Jeff Bezos couldn't throw a baseball. A fact I undeniably love because I resembled an asthmatic orange on a toothpick in grade school. Such was the unequal disproportion of weight between my head and body that mid pace I could change direction just by titling my head: The tilt sending my feet scampering to keep up before the lure of gravity brought my forehead to pavement. So I can relate to a lack of coordination and general athletic ability. Jeff with a baseball makes me feel better. Not even his mom would play with him:
"but his aim proved so unpredictable that his mother tied a mattress to the fence and asked him to practice on his own." *
At least the whole Amazon thing worked out. While I wish I could say the parallels between our lives have maintained, unfortunately it hasn't played out that way. Jeff did find his way onto the football team.
He also reluctantly played football, barely clearing the league weight limit but getting named defensive captain by the team coach because he could memorize the plays and remembered where everyone on the field was supposed to stand. 'I was dead set against playing football,' he said. 'I had no interest in playing a game where people would tackle me to the ground.' Still, in sports, Bezos revealed a ferocious competitive streak, and when his football team, the Jets, lost the league championship, he broke down in tears." *
He wasn't a star. But what I love about this passage is that to Jeff, whether it was his passion or not, everything mattered. He was fiercely competitive even if the activity was not of particular interest. He also displayed uncanny ability at an unusually young age. "Like the time three-year-old Jeff disassembled his crib with a screwdriver because he insisted on sleeping in a bed." *
This preface sets the stage for my favorite part of the book. The author cites Bezos' valedictory high school speech, which reveals his true passion:
"[His mom] still has a copy, which includes the classic Star Trek opening, 'Space, the final frontier,' and discusses his dream of saving humanity by creating permanent human colonies in orbiting space stations while turning the planet into an enormous nature preserve." *
Perhaps unsurprisingly for a man of his talents, Bezos has been most fascinated by the final frontier. The best part of the book comes from Jeff's high school girlfriend, Ursula Werner.
"'Whatever image he had of his own future, it always involved becoming wealthy,' Ursula Werner says. 'There was no way to get what he wanted without it.' What exactly did he want? 'The reason he's earning so much money,' Werner told journalists who contacted her in the 1990s, seeking to understand the Internet magnate, 'is to get to outer space.'" *
The frenzied and at times bizarrely clumsy race to build the largest store on the planet is all just part of an even larger dream. I think of all the enviable traits he seems to possess, and there are many, an imagination without limit is what I find myself wanting most.
And in case you are unfamiliar with Bezos' extracurriculars, he is going to space. His other successful venture, Blue Origin:
Footnotes denoted by asterisk and listed in order:
Ibid., p. 147
Ibid., p. 146
Ibid., p. 153
Ibid., p. 153