“I didn’t believe it until I was shaking his hand,” Zameer Rayani admits. When his presence was requested at Amazon’s recent All-Hands Meeting in Seattle, he didn’t even share with his family or friends. After all, no one from the HR department had ever won the award in the company’s 25-year history, but with numerous Ismaili Amazonians live-streaming the event around the world, messages like this spread like wildfire on social media: “Do you know Zameer Rayani? Sounds Ismaili, he just got an award from Bezos at our company All-Hands!”

Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos created the “Just Do It" Award to recognize employees who exemplify two of Amazon’s core values: innovation and bias for action. Bezos himself makes the final decision on who receives the award, which is only bestowed twice a year across the 600,000+ person company and has become one of Amazon’s most coveted honors. This March, Zameer -- a Principal Recruiter who’s been with the company for 7 years –- was recognized for creating a tool that is helping reinvent talent acquisition at Amazon.

“I never thought I’d get some sort of award like this,” Zameer remarks as he discusses his colorful history, which includes dropping out of college, delivering flowers, waiting tables, running a photography business, and much, much more. In fact, the only common thread in his uncommon background is that Zameer, now a UCLA graduate, consistently manages to push boundaries through innovation. The results speak for themselves -- his kudos range from winning Employee of the Month at his first job bagging groceries to receiving a national gold advertising award for an anti-smoking TV commercial he wrote.

While Zameer largely attributes his success to the strong work ethic his parents modeled and instilled in him, he’s actually turned down promotions that threatened what he cites as another secret to his success—balance. When asked why he eschewed opportunities many others would consider prized, Zameer reflects on his time delivering flowers: “The people working at the flower shop were the happiest. That’s when I realized happiness wasn’t linked to money.”

Zameer is adamant that neither his choices nor those of others should be emulated: “Everyone must plot their own journey.” He is, however, steadfast in the belief that having the courage to walk on one’s own path ­­­­can lead to extraordinary outcomes, which in the case of Zameer’s latest achievement, fittingly came in the form of a shoe.