The Mindset of Jeff Bezos that Helped him Build a Trillion-dollar Empire
Here’s what he tells his shareholders every single year
In his letter to shareholders in 1997, Jeff Bezos emphasized that everything Amazon did was in honor of the long game.
No amount of record sales, rapid scaling, and short-term success should distract from his multi-decade vision of Amazon as the global “everything store.”
Even as Amazon went from zero to 1.5 million customers and from zero to $147.8 million in revenue seemingly in a blink of an eye, Bezos kept his focus on the distant horizon.
Customer accounts increased 838% before the close of 1997 and the company scaled dramatically in every way — and this was when Amazon was still a mere bookstore.
Despite Amazon’s many early successes, “This is Day 1,” Bezos told his shareholders in 1997.
For many of the next dozen or so shareholder letters, Bezos attached the 1997 letter as a reminder that Amazon’s goals remained and have always been to play the long game.
From 2009 to 2019 in every annual letter to shareholders, Bezos reminded them that it is still Day 1 for Amazon.
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In 2016 someone asked the founder what Day 2 looked like.
“Day 2 is stasis,” Bezos wrote. “Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”
Of course, among other things, Bezos is a generational visionary with an obsessive ambition. Amazon would not be Amazon without his doggedness, and as Amazon surged past a trillion-dollar valuation, Bezos leaned further into his Day 1 mentality.
It’s allowed him to stay nimble, and the company maintains an early-stage mindset while having the financial backing of a giant.
It’s nearly 30 years old and yet Amazon’s culture is imbued with Day 1 whispers. One of the company’s buildings is named Day 1. The mindset is that of a startup without investors, and Bezos has leveraged it to stay relevant and innovate over and over again.
When I reflect on my own work — my degrees, writings, awards — sometimes I feel comforted. A respite in knowing I’ve done a few things. A temptation to ease the gas pedal.
Reading Bezos’ Invent & Wander, which includes his annual shareholder letters, helped put things in perspective.
The value in achievement, Bezos notes, is that it can best be leveraged as momentum for what comes next.
The long game is always on the horizon, and the horizon moves more distant with every step you take toward it — but that’s the whole point.
“This remains Day 1,” Bezos says repeatedly of his trillion-dollar company.
I have no intention or capability of becoming Jeff Bezos, but with his mantra I can be more than I am currently. Anyone can do that.
“Day 1” provides an inexhaustible launch pad to be more and do more. To create and innovate and test your prowess, regardless of what lengths you’ve already traveled.
I’m treating this like my first-ever online article. Nothing before this blog post, and a vast, untapped horizon awaits after it, should I only choose to seize it.
Have a good Day 1 — I’ll do the same.