Last night, I read this fantastic article in Fortune Magazine about one of my business heroes - Jeff Bezos - who was named this year's Fortune's Businessman of the Year.
It is full of awesome anecdotes of how Jeff leads Amazon to keep changing and prospering in our brave new worlds of global and social e-commerce and business.
I particularly was struck by the description of how Jeff manages the meetings of Amazon’s senior executive team:
“…the Amazon CEO's fondness for the written word drives one of his primary, and peculiar, tools for managing his company: Meetings of his "S-team" of senior executives begin with participants quietly absorbing the written word. Specifically, before any discussion begins, members of the team -- including Bezos -- consume six-page printed memos in total silence for as long as 30 minutes”
Bezos goes on to note that “Writing a memo is an even more important skill to master." Full sentences are harder to write," he says. "They have verbs. The paragraphs have topic sentences. There is no way to write a six-page, narratively structured memo and not have clear thinking."
Now when I learn of things like this, I understand why the success of a Jeff Bezos is no accident.
Remember, in addition to founding and leading one of the most successful technology companies of all times, Jeff Bezos also made arguably the greatest investment of all time.
The story is well-known but worth re-telling. In 1998 when Larry Page’s and Sergey Brin’s Google offices were a Menlo Park, California garage, Bezos invested $250,000 of personal funds into the fledgling startup.
When Google went public in 2004 that $250,000 investment translated into 3.3 million shares of Google stock. At Google’s IPO that represented a stock share position worth over $280 million.
While he doesn’t disclose how many of those shares he still holds, at the current price of Google stock they would represent an investment position worth over $2 billion dollars.
So, what is it about what makes Jeff Bezos tick that allows him to have such great success when so, so many others - with similar ambition and arguably even greater talent - fall by the wayside?
I recently finished a great book (bought on Amazon, of course) by Mark Helprin called "A Soldier of the Great War."
It is the amazing story of an Italian PhD student in aesthetics who was drafted into the Italian Army in World War I. In addition to being an unbelievable barnburner of a read and a tale of love and heroism and adventure, it is also the story of a young man trained as an "effete" intellectual struggling to come to grips / find wisdom from and peace with the horrors of war.
The story ends with our hero - Alesandro Giuliani - as an old man looking back on his life of books, of art, of family, of adventure, and of war and loss.
In the end it is the intersection of these two - of his great intellectual journeys tempered into character and resolve via the various "mortifications of the flesh" of his life - hard work, self-sacrificing, courageous deeds and words, and the willingness to push himself to the limits of one's endurance.
Now before we talk about business, do let us take a moment to both honor the sacrifices and to mourn the uncountable, wasted human potential through the ages caused by the scourges of war, by corrupt governments, by un-free structures.
And, correspondingly, let us stand in gratitude and in awe for the power of these qualities unleashed to make our world a so better place.
This coupling of intellectualism, ideas and analysis with a life of action, battle, and victory that the great entrepreneurs like Jeff Bezos possess in spades.
And from this coupling flows - in life, business, and investing - the genius, power and magic of a Jeff Bezos.