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How Amazon turned its darkest time into runaway riches

When Amazon was in trouble back in 2001, Jeff Bezos called professor and Good to Great author Jim Collins — and became his best student ever.

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos at the Air Force Association’s Annual Air, Space & Cyber Conference on September 19, 2018.
Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images

In October 2001, Amazon was in trouble. The first dot-com bubble had popped a year earlier, and Amazon’s stock price was languishing in the single digits, less than half of where it was trading a year before.

That’s when founder and CEO Jeff Bezos called Jim Collins, a former Stanford business professor who had written the widely-admired book Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don’t. Collins visited Amazon’s campus to talk about some ideas from the book, including a concept he called “turning the flywheel” — in essence, figuring out how to push your business so that it starts to gain momentum, growing faster and faster.

“Now the wonderful thing about great students — and Jeff Bezos and company are really thoughtful, smart people — is they take an idea and then they took it even further,” Collins said on the latest episode of Recode Decode with Kara Swisher. “So they took the flywheel and they said, ‘We’re going to make the flywheel ours.’

“That flywheel essentially was, we offer lower prices on more stuff,” he added. “If we do that, we’re going to increase customer visits. If we do that, we can’t help but get more third-party sellers. And if we do that, then we can’t help but expand the store and extend distribution. If we do that, we’re going to raise revenues per fixed costs, and if we do that, we can lower prices on more stuff, and around it goes.”

Since then, Amazon has done okay (Thursday’s closing stock price: $1,907 per share) and Collins has urged all the companies that come to him for advice to think about the “causal links” in their work. He’s also written a new companion piece to Good to Great, appropriately titled Turning the Flywheel. But he warns that not all of his students have understood the material as well as Bezos and company.

“Sometimes what I find is that people confuse a really deep understanding of why the flywheel really works with kind of an aspirational set of steps,” Collins said. “[They say,] ‘We want to do customer service and fast delivery and increase in capital. Okay, we’ll list them all out, now let’s just draw a circle.’ That’s not a flywheel. That’s just saying we have a flywheel when it’s just a list of things you want to do.”

You can listen to Recode Decode wherever you get your podcasts, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, Pocket Casts, and Overcast.

Below, we’ve shared a lightly edited full transcript of Kara’s conversation with Jim.

Kara Swisher: Hi, I’m Kara Swisher, editor-at-large of Recode. You may know me as someone who didn’t need to go from good to great because I was always great, but in my spare time I talk tech and you’re listening to Recode Decode from the Vox Media Podcast network.

Today in the red chair is Jim Collins, who has written several much-admired books about how to grow and manage businesses, including Built to Last, Good to Great, and How the Mighty Fall. His new work is a companion piece to Good to Great called Turning the Flywheel, which is one of my favorite words. Jim, welcome to Recode Decode.

Jim Collins: It’s a real privilege to be here.

Thank you. I’m so excited. We had a little talk before this started about — you read my book. My book, which has been out of print, I think, for a while. But I wrote two books on AOL.


A million hundred years ago, and you were pointing out some stuff around … I was right about the early internet.


Because these were books about how the internet happened, essentially. They weren’t ... You do more about studies and how things fail and how things succeed and this was just a sort of recounting of the growth and then the second chapter of AOL, which was very negative, and it continued to be as it went down the line. So I was glad you read it, I hadn’t thought about it in years and you read back to one of my quotes, which was kind of funny.

Yeah. And it’s interesting because you had a deep dive into this one really rich case which was emblematic of sort of the entire wave 1.0, right? And then through the AOL-Time Warner thing. And at the end of your second book, you have this line where you say, “despite everything that’s happened in this story, I’m still in love with the digital future and its promise and the internet.” But a lot’s happened since you wrote that.

That’s right. This was 2002?

2003, something like that, right?

Right, yeah.

In the wake of everything that happened.


And so, I just want to start with a question for you, which is have you fallen out of love? Are you still in love?

A little bit. The boyfriend’s being bad. The boyriend’s … the girlfriend, however, I don’t care. As you know, we’re in San Francisco. The goat is bad! It’s really a problematic thing because as much as I still love the internet, I really have been disappointed by some of its leaders and the way they’ve responded to some of the issues. And as you know, I’ve written a lot about it in the Times and things like that. And so, I want to get back to the loving of it. You know what I mean?


Loving it. I was in the airport just recently and I saw the book on the Wright brothers and I have this idea where I sit around and think you don’t want to be the person at Kitty Hawk who sort of insults the wingspan, you want to understand that they flew, right?

Yeah. Yeah.

And so I’d like to get back to that. But right now, the tech community isn’t helping. I don’t know. They aren’t helping in terms of they’ve gotten rich and fat and stupid. I just don’t know how else to put it.

Anyway, let’s talk about you and this book. So, do your background, Jim, because you really, your books have sort of been classics of how to get to that level. But also not sort of, a lot of these books can be kind of kiss-ass-y, right? You know what I mean? Aren’t they wonderful and aren’t they smart? So let’s talk a little bit about your past books so people can get a context and what you tried to do here.

Yeah. So, quick sort of I guess arc of how I ended here at age 61 looking ahead to my next 30 years of work, but the last 30 years. So I grew up in San Francisco and Boulder, Colorado.


Went off to Stanford undergraduate. Studied mathematical sciences, which is computer science, math, statistics, operations, research. Fairly short order. Then went over to the graduate school of business, and because I had some really great mentors, one of the themes of my life is “who luck,” great people that have intersected with me. And I had two great mentors, Michael Ray and Bill Azir, who are both professors there who went to bat for me and got me in to start teaching at Stanford when I was 30 years old in 1988.


And that’s really where the arc of these books began. I was teaching a course on entrepreneurship and small business. It was called Business 352.

Why were you teaching it then? What was the impetus with that? There wasn’t a lot of it around.

No there wasn’t, actually.

Well there was and there wasn’t.

Well actually it was very interesting because Bill Azir, who was teaching the course before me, who was a professor of mine, had a marvelous observation which is that about every 20, 25 years there’s a big idea but it’s not really clear until later. And the big idea that had happened in the ’80s but now we take for granted but wasn’t so clear is that entrepreneurship is not alchemy.


It’s actually a systematic, replicable process that somebody could choose to be an entrepreneur and build a company the way that somebody could choose to be a doctor or choose to be a lawyer.

Right, and get the training.

Right, exactly. But that was a relatively new idea in the 1980s.

Right, because everyone still thinks it’s sort of this “touched by God” ...

