Photo by cesarastudillo
If you’ve read The Power of Starting Something Stupid, you know that we talk a lot about how to avoid future regret. When it comes to living a life of meaning, contribution and fulfillment, I can’t image a more urgent topic. I’d like to share with you two real-life stories that have greatly influenced my thinking and I hope will influence yours. Further, I hope these examples will make you DO something–to act on that “stupid” pressing thought that just won’t go away.
THE TOP FIVE REGRETS
Bronnie Ware, author of The Top Five Regrets of the Dying, worked in palliative care, in a place where she says “patients would go to die” and she “was with them for the last three to twelve weeks of their lives.” She asked the patients “about any regrets they had or anything they would do differently.” Through this unique experience, Bronnie discovered five common themes:
- “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” (This was the most common response.)
- “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” (Every male patient Bronnie nursed gave this response.)
- “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
- “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
- “I wish that I had let myself be happier.”
These five regrets have helped me change my own behavior and priorities as I strive to live a joyful and enriched life.
JEFF BEZOS’ BRAVE DECISION TO END HIS WALL STREET CAREER AND START AMAZON.COM
I feature this story in Chapter 4 of The Power of Starting Something Stupid and even created something I call “The Bezos Test,” however, I thought you’d like to hear some additional details to the story straight from Bezos’ mouth.
You can watch the video of Jeff Bezos explaining to Achievement.org how he avoided future regret by starting Amazon here: Why Jeff Bezos Started Amazon
Here’s part of the transcript (of the above video) from this interview with Achievement.org. Notice how Bezos’ uses what he calls a “regret minimalization framework” to make his decision to leave Wall Street and start Amazon.
Achievement.org: Here you were sitting in New York City in a very good job, a lucrative position with a future. You go home and you say to your wife you want to throw all that over and get in the car and go to Seattle. What possessed you to do that? What was her reaction? What is the role of risk taking?
Jeff Bezos: I went to my boss and said to him, “You know, I’m going to go do this crazy thing and I’m going to start this company selling books online.” This was something that I had already been talking to him about in a sort of more general context, but then he said, “Let’s go on a walk.” And, we went on a two hour walk in Central Park in New York City and the conclusion of that was this. He said, “You know, this actually sounds like a really good idea to me, but it sounds like it would be a better idea for somebody who didn’t already have a good job.” He convinced me to think about it for 48 hours before making a final decision.
So, I went away and was trying to find the right framework in which to make that kind of big decision. I had already talked to my wife about this, and she was very supportive and said, “Look, you know you can count me in 100 percent, whatever you want to do.” It’s true she had married this fairly stable guy in a stable career path, and now he wanted to go do this crazy thing, but she was 100 percent supportive.
So, it really was a decision that I had to make for myself, and the framework I found which made the decision incredibly easy was what I called — which only a nerd would call — a “regret minimization framework.” 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 was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. 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.
WILL YOU REGRET IT WHEN YOU’RE 80?
Carefully consider these questions:
- Is there a thought that keeps pressing on your mind?
- If so, why haven’t you done anything with it yet? Is this something you’d regret not doing? If not, what would you regret not doing when you’re 80?
- If everything seems to be against you and you can’t possibly see yourself starting a dream project (something you’d regret not doing) now, what is the one tiny portion of that dream that you could do? Start there.
I have been creating The 76-Day Challenge which I promise as a free gift at the end of The Power of Starting Something Stupid to help you start your dream projects, avoid regret and impact the world for good. I have a group working on this challenge right now before I release it to the public. If you’d like to sign up to receive your copy of The 76-Day Challenge when it is ready, please click here.