3 Mindsets I Stole From Jeff Bezos — Even Though I Hate Him
Although a tyrant, his decision-making is pure genius
The best thieves steal wisdom — and if you’re into business, the best man to rob is probably Amazon’s bald founder.
But hey, I’m not suggesting you tyrannize your employees, evade taxes, or spend millions on giant useless clocks and eye-popping yachts. I’m talking about the kind of decision-making that grew Amazon from a laughable bookstore to a trillion-dollar company.
Below you’ll find three mental gems and how to apply them in your professional journey.
The 70% Rule
Amazon’s business philosophy boils down to three letters and one digit. “Day 1.” As you may have guessed, the idea is to consider every day in your company as the first.
“Day 2 is stasis. Followed by irrelevance. Followed by excruciating, painful decline. Followed by death,” Bezos wrote. “And that is why it is always Day 1.”
In most cases, Day 2 doesn’t happen overnight. Rather, it’s a slow burn that lasts years or even decades. According to Bezos, the main cause of such decay is slow decision-making. “Day 2 companies make high-quality decisions,” he said. “But they make high-quality decisions slowly.”
Bezos also highlighted that, on average, a high-quality decision requires 90% of the information you think you need to make that decision.
Day 2 companies strive to gather the said 90% and that’s exactly why they die. It’s like obsessing over what to buy with your sales coupons and just as you make up your mind, you realize they’ve expired.
The alternative? Bezos calls it the 70% rule. Here’s how it works.
You should make your decision as soon as you gather 70% of the information you wish you had to make that decision.
How do you know how much information is 70%? You don’t. You make an estimation based on a system.
Here are three simple tools I’ve been using to apply the 70% rule to my business decisions.
- Checklists. Every decision comes with a series of questions. How much does this cost? When will it become profitable? How can I scale it? Who can help me? As soon as you fill in 70% of the answers, stop thinking and make your move.
- Schedules. Instead of tracking the quantity of information, track the time you spend on a given decision. Say you gave yourself ten days to study an investment opportunity. The rule says that by day seven, you should have enough insight to settle.
- Spreadsheets and formulas. Trackable stats like sales, views, and workload help you decide which projects to prioritize. Many entrepreneurs review their performance data once a year though. Applying the 70% suggests you do it every eight months instead.
And remember, there’s no such thing as a final decision. You can always change your mind.
“Disagree and Commit?”
Back in 2016, Bezos wasn’t in favor of launching a particular show on Amazon Studios. He thought the money should go to a lesser risky project, but the content creation team stuck to their guns.
Instead of going through an endless cycle of arguments and counterarguments, Bezos replied: “I disagree and commit and hope it becomes the most watched thing we’ve ever made.”
Bezos’ reaction wasn’t a do-whatever-you-want free card; it was a well-thought decision that saved a lot of time. After all, the team that won 11 Emmys, six Golden Globes, and three Oscars knew what they were doing.
“Disagree and commit,” basically means, “Hey listen. I see flaws and risks in your decision but I trust your judgment and will commit with you. No need to waste any more time on convincing me.”
The same pattern applies when you disagree with your co-founder or a team member when they suggest a gamble that makes you wince. Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to commit to everything you disagree with.
Here are three situations where “disagree and commit” is most relevant.
- When you disagree with experts. Share your worries but turn down the volume of your skeptical voice. They’re called experts for a reason. Listen to them.
- When your proposal is outvoted. Like Bezos, don’t waste time convincing or asking people to convince you. Support your team and their choice instead.
- When you disagree with low-risk suggestions. Giving greenlight to tiny decisions you disagree with builds trust and inspires your team to take initiative. Even if things go wrong, you won’t lose much.
The reverse also holds true. Whenever you have a somewhat crazy bet that’s worth pursuing, ask your partners, “Disagree and commit?”
The Regret Minimization Framework
My most difficult decision so far has been to walk away from engineering. I gave up a comfortable salary, health insurance, validation from my family, and social status for a risky online venture.
The decision came with a few sleepless nights and a ton of compulsive eating — which could’ve been avoided if I’d found Bezos’ trick before I spoke with my ex-employer. He said my idea was great for a fresh graduate but not someone with three years of consulting under his belt.
Turns out Bezos and I share more than a haircut. He had a similar experience with his boss but had a better, much better way to make peace with his choice.
Young Bezos overcame doubt and regret by projecting himself forward into the future. He pictured his 80-year-old self sitting on a rocking chair and looking back at his life choices.
“In most cases, our biggest regrets turn out to be acts of omission,” Bezos said. “It’s paths not taken and they haunt us.”
“We wonder what would have happened,” he added. “I knew that when I’m 80, I would never regret trying this thing I was super excited about [quitting a good job to start Amazon].”
So whenever you’re considering a big pivot like starting over or going full-time on your side-hustle, ask yourself:
Would my 80-year-old self regret this decision?
Whatever it might be for you, the answer will make your decision easier. Much easier.
Most entrepreneurs picture decision-making as a mystical superpower that emerges from the gut. In reality, the only things that come out of your belly are gas and digested food.
Decisions, on the other hand, happen in your mind. But your mind isn’t enough — you also need a reliable system.
That’s why legendary investor Charles Munger uses mental models and why Elon Musk uses First Principles Thinking, and why Jeff Bezos put together decision-making rules.
Steal the pattern.
- Decide as soon as you have 70% of the information you wished you had.
- Disagree and commit with your team when they’re confident about their decision. You’ll save time and build trust.
- When facing a life-changing decision, ask yourself: “Will my 80-year-old self version regret it?” If no, go ahead.
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Business | Psychology | Marketing — What's your favorite quote? Mine is "True masters are eternal students."