Urban Wellness with Deb Burkman


  • Being healthy is about about prioritizing in such a way that makes time for you to tend to yourself so that you can be more productive.
  • Our minds are much better at processing information subconsciously than consciously
  • It’s easy to get over stimulated and start reaching for your phone or checking your email just to “fill” time
  • You have more time than you think.  Find ways to disconnect on a daily basis:
    • Take lunch away from your desk for 15 minutes
    • Think twice before reaching for your phone when you have some downtime
    • Take the time to think about what you’re ordering when you eat out
    • Check your email twice a day and that’s it
    • Do one thing at a time.  if you’re walking somewhere, just walk and appreciate what is around you


Deb Burkman has been teaching yoga for 11 years and currently teaches at The Mindful Body yoga studio in San Francisco.  She’s the person who first introduced me to the term “urban wellness.”  We got together to talk about what urban wellness really means and how to find optimal health in an urban setting.

It’s easy to go on a retreat or a vacation and develop a sense of well being only to come right back into your hectic life and lose it.  The reality is that most people lead really busy lives.  You have deadlines to meet, children to take care of, relationships to attend to.  Often you’ve been telling yourself the same story about being too busy for so long that this story has become truth.

In Sanskrit this is called Samskara – an event stored in the subconscious mind which will generate pre-determined thought patterns, desires, and behavior.  These patterns become your reality.  If you take the time to step back and reexamine this truth though, you may find that by re-prioritizing your life you can tend to yourself and get more done.  By slowing down you can actually become more productive.  You can feel better, be more focused, make better decisions, and use your time more efficiently while having more time to take care of yourself.  This sense of well being will, in turn, free your mind.

Most people think they’re most productive when they’re actively working on a problem, but your brain processes information much more efficiently on a subconscious level.   Try to multiply 82 by 24.  For most people that would be almost impossible without a calculator.  But your brain handles much more complex problems just figuring out how to walk and calculating the exact amount of pressure for each muscle to apply.  Research by David Rock consistently shows that true insight arrives suddenly – when you’re about to fall asleep, when you’re exercising, showering, walking, doing yoga, etc – when you’re brain is actively disengaged.

Deb noticed her own life suddenly get much more stressful when she got her first cellphone last August after lots of pressure from her friends (you might say she’s a technology “late adopter”).  All her free time was now taken up with phone calls.  Instead of just walking and being present in her environment, seeing the trees and the sky, she was on her phone being busy.  This took time away from her subconscious mind to creatively solve problems.  The phone didn’t reduce the things she had to do, sometimes it created more things for her to do!  As she found herself becoming more manic, she made a conscious decision to put the phone away and just do one thing at a time.

Our culture thrives on over stimulation.  People live a global “do more” story where your values and your self image are tied up in how many hours a day you spend actively working and multi-tasking.  You lose sight of the true value of your actions and the quality of your output.  You don’t think about WHY you’re reaching for the phone.  Is it because you really want to talk to somebody or is it because you’re feeling anxious and just want to fill time?  By becoming aware of the underlying reasons for your actions you can begin to interrupt recurring patterns in behavior.

As social technology becomes an inevitable part of modern living, there’s a movement towards mindful technology use – to not only live connected to one another through technology, but to do so in ways that are beneficial to our own well-being.  The recent Wisdom 2.0 conference included thought leaders from Google, Twitter, Zynga, and a host of top startups and organizations discussing positive technology use.

Technology itself is neither good nor bad.  Think of a buffet dinner.  With so many food options, everything looks awesome so you pile up your plate with things that don’t necessarily go together.  Individually, each item might be fine.  But you overstuff yourself.  Similarly our tech oriented culture over fills us with too many inputs.  It’s the difference between walking away from a buffet feeling like you just gorged yourself with a bunch of generic food or simply enjoying one well prepared meal mindfully.

Yoga helps cultivate mindful use – building awareness around the underlying reasons for the actions that we take.  That’s why it’s important to slow down.  To meditate and see what arises.  To observe yourself so that you can better understand what motivates the decisions you make.  Any action can be performed yogically (I believe Deb just invented this term!).  In yoga you’re using your muscles and bones and you’re paying attention to your thoughts and how you feel.

