Jeff Bezos: Regret Minimization Framework

I just left this comment on bijan’s blog (I’m really digging his stuff lately).

“It’s so simple. In the long run, the picture is more clear. Often times, in the midst of hectic lives and "really big decisions,” we can’t see the forest from the trees. I was at Marconi beach the other day, teaching my friend how to surf. He was all over the place, looking for the right wave to paddle for and it was tough for him to make decisions. But when we took a break and got out of the water, it was clear where the best waves were. My point is, it’s a lot easier to see the waves from the shore, and that has to do with perspective. 

If you can remove yourself from a situation - business, relationship, etc. - and look at what’s happening from a 3rd person perspective, be it your own in the future (on a rocking chair!), or just as an objective eye, you stand a much better chance of understanding what you need to do to reach your goals.“

It’s a simple analogy, but it really goes a long way, especially if you can apply it your life.  Thinking with a long-term perspective helps you make smart decisions about your life now, that pay huge dividends in the future.  Anywho, read on…


This is fantastic.

via Jeff Bezos, 2001

I went to my boss and said to him, “You know, I’m going to go do this crazy thing and I’m going to start this company selling books online.” This was something that I had already been talking to him about in a sort of more general context, but then he said, “Let’s go on a walk.” And, we went on a two hour walk in Central Park in New York City and the conclusion of that was this. He said, “You know, this actually sounds like a really good idea to me, but it sounds like it would be a better idea for somebody who didn’t already have a good job.” He convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision.

So, I went away and was trying to find the right framework in which to make that kind of big decision. I had already talked to my wife about this, and she was very supportive and said, “Look, you know you can count me in 100 percent, whatever you want to do.” It’s true she had married this fairly stable guy in a stable career path, and now he wanted to go do this crazy thing, but she was 100 percent supportive. So, it really was a decision that I had to make for myself, and the framework I found which made the decision incredibly easy was what I called — which only a nerd would call — a “regret minimization framework.”

So, I wanted to project myself forward to age 80 and say, “Okay, now I’m looking back on my life. I want to have minimized the number of regrets I have.” I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed I wouldn’t regret that, but I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day, and so, when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision. And, I think that’s very good. If you can project yourself out to age 80 and sort of think, “What will I think at that time?” it gets you away from some of the daily pieces of confusion. You know, I left this Wall Street firm in the middle of the year. When you do that, you walk away from your annual bonus. That’s the kind of thing that in the short-term can confuse you, but if you think about the long-term then you can really make good life decisions that you won’t regret later.