Over the past two decades, Jeff Bezos, the mastermind of Amazon, has rewritten the book on innovation. Originally an online bookstore, Amazon, now a multi-billion dollar company, specializes in everything from books to automotive parts.
What’s more, with the creation of Kindle and its contribution to self-publishing, the company has revolutionized the publishing industry.
For these reasons, authors might just benefit from taking a page from Bezos’s book. Read on to discover 21 leadership traits of Jeff Bezos and what authors can learn from the CEO of Amazon.
1. Having an innovation mind set
In a 2003 TED Talk, Bezos refuted an analogy that likened the dot-com crash to the gold rush. He encouraged the audience to think of the progression of the Internet as similar to the early days of the electric industry, stating “If you think of it in terms of the gold rush, then you’d be pretty depressed right now, because the last nugget of gold would be gone. But the good thing is that with innovation there isn’t a last nugget.” Investors and innovators aren’t the only ones who can benefit from this analogy. Writing is a form of innovation. Yet, authors can fall into the trap of believing that there are no new ideas, and that the well from which all good stories originate has dried up. However, if we look at authors as inventors, rather than miners, we discover that “there’s more innovation ahead of us than behind us.”
2. Build upon existing infrastructures
Using the same analogy, Bezos mentioned that, unlike the gold rush, the Internet has a firm foundation because it uses the literal infrastructure implemented for the electric industry. Yet this correlation is not exclusive to electricity and the Internet. By adopting a mindset that views millennia of literature as a structure upon which to build more literature, new opportunities for success will arise. Authors can avoid feeling daunted by an incredibly high standard of literature by considering it as a resource to spin out more writing, rather than a benchmark to live up to.
3. Be a garage start up
If you stop to think about it, a garage might not be the most optimal place to develop a business. Yet, that’s exactly where Amazon began. Authors can also carve out a space dedicated to writing and achieving their goals. Writing can be accomplished anywhere.
4. Avoid the path of least resistance
During a Princeton Commencement Speech in 2010, Bezos, a Princeton Alumnus, reflected on his decision to quit his job and start his online superstore. “After much consideration, I took the less safe path to follow my passion, and I’m proud of that choice,” he said. While dedicating all your effort to playing it safe may seem like a smart choice, it also ensures that you put your dream of writing on hold. Security doesn’t necessarily equal happiness.
5. Don’t fear rejection
While addressing his Princeton audience, Amazon’s CEO posed an important question, “Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?” It might be especially tempting to shield your work from others to avoid having your hopes dashed. Yet, in order to progress, authors need to accept rejection. Rejection isn’t synonymous with failure, but rather a sign that your work hasn’t found its home yet.
6. Stick it out with a project to the end
Amazon was founded in 1994. Less than eight years later, the dot-com industry suffered an estimated $5 trillion in losses. Despite the seemingly dismal circumstances, Bezos stuck it out. For writers, it can be tempting to give up on a project in light of circumstances that bring the potential success of their work into question. Yet sometimes the best thing to do is to finish writing.
7. “Build Your Story”
While addressing Princeton graduates, Bezos advised them to make significant choices in their lives. “Build your story,” he said. As one of the leadership traits of Jeff Bezos, this one goes to the heart of a being a leader – building your story, and sharing the vision of your story with others. When it comes to writing, this wisdom is critical too. Make the conscious decision to tell the story that’s in your heart, not the one others want to hear.
8. Have interests outside of writing
Outside of Amazon, Bezos owns two other corporations, Blue Origin and The Washington Post. Blue Origin, a successful aerospace manufacturer, stems from Bezos’s long-time fascination with space. Similarly, writers can also gain from having interests outside of their careers. Diverse passions will bring about new ideas, insights, or even provide the basis for a bestseller.
9. Start your project, even if you don’t have all the kinks ironed out
When Amazon.com first began it was originally called “Cadabra, Inc.” Years after Amazon’s success, Bezos would confess, “I knew that was a bad name, and I changed it a few months later.” Start writing your book, even if you don’t have all the details hammered out.
10. Adopt a “regret minimization framework”
For those looking to follow their passions, Bezos often advises that people embrace a “regret minimization framework.” He states, “you want to project yourself to age 80, and then think back over your life, and if you’re 80, you want to minimize the number of regrets your have.” This practice can be especially useful for writers who are hesitant about making drastic decisions to achieve their goals. Writing your novel will help ensure that you have one less regret to worry about in the future.