As you try to make time for yourself, don’t get overwhelmed.  You have to meet yourself to understand where you are.  In yoga, you start slowly and build a strong core.  In life, you start small and build a strong foundation.  Be willing to be new to something and enjoy the beginning.  Over time you’ll start to notice all the random thoughts in your head.  You learn to pay attention to how every movement makes your body feel.  This awareness translates directly to your life off the yoga mat.  Think of it as practice for modern mindfulness.


On Pain

“Make friends with pain and you will never be alone” – Ken Chlouber, Creator of the Leadville Trail 100

I’m fascinated with the human relationship with pain.  So much of Western economy is built around avoiding pain.

Big pharma sells pills for pain, for dieting, for psychological disorders.  We have television, Facebook, video games, and massive over consumption (shopping, eating) to distract us from any sort of emotional pain.  In fact, much of our culture seems bent on distracting us from ourselves and any sort of possible pain.

Pain can be either physical or mental:

  • Physical pain from injury
  • Physical pain from exertion (working out, running, etc)
  • Emotional (love, financial, anger, hate, lonliness, etc)

Pain confronts you with the limitations of your own existence and forces you to think in a way that happiness often does not.  You never know a person’s real character until you see them deal with a difficult situation.  In fact, you may not know your own true character until you are faced with extremely painful situations.

If humans discover themselves through pain and avoiding pain has become the basis of modern culture, where does that leave us?

Less is More Part II: Startups

A few days ago I read a post by Jason Rushin that made me think about the importance of quality of quantity.  Jason talks about how at his last company he actively sought ways to get people to unsubscribe from their newsletter.  The logic being that they want to cull the best leads so that their sales force can maximize their time spent on follow ups.  Most web marketers I know try to do the opposite – gather as many leads as possible in the hopes of selling them something they may or may not want.

My second job out of college was in real estate.  I was doing rentals in Boston.  My initial approach was to get as many leads as I could and deliver average (or mediocre) service to each of them.  That didn’t take me very far.  Out of frustration, I installed some CRM software on my computer (does anyone still use ACT?) and focused on quality over quantity.  I put an almost inordinate amount of time in individual high quality leads.  I went from worst performing agent to best performing agent within the month.

That lesson has stuck with me and I think about it every time I feel like I’m spinning my wheels.  I find focusing on quality over quantity is particularly relevant in almost all walks of start up life.

The first thing every start up is looking for is usually money.  Ironically, I think less money can actually increase your chances of success.  Less money means you have to think much more carefully about how you use your resources.  It forces you to focus in on doing one thing really well.  When you get to the point of actually doing something really well, it forces you to maximize your time and money by picking the most effective channels for marketing.  Ultimately, less money forces clarity.  That kind of clarity can be lost when you’ve got 24 months of runway in the bank.

Where you get your money from is equally important.  Being selective about your investors can be very difficult.  Your responsibility is split between making sure that your company has the resources to survive _and_ making sure that you have the best resources to thrive.  Not all money is created equal.  Some investors may try to exert influence on your decisions that you don’t agree with.  Some may not be experienced investors and you’ll have to shoulder the burden of potentially losing their life savings.  On the other hand, some investors will open doors and give you invaluable sage advice.  I like to think of early stage investors as partners that have skin in the game.  You don’t want to be at odds with them.  Olympic teams don’t have room for any less than A plus players.  Start ups are an olympic sport.  Having a few high quality investors will take you a lot further than a lot of investors that provide money without adding value.

Building a product from scratch is hard work.  If you make it past assembling the right team members, selecting the right technology, and acquiring the resources to get started (funding and equipment), the real fun starts when you actually start building your product.

To start, less people is more.  Having less cooks in the kitchen that agree on a unified product scope will take you a lot further than a big team of coders with their own ideas about how the product should be built.  At my last company we never had a clear product definition but we had 15 people gently pulling the product in different directions.  It seemed cool because we would have all these features that would satisfy everyone.  The problem was that it took us two years to get the features completed and poorly integrated.  In the process we didn’t take the time to build the company culture right and had a whole bunch of conflicting egos on the team.  I cannot stress how important it is to focus on having as few high quality people as possible.  Whenever I add a person to my team, I ask myself, how much value does this person add?  If the person isn’t adding value, they’re taking it away.

Every hour spent developing a feature costs money.  That might not seem like much if you’re two guys living off $3k a month (that’s $14 per hour each based on a 50 hour work week in case you were wondering).  However, it costs you something much more valuable than money: precious time you could spend building a feature that really matters.  Each feature will undoubtably take three times longer to complete than you project.  You’re probably right in that it will take one unit of time to build.  But you need to factor in one unit of time to debug, and one unit of time to integrate.  The bigger your project and team, the more challenging the debugging and integration will be.

