Failure: A Catalyst to Succeed
"Without failures there can be no success."
For 18 years, Carr worked to build the Amazon music and video offerings we know today. It's a service so familiar and effortless it’s woven itself into everyday lives, settling in as if it had always been there and ready by simply uttering, "Alexa." But Carr will tell you, flatly, today’s seamless experience came out of more failures than he could count.
For some failure is scary. For Carr, it's an incredibly positive catalyst. So he doesn’t back down from a challenge.
“Without failures, there can be no success,” he said, “It is the determined struggle that brings forth the solution. You must be a pragmatic dreamer. You must believe it’s possible and have the resolve to see it through, all the details, all the missteps, all the disappointments. Only then will your dream become a reality.”
The "reality" is that Carr was instrumental in changing the world and expanding what is possible when it comes to business, technology, consumer focus, and high standards. He spent more than 15 years at Amazon, nearly 10 of those years as Vice President of Digital Music and Video.
"Seeing the consumer like or dislike anything on such a massive scale was intense."
Carr said Jeff Bezos, founder, president, chairman and CEO of Amazon, is one of his biggest inspirations. The pair shared a vision to build earth’s most customer-centric company. Carr's role at Amazon was a wish come true.
“When I joined Amazon in 1999, I got to taste the nectar of what it means to truly be on the leading edge of inventing new things on behalf of customers,” he said.
He worked tirelessly to see change happen and transform failures into successes.
“You watch the work you do be used by people all over the world," he said. "When they love it, it’s an amazing feeling.
“A lot of times, people will hate things too. And they’re very clear with you about what sucks. But, once the sting wears off, it only makes you challenge yourself to maximize the great and minimize the suck by going in and improving it based on customer feedback. Which, in turn, builds a trusting relationship.”
Carr saw the future through the eyes of his customers.
"... seeing the consumer like or dislike anything on such a massive scale was intense," he said. "Once I realized what I was doing, I considered it an awesome responsibility. It was a ‘wow moment’ for me. I saw that it’s really up to me and my team to either please or disappoint tens of millions of people. It’s very powerful and then it causes you to do your best work. That’s really what it’s about.”
"I gravitate towards smaller organizations that aspire to greatness – I sort of like the underdog – versus being the overdog."
Carr, now Chief Operating Officer at Offerup, said he appreciates those that work hard.
“I gravitate towards smaller organizations that aspire to greatness – I sort of like the underdog – versus being the overdog," he said. "I like the intimacy of small teams where a handful of really smart talented people can accomplish a lot more than a large team of very good, not excellent, people could.”
His small-team mentality has served him well and he credits his time at Goizueta for helping him develop this mindset.
“I had great interactions with countless members of the faculty, in particular, Professor Brown Whittington, as well as the administration – Andrea Hershatter still comes to mind," he said. "They made an immeasurable impact on me.”
Carr noted that he’d formed lasting relationships with many of those he met at Goizueta.
“The faculty were clearly interested in teaching me and my overall development," he said. "Being able to have that genuine intimacy in the learning environment was instrumental.”
While attending Goizueta, Carr found himself thriving in an environment where he was valued and his learning was the front and center focus. It transformed his perspective – it was there he realized he could make his dreams of achieving great things a reality.
“For me, on a personal level, I had been really slow to mature into my full potential, but Goizueta allowed me to realize that I could be great," he said. "And that I was able to go on to do great things. But before that, I had definitely not done great things."
"Most people early on in their career don’t realize that the most successful leaders out there fail a lot. And they do that because they take great risks."
Carr said his teenage self would have never foreseen, much less believed, the career he has had thus far, pointing out that in many ways he didn’t start off as the hardworking person he is today.
“Much of life is situational,” he said, “It’s all about finding the right people or the right organizations, or the right school or job where you can really connect and tap into the other abilities and power you didn’t think you had.
“There has to be some sort of spark there. Mine came to me when I turned the corner of believing I was capable and Goizueta was part of that transformation – and some of it was: I was at the right place at the right time with a company like Amazon.”
Of all the successes Carr has had in his life, he puts good husband, a good father and a good friend at the top of the list. Beyond those, he said he wants his legacy to be rooted in his passion to be “a balanced, operationally sound truth seeker who helps teams – helps companies – take great well-thought-out risks to invent new things for customers.”
“Most people early on in their career don’t realize that the most successful leaders out there fail a lot," he said. "And they do that because they take great risks. Great invention is not possible without failure. I could give you countless examples of things I worked on or ways that I failed throughout my career – and the key, of course, is that you’re reflective and you learn from those failures and that you get better and you use that information to go do the next thing."