With a population of roughly 4,000 and no reputation — then or now — as an up-and-coming tech hub, Cotulla, Texas was where Bezos spent his summers, from ages four to 16, working on his grandfather's ranch.
In a Summit L.A. panel with his brother Mark Bezos in 2017, the billionaire described his grandfather, whom he and his siblings called "Pop," as incredibly self-reliant and resourceful — two qualities that Bezos says vastly contributed to Amazon's success.
"[My grandfather] was incredibly self-reliant," says Bezos. "If you're in the middle of nowhere in a rural area, you don't pick up the phone and call somebody when something breaks. You fix it yourself."
On the ranch, Bezos would help Pop mend fences, fix windmills and build an entire house from scratch. Pop even made his own needles by hand to suture the cattle.
"He would take on major projects that he didn't know how to do, and then figure out how to do them," Bezos recalls.
"When things don't work, you have to back up and try again. Each time you back up and try again, you're using your resourcefulness, you're using self-reliance," says Bezos. "You're trying to invent your way out of a box."
During the talk, he gave an example of a time when resourcefulness and self-reliance helped fuel Amazon's success: "We wanted a third-party selling business because we knew we'd add more selection to the store that way, so we started Amazon Auction," he says.
Amazon Auction was unsuccessful, but a few more trial-and-errors eventually led to the incredibly successful Amazon Marketplace.
"It's that resourcefulness of trying new things, clearing things out and seeing what customers really want," says Bezos. "It really pays off, even in daily life."
So the next time you discover an entirely new problem, as Bezos has done several times, it might help to hearken back to the lessons Bezos learned during his summers on a ranch with Pop.
Dustin McKissen is the founder of McKissen + Company, a strategic communications firm in St. Charles, Missouri. He was also named one of LinkedIn's "Top Voices in Management and Corporate Culture." Follow him on Twitter @dmcissen.
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