My approach has become to realistically storyboard the entire product before any development.  “Realistically,” as in people I show the wireframes to ask if they’re screenshots of a real website.  I show the storyboards to our target users and get feedback on the product before it’s built.  For the current version of Find Me Fit, I met with 20 people I didn’t know before hand and got their feedback on what we wanted to build.

In the process I’m looking for things we can cut out.  I’m not trying to build more, I’m trying to build less.  Up until I heard the term “minimum viable product,” I was using the term “minimum success solution.”  I like minimum viable product more.

If a feature is taking too long to build as we’re developing, Jason and I will talk about whether or not we can “save” it for later.  The key question we try to answer is, are people more likely to use this service because of this feature?  Sometimes this question can be hard to answer because the feature is somewhat intangible.  For example, when we started developing the user interface for Find Me Fit, Jason and I spent some time debating whether or not to AJAXify the search page.  In the end we decided that the improvement in usability would be worth the extra programming time.  That decision has probably cost us about 3 weeks of additional development time to get it right, but I think it’s been worth it.

The flip side of quality vs quantity in product development is when you have to decide how far to take quality.  You want to release a usable product as quickly as possible.  Sometimes that means taking shortcuts.  Bad code tends to haunt you for a long time, so deciding when to take those shortcuts requires some good judgement.  Generally, Jason and I take the approach that if it’s worth building, it’s worth building right.

As mindful of feature creep as we are, it’s still taken us 4 months to get to closed beta.  Along the way we’ve probably spent two or three weeks building unplanned features or code we’ve thrown away, but for the most part what we’ve delivered is identical to the storyboards I created before we started.  That’s a lot of time for two self funded guys to work on one product without a public release.

If there’s one thing you can guarantee with startups, it’s that every startup experience is different.  Some companies, like Demand Media, seem to be incredibly successful focusing on quantity over quality.  I like to think that a healthy obsession with quality over quantity has increased our chances of success and resulted in an amazing product.

I can honestly say that I’ve never been more proud of anything I’ve produced.

Return from the Burn

This year I decided to give up on saying that each Burn is even better than the last.  Each Burn is perfect, exactly what it needs to be.

Burning Man isn’t for everybody and I’m sure that every person that does find religion there, finds it in their own way.  I’ve never really thought about what Burning Man means to me until this year.  I met a girl named Justine (from Quebec) who asked me why I go to Burning Man.  It’s one of those questions that seems like it would have an obvious answer but makes you stop and think on closer inspection (kind of like “who are you?”).

I go to Burning Man to share my energy.  To share the beauty inside.  At Burning Man I am reminded how beautiful each person around me is.  I find it within myself to love every person I interact with.  I carry that with me after I leave the desert and it enables me to find positivity in even the most negative situations.  It enables me to see the best in every person I meet.

The desert takes away all distractions.  No cell phones, no computers, no money, no business.  Just you and 50,000 other people in a completely unrestrained creative environment.  It lets you connect with people in a way that can be very difficult in the always on hyper connected real world.  In fact, there’s a difference between “getting to” Burning Man and “arriving at” Burning Man.  You get there whenever your RV lands.  You arrive, usually a few days later, when you finally let go of the outside world and truly tune into the environment around you.

Every person contributes in their own way.  Some give their energy, others create some of the most amazing art on earth.  This year the quality of the art was particularly high.  There was more art than I remember in previous years and each piece was exceptionally good.  Lots of great fire sculpture too.

What a great burn.  Thank you.

Less is More Part I: Lifestyle

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” – Albert Einstein

Last December I became a nomad in the interest of maximizing the amount of personal money I had to invest in my start up.  I packed up all my stuff, put it in storage, and relied on the benevolence of good friends and their spare couches and guest rooms.  It’s been quite an adventure.  Ten months in, I’ve stayed at seven different places and I have to say that the experience has changed my life for the better.

I’ve come up with my own living philosophy called “zero footprint.”  It means that unless the person I’m staying with actively looks for signs of a guest, they can’t tell anyone is staying with them.  That means always washing every dish, wiping down every surface I use every time (sinks, counters, tables, etc), putting my shoes away, never leaving an item of clothing lying around, keeping all my food neatly stored in a cupboard, packing up all my things after working in the living room, drying and folding my laundry right away, and generally being obsessed with neatness.  If it wasn’t there when I entered the space, it won’t be there when I leave.  It’s become like a game to me and I hear echos of my parents telling me to clean up when I was a kid.  They’ll be happy to know that I’ve become the neatest person I know.

