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Jeff Bezos Life Changing Decision Making Approach

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Nearly two decades ago, Amazon’s now-iconic CEO explained why he chose to leave a cushy, secure banking gig on Wall Street and roll the dice on founding an online bookstore. We know now that Jeff Bezos’ gambit would ultimately pay off — but back then, such a pivot was dangerously risky. Bezos was aware of the potential for failure, but in his mind, the potential for regret was far greater.

During a rare interview, Bezos shared the philosophy that drove him to chance disaster — a decision-making approach he calls the regret minimization framework. “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,’” Bezos recounted.

“I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried [Amazon]. 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.”

Needless to say, Bezos’ bet paid off. In the space of two decades, the founder went from personally labeling shipping boxes to overseeing a business whose revenue, at last count, stretches above $321 billion. Jeff Bezos saw an opportunity, felt inspiration, took a risk, and received a reward. His regret minimization framework allowed him to overcome fear of failure and serious doubts in order to create the potential to achieve massive success. 

There is no question that I have followed Bezos’ philosophy in countless business and personal decisions; however, it was never with the clarity and simplicity he articulates. I am sure that there are many who would, from the outside, view some of my decisions as overly optimistic, imprudent, and, in some cases, outright ridiculous. Some have worked out exceptionally well, some have been unmitigated disasters, and with some it is still too soon to tell.

But regardless of the outcome, I know that I made the best decision I could given the facts at hand and my long-term aspirations prevailing at that moment. I never employed the elegance of a formal “regret minimization framework,” but the underlying impetus was the same as the one Bezos described. I never want to be in a situation where I second-guess myself for not trying something I believed in.

“What we need to do is always lean into the future; when the world changes around you and when it changes against you – what used to be a tail wind is now a head wind – you have to lean into that and figure out what to do because complaining isn’t a strategy.” – Jeff Bezos

In a previous article, I wrote that the most important part of business decision-making isn’t about coming up with the idea, but about executing on that idea. As President Teddy Roosevelt espoused, it’s about getting into the ring and trying. In my opinion, trying and failing is far better than never trying. Regret minimization is about eliminating the question of, why didn’t I at least try? Who wants to face that question, whether in regard to business or personal issues, five or ten years from now — or, as Bezos described, when you’re 80 years old and looking back?

Practicing regret minimization is not about asking, “When will I succeed?” Instead, it’s about living with yourself and knowing that you tried. 

Of course, there is a world of difference between starting a company at the inception of the Internet Age and launching one in the middle of a global pandemic. Covid-19 has utterly disrupted our lives. People from every corner of the country have been shaken from their familiar routines; they have lost their jobs, been isolated from their friends and family members, and faced seemingly endless months of uncertain anxiety. 

The upheaval has forced people to ask questions they never thought that they would need to answer — or, at the very least, that they wouldn’t need to answer quite so soon

Should I start a new business?

Should I relocate?

Should I retrain myself?

Should I start buying or selling something meaningful?

Against current circumstances, it can be easier to say no. It seems safer to stay indoors and off the metaphorical road, remaining in place until the situation improves. It is easy and convenient to think the pandemic can’t last forever, but that really isn’t the story emanating from Covid. The trends and changes impacting our personal lives and business affairs will likely never fully reverse. The size, speed and severity of these changes present opportunities and challenges that were literally unimaginable just a couple of years ago.

Technology acceleration and adoption in areas like retail, healthcare, and entertainment have created drastic changes in how and where we work and play. The world is in a massive flux that might almost be equivalent to the internet revolution that drove Bezos decades ago. Regret minimization is about sitting around with your grandchildren telling them about how you felt and lived during this time of tectonic change. Who wants to look back and admit they were so paralyzed by uncertainty and fear that they didn’t try to capitalize on what were obvious future trends? 

“All of my best decisions in business and in life have been made with heart, intuition, guts… not analysis.” – Jeff Bezos

In some areas the changes are so substantial that it is almost unbelievable and easier to deny. A small but poignant example was Gregg Lemkau, the Co-head of Investment Banking at Goldman Sachs saying in a recent CNBC interview that he doubts the IPO roadshow will ever return. At the onset of Covid, industry experts predicted that the inability to travel would create a pause or even a freeze in mergers and acquisitions and public offerings. Instead, the exact opposite has occurred. Participants on all sides quickly realized — albeit out of necessity — that these could all be done more efficiently, virtually. 

If you are involved with business hospitality, you can pretend everything will revert once Covid is behind us or acknowledge the new reality is permanent. Regret minimization is alleviated by not having one’s head in the sand as it relates to your career or business activities. Simply accepting the status quo during a time of massive flux will inevitably lead to regrets for many. The business leaders and entrepreneurs who emerge from this crisis triumphant will be the ones who did what Bezos did in 1996. The people who thrive will be those who stay attuned to the reshuffling of industries and make the most of business opportunities and career paths when they appear. 

