The One Thing Jeff Bezos Knew He’d Always Regret

Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos says the key to progress in life is to think of yourself at age 80, and imagine all the things you’ll regret not having risked.


Just to show you how stupid I can be, we were packing on our hands and knees on a hard concrete floor and I had this brainstorm. I said to the person next to me, ‘This packing is killing me. My back hurts. This is killing my knees on this hard cement floor.’ The person said, ‘Yeah, I know what you mean.’ I said, ‘You know what we need?’ This is my brilliant insight. ‘We need knee pads.’ I was very serious. This person looked at me like I was the stupidest person he’d ever seen and like, I’m working for this person, this is great, and he said, ‘What we need is packing tables.’ I looked at this person and I thought that was the smartest idea I’d ever heard. The next day we got packing tables, and I think we doubled our productivity.

“That early stage, by the way, of, where we were so unprepared, is probably one of the luckiest things that ever happened to us because risk is a necessary component of progress. There are different kinds of people that want to do different kinds of things in their life. The right framework I found is a regret minimization framework. That’s just a nerdy way of saying that you want to project yourself to age 80, and then think back over your life. If you’re 80, you want to minimize the number of regrets you have throughout that period of time. I think this something a lot of people do maybe subconsciously. Very few people probably name it regret minimization framework because most people are healthier than that, but it was a very clear way for me to think about making the kind of life decision.

“The way it helped was I thought, okay, if I go do this thing and participate in this thing called the Internet that I genuinely believe is going to be a big deal, and if I fail, am I going to regret having tried and failed? I knew the answer to that was no. I also knew that if I didn’t try, that I would always regret that. I would always wonder and it would haunt me. You can’t follow the fashion when you’re trying to do a startup company or I think really anything in life. As an entrepreneur if you’re going to build a company, make sure that you are focused on something you’re passionate about.”