In the process I’ve found that less is more.  Living out of a suitcase and trying to take up no space in someone else’s apartment forces you to think about every item that you carry.

I love fashion.  I generally have a much bigger wardrobe than most men I know and I have the largest collection of pink shoes you’ve ever seen (pink is my favorite color).  Living yout of one suitcase forced me to carefully think about the clothes I do and don’t wear.  Over the months, I’ve been able to fine tune my clothing so that I only carry clothes that I actually wear on a regular basis.  I buy less clothing and what I do buy is high quality.  I’m down to 3 pairs of shoes – a pair of sneakers for the gym, a pair of sneakers for daily wear, and a pair of dress shoes for when I go to networking functions where casual attire is frowned upon (lots of events like that in Hawaii).  I have just enough gym gear, underwear, and socks to last me a week before I have to wash them.

I never have to unpack my suitcase because I know the location of every neatly folded piece of clothing in there.  A year ago, I was not this way.  I couldn’t go on a week long business trip without packing for 5 hours just to turn my suitcase upside down as soon as I got to the hotel.  Now, I can literally pack up and be ready to live in a different location within 30 minutes.

Food wise is probably where I’ve had to adjust the most.  I don’t like eating out.  I’m very conscious of what I put in my body and I like to cook.  In the past, I’ve spent $160 at Whole Foods to cook one meal for two people.  Needless to say, I don’t do that anymore.  The first person I stayed with in San Francisco had never used her stove before.  I cooked every day and I’m pretty sure that drove her crazy.  I’ve strained pasta with a bowl and used aluminum foil to cover a frying pan for lack of lids.  I’ve developed a new appreciation for the versatility of zip locks bags since most places I stay don’t have any tupperware or storage containers for left overs.

Since I have to leave no trace, I clean while I cook.  I’ve found this to be an incredibly efficient way of maximizing my time in the kitchen.  In fact, I derive an almost zen like enjoyment out of doing the dishes – something I used to hate in the past.  Doing the dishes is one of the few experiences in your life where you start with chaos and end with a clean stack of orderliness.  Money can’t buy therapy like that.

I go to Costco every two weeks to buy meats and a few select bulk items.  I know exactly how much I’ll eat in two weeks, so I only buy what I need.  I go to Safeway every couple days to buy fresh vegetables and other perishables.  I cook every two days, carefully portioning and saving my leftovers in ziplocks bags that I can take with me where ever I go to work.  I’m a health nut, so I cook a lot of quinoa, vegetables, and chicken.  Because I try to keep it easy, I switch up the marinade and meat type, but everything else pretty much stays the same.

In the process of simplifying my life I’ve become extremely organized.  I’ve taken the time to look at everything I do and pair down what I don’t need.  I no longer try to buy every business book that comes out that looks interesting.  Instead I focus on quality and spend a lot more time researching what’s going to give me the highest return for my time investment.  The books I do read I savor and often highlight extensively.

Since I no longer have my Mac Mini media center with a quarter terabyte of music, I realized that I don’t want a quarter terabyte of music because I never know what to listen to.  Instead I’ve focused on organizing and carrying a small selection of really good music.  This is actually pretty easy, just sort your iTunes by plays.  I bet you regularly listen to only a small fraction of your music.

I went to the trouble of organizing my Google reader account so that now I only read a handful of blogs  (I still subscribe to hundreds of blogs, I just don’t read them too often).  I unfollowed the 5000 people I was following on Twitter and only follow the people I’m actually interested in.

I’ve found that quality over quantity applies in almost every aspect of my life.  At the gym, I focus on the quality of each movement, trying to get the most out of each repetition.  I don’t try to power my way through ten reps just because ten is a round number.  I listen to my body and carefully push it as far as it will go, maximizing my strength and muscle gains.  By focusing on the quality of my workouts instead of the quantity, I’ve gotten into the best shape of my life and feel more in tune with my body than ever before.  I used to hurt myself two to three times a year.  I haven’t sustained a gym injury in over a year.

