…because some thoughts are worth remembering
Jeff Bezos was already a big star back in 2005 when he was the keynote speaker at Churchill Club’s Annual Dinner.
Over 10 years ago, and I remember his speech like I heard it yesterday.
He told the audience about the genesis of Amazon (why he picked books as the product to sell online), his personal shopping experience on Amazon (he almost bought a book until Amazon reminded him he had already purchased that book before), and why he thought the Internet was still in its infancy (comparing it to how people were unscrewing the lightbulbs from their sockets in the ceiling and hook up their washing machine when electricity was first delivered to the homes).
But what left the biggest impression on me was not what he said but what he didn’t say. During an audience Q&A, he was asked what he “thought about charity”, a softball question for which I’m sure his PR people have prepped him with just the right wording to contribute to the brand of Amazon and its successful and ambitious founder. But what followed was the longest silence that confused me. Perhaps he got distracted, or didn’t understand the question, I thought. Maybe he “forgot his lines”.
When Bezos broke his silence with, “It’s really hard,” I was even more puzzled.
Then he spoke deliberately for a few minutes how challenging it is to tackle a large problem through charity because the strategy must be multi-generational.
He didn’t offer any easy solutions or strategies he thought would work, and is the smile initiative part of his answer over 10 years later? In any case, I do remember learning a way to approach charity that evening, as well as seeing a broader theme to softball questions.
Photo: Beijing, China