Jeff Bezos: Leadership, Principles and The Future (2018)

well ladies and gentlemen welcome to historic Moody Coliseum in to the forum on leadership closing conversation with Jeff Bezos I hope you're glad to be here my name is Brad cheves and I serve as vice president for development External Affairs here at the University and SMU is honored to co-hosts this afternoon's closing conversation with the Bush presidential center and I'm so glad so many of you are able to join us this evening this has been a great week for SMU and the bush Center and we know tonight will be a fantastic conversation thank you for being here and now please join me in welcoming to the podium the tenth president of SMU dr. R Gerald Turner Thank You Brad and I'm too delighted to have all of you here this is the kind of event that we envisioned when we were talking to the bushes about having the library here that for big events moody Coliseum would be the perfect place I'd take an advantage of this opportunity also for us to take a moment to acknowledge the loss all of us feel in our country feels for the passing of miss Barbara Bush and the words of her son George W Bush Barbara Bush was a fabulous first lady a woman like unlike any other who brought love and literacy to millions that's why we have our white ribbons on as Laura said signifying her hair and those three strands of pearls so would you join me for a moment of silence in honor of a memory of Barbara Bush thank you tonight not only marks the conclusion of the bush Center's inaugural forum on leadership but it also occurs on the fifth anniversary of the dedication of the George W Bush presidential center which includes the library the museum and the George W Bush Institute our pride in being home to the George W Bush presidential center as we would say at SMU its unbridled it's been ten years since SMU was announced as the home of the George W Bush presidential center in that time SMU is partnered with the President and First Lady on initiatives that have truly enriched the lives of countless students faculty and staff several programs have benefited from the experts and unique resources available at the bush center over a hundred students have interned there dozens of faculty members have participated in programs and studies and of course our students and our faculty members and their families regularly visit the museum to learn from the holdings and the special exhibitions following the dedication of the center in April 2013 over 1 million people have visited the library and museum many walking the SMU campus for the very first time the president didn't graduate from SMU but he did the next best thing he married in and we were always proud of the fact that Laura graduated from SMU and is a member of our board of trustees and the president drops in to various classes from time to time in fact to last week at any time there's that he's on campus when they see those SUVs with a dark window circling then the texts start flying because they know that he's going to be speaking somewhere and obviously it's wonderful to have them here for so many basketball games he is greeted every time with www and I'm sure the players enjoy it too because they want to shake his hand so tonight is very special for the entire SMU community in honor of this occasion the Board of Trustees passed a resolution commemorating the 10th anniversary of SM use resin selection as the site and the fifth anniversary of its opening we have those resolutions out in the lobby that if you didn't see them on the way in hopefully you will on your way out so on behalf of the SMU community we again think the president mrs. Bush and the bush selection committee that was chaired by Don Evans for the unique honor it's been to collaborate with the Bush presidential center for the past five years the partnership makes us both stronger at this time I'm pleased to introduce two graduates of Princeton the old guy an 85 graduate Ken Hirsch president and CEO of the bush Center and an 86 graduate coming along right behind him Jeff Bezos founder and CEO of Amazon so please join me and welcome them to SMU [Applause] well Jeff welcome to Dallas I'm excited that you can see what a city that really wants you here looks like right guys [Laughter] sorry that was too tempting so I I've left 30 seconds here and just in case there's a little real estate deal that you want to it's very nice to be here all right I tried I tried the before we get started I do want to I do want to thank the sponsors tonight Amarillo National Bank and Highland Capital Management this is a multi-faceted event we're here with SMU our great partner we're here as the engage event sponsored by Highland capital and we're also here is the culminating conversation of our forum on leadership and this has been a great couple of days with Bono Priscilla Chan governor Hickenlooper Martinez Ben Bernanke Hank Paulson many others and condi rice and president mrs. Bush talking about leadership so I want to talk about leadership yeah and the the first thing to really talk about is to I want to take you back to to the beginning and in 1995 you started young you went public in 97 and I'll adjust for stock splits but you raised stock you rate you issued shares at a dollar fifty a share in 1988 your revenue was six hundred million dollars and you lost 125 million but your stock had gone to $55 a share so you doubled down sales went up threefold you lost another four hundred million but your stock went up to seventy six dollars twenty seven billion dollars of market cap your personal net worth of nine billion take us back to that time where the market is telling you you're doing great but you have red ink in the company you took on two billion dollars of debt from 99201 while you tripled while you doubled sales yet again what were you thinking back then well that's a great great question and it is kind of fun to go back and think about those days you know in those days when we had I don't know when I started the company and it was just one person and then there were ten people and today there are almost 600,000 people so there's a lot of chain but back in that time we were still pretty small company by most standards but we were we were growing fast and it was very exciting you know I had when I started I was driving all the packages through the post office