The other day, I was scrolling down my LinkedIn feed when I came across on old video of Jeff Bezos giving a speech at some conference or other. In it, he introduces his “regret minimisation framework.” Basically, when we are faced with a tough decision, Bezos says that we should project ourselves forward to age 80 and speculate if we are going to regret having not tried something.If the answer is yes, then the decision is easy.
Time and again, research has shown that people regret the things that they didn’t do more than the things that they did, and the advice to YOLO has been repeated so often that it has almost become trite. However, all it took was for a billionaire to give it a fancy new name – “regret minimisation framework” – that reminded people of his success as an entrepreneur, and voila, the greatest new hack to success had been created.
Bezos prompts us to ask the question: how can I go about decision-making to minimise the number of the regrets that I will have at age 80? By dubbing this concept “regret minimisation framework,” it is as if life can be optimised to achieve the maximum, allocatively-efficient solution.
People nowadays approach life as an algorithm or an optimisation problem to be hacked.
The way that we phrase things shapes our reality. And whether we agree with it or not, it is interesting to consider how the language we use gives away our implicit beliefs and biases. People two hundred years ago hardly ever talked about things in productivity terms. Nowadays, when I make a split second decision on whether to go to the gym or work on a problem set, I refer to the decision in terms of opportunity cost – does the opportunity cost of spending an hour at the gym (one hour of studying) outweigh the benefit? My friend refers to the little choices that we make on a daily basis as our utility functions, which are reflective of the value that we derive from different activities.
By talking about things in economic terms, our time becomes increasingly commodified. and so is human life. After all, I doubt that people three hundred years ago referred to things in terms of productivity.