Regret Minimization Framework

Posted August 7, 2012 by Marcy Twete in Life After Five

Let me reminisce for a moment – I was a freshman in college. My friends and I had ventured to Mankato, Minnesota to see Kenny Chesney on tour. I’d seen Kenny more than a few times in my young life, so imagine my excitement when my favorite country star said he was about to sing a song off his new album that “no one had even heard yet.” Now, who knows if that was true. But what I know for sure is I will never forget that moment. I will remember for the rest of my life when I heard Kenny Chesney sing these words:

And if I’d’a known that dance was going to be our last dance, I’d’a asked that band to play on and on on and on

Oh I…I’d done a lot of things different

I vividly remember tears rolling down my face thinking, “Don’t do that. Don’t be the person who looks back and regrets.” And a decade later, of course I look back on numerous decisions with regret – divorce, mistakes on the job, not spending enough time with family or friends, and the list goes on. And like Kenny Chesney, I’d do a lot of things different if given the chance.

But life, my friends, isn’t quite as easy as a country song makes it out to be. The world isn’t as simple as “I’d do a lot of things different.” So I was delighted to find that one incredible entrepreneur put this notion into something a little more concrete. Jeff Bezos is the creator of, and talks about his journey in an interview with Academy of Achievement. But how did Jeff get there? He decided to live his life with a “regret minimization framework.” Jeff talks about his decision to take the leap into entrepreneurship with these words:

So, 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.” I knew that when I was 80 I was not going to regret having tried this. […] 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. And, I think that’s very good. If you can project yourself out to age 80 and sort of think, “What will I think at that time?” it gets you away from some of the daily pieces of confusion. You know, I left this Wall Street firm in the middle of the year. When you do that, you walk away from your annual bonus. That’s the kind of thing that in the short-term can confuse you, but if you think about the long-term then you can really make good life decisions that you won’t regret later.

Today, I want you to go with me on this somewhat sappy journey back to my Kenny Chesney concert and think through Jeff Bezos’ suggestion here. Think about “that thing” in your life you’ve always wanted to do (we all have one, I know you do), and say to yourself – will I regret trying? Or failing? Or will I regret the fact that I didn’t try at all? And then….do it. Jump. Leap. Close your eyes and scream. Whatever you need to do to avoid saying “I’d do a lot of things different.”

About the Author

Marcy Twete

Marcy Twete is a career fundraiser turned corporate responsibility executive, a career and networking expert and the author of the book "You Know Everybody! A Career Girl’s Guide to Building a Network That Works."