in Amazon, Day 1, entropy, houseplants, Jeff Bezos, shareholder letters

Bezos Shareholder Letter (2020)

There is a lot of perceived and/or justified controversy with Amazon. I don’t fully understand it all but I’ve enjoyed watching, reading and listening to Jeff Bezos immensely. And with this being his last shareholder letter as CEO, it’s sad to think that this might be the last letter he writes (in this way).

There’s a few thoughts/feelings I have when reading this letter:

  1. He’s still on the offensive about “Day 1”. What would an Amazon letter be without at least mention about “Day 1”? There’s a whole section in there about plants (!!!) and biology as it relates to growing amazing businesses. There’s also an allegory to entropy (of which I’ve written about before and completely agree with.)
  2. He’s on the the defensive as it relates to employee activism, Amazon’s place in the world and how much value Amazon creates for it’s constituents. Perhaps it’s a changing of the guard and signalling that corporations and now catching up to governments and citizens in addressing the 360-degrees of larger effects and benefits to society and not just to the bottom line. Bezos does a great job in doing some back-of-the-envelope map on how much value Amazon has created for all this constituents.

The Best Nuggets of Advice …

  • Create More Than You Consume: “If you want to be successful in business (in life, actually), you have to create more than you consume. Your goal should be to create value for everyone you interact with. Any business that doesn’t create value for those it touches, even if it appears successful on the surface, isn’t long for this world. It’s on the way out.”
  • Differentiation is Survival and the Universe Wants You To Be Typical: Bezos quotes from Richard Dawkins’ book: ““Staving off death is a thing that you have to work at. Left to itself – and that is what it is when it dies – the body tends to revert to a state of equilibrium with its environment. If you measure some quantity such as the temperature, the acidity, the water content or the electrical potential in a living body, you will typically find that it is markedly different from the corresponding measure in the surroundings. Our bodies, for instance, are usually hotter than our surroundings, and in cold climates they have to work hard to maintain the differential. When we die the work stops, the temperature differential starts to disappear, and we end up the same temperature as our surroundings. Not all animals work so hard to avoid coming into equilibrium with their surrounding temperature, but all animals do some comparable work. For instance, in a dry country, animals and plants work to maintain the fluid content of their cells, work against a natural tendency for water to flow from them into the dry outside world. If they fail they die. More generally, if living things didn’t work actively to prevent it, they would eventually merge into their surroundings, and cease to exist as autonomous beings. That is what happens when they die.””

If we take these two and juxtapose them, one point made at tail ends of this letter, we see so much about Jeff’s thinking is about this “alchemy”. Do things that will create more in the world, understand that it’s hard to create but it’s do-or-die.

“You have to pay a price for your distinctiveness, and it’s worth it. The fairy tale version of “be yourself” is that all the pain stops as soon as you allow your distinctiveness to shine. That version is misleading. Being yourself is worth it, but don’t expect it to be easy or free. You’ll have to put energy into it continuously.”

Overall a great letter and a good reminder to keep charging forward.