How To Think Like Jeff Bezos: Lessons From Billionaire Founder of Amazon

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Today we cover three principles that have made Jeff Bezos the richest man in the world through Amazon.com.

Unlike most of the .com companies of the 2000s that crashed and burned, Bezos was able to use the Internet to build a customer-obsessed company that has since revolutionized what customers expect.

This is the result of Bezos’ unique thinking style.

Let's unpack three quotes and highlight what they mean so you can start thinking like a billionaire today.

Reduce Regret

Jeff Bezos had a cushy 6 figure job in finance when he started thinking about doing something else. His thought process included asking himself how many regrets he would have at the end of his life if he didn't act on the ideas in his head and heart. So the equation became: will I regret not trying, or will I regret giving up my safe job?

For Bezos, this was an easy question to answer: he would regret not trying more than giving up a comfortable job. He could always get another job if worse came worse.

So he packed up his car, drove across the country to Seattle, and wrote the Amazon.com business plan the way there.

The lesson we can learn from Jeff is to optimize decisions in life that reduce regret later on. Bezos calls this his "Regret Minimization Framework," which is a nerdy way of saying, "Do the things that reduce the number of regrets in your life."

If you think about your life, how many times have you taken the safe route?

How many times have you stifled your dreams and desires because you wanted to maintain the status quo or make your parents happy or not rock the boat?

These are the things you are going to regret at the end of your life. This is a certainty.

You are not going to regret trying for big things, even if you fail. When you factor in the fact that failure is a learning experience, and all successful people always point to their failures as the best thing that ever happened to them, then this equation becomes even more obvious and one-sided.

If you don't follow your dreams, no amount of safety or money or this or that is going to make up for the fact that you didn't try.

Generally, the most successful humans in life are those that follow their heart, which is a feel-good way of saying they reduce the number of regrets they have because they took the path that most resonated with them.

Think like a scientist

"If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you're going to double your inventiveness." –Jeff Bezos

The thing about Amazon is they like a giant scientist masquerading as a business. They invest billions in testing new markets, new features, new strategies. Many of these have failed, which is to be expected, even celebrated. Bezos has commented on the many billion-dollar failures Amazon has under its belt.

Amazon Prime was an experiment that wasn't obvious at first, and that received a lot of push-back from Amazon's senior management. It is now an integral part of their business and customer experience.

In your life, the more experiments you do, the more failures you're going to have and the more successes and insights you'll have as well. Do this long enough, and you're going to uncover those breakthroughs that you otherwise wouldn't have if you weren't thinking like a scientist and performing experiments.

When companies stop innovating, they die. When individuals stop innovating and striving, and it's the beginning of their slow decline.

Consider what the alternative is to this approach: taking the safe route, not trying new things, and otherwise expecting life to happen. Can you see how obvious it is that not experimenting is the pathway to stagnation and ultimate death?

Lean into change

"What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tailwind is now a headwind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn't a strategy."– Jeff Bezos

Trying to fight any natural force of nature is a fool’s' errand.

Water, hurricane, volcano, Earthquake, tornado, the current, gravity, don't matter, when humans fight nature, we always lose.

In your life, you want to surf the waves that come at you, not resist them stubbornly. When you surf, you turn the force of nature into an advantage, and in many cases, you'll catch those huge waves that you would never have even seen if you were stuck kicking needlessly against the smaller waves beating down on you relentlessly. Don't be stubborn.

Always try to move so that the wind is at your back. You do this by embracing change and using it to your advantage rather than being stuck in the past.

This isn't easy or intuitive, but it is necessary. As the adage goes: "what got you here won't get you there."

The things that get you results are usually not the things that will keep getting you results. When you fail to adapt to change and to evolve as you level up in life, you'll eventually get stuck.

One of the greatest ways people get stuck is Ego. It's rarely the result of intelligence or a lack of skill... it's usually more about fear of failure and other matters of the Ego.

