"I was working at a financial firm in New York City with a bunch of very smart people, and I had a brilliant boss that I much admired," recalled Bezos in a commencement speech he gave at his alma mater, Princeton, in 2010. "I went to my boss and told him I wanted to start a company selling books on the Internet. He took me on a long walk in Central Park, listened carefully to me, and finally said, 'That sounds like a really good idea, but it would be an even better idea for someone who didn't already have a good job.'"
Bezos did think about the decision carefully.
"That logic made some sense to me, and he convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision. Seen in that light, it really was a difficult choice, but ultimately, I decided I had to give it a shot," said Bezos in his speech.
"I didn't think I'd regret trying and failing. And I suspected I would always be haunted by a decision to not try at all," he explained. So he "took the less safe path to follow my passion, and I'm proud of that choice," he said.
In addition to that mindset, Bezos says having supportive and loving people in his life also helped inspire him to take risks.
"MacKenzie, you know, she had married this stable guy working on Wall Street, and a year after we got married, I went to her and said I wanted to quit my job, move across the country and start this internet bookstore. And MacKenzie, of course, like everybody I explained this to, her first question was: 'What's the internet?' Because nobody knew. This was 1994," says Bezos in his interview with Döpfner.
"But even before she could say 'What's the internet?' she said, 'Great — let's go!' Because she wanted to support it and she knew that I had always had this passion for invention and starting a company," says Bezos.
In addition to his wife, Bezos credits his parents and grandfather as major influences in his life, giving him strength.
"My mom had me when she was 17 years old, and she was still in high school, in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and this is in 1964. I can assure you that being a pregnant teenager in high school was not cool in Albuquerque, New Mexico, at that time. And so it was very difficult for her," says Bezos. "My grandfather went to bat for her, and then they tried to kick her out of school, and they're incredible, so the gift I had was I that had this incredible family."
Feeling supported and loved afforded him the confidence to take bold actions, Bezos says.
"When you have loving and supportive people in your life — like MacKenzie, my parents, my grandfather, my grandmother — you end up being able to take risks," says Bezos. "Because I think it's one of those things, you know, you kind of know that somebody's got your back. And so if you're thinking about it logically, it's an emotional thing."