This is a story about Jeff Bezos, deep motivations, and getting people to do what you want. It's the kind of insight you'll find in my free e-book Jeff Bezos Regrets Nothing, which you can download here.
This week, Bezos made a big announcement: On July 20, he plans to fly to space aboard the New Shepard, the rocket ship built by his company, Blue Origin, in its debut crewed flight.
Also scheduled to be in the capsule with him for the 11-minute, suborbital journey: his brother, Mark Bezos, along with a private passenger who will have won an upcoming auction for the privilege, and possibly up to three others (given that the capsule can hold six).
There's no pilot aboard; the entire journey will be computer-controlled.
"Ever since I was 5 years old, I've dreamed of traveling to space," Bezos, 57, said in an Instagram post on June 7. "On July 20th, I will take that journey with my brother. The greatest adventure, with my best friend."
The trip is short, but it's a legitimate flight across the Kármán line, about 62 miles above the earth, generally considered the border between space and Earth. I'm embedding a video of the voyage of the last test flight at the end of this article; that will give you an indication.
I suspect the video will be helpful, given that a lot of people haven't followed Bezos and Blue Origin all that closely. In truth, the company flew under the radar its first few years, until Bezos started buying massive amounts of property in West Texas to serve as the base for Blue Origin.
Since then, Bezos has been overshadowed in the public eye as a space titan by Elon Musk and SpaceX, and to a lesser extent by Richard Branson and Virgin Galactic.
But by announcing that he, personally, will be aboard the New Shepard capsule next month, Bezos really accomplishes two things.
- First, as he put it in his Instagram video, he'll fulfill a lifelong dream. Heck, he owns the company; he might well fly more than once.
- Second, perhaps much more important, is that by going to space as the world's richest person and one of its most famous, Bezos is now shining a light on the entire idea of space travel the likes of which many readers won't have seen in their lifetimes. That might do more than many others to inspire people to follow in his footsteps.
Think back to the event that sparked Bezos's interest in space travel at 5 years old. It illustrates the point: the experience of watching the lunar landing with his family on their old black-and-white television.
A few other breadcrumbs, many of which were hardly noticed at the time:
- His high school girlfriend, Ursula Werner, told reporters more than 20 years ago that the entire reason Bezos had set his sights on becoming wealthy as a young man was that "there was no way to get what he wanted without it: ... to get to outer space."
- Go back to a speech he gave at his high school graduation (he was the valedictorian), in which he focused on his belief that humans needed to preserve the earth and explore the stars. What was his last line? "Space, the final frontier. Meet me there."
- Heck, it's why your Amazon Echo, if you have one, operates like the voice-activated computer on Star Trek. (Bezos has been a lifelong fan.)
- And it's also why Bezos, despite founding, building, and leading one of the most successful companies in the history of the world for 27 years, describes Blue Origin as "the most important work that I'm doing."
Now, the story of Bezos's obsession with space travel and the idea of human beings living beyond the earth might not be a surprise to you. But it will be something that millions of people are only just learning about.
That's why his Instagram announcement amounts to the life-changing culmination of an ambition that most never understood, or even noticed.
I think a lot of people are like Bezos in that respect. They have deep, powerful, inner motivations driving all that they do, but that others don't know much about.
However, they're eager to share if asked. If you can identify what they are, and show how you can achieve their hidden goals, it means people will be more likely to do what you want or need them to.
Like a lot of things in life, it seems inevitable in retrospect: In a few weeks, Bezos will step down as CEO of Amazon, assume the new role of executive chairman, and spend more time on his projects like Blue Origin.
Imagine how useful it would be to notice and predict similar trajectories--and similar motivations--in the lives of other people that you deal with?