myself I knew the UPS guy so well that he would let me in even like five minutes after closing so it was you I hoped one day we'd be able to afford a forklift it was that kind of operation we were so inefficient with our operations and logistics in those early days when there were just 10 of us that I didn't have packing tables we were packing on the floor on our hands and knees and I said to one of the software engineers who was packing alongside me you know we should do we should get knee pads and he looked at me like I was the dumbest guy he'd ever seen in his life and he said Jeff we should get packing tables and we next day I got packing tables and it doubled our productivity and so but by then the error you're talking about we had we'd gone public and you're riding on a split adjusted basis it's a dollar fiftieth share in today's terms and the market became very quickly a kind of an internet bubble kind of market and the stock prices went up very very high when I raise the initial funding for Amazon I had to talk to 60 prospective investors to raise a million dollars and I raised a million dollars from 22 different investors $50,000 at a time and they got 20% of the company for a million dollars and that was in 95 but just three years two or three years later you know Stanford MBA with no business experience could raise twenty five million dollars with a single phone call if they had a internet business plan so the whole thing in just two or three years the excitement really as we could shortly see when the bubble burst in the year 2000 the hyperbolic excitements about the internet had infected everybody and I I was I knew that there was that we had a fun I liked our business and I liked the fundamentals of our business but I also knew that the stock price was disconnected from what we were doing on a day to day basis and so I was always preaching we would have All Hands meetings and there was a small number of employees at that time but you know probably let's see in 97 I think we would have had a few hundred employees we have All Hands meetings and I would said look you know we ought to remember the great quote from Benjamin Graham that in the short run the stock market is a voting machine in the long run it's a weighing machine so don't think about the daily stock price who's going up every day whose stock price is going up and I didn't want because all the employees had stock options and I didn't want them counting their success that way and so I would say look when the stock is up 30% in a month don't feel 30% smarter because when it's down 30% in a month then you're gonna have to feel 30% dumber and it's not gonna feel as good and it was good that I kind of laid that groundwork because you know sure enough in the year 2000 the whole thing came tumbling down I think Amazon went back that's six dollars went down to six dollars and that I don't even know if that's on a split adjusted basis I think that's probably that was below I was on a split adjusted basis probably below $1 so and you never doubt the business model at that point no so I you know it's very interesting to me because I had all the internal metrics on you know how many customers we had what was going on I could see people thought we were losing money because we were selling dollar bills for 90 cents you know we were very clear that we were not we were we had high fixed costs and but we had contribution margin positive contribution margin and I just knew that it was a fixed cost business and as soon as we reached the sufficient scale we would have a very good business and so that was that understanding the fixed nature of our expenses relative to physical world retail is what led us to have the get big fast strategy we knew that it would be that our economics would be very much improved if we could have a sufficient scale so we worked hard so so at that time you're you're preaching the benefits of e-commerce and ass and really yeah this intermediating the business so fast-forward to today now we have content we have physical Amazon stores we have Amazon cashier les stores yeah which we used to call shoplifting and and then now you shoplifting without the jail time that's right and then and then and then buying whole foods here for a Texas company so how does that how does that fit together your vision and then how do you manage these disparate businesses with different cost structures now yeah well maybe just finishing up a little Oh in that prior point before I answer that question I and and also with you know the memory of Barbara Bush in all of our minds I I think part of if you're in a lot of people in this room are entrepreneurs start their own businesses done various things taking risks of various kinds and I think the one of the precursors one of the foundational things to being able to take risk is to have had some kind of support from somebody you have to have some mentors you have to have somebody who loves you these are the kind of things that build up and allow you to kind of you know jump off into uncharted terrain and do something new because you know you have a support system of one kind or another and and I'd certainly did so I for me I just want to point out that I feel very strongly that there's a well I've won a lot of lotteries Amazon is one of the lotteries that I've won but I had a big lottery with my parents my dad is a Cuban immigrant he came here when he was 16 years old and speaking in English my a great guy and my mother had her had me when she was seventeen years old so she was a pregnant 16 year old in Albuquerque New Mexico in high school which was not cool and she made it work and heard her parents my grandparents helped her with that whole thing and made made that all work and if you don't get that kind of support somehow it doesn't have to be your parents sometimes people get lucky it's a grandparent or it's a friend or a feeling friend or a teacher it can be somebody but you need that somebody has to step into your life and that's the lottery that I suspect a lot of people in this room have also one just like me so the question go Amazon go and all that as we do so many different things so this is the question I started get how can you do so many different things why don't you stick to the knitting the kind of traditional advice would be to stay focused and keep the business simple