Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek. 

Fame can be brief.

So can the lifespan of a successful company, even though it seems some will last forever.

This is a fact of which Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is very aware.

He knows the company's current success may be relatively fleeting, never mind that HQ2s are sprouting up in new places

How long, though, can Amazon last?

In a meeting with employees last week, reported by CNBC, Bezos offered a healthy tinge of realism, as his company expands in the face of substantial and increasing opposition

Indeed, he predicted that Amazon would one day go bust.

"If you look at large companies, their lifespans tend to be 30-plus years, not a hundred-plus years," he said.

Which would mean Amazon, founded in 1994, may have a mere six or so years left in it before calamity strikes.

That's the problem with companies that appear to become vital and ubiquitous very quickly.

We assume we'll never be able to live without them.

We assume they'll always be around. 

Yet think back to 30 years ago, and Sears might have seemed one of those companies.

Today, it's just an afterthought. It's the butt of jokes.

Amazon's situation may be even more perilous. Technology has accelerated the pace of, well, everything.

It encourages us to buy its every ware, at the same time as it stops us from thinking.

We're too busy watching, playing, and doing. Living seems something we don't have time for.

We'll likely end up using up Amazon and wearing it out far more quickly than we can imagine.

Someone will soon come along to offer an even more essential service that makes Amazon look like, well, Sears.

Bezos told his employees that their job is to prevent that from happening for as long as possible.

They should do it, he said, by thinking only about customers and refusing to gaze at their own navels.

Indeed, I understand that in some Amazon warehouses gazing at your own navel will result in a fine.

Perhaps, in a few years, Bezos's space ambitions will have already overtaken his interest in Amazon. 

Perhaps, too, he'll still need the Amazon profits to finance those space ambitions, so he'll want his creation to beat the odds.

There is, he said, one sort of company that seems to have outlasted most others.

"Most of the companies that are multi-hundred-year-old companies are breweries. It's very interesting. I'm not sure what that says about society," he said.

It certainly says that society likes beer. It might even say that society has needed beer far more than it has needed other essentials. 

Beer has brought people together, just as individualistic capitalism has driven them apart.

The longevity of breweries might also say that breweries managed to divide up their market a little like cartels, sharing the spoils for longer than could have been imagined.

At heart, though, while beer was everywhere, breweries themselves weren't.

That's perhaps the biggest danger with Amazon--that it becomes an ever-present, all-encompassing company that manages to both stifle us and bore us.

Humans can be ruthless in such circumstances.

Published on: Nov 15, 2018
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.