Amazon’s annual shareholder letters are gold. They are essentially mini MBA’s and they are well worth reading. I had to share this 2003 letter which discusses long term thinking and ownership.
Besos starts the 2003 letter by telling the story of a couple who rented their house. Come Christmas, the tenants - who he notes were ‘particularly bad’ - nailed their Christmas Tree to the floor instead of using a tree stand. Bezos uses this as an example of the success of short term thinking over long term strategy. It’s not something the owner of a home would ever do. Well, hopefully not.
It’s easy to judge the irresponsibility of something this obvious. What is less obvious are the smaller day to day decisions we make that are just as irresponsible. In New Zealand there is a Maori term for this, Iti Nui, which means that from the little comes the big.
How many little things do we do every day that add up to something big? On the ‘good’ side of the equation are those sips of water that add up to your 8 cups a day (or whatever measure of water intake you have determined optimal). The stairs you climb instead of taking the elevator. The dessert you skip when you are out for a meal (or not, wink). The hour of email you do most nights to keep the inbox monster at bay.
On the not so good side; well, most of us know what our worst enemy is. Maybe dessert is impossible for you to ignore. Maybe it’s your expenses that you let pile up until you get the year-end demand from accounts. Possibly it’s scrolling Instagram and realizing twenty minutes just passed you by.
But who’s perfect? Certainly not me. These are common issues that many of us share and we all need a little downtime or escapism. Or dessert. But there is also a smaller Iti lurking, one that over time becomes as big as nailing a Christmas Tree to your living room floor.
That project you just can’t find time in the day for. The writing you just can’t get consistent on. The job hunt that you care deeply about but are not committing yourself fully to. The networking you know you should be doing to promote your new show/company/product. The book proposal you are supposed to be writing (crap, that’s me).
Procrastination on our most high-value project is what ultimately make us poor tenants of our own house. We want to lose weight but we don’t walk up the stairs. We want to get a new job but we phone it in posting stuff on linked in and applying for jobs online rather than activating our network for direct connections. We want to get our book published but we commit more time to writing our weekly newsletter than working on the proposal. Who me??
The Amazon story reminded me of the Netflix show ‘Nailed It’. It’s so bad it’s good. Amateur (and I mean amateur) bakers attempt to copy a stunning cake design to win the show. They are all disasters, the least disastrous wins. It’s a show about being the least bad. It’s a show that celebrates being the best of the worst. That’s so not where I see myself.
I’m off to work on my book proposal - what do you need to do?