Leadership

Jeff Bezos says he learned this critical business skill while visiting his grandfather as a child

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos knows what it takes to build a business worth billions and he may have a specific family member to thank for his success over the years.

In a Summit LA panel with his brother Mark Bezos, the billionaire says that he he picked up a crucial business skill from his grandfather, Lawrence Preston Gise, which he has used repeatedly through his career: resourcefulness.

"I spent all my summers on his ranch from age four to 16 and he was incredibly self-reliant," says Bezos.

Bezos' grandfather, who he refers to as "Pop," lived in a rural community in the"middle of nowhere." When machinery broke, he says, his grandfather couldn't just call someone to come in and fix it.

"You figure out how to fix it yourself," says the businessman. "As a kid, I got to see him solve all these problems and be a real problem solver."

And it wasn't just machinery that Pop would fix, adds Bezos. His grandfather even did his own veterinary work.

Pop would make needles, by hand, to suture his cattle. He would first heat up a piece of wire with a blowtorch, pound it flat, sharpen it and drill a hole into it.

"He would take on major projects that he didn't know how to do and then figure out how to do them," says Bezos.

The Amazon founder gives other examples of his grandfather's work ethic and self-reliance. One summer, the two built a house from scratch and he also recalled helping his grandfather fix a broken bulldozer.

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David Ryder | Getty Images

"The transmission was stripped, the hydraulics didn't work and so we spent basically the whole summer repairing it," says Bezos.

In order to get new parts to fix the bulldozer, his grandpa would mail order "giant gears" that were so big neither of them could move the boxes by hand.

To combat this problem, says Bezos, his grandfather built a crane to move the gear. "So, that's that kind of self-reliance and resourcefulness," says the CEO.

These crucial traits aren't the only ones that Bezos picked up from his grandpa. In a 2010 speech at Princeton, the entrepreneur says that his grandfather also taught him that kindness often trumps intelligence.

Bezos explains that resourcefulness and self-reliance are values that he currently uses in his work on a daily basis.

He says that as an entrepreneur and someone pursuing a passion to "move things forward," you run into problems, failures and things that don't work.

When that happens, he says, "you have to back up and try again."

"Each one of those times that you have a setback and you back up and try again, you're using resourcefulness. You're using self-reliance. You're trying to invent your way out of a box," says Bezos.

He points to Amazon, which he says has "tons" of examples of failure. Regardless, the company manages to overcome obstacles by continuously assessing and testing out new strategies.

"That resourcefulness of trying new things, figuring things out," says Bezos, "It pays off in everything."

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