and the way I think about this is we actually do stick to one thing it's just not described it's not the businesses so if we do web services which is you know big enterprise is buying compute services from us and we have our retail business and we have Amazon Studios which is making original content Amazon go the things you listed so but the cultural thread that runs through all these things is the same we only have a few principles of the Amazon kind of core values that we go back to over and over again and if you looked at each of the things that we do you would see those run straight through everything so the first one and by far the most important one is customer obsession and we talk about it as customer obsession as opposed to competitor obsession and I have seen over and over again companies talk about that their customer focused but really when I pay close attention to them I believe they are competitor focused and that's just a completely different mentality by the way competitor focus can work but I don't think it works in the long run as well as customer focus for one thing once you're the leader if your whole culture is competitor obsessed it's kind of hard to stay energized and motivated if you're out in front whereas customers are always unsatisfied they're always discontent they always want more and so no matter how far you get out there in front of your competitors you're still behind your customers so they're always pulling you along so customer obsession is a deep principle that underlies everything we do another one is eagerness to invent so we love to pioneer and when we have done by the way whenever we have tried to do something in a kind of me to fashion we have failed at it we need to have something that is differentiated unique something that customers are going to like that we're kind of leading with so that's another element that works for us and then another one is long-term thinking we are willing to to take some time and be patient with our business initiatives and that runs through everything so a lot of our competitors might have two to three year kind of timeframes and we might have more of a five to seven year sort of timeframe and then the last one operational excellence so literally you know how do you have high standards around you know identifying defects fixing defects at the root all those kinds of things that lead to what I think also can be in a simpler way just stated as professionalism that you want to do things right just for the ritz sake of doing them right so let's talk about that with a with another I guess this is a corollary now that you have about 600,000 employees I calculated you're adding about 250 people a day you've mentioned that you're trying to fend off day – yeah and you've said that day two is stasis followed by irrelevance followed by excruciating ly painful decline followed by death yeah that's why it is always day one yeah yeah how's that work well so day one and this is a phrase that we use at Amazon all the time I've been using it's in my first annual shareholder letter from 20 years ago and we stay it's always day one and it needs to be day one for the reason that you just mentioned and how do you it so the real question for me is how do you go about maintaining a day one culture you know it's great to have the the scale of Amazon we have financial resources we have lots of brilliant people we can accomplish great things we have global scope we have operations all over the world but the downside of that is that you can lose your nimbleness you can lose your entrepreneurial spirit you can lose your that kind of heart the the that small companies often have and so if you could have the best of both worlds if you can have that entrepreneurial spirit and heart while at the same time having all the advantages that come with scale and scope I think think of the things that you could do and and so how the question is how do you achieve that the scale is good because it makes you robust you know a big box or can take a punch to the head the question is you also want to dodge those punches so you'd like to be nimble you want to be big and nimble and I find there are a lot of things that are protective of the day one mentality I already spent some time on one of them which is customer obsession I think that's the most important thing if you can and it gets harder as you get bigger when you're a little tiny company so you're a 10 person startup company every single person the company is focused on the customer when you get to be a bigger company you've got all the milk you've got middle managers and you've got all these layers and the those people aren't on the front lines they're not interacting with customers every day they're insulated from customers and they start to manage not the customer happiness directly but they start to manage through proxies like metrics and processes and some of those things can become bureaucratic so it's very challenging but one of the things that happens is the decision-making velocity slows down and I think the reason one of the reasons that that happens is that people also junior executives inside the big company start to model all decisions as if they are heavyweight irreversible highly consequential decisions and so even two-way doors you could make you make a decision it's the wrong decision you can just got back through the door and try again even those reversible decisions start to be made with heavyweight processes and so you can teach people that these pitfalls and and and traps and then teach them to avoid those traps and that's what we're trying to do at Amazon so that we can maintain our inventiveness and our heart and our kind of small companies spirit even as we have the scale and scope of a larger company so six hundred thousand people small company which that's a that's a trick so I know the bush Center we focus on leadership and I know that you're also a voracious reader and you're fond of a book by now seem to leave called the Black Swan yes sure and it's it's about humans tendencies to reduce thing to anecdote reduce things to anecdotal stories and to shield us from sort of the randomness of the way things actually have building narratives and and how could we human they'll to create a narrative around anything to connect any sequence of facts we can create a narrative so how do you