Do you leave the good job to start the dream? Is this the right person to marry? Should you have kids now? Questions like these--the life-altering decisions category--never stop coming at you. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon and Blue Origin, and also the richest person in history, shared how he makes big decisions at Summit, the Idea Festival in Los Angeles in November.
You never sit still.
"I don't even really believe in stasis. I think things are either growing or shrinking," he said. When he comes to making tough life decisions, he is a fan of long-term thinking. "It lets you do things that you could not do or could not even conceive of doing if you were thinking short term."
Start Amazon, or stay employed?
One early example of Bezos's long-term decision-making framework was when he started Amazon. He'd been married for a year and had a great job. "The best way to think about it was to project myself forward to age 80 and say, look when I'm 80 years old, I want to minimize the number of regrets that I have. I don't want to be 80 years old, in a quiet moment of reflection, thinking back over my life, and cataloging major regrets."
He credits this long-term thinking framework with making it clear he should start Amazon. "I knew when I'm 80 I would never regret trying this thing I was super excited about, and it failing."
He also says, he knew it would always haunt him if he didn't try. "It was a 100 percent chance of a regret if I didn't try, and basically a zero percent chance of regret if I tried and failed. I think that's a useful metric for any important life decision."
Be the hero of your life's story
"We all get to choose our life stories," he summed it up. "It's our choices that define us, not our gifts. Everyone has many gifts. I have many gifts. You can never be proud of your gifts, because their gifts: they were given to you. You might be tall, or math, or extremely beautiful--but you can only be proud really of your choices because those are things where you are active. One of the most important choices that each of us has is you can choose a life of ease and comfort, or you can choose a life of service and adventure. When you're 80, which one of those things do you think you'll be more proud of? You'll be more proud of choosing a life of service and adventure."