To truly embrace tailwinds when what you've done thus far is now working against you requires a significant perspective shift. You have to drop what you think you know, and in some cases, give up on things you've already invested in. Maybe you have to admit you were wrong. No matter the case, your Ego is going to take a hit. So being able to detach yourself from your Ego as much as possible is going to give you a massive advantage in embracing change when it comes your way.

Your Ego will try to convince you that you know better or that you have it figured out or some other story that keeps you fighting the headwind. Resist this inner dialogue. Pivot. Change. Adapt. Learn. Evolve. Whatever you need to do to get that tailwind behind you.

Plan for, and plan against—your ultimate demise

"Amazon is not too big to fail … If we start to focus on ourselves, instead of focusing on our customers, that will be the beginning of the end … We have to try and  delay that day for as long as possible."-Jeff Bezos

The Stoic concept of negative visualization is something I often use in life. It's as simple as imaging the worst that can happen. For me, this usually involves imaging my death or the death of loved ones. It sounds morbid, I know, but it's actually a secret tool for promoting gratitude.

When you imagine the absolute worst thing that can happen, in this case, death, you immediately shine a light on the things that matter and away from the things that don't. As fickle creatures, humans tend to focus a lot of energy on trivial things that don't matter. When we do this, we are wasting the most precious gift of all: our time.

This idea can be pocketful for motivation as well as a wellspring of gratitude as it grounds you in reality.

Thinking about your life, your projects, and your business as something that can and will fail is your best defense for keeping it at bay for as long as possible.

As Jeff mentions in this quote, the second Amazon starts focusing on itself rather than its customers, the end begun.

Jeff knows that it is his job to prevent this day as much as possible, so he thinks about it often and focuses on keeping it at bay.

Take your time each morning

Jeff likes to take it easy in the morning rather than rushing to work and following a hurried and complex routine.

This likely helps him get his mind into the right place for making big decisions. He doesn't schedule any meetings before 10 a.m. or after noon since he wants to be in peak mental shape when making decisions.

This means most of his essential decisions happen between these two hours each day.

You're not a billionaire running the most successful company in the world, so maybe you don't need to curate your perfect decision-making time, but I doubt it would hurt. We all make decisions, and so the better decisions we make and the more consistent we make them, the better off we are going to be.

If you structure your day so that the first few hours are held for your most important tasks, you will get your best work done each day. You'll feel more accomplished and likely happier in general. I know that I always feel my best when I feel like I got my Deep Work done each day. I can then go the rest of the day in a less hurried state since I know today is already a win.

A mistake many people fall into is wasting their early work session on shallow tasks like email, Slack, messaging, phone calls, and other low-value activities that seem important but aren't. Push all of that back to the afternoon. If it's an important call you have to make or a meeting, schedule those early. Everything else should be delegated to shallow work time later in the day after you've gotten your deep, focused work done.

Stop when you're tired

Here's Bezos: "By 5:00 p.m., I'm like 'I can't think about this today, let's try that again tomorrow at 10:00 a.m.'"

After 5 p.m., Bezos refuses to keep working. He knows he won't make good decisions, so he decides to turn his brain off from work until tomorrow.

This is something I struggle with since it seems work often swells to fill the entire day. So I'm working on creating what's called a "stop working" time each day in which I do ZERO work past this point. Then I don't have to think about work or do anything until tomorrow. Meditation and mindfulness can help here it's well, the same as a solid end of day routine.

Always get enough sleep

Bezos: "I get eight hours of sleep, unless I'm traveling in different time zones," he explains. "Sometimes it's impossible but I am very focused on it. For me, I need eight hours of sleep. I think better, I have more energy, my mood is better, all these things."

It's a telling example of how backward our culture is that we have to promote the idea of getting 8 hours of sleep, but it is the world we live in.

When you don't get enough sleep, your brain does not function at its best.  And if you try using caffeine or other stimulants to "wake you up," you're just applying a temporary fix that'll come back to haunt you later on. You also get the up and down energy levels and that is a miserable way to go through life.

If you want to enjoy life and get your best work done, you need sleep. Enough sleep will give you 100% operating captivity for brain and body, which will mean you get that much more done and out of life.

Going through life sleep deprived is dumb for many reasons.

