Author Brad Stone shares in his book “The Everything Store” a story about Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.
It seems that in early 1997, Bezos flew to Boston to give a presentation at the Harvard Business School. He spoke to a class taking a course called “Managing the Marketspace,” and afterward the graduate students pretended he wasn’t there while they dissected the online retailer’s prospects.
At the end of the hour, they reached a consensus: Amazon was unlikely to survive the wave of established retailers moving online.
“You seem like a really nice guy, so don’t take this the wrong way, but you really need to sell to Barnes and Noble and get out now,” one student bluntly informed Bezos.
Another student in the class recalls that Bezos was humble and circumspect.
“You may be right,” Amazon’s founder told the students. “But I think you might be underestimating the degree to which established brick-and-mortar business, or any company that might be used to doing things a certain way, will find it hard to be nimble or to focus attention on a new channel. I guess we’ll see.”
Of course, looking at things from today’s perspective, Amazon’s success seems inevitable. In 1997, however, some of the brightest young business minds — supposedly on the cutting edge of technology as well — weren’t so sure.
I would say the best indicator of Bezos’ future success can be found in the final four words of his response: I guess we’ll see.
When told his business plan lacked potential, he didn’t try to change anyone’s mind, but he didn’t change his own, either. He just continued to move forward, and we know what happened in the years that followed.
In the book of Nehemiah, when Sanballet and Tobiah heard that about the former slave’s fledgling effort to rebuild Jerusalem’s wall, they predicted failure: ”If even a fox climbed up on it, he would break down their wall of stones!” (Nehemiah 4:3)
What was Nehemiah’s response to such a sharp barb of criticism?
“So we rebuilt the wall until all of it reached half its height, for the people worked with all their heart.” (Nehemiah 4:6)
Notice that Nehemiah didn’t argue his case. He didn’t tell the critics to bring him a fox so he could prove them wrong. Instead, he and his team kept their hand to the task.
It’s like they shrugged their shoulders and said to the naysayers, “I guess we’ll see.”
This week, we would do well to remember that it’s not our job to convince anyone that our work has merit, or that we will one day succeed. It’s not necessary for you and I to convince anyone, but it is necessary that you yourself remain convinced that this is the work God has called you to do.
What I’m saying is this: you don’t need to change their mind, just make sure you don’t change yours.
With or without encouragement from the crowd, let’s continue to do our work wholeheartedly.