11. Accept that you can’t predict how your idea will be received
A lot of times, we can buy into the idea that our book concept will never be commercially successful. Yet, how successful something will be is completely unpredictable until we try. In speaking about the early days of Amazon, Bezos said, “The day before we were ready to launch the store, in July of 1995, one of the software engineers said, ‘can’t figure out if this is incredibly optimistic or hopelessly pathetic.’ And indeed we didn’t know. There was no way to know how customers were going to adopt this kind of technology those very early days.” When it comes to the book industry, and business in general, no one can predict the future.
12. Know the odds, but do it anyway
For novice authors, it can be earth shattering to hear that many manuscripts don’t get published, and many published books don’t end up on any bestseller’s list. Yet these odds shouldn’t deter you from trying. Of his company, the founder of Amazon stated, “Start up companies are very tricky things, and fewer than 10% of them actually go on to make any return on an investment at all. I was giving myself a 30% chance which is wildly over confident.” Like business owners, writers should be aware of the odds, but pursue their projects anyway. When you know your chances, you can think of different measures that will increase your odds of becoming a successful author.
13. Avoid writing to a trend
On the subject of owning a business, Bezos said, “You can’t follow the fashion when you’re trying to do a start up company or anything in life.” Likewise, authors should avoid writing to a trend for the sake of fashion. Trends are always changing. As Amazon’s CEO suggests, the best thing to do is to find your passion and, “just stay right there and let the wave catch you.”
14. Take risks in writing
Whether you are investing hundred of dollars into the stock market or building a start up company, you are taking on risk. The same principle goes for writing. So, you might as well use that opportunity to be experimental in your work. As the Amazon founder suggests, “risk is a necessary component of progress.”
15. Invest in the quality of your writing
In response to a question about Amazon’s customer service, Bezos said, “I build a great product or service, my customers will tell each other about it.” Authors new to the publishing process can often forget the word-of-mouth principle. It’s easy to get caught up in marketing strategies and branding. While those are crucial elements of success, sometimes the best thing you can do is to write a great book. Put most of your effort into writing something memorable.
16. Pick one audience for your book
One major mistake an author can make is attempting to attract too many audiences, which can make the writing feel inorganic. As Bezos suggests, “don’t hold a ballet and advertise it as a rock concert.”
17. Don’t worry about competition
Like a lot of other businesses, the book industry is incredibly competitive. However, getting caught up in attempting to outshine other authors won’t make a book successful. Instead, try adopting Amazon’s mission to be “Customer obsessed, instead of competitor obsessed.” Become reader obsessed.
18. Build a team
We all need to depend on other people at some point. In a interview given at the Liberty Science Center Genius Gala, Bezos said, “You need people who are experts in their domain, because the world is so complex today, it’s really hard to invent something if you’re not an expert—if you don’t have the underlying tools at your disposal.” There’s something to be said for this point in every endeavor, but it could do with more emphasis in the writing trade. The writing process can be simplified if authors surround themselves with people that can provide the right tools.
19. Maintain a “Beginner’s Mind”
Achieving success and recognition feels wonderful. However, even the most seasoned bestselling authors can benefit from a willingness to learn new things. As Bezos points out, in order to maintain success, “you have to have a certain childlike ability to not be trapped by your expertise.”
20. Remain grounded
When asked if in the early days he ever imagined how big Amazon would get, Bezos said, “My great vision at that time was that we might be big enough that we could afford a forklift.” Like many other careers that can potentially lead to fame, writers can jump ahead of themselves envisioning the amazing rewards to come once they’re successful. Instead, our writing, and our ego, would benefit from focusing on growing incrementally.
21. Adapt long-term thinking
When he’s not running Amazon, Jeff Bezos’s pass-times include helping develop a 10,000-year clock. He claims that the purpose of this is to symbolize the importance of long-term thinking. “You can accomplish so much if you think long term that you can’t if you think short term,” Bezos said. This concept is perhaps the most important take away. Writers should try to remember that books are long-term projects that require setting long-term, achievable goals.
What did you think of our list of 21 leadership traits of Jeff Bezos? Can you think of any others? Please share in the comments box below!
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]https://writingtipsoasis.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/rof3.png[/author_image] [author_info]As a graduate from the University of Arizona in English and Creative Writing, Rofida Khairalla’s love for classical literature and post-modern fiction extends beyond the realm of books. She has provided her services independently as a freelance writer, and wrote on the news desk for the student-run newspaper, The Daily Wildcat. As an aspiring children’s book author, she’s refined her craft amongst the grand saguaros of the Southwest, and enjoys playing with her German Shepherd on the slopes of Mount Lemmon.[/author_info] [/author]