When the world’s richest person offers a nugget of life advice, we’re inclined to take it to heart.
Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon and incidentally the world’s richest person, has been advising his top level employees to wake up terrified for years.
“I constantly remind our employees to be afraid, to wake up every morning terrified,” Bezos wrote in a 1999 shareholder letter. “Our customers have made our business what it is,” he continued, “and we consider them to be loyal to us — right up until the second that someone else offers them a better service.”
It may sound intense and unrealistic, but when you take a step back, Bezos’ suggestion actually makes a whole lot of sense. Being stagnant in business and life, whether you’re the top company in the world or otherwise, does not give way for success and innovation.
In fact, becoming too comfortable with anything is a sure fire way to breed complacency and lose your edge and innovation.
“To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment,” Bezos wrote in a 2016 shareholder letter. “Failure and invention are inseparable twins.”
It turns out that Bezos’ ethos isn’t far from the truth. According to Harvard Business Review, a certain type of fear is important — worrying about opportunity costs, personal finance security, or ability to obtain funding for a given venture are all positively associated with an entrepreneur’s persistence in pursuing their goals.
“It just makes me more aggressive to get this thing going as fast as I can,” one HBR interviewee commented.
On the other hand, letting the negative type of fear take over can be the kiss of death for a successful business. If fear is stopping you from pursuing your goals — whether it’s a fear of failure or a fear of leaving your comfort zone, you’ll have to push through it before you can really capitalize on your hard work.
Overcoming your fear can be as simple as taking a step back and visualizing what you can become if fear wasn’t stopping you. Once you channel that fear of failure into a the Bezos-approved ambition-fuelled fear, the possibilities are limitless.