Entrepreneurs

The story behind Jeff Bezos' lucky cowboy boots

Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos wearing his 'lucky' boots.
Courtesy of Jeff Bezos' Instagram
Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos wearing his 'lucky' boots.

After Jeff Bezos' space company Blue Origin successfully launched — and landed — its highest test flight of a reusable rocket yet on Sunday, the billionaire tweeted out congratulations to the company.

"Huge kudos and thanks to the entire Blue Origin team," he tweeted April 29.

Bezos also tipped his hat to a special good luck charm of the company: A pair of worn, red and tan cowboy boots.

"The lucky boots worked again," he wrote on both Twitter and Instagram.

The boots, emblazoned with the Latin phrase, "gradatim ferociter" have been a part of Bezos' wardrobe for Blue Origin launches since 2016. Tweeting after Blue Origin's successful launch of its New Shepard rocket in April of that year, Bezos explained that the boots were given as a gift from a friend.

In June 2016, after the New Shepard rocket's fourth launch, he sported them again, tweeting, "Careful engineering plus of course … the lucky boots. Successful mission."

The cowboy boots may be a nod to Bezos' Texas roots, where he spent summers on his grandfather's ranch, working with cattle and repairing windmills. Today, Bezos owns over 300,000 acres of land in West Texas, according to The Wall Street Journal, and Blue Origin's testing base is on a 30,000 acre ranch outside of Van Horn, Texas.

But the boots aren't just about luck or Texas fashion. The Latin phrase "gradatim ferociter" written down the side is Blue Origin's motto, and it symbolizes the company's approach to space flight, Bezos says.

"It means step by step ferociously," Bezos said in an interview with Four Peaks TV in 2013.

"Basically, you can't skip steps. You have to put one foot in front of the other. Things take time. There are no short cuts," he explained.

While tackling projects one detail at a time may seem like a slow process, Bezos says the strategy is actually a way to avoid mistakes — which boosts efficiency and saves time in the end.

"If you're building a flying vehicle, you can't cut any corners," Bezos said at the 2016 Pathfinder Awards in Seattle. "If you do, it's going to be an illusion that it's going to make it faster."

To reinforce that message, Blue Origin invokes yet another symbol: The tortoise.

"Our mascot is the tortoise because we believe slow is smooth and smooth is fast," Bezos said at the awards show, showing off a pair of tortoise cuff links under his tuxedo.

Indeed, according to Blue Origin's CEO, the company could send tourists to space by the end of 2018.

There's also one more symbol that Bezos has explained — the winged hourglass in the company crest. It's to remind employees to accomplish tasks with passion, he said.

"We have the winged hourglass, which is a Victorian cemetery symbol that means time is fleeting. We don't have forever," Bezos said at the Pathfinder Awards.

"You do it step by step, but you do it ferociously."

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