Amazon.com started off delivering books through the mail. But its visionary founder, Jeff Bezos, wasn't content with being a bookseller. He wanted Amazon to become the everything store, offering limitless selection and seductive convenience at disruptively low prices. To do so, he developed a corporate culture of relentless ambition and secrecy that's never been cracked. Until now.
Revealing book about the history of Amazon and a fascinating insight into Jeff Bezos, who has to be up there with Steve Jobs in “visionary” terms.
The book clearly shows Bezos to be an incredibly motivated genius who has revolutionised several industries, though Amazon’s culture (unsurprisingly) isn’t painted in the most complimentary or collaborative fashion with many examples of Bezos ripping Amazon employees apart though it seems that he’s quite prepared to take the feedback in return, though a confrontational culture isn’t for everyone. The sheer focus on the customer and customer trust is blindingly obvious throughout and without doubt, a huge reason for their success.
It was incredibly interesting to read about Amazon’s various challenges with:
- fulfilment centres
- tech debt & growth
- dot com bubble and burst
- smaller competitors
- affiliate partners
- customer trust
The folk at Amazon are clearly smart, ambitious and like to challenge (described as a “gladiator environment”).
The author (Brad Stone) walks through anecdotes about the Amazon culture such as Jeffbots, nutters and 6-page narratives, while Stone also walks through how Amazon treats other companies or competitors, mostly with contempt. I couldn’t help but laughing at the description of issues within Amazon with the ultimate being a “Sev-B”, i.e. an email from Bezos with a “?”.
Amazon is constantly mentioned with Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Apple and Netflix though its culture seems quite different with huge customer frugality; various tenets & rules; a hugely competitive & intimidating work environment; constant desire to serve the customer; and huge motivation to win.
I admire Bezos, particularly his vision and his ability to understand and make incredible insights on topics he has no prior knowledge of, though the culture at Amazon doesn’t seem to be for everyone. On top of Amazon, Bezos has many successful interests outside interested from his foundation to the Washington Post to Blue Origin to his Clock.
Throughout this book, you realise how much you rely on Amazon and how much it’s part of your everyday life.
In The Black Swan Taleb outlined a problem, and in Antifragile he offers a definitive solution: how to gain from disorder and chaos while being protected from fragilities and adverse events. For what Taleb calls the "antifragile" is actually beyond the robust, because it benefits from shocks, uncertainty, and stressors, just as human bones get stronger when subjected to stress and tension. The antifragile needs disorder in order to survive and flourish. Taleb stands uncertainty on its head, making it desirable, even necessary, and proposes that things be built in an antifragile manner.
Taleb is most definitely not for everyone and I can appreciate that many find him too "full of his own shit" to stomach but I can't get enough of his books and writings. He comes across as angry and is definitely contrarian but he cuts through the bullshit. Taleb calls mistaken beliefs and biases out while, more importantly, providing solutions and better ways of thinking and living.
Key takeaways for me were:
1) Subtraction over addition, which I've not thought of before, but makes so much sense, especially on health. Interestingly the concept of subtraction and eschewing intervention had a lot of overlap with Gawande's "Mortal" book, e.g. on many occasions, medical intervention makes the patient live a worse life than what would've happened if nature had been left alone.
2) Don't trust/believe others with no "skin in the game". Many of the so-called experts have no skin and are guilty of transferring fragility to others so they never have a downside.
3) If you need more than one reason to do something, then you probably shouldn't do it as you're simply looking for justification.
4) Invest in people (h/t VCs I guess :) ).
Overall, Antifragile made me think about multiple aspects of my life from investments to work to family, even regarding workouts, in new ways while reassuring me on some changes I've made to both diversify and move out of my comfort circle.
Loved this book :)
By forcing us to apply a more selective criteria for what is Essential, the disciplined pursuit of less empowers us to reclaim control of our own choices about where to spend our precious time and energy - instead of giving others the implicit permission to choose for us. Essentialism is not one more thing - it’s a whole new way of doing everything. It’s about doing less, but better, in every area of our lives. Essentialism is a movement whose time has come.
Absolutely loved this book. Ive been thinking about "what's truly important" for some time so this book probably came along at the right time in my life but the message of "is this the most important thing I could be doing right now" truly hit home - how do you want to be remembered and by whom?