Richie Norton

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Two Stories: “The Regret Minimization Framework”


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.


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:

  1.  “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.)
  2. “I wish I didn’t work so hard.” (Every male patient Bronnie nursed gave this response.)
  3. “I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.”
  4. “I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.”
  5. “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.


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 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 Notice how Bezos’ uses what he calls a “regret minimalization framework” to make his decision to leave Wall Street and start Amazon. 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.


Carefully consider these questions:

  1. Is there a thought that keeps pressing on your mind?
  2. 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?
  3. 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.


Written by on July 2, 2013 | Permalink | Trackbacks (0) Topics:

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  2. Chris Aug 09th 8:16 pm

    Ok I did it, I quit my very secure high paying job and am pursuing my passion that took two years to build. I started a company that prevents families from being displaced due to foreclosure and its very fulfilling. I have a great group if people filling all the executive positions as volunteers and I’m the only paid employee. We raised $250,000 to start and that was my safety net to quit my job. But for reasons beyond our control the $250k turned into $40k after I had already quit. So we’ve been working very hard to get more companies under contract to generate more revenue. I sold my house and move into military housing since I’m a retired disabled veteran to lower my personal overhead. We are now down to three weeks of operating costs left and I feel strangely calm but I can’t say the same for my family, they are freaking out. They understand I had to do this but don’t understand why I would put is in jeopardy of loosing everything. Your book is the best I’ve read because I read it right when I needed the final push and had lived through everything you wrote about. I’m confident something or someone will be placed in my path just at the right time. Thanks for the final push no matter how this turns out I tried. No regrets.

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3 Ways to Make the “Unnecessary” Change

changeAbove photo credit by Sean MacEntee


What do you do when you feel like making a personal change is necessary to your overall happiness and well-being but there is no real pressure or urgency pressing you to make said change?

This is a  a conundrum we all wrestle with. We feel the undeniable need and/or desire to be doing something different in/with our lives, but simultaneously, we can’t bring ourselves to make the change (in many cases read: “sacrifice”) necessary to do it.

We may feel the need to change employment, but we don’t.
We may feel the need to start a specific project, but we don’t.
We may feel the need to pursue higher education, but we don’t
We may feel the need to heal a broken relationship, but we don’t.
We may feel the need to work to improve our spiritual lives, but we don’t.
We may feel the need to take steps toward a healthier physical or emotional life for ourselves and/or our family, but again, we don’t.
(This list could likely go on for eternity.)

It’s important to note that I’m not talking about mere whims and lusts. I’m talking about deep, honorable desires for the betterment of ourselves and/or the overall quality and satisfaction of our lives.


The desire for progression is innate, but the problem we face is that the actual act of progression is also a choice.

Without embracing our inherent need for progress, for positive growth and/or change, we’ll still go on living. Yes. But at what cost?

There is a very real danger present when we suppress our feelings to act on inspiration in exchange for the “safety” of the status quo. We risk sacrificing the opportunity to live a more fulfilling and purpose driven life. We risk sacrificing the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. We risk sacrificing the beautiful blessing of finding a greater sense of meaning in our own lives.

In short, we run the very real risk living a life of regret.


Photo credit: The Blog Is Found

Our dear friends, Nate and Jaclyn Kaiser, recently acted in the face of fear, uncertainty and doubt and found the courage to make a big change.

In their own words:

sometimes without even noticing it the things we build up to stand upon end up caging us inside.

we built it all up and up…a too big for us home by the beach in southern california and a big studio we didn’t really need and never really went to. the more we built, the higher it all got, the less free we felt. it all seemed to make sense when we were building until we realized the toll it was taking. for some reason we kept building up when individually, as a couple, and as a family our heart’s desire was for a life lived more simply. . . we most definitely knew we were ready for a change.

so… we’ve sold our home, closed the doors to our physical studio (not our business, the image is found is still alive and well), and moved 80 miles east and 1 mile up to [a] small mountain town. . . . [we are] loving the fresh perspective our new home and town is providing. . . . we’re not sure what or where exactly the next chapter of our family’s story will be, but we’re fully committed to enjoying, growing and thriving where we are now.

