On the one hand, we celebrate Bezos' creation and it's insane efficacy. On the other hand, we lobby for more balance between our jobs and personal lives, and commend companies who put employees first, even if that is in the interest of increased productivity overall. Is it hypocritical to take both sides? More importantly, how can we figure out which we value more, and then base our lifestyles on it?
Well, thanks to Bezos, there's a framework for that. He calls it the "regret minimalization framework".
He used it to help him make what turned out to be the biggest decision of his life--moving from investment group D. E. Shaw to start a brand new firm out of a basement--the company that would become Amazon.
Here's what he says about making that choice:
"I knew when I was eighty that I would never, for example, think about why I walked away from my 1994 Wall Street bonus right in the middle of the year at the worst possible time. That kind of thing just isn't something you worry about when you're eighty years old. At the same time, I knew that I might sincerely regret not having participated in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a revolutionizing event. When I thought about it that way... it was incredibly easy to make the decision."
What will you regret when you're eighty? Or seventy? Or however old you'll be tomorrow?
The regret-minimization framework yields different results for every person, and that's the beauty of it. It's not a generalization or an over-simplification, it's a personalized formula.
Creating a business, becoming a world-travelling nomad, starting a family--with these decisions and many others, the question to ask isn't 'can I do this', or 'should I do this', but 'will I regret not doing this'. Try it on yourself and see. One is more powerful than the others, isn't it?
Of course, you can always take advice from people who have hindsight on their side. Dying people reportedly claim 'working too hard' as one of their major regrets. But hold on--an even more common regret is 'I wish I'd had the courage to be more true to myself'.
For some people--cough Jeff Bezos cough--working hard is being true to their self.
At first glance, it seems like as a culture, we're unsure what we think about dedicating one's life to work. When you think about it, though, 'we' don't think anything.
All of us have different opinions--and different potential regrets.
Like it or not, Bezos got that right.