Power Players

Jeff Bezos: You can't pick your passions

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, founder of space venture Blue Origin and owner of The Washington Post, participates in an event hosted by the Air Force Association September 19, 2018 in National Harbor, Maryland.
Alex Wong | Getty Images

Amazon and Blue Origin founder Jeff Bezos say you don't get to pick your passions.

Passions, "they pick you," Bezos says in a Blue Origin video recently posted on YouTube.

"I think we all have passions, and you don't get to choose them. But you have to be alert to them," explains Bezos. "You have to be looking for them."

Bezos says his passion is space: "Ever since I was 5 years old — that's when Neil Armstrong stepped onto the surface of the moon — I've been passionate about space, rockets, rocket engines, space travel."

Back then, says Bezos, "The idea of going to the moon was so impossible that people actually used it as a metaphor for impossibility. What I would hope you would take away from that is that anything you set your mind to, you can do."

Bezos then quotes Wernher von Braun, a leading and pioneering rocket scientist: "Von Braun said, after the lunar landing, 'I have learned to use the word "impossible" with great caution.' And I hope you guys take that attitude about your lives."

So where does Amazon fit in?

"As a young boy, I'd been a garage inventor. I'd invented an automatic gate closer out of cement-filled tires, a solar cooker that didn't work very well out of an umbrella and tinfoil, baking-pan alarms to entrap my siblings," Bezos said in a 2010 commencement address at his alma mater, Princeton University.

Building the e-commerce business was a way for him to pursue that passion, he says.

"I came across the fact that Web usage was growing at 2,300 percent per year. I'd never seen or heard of anything that grew that fast, and the idea of building an online bookstore with millions of titles — something that simply couldn't exist in the physical world — was very exciting to me," said Bezos.

Once Amazon made Bezos a very rich man, he founded Blue Origin to pursue that dream.

"The only way that I can see to deploy this much financial resource is by converting my Amazon winnings into space travel. That is basically it," Bezos says in an interview with Axel Springer CEO Mathias Döpfner.

Currently, Bezos is worth $132.2 billion according to Forbes, making him the richest person alive.

"Blue Origin is expensive enough to be able to use that fortune," Bezos told Springer. "I am currently liquidating about $1 billion a year of Amazon stock to fund Blue Origin. And I plan to continue to do that for a long time. Because you're right, you're not going to spend it on a second dinner out."

See also:

Billionaire Mark Cuban: 'One of the great lies of life is follow your passions'

Jeff Bezos says this is how he plans to spend the bulk of his fortune

33-year-old self-made multimillionaire: Here's how to achieve extreme success

Why this 26-year-old self-made millionaire says you shouldn’t waste time on self-improvement