I think the evidence shatters that idea. And so, this course was really about how to challenge our Stanford MBA students. But I remember when I first got the syllabus of the course, the previous versions of it, the opening line of the syllabus said something like this’ll be a course on the mechanics of the new business, new venture entrepreneur and small business manager. And to this day, Kara, I don’t know why but I crossed out that opening line in the syllabus and I rewrote it as, “This’ll be a course on how to turn a new venture or small business into an enduring great company.”


And I looked at it and I thought, “Wow, that’s a great question. I don’t know anything about that.” But I decided to keep it as the frame because I wanted ...

“But I shall teach you this!”

Yeah. And, well, I was curious about it, right? And so, I had this instinct of I wanted to challenge my students to the standard to do more than just start a company and get rich. To try to build something great and lasting, impactful, admirable. That was sort of the idea, this higher standard. So I put it down and thought, well, how would you actually find the principles that make that happen? And that’s when I intersected with another great piece of “who luck,” another professor, Jerry Porras, who was a massively tenured senior dean when I was 30, 31 years old. And I just, first of all ...

You can be “massively tenured?”

I guess you can.

Could not blast him out with #MeToo or anything else.

No, he was, and such a wonderful man. But think about this, here’s this seasoned research dean professor who agrees to partner with me. At age, I was 31, he was almost 60, as a peer. And he said, “Let’s tackle this question together.” And interestingly, today, when you look at the book, I brought it with me because there’s a quote I want to read you from it about levels of responsibility entrepreneurs can take.


But when we published the book, we actually put our names in alphabetical order, Collins and Porras, even though he was the senior. Marvelous, great mentor. And Jerry said, “We need to find a way to research this” and he had, we had two insights. The first is, all big great companies were once startups.


So you can go back to Bill and Dave’s garage, you can go back to the startup of Intel, you can go back to ...


Exactly. Exactly, they were all, J. Willard Marriott started with a single A&W root beer franchise, right? Walt Disney started with making a single film. And from there they went on and built these great, iconic, visionary companies. We said, we can use history to go back, just like starting the history of the United States or Rome or anything else, let’s go back and study from the Big Bang all the way through their history. But then Jerry had a brilliant insight. He said, yeah, but you always have to ask compared to what. Because if you just study successful companies you’ll find hey, they all have buildings. Well, having a building doesn’t make you a great company.


Question is, what did they do different? And Jerry had the observation that at the birth of any industry, it’s like a Cambrian explosion.


There’s a whole bunch of new entrants. And most die, but out of that primordial ooze, out of the early days of biotech or airlines or aircraft or automobiles or pharmaceuticals or semiconductors or software or computers, whatever, a few or one emerges as a great and lasting company. And he said if we can go back and find those and then pair them against others that were in the same spot, same time, same resources, same potential at that time and then track them together ...

And see what happens.

Exactly. The one, what did the one that became great do different than the one that did not? And that formed this new method called the historical matchplay research method. That led to five years of research that led to Built to Last. Everybody thinks it was a big company book, it was really for the entrepreneur. Then that went from there to Good to Great where we asked the question, well, wait a minute, what if you wake up partway through life and you’re just average?


Can you break through from good to great? And so we took pairs of companies that were both average, then one broke through for at least 15 years of great results and the other didn’t, that then led to the third of four major books, which is How the Mighty Fall. Because, given enough time, some of your once-great companies will fall.

Right. Yes. Which you see in tech happening really quickly.

Exactly. And it’s not that we were wrong, they were great at one point in their history.


That’s what makes it interesting. Because studying how once-great enterprises fall is just as interesting — in my mind, it’s more interesting — than how they become great.

Sure. Although some might consider it inevitable. Like you cannot avoid it.

I refuse to capitulate to the idea that it’s inevitable, yet. But how it unravels, how you fall from great to good to mediocre to bad to irrelevant to gone when it’s so senseless and there’s kind of five stages of decline that we found in that, just a little thing to put in. We get to the five stages of decline, interesting question, is Silicon Valley showing any of those signs as an overall ecosystem?


One might talk about that.


Then, finally, the last book, Great by Choice goes back to our entrepreneurial roots with my colleague Morton Hanson where we took kind of more modern tech startups in highly turbulent industries that went from IPOs to 10 times their industries in contrast to others that kind of got clobbered by that turbulence. That’s where we pick up software, semiconductors, biotechnology, etc. Zoom way out, 30 years of work, that’s all started in 1988. It’s now 2019. Six thousand years of combined corporate history, done on a rigorous method, four major studies, which then led to kind of 12 principles that correlate — nothing can be causal — correlate strongly with those that become and sustain greatness with those that dealt ...

Become and sustain?

Become and sustain, and sustain for me has always been a minimum of 15 years, some make it 50 or more.


And I think the key is to not just have one of these kind of quick flashes and then you just, everybody made a bunch of money and cashed out, that’s the opposite of that. This is really about built to last and not built to flip. And then there are the extension monographs, like for the social sectors and turning the flywheel and so forth. But that’s the basic arc.

So talk about Turning the Flywheel. So you decided to, so you had a lot of impact, you had a lot of consulting with companies, also?

Well I don’t really do much consulting. I think of myself as ... So after Built to Last, I decided in some ways a little like you, you’re kind of an entrepreneurial journalist, right?

A reportrepeneural journalist.

Is that what you are?

No. I hate that word.

Okay, but essentially-

If you will not.

You decided to remain a true journalist outside of a traditional journalistic enterprise.



I’m bad in the newsroom, but go ahead.

Well, I realized that I didn’t want to follow a traditional academic path.


So I decided I wanted to become an entrepreneurial professor. And after Built to Last, my wife and I decided to bet our lives on this, it was a big entrepreneurial bet and I decided I wanted to become a self-employed professor, to endow my own chair and grant myself tenure. So, left Stanford.

I like that.

Well, I didn’t know if it would work and Joanne was like well, here we go.

Yeah, yeah.

And kind of described it as our Thelma and Louise moment except we were launching off and wanted to get to the other side.


And I set up my own research lab in Boulder. I’ve always remained, in my mind, a professor. Over 50 percent of my time goes to new research and writing and thinking, 30 percent of my time to teaching. And so when executives come to my lab in Boulder, I never give them answers. All I do is ask them questions. And I challenge them with ideas, because I can’t presume to know what they should do at their companies, that would be very arrogant.


Instead, I’d rather teach them principles and say let me push you with hard questions, how to think about this. So I remain a researcher, somebody driven by curiosity, a questioner with some principles to push people on. I never give people answers or tell them what they should do.

