Jeff Bezos Says Living a Happy, Successful Life Comes Down to 4 Simple Things

Advice from Jeff Bezos on the power of kindness, avoiding lifelong regret and creating flywheels that fuel success.


Jeff Bezos. Amazon founder. Space touristPhilanthropist. But, his annual shareholder letters and an occasional conference attendee, not a prolific giver of advice.


But when he does offer his perspectives, it’s often good stuff.


Here are three of my favorites.


Jeff Bezos on the Power of Kindness


Intelligence matters, but as Bezos learned on a road trip with his grandparents when he was ten years old, intelligence alone won’t make you successful.


Here’s the story Bezos told Princeton graduates:


My grandfather was driving. And my grandmother had the passenger seat. She smoked throughout these trips and I hated the smell.


At that age, I’d take any excuse to make estimates and do minor arithmetic. I decided to do the math for my grandmother. I estimated the number of cigarettes per days, estimated the number of puffs per cigarette and so on.


When I was satisfied that I’d come up with a reasonable number, I poked my head into the front of the car, tapped my grandmother on the shoulder and proudly proclaimed, ”At two minutes per puff, you’ve taken nine years off your life!’


I have a vivid memory of what happened and it was not what I expected. I expected to be applauded for my cleverness and arithmetic skills. Instead, my grandmother burst into tears. I sat in the backseat and did not know what to do.


While my grandmother sat crying, my grandfather, who had been driving in silence, pulled over onto the shoulder of the highway. He got out of the car and came around and opened my door and waited for me to follow.


My grandfather looked at me and after a bit of silence, he gently and calmly said, ‘Jeff, one day you’ll understand that it’s harder to be kind than clever.’



Think about bosses you respect. Think about people you admire. Think about the people you enjoy being around.


They’re smart. They’re accomplished. Yet what truly sets them apart? They’re kind, even when – especially when – being kind is hard. (As Mark Cuban says, being nice is one of the most underrated skills in business.)


As Bezos said, “Cleverness is a gift, kindness is a choice.” You can work to get smarter, but you can’t choose to be intelligent.


But you can always choose to be kind.


Jeff Bezos on Avoiding Lifelong Regret


When people think about something major they want to do – start their own business, change careers, move to a new city, etc. – they often dwell on whether they’ll regret the decision if things don’t work out.


The path is uncertain, the future unpredictable. It’s normal to be afraid we’ll regret doing something new. But when you (and by you, I definitely mean me) look back, you typically regret things we didn’t do. The business we didn’t start. The career change we didn’t make. The move we didn’t make.


We especially regret the times we didn’t take a chance on ourselves.


As Bezos said about making the decision to start Amazon:


I went to my boss at the time and I really liked my job, and I told my boss I was going to start doing this thing, do an internet bookstore and I had already told my wife and she’s like, ‘Great, let’s go,’ and I said to my boss and he’s like, ‘I think this is a good idea, but I think this would be an even better idea for somebody that didn’t already have a good job.’


For me, the right way to make that kind of very personal decision, because those decisions are personal, they’re not like data-driven business decisions. They are, ‘What does your heart say?’


And for me, the best way to think about it was to project myself forward to age 80 and say, ‘Look, when I’m 80 years old, I want to have minimized the number of regrets that I have.’ I don’t want to be 80 years old and in a quiet moment of reflection, thinking back over my life, and cataloguing a bunch of major regrets.


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. I knew that when I’m 80, I would never regret trying this thing (quitting a good job to start Amazon) that I was super excited about and it failing.


If it failed, fine. I would be very proud of the fact when I’m 80 that I tried. And I also knew that it would always haunt me if I didn’t try. And so that would be a regret, it would be 100 percent chance of regret if I didn’t try and basically a 0 percent chance of regret if I tried and failed.


That’s a useful metric for any important life decision.



Say you’re scared to start a business. With planning, preparation, and support, fear is something you can overcome.


But regret – the kind of regret that comes from someday wishing you had at least tried – is a feeling you can never overcome.


Jeff Bezos on Creating Your Own Flywheel


A flywheel is an incredibly heavy wheel that takes huge effort to push. Keep pushing and the flywheel builds momentum. Keep pushing and eventually it starts to help turn itself and generate its own momentum.


In Good to Great, Jim Collins applied the premise to business, showing how a company’s flywheel is a self-reinforcing loop made up of a few key initiatives that both feed and drive each other.


Amazon has taken the premise to a remarkable extreme; as Brad Stone describes an early version of Amazon’s flywheel in The Everything Store:


Bezos and his lieutenants sketched their own virtuous cycle, which they believed powered their business. It went something like this: Lower prices led to more customer visits. More customers increased the volume of sales and attracted more commission-paying third-party sellers to the site.


That allowed Amazon to get more out of fixed costs like the fulfillment centers and the servers needed to run the website. This greater efficiency then enabled it to lower prices further.


Feed any part of this flywheel, they reasoned and it should accelerate the loop.


The key is to build a flywheel that, when you feed any part of it, naturally accelerates the entire loop.


Say you sell pools. New sales and installations make up one part of your flywheel. Maintenance contracts make up another: The more new pools you sell, the more service contracts you can sell and the more scheduled maintenance visits you can make.


Those visits create more opportunities for your techs to deliver great service, which feeds referrals, upgrades and future sales. And don’t forget ad hoc service calls; every one is an opportunity for a tech to turn a green pool blue, for you to sell another maintenance contract and to identify obsolete systems that could be replaced by new ones. And then there’s selling supplies…


You can also build a personal flywheel. Say you want to get in better shape. Exercising is one part. Eating healthier is another. Finding a few people to work out with, at least occasionally, is another.


Eat healthier and it’s easier to exercise; having a workout partner creates a little peer pressure that will help ensure you stick to your routine; exercising will make you want to eat healthier if only so you don’t feel like you “wasted” a workout by eating a bunch of empty calories.


Think of it this way: If you only have one primary driver of success, what happens when the momentum from that driver inevitably stalls? What other drivers can you add to your business that will help sustain and build momentum – and get fed by that same momentum?


The key is to build a flywheel that, when you feed any part of it, naturally accelerates the entire loop.


Because then your business – or your life – will create its own momentum.


Can’t beat that.


Source: IncAfrica – JEFF HADEN

More Insights

A Peer-Support Platform
for Business Leaders

Phone: 082-330 3681 | Email:

Reach out to us today!