infect that throughout the whole organization when you have that many that many layers well I think what I would say about that it's really a little different from the way that that black swan talks about anecdotes the way you're talking about but I'm actually a big fan of anecdotes in business not building a narrative structure around them necessarily but I still have an email address that customers can write to I see most of those emails and I don't answer very many of them anymore but but I see them and I and I forward them some of them the ones that catch my curiosity I forward them to the executives in charge that area but with a question mark and that question mark is just a shorthand for can you look into this why is this happening what does what's going on and what I find it strange because we have tons of metrics we have you know weekly business reviews with these metric decks and we look at our we know so many things about customers there there you know whether we're delivering on time what you know whether the packages have too much air in them and you know wasteful of packaging and so on we have so many metrics that we monitor and the thing I have noticed is that when the anecdotes and the data disagree the anecdotes are usually right there's something wrong with the way you're measuring it and that's why it's so important to to keep your you need to run it something that you were you're doing you know shipping billions of packages a year for sure you need good data and metrics are you delivering on time you deliver on time in every city are you delivering on time to apartment complexes are you delivering on time in certain countries you do need the data but then you need to check that data with your intuition and your instincts and you need to teach that to the all the senior executives and and junior executives so if you're not answering your emails can you give us your cell phone maybe a text is still have the to pizza rule and no powerpoints oh yeah the to pizza team we try to we try to create teams that are no larger than can be fed with two pizzas we call that the two pizza team rule no powerpoints are used inside of Amazon so every meeting we have that when we hire a new executive from the outside this is the weirdest meeting culture you will ever encounter and new executives have a little bit of you know culture shock in their first Amazon meeting because what we do is somebody for the meeting has prepared a six page memo a narrative lis structured memo that is got you know real sentences and topic sentences and verbs and now it's not just bullet points and it lays out and supposed to create the context for what will then be a good discussion so and then we read those memos silently in the meeting so it's like a study hall and we do that everybody sits around the table and we read silently from usually about half an hour however long it takes us to read the document and then we discuss it and it's so much better than the typical PowerPoint presentation for so many reasons I could talk about this for although nobody needs to know nobody's eating the pizza at that point because we're standing right no pizza usually at that point you know one author said that that takes you back to River Oaks Elementary School in Houston where you started where they started with a reading with a silent reading exercise I never made that connection but I you know you never know where things come from I did have a great experience there so but I definitely recommend the memo over the PowerPoint and the reason we read them in the room by the way is because just like you know high school kids executives will Bluff their way through the meeting as if they've read the memo because we're busy and so you got to actually carve out the time for the memo to get read and that's what the first half hour of the meeting is for and then everybody's actually read the memo they're not just pretending to have read that's pretty effective how has your life how has your leadership style changed over the years it's changed a lot mostly just because it's had to you know the company has changed so much and I can't you know the company is ten people or a hundred people I can be involved in every decision not just you know not just the objectives like what are we gonna do but even the methods how are we going to do it and a wedge of company gets bigger as you know the CEO or the founder whoever it is leading the company cannot be involved in all of those decisions they certainly cannot be involved in the methods of how things were going to get done so you do have to change your leadership approach as the company scales but the the but the principles of the company have not changed in fact I probably spend more of my time now on culture and studying trying to set high standards for or things the lead customer obsession and inventiveness and things like that so for me I'm I'm kind of a teacher now so it's changed quite a bit and I have this great luxury I love my job I tap dance into work even I get that I just got back for an amazing vacation in Norway I got to go dogsledding and go to a wolf preserve and all this really cool stuff but I couldn't wait to get back to work because it's so fun and the reason weather is this fun for me is I get to work in the future so my job I have very limited kind of day-to-day operational needs that you know I've constructed my job so that I don't have to be pulled into the present I can stay 2 or 3 years in the future and actually I'm I'm O's advising my senior team the people who report to me that they should organize themselves in the same way we're big enough now that they need to be able to look around corners they can't be if something pulls me into the present it's because something has gone wrong you know and we need to you know kind of fear it so it's a firefighting exercise and that's not how you should be running a business of this skill so yeah it's changed a lot ok so following up with that you were quoted as saying I believe you have to be willing to be misunderstood innovate so how are you misunderstood you're gonna do if you're gonna do anything new or innovative you have to be willing to be misunderstood and if you can't tolerate that then for God's sake don't do anything new or innovative every important thing we've done has been misunderstood often by well-meaning