Corporations should put health, morals first | Rich Elfers

Vision, creativity, hard work, strong focus, risk-taking, long-term thinking, self-reflection, giving the customer what he/she wants – these are the qualities that have made Jeff Bezos a household name along with the multi-billion dollar company he created: Amazon.com.

Bezos saw the potential of the Internet and capitalized on a vision. There is much to learn from such a man. I’m learning about Bezos from a book by Brad Stone called “The Everything Store.”

I read about Bezos’ 100-hour plus work weeks, his demand that his employees sign on to work at least 60 hours a week and his refusal to pay employees bus fare so they have to drive to work and then have no excuse to leave early to catch the bus.

Coincidentally, I’m also getting an incentive from my Regence Health Care plan to cut my deductible by 50 percent next year. The way I am to do it is to earn 2,000 points by exercising three times a week, visiting a state park once for 30 minutes, reflecting on the meaning of life, meditating, writing a journal and thinking peaceful thoughts every Monday.

I marvel at the contrast in values between these two mega-corporations.

Thoughts that come to me when I read Stone’s book are: “Don’t wear yourself out getting wealth; be wise enough to restrain yourself” (Proverbs 23:4 Net Bible). Other wise sayings that reverberate in my head are: “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Bezos, according to Stone, used to interview all his potential employees personally. If he heard a candidate say, “I’m concerned with attaining a work/home balance,” Bezos would not hire that person.

Like all the gifts I noted in the first paragraph, every strength is also a potential weakness depending on how it is used.

Since my 20s, I have had a different emphasis and set of priorities and, like Bezos, I have made many errors. But, also like Bezos, I have learned from my mistakes and grown. My No. 1 earthly priority is to have a strong marriage; my second priority is my children. My job, while important, comes down the list.

If I had the skills Amazon is looking for, I wouldn’t want to work there. It’s not because I object to what Amazon has done revolutionizing not only the book business, but everything else Amazon sells, nor is to fault Bezos for all the money he is generating both for himself, and his employees.

Jeff Bezos and Amazon.com remind me of a John D. Rockefeller biography I read recently where Rockefeller accumulated close to $400 billion in today’s money. To do that, John D. was ruthless with his competitors as he built Standard Oil. He set the standard (thus the name) for organizing the production, shipment and refining of petroleum in this country and much of the world in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

At one point Standard Oil refined 90 percent of all the oil in the nation. Eventually the federal government broke up Standard Oil into the various companies we know today as Chevron, ExxonMobil and Arco, to name three of 33.

The difference between Bezos and Rockefeller is that Rockefeller was also a devout Baptist who somehow was able to compartmentalize his Christian morality from his ruthlessness and greed. Bezos doesn’t seem to have such compunctions and perhaps he is more consistent in his singleness of focus than Rockefeller was.

There is much to admire about Jeff Bezos; he has many qualities we can emulate.

The problem is not his vision, focus or determination; it’s his priorities. They’re screwed up. In our culture, workaholics like Bezos, Rockefeller and Steve Jobs have books written about them. These men are valued and copied for making money and building empires rather than for leading balanced lives.

Perhaps the goals of our culture need to be re-examined in the light of what’s good for human beings physically, psychologically and spiritually, not for how much money a person can generate.