Jeff Bezos’ regret minimization framework is one of his greatest idea. I decided to transcribe a video of Jeff Bezos explaining this idea in 2 and 1/2 minutes. The transcript starts below:
“I went to my boss and told him I was going to do this crazy thing. I am going to start a company that sells books online. This is something I had already been talking to him about in a more general context. He said lets go on a walk. We went on a two hour walk in Central Park in New York City.
The conclusion of that was he said it was a really good idea. But it would be a better idea for somebody who didn’t already have a good job. (At this time Jeff was 30 years old and the a senior vice president at the hedge fund D.E. Shaw & Co.) He convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision. So I went away and I was trying to find the right framework to make that kind of big decision. My wife was very supportive. She was in 100% for whatever I wanted to do. She had married a stable guy —in this stable career path —and now he wanted to go do this crazy thing.
So it really was a decision I had to make for myself. The framework I found that made the decision incredibly easy was — what I called — which only a nerd would call — a regret minimization framework. I wanted to project myself forward to age 80. I am now looking back on my life. I wanted 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 big deal. I knew if I failed I wouldn’t regret that. I knew the one thing I would regret is not having tried. I knew that would haunt me everyday. When I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision.
If you can project yourself out to age 80 and think— what would I think at that time? — it gets you away from some of the daily pieces of confusion. I left this Wall Street firm in the middle of the year. When you do that you walk away from your annual bonus. That is the kind of thing in the short term that 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.