Read the Quote That Inspired MacKenzie Bezos to Give Away Half Her Fortune

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“In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share,” wrote Bezos

MacKenzie Bezos, who became one of the wealthiest persons in the world after divorcing Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, has pledged to give at least half her fortune to charity. (Her personal fortune is currently estimated at over $36 billion.) Bezos recently signed the Giving Pledge, a program initiated by Warren Buffett and Bill and Melinda Gates back in 2010. According to its website, the Pledge “is a commitment by the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to dedicate the majority of their wealth to giving back.”

“In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share,” Bezos wrote in a thoughtful letter explaining her decision.

Bezos, who is the author of two books, also shared a beautiful quote from Anne Dillard’s The Writing Life–a quote she says has inspired her for years. The passage was referring to the art of writing, and how writers shouldn’t save their best ideas for later, instead using them right away:

Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book … The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better … Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

Bezos described the passage as “words that felt true in context, and also true in life.” She goes on to extol the benefits of giving, and not just money:

“There are lots of resources each of us can pull from our safes to share with others,” writes Bezos. “Time, attention, knowledge, patience, creativity, talent, effort, humor, compassion.”

Bezos is right, of course. The timeless advice holds true today more than ever: 

There truly is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving.

Giving makes you happy.

Every interaction you share with another person offers an opportunity to give, in one way or another. The fascinating thing about giving to others is that while it seems we are the ones providing value, we often benefit just as much as the recipient.

Research supports this conclusion. For example, one study led by neuroscientist Jorge Moll found that when people gave to charity, it activated regions of the brain correlated with pleasure, social connection, and trust, leading givers to experience a “warm glow.”

“Something greater rises up every time we give,” writes Bezos. “The easy breathing of a friend we sit with when we had other plans, the relief on our child’s face when we share the story of our own mistake, laughter at the well-timed joke we tell to someone who is crying, the excitement of the kids in the school we send books to, the safety of the families who sleep in the shelters we fund.”

“These immediate results are only the beginning,” she continues. “Their value keeps multiplying and spreading in ways we may never know.”

To illustrate, think about your favorite boss. Do you care where they graduated from, or what kind of degree they have? Do you even know?  But I bet you do appreciate the minutes they took out of their schedule to listen when you had a problem. Or their willingness to roll up their sleeves and help out with the dirty work. Or, how about in your family? It’s the small things that go a long way: an offer to make a cup of coffee or tea. Pitching in with the dishes or other housework. Helping carry in groceries from the car. Every giving act helps to build deep and trusting relationships–like the countless delicate brushstrokes that make up a beautiful painting. Every day you are faced with countless opportunities to give to others: a family member. A colleague. A friend. A neighbor. A flight attendant. A barista. A gas station attendant. A homeless person.

Take advantage of these opportunities, and you won’t only get the best out of others–you’ll get the best out of yourself, too.

And as you look for these chances, I encourage you to follow MacKenzie Bezos’s brilliant advice:

Don’t wait. And keep at it until the safe is empty.

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Amazon faces investor pressure over facial recognition

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Amazon is holding a high stakes shareholder vote on whether or not to limit some of its cutting edge technology, Shareholders hold back their own company because of users’ privacy when they’re offline//Natasha Singer, The New York Times

An image on the Amazon website shows how its Rekognition software works with Chief Executive Jeff Bezos. Facial recognition software is coming… (Amazon via The New York Times) More

Facial recognition software is coming under increasing scrutiny from civil liberties groups and lawmakers. Now Amazon, one of the most visible purveyors of the technology, is facing pressure from another corner as well: its own shareholders.

As part of Amazon’s annual meeting in Seattle today, investors vote on whether the tech giant’s aggressive push to spread the surveillance software threatens civil rights — and, as a consequence, the company’s reputation and profits.

Shareholders have introduced two proposals on facial recognition for a vote. One asks the company to prohibit sales of its facial recognition system, called Amazon Rekognition, to government agencies, unless its board concludes that the technology does not facilitate human rights violations. The other asks the company to commission an independent report examining the extent to which Rekognition may threaten civil, human and privacy rights, and the company’s finances.

“This piece of equipment that Amazon has fostered and developed and is really propagating at this point doesn’t seem to us to be in the best interest of the common good,” said Sister Pat Mahoney, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph, a religious community in Brentwood, New York, that is an Amazon investor and introduced the proposed sales ban. “Facial recognition all over the place just makes everyone live in a police state.”

The proposals are nonbinding, meaning they do not require the company to take action, even if they receive a majority vote.

Amazon fought to prevent the votes on facial surveillance. In a letter to the Securities and Exchange Commission in January, the company said that it was not aware of any reported misuse of Rekognition by law enforcement customers. It also argued that the technology did not present a financial risk because it was just one of the more than 165 services Amazon offered.

The agency disagreed, ultimately requiring Amazon to allow the facial surveillance resolutions to proceed.

In a statement, Amazon said it offered clear guidelines on using Rekognition for public safety — including a recommendation that law enforcement agencies have humans review any possible facial matches suggested by its system. The company added that its customers had used Rekognition for beneficial purposes, including identifying more than 3,000 victims of human trafficking.

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Amazon founder Jeff Bezos divorces at $35bn (£27bn), ex-wife MacKenzie becomes the third richest woman in the world

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The world’s richest man, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, and his wife MacKenzie agreed on a record-breaking divorce settlement of at least $35bn (£27bn).

Ms Bezos keeps a 4% stake in the online retail giant, worth $35.6bn on its own.

Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos in Seattle in 1994, a year after the couple married, and Ms Bezos was one of its first employees.

Both parties tweeted positive comments about the other in the wake of the announced settlement.

The two did not provide any further financial details about the settlement.

The Amazon shares alone will make Ms Bezos the world’s third-richest woman while Jeff will remain the world’s richest person, according to Forbes.

Jeff Bezos, 55, and MacKenzie, 48, a novelist, married in 1993 and have four children.

Ms Bezos’ tweet is her first and only one since joining the microblogging website this month. In it, she stated that she was “grateful to have finished the process of dissolving my marriage to Jeff with support from each other”.

MacKenzie Bezos

@mackenziebezos

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Mr Bezos tweeted: “I’m so grateful to all my friends and family for reaching out with encouragement and love… MacKenzie most of all.”

The tweet concluded with: “She is resourceful and brilliant and loving, and as our futures unroll, I know I’ll always be learning from her.”

Jeff Bezos

@JeffBezos

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Prior to the settlement, Mr Bezos held a 16.3% stake in Amazon. He will retain 75% of that holding but Ms Bezos has transferred all of her voting rights to her former husband.

She will also give up her interests in the Washington Post newspaper and Mr Bezos’ space travel firm Blue Origin.

Amazon is now a vast online retail business. Last year, it generated sales of $232.8bn and it has helped Mr Bezos and his family amassed a fortune of $131bn, according to Forbes magazine.

Ms Bezos is a successful novelist who has written two books, The Testing of Luther Albright and Traps. She was taught by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Toni Morrison at Princeton University, who once said of her pupil that she was “one of the best students I’ve ever had in my creative-writing classes… really one of the best”.

Mr Bezos is reportedly in a relationship with former Fox TV host Lauren Sánchez.

After Mr Bezos and his wife announced in January that they would part, a US tabloid magazine published details, including private messages, of an extramarital affair with Ms Sánchez.

Mr Bezos has accused the publisher of the magazine, American Media Incorporated, of blackmail. The publisher denies the claim.

The divorce deal dwarfs a previous $3.8bn record set in 1999 by art dealer Alec Wildenstein and his wife Jocelyn, who became well-known for her cosmetic surgery.