How I Think

📦 Why Jeff Bezos Quit

Published over 1 year ago • 3 min read

Hey friend,

When I hear the word "entrepreneurship", I picture 3 college kids huddled over Macbook Pros at 2 am.

I picture 19 year old Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network (top 5 fav movies btw).

But the story of Jeffy Bezos is different.

Today, I'll give ya the quick version and talk about 3 frameworks for making career decisions using Bezos as a case study. If you didn't see, I left my job at Goldman last week (link to that post here). These frameworks informed my decision.

And I think they will help you too.

The Story

So our buddy Jeff attends Princeton and follows a common path for high achievers in their 20s.

He gets a "normal" job. He gets offers from Intel, Bell Labs, and Anderson Consulting.

But turns them all down.

And joins a small telecomm startup called Fitel. Fitel's mission was to build a global telecom network for investment trading firms.

Bezos quickly rises the ranks and becomes the head of development at Fitel.

But after 2 years, Fitel fails and Jeff joins Banker's Trust (now Deutsche Bank) as a product manager.

After 2 years and a promotion to Vice President, Jeffy B gets bored building software apps for pension funds.

So he leaves.

His move?

Join a top hedge fund called D.E. Shaw.

By 30, he's a Vice President at D.E. Shaw making a few hundred thousand bucks a year.

So he's already got the money and a bunch of prestige.

But he discovers this little thing called the Internet. And one data point got him way too excited:

“The web was growing at 2,300 percent per year.”

So it's the summer of 1994. And Jeff tells his boss they need to talk.

They take a stroll in Central Park in New York and David (founder of D.E. Shaw) listens patiently.

And says...

“Sounds like a good idea but probably a better idea for someone who doesn't have a good job."

Now, everyone knows what happens next.

He quits the hedge fund, starts Amazon and builds a trillion dollar business that takes over the world.

But we all know that story.

More importantly, here are 3 takeaways that can help frame your career decisions.

Let's get into it...

1) Crush Today, Plan for Tomorrow

Do you notice how Jeff quickly climbed the ranks at every job? He goes from debugger to vice president at Fitel.

He rapidly earns a Vice President promotion at Banker's Trust. And same with D.E. Shaw.

In the back of his brain, Jeff knows he wants to build his own business. But this doesn't mean he slacks off.

Jeff creates a reputation of a guy who gets sh*t done, dominates, and runs through walls.

This is crucial for building a good reputation in a world that is much smaller than you think.

And it creates opportunities to tap his network for...

  • Recruiting employees
  • Raising money
  • Mentorship

And if Amazon doesn't work out?

Jeff would have plenty of opportunities to find a new job.

Excellent employee performance hedges the risk of entrepreneurship.

2) Jeff's Regret Minimization Framework

For Jeff, it's not easy to leave a high paying, prestigious job as a married 30 year old.

So what pushes him over the edge?

"I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret trying this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried."

When making a big decision, here's the checklist:

  1. Put yourself in the future
  2. Look back on the decision
  3. Ask, "will I regret not doing this?"

Then decide how you will act today.

3) Footnote Framework

Sam Altman ran famous startup accelerator Y Combinator and also built businesses worth billions.

But I admire Sam a lot for an essay titled "How to be Successful".

My favorite framework from the essay looks at career through the lens of footnotes:

"It’s useful to focus on adding another zero to whatever you define as your success metric—money, status, impact on the world, or whatever. I am willing to take as much time as needed between projects to find my next thing. But I always want it to be a project that, if successful, will make the rest of my career look like a footnote."

Ask yourself:

Could this project make the rest of my career look like a footnote?

For Jeff, no one remembers Fitel, Banker's Trust or D.E. Shaw.

And that's the point.

That's all I got,

Chris Hlad

p.s. if you loved this, forward it to a friend. if you hated this, forward it to an enemy. And if you're new, hit the big blue button below...

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