It is critical to emphasize that pursuing what seems like a compelling opportunity or pathway has no guarantee of success and that is not what regret minimization is about. Ultimately, succeeding is irrelevant. It’s about engaging and trying, regardless of the outcomes. In the end it is about assessing where the greatest regrets lie: potentially failing or failing to pursue?

Jeff Greenstein is an American entrepreneur and private investor based in Seattle, Washington. He is currently the President of YIS Capital, an active philanthropist and passionate collector of contemporary art. His work has previously been published in VentureBeat, TriplePundit, and Thrive Global.

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A Simple but Effective Technique to Be More Confident

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Many people want to learn how to be confident in different situations, but it’s not always easy. Maybe we’re too addicted to comparing ourselves or maybe social media has brainwashed us to believe that we should all be rich, famous, and in incredible shape. (more…)

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Knowing Your Message vs Delivering Your Message

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Have you ever sent a text message only to have it misinterpreted by the person reading it? Happens all the time. Have you ever given a presentation that you were totally prepared for only to have it fall flat? Happens all the time. Have you ever had someone ask you something like, “Why are you mad?” when you were not at all mad? Happens all the time. (more…)

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The 3 Most Important Things I Learned About Personal Growth

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When you look back on your life, what do you want to think about? Do you plan to reminisce on all of the good things that have happened and how they shaped who you are today? Or would you rather remember all of the bad decisions, challenging experiences, and mistakes made that hurt or wasted a portion of your life?

In my opinion, I think it is important to reflect on both. While it’s important to remember the hardships we’ve been through in our lives – without them we wouldn’t be where we are now. There are 3 very specific areas that I feel have helped me grow in a personal sense more than anything else in my life so far. 

These aren’t simple lessons in a book or a lecture that you can just absorb and apply to your life. These are things that I’ve learned through experience and reflection, and I’m still learning and growing today.

1. We determine how much we’re worth by what we think about ourselves, others, and life in general.

This might seem like a pretty obvious lesson in life but it’s actually one of the most important because we can determine our own worth by how we think about ourselves and the world around us. If you’re looking for success in any kind of business or social setting (dating), then I’ll tell you right now that it doesn’t matter if you have 10 billion dollars or not – people are still going to judge you based on your thoughts and beliefs alone.

What determines our value isn’t necessarily what we do with our lives (which is often based on luck) but whether or not we believe that ‘our work’ is worthy or not in some sort of grand scheme or universe. We may not always be able to control what happens in our lives, but we can always control how we value ourselves and others.

“Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.” – Maya Angelou

2. You don’t have to change your habits or personality just because someone else doesn’t like it – their opinions are THEIRS alone.

This is another one of those lessons that people tend to pick up on a little bit late in life, but if anything that makes its importance even worse! Basically, there’s going to come a time when you’re going to meet someone who has certain expectations of you as a person…but these expectations might not be realistic due to their motivations and personal beliefs. For example, sometimes parents might expect you to be a lawyer or doctor because that’s what they believe is best for their child.

However, this isn’t the case for everyone and so maybe your passion lies in music or writing novels. In this example, if you were also pressured into becoming a doctor – then there would obviously be some kind of conflict going on within yourself as a person. You should never have to give up something that you want to do just because someone else doesn’t like it! The reason why we’re put onto this Earth is to make our own choices and go after our OWN dreams instead of letting others determine what we can and cannot do with our lives .

3. You can’t change your life until you accept that you need to make a change.

When I was younger, I thought that this lesson would be pretty obvious – but as I got older, it really made me appreciate the fact that there are always different ways of perceiving our lives. For example, if someone wants to become rich and famous one day – their mind might simply overshadow any other possibility in their head because they feel like this is what they NEED to do right now.

However, this isn’t always true within our own lives because we think about things too literally instead of having an open mind. If you want to achieve success in any kind of business or social setting (dating) then you should be willing to try out different things instead of staying in your comfort zone. If you want something, then it’s up to YOU to actually go after it – nobody else is going to give it to you!

The three lessons above are some of the main things I want to pass on to everyone because they’ve come at an important time in my life where I need to start thinking about others instead of only myself. It’s great if we can learn to love ourselves first before anything else, but that doesn’t mean you should neglect everyone around you even though they might be your friends and family members!

If you enjoyed this article on the 3 most important things I learned about personal growth, then please share it with your friends and family! Also, check out my other articles on success & motivation as well as life lessons that could help people who are struggling with their life right now on lifengoal.com. Thanks for reading!

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​​4 Boss Level Growth Strategies That Create an Optimized Life

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Building a business is about more than sales, marketing, and flexing on social media. While those things tend to draw attention, they attract the wrong type of clients and are not how you build a sustainable and freedom-focused business. (more…)

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