Regret Minimization Framework

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Sometimes you have to make hard decisions in life. Maybe you have to decide whether you should quit your job and start your own business, end a relationship or maybe move to another country. Big decisions like that are the ones you have to make completely by yourself. Having the support from your environment is a big advantage, but at the end of the day, you’re on your own. You are the one who has to make the move or not.

Jeff Bezos was in the same position just before he quit his job and founded Amazon. He had a well-paid Wall Street job, with a stable career, good boss and a balanced life. But he had this crazy idea of selling books online and starting his own company. He had full support from his wife and the people around him thought he had a good idea. He had to make a decision.

It was a tough decision, so he searched for theories and recommendations on how to make that kind of big decisions. Because he didn’t find good advice on the topic, he came up with a framework to help him make the right choice. He gave it a nerdy name: Regret Minimization Framework.

The idea behind the Regret Minimization Framework is pretty simple. Project yourself forward to the age of 80. Looking back on your life, you want to minimize the number of regrets. If you project yourself to the age of 80 and think about your potential regrets, things get a lot clearer. It also helps you to remove a few pieces of confusion in the present caused by alternative paths. It helps you make the right decision more easily.

For Jeff, the decision became simple. He knew he would regret it for the rest of his life if he didn’t participate in one of the biggest revolutions the world has ever seen – the information revolution. He knew he would regret it at 80, not trying to realize his idea for selling books online. He knew he wouldn’t regret failing, but he would definitely regret not trying. When he thought about it that way, the decision became easy. He quit his job in the middle of the year, and even walked away from the yearly bonus. He founded Amazon and built one of the most successful companies in history.

On the pure top of your life vision list should be all the things you know you would regret deeply if you haven’t at least tried to achieve them in your life. We all have a few things, be it a specific country to visit, a mountain to climb, a certain thing to create, a specific adventure with other people to undertake or whatever else we deeply want to experience. Don’t let fear and compromises stop you from really experiencing things that you will regret someday. When an opportunity appears, use the Regret Minimization Framework to help you make the right decision.

But beware, don’t let pretty motivational stories like this fool you. You don’t want to use the Regret Minimization Framework as an excuse to do something stupid. Everyday small decisions (what you eat everyday, how you spend your money etc.) and important big decisions (who you marry, where you work etc.) are an integral part of either your success or destroying your own life. So have a list of your potential regrets, but always take your current level of competences, the right timing, environmental factors and other forces into consideration. Don’t look for perfect conditions, but stay adaptable. Here is a quote from Jeff that can help you with that:

We are stubborn on vision. We are flexible on details. – Jeff Bezos

The Regret Minimization Framework should help you make yes/no decisions easily. But if you decide for yes, make sure you have a superior strategy, you know your risks (you want to have low risk with a massive potential reward), you have support from the environment – from market trends to your closest people, you have enough knowledge and other competences, and so on. I have no doubt Jeff had all these things.

Be bold. Live life without regrets. But be smart about it. Have a superior strategy.

This is my 100th post on this blog by the way. I knew I would regret not starting this blog. So here we are and expect many interesting blog posts in the future.

About the author

Consulting and management coaching

Blaž Kos has managed venture capital investments over the past 12 years and participated in the development of the start-up ecosystem in the region. Today, he advises companies on growth strategies, process optimization, the introduction of lean agile methods and the digitalization of business. In addition to the Slovenian blog, he also writes an English blog, which was selected among the 50 best bloggers in the world in the category of personal and business growth.
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