Simplify Your Most Difficult Decisions With This Mental Framework

Most people know the story of how Jeff Bezos founded Amazon.com, built it into an online empire, and has now taken the title of “Richest Man in the World.” But to start this online venture, he had to take a huge risk and give up the opportunity of a lifetime.

You see, Jeff Bezos was already what many people would consider extremelysuccessful. At 30, he was the youngest-ever Senior Vice President at D.E. Shaw & Co., a Wall Street investment banking firm. He was already making an estimated six-figure salary and was destined to continue rising within the company ranks.

But he had tendency to bore quickly, along with a secret passion for the business of Internet retail, which was still in its early infancy. He dreamt of building his own company in this new frontier of the World Wide Web, which — according to his research — was growing by an estimated 2,300 percent per month in active usage.

This was his opportunity. But he had to make the ultimate decision: take a chance building a startup, or continue his promising, already successful career on Wall Street?

To make this decision, he employed what would later be coined the Regret Minimization Framework, a mental framework for decision making.

As he puts it:

“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.” — Jeff Bezos

While there are some slight variations, the basic concept is this:

  1. Imagine yourself at 80 years old, looking back on your life.
  2. And ask yourself, “Will I regret not doing this?
  3. If the answer is yes, then do it. Plain and simple.
  4. If the answer is no, then let it go. Don’t bother with it anymore.

Jeff Bezos employed this framework, which led him to make the decision to uproot his life, move to Seattle, and start his new business venture. A decision that started him down the path to later becoming the richest man in the world.

We all have ideas. Ideas we are too busy, too tired, or too scared to live out. Instead of dreaming about the best or worst possible outcomes, try placing yourself inside the Regret Minimization Framework:

Picture yourself at 80 years old, looking back on your life, and ask yourself, “Will I regret not chasing my dream?”

Then go out and do it.

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