Being a permanent guest forces you to be extremely mindful.  It takes a lot of effort to remain welcome in someone’s household rent free for months at a time.  I take the time to think about every action I take and listen to every word spoken to me.  In the process I’ve become very aware of my environment and the people in it.  I’ve come to really appreciate the editorial output of my close friends.  Because I activity seek less, I listen more so that I can learn from other people’s experiences.

I’ve come to really appreciate every single thing in my life.  I take time every day to be grateful for the things I have.  I’ve never genuinely felt this way before.  I honestly step back on a daily basis and just feel joyful inside.  Part of this is due to a change in perspective, but I think a big part of it is due to the fact that I’ve paired down so much stuff in my life that everything has a place.  Without so much junk cluttering my life, I truly appreciate everything I have.

I’ve never felt more alive.

[ photo: kevinbluer ]

Self Identity and Leadership

“You’re just a bunch of molecules until you know who you are” – Cary Grant, circa 1952

I recently read two pieces that made me think about the importance of having a strong sense of self identity to be a good leader.  The HP Way, written by Jim Collins, stressed the importance of having strong company values.  The second article, How Will You Measure Your Life, written by Clayton Christensen, stressed the importance of having strong personal values.

In the last year I’ve taken the time to step back from my life and think about what is important to me.  I’ve made this a part of my daily routine: every day I work out, meditate, and reflect on what I value, what makes me happy, and what I want to accomplish.  The ritual was originally inspired by the Japanese concept of Kaizen, meaning small incremental daily improvement.

Doing this has given me tremendous clarity on who I want to be.  Over time I’ve been able to gain a much deeper understanding of what’s important to me and what I’m willing to do to get what I want in life.  It’s also given me an interesting perspective on the past, most notably the failure of my last company.

It’s hard to look back on a venture and specify exactly why it didn’t work out.  Companies can fail for two broad reasons – external factors (competition, market conditions, running out of money, etc) or internal factors (poor leadership, politics, lack of strong product strategy, etc).  Looking back at iLovePhotos, there were a lot of internal reasons why we failed.  I still feel like we missed a big opportunity to address a problem that remains unsolved.  Getting into detail about everything that went wrong isn’t something I’m ready to do yet (over a year after leaving the company I’m still processing everything I learned from the experience).  But a major factor was certainly poor leadership on my part.

Strong self identity is a funny thing.  It’s hard to recognize that it’s missing in your life because your mind does a very good job of compensating through insecurity.  It manifests itself by not listening to other people, thinking you know better, not making tough decisions, and being selfish, among other ways.  You would be hard pressed to find someone who admits that they don’t know what their values are.  But similarly, you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’s taken the time to clearly define their core value set.  If you haven’t clearly articulated your values, what does that say about the importance of your values?  How do you weigh important decisions in your life?  How do you weigh important decisions as a leader?

Being a good leader means being authentic.  And being authentic means knowing yourself.  If you are true to yourself, you can’t be false to other people.  Knowing who you are and being comfortable with yourself makes it much easier to listen to other people and, more importantly, really care for people and what’s important to them.

Your values serve as the seed of your company’s culture.  As a founder, what’s important to you is reflected in every decision you make, every person you hire, and every expectation you set.  Your company’s culture will in large part determine whether you succeed or fail.  As you build your company, a strong moral framework enables you to experiment with your business model without experimenting with your values.  That moral clarity fuels your team’s cohesion and gives everybody a sense of purpose when times are tough.

Start up life is often ambiguous.  It can be emotionally challenging for every person involved.  Somedays you wake up and see nothing but failure ahead.  Knowing who you are and what you want gives you a reason to wake up every morning and keep fighting.  When that kind of attitude becomes ingrained in your company’s culture, you know success is right around the corner.

Geocoded Autocomplete Using jQuery UI 1.8 and Google Maps v3

I’ve spent the last few days wrestling with building a custom geocoder using Google map data. I wanted something that would extend the native autocomplete functionality in the new jQuery UI library.

I’ve never written a jQuery plugin before and first I tried to learn by deconstruction. Since I just recently started programming Javascript again (after not touching it for 4 years), this was a pretty painful process. I finally had the good sense to find a simple jQuery plugin tutorial.  That made things a lot easier and helped me understand how the basic template architecture works.

