2018 Bezos Letter to Shareholders

A good way of the doing something is forcing one to take notes. A good way of taking notes is taking these semi-public. That is why this year I am doing very fast notes on the Bezos letter.

I do not have an opinion on Amazon as a business but organisationally find it amazing what they achieved to run all these different products successfully in one company. 

The letter is found here: 

Following from the great rankings that amazon shows in customer success surveys according to the letter, the topic is how those are achieved. High standards is the answer according to him. That is an interesting discussion because arguably my standard are quite low for a larger number of things (like these blog posts, my clothing style) but quite high for other things like actually DOING these blogposts.

What follows is a discussion whether standards are intrinsic or trained, universal or domain specific and elements like that. More or less insightful. 

But than again really interesting is this story: 

Perfect Handstands

A close friend recently decided to learn to do a perfect free-standing handstand. No leaning against a wall. Not for just a few seconds. Instagram good. She decided to start her journey by taking a handstand workshop at her yoga studio. She then practiced for a while but wasn’t getting the results she wanted. So, she hired a handstand coach. Yes, I know what you’re thinking, but evidently this is an actual thing that exists. In the very first lesson, the coach gave her some wonderful advice. “Most people,” he said, “think that if they work hard, they should be able to master a handstand in about two weeks. The reality is that it takes about six months of daily practice. If you think you should be able to do it in two weeks, you’re just going to end up quitting.” Unrealistic beliefs on scope – often hidden and undiscussed – kill high standards. To achieve high standards yourself or as part of a team, you need to form and proactively communicate realistic beliefs about how hard something is going to be – something this coach understood well."

Here takes that story and brings it on to it's memos that Amazon famously does instead of power points, here the lesson is: 

"Here’s what we’ve figured out. Often, when a memo isn’t great, it’s not the writer’s inability to recognize the high standard, but instead a wrong expectation on scope: they mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more!"

In personal productivity, scoping is essential. For example, in writing this blogpost my scope and standards are very low. That gives me the freedom to just produce and get it out. 

Business Updates

  • > 50% merchandise sold is 3rd Party
  • Amazon Echo: nothing interested here on first sight, I have an Amazon Echo but use it as often as I use chat bots: nearly never.
  • Good news on Whole Foods: "Our Prime member exclusive promotion broke Whole Foods’ all-time record for turkeys sold during the Thanksgiving season" ;)
  • Updated kindle is waterproof. This was already known. Still I'd love amazon to work harder on this product, I believe there is much more potential and a lower price point (no idea what the displays costs though) on the hardware, plus a better UX on the device possible. I still love it. 

Best of from the 1997 Letter: 

"We will continue to measure our programs and the effectiveness of our investments analytically, to jettison those that do not provide acceptable returns, and to step up our investment in those that work best. We will continue to learn from both our successes and our failures."

"When forced to choose between optimizing the appearance of our GAAP accounting and maximizing the present value of future cash flows, we’ll take the cash flows."

Other ressources: 
Obviously recommend The Everything Store, but more importantly, check out this podcast from the great podcast series overall: