My time away gave me an opportunity to sit back and think about many things. Including the journey that I have walked so far, the dreams, hopes and fears of the times ahead. And then, whilst clearing the volumes of material that I had kept for re-reading, I landed at the annual letters that Jeff Bezos wrote. That brings me to the spirit of Day One! I have written about this before as well. I notice that I keep coming back to the spirit of Day One whenever I am at a crossroad!
Jeff Bezos wrote letters to shareholders from 1997 till 2020. Every letter is a masterclass in communication. I would encourage you to take a look at all his annual letters. They are here.
‘Day 1’ makes its first appearance in the second paragraph of his first letter that he wrote in 1997. A matter-of-fact entry.
“But this is Day 1 for the Internet and, if we execute well, for Amazon.com. Today, online commerce saves customers money and precious time. “
That’s what it says. Every letter thereafter, Jeff Bezos draws reference to the first letter that he wrote. The consistency is remarkable. Then, in 2009 his concluding line becomes, “it’s still Day 1”. And that stayed as a concluding line in every letter of his till his last one in 2020.
The Spirit of Day 1
Jeff Bezos didn’t just stop with calling out to the spirit of Day 1 by incorporating it in his annual letter. He named the building he worked in as Day 1 and spoke about it often at Amazon so much that it has become folklore there.
The spirit of Day 1 has a few elements that I see the need for in organisations who call themselves ‘start ups’.
Obsesses over customers.
Don’t rely on process as much as outcomes.
Look outside in.
All very relevant to an organisation at all times. A ‘beginner’s mindset’ is central to the spirit of Day 1. A beginner mind was an idea that was first described by Shunruyu Suzuki, a Zen monk and teacher. He described the Zen term for this open state as Shoshin.
The spirit of Day 1 is about examining how we work and how much we stray from what we set out to do. It is to not rest of laurels that have come our way and be steadfast about the future we seek to go to. Reflection, imagination and experimentation all help when we see ‘what is’ with a lens of ‘what if’.
So, what is Day 2?
Someone asked Jeff Bezos this question in a town hall. And his answer explains Day 2. And thereby adds allure to the spirit of Day 1
“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death. And that is why it is always Day 1.”
To be sure, this kind of decline would happen in extreme slow motion. An established company might harvest Day 2 for decades, but the final result would still come.
I’m interested in the question, how do you fend off Day 2? What are the techniques and tactics? How do you keep the vitality of Day 1, even inside a large organization?
Such a question can’t have a simple answer. There will be many elements, multiple paths, and many traps. I don’t know the whole answer, but I may know bits of it. Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense: customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high-velocity decision making. “
Those thoughts keep me company as I stitch the path ahead for me. Where I am forcing myself to think beyond the successes of the present and examine the opportunities for the future. Of course, in the light of all that’s happening around us. I hope and pray that the spirit of Day 1 will guide us through.
The OWL Despatch
Every fortnight I put out an edition of The OWL Despatch with a short essay like the one above and share five reads from all what I found interesting across the web. Here are this edition’s five pieces.
1. Is competence overrated? “rising to the top requires a willingness to break rules — and competence is often overrated.”
2. Is workplace loyalty gone for good?
“Along the way, employers came up with new terms to revive the dying relationship, like referring to employees as associates, team members, or even family.
“It’s very odd. What family would then terminate you?” she said.”
3. What is the point of a networking meeting? Does it even work? “My definition of “networking” is any activity that increases the value of your network or the value you contribute to it. The best way to do this is to avoid traditional networking events almost entirely.” I can’t help agree more.
4. Decentralised working has worked. History points us in that direction. But we live in a time of alternate facts! So, there. Click here
5. I have been particularly interested in music and how it shapes culture. This post on rap music in India was interesting. “no musical genre has caught the popular imagination in India in recent times the way rap has, with popular songs gaining thousands upon thousands of views in a matter of days Click here
That’s that from my side. Stay well. And stay ready for changes. Here there and everywhere. That’s the best survival strategy.