The year is 1997 and Amazon is going public. At the time of this event, many investors and people viewed the company as a joke. Another big event at that time was the first of what has now been 20 annual letters from Jeff Bezos.
While these letters mostly garner attention from people due to highly impressive financial numbers, such as the recent letter disclosing 100 million paid Prime members globally and various leadership principles, there's much more wisdom and many success principles in these letters.
I spent time over the past weekend reading all 20 of these letters and here are three of the most valuable lessons that you can use to become a top performer.
1. If you need full support for every decision, you're not going to succeed.
In the beginning, picking a nontraditional banker like the DMG Technology Group and not focusing on short-term gains to appease investors was a hair-raiser to many so-called experts.
In the 2000 letter, Bezos mentioned that shares were down by 80 percent from the previous year. However, he insisted that the company was in a better position because he knew his long-term metrics of importance.
So what does this have to do with you growing your business, improving at your specific craft, and getting the highest results out of life?
As you continue your journey, many will question you and try to guilt you at times for doing things a particular way. In those times, it's a necessity to know your strategy so you can maintain unwavering focus.
As Bezos mentions concerning Amazon's strategy, "We don't claim it's the right philosophy, we just claim it's ours!"
Whether you're building a company, a healthier body, or attempting to become world-class, you must have a philosophy to serve as your compass.
For Bezos, it was about becoming the "everything store," as he mentioned in the '97 letter.
What are your company and personal philosophies? What is your ultimate endgame? Your challenge is to write out a grand vision for your business or particular craft that you want to become great in.
2. Always operate with a beginner's mindset.
Many have asked Bezos about why it's always "Day 1" at Amazon. He addressed this in his 2016 letter by stating that "Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1."
If you want a proven way to decline and stop improving, simply think you've mastered it all. Whether in sports or business, letting your mind grow soft and dull is a lethal blow to your future success.
A beginner's mindset is critical because it keeps you operating with a sense of urgency and healthy fear, which is critical to growth.
In his '98 letter, Bezos stated:
"There is no rest for the weary. I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified. Not of our competition, but of our customers. Our customers have made our business what it is, they are the ones with whom we have a relationship, and they are the ones to whom we owe a great obligation. And we consider them to be loyal to us--right up until the second that someone else offers them a better service."
Bezos recognizes the fragility and reality of business, which keeps him obsessed with the customer, eagerly adopting external trends, and skeptical of proxies and high-velocity decision making.
What must you stay obsessed with to not only win today but also well into the future so it'll continue to be "Day 1"?
3. Hold yourself and everyone around you to a higher standard.
One of the biggest lessons I've learned from mentors and coaches years ahead of me is that the details matter--all of them. How you do one thing is how you'll do everything.
Having a high standard isn't optional; it's a necessity if you want to be a top performer. Realizing this, Bezos didn't just hold himself to a higher standard. He held his surrounding environment to a higher standard as well.
When discussing employees in his '97 letter, he stated:
"It's not easy to work here (when I interview people I tell them, "You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can't choose two out of three"), but we are working to build something important, something that matters to our customers, something that we can all tell our grandchildren about. Such things aren't meant to be easy."
There will be a lot of resistance to a higher standard, and sometimes people will get flustered with the infrastructure you've established.
Amazon has its four key elements for high standards. Which standards will you hold yourself and others to, no matter what?