When Jeff Bezos announced to his boss that he would quit his job to start an online book store, his boss advised him to think about it for 48 hours. The important thing to know is that Jeff Bezos was working as a vice president for the famous firm D.E. Shaw. D.E. Shaw hired only genius (1% acceptance rate among math and computer scientists). Quitting his job would mean that Jeff Bezos would be leaving behind the high-paying job at one of the most famous firms on the Wall Street.
He did and outlined a framework to make BIG decision. This framework called Regret Minimization Framework centered around the question: “If you are 80, what will you think?”
For Jeff Bezos, leaving a stable, high-paying job with a big bonus was not a regret. He would be regretting if he did not take the opportunity to become an entrepreneur on the Internet.
Jeff founded Amazon in 1993 and as of this post, it’s a $761 billion company. Jeff is the richest person in the world with a $129.9 billion net worth.
Jeff Bezos’ words on decision-making:
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.
If you are facing a BIG decision, project yourself at the age of 80 and ask yourself: “What will I think?”, “Will I regret?”
Just remember that Jeff Bezos left behind a high-paying job with a big bonus as a vice president of one of the most famous firms on the Wall Street. He followed his dream and embraced a decision that he would be proud of when he’s 80 year old.
As you read this, you might say that only Jeff Bezos could do so and this does not apply to you, or this method does not work for you. You are absolutely right. The mere reason for your thinking so is what stops you from taking on something big.
Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc, put the question differently: “if today were the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today?”
In Steve Jobs’s most inspirational speech:
For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: if today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?
Whenever my answer has been NO for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.
Remembering that I will be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life.
Because almost everything, all external expectations, all prides, all fears of embarrassment or failure, these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important.
Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There’s no reason not to follow your heart.
Don’t let yourself regret at your death bed that you have not done something extraordinarily. Or as my mentor said, don’t die with the music still in your ear.
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Recommended reading: The Amazon Way: 14 Leadership Principles Behind the World’s Most Disruptive Company by John Rossman