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Jeff Bezos’ secrets for life and business

  • “Everything I have ever done has started small,” Bezos added, drawing laughter at the 32nd anniversary dinner of the Economic Club of Washington, D.C.:
  • “Amazon [now with 500,000 employees] … started with five people.”
  • “It’s hard to remember for you guys, but for me it’s like yesterday I was driving the packages to the post office myself, and hoping one day we could afford a forklift.”

Amazon’s president, CEO and chairman was interviewed at the Washington Hilton for 70 minutes by David Rubenstein, co-founder and co-executive chairman of The Carlyle Group (one of the world’s largest private equity firms), and president of the Economic Club.

  • After a long answer, Rubenstein joked: “I’m not used to cutting off the richest man in the world.”

Bezos, 54, owns The Washington Post, where today he’ll cut the ribbon on a newsroom expansion to accommodate 850 journalists and 350 engineers. He drew applause with his defense of the press:

  • “What the president should say is, ‘This is right. This is good. I’m glad I’m being scrutinized.’ And that would be so secure and confident.”
  • “But it’s really dangerous to demonize the media. … It’s dangerous to say that they’re the enemy of the people.”

Turning to business best practices, Bezos said he sets his first meeting at 10 a.m.:

  • “I go to bed early and I get up early. I like to putter in the morning. So I like to read the newspaper. I like to have coffee. I like have breakfast with my kids before they go to school.”
  • “I do my high-IQ meetings before lunch. Like anything that’s going to be really mentally challenging, that’s a 10 o’clock meeting. And by 5 p.m., I’m like, ‘I can’t think about that today. Let’s try this again tomorrow at 10 a.m.'”

Bezos said he gets eight hours of sleep:

  • “I prioritize it. … I think better. I have more energy. My mood is better.”
  • “As a senior executive, you get paid to make a small number of high-quality decisions. Your job is not to make thousands of decisions every day.”
  • “Is that really worth it if the quality of those decisions might be lower because you’re tired or grouchy?”

“All of our senior executives operate the same way I do. They work in the future, they live in the future.”

  • “Right now, I’m working on a quarter that’s going to reveal itself in 2021 sometime.”
  • “If I make, like, three good decisions a day, that’s enough.”
  • “Warren Buffett says he’s good if he makes three good decisions a year.” [Laughter].