By the good graces of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, I was granted the opportunity for a one-on-one meeting with one of my business role models, Jeff Bezos.
As a young child, I was diagnosed with Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). Duchenne is an inherited, progressive muscle-weakening disease. As a result, I’ve been in a wheelchair since age eleven.
Sadly, there is no available cure for Duchenne. That is unless I fulfill my nonprofit’s cause, which is to Complete the Cure for Duchenne, www.DestroyDuchenne.org.
Mostly due to my desire to destroy Duchenne, I had gained an interest in business and entrepreneurship by the time I was a young teenager. This meeting was a chance for me to leverage that knowledge with insider information from one of the world’s greatest innovators. By doing so, I considered the odds of completing my life’s cause to be much greater.
What I learned from Mr. Bezos might surprise you. Even better, it could serve as inspiration to help you in your life’s cause.
Focus on Listening to Learn
Within the first two minutes of meeting with Mr. Bezos, I realized how focused he was and how intently he listened. He didn’t simply wait for the other person to finish speaking. Rather, he focused on absorbing as much information as he could.
Actually, he had as many questions for me as I had for him!
In fact, after I asked Mr. Bezos a few introductory questions, he turned the tables on me. He asked me, “It seems like you have such a positive attitude and such good spirit and optimism. Do you know where that comes from? Have you been that way since you were a little tiny kid?”
I responded, “Well, that’s a really good question. It just doesn’t make any sense to be negative about things.”
Mr. Bezos then smiled and told me reassuringly that my approach to life was truly inspiring and admirable. This made me feel extremely good about my approach to life in general. The compliment I received came from someone I admired a great deal.
Validation for My Cause
Mr. Bezos told me that it would be smart to focus energy and time on things that I knew wouldn’t change. He also knew I had founded a non-profit, so he continued on his quest to learn just as much from me as I wanted to learn from him, so he asked me about it.
I told him some details about www.DestroyDuchenne.org. I even passed around a few “Destroy Duchenne” hoodies. But I also told him that my overall life’s cause was to minimize human suffering in all forms and increase prosperity around the world.
Just then, an Amazon executive briefly interrupted our meeting. The executive walked into the office to inform Mr. Bezos he had to go soon. However, Mr. Bezos told him he wanted to remain a bit longer and that the other commitment could wait. He encouraged me to keep asking more great questions, as we were now going overtime to continue our conversation. “What an honor!” I thought. Jeff Bezos is pushing off another meeting to talk to me.
After we were cleared to keep talking, he explained that he couldn’t imagine people saying they wanted products to be shipped slower or to be more expensive. In other words, customers will always want low prices and fast delivery — those are things that aren’t going to change in the future. Then he said that my life’s cause also sounded like something that will never change. He went on to say people will always want to minimize human suffering and maximize prosperity.
I had never thought about my life’s cause this way before, but it meant a lot to me that someone like Jeff Bezos pointed out that my life’s cause was timeless. It was needed, wanted yesterday, and will be needed and wanted today and tomorrow.
Making the World a Better Place
After that meeting with Jeff Bezos, I left more motivated than ever to accomplish my life’s cause, which is for my non-profit to become successful in destroying DMD. Not only would it benefit me, but it would also benefit my younger brother, Kai, who also has the disease, as well as the estimated one in every 3,500 live male births diagnosed with the condition every year.
Mr. Bezos’s words don’t just apply to my life’s cause, either. They can help anyone who is motivated enough to make something truly impactful happen.
In conclusion, think about what’s not going to change in the future and vow to make it better.
If joining my cause is something you’d like to do, please visit www.DestroyDuchenne.org to learn how to help us. If you have something else you’d like to do, do that! We can all make this world a better place by thinking creatively and working toward an impactful life’s cause. It’s true that some things never change — things like the human spirit.
For more details on Elijah’s conversation with Jeff Bezos, you can find A Small If on Amazon.