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'Don't let it happen': Jeff Bezos’ advice in final letter

Lucy Dean
·3-min read
Photo by: Dennis Van Tine/STAR MAX/IPx 2/2/21 Jeff Bezos will step down as CEO of Amazon in the thrid quarter of this year. STAR MAX File Photo: 12/14/17 Jeff Bezos at the premiere of 'The Post' in Washington DC.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos. (Image: Getty).

The world’s richest man and Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has issued advice for workers while reflecting on the company’s troubled industrial relations history in his final letter to shareholders.

Bezos, who founded Amazon in 1994 and who is now worth US$196.7 billion (AU$253.7 billion) is set to step down from the top job later this year. In his final letter to shareholders, he referenced the recent unionisation vote in Alabama which saw workers vote against forming a union.

"Does your Chair take comfort in the outcome of the recent union vote in Bessemer? No, he doesn't," Bezos said.

"I think we need to do a better job for our employees. While the voting results were lopsided and our direct relationship with employees is strong, it's clear to me that we need a better vision for how we create value for employees - a vision for their success."

Bezos’ advice: Be distinctive

Bezos also offered one piece of advice in his final letter: embrace individuality.

“We all know that distinctiveness – originality – is valuable,” Bezos said.

“We are all taught to ‘be yourself.’ What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical – in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen.”

He said the fairytale version of the advice implied that as soon as people embrace their individuality, “all the pain stops”.

Unfortunately, that’s not true.

“Being yourself is worth it, but don’t expect it to be easy or free,” he said.

He related this advice to an excerpt from the non-fiction book ‘The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design’ by Richard Dawkins.

While the book is non-fiction and not intended to be a metaphor for human existence, Bezos said this excerpt is an important one to read and understand:

“Staving off death is a thing that you have to work at. Left to itself – and that is what it is when it dies – the body tends to revert to a state of equilibrium with its environment ... Our bodies, for instance, are usually hotter than our surroundings, and in cold climates they have to work hard to maintain the differential. When we die the work stops.... ...[I]f living things didn’t work actively to prevent it, they would eventually merge into their surroundings, and cease to exist as autonomous beings.”

Bezos said this information was “very relevant to Amazon”.

“I would argue that it’s relevant to all companies and all institutions and to each of our individual lives too.”

The billionaire will soon transition to executive chair of Amazon’s board with Andy Jassy set to take the top job.

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Image: Yahoo Finance
Image: Yahoo Finance