Inspiring, right?!

Nate and Jaclyn didn’t have to make this change, nor were the circumstances of their lives ideal for such a monumental leap. On paper, everything in their lives pointed to staying right where they were, everything in their lives pointed to continuing to head in the exact direction they were headed.

The Kaisers are living out their dream, because they chose to.

And you can too.

Even though they knew it would require sacrifice (as important change always does)—Nate and Jaclyn had the strength to say “no” to the status quo, the willingness to listen to the deepest desires of their hearts, and the courage to ACT on and live out their intent.

What if we all exercised this same courage in our own individual lives?


1. Determine what will add value to your life


sunset at peggy's cove

Photo by Paul Bica.

Think about it, what does a ship absolutely need to stay afloat? I’m not a mariner, so I can’t exactly say. . . but what I can tell you is that ships don’t absolutely need lighthouses—but they sure do help!

When it comes to acting on inspired ideas, it’s easy to trick ourselves into thinking we don’t really need to do them, but that’s like a ship ignoring the beacon of light on a rocky shore.

Just like a ship at sea, everything outside of our most basal human needs, isn’t a necessity to “keep us afloat.” Essentially, all we really need to sustain life is clean air to breathe, food to eat, water to drink and rest to sustain us. After the basics, everything else simply adds or detracts value to/from our lives.

Which begs the question: How much value do you want to get out of life?

You get out what you put in.  Approach your life with intent, courage, faith and hard work, and you’ll reap the beautiful value those sacrifices provide. That’s the way our strange world works.

C.S. Lewis explained this principle beautifully when he said,

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”

2. Swing the bat

Father and son baseball batting lesson in the Cloisters Park, Morro Bay, CAAbove photo by Mike Baird

Give your idea a chance. You’ll never hit a home run (or a base hit for that matter) if you don’t swing.

Take comfort in the words of Babe Ruth,

“Every strike brings me closer to the next home run.”

The thing about change is that, regardless of what we do (or don’t do, for that matter) the world is changing all around us. The good news is that as the world changes, new opportunities arise. In an ever changing world, opportunities come at you like balls from the pitcher’s mound—it might be a curve ball: swing anyway.

3. “The man who moves a mountain begins by carrying away small stones.”

Confucius said that.

Smart man.

Some “unnecessary” changes can feel like a looming mountain to climb.

But remember, Rome wasn’t built in a day—and your beautiful life of intent won’t be either.

What is one small, “unnecessary,” thing can you do today?

(Hint: As Confucius advised, simply start with that small stone that is right in front of you.)




Written by on December 29, 2012 | Permalink | Trackbacks (0) Topics:

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14 Comments post a comment
  1. NAT NAT Dec 29th 9:50 pm

    Love this, you and those wonderful Kaisers. Their courage will result in a ripple effect of positive, personal change. Mark my words.

    I love you for being such a wonderful receptacle and sharer of goodness. Mwa!

    • Richie Norton Dec 31st 12:14 pm

      The Kaisers are amazing, right?

  2. Carolyn Dec 30th 12:51 am

    Holy cow this is a good one! I just moved a stone.

    • Richie Norton Dec 31st 12:14 pm

      Thanks so much, Carolyn! Good job moving that stone!!!

  3. Amy Mak Dec 30th 12:54 pm

    This,is,awesome. Thank you for a wonderful post. Wow. I’m always excited to start a new year, and these are the perfect words to get me going. Happy New Year!

    • Richie Norton Dec 31st 12:13 pm

      Thanks, Amy! You’re awesome!

  4. Natalie Norton Dec 31st 12:14 pm

    Carolyn “I just moved a stone” — I love this! xoxoxoxo! Cheers to your best year yet!

  5. Jenny Jan 08th 1:47 pm

    richie, This really hit home today as I am in the midst of so many life changes right now :) it encouraged me to keep on my same path even though I wonder sometimes if I am making the right decisions. Thank you!

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    Wow, I love this so much. Totally opened my eyes. sometimes I have to see others making those significant, but not needed changes to gain the faith to start, unfortunately. this post gave me the courage to act. THANK YOU!!!

