Success leaves clues.
For that reason, I've long been interested in studying individuals who have managed to make something of their lives and contribute value in this big complicated world. Whether it's historical figures or contemporary business celebrities, I never tire of digging into their lives and decisions to see what can be gleaned.
But one thing always brings me up short: the why behind the what.
It's one thing to read about a decision someone made, but it's another entirely to understand why they made that decision, and just how they knew to make that particular choice.
The question I often find myself asking is, "How did they know to do THAT!?"
Recently, I was reading about the Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, and how he pushed the concept of Whispernet through his organization so that when they released the Kindle e-reader, the device would be instantly connected anywhere and ready to immediately download a new book purchase. Only through much pain and expense was Bezos able to make this happen. How, I wondered, did he know to press so hard for its implementation, when it appears that nearly his whole staff was opposed to the idea? With everyone against his revolutionary concept, which some warned could swamp the entire company, Bezos mercilessly forced it through.
For wouldn't you know it, Whispernet and the possibility of instant book purchases was the very idea that broke the dam of resistance on the part of the big publishers and convinced them to invest the money required to digitize large quantities of their physically published book titles.
Bezos had made the right choice. He's a smart guy, brilliant really, and that's just how things work. Super intelligent egg-head types make fantastic decisions and that's why they win.
Not so fast.
Because if you study further, with a more scrutinizing eye, you'll quickly discover that the brilliant people of the world are no more clairvoyant than the rest of us. In fact, they don't see around corners any better than anyone else. What you really find out is that they don't predict the future as much as they create it.
Decision making, while important, is not the key. Instead, it's the mindset they're in when they make the decisions that counts. Because, and here's an important point: it's not so much that we make the right decisions, but rather that we make decisions and then work to make them right.
This requires the right mindset, what we'll call the "Mindset of a Champion."
Where does this mindset come from?
I was given a clue to this answer in an interview I read of one of Jeff Bezos's high school girlfriends. In it she stated that the reason Bezos was building such a huge company wasn't for any of the reasons Wall Street was measuring, but rather for the purpose of "getting to outer space."
Yep, apparently Jeff Bezos has had the dream since boyhood of exploring outer space and even colonizing Mars. His purpose seems to be way beyond selling books, launching a successful startup, or dominating the internet. Behind all of his successes (which have eclipsed the mere sale of books, by the way, including big data and cloud computing, and now involves even the concept of drones delivering packages to individual addresses), lies an enormously outsized dream to do what no one has done before.
And here lies the real key to his success.
It's not Bezos's poignat decision making per se, but rather what lies behind those decisions. It's the Mindset of a Champion, guided and driven by an over-arching dream and vision so big that most people can't even relate.
This dream evokes a passion, and that passion drives the decisions, good or bad, so that even if a decision isn't exactly the "right" one, it is quickly learned from and immediately used to inform the next decision to be made.
In this way we can see how it works for the wildly successful. They are visionaries and dreamers and feel the magnetic pull of what should be, so strongly, that the passion pushes them through all manner of proper and improper choices, each one course-correcting and aiming ever more effectively at the ultimate target.
This way of living could be no more different from the life of the "average" person who occupies the days of his or her life with television, sports, earning a basic wage, and living for the weekend. The Jeff Bezos's of the world don't live for the weekend, they're preparing for the world's end. The scope is so different it's nearly incomprehensible.
And so we see the real secret of outlandish success: a powerful vision of what can and should be.
This provides the passion . . .
that drives the decisions . . .
that makes those decisions right . . .
And by the way, Bezos's space company Blue Origin is already well on its way toward accomplishing his dream of "getting to outer space!"
Rock on, Jeff!