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 him 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 over, 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.



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.

For Bezos, this model became the Regret Minimization Framework. While simple, it’s what got him to take action on the idea he had been harboring 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?rmfThe 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 utilize when you’re not quite sure what to do is immeasurable.

While the Regret Minimization Framework (RMF) 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.Albert Einstein

Moreover, they are nearly infallible. The perfect thing to hang your hat on, because once you find the right one, you could be set for life. Try the RMF and see if it works for you. If not, study other models, as there are many to pick from.

The key is to create a toolkit of models that will guide how you perceive and lead your life. Different models serve different needs, find the ones that are right for you.

Image via flickr

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