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Was Twitter a “Stupid Idea”?

Above artwork by the amazing Meredith.
Click here to subscribe: get bonuses and updates on The Power of Starting Something Stupid.

Want to change the world?

Big change often starts with something simple—we all know this (and could likely provide a dozen valid examples at the drop of a hat). But what we don’t know, what we don’t always recognize, is that big change just as often starts with something “stupid.”

Case in point, Twitter?  What on Earth was/is stupider than Twitter? Yet I challenge you to name anything that has had as profound an impact on the world of social media (in the entire history of the Internet). Sure, it’s easy to look at the major micro blogging platform we now know as Twitter and immediately see the brilliance behind it—but at it’s inception? Do you think you would have seen the potential, the sheer genius? (If so, high five. You’re likely very far outside the norm.) The truth of the matter is that in the early days, nobody got it. Even some of Twitter’s own engineers weren’t convinced of it’s viability.

From the Wall Street Journal :

“’A lot of people thought it sounded stupid,’ Stone [co-founder of Twitter] said. ‘Even some of our engineers weren’t interested.’”

Nevertheless, they pressed on with their high and mighty (and fantastically grandiose) goal, “to change the world.” As in, their goal was literally to take this idea that everybody else said was stupid, and change the world.

Here’s what “twttr” looked like before it became Twitter.
Photo by Jack Dorsey, co-founder of Twitter.
Click on the link above to read the backstory in Jack’s own words.


For a myriad of reasons, many people stop themselves from setting big (aka: real) goals and dreaming big (again: real) dreams, and that’s simply not OK. It leads to living life always wondering “what if. . .?”

You’ve got to get your goals/dreams out of your head, and down onto paper where they belong. The journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step, isn’t that what they say? In the world of dreams and goals, the first step is putting a pen to paper . . . it’s how you really own what you want out of your life.

Don’t know how to begin? Here are a few simple scenarios to help you get started:

What would you do if. . .

  • lack of time wasn’t an issue?
  • lack of money wasn’t an issue?
  • lack of education and experience weren’t issues?

Scribble down whatever idea(s) come immediately to mind, and there you go. These are likely some of the most significant goals/dreams of your life.  Soooooo, GET TO WORK. Begin where you are. Start small. You never know what might happen. You may just change your life and even the lives of countless people around you. At the very least, you’ll be offering yourself the ability to live your life without wondering, “What if . . .?”


—I have finally adopted Twitter (I can hear jaws dropping all over the world). I may have been slow to jump onboard, but I’ve posted more than 200 tweets chock-full of happy quotes, pictures and good news, to help myself, and whoever else sees them, stay inspired and make the most of each day. Twitter is more fun than a barrel of monkeys, well maaaaybe. . .a barrel of monkeys would be pretty fun, too! Either way, you can follow me here.

—My book The Power of Starting Something Stupid has been (the most challenging and) the most important project I’ve ever worked on. I’m thrilled with the way it’s coming together. I can’t wait to share more information with you soon! Stay tuned!

24 Comments post a comment
  1. Aaron Dec 11th 11:05 am

    What’s up Richie!! Just want to say that i have been in a funk lately…but I re-read your book resumes are dead and it reminded me to keep doing what I love to do and to do more with the skills and passions that i have been blessed with. Mahalo braddah!!

    • Richie Norton Dec 11th 11:21 am

      You’re awesome, Aaron! Thanks for the nice note. I know what funks are like. No fun. Glad something in the book helped. Keep making waves!

  2. kimberly oyler Dec 12th 8:57 am

    love the idea of pursuing your dreams as real possible things. that is not my natural mindset! Thanks richie! and thanks again for the kindle fire! still loving it!

    • Richie Norton Dec 12th 9:40 am

      Thanks SO much, Kim!!! You’re awesome. Glad the Kindle Fire is keeping you warm. :-) Thanks for following the blog.

  3. Natalie Norton Dec 13th 8:34 am


    • Richie Norton Dec 13th 8:40 am

      Thanks SO much! Love you!

