Two decades before he became the richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos was just another employee on someone else's payroll. It was 1994, and Bezos was a senior vice president at D.E. Shaw & Co., a Wall Street-based investment banking firm. Eight years out of college, Bezos was 30 years old, and while his career in finance was lucrative, he was personally unfulfilled.
He soon found something that gave him a sense of urgency: a report forecasting rapid annual growth of the internet. "I came across the fact that Web usage was growing at 2,300 percent per year. I'd never seen or heard of anything that grew that fast, and the idea of building an online bookstore with millions of titles--was very exciting to me," Bezos revealed in a 2010 speech at Princeton, his alma mater.
But the report was only part of his motivation to start his own company. A fear of regret later in life is what pushed him over the edge. "I don't want to be 80 years old and in a quiet moment of reflection, thinking back over my life and cataloging a bunch of major regrets," he said in an interview last year with his brother Mark at the Summit LA conference.
So, Bezos quit his job, packed up, and drove cross country to Seattle where he and five (lucky) employees began developing an online bookstore. One year later, in July 1995, Bezos formally launched Amazon.com, and the rest is history.
If you are currently employed but dream about being a successful entrepreneur, here are a few strategies you can borrow from Bezos to help determine if now is the right time to make your move.
Have a Unique Insight
For Bezos, it was the report he read that projected a 2,300 percent industry growth rate, at a time when the internet was unfamiliar to most Americans. "That's huge--nothing usually grows that fast outside a petri dish," he said.
Researching 20 retail markets he imagined being disrupted by e-commerce, Bezos ultimately set his sights on books: a massive $82-billion-dollar market, whose products were low cost and could be sold to anyone, anywhere.
What lessons can we learn from his experience? Seek insights that few others know about. Get into a new, growing industry early on. And importantly, strive to solve a problem in a big market.
Project Into Your Future
Imagine you're 80 and looking back on your life and career. How would you feel if you never took a shot at starting the business you had dreamed about when you were younger?
Bezos came to the conclusion that he needed to act on the opportunity in front of him. "In most cases, our biggest regrets turn out to be acts of omission. It's paths not taken, and they haunt us. We wonder what would have happened," he said.
A saying attributed to Lewis Carroll sums it up nicely: "In the end, we only regret the chances we didn't take." Don't live a life full of regret. You'll never regret taking a chance and betting on yourself.
Trust Your Instincts
There's something oddly isolating about starting a business: No one can do it but you. You can research endlessly, you can ask for advice from countless others, but at the end of day, it's up to you to make the final decision.
Bezos suggests aspiring entrepreneurs ask themselves one question: "What does your heart say?" For him, the answer was clear, and so he left Wall Street in 1994 and never looked back.
Quitting a good paying job is never easy. But with a unique insight, a little risk-taking, and by trusting your gut, you might just take over the world.
Listen to your emotions--they're trying to tell you something.