Business

Bezos: Business ideas are like baseball, except you get 1000 runs for a home run

Jeff Bezos had an interesting quote I read a few months back.

“We all know that if you swing for the fences, you’re going to strike out a lot, but you’re also going to hit some home runs,” Bezos wrote.

“The difference between baseball and business, however, is that baseball has a truncated outcome distribution. When you swing, no matter how well you connect with the ball, the most runs you can get is four. In business, every once in a while, when you step up to the plate, you can score 1,000 runs.”

That statement really made an impression on me, not because of any possible business contexts per se, but simply for how true it is across a wide number of fields.

Getting Better At My Dayjob

10 years ago when I was trying to get better at software development I had a similar experience. I was a bit of a crazy person. I wanted to work at it 100 hours a week. When I got home from work I’d eat something, sleep for 30 minutes and then be up at all hours of the night practicing.

I’d practice hard algorithms, I’d practice simple HTML/CSS/Javascript challenges that I created, just so that I could get faster. It worked too because I’d start on a hard challenge, with complex database queries required. The first time might take me 2 hours. The next time 1.25 hour, then 52 minutes. Until I got all the way down to about 25 minutes and I just couldn’t figure out any way to get faster.

It was a tremendous help, I was able to function at work at a speed I could only dream of earlier. I didn’t have to look up how to do these challenging problems, I knew them well because I drilled them every day.

Now, I’m not saying that people should work 100 hours a week, generally they should not, at least in my opinion. I mean what’s the point of working and having no life? That’s not fun. But, the reason I bring it up is that I did something unconventional.

Never have I met another developer who has actually drilled themselves on hard programming problems. They certainly are some, but there aren’t many percentage-wise. Most developers simply learn while they are at work and will Google things when they don’t know what to do, rarely do they put in that level of effort.

That’s not terribly wrong either but I was just trying things and it paid off incredibly well for me. Quickly I established myself as the go-to person for hard programming problems. Within 8 months of putting that into practice, I got another job, this time for 75% more than I was making prior. It was easy because when I went on the interview I had a ton to unload on the interviewer as far as rich technical detail that he wasn’t even aware of. It made an impression.

That all came down to the fact that I was taking a swing, I gave something unconventional a shot, if it didn’t work then it didn’t matter. But when those things do pay off, you don’t necessarily just get 4 runs, sometimes you double your salary, sometimes you really enrich your life by learning a new skill, sometimes you meet a new friend that has a huge impact on your life.

The key is to be out there taking those at-bats, because hey, you never know, you might just score 1000 runs.

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