We all know that distinctiveness – originality – is valuable. We are all taught to “be yourself.” What I’m really asking you to do is to embrace and be realistic about how much energy it takes to maintain that distinctiveness. The world wants you to be typical – in a thousand ways, it pulls at you. Don’t let it happen.
You have to pay a price for your distinctiveness, and it’s worth it. The fairy tale version of “be yourself” is that all the pain stops as soon as you allow your distinctiveness to shine. That version is misleading. Being yourself is worth it, but don’t expect it to be easy or free. You’ll have to put energy into it continuously.
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon CEO, 2020 Letter to Shareholders
If you haven't already read Invent and Wander: The Collected Writings of Jeff Bezos, With an Introduction by Walter Isaacson, I highly recommend doing so. The book includes every Amazon shareholder letter ever written, and there's so much you can learn from reading Bezos' annual letters. The decisions he made at every step that seemed insane at the time... but helped build Amazon into the incredible company it is today.
His 2020 letter, the last he'll write as CEO of Amazon, is no different.
It might be too much to ask for every leader to be as visionary as Bezos... but every leader should strive to communicate as well.