Stubborn On Vision, Flexible On Details

There’s a famous Jeff Bezos quote about being stubborn over what you want to achieve (vision), and flexible about the path you take to get there (details). It’s a good reminder. A really good reminder. Once we figure out where we want to be, we shouldn’t get too hung up on how we’re getting there, just that we’re making regular progress towards the goal, even if that means realigning our approach multiple times.

Probable dead ends with fussy details are the enemy. They trap us and suck up our time. They take us off the track if accomplishing the broader mission. We want to bring in 10 clients but get stuck on an impossible detail with the third one. We want to set up a year’s worth of marketing efforts and we get stuck on a comma in a piece for the second month. These are real obstacles.

It’s not that the details don’t matter, they do a greatly, but they don’t matter as much as the vision itself. Flexibility means finding an acceptable solution and moving forward. Focusing on vision also forces us to extend our time horizon. There’s lots of competition over jobs to be done tomorrow, but not nearly as much competition several years into the future. Setting our vision and focusing on reaching of it keeps us moving towards the future as opposed to repeating cycles today.

Here’s the full quote:

We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details…. We don’t give up on things easily. Our third-party seller business is an example of that. It took us three tries to get the third-party seller business to work. We didn’t give up.

If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.

Steal a page from Mr. Bezos. Once we know where we want to go, be stubborn enough not to give up, and flexible enough that we can’t be stopped or pinned down along the way. Easy to say, hard to do, and completely essential.