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"Missionary" or Mercenary? The query that characterizes your kind of success

27, 2021

9 min read

This article has been translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors can occur due to this process.

The opinions expressed by the entrepreneur's contributors are their own.

The million dollar question.

Jeff Bezos is one of the richest men on the planet. He founded Amazon when the Internet was just being born with the vision (absurd at the time) of creating the world's largest “everything shop”. To achieve this, he had to create a specific location, a unique algorithm, and a distribution system that is unparalleled anywhere on the planet. Each of these steps could in itself be a sustainable business plan. but for him they were only parts of a much larger process that was his vision, which has remained almost intact since he was born.

In his recently published book Invent & Wonder, The Compiled Writings of Jeff Bezos, Walter Isaacson presents and shares the text of the letters Jeff has written to his shareholders since 1999 when they were a small, thriving company with a vision. long-term growth and a fully developed four-tier system. The book also includes a Bezos business biography and his own personal management tricks.

Over the years Jeff has had to work with hundreds or thousands of other entrepreneurs to bring his vision to life and generate growth synergies. When needs to find strategic partners, its founder endeavors to know personally the founders and executives of the companies to be acquired or merged and, if he does, asks an important question first: Is this person a mercenary or a missionary?

A mercenary is there for the money; But a missionary is there with a mission that is part of his personal reality, his vision of life. A missionary keeps going when things get difficult. A mercenary leaves the ship when the storm hits. A missionary has a purpose that involves others and goes beyond himself. A mercenary uses the company to achieve his own personal goals.

Business is over for a mercenary. For a missionary, business is just a means to something much greater.

If you met Bezos face to face, what would he see in you? And in front of your own mirror, in the job you are in today, or in the company you took over … are you a mercenary or a missionary?

From what to why

There's a reason companies have four hanging in the lobby that says: Mission, vision, values ​​… This reason is that without a vision, companies simply have no real purpose to sustain their growth and strategy.

Unfortunately, many companies miss the opportunity to think about a real vision and have a cliché phrase and cheap framework. "Be the best in the region, produce this or that thing, give this or that service …". They are vain, empty words that do little to get any real boost.

The problem with many of the "visions" is that they relate to themselves, says Simon Sinek in his book The Infinite Game. The A vision that drives companies that go far is not a vision of themselves, but of the world they want to create. In another of his bestsellers (Start with WHY), Sinek himself defines what he regards as "the golden circle" of organizations. It starts with the WHY, continues with the HOW and ends with the WHAT.

The "WHY" defines the vision and purpose of a company, business or entrepreneur. It is a question that is not resolved superficially, but profoundly, and which shapes and guides everything we do and will do in the future. The "why" shouldn't be an achievable goal, but an infinite goal that always urges us to go further. The "why" can be realized in a mission. In this way, we follow our vision according to our talents, passions and circumstances. The "HOW" defines the organizational culture of our business and the part most typical of traditional management: the processes, styles, systems and communication that make our formula cohesive. A great director can give us a "how", but it takes a guide to have a "why". The "WHAT" is the specific object, product or service that we are selling. A business that starts with the "what" will die when that "what" is no longer affordable. Blockbuster had a "what": borrow physical videos. When the world changed, Blockbuster died. They had no purpose that would enable them not to change their product or their system. Netflix, on the other hand, has changed products and systems several times, but its purpose is the same: to bring home entertainment for everyone. Innovative and transformative companies like Tesla, SpaceX, Apple, Netflix, Amazon, Microsoft are constantly reinventing themselves, but never lose their original vision.

A principle of resilience

A missionary has a "why," a true vision, a purpose that constantly drives him to seek, solve, and give much more. You can also use it to take risks that others simply would never take.

The richest man in the world right now, Elon Musk, has been on the verge of bankruptcy more often than any of us. Since he was young, he dreamed of opening up space for mankind and set himself a goal that – even today – seems very distant, if not impossible: to bring mankind to Mars. To do this, he first needed money. After selling his first business, he found a need in the virtual world and sold everything he needed to start a new business: PayPal. As you know, PayPal grew into a gigantic company and made Musk a millionaire. But that wasn't his mission, so he sold his stake in PayPal and split the money in two. With one he founded Tesla and the other Space X. In the first case, they developed highly efficient batteries for various applications, including electric cars. They needed money so they put it all on one card, one car, the best ever, and Musk sold everything to get that one car out there. The first was a total failure. Musk again put all his money into anchoring the second car … which was a success. Same thing with SpaceX: two or three times, the entire future of the company was at stake with a single launch, a single rocket … and Musk kept playing on his skin. To be honest, he couldn't care less about being "the richest". It's all part of your big mission. Are you crazy? May be. It's such crazy people who change the world.

Perhaps your company won't take humanity to Mars, but surely there is a secret purpose within you that makes you do what you do, that makes you get up every morning, and that you risk it all for a dream over and over again leaves . . Make a lot of money? Maybe the problem isn't that you ask too much … the problem is that you ask too little.

Only a real mission will help you get up every time you fall – and believe me, you will fall more than once – and make you give more and better, prepare, study, seek creative solutions, to believe in the possibility of the impossible. . Once a great saint said: dreams … and you will fall short.

What are you going to hang in the lobby of your own life?

So tell me – or tell yourself honestly – are you a mercenary or a missionary? If your life were a company, what would you be hanging in the lobby of your own life? Can you write on paper what you want in the world before you die? It can be the first step in a new mission and adventure.

The world no longer needs mercenaries: people who are only there for profit and whose life is emptier than a broken vase. Neither do we need deluded dreamers who believe that things only happen when they want them to.

We need this unique breed of individuals who dare to dream and then take the shovel and hammer to build them: who get their hands dirty, who wear out their feet, and who risk their lives for a great and necessary ideal. If making money is part of the process, learn how to do it and do well. But listen: Nobody climbs Mount Everest to collect the stones on the road.

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