sincere critics sometimes of course by self-interested insincere critics but but you know I'll give you an example a thousand years ago we started this thing called customer reviews and we let customers review books we only sold books that time and customers could come in and rate a book between one and five stars and they could write a text-based review you guys are very familiar with this it's a now very normal thing but back then this was crazy and the the publishers the book publishers did not like this because of course not all the reviews are positive and the I got a letter from one publisher that said I have a good idea for you why don't you just publish the positive customer reviews and I thought about this and because and he is arguments making to me is that our sales would go up if we just published the positive customer reviews I thought about this I thought I don't I don't actually believe that because I don't think we make money when we sell something we make money when we help someone make a purchase decision and it's just a slightly different way of looking at it because people are the part of what they're paying us for is helping them make a purchase decision and if you think about it that way then you want the negative reviews too and of course it has been extremely helpful for people to have negative customer views and by the way it's come full circle now where the product manufacturers use the customer reviews to improve the next generation of the product so it's actually helping the whole ecosystem but now nobody criticizes customer reviews in fact if you were in the you know here in the year 2018 if some ecommerce company were to say we're only going to publish the positive customer views that would be the crazy thing that would get criticized so the new and innovative quickly becomes the new normal and then it's you know it's it's the new incumbent idea and then it doesn't get criticized went by the way more generally and what I preached at Amazon to all of our employees is when we are criticized there is a simple process that you need to go through which is first you look yourself in the mirror and decide is your critical right do you agree are we doing something wrong if you are change and by the way if you look yourself in the mirror and you decide that your critic as wrong as we did with the customer reviews then do not change no matter how much pressure is brought to bear do the right thing in that case as well have a deep Keil you have to have a deep teal good so why don't we shift to personal away from Amazon a little bit if if you could write your legacy what would you want your legacy to read world's oldest man as I stole that that's not original um but I would love it let's work on that I keep telling my biotech friends hurry the hell guys come on you know I don't know I'm probably if you think long term and I can talk about this great length but long term the thing if you take a really long run view you know many decades maybe even a couple of hundred years I think the most important work that I'm doing and I get increasing conviction on this with every passing year is the work I'm doing a Blue Origin on space travel well I don't what well why don't we talk about that okay because I think I think from a vision standpoint I think people should appreciate the horizon that you have so let's talk about your kind of view I'll call it your near-term objectives we'll say 75 years yeah and then your long-term objectives 100 to 300 years from there well so first of all you don't choose your passions your passions choose you and all of us are gifted with certain passions and the people who are lucky are the ones who get to follow those things and I always advise our young employees or meet with interns as well and you can have and my kids too you're gonna have a job or you can have a career or you can have a calling and if you can somehow figure out how to have a calling you have hit the jackpot because that's the big deal and most people don't ever get there you know you're very lucky if you have a career a lot of people end up with a job and so you know for me I have been interested in Rockets space travel propulsion since I was a five year old boy and I have spent a tremendous amount of time thinking about it so it's not like I really have a choice to follow this passion it has captured me but I think it's very important that we go out into space as a civilization and the reason is not the one that you that I think is very commonly there are many reasons that are there given one of the reasons that is out there and it's a very old idea one of the people who first articulated it very well was arthur c clarke he said all civilizations become spacefaring or extinct and that even may be technically true in a long run kind of long enough verizon but that idea is one of the has kind of come to be that we need to we got all our eggs in one basket and we need a plan B you know if we had a civilization elsewhere on another planet somewhere in the source system then when earth gets destroyed humanity will still be fine I find this particular argument incredibly unmotivated we we have now sent robotic probes to every planet in this solar system believe me this is the best one it is not close my friends who want to move to Mars I say I have an idea for you why don't you first for a year move to the top of Mount Everest because the top of Mount Everest is a garden paradise compared to Mars and and so it's a this planet is a gym this planet is unbelievable and as you travel around the more you travel around you the more you see how incredible it is and I'm not even just talking about nature I'm talking about the civilization we built in the urban cities that we have and all of this these amazing things and so we need to protect it now and I'm not even talking about protecting it from asteroids or nuclear holocaust or anything so although all this things are probably important and valid but we don't need to worry about that because we have something more certain that is a problem and that is if you take current baseline energy usage on Earth today global energy usage and compound that at just 3% a year then in just a few hundred years you're gonna have to cover the entire surface of the earth and solar cells that's how powerful compounding is so and by the way we have been