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If you like Jeff Bezos's story, you might also like:
Timothy Berners-Lee,
Stephen Case,
Michael Dell,
Michael Eisner,
Lawrence Ellison,
Bill Gates,
John Hennessy,
Reid Hoffman,
Ray Kurzweil,
Craig McCaw,
Pierre Omidyar,
Larry Page,
George Rathmann,
Fred Smith and
Ted Turner

Jeff Bezos can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Jeff Bezos's recommended reading: A Wrinkle in Time

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Jeff Bezos
Jeff Bezos
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Jeff Bezos Interview (page: 5 / 6)

Founder and CEO,

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  Jeff Bezos

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You succeeded. You became a phenomenon. Suddenly you're talking about a lot of money, a lot of investors, a lot of responsibility, and things don't always go smoothly.

Jeff Bezos: That's for sure. Things never go smoothly.

How do you deal with that kind of pressure you must have felt during the past year?

Jeff Bezos: It's very interesting, because the Internet in general and in particular, is still Chapter One. You're asking me about my story, and it's still the very beginning. There's still a lot of technology to be built, a lot of innovations for customers to be built, and the financial side of the story is still playing itself out in real time. There's a lot of visibility on the Internet, and there has been for the last couple of years. For the first four years of the company, we worked in relative obscurity. We always had lots of supporters and we always had lots of skeptics, and that's still the same today. It's just that the level of visibility is so much higher. If you look at the six years that we've been doing business, in exactly one of those six years we were not the underdog. That was 1999 and that was the weird year for us. Now it's much more normal. It's more what we're used to.

Do you have any doubts about the future of

Jeff Bezos: We haven't built a lasting company yet.

We still have a tremendous amount of hard work ahead of us, but we have all the assets in place now. We have eliminated the necessity for the luck that a start-up company requires, and now our future is in our own hands as a team and as a company, and we have so many smart people. We have so many customers who treat us so well, and we have the right kind of culture that obsesses over the customer. If there's one reason we have done better than most of our peers in the Internet space over the last six years, it is because we have focused like a laser on customer experience, and that really does matter, I think, in any business. It certainly matters online, where word of mouth is so very, very powerful. You know, if you make a customer unhappy they won't tell five friends, they'll tell 5,000 friends. So, we are at a point now where we have all of the things we need to build an important and lasting company, and if we don't, it will be shame on us.

[ Key to Success ] Integrity

How do you deal with stress, with pressure, with setbacks, with disappointments?

Jeff Bezos: In my particular case, I laugh a lot.

Stress primarily comes from not taking action over something that you can have some control over. So, if I find that some particular thing is causing me to have stress, that's a warning flag for me. What it means is there's something that I haven't completely identified perhaps in my conscious mind that is bothering me, and I haven't yet taken any action on it. I find as soon as I identify it, and make the first phone call, or send off the first e-mail message, or whatever it is that we're going to do to start to address that situation -- even if it's not solved -- the mere fact that we're addressing it dramatically reduces any stress that might come from it. So, stress comes from ignoring things that you shouldn't be ignoring, I think, in large part. So, stress doesn't come -- people get stress wrong all the time in my opinion. Stress doesn't come from hard work, for example. You know, you can be working incredibly hard and loving it, and, likewise, you can be out of work and incredibly stressed over that. And, likewise, if you use that as an analogy for what I was just talking about, if you're out of work but you're going through a disciplined approach, a series of job interviews and so on, and working to remedy that situation, you are going to be a lot less stressed than if you're just worrying about it and doing nothing.

What about dealing with success? Can that be a problem?

Jeff Bezos: I don't know if this is true for everybody but I suspect it is. At a certain age the basic things about people are largely set. I'm a lottery winner of a certain kind, and I suspect if you were to survey lottery winners you would find that the core things about them don't really change because they won the lottery. People are always very curious about that. How does it fundamentally change a person when they win a lottery? I don't think it does very much.

How do you explain to someone who has no idea what you do, why you do it? Why do you do what you're doing for a living? What gives you the greatest sense of satisfaction about it?

Jeff Bezos: I think one thing I find very motivating -- and I think this is probably a very common form of motivation or cause of motivation is, I love people counting on me, and so, you know, today it's so easy to be motivated, because we have millions of customers counting on us at We've got thousands of investors counting on us. And, we're a team of thousands of employees all counting on each other. That's fun.

[ Key to Success ] Passion

That's also pressure, isn't it?

Jeff Bezos: I don't think so. Maybe for some people it would be. Fortunately, there are a lot of different people motivated by a lot of different things. My wife is working on a novel, and that's about as opposite as you could get in some ways, because when you're working on a novel you are really counting on yourself. If you don't finish that novel, there aren't a whole bunch of people counting on you. To me, that would be incredibly stressful, because the amount of self-discipline required to have the follow through to do that, even though nobody will say a single negative word if you just give up, that's hard if you ask me. I have a lot of respect for novelists who are able to do that.

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This page last revised on Nov 26, 2013 01:54 EDT
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