Most of the geocoding plugins I found either used the Google Maps API v2 or used the old deprecated jQuery autocomplete plugin.  Also, I really wanted a live map in the actual autocomplete widget so that users can visually confirm that the address they’re about to select is indeed that address that they want.  The closest solution I found offered Google geocoded results, but the map was not part of the drop down menu.  I ended up using this as inspiration for my own version.

The plugin is completely customizable through CSS.  It’ll take any string that you give it and return Google geocoded data.  The map in the suggestion menu updates as you scroll over the suggestions.  Check out the demo and get the source code on github.

Deconstructing Amazon

I’ve always admired Amazon.com as a pioneering company. Not only did Jeff Bezos create the best e-commerce experience on the planet, he also had the audacity to transform Amazon’s infrastructure into a platform that is used by nearly every start up I’ve encountered.

Recently I came across Jeff’s 1997 letter to shareholders.  I’m particularly impressed by how Jeff managed to firmly set expectations while also framing Amazon’s business as something more than just selling books.

I thought it would be fun to deconstruct a few key passages. Here goes…

“Amazon.com passed many milestones in 1997: by year-end, we had served more than 1.5 million customers, yielding 838% revenue growth to $147.8 million, and extended our market leadership despite aggressive competitive entry.”

WOW.  That’s a hell of a way to start any message.

“But this is Day 1 for the Internet and, if we execute well, for Amazon.com. Today, online commerce saves customers money and precious time. Tomorrow, through personalization, online commerce will accelerate the very process of discovery. Amazon.com uses the Internet to create real value for its customers and, by doing so, hopes to create an enduring franchise, even in established and large markets.”

This is one of the most interesting paragraphs in the document.  He’s not talking about selling books.  He’s selling a vision: Amazon.com will change the face of online commerce by helping you automatically discover the things you want. He’s framing the company’s purpose as something much more than just selling product.

“We first measure ourselves in terms of the metrics most indicative of our market leadership: customer and revenue growth, the degree to which our customers continue to purchase from us on a repeat basis, and the strength of our brand.”

Clearly articulating the baseline metrics by which to measure their success.  This is key if they’re making decisions at the expense of short term revenue.  For example, free shipping on orders over $25 might impact short term revenue, but leads to an increase in returning customers and a stronger brand.

“Because of our emphasis on the long term, we may make decisions and weigh tradeoffs differently than some companies. Accordingly, we want to share with you our fundamental management and decision-making approach so that you, our shareholders, may confirm that it is consistent with your investment philosophy.”

This might be my favorite line in the whole letter.  He’s very politely telling investors, “Hey, if you’re not interested in the way we do things, take your money elsewhere.”  Not only does this put him in a position of psychological dominance, it actually serves to increase the desirability of the investment.  If someone doesn’t need your money, you probably what to invest that much more.

“We will continue to make investment decisions in light of long-term market leadership considerations rather than short-term profitability considerations or short-term Wall Street reactions.”

Just in case you didn’t get the message: Wall Street, I’m talking to you.

“We will continue to measure our programs and the effectiveness of our investments analytically, to jettison those that do not provide acceptable returns, and to step up our investment in those that work best. We will continue to learn from both our successes and our failures.”

We have a process for this madness.  Even if we look like we’re failing, we’re scientifically figuring out what works and what doesn’t.

“We will make bold rather than timid investment decisions where we see a sufficient probability of gaining market leadership advantages. Some of these investments will pay off, others will not, and we will have learned another valuable lesson in either case.”

We’re going to make mistakes that will lose money, but we’ll learn a lot in the process.

“When forced to choose between optimizing the appearance of our GAAP accounting and maximizing the present value of future cash flows, we’ll take the cash flows.”

Hello Wall Street.

“We set out to offer customers something they simply could not get any other way, and began serving them with books. We brought them much more selection than was possible in a physical store (our store would now occupy 6 football fields), and presented it in a useful, easy-to- search, and easy-to-browse format in a store open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day.”

Extremely clear value proposition.  Also, hints that selling books is only the beginning.

“It’s not easy to work here (when I interview people I tell them, ‘You can work long, hard, or smart, but at Amazon.com you can’t choose two out of three’), but we are working to build something important, something that matters to our customers, something that we can all tell our grandchildren about. Such things aren’t meant to be easy. We are incredibly fortunate to have this group of dedicated employees whose sacrifices and passion build Amazon.com.”

This is about more than just selling books.  Amazon is building an amazing team to build an amazing service that makes a difference in other people’s lives and that employees will want to tell their grandchildren about.  Wow.