Jeff Bezos’ Regret-Minimization Framework

Knowing when to quit is so important. I have put down a few projects and moved on. I even almost put down Infinity Softworks and moved on. Chris Dixon’s entire article is so good, but this section here has been my benchmark for a long time:

Another way to think about this is using what Jeff Bezos calls the “regret-minimization framework.” Imagine you do give up on your idea. Have you explored most of its plausible implementations? Are you confident that another entrepreneur won’t come along and make it work? You’ll regret it more if you nearly created a big company than if you spent an extra six months iterating.

One mistake that I made when I was going through this 5-6 years ago was to look for other people to give me enough input to make my decision. I figured if there was consensus then it must be the correct answer. But I found that people tell you what they think you want to hear in this case. And almost every one you ask won’t have as much information as you do when making this decision.

A friend visualized this for me. He said the act of starting a business is like confronting a huge wall that stretches as far as you can see in both directions. The act of being successful is the act of doing anything you can to climb it, dig under it, go around it, whatever to get to the other side. He noticed that I had stopped attacking the wall.

I made the call to move on all those years ago. My wind-down of Infinity Softworks lasted three months and I was pulled back in. I changed the wall. I saw a bigger challenge in front of me then the one before and it opened itself up to new ways of getting to the other side. It re-energized me.

I have a friend going through this right now. Her board said stick with it but she decided she didn’t want to attack this wall right now, that after five years of trying to make the business go, it was time to let go.

It’s an impossibly tough decision. And it is no different then mourning the loss of a close relative. If you have to make this decision, I wish you the best of luck. It is not an easy one.