Jeff Bezos chats with his younger brother, Mark, at the Summit conference in LA about finding work-life balance, overcoming failure, and not checking his email.
Earlier this month, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sat down with his younger brother, Mark, for a revealing conversation at Los Angeles' Summit 2017, a conference that gathers prominent thinkers focussed on entrepreneurship. The two brothers reflected on their family, the years they spent as children in Texas, and their grandfather, who figured as a source of inspiration for both. The elder Bezos brother, who founded the online retail giant now valued at $550 billion, dished out advice for entrepreneurs and recounted several amusing anecdotes from his childhood.
As a kid, Bezos spent his summers working on his grandfather's ranch in South Texas. Bezos describes his grandfather as an introspective man who was infinitely resourceful and self-reliant, two qualities which Bezos believes have vastly contributed to Amazon's success as a company.
"The whole point of moving things forward is that you run into problems and failures," Bezos said. "Things don't work, you have to back up and try again. Each time you back up and try again, you're using your resourcefulness, you're using self reliance. You're trying to invent your way out of a box."
Inventing your way out of box, says Bezos, is largely a matter of trial and error. Bezos described how the addition of third party selling business on Amazon called Amazon Auction was unsuccessful in its early years, but through a year-and-half-long experimentation process, it eventually evolved into Amazon marketplace. "At Amazon, we have a practice of failing," he said.
Bezos had some words of wisdom for ambitious entrepreneurs: think long term. "Long term thinking is the lever that lets you do things that you could not do or even conceive of doing if you were thinking short term," he said. Bezos said that many of Amazon's competitors fail because they're fixated on accomplishing their company goals in two to three years, rather than aiming for more realistic results in five or six years down the road.
"If everything has to work in two to three years, then that limits what you can do. If you give yourself the breathing room to take say, seven years, all of sudden you have more opportunities," he said.
Bezos' younger brother also made a point to dispel one pervasive myth about his tech mogul sibling. Contrary to what you might believe, Bezos isn't really on his phone all that much. As it turns out, the founder of Amazon is exceptionally laser-focused. As a kid in Montessori school, Bezos describes how teachers would have to physically move his chair from one task station to the next in order to get him to focus on the next assignment. Those qualities still define Bezos as an adult: He's not a fan of checking his phone at the dinner table and he's not big on multi-tasking either, even when it comes to checking his email: "[Multitasking] bothers me," Bezos said, "If I'm reading my email, I want to be really reading my email."
Watch the full interview below: