The Regret Minimization Framework: How Jeff Bezos Made Decisions

The Regret Minimization Framework: How Jeff Bezos Made Decisions


Jeff Bezos had an idea. A great idea. But he hadn’t made the jump yet. Even so, he wasn’t shy about it, telling
everyone including his boss his intentions. He told them he wanted to start an online
store to sell books. His boss was intrigued, but told him to think
it over. After all, he had a great job, why bother
with a startup? So Bezos took 48 hours to think it through,
but he needed a way to help him make this decision. He needed a mental model that would allow
him to come to the right answer. A mental model is a way to think about the
world. It is how we respond and make decisions on
the things we encounter in daily life. No single model is right for every person,
so it’s important to understand what works for you. You need to understand how you perceive the
world and what you hold important. Furthermore, different models work for different
situations. For Bezos, the model he used for this decision
became the Regret Minimization Framework. While simple, it’s what got him to take
action on the idea he had been incubating for some time. It was what turned a difficult decision into
an easy one. It all starts with a question: In X years,
will I regret not doing this? The idea is to project yourself into the future
and look back on your decision from that perspective. For Bezos, he thought of when he would be
80 and if he would regret not trying to start this company. Yes or no. His answer was quite clear. As Bezos 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.” I love this for a few reasons. First, it forces you to think beyond the moment. Past all the fears and doubts that you may
be having. Instead, you fast forward into the future
and assess things from that perspective. This presents the decision in a completely
new light. One that may make your fears and doubts hardly
relevant in the grand scheme of things. It certainly worked for Bezos. Second, it’s a model that can be used throughout
your life, whenever you face tough decisions that rest on your shoulders. Having such a tool to leverage when you’re
not quite sure what to do is powerful. While the Regret Minimization Framework may
not be right for you, having mental models in your toolkit is essential. They help you take action, make hard decisions,
and lead a life in line with your ideals. “To break a mental model is harder than
splitting an atom.” Moreover, they are nearly infallible. It’s difficult to dispute the results of
a good mental model, no matter how hard you try. So try the regret minimization framework or
one of many other mental models out there and see which ones work for you and why. By creating a collection of models based on
the principles of your life, decisions will never be a problem. The key is finding the ones that work for
you.

21 Comments

  1. “If you’re not stubborn, you’ll give up on experiments too soon. And if you’re not flexible, you’ll pound your head against the wall and you won’t see a different solution to a problem you’re trying to solve.”

    ― Jeff Bezos

  2. This attitude led him to really hurt his family by cheating and leaving. Isn't that a problem? Is self-interest all that matters?

  3. I had this 'model' when I was 16, before knowing who Bezos was. In other words, it's not some framework that only Bezos created. It's as old as humanity itself.

  4. Just posted today eh? I would have advised against it. Bezos’ philandering decision overshadows his business decision. And now his ex owns over half of his worth. How wise was that decision?

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