growing energy usage at a few percent a year for a long time so and we and we our civilization has a lot of advantages because we increase our energy usage the human body if we in a state of nature if you are just an animal and the state of nature your body or metabolic rate uses about a hundred watts of power but a modern person living in a developed country you actually use your your your all in civilizational per capita metabolic rate is 11,000 watts we use a lot of energy that's about as much energy as a blue whale uses and so we have you know there are billions of us and most of us don't even aren't even really living in the kind of lifestyle of a developed country yet but they will be very soon and we hope they will be we want them to and so you're gonna face a choice and you won't face this choice and I won't face this choice but your grandchildren's grandchildren will face this choice do you want to live in a world of stasis or do you want to have a trillion humans living in the solar system because the source system is big earth is small we capture a tiny Earth surface is so small it captures a tiny tiny fraction of the solar output so once you got into space you have for practical purposes once again unlimited resources and the solar system can easily support trillion humans we've got a trillion humans and you'd have a thousand mozart's and a thousand Einsteins and so on and so on that would be a dynamic incredible civilization in which you would want your grandchildren's grandchildren to live in I think ultimately earth becomes zoned you know residential and light industrial and you know we'll have universities here and and beautiful parks and houses and but we won't have big factories here all of that will be much better done in space where we have access to much higher quality resources and so that's going to take several you know that's a multi hundred year vision and my piece of this vision is I'm taking my amazon lottery winnings and I'm converting them into reusable rocket vehicles so that we can lower the cost of access to space because right now the price of admission to do the interesting things in space is just too high if I look at what Amazon was able to do 20 years ago we didn't have to build a transportation network it already existed that heavy lifting was in place we didn't have to build a payment system that heavy lifting had already been done it was the credit card system we didn't have to build put a compute every desk that had already been done – mostly for playing games by the way and so on so all the pieces of heavy lifting were already in place 20 years ago and that's why as with a million dollars I could start this company today you know and and then there are even better examples on the internet over the last 20 years you know Facebook started in a dorm room I guarantee you two kids can not build a giant space company in their dorm room it's impossible but I want to create the heavy lifting infrastructure kind of do the hard part so that a future the future generation two kids in a dorm room will be able to create a giant space company so that's the goal and then because thank you you're not gonna you're not going to achieve the vision that I just laid out of a trillion humans living in space and having this dynamic world without a big industry made up of thousands of companies but it has to start with making the vehicles much more productive and right now you use a rock at once and you throw it away and that is just a very expensive way to do business so can I talk it in about another element with to get you to discuss your vision this may not be germane to the work you're doing but I'm but you are you are one of the great thinkers artificial intelligence yeah pros and cons we've heard people talk about the great benefits we've heard about disrupting and changing and leaving us all in a jobless society we've heard autonomous weapons or a disaster yeah where do you fall on the on your vision of we're in artificial intelligence is going to go and also some of the I think some of the more cautionary ounces and ever benefits well you mentioned a few things there each of those is worth visiting because they're different I think autonomous weapons are extremely scary I think it's a big and you'd by the way do not need general AI so right now the things that we know how to do you would you should think of those things of what is called narrow AI things like machine vision and so on to build incredibly scary autonomous weapons you do not need general AI the techniques that we already know and understand are perfectly adequate and these weapons some of the ideas that people have these weapons are in fact very scary and so I don't know what the solution that but smart people need to be thinking about that doing a lot of R&D is there is there a kind of you know multi it'd have to be a big treaty like the Geneva Convention or something that would help regulate these weapons because you yeah they're actually they have a lot of issues so that one I think is genuinely scary the idea that there's going to be a general AI Overlord that subjugates us or kills us all I think is not something to worry about I think that is overhyped I I'm first of all we don't know we're nowhere close to knowing how to build a general AI something that could set its own objectives we have no idea it wouldn't even it's not even hardly it's not even a valid research area we're so we're so far back on that one so that's a I think that's a very long-term prospect that it could even happen but second of all I think it's unlikely that such a things first instincts would be to exterminate us as it seems that would seem surprising to me maybe unemploy is much more likely it will help us you know because we know we're perfectly capable of hurting ourselves you know maybe we could use some help so I'm optimistic about that one and certainly don't think we need to worry about it today and then the jobless you know is are we gonna is a I gonna put everybody out of work I am not worried about this I find the people all of us I include myself we are so unimaginative about what future jobs are going to look like and what they're going to be you know if I took you back in time a hundred years when everyone almost everyone was a farmer and I told you know we're having where it's um big Farming convention