitt and Dave Packard said, “The biggest competitive advantage is doing the right thing at the worst time.” Bezos was doing the right thing at the worst time, being incredibly optimistic of the internet’s future and investing accordingly.
Since we are now fourteen years into the future, we can observe with hindsight how correct Jeff Bezos was in his analogy. The internet, like the light bulb, connected the world. Both have been “thin horizontal enabling layers that go across lots of different industries.” Those who automatically believed the gold rush was the best analogy of the dot com bubble was sorely mistaken. 2003 was the very, very early days of the internet.
History rhymes. Bezos was only 39 when he did this presentation, however, his knowledge of both the gold rush and the electric industry’s evolution was as good, or better, than if he had personally lived through both time periods. Everyone else who followed the commonly believed gold rush analogy, had neither lived through the gold rush, nor possessed the requisite detail of that time or the subsequent evolution of the electrical industry. Simply, they didn’t properly prepare.
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