Focus on making better, bigger decisions

"Think about it, as a senior executive, what do you really get paid to do?" Bezos says. "As a senior executive, you get paid to make a small number of high-quality decisions. Your job is not to make thousands of decisions every day."-Jeff Bezos

Each day of your life is defined by a series of decisions. You make a decision about how you are going to live and what you do within each day you are alive.

There is ample research showing the idea of "decision fatigue," which states that you have a limited number of decisions you can make each day before your decision making muscle wears out. It makes sense since you sleep each day, and since energy is required to make decisions, it follows that you can't make decisions when you are tired. Pretty obvious when you think about it, yet few set up their lives in a way that respects this fact of decision making.

Think Different

"You have to be willing to be misunderstood if you're going to innovate."

  • Jeff Bezos

Be willing to think different.

Bezos has thought differently from the get-go. You don't become a billionaire without thinking differently.

Thinking differently doesn't always garner goodwill from people around you. In most cases, it does just the opposite; it attracts negativity.

Most people are not willing to do things that bring negative press their way. So they stay in their lane doing the same things day in and day out. As a result, they end up with an average life. Nothing wrong with that, though it's not for all of us.

For some of us, a safe and comfortable life is NOT OK for us. If you're like me, you're one of these individuals. In that case, you must accept that going against society's grain is going to bring you grief. It will, sometimes, completely knock you back. So you get right back up and keep going.

Eventually, when you've been thinking differently long enough, it'll become who you are, and the naysayers will end up fueling you. That's where you want to get: to the place where negativity and resistance makes you stronger.

Who You Spend Time With

"Life's too short to hang out with people who aren't resourceful."–Jeff Bezos

Proverbs 13:20, Solomon: "He that walketh with wise men shall be wise: but a companion of fools shall be destroyed."

At the end of your life, you'll be similar to the people you spent the most time with. This will be either a good thing or a bad thing.

It's one of those things that is hard to see at the moment. It usually takes years for the dangers of your peer group to become apparent. Maybe it manifests in you gaining a few extra pounds each year. Or perhaps it comes out fast as you get arrested doing things you shouldn't be doing.

In either case, your social group is the hardest "habit" to adjust. Peer pressure is a thing. So do not take this concept lightly.

If you truly, deeply want to improve your life, you must become obsessed with controlling every aspect of your environment. People are the single greatest environmental factor for humans. So you must be extra vigilant in making sure you are hanging out with people that are living lives that support your dreams and goals. Otherwise, you'll never reach your full potential. You can't make up for the people around you.

So you should become ruthless about who you spend time with and what you do during that time. You may not need to "get rid of" your friends, but maybe you need to become the leader and direct the activities and discussions that is common for your group.

As you become an adult, most of your friends will fall into typical buckets of time. Some you will go out with. Some you will take walks with and talk about big ideas. Some you will workout with. Some you will go running with or walk the trail with. Etc.

There are always people doing the things you want to do. So in addition to controlling how you spend time with people currently in your life, you should be on the lookout for meeting new people doing the things you want to do.

Change Your Mind… Often

"People who are right most of the time are people who change their minds often.”-Jeff Bezos

Be willing to change your mind. And then take Jeff's advice and do it often. As a result, you'll be right more often. You'll also be happier and more effective in general.

There's a reason you resist changing your mind: you're human.

Our ancestors had to develop strong beliefs in the unpredictable Wild because strong beliefs kept our ancestors safe.

Ideas of our group is what allowed our species to rise to the top of the food change. The wild was unpredictable, so strong beliefs that were "best practices" for making sure you don't die was an integral part of our species evolution and survival.

Today, we have relative safety and a constantly changing world of information. If we default to our biological programming of forming rigid beliefs, we will quickly get left behind.

This is why they say science progresses when the current generation of scientists die. Ouch. Quite a telling example of our species rigidity of mind. Even scientists, who are, by definition, supposed to seek truth over all else fall victim to rigid frameworks of thinking.

The thing about detaching from the rigidity of fixed, closed mind is

"Those who can't change their minds can't change anything."-George Bernard Shaw