or something and I say in the year 2018 there is gonna be a job occupation called massage therapist they would not have believed you and in fact I was telling this story to a friend they said Jeff forget massage therapist there are dog psychiatrists and I went I would probably find one on Amazigh went and look that up on the internet sure enough you can easily hire a psychiatrist for your dog and so what you know there is where we we humans like to do things and we like to be productive and we will figure out things to do and we will use these tools to make ourselves more powerful and and in fact what I predict is that jobs will get more engaging yes because you have to remember you know a lot of the jobs today are are quite routine they are not necessarily anybody's as I said before career or calling and so I predict that because of artificial intelligence and its ability to automate certain tasks that in the past were impossible to automate not only will we have a much wealthier civilization but that the quality of work will go up very significantly and that a higher fraction of people will have callings and careers relative to today so can I yet can I bring you back down to down to the president a little bit and then I'd be remiss if I didn't use some of our time on your personal purchase of the Washington Post so you buy the Washington Post a few years ago is it is it going the way you thought it would go much better much faster so the post is profitable today so I bought the Post in 2013 the post was still a fantastic institution at that time but it was in great financial difficulty it's a fixed cost business as most of all most all publishing is and their revenues over about six years from sort of 2007-2008 to 2013 had been cut in half from a billion dollars a year to half a billion dollars a year and that in a fixed cost business puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the business they were they needed to reduce the size of the newsroom layoffs reporters and and it was very difficult and Don Graham whose family had owned the paper for a long period of time he contacted me through dinner Meteor actually we and we'd known each other for almost 20 years actually and I was very surprised but he said that he was interested in selling the paper and he wanted to he I said look like I'm not the right buyer Don because I don't know anything about the newspaper business and he said we don't need into that we've got lots of people who understand this business we need somebody who understands the internet better and this was a great act of love of Don's because the paper had been their family for a long time and he cared more about the paper than he cared about his ownership of it and he's if any of you know him he's an incredible gentleman just a wonderful guy and so overall several conversations he finally convinced me that I could help and then I had to convince myself of a couple of things one was did I really believe it was an important institution and I and and that for me was a very quick gate to get through I I you know I I felt very powerfully that it was an important institution I do believe that democracy dies in darkness I think that the the paper is resides in Washington DC the capital city of the United States of America the most powerful country in the world needs a paper like The Washington Post and so it was easy to decide it's an important institution I would not have bought and tried to help turn around a financially upside-down salty snack food company you know I just have better things to do so that's why for me it was so important that it be I might buy a really well-run healthy soft food snack company that would just be an investment and so I so I that and then the second gate I had to go through after that was I really wanted to convince myself that it wasn't hopeless because if it had been hopeless you know also I wouldn't want to get involved but I didn't think it was and and and it has turned out to work for every well we did one very simple thing really which is we switched from it's been a lot of work and I don't mean to make it sound simple the team has done an amazing amount of work and we have a great editor and Marty Baron and a great publisher and Fred Ryan and a great technical leader inside lash I mean we've got a killer team at the post but the big kind of strategic change at the post was flipping it from being a fantastic local regional newspaper to being a fantastic national global newspaper and the reason we did that is very simple the internet took away so many gifts from newspapers mostly their kind of local ad monopolies and so on like the internet just solved all the gifts that newspapers had but the one gift that it brought to the table for newspapers is almost free global distribution because you can do it digitally and so we refocused on that and we have to we had to switch from making a relatively large amount of money per reader on a relatively small number of readers to a small amount of money per reader on a much larger number of readers and that's what we've that's what we've done and so in our time remaining a couple quick ones yeah who do you emulate what kind of role model Oh a bunch of people you know I have been a Warren Buffett fan in the business room I've been a Warren Buffett fan since my early 20s I read the things he writes I am so he's a very big fan I think kind of CEOs today out there that I like again in the business realm Jamie Dimon I think if there a couple CEOs that I think if I were a big shareholder in JPMorgan Chase I would just show up every Monday morning with like pastries and coffee for Jamie and I'd be like so you happy you good because I think he's a terrific executive and in a very complicated company same thing Bob Iger at Disney I think is a superb executive some probably bring him pastries so there are a lot of hello models healthy pastries well yeah I guess I hadn't thought about that you know that's right yeah but and then outside of that you know I've had lots of role models throughout my life yeah some of my teachers at River Oaks Elementary School that you mentioned I had you know I had my parents so I talked about a little earlier didn't talk too much about my grandfather but he was a gigantic influence in my life I had the great good fortune because my mom was so young my grandparents