Regret Minimization Framework
Sometimes you have to make hard decisions in life. Maybe you have to decide whether you should quit your job and start your own business, end a relationship or maybe move to another country. Big decisions like that are the ones you have to make completely by yourself. Having the support from your environment is a big advantage, but at the end of the day, you’re on your own. You are the one who has to make the move or not.
Jeff Bezos was in the same position just before he quit his job and founded Amazon. He had a well-paid Wall Street job, with a stable career, good boss and a balanced life. But he had this crazy idea of selling books online and starting his own company. He had full support from his wife and the people around him thought he had a good idea. He had to make a decision.
It was a tough decision, so he searched for theories and recommendations on how to make that kind of big decisions. Because he didn’t find good advice on the topic, he came up with a framework to help him make the right choice. He gave it a nerdy name: Regret Minimization Framework.
The idea behind the Regret Minimization Framework is pretty simple. Project yourself forward to the age of 80. Looking back on your life, you want to minimize the number of regrets. If you project yourself to the age of 80 and think about your potential regrets, things get a lot clearer. It also helps you to remove a few pieces of confusion in the present caused by alternative paths. It helps you make the right decision more easily.
For Jeff, the decision became simple. He knew he would regret it for the rest of his life if he didn’t participate in one of the biggest revolutions the world has ever seen – the information revolution. He knew he would regret it at 80, not trying to realize his idea for selling books online. He knew he wouldn’t regret failing, but he would definitely regret not trying. When he thought about it that way, the decision became easy. He quit his job in the middle of the year, and even walked away from the yearly bonus. He founded Amazon and built one of the most successful companies in history.
On the pure top of your life vision list should be all the things you know you would regret deeply if you haven’t at least tried to achieve them in your life. We all have a few things, be it a specific country to visit, a mountain to climb, a certain thing to create, a specific adventure with other people to undertake or whatever else we deeply want to experience. Don’t let fear and compromises stop you from really experiencing things that you will regret someday. When an opportunity appears, use the Regret Minimization Framework to help you make the right decision.
But beware, don’t let pretty motivational stories like this fool you. You don’t want to use the Regret Minimization Framework as an excuse to do something stupid. Everyday small decisions (what you eat everyday, how you spend your money etc.) and important big decisions (who you marry, where you work etc.) are an integral part of either your success or destroying your own life. So have a list of your potential regrets, but always take your current level of competences, the right timing, environmental factors and other forces into consideration. Don’t look for perfect conditions, but stay adaptable. Here is a quote from Jeff that can help you with that:
We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details. – Jeff Bezos
The Regret Minimization Framework should help you make yes/no decisions easily. But if you decide for yes, make sure you have a superior strategy, you know your risks (you want to have low risk with a massive potential reward), you have support from the environment – from market trends to your closest people, you have enough knowledge and other competences, and so on. I have no doubt Jeff had all these things.
Be bold. Live life without regrets. But be smart about it. Have a superior strategy.
HOW JEFF CAME UP WITH THE IDEA
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 this company selling books online and this is
something that I already been talking to him about in a sort of more general
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 and he convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision and so I went away and was trying to find the right framework in which to make that kind of big decision and you know I already talked to my wife about this and she was very supportive and said look you know you can count me in 100% whatever you want to do no it’s true she had married this kind of you know stable guy in a stable career path and now he wanted to go do this crazy thing but she was 100% 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 and you know what I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this I was not going to regret having wanted you know 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 and I knew that that would haunt me every day and so when I thought about it that way it was an incredibly easy decision. I think that’s a very good it’s if you can project yourself out to age 80 and 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 and that’s the kind of thing then 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.