With 1 Emoji Elon Musk Gave Jeff Bezos Exactly What He Wanted–And What Every Founder Needs

Recently on Twitter and amid the battle between billionaires, Jeff Bezos posted an inspirational tweet of a picture of a newspaper from 1999 stating that Amazon was doomed for failure, along with the caption, “Listen and be open, but don’t let anybody tell you who you are…” To which, Elon Musk, replied with one simple emoji that is far more powerful than Bezos’ three sentence statement: a second place medal. 

Musk’s mocking response to Bezos’ tweet was equally–if not far more valuable. In fact, it’s the very thing Bezos wanted: competition. And in return, it gave him the very thing he needs to compete: motivation. 

That’s right, for some, criticism is a source of motivation. Jeff Bezos is no stranger to criticism. However, he has become a stranger to competition. After forging his way with Amazon, overcoming the nation’s former retail conglomerate, Walmart, Bezos hasn’t had any true competitors that pose any sort of real threat in quite some time. 

That is, until Bezos launched Blue Origin–a direct competitor of SpaceX. 

But Bezos was the one who wanted to join the race to space compete with SpaceX. Now, Musk is giving him exactly what he asked for. And it’s exactly what Bezos’ needs right now. 

Psychologically, competition is a source of motivation. So while Bezos is seeking growth through the elimination of competition by attempting to sue his way to space, Musk is fueling growth through competition. After all, what fun would a race to space–or anywhere–be without competitors? Without competition, it wouldn’t even be a race at all. 

Its why runners sign up for marathons. Otherwise, there’s little to no reason to register to run on a specific date weeks–even months into the future, at a specific time, amongst a hoard of others. Except for the major intangible benefit of competition: motivation.  

The world’s most successful people–whether athletes in pursuit of the humanly impossible or entrepreneurs in pursuit of the unimaginable–are wired differently. It’s an example of the old adage that boiling water softens a potato and hardens an egg. While some cower in the face adversity, those who end up on top–or in outer space–are those who find motivation in adversity–something competition innately is. 

Founders are always under immense criticism, whether they’re just starting out and sharing their seemingly crazy ideas to friends and family, or from the masses as amassing billions from building successful companies. Founders like Bezos and Musk don’t let others tell them who they are. They create who they in their relentless pursuit of their vision. Criticism only helps them to grow and get closer to their vision. 

When others try to tell you who you are, it’s up to you to accept it as a fact or a challenge. And your response will dictate whether you move closer towards, or farther away from your vision and overall success. 

Musk brilliantly finished Bezos’ statement with one character, translating to: when others try to tell you who you are, it’s up to you to try to prove them wrong. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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