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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos reminds employees why it’s always Day 1 at an all-hands meeting. (Screenshot via YouTube)

When you have the kind of wealth and power that allows you to build a rocket ship enterprise just for kicks, what’s there to worry about? Well, there is one thing that keeps Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos up at night — fear of waking up on Day 2.

At a recent all-hands meeting, an Amazon employee asked Bezos — famous for his catchphrase, “It’s still Day 1” — what Day 2 would look like. In a video released today, Bezos paints a grim picture.

“Day 2 is stasis, followed by irrelevance, followed by excruciating, painful decline, followed by death,” he said. “And that is why it is always Day 1.”

So how can an organization avoid such an agonizing demise?

“Such a question can’t have a simple answer,” Bezos wrote in an annual letter to shareholders, expanding on his answer from the all-hands meeting. “There will be many elements, multiple paths, and many traps. I don’t know the whole answer, but I may know bits of it. Here’s a starter pack of essentials for Day 1 defense: customer obsession, a skeptical view of proxies, the eager adoption of external trends, and high velocity decision making.”

Bezos is a zealous evangelist of Day 1, a philosophy that Amazon has worked to embody since he coined the mantra in a 1997 shareholders letter.

He frequently reminds employees that “it’s still Day 1,” signing each annual letter with the phrase and attaching the 1997 letter in case the point hasn’t quite sunk in. Day 1 is the name of one of Amazon’s buildings at its downtown, Seattle campus. It’s close to religion for the e-commerce giant.

In this year’s letter, Bezos offered strategies to avoid falling asleep and waking up on the dreaded Day 2.

“Have you settled only for decision quality, or are you mindful of decision velocity too? Are the world’s trends tailwinds for you? Are you falling prey to proxies, or do they serve you? And most important of all, are you delighting customers? We can have the scope and capabilities of a large company and the spirit and heart of a small one. But we have to choose it,” he wrote.

Read the full letter here.

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