would take me every summer starting at age 4 every summer kind of to give her a break really for the whole summer so I'd be with my grandparents and on their ranch in Cotulla Texas which is halfway between San Antonio and Laredo we lived in Houston and so we would make the 5-hour drive out to Cotulla they dropped me off it's been a couple of days there that they go back to Houston I'd spend the summer and I went every day of the ranch with my grandfather to help now a four year old boy on a ranch in South Texas it's not a lot of help but I didn't know that I thought I was helping and and that is like by the time I was 16 I actually was helping so I have you know I I can I can suture up a prolapsed cow I can fix windmills my grandfather was so resourceful and that he made his own veterinary needles he would take a little piece of wire and pound it flat with a was like a oxy-acetylene torch and then drill a little hole through it and then we would do we did all of our own veterinary work some of the cattle even survived and so we had but we had great fun out there you know we built barns and welded things and he bought a d6 Caterpillar bulldozer used as like 1955 model year for five thousand dollars it was completely broken the gears were stripped and then we spent you know a whole summer repairing that the first thing we had to do to repair it was build a crane to take the gears out of the transmission and so you know what I learned from watching him was just how resourceful he was he didn't ever call a repairman he figured it out and I do think that that's one of the things that you know super lucky for me to grow up in that environment where you got to see resourcefulness in action so my grandfather giant role model from but Jeff you are you're an American icon and these stories really reflect how grounded you are and starting a company from the time where you were doing it yourself to where you are today and to maintain that touch that you have at the same time that you have this vision is really what leadership is all about the bush center we focus on developing and recognizing leadership and that's what we're doing this week our time is up and I do want to thank you I also want to remind people that in honor of our fifth anniversary of the bush Center our friends at Northern Trust have made it free of charge to go through the bush library and museum starting today and extending through next Friday so thank you for that thank you to our wonderful friends at SMU thank you all for being here please join me in thanking one of the great Americans [Applause]

Maurice Vega

25 Responses

  1. You can say what you want to say about him , but he is pure genius. The most forward thinker of the 21rst century.

  2. We are all God's handy made each everyone.
    We are each so special!
    God Loves us!
    Thank you so much Jesus Christ today again specially!
    I wanted to say
    Happy birthday day Presidents!
    I checked this week fomer our American's President Bush's Birthday the day before yesterday.
    And today is our President Donald Trump's Birthday.
    Celebrations are endlessly!
    God bless all!
    God bless AMERICA!
    Specially I was so impressed fomer the first lady Barbara Bush personally. A lot of wisdom and so wonderful humors and lovly-kindness, compassion thoughtful heart warming beautiful the fomer American's so wonderful Humanity personality!
    I was laughed a lot when I watching video last year.
    So wonderful!

    I was so sad last Year when I heard News when fomer the first lady went to Heaven.
    My mom was one month before went to Heaven.
    Now getting better but..
    Still I got a heart broken.
    But God Supportings and Connectings Supernaturally,
    Abundantly, Endlessly!
    Grift change to joy by God. If I did believe God something happened.
    But God knew everything.
    So amazing!
    All comes from our God!
    Thank you so much our the greatest God again!
    All the grace and the glory to our God Almighty the Father Jesus Christ our Lord today again!

    LUKE 2
    10 But the angel said to them, " Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.
    14 "Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."
    29 Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
    30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    31 which you prepared in the sight of all nations:
    32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your peoples Israel."
    The child's father and mother marveled.
    40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.
    LUCK 1
    28 The angel went to her and said, "Greetings, you who are highly favored!
    The Lord is with you."
    49 for the Mighty One has done great things for me —
    holy is his name.
    50 His mercy extends to those who fear him,
    from generation to generation.
    55 to Abraham and his descendants forever,
    just as he promised our ancestors,"

    So amazing!
    Thank you so much Jesus Christ today again specially!
    All the grace
    the mercy,
    the honor,
    the power
    and the glory to our God Almighty the Father Jesus Christ our Lord today again!
    With so amazing grace Blessings generations to generations forever and ever more Supernaturally, Continually forever !

    God bless all!
    God bless AMERICA!

  3. So amazing!
    Thank you so much Lord again!
    "We never know things comes from?"
    I know,
    All comes from our God!
    Top of mountains is paradise.
    So wonderful!
    So Awesome!
    Same colors with my accessories..
    So wondering..
    Thank you so much Lord today again Supportings and Connectings endlessly,

    God bless!
    God bless all!
    God bless AMERICA!

  4. If any aspiring leaders out there are looking to follow in his footsteps. DON'T! Yes he may be a customer focused, "day one" business man, but at the cost of most of his 600k employees. No mention of all the cases against him around the world for his treatment of staff and small businesses. Totally one sided interview. Rotten.

  5. Jeff bezos knows what He talks about, but these people bill gates jeff bezos etc etc are not smart or genius, they are phenomenon, because why didnt anyone think of selling anything on internet before him and become an internet giant? phenomenon, no explanation kk

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