  4. Natalie norton Dec 13th 8:35 am

    *proud your MINE, not MIND, because that means nothing.

  5. Darci Laidlaw Dec 13th 3:48 pm

    Very Excited to read your book! The title is spot on. IN 2013 I have plans to do something I’ve always wanted to….record an album. Maybe it will only have 2 songs on it. Maybe it will only ever be heard by my kids and family. But I’ve always wanted to do it, and no matter how “stupid” it might feel to be a 30-year-old mom of (almost) 4 recording a little self-produced album, i know that if it’s my dream, it’s something worth doing. :)

    • Richie Norton Dec 14th 8:44 am

      Love that, Darci!!!!

  6. A thought picture to go with yesterday | Mark Gedeon Jan 01st 9:30 am

    […] I found this article today and thought I would continue yesterdays thought. This is an interesting read: […]

  7. Luke Gedeon Jan 02nd 7:59 am

    Our stupid idea is to build the best castle ever. We are building a website first that will be a planning ground for the castle as well as the top destination for info about castles and the middle ages. reason for trying to make the site popular is to attract the thousands of people with different skills and abilities that will be needed to pull this off.

  8. Make The ConnectionsBelieve You Can Build Your Ship - Marc Allred Jan 27th 6:22 pm

    […] everyone has some kind of greatness waiting to be unleashed.  Others might call your dreams stupid, may think you are unwise, and some may even try to hurt you because you follow your dreams.  But […]

    • Richie Norton Jan 29th 3:46 am

      Amazing! Thanks, Marc!

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  10. Bertelur - Sound Stupid? Dumb Business Ideas That Turned Out to be Pretty Smart Dec 11th 9:06 pm

    […] the name sounds stupid. According to a Twitter co-founder Biz Stone (yes, real name), even the engineers thought it was a stupid idea. But Twitter’s initial public valuation exceeded $30 billion. And it’s changed the way […]

  11. The Last Laugh: Why Good Ideas Are Often Ridiculed at First… | STARTUPS WAVE May 17th 8:37 am

    […] Twitter, which has seen better days but rocked the world with an initial $30 billion valuation, was thought to be a “stupid” idea by its engineers, and even one of its […]

  12. The Last Laugh: Why Good Ideas Are Often Ridiculed at First… – STARTUPS May 17th 12:11 pm

    […] Twitter, which has seen better days but rocked the world with an initial $30 billion valuation, was thought to be a “stupid” idea by its engineers, and even one of its […]

  13. The Last Laugh: Why Good Ideas Are Often Ridiculed at First May 17th 12:41 pm

    […] Twitter, which has seen better days but rocked the world with an initial $30 billion valuation, was thought to be a “stupid” idea by its engineers, and even one of its […]

  14. The Last Laugh: Why Good Ideas Are Often Ridiculed at First… | Startups Access May 17th 2:22 pm

    […] Twitter, which has seen better days but rocked the world with an initial $30 billion valuation, was thought to be a “stupid” idea by its engineers, and even one of its […]

  15. The Last Laugh: Why Good Ideas Are Often Ridiculed at First… | STARTUPS PLAN May 17th 8:11 pm

    […] Twitter, which has seen better days but rocked the world with an initial $30 billion valuation, was thought to be a “stupid” idea by its engineers, and even one of its […]

  16. The Last Laugh: Why Good Ideas Are Often Ridiculed at First… | Startup Rates May 24th 10:23 am

    […] Twitter, which has seen better days but rocked the world with an initial $30 billion valuation, was thought to be a “stupid” idea by its engineers, and even one of its […]

  17. The Last Laugh: Why Good Ideas Are Often Ridiculed at First – Online Company Card Jul 16th 8:20 pm

    […] Twitter, which has seen better days but rocked the world with an initial $30 billion valuation, was thought to be a “stupid” idea by its engineers, and even one of its […]

  18. Why Good Concepts Are Typically Ridiculed at First - News Business Insider Oct 01st 6:52 pm

    […] which has seen higher days however rocked the world with an preliminary $30 billion valuation, was regarded as a “silly” concept by its engineers, and even considered one of its […]

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