All right, so talk about Turning the Flywheel. And in the next part, I want to talk about some of the principles you’re talking about. Talk about the concept of Turning the Flywheel. I mean, obviously, in Silicon Valley terms, it’s like getting something going so that it really gets going. It’s not just turning it, it’s making it go like a turbine.

Yeah, exactly. So one of the key principles that came out of Good to Great is the flywheel principle. And it really got uncovered in the Good to Great research. Essentially, think about it this way: The way something becomes great looks to those peering in from the outside is different than the way it feels on the inside. Looking in from the outside it can look like this big, instantaneous breakthrough. All of a sudden, something happened overnight.

But if you really look on the inside, it’s like turning a giant, heavy flywheel. The process is like, you start pushing in an intelligent and consistent direction, after a lot of effort you get one giant, slow, creaky turn. You don’t stop, right? You keep pushing. And then you get a second turn and you keep pushing. And then you get four and eight and 16 and 32 and a thousand and a hundred thousand and a million and at some point that flywheel’s got all this cumulative momentum, it’s building, building, building.

And when you try to jump past the flywheel, you almost never end up producing a great result. That was one of the key findings that came from Good to Great. And in 2001, the reason why this monograph exists, in 2001 I went up to Amazon.


It was in the wake of the dot-com bust.

Right, and they were in trouble.

Exactly. And I was asked to spend some time with Jeff Bezos and the executive team and some other key people.

This was the Amazon dot-bomb phase?

This was a very difficult time.


It was a dark time. It was like October of 2001.

Yeah, I remember.

And I went up there and all I did — again, I teach the ideas — and I taught the ideas from Good to Great and Built to Last. But I did leave them with a challenge. I said this is a really dark time, but don’t respond to it as a crisis. Don’t respond to it as kind of an event. Respond to it by recommitting to building the flywheel.

Now the wonderful thing about great students, and Jeff Bezos and company are really thoughtful smart people, is they take an idea and then they took it even further. So they took the flywheel and they said we’re going to make the flywheel ours.


And they did something that both surprised and delighted me, which was they took the flywheel principle that had come from Good to Great and then they said, “Let’s diagram how our flywheel works.” If we can create the compounding momentum of our flywheel ... so that flywheel essentially was, we offer lower prices on more stuff. If we do that — now notice there’s an inevitable momentum and logic — if we do that we’re going to increase customer visits. If we do that, we can’t help but get more third-party sellers. And if we do that, then we can’t help but expand the store and extend distribution. If we do that, we’re going to raise revenues per fixed costs, and if we do that, we can lower prices on more stuff, and around it goes. And if you stand back and you think about the Amazon story, what is it? It’s that, for a big chunk of it, it’s that flywheel turning and building and compounding, momenting, extending, all the artificial intelligence, machine learning, technology accelerators.

So, I kind of learned, so I was first teaching, then I became a student watching how they applied the idea, and then I started just challenging people who would come to my lab. I would say, you should do for yourself what Amazon did for itself. What’s your flywheel? How does it turn? What are the links? What’s the inexorable logic? Show me where it’s working and where it’s not. And I found that it created this tremendous sense of “aha” for folks, especially if they had to think about that causal linkage, right? That’s the key is the causal linkage.

Mm-hmm. The “if so, then this.”

If so, then this. Yeah, it’s not a list of things you want to do drawn as a circle, it’s an inevitable, “building A will drive B.”

That lead back to the original.

B will drive C. C will drive D. So you got to get the logic right. And I found that people found the whole exercise really powerful when they took the principle of the flywheel then did for themselves what Amazon did for themselves. So enough people finally said, have you ever shared this with people? I said, well other than challenging you, no. They said you should actually codify that idea, extend the flywheel principle from Good to Great, and so I decided to write a monograph.

So picked out the one principle from it that you thought was the most important?

Yeah. For today.

For today.


And why is that? Why do you?

Well, I don’t know if it’s the most important for today because I still go back to the idea that I think we need leaders who have the level-five sense of responsibility for something bigger to the world. And to what they’re trying to build.

We’ll get to that.

But we’re going to come to that.


I still think we need that desperately, we need that level-five ethic.


But in terms of how you really build, particularly in today’s world, if you can get the compounding momentum of your flywheel in a world that wants you to do something quick and overnight, it’s an enormously powerful thing. And what I found, though, is that part of what stimulated me to write it was I would hear, for example, in Silicon Valley people would say “we have our flywheel” and I’d look at it and go, “that’s not right”. They’re not getting the causal linkage. They’ve just drawn stuff that’s a circle. And I felt, kind of as the person who first brought forth the idea, a sense of responsibility to say, if you’re going to use the concept, let me show you how to use it right.

Right. Rather than just say this then this.

Yeah, exactly.

How is that different? How is what they were doing different?

Sometimes what I find is that people confuse a really deep understanding of why the flywheel really works with kind of an aspirational set of steps. “We want to do customer service and fast delivery and increase in capital. Okay, we’ll list them all out, now let’s just draw a circle.” That’s not a flywheel. That’s just saying we have a flywheel when it’s just a list of things you want to do.


And the real key is to force yourself to find that underlying logic and to be really, really rigorous that every single point that you can say if we do B, we’ll be thrown inevitably into C. And so forth and around.

Right. As momentum.

As momentum, if you will.

Depending on what it does.

And then to stay with it long enough.


Because what happens is people say oh, we got 100 turns on the flywheel, we’re bored with that, let’s start a new one. No, the real power comes when you compound it over a long period of time. So I just felt a sense of responsibility of like folks, if you’re going to talk about it because you like the word ...

To not misuse my concept. Well, it’s interesting because they do, they would do that. Because people are so wanting to get off of whatever they’re doing that isn’t successful so quickly.

Yeah. Exactly.

You know what I mean? Without moving too quickly, I guess.

And it’s about deep understanding in the end.


Let me just, there’s a quote that I’ve put in ...

Yeah, read that and then we’ll get to our next section.

There’s two quotes that I brought today. But one that’s in this monograph and again, I want to credit a great mentor of mine, Robert Burgelman, another professor at Stanford. And I put this in the monograph because he taught this to me in 1982. He taught it to a class of students. “The greatest mistake in business and life is not outright failure, it’s becoming successful without understanding why you were successful in the first place.” Burgelman’s insight, what the flywheel does is forces you ...

To understand.

To really understand why this works. So that you can build it over time. Because if it was just, if you don’t understand it, you won’t be able to stay with it.

