A willingness to be misunderstood

“Bezos then predictably unleashed a steady tide of Jeffisms, about long-term thinking, about a willingness to… to be misunderstood…” ~ Brad Stone, The Everything Store: Jeff Bezos and the Age of Amazon

I just finished the book, The Everything Store, about journey of Jeff Bezos and Amazon. Fantastic book. I highly recommend it.

Toward the end of the book the passage above appeared and my guess is most people probably would have read that and continued on, not picking up on what I think is an astounding and impactful statement.

As entrepreneurs, we talk all the time about the ability to fail. The ability to lead. To take risks. To raise money, build a team, have a vision, and nail an exit.

But we rarely talk about the willingness to be misunderstood.

Bezos is INCREDIBLE at this. He doesn’t give a flip what the outside world thinks about his decisions. Actually, he doesn’t give a flip about what the people inside of Amazon think about his decisions once he’s made them. He’ll have meetings and discussions with his team, but when he’s ready to make a decision he goes for it and doesn’t require anyone patting him on the back telling him how smart he is.

I’ve had the opportunity to hear people questioning David Cumming’s decision to build Atlanta Tech Village over the past several months. David is both a friend and a co-founder of Dragon Army, so I know him fairly intimately. And he, like Bezos, doesn’t worry about what people think about his decisions. He has a vision for the Village and if people can’t see that or want to mock it, so be it. He’s confident enough in his decision that he doesn’t need the outside world’s approval.

Although I haven’t heard it directly, I know people are questioning my decision to start Dragon Army. It’s a different business than I’ve started before and its highly competitive and risky. I’m 37 (old for a creative startup like this, some might say), I have four kids and the ability to stay in digital marketing and advertising and see quick success. In fact, many of my mentors seriously questioned why I would leave that industry at all.

But I have a vision for Dragon Army and I’m not worried about the doubters. I don’t judge them for feeling that way, its their prerogative and I don’t always agree with everyone else’s decisions. I’m completely comfortable with people doubting me, even when they publicly question my moves.

Leaders of business have to have the fortitude and resolve to believe in their decisions and to be misunderstood.


  1. Mona Harty on December 12, 2013 at 11:16 pm

    Love it! Keep on keepin’ on Jeff Hilimire!

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