Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, and Elon Musk all take this one approach.
One question Jeff Bezos is often asked is one we all need to ask ourselves, “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?”
It’s a profound question because the world is changing so rapidly, and because the decisions we make now will determine our destiny.
Decide wrong, and you might find yourself on a sinking ship, watching as your whole industry goes bankrupt and the skills you spent years honing become obsolete. Millions of people from journalists to financial analysts now find themselves in this position.
Decide right, and you could be set for life. The top artificial intelligence programmers, for example, make as much as NFL superstars. These programmers have suddenly found that the skill set they spent years honing has become incredibly valuable.
These two groups, top AI programmers and people whose skills have become devalued, might have spent the same amount of time learning and be equally smart. But selecting different fields took them down completely different paths.
Over the last few years, I’ve come across a group of people who have spent their whole careers expertly predicting the future, investing based off of their predictions, and then massively profiting decade after decade. What I’ve noticed is that they share a common and completely counterintuitive approach toward investing their money and time that bucks conventional wisdom. In this article, I’ll share how you can copy the approaches of self-made billionaire entrepreneurs and investors like Jeff Bezos, Ray Dalio, Howard Marks, and Warren Buffett so that you too can ‘win’ your future.
“What’s Going to Change?” Is The Wrong Question
Like I said above, Jeff Bezos is often asked, “What’s going to change in the next 10 years?” That’s actually not the key question though. Listen to how he reframes it (emphasis mine):
That is a very interesting question; it’s a very common one. I almost never get the question: ‘What’s NOT going to change in the next 10 years’
And I submit to you that that second question is actually the more important of the two — because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.
He then goes on to explain how Amazon has profited from focusing on the second question (emphasis mine):
In our retail business, we know that customers want low prices, and I know that’s going to be true 10 years from now. They want fast delivery; they want vast selection. It’s impossible to imagine a future 10 years from now where a customer comes up and says, ‘Jeff, I love Amazon; I just wish the prices were a little higher,’ [or] ‘I love Amazon; I just wish you’d deliver a little more slowly.’ Impossible.
And so the effort we put into those things, spinning those things up, we know the energy we put into it today will still be paying off dividends for our customers 10 years from now. When you have something that you know is true, even over the long term, you can afford to put a lot of energy into it.
I remember the thoughts running through my head the first time I read this quote. It felt intuitive and counterintuitive at the same time. On the one hand, I thought to myself, “This makes so much sense! Why not just focus on what’s guaranteed to be valuable rather than speculating?” On the other hand, Bezos’ response flies in the face of conventional wisdom and was jarring. The typical approach to planning for the future resembles betting at the roulette wheel:
- Identify what you think is going to be really important (i.e., artificial intelligence, virtual reality, blockchain, synthetic biology, nanotechnology).
- Pick one of those areas to invest in and master.
- Hope it hits big and that you have the right timing so that you can profit.