One of the things — before we start to talk about some more of the concepts in the book — one of the things you and I just talked about were the idea of level-five leadership. Explain that, because it sounds like something I’ve been banging the drum on for a while.

Yeah. One of the things we found in our research is that if you really ask the question, “What separated the really great builders over time from the others?” What separated a Bill Hewlett and a David Packard and a Moore and Grove and Noyce and what separated George Rathmann and what separated ... We could go through the list.

Katharine Graham.

Katharine Graham of the Washington Post, who I think is one of the greatest CEOs of all time. What you find is that it’s not about their personality. As you know, Katharine Graham’s personality wasn’t the most magnetic and charismatic.

She was shy, I knew her well.

Shy, exactly.


I mean, frightened. She described herself as frightened at times and yet incredibly willful. Packard and Hewlett, two very different human beings. Moore and Grove, two very different human beings. So what do these great builders share in common?

What we found is what separated them from those that didn’t build the great companies is this thing called level five. So think of it as the comparison to have level-four leaders and the good grades at level-five leaders. I could explain all the layers in the moment, but that’s the main take.

Who’s level one? Jackass?

Well, level one is really good individual skills. So level one is about what levels ... basically good technical skills, individual skills. Level two is about good team skills. Level three is about you finally learn to manage, which ... never denigrate that. There are a lot of not-good managers. Level three. Level four is about learning how to lead.

But then there’s this higher level called the level five. So we didn’t find that the great companies had leadership and the comparisons didn’t. What we found was that the greatest leaders were the level-five leaders and the comparisons for level fours.

What’s the difference between the five and the four? The essential difference between the five and the four is the answer to a simple question: What’s the truth of your ambition? I mean, what are you truly ambitious for?

Are you leading in a spirit of service to something that is bigger and more important than you are? What your company’s trying to accomplish in the world, it’s responsibility in the world. And you are ambitious for that thing that’s bigger than you and you have a genuine humility to learn and to grow and adapt and realize your failings combined with this incredible sense of will.

So imagine humility and will duality with an ambition for cause and responsibility that is much bigger than you are. Hey, let’s take somebody like Katharine Graham. Personal humility, indomitable will. I mean, you were not going to back her down; the Pentagon papers, no matter who called from the White House or anyone else, indomitable will, but personal humility. I have so much I have to learn to do this right. But all in service to the sense of responsibility that this is what the Post stands for and this is what we have to do to stand for that.

Now, that’s the level-five ethic. And when you see it, you think about Gordon Moore talking about ... he was not the most charismatic out there sort of wild man. He was a very understated engineer type, but he was incredibly ambitious for how Moore’s Law could change the world. There’s this wonderful quote where he talks in 1972 or 1973. He says there’s all this unrest happening on campuses, [but] “we’re the real revolutionaries.” Think about where Moore’s law is going to take the world and now we have to ensure that that’s done in a way that has positive impact.

So, that’s the level-five ethic. I brought with me, I just want to share with you something because I was going back ...

This is from Built to Last?

From Built to Last. I still think one of the greatest entrepreneurial pairs of all time is Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard. We can talk about what happened to the company after them, but I think they set a standard. I just want to share with you this quote from Built to Last, David Packard:

”In 1949” — so it’s not like this stuff is all new — “I attended a meeting of business leaders. I suggested at the meeting that management had a responsibility” — the word responsibility shows up over and over again — “responsibility beyond that of making a profit for its stockholders. I said that we have a responsibility to our employees to recognize their dignity of human beings.” Oh, and by the way, “to ensure that they share in the success that they help create.

“I went on to say that we have a responsibility to our customers, to the community at large as well.” Then he goes on to say, “I was surprised and shocked that not a single person at that meeting agreed with me. While they were reasonably polite in their disagreement, it was quite evident that they firmly believed I was not one of them and obviously not qualified to manage an important enterprise.”

So, that’s interesting. I just had Shoshana Zuboff from Harvard who has this surveillance capitalism... She was talking about the idea ...

That was a wonderful podcast; scary.

Yeah, shifting from responsibility to a lot of stakeholders versus just the shareholder.

And here’s David Packard in 1949 as a young entrepreneur. They’re only 10 years into their company. They didn’t go public until 1957.

When Jerry Porras and I, we had access to all of Bill and Dave’s original papers. In fact, I have ... was able to actually hold in my hands, with Jerry, the original typed notes from August 23rd, 1937, where Bill Hewlett and David Packard are getting together to form their company. It’s like holding the Declaration of Independence or something. But even at the very start of their company, from the very beginning, they were setting forth to say, “There’s a higher standard of responsibility that we’re going to build to. We will adhere to that. We will take consequences for that.”

We understand that we’re looking always for the genius of the “and.” It’s not in your world today, which you know more about me. It’s not a platform or responsibility. It’s platform and responsibility.

So how do you look at it today? How do you look at it today when you think about level ... who is a level-five leader from your perspective? Or how do you look at how to get them to this level?

Well, yeah. The second question. I know a little bit more about.

I think they’re negative fives.

Yeah. So, I’m not a current commentator, I’m a historian. So I tend to look through models from history, if you will. It’d be like talking to somebody who wrote a biography of Truman rather than talking about current politics and they tend not to go so much in the current world.

Although, I would argue that a couple of the people that ... just let me highlight. A couple that hit me from your show, that I think people will go back and listen to, Maria Ressa from the Philippines. I mean, you want to talk about somebody’s service to cause, personal humility, indomitable will, oh, and they might throw me in jail?

Mm-hmm. Absolutely.

There’s level five. So somebody who says, “Well, it’s hard to do it in today’s world,” show me somebody who’s doing something harder than what she’s doing. I came away from that thinking, “Okay, level five’s alive and well.” And you feel small when you listen to her and you wonder, “What am I doing in the world?” You just sort of feel like, “Wow, no matter what I’ve done, it doesn’t compare.” Rose Marcario from Patagonia ...

Amazing. Amazing.

... and Yvon Chouinard right? Then you had Kristine McDivitt earlier who I used to write a case on her at Stanford and had her come and spend time with all my students. In fact, I have a video with her in the 1989 earthquake because she was my guest that day. We did the whole thing on tape.

Oh, wow.

It was really quite remarkable and scary, actually. Yvon put in place in the company from the very beginning: “We have a purpose as a company …”

This is a founder who still controls, still owner. Full owner, right?

... but he’s kept that alive all the way long and he’s been very clear to make sure that the company remains true to its principles.

