I am currently reading “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone about Jeff Bezos and the rise of Amazon. I am only about 1/3rd of the way through, but the paragraph below jumped out at me after my earlier post, Life is Long.
It is 1994 and Jeff Bezos is a rising star at the quantitative hedge fund, D.E. Shaw and newly married with a comfortable apartment on the Upper West Side. His wife is supportive if he decides to go out on his own, but it is still a very difficult decision to make leaving his current well-paying job to start the company that would become Amazon. Jeff Bezos comes up with what he called a “regret-minimization framework” to decide the next step.
“”When you are in the thick of things, you can get confused by small stuff”, Bezos said a few years later. “I knew when I was eighty that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn’t something you worry about when you’re eighty years old. At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way … it was incredibly easy to make the decision.””
It is easy to say now that he made the right decision based on the success of Amazon. However, using his framework above, the final results are less important and actually factor in the likelihood of failure. If Amazon had failed, it is safe to assume that Jeff Bezos would still be happy with his choice. He would have still had other opportunities at other firms or back at D.E. Shaw and his career would have simply suffered a minor setback and not something he regretted on his deathbed. Decisions like these can be extremely difficult to make, but the next time one arises, you now have another framework you can use.