I’m reading The Everything Store, an analysis of Amazon’s first twenty years, and once again it’s a company and founder that looks like they were a guaranteed success when the reality was anything but. Amazon may be a monolith today, but it had its share of failures along the way and tangents that cost the company millions.

But the part they did get right, besides Jeff Bezos’ prescient understanding of how big the internet would become and how e-commerce could function on that platform, was the notion of continual progress. Amazon started with rudimentary software that later was entirely replaced. They changed from warehouses to distribution centers to fulfillment centers as their understanding of the order process evolved. They began with books before adding music and videos then gradually adding other product categories before they became the store for it all. Amazon took gradual steps with its customer interface, first adding One-Click then Supersaver Shipping and currently Prime as their fulfillment processes allowed them to become more sophisticated.

“Slow and steady progress can overcome any challenge,” said Bezos and he has demonstrated that with a flourish over the life of the company (although not always being tolerant of the “slow” part). It’s a good mantra to live by, not just for Amazon, but for any organization and in your personal life. Slow but continuous effort toward running adds up to a marathon. Regular but small deposits can help amass a nest egg. Deliberate but positive choices in food selection can minimize a weight challenge. Daily practice can allow you to learn an instrument or language. Slow but steady progress can overcome all the challenges inherent in turning a side hustle into a legitimate business.

Bezos also advised that you don’t have to climb the mountain all at once, rather you climb a hill, see the next hill and then climb it. Set your sights on being Queen of the Hill before you aim to conquer the whole mountain.

Source: The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon by Brad Stone, 2014

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