Then you listen to Rose Marcario and on your podcast, she is absolutely passionate. You may or may not agree with what they’re about, but the point is they know what they’re about and they’re willing to learn that again, that the humility and the will in service to cause that is bigger than self, that’s the level five. They’re out there. The Imgur guy. Another one. Hey, we have these values. Don’t tell me it’s not hard. The whole point of level five is to do what’s hard, the right way.

So how does it get away? Where do people get those principles to do that? Because again, right now we’re in a period and you don’t have to comment on the particular people where I’ve seen ...

Yeah, I’d love to ask you, actually.

Well, I don’t know. They haven’t had them in the first place. I don’t think they had the values in the first place at all. I think it was just growth, growth, growth. I think growth was their value or engagement or virality.

I had Nicole Wong on talking about this. She was a lawyer for both Twitter and Google. One of the things she said is it depends on the architecture of what you’re building. The architecture and what you build for is what you get, essentially. So if you’re building for virality, speed, and engagement, you get this pile of toxic waste that we have now running across ...

Well, first I don’t think it’s ...

Or addiction or we get whatever ... None of it’s ... It’s all built for that, not for ... not the last for sure, but definitely to take advantage of weaknesses, I think.

So when we go back and we look historically, and you go back to that primordial ooze, if you will, the birth of industries, you do find a different kind of strain and we can look at Gordon Moore and Andy Grove and you can look ... the founders of eBay, I think, had more of the level-five orientation.

They did. Pierre Omidyar, yeah.

Absolutely. So there’s nothing about technology that says you can’t be this way. Does somebody have to have it from the very beginning? I think people can evolve and grow and maybe there’s something that they evolve and grow in surprising ways.

Although, I think that Steve Jobs always had an ethic of wanting to do so much more, but he himself had to learn and grow. There was a Steve Jobs 1.0, Steve Jobs 2.0, in the end to make Apple a great company that didn’t depend on him. It’s an incredible journey.

If you stand back and look at Bill Gates. I mean, that’s somebody ...

Lets try not to, but go ahead. Okay, now he has a journey ... you’re right, I haven’t seen it, yes.

Exactly. So I come away with optimism that, challenged with the right models and standards, it’s like putting a magnet above them and some of them will get pulled up. Part of what inspired me to want to come talk with you and share, of course I want to share the flywheel principle because I’d really love people to use it, but also the whole spirit of the idea of: D you want to be built to last or built to flip?

Do you want to build something that truly does go to great or not? And as I’ve watched the whole current evolution of Silicon Valley, I found myself thinking, I almost want to go back to be the professor at Stanford again and have all my students and say, “Folks, let me challenge you back with this standard. There’s more, there’s Packard, there’s Katharine Graham, there’s the folks on your podcasts we talked about, there’s George Rathmann, there’s George Moore. These are the models and they’re as relevant to us today as ever before-”

”But, Jim, they’re old.” That’s the mentality of it, like that there’s a new way to do. It’s an interesting thing because I don’t know how you can calculate ... If I had to think of like what’s ... A lot of companies that I covered early on did have goals they had. They had written-out goals of what they wanted to do.

I remember being super struck by Google’s, which was essentially, “Suck up all the world’s information.” You know what I mean? I think that that’s my short version of it, which isn’t really a value. It’s just a goal versus a value, if that makes sense. It wasn’t to inform and keep the world a more open and tolerant place. You know what I mean? They have the “don’t be evil thing” but was kind of strange and all.

Here’s what the research ...

That’s a negative; not be good, just don’t be evil. Right?

I guess. Let me step back, though, and articulate what I think is a deep, enduring principle to aspire to. My work has always been about trying to get to principles. I think principles cut across time. I don’t think that the notion of being a level-five leader was for a given era, not for today. I think it’s a choice.

I don’t think that the principle of whether you want to build a flywheel or just do a flip, I think that’s a choice. There’s a fundamental principle in Built to Last as a primary finding to duality called “preserve the core and stimulate progress.”

This duality — as I stand back, Jerry and I worked very hard, six years to get one idea — is the idea that it was a genius of the “and,” and I believe this is true across all time and all social systems; that you’ve got a constant tension between preserving something that’s really core and that core would ...

That got you there.

Well, no, it’s actually core as in a core philosophy that’s about a purpose beyond just making money and a deeply held set of values that you’re not going to compromise and truly holding ...

You stick to it. Passion beyond brand. Beyond brand.

Beyond brand. It’s like, it’s not what we do, it’s not how we succeed, it’s what we stand for, and we would even succeed less if that’s what’s required to live to that. The other side: To stimulate progress. That’s all about your strategies, your goals, your big audacious objectives, the momentum you want to build, the success you want to have in the world.

What you need to do is to do both of these at the same time, all the time. What is truly our core purpose? What is truly our core values, preserve that core and genius of the “and,” stimulate progress, all the ... The key is to do both. My challenge for everyone is to say, “That idea is timeless and durable.”

One of the problems is when you stick to the first part, you can stay in old ideas, right? Correct? It can veer into that. There is a core and then there’s not wanting to change because you don’t want to change.

Okay, so let’s talk about that for a moment. The core is about what you stand for in a set of values as distinct from a set of practices. So how did HP struggle later? It confused values and practices. Coffee and donuts at 10:00 in the morning is not a value, it’s a practice. And if it no longer serves you ... Academic tenure, freedom of inquiry is the value. Academic tenure is the practice and if the practice is no longer working right ...

Now, think about journalism. For you, core: Independence of thought. I have to be the independent objective question or practices. I don’t have to be at a newspaper. I can do that through podcasts. So you’re changing practices but trying to stay true to the core. That’s the great trick. So I look at what you’ve been doing is exactly that, it’s ... there’s Kara’s core but the practices are really different.

I had no idea. How exciting and that I’m practicing this without knowing it. So, when you do that … how difficult is that to be able to do that? That’s an eternal from what your ...

It’s a constant, constant.

That doesn’t change with time.

Exactly. And interestingly, I’m not going to wade into current events, but even the founding of our country was founded on this idea. You have on the one hand the core, “we hold these truths to be self-evident,” articulated three different times; the Declaration, the Gettysburg address and the, “I Have a Dream” speech. They’re all statements of our national core.

A hundred percent right.

Different words for different times, but that’s our national core. Then we write a Constitution, and one of the things that separates great founders and these are some of the greatest entrepreneurs in history, founded the country.

Really, they are.

One difference between those who build the great companies and not is that the not ones are time tellers, “I just have the right idea for the time.” And the ones who build the great ones are clock builders. They can build a clock that can tell the time over time, even if they’re not there.

The Constitution was the clock. Now, notice something in the Constitution. They put in place for one of the first times in history, if not the first time, an amendment mechanism. Why did they do that? Because they knew that over time, the practices would have to change.

It’s a famous quote of Jefferson.

Exactly. So preserve the core even with different words in different settings. You don’t get up at the Washington Monument and reread the Declaration. You do the “I Have a Dream” speech, stimulate progress, preserve the core. We can do better, stimulate progress, go back to the core.

So I think the challenge always is to separate out these two and say, “Well, you have to live both.” If I were coming into Silicon Valley, and today, for all these folks who are building some companies that will change the world, I would ask them the same question. You’ve got a lot of progress over here, but what’s the core? What is the version of the Declaration of Independence for you that makes it such that over time you will have both sides of the coin?

Is there a core to the idea of tech anymore? Has there been?

So I ... again ...

There was ...

Well, see, I think again, it’s choices that people can make. Also, I think as people grow older, they start asking themselves questions beyond success. “How is my life useful?” I mean, after you’ve made so much money, the question is what does your life add up to?

Well, I had Chamath Palihapitiya on for that one and he said that.

Exactly. I didn’t hear that one. Exactly, and he’s going to the soul of the hottest thing.

Basta! You know, he’s gotten a little bit off, down in the deep end.

Yeah. I think that ... again, that’s where I go back to, for example, the conversation you had with the fellow from Imgur. He’s putting a stake in the ground to say, “No, we are going to have a core while we figure out the difficulties of this technology.” That’s our challenge.

So do you think that holds companies back now to do that?

To hold to their core?


What do you mean by holding back?

The bigger companies are ones without them, that I would say. Maybe Amazon has one.

So Amazon, I think, is an interesting case where I ... they’re huge today and they have massive momentum and there’s all the issues that can come with that. But do I personally believe — without having great depth of knowledge of this — that Jeff Bezos’ spirit overall is to preserve the core, stimulate progress? My instinct is yes.

So again, I go back to, it’s a choice you can make as to which side you are on. Why did he get into ... He never got into this because he just wanted to flip something. It’s to build something and to change things. You can look, there’ve been tech leaders throughout history that have come down on this side. I don’t see any reason why we can’t have tech leaders today, that can come down on this side.

We’re here with Jim Collins. He’s the author of Turning the Flywheel. Obviously Jim is really famous for Built to Last, Good to Great and How the Mighty Fall. When you think about writing that book, the first book, Built to Last, you were talking about enduring things, that it endures. The ideas endure.

So let’s talk about some of the principles that endure that you’d still think endure, that you know in this book. Obviously, using this flywheel concept of understanding. You’re essentially saying understand exactly who you are and how you make things happen and how one thing leads to another in a really cogent way.

So let me maybe just take a moment to tick through a few of the principles that after 30 years of work and research and thinking about it, I’m highly confident, and one should never say certain in today’s world, but I’m highly confident will stand the test of time.

One is the principle that level-five leaders have the potential to build greater things than non-level-five leaders. We talked about that earlier. Second is the principle that it all starts not first with what you want to do, but who you want to do things with. The idea of first have the right people, get the right people on the bus, get the wrong people off the bus, get the right people in the right seats, then figure out where to drive the bus. Because you may have to change over time and the most important thing is having the right people.

We talk so much about vision, that’s great, but great vision without great people is irrelevant. The orientation to know the way you build your culture is with your people choices. That’s always how you build it. Another principle is the principle of embracing the genius of the “and.” When we look over time ...

This is instead of the “but,” right?


This is this idea of “no buts” but “and.”

Yeah, we can find the genius of the “and.” We can preserve the core and stimulate progress. We can do platform and responsibility. We can do growth and profitability. That’s where the genius of the “and” lies. The discipline to turn the flywheel. There’s the whole monograph on that, the notion that ...

Keeping going on.

And understanding it and building the momentum over a long, long period of time. A good flywheel lasts 20, 30, 40, 50 years. And then when we kind of get out ... I’m not hitting all 12, I’m just hitting a few to give some touchpoints when you ... one of the things that’s really interesting is that innovation is not one of the principles.

Interesting. Explain, please. Because you know, that’s the God here. Allegedly. I agree with you.

What we found is that if you run the analysis, you don’t find that the most innovative companies always win.

Mm-hmm. Snapchat, yeah.

More important ... In fact, Tellis and Golder, in their wonderful book Will and Vision, show that roughly only 10 percent of the pioneering innovators end up as the winners in the end. And our research — Morten and I studied this in Great by Choice — also showed that. What we find is that there’s a threshold level of innovation you need to be at in any given industry, but once you get above that threshold, more and more innovation isn’t what distinguishes. Far more important is your ability to scale innovation rather than to innovate, but it’s scaling the right innovations, the right big bets.

There’s a principle we call “fire bullets, then fire cannonballs.” I write about it in the flywheel monograph and it was in Great by Choice which Morten and I put together, it goes like this. You’re an entrepreneur. Imagine you have a certain amount of gunpowder, a big ship bearing down on you. You take all that gun powder, you put it in a big cannonball and you fire it at the ship. It flies out there, misses, splashing in the water.


Exactly. You turn and look back, you’re out of gunpowder, here comes the ship. But imagine instead you took a little bit of gunpowder. You fire a bullet, it misses, right? Fire another bullet. Now you’re 20 degrees off. Fire another bullet, ping, you hear the side of the ship. And now you take your gun powder, now you put it in a cannonball and you fire your cannonball, your big bet, on a calibrated line of sight.

What we found is the principle is not innovate or not, it’s actually fire bullets, then fire cannonballs. Calibrate and then place your big bets to scale proven innovations. That separates the big winners over time. And that’s what Windows does.

Right, that’s interesting. You think about that in today’s thing, you have a Snapchat, which is highly innovative, comes up with all the ideas. I still call Evan Spiegel Chief Product Officer at Facebook. But they do take them, they did at Instagram, take his ideas and did a better job. And then Kevin Systrom who founded it said that, he goes, “Just cause someone creates a radio doesn’t mean I can’t do a better radio.” And that was the right thing, the radio is what I’m interested in.

Yeah. The real winners are the ones who take ... I mean, even think of Amazon, Amazon wasn’t the first to do online book-selling, right? It was And what they did was they took somebody else’s bullet, used that so that’s calibrated. They’re the ones that scaled it up into a cannonball.

But the real thing is that even once you do the big bet, the big hit, it’s then the ability to turn it into the real compounding momentum of the flywheel. That separates much more than having the innovation.

Having the idea.


Sort of the plains are covered with the bodies of pioneers idea.

Ninety percent, exactly. Tellis and Golder’s book is really worth reading on that, by the way. So that’s one of the principles I increasingly see, and it’s also how you extend a flywheel. You got a flywheel that’s turning in memory chips. You fire a bullet on a thing called a microprocessor. Later you transfer all the momentum, keep the same flywheel, but you can really extend it with a microprocessor. It was bullet to cannonball, right? If you study history, that’s how it happens. Bullet to cannonball to flywheel, bullet to cannonball to flywheel, repeated. That’s exactly the process. And we could go through ...

Wow. So much iron.

So much iron, right. So think about this as I’ve got these stages, right? Disciplined people, level five, disciplined thought or the genius of the “and,” a number of other things in that disciplined action, bullets, cannonballs, flywheel, etc., etc. Then there’s this fourth stage, building to last, and the principles in that, we’ve already hit except for one. One is the principle of productive paranoia and staying out of the five stages of decline. Two is be a clock builder, do more clock building, less time telling. And third is preserve the core, stimulate progress, that we spent a good amount of time on. Those are principles.

And then there’s one last one, and this one just personally delights me. Most business people don’t like this principle, but it’s a multiplier that multiplies everything else. Have you ever wondered how much of it comes down to luck?

A lot.


Well, no.

So what do you think? You’ve said ...

Not as much as I think ... you make your luck in a lot of ways, too. You see luck. Smart people see luck.

Exactly, to deny luck is denial.

Yeah, I was discussing this with my son the other day actually, oddly enough.

So Morten Hansen and I said when we did Great by Choice, we had to actually ultimately answer that question. If you don’t actually answer the question, how much of it just comes down to luck? It could be that all these principles are like an equation where you’ve got a bunch of them and then at the end there’s just this big “plus L” and you better hope you get a big plus L or maybe not.

So Morten and I sat down and we said, “We’re going to define, quantify, and study luck.” It took us three years to figure out how to do it. And what we did, Morten’s insight was that luck’s an event. Luck is any event that meets three tests. A) you didn’t cause it. B) it has a potentially significant consequence, good or bad. And C) it came as a surprise in some form, either timing or amount or that it happened at all. Any event that meets ... now, once you know what a luck event is, then if you study history, you can actually count luck events, see how big they are. Were they good? Were they bad? Then you can take your pairs of companies and you can track them over time and say ...

Which one took advantage of the luck event?

Exactly. So what you do is then you ask the question to the big winners, “Are they luckier?” And you can actually test the hypothesis. And what we found was this. When you do the matched pairs over history, there is no evidence that the winners are luckier. That zeros out, they did not get more good luck. They did not get less bad luck. They did not get bigger spikes of luck. They didn’t get better timing of luck, because it could be path contingency.

But what they get is better return on their luck. So what happens is two companies get the same luck event.


It’s ROL, yeah. Return on luck. Think about Digital Research and Microsoft getting the same luck event at the exact same moment in time.

The IBM visit.

IBM walking ... Exactly. Who got the return on the luck? So it wasn’t luck. Yes, there’s luck, but it’s the return on luck. Now if we go back, we could go through all the history of the best of Hewlett and Packard’s eras and Noyce and Moore and George Rathmann and Amgen, etc. If you really study it, there’s this moment in time where you get a luck event, something breaks your way.

And what the really key thing is at that moment, then, are you going to be the one that jumps on that and makes more out of it and builds it over time than others, and are you going to protect yourself against the downside luck that can kill you? What we found is that’s sort of a multiplier, it’s like 50 percent is what you do with the unexpected.

Yeah. But I think people do see, it’s like seize your opportunities, right? It’s sort of that same idea of that you see things that can help you at the right time and pay attention to them.

Yes. But again, people will look, and as my mentor Michael Ray said, “Comparison is the primary sin of modern life.” And so when you look out and you look at people who are successful, at companies that are successful, it’s easy to say, “Well they were just lucky.” And when you actually clinically study it, not at all.

There’s a saying, “It’s smarter to be lucky than it’s lucky to be smart.”

Well yeah, it isn’t so much that you make your own luck because your bad luck ... Health issues. Those are luck events, too. You don’t cause those.

Right. But what do you do with them?

What do you do with them?

It’s interesting. That’s an interesting concept. So finishing up, where do you see this all going? If you were 30 years old and studying something, I mean you obviously can do that now with your lab and things like that, but what do you think the most interesting arena is? Especially in tech. You write a lot about tech. A lot of these companies are tech companies because they sort of have been the most interesting companies of the recent era. Among them. There’s some others. What’s interesting to study now? What do you think is ...

Two answers to that. First, if you go back in history — and I’m a historian by nature — you find a tech ingredient.

Oh sure. Spears are tech, yes, I got it.

Exactly. And everything. So to classify things as tech and non-tech has always been problematic for me.

You’re right. One hundred percent.

There are companies for whom what they really deliver is more tech than others. And we can maybe classify them that way. I think what will happen, I’m not a predictor, but out of this era ... And I have a question for you, by the way, before I answer this question: How is the 2019 bubble different than 1999?

This one? It’s different.

How’s it different?

It’s interesting because a lot of people weren’t through that, didn’t go through that one. But the ones who did know what comes later. I guess there’s a lot more knowledge of this industry, it was a nascent industry when that happened, I think. It was very nascent, so nobody saw it coming and now people see it coming, I guess.

What impact do you think that will have?

People are a little ... they’re not quite so frothy. They’re more cynical about the froth. They know what it is, I guess. Before they really believed it, it was hard to get them off the idea, that not every flower grows to the sky.

And do you think that this one there will be somebody writing like your pony book two years later or ...

No, because some of these are really significant businesses. I don’t think you could look at Airbnb, for example, and say even if it’s overvalued, or Uber, that it’s not a significantly interesting business.

Would that not have also been true for AOL?

No. You could see the end. Some of these you can’t see the end for.

Because the contribution that they can make. Whether it’s profitable is a separate question.

Right, exactly. I can’t see the end for Uber. I can’t see the end for Airbnb. This is a new way people are thinking about housing or car driving ... It’s part of a larger mega-trend that is the throughput of it. You know what I mean? I could see the end of AOL, I could. You could see it. Or we could see it being displaced. I don’t quite know what ... With Uber, self-driving will displace the drivers, I guess. Or Airbnb, I don’t know. The way we live. It’s just hard ... They’re part of bigger mega-trends, some of these companies, I’m just picking two. Facebook, I can see the end.

Yeah. Interesting.

I can see the end of that.

So historically, what happens is that there will be some companies that come out of this era that will be to this era what Intel and the best of HP and Amgen and Genentech and the others and Southwest was in airlines and whatever, that they will end up standing as the companies that others will learn from to do the next rendition. I don’t see that stopping.

I’m fundamentally optimistic about the American economic engine and our ability to build incredible things, and I do think we tend to think our strength as a country is innovation. I think we’re good at that. I think our great strength is scaling innovations. That’s what we do really, really, really well.

Do you see challenges from China? Have you been studying what’s going on with those companies?

I haven’t been studying ... I love the history of China, but again, I’m a historian. I wouldn’t have ...

That would be an interesting place to do one of your labs. How they’re scaling. I think they’re quite adept at that.

Yeah. And I think it’d be fascinating today to see who’s going to grow and adapt and mature, the way that some of the other great ones before them did. And I believe that some absolutely will. And not just the companies, I’m talking about the people as well because people are ultimately really interesting.

There’s also the impact, which you probably haven’t studied, is how much this ridiculous amount of wealth has on these people. Like that’s a really interesting factor. They’re changed. They’re changed in a way that they don’t realize.

Yeah, and I think it’s interesting. Let me just share a little story about the spirit of building something that is kind of independent of the wealth.

A little over a year ago, well actually it was two years ago, I ran into ... I was at this thing in New York. Myself and some other people were being recognized for something. One of the other people there was Jack Bogle. Jack Bogle kind of brought forth the S&P 500 index fund. Goes all the way back to his Princeton thesis years and years ago. And I went up to him and I said ...

This is Fidelity? What did he found?


Vanguard, right.

And we write about Vanguard in the flywheel monograph. But he was 88 at the time or 87 I went up to him and I said, “Mr. Bogle, I don’t mean to intrude on your space, but I really admire what you’ve built with Vanguard.” And I’ve known him for some time. He says, “Oh Jim, I’ve read your books. We should have a conversation. Do you ever get to Philadelphia?”

“Hell, I will.”

I said “I can get to Philadelphia,” right? Afterwards I go back to Boulder and I say to myself, “How many Jack Bogle days are left?” I don’t want to steal one. Joanne said, “Give him the chance to say he’s too busy.” So I finally send him an email and it said, “Dear Mr. Bogle, we crossed paths at this thing. I don’t mean to intrude on your time. I understand if you’re too busy, but I would fly out to the Philadelphia area to see you and have a good conversation.” I get this marvelous email back, “Dear Jim, First of all it’s Jack, not Mr. Bogle. I’m so glad you followed up. I wanted to follow up with you but I didn’t want to seem pushy.”

So I get on the plane and I fly out there. I spent a day with him, he’s 88. And I’m sitting there — now think about this. First of all, this is a man, because of the structure that he built, he deliberately built a structure that would ensure he would never be a billionaire because the funds are owned by the fund owners. So he did very well, but he could have easily been a billionaire. He instead built a system that would serve the investors.

I’m sitting there with this 88-year-old man who’s young — the eyes, the intensity coming out of the eyes of the mission he has for serving the everyday investor are as alive as ever. We sat there for six hours as he talked about the mission of his life and what he’s working on. Still working on his next book. He’d had a heart transplant. He had the intensity of when he first wrote this Princeton thesis and then it took us 20 minutes to walk across the courtyard. The body was failing, but the intensity was still there and he died a year later.

I come away from that and I say what’s so interesting is Jack Bogle never got confused by money. He understood the mission of what he was trying to do, never deviated from it. And he’s sitting there at 88 as driven, as passionate, as energized as when he was 18.

Yeah, I remember the last interview I did with Steve Jobs. Walt Mossberg and I did. Most alive person in the room. I have to say, he really was sick as could be. You could see death right behind his neck…

But the eyes.

... and he kept insisting that he was going to do this and that and still as irritating as ever and everything, the whole package. And it was really ... I’ll never forget that. And it was like, “That guy’s going to die soon and he still doesn’t think he’s going to,” which was not just not going to die, but that he still was ... he didn’t care. And he was dead three months later.

Exactly. I got some phone calls from him as he was thinking about the future of Apple and had some questions about laying those foundations and he was driven as ever. His clock was running out but the intensity wasn’t. If you end up making a lot of money, fine. But the real question is, if you found something that will animate and motivate you as much as when you were talking to Steve Jobs shortly before his end, when I was talking with Jack Bogle shortly before his end, that’s the standard to shoot for, to find that. If you think about the money that comes to people, if that was never the goal, it probably won’t corrupt them. But if deep down underneath it was the goal?

Yup. You get what you got. Anyway, Jim, this has been riveting. I can talk to you for hours and I will have you back on. What are you studying next? Quickly.

Okay, quickly. I’m 61, I’ve got hopefully 30 years of work. I’m inspired by people like Jack Bogle.

Yeah, you’ve got some time. You look pretty fit. I was just thinking, “How thin are you? You look so fit.”

I’m still a rock climber. But I’m turning my attention to things like K-12 education because I care deeply about our kids. And second, I’m really interested in the question that John Gardner, another mentor, teed up: Why do some people self-renew better than others, over the long course of a life? That’s the next big research grant.

I got some people for you. Walt Mossberg’s one of them, there’s a whole bunch of them. Yeah, it’s fascinating. I studied years ago the Holocaust and how people survived and some people didn’t, no fault of anybody, but it was really interesting. Like all those studies would be really fascinating. What is it that keeps people in a certain ... it’s just interesting. It’s just how do people self-renew or meet obstacles and go over them compared to others? It is interesting. That is a great idea for a book.

It is and we’re doing, I’m applying the matched pair method except it’s at people.

Because I think it can be replicated. Do you know what I mean? I don’t think people always think it’s just your character or whatever, but it’s not.

Yeah, and it may actually surprise you when it comes. We were talking earlier about Katharine Graham. She didn’t expect to be running the Post but her renewal to grow into what was on her shoulders, because she had that responsibility.

She was a classy dame. I used to sit with her at lunches a lot.

Oh boy, I could ask you questions about her all day.

She’s a classy dame, that’s all I’ll say about that. And she was a lot of fun and her son is wonderful, Don Graham.

Anyway, thank you Jim. It was great talking to you.

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