Jeff Bezos believes in many things. The Amazon founder believes in using a simple framework to make even the most complex decisions. That a timeless approach to startup success is building your business on a foundation of things that won'tchange.
That, where assessing intelligence is concerned, frequently changing your mind is a key measure. He even believes, at least to some degree, in two-pizza teams. Yet one of his most fundamental beliefs is that you should only be proud of your choices.
Not your gifts.
You may be really good at math. It might be really easy for you. That's a kind of gift. But practicing that math, and taking it to the next step? That could be very challenging and hard, and take a lot of sweat.
That's a choice.
You can't really be proud of your gifts, because they were given to you. You can be grateful for them, and thankful for them. But your choices? You choose to work hard. You choose to do hard things.
Those are choices that you can be proud of.
Another of those choices? Choosing to live a life without a (certain type) of regrets.
Choosing the Wrong Regret
There are two basic forms of regret.
- One looks forward. Consider something major you want to do -- like start a business, change careers, move to a new city, etc. – and you think about how much you might regret that decision if it doesn't work out.
- The other looks back. On the business you didn't start. The job you didn't take. The move you didn't make.
We don't usually regret the things we did, because even our biggest mistakes can eventually be overcome. (And, just as importantly, learned from.) What we eventually regret are the things we didn't do: the times we chose to let complacency, or comfort, or fear hold us back.
And the times we chose to not take a chance on ourselves.
In most cases our biggest regrets turn out to be acts of omission. It's paths not taken and they haunt us. We wonder what would have happened. I knew that when was 80, I would never regret trying this thing (quitting a good job to start Amazon) that I was super excited about... and it failing.
If it failed, fine. I would be very proud of the fact when I'm 80 that I tried. And I also knew that it would always haunt me if I didn't try. And so that would be a regret, it would be 100 percent chance of regret if I didn't try and basically a zero percent chance of regret if I tried and failed.
That's a useful metric for any important life decision.
If you're scared to start a business, find a reason that makes fear less relevant. Like wanting to create a better future for your family. Or wanting to make a real difference. Or wanting to live a more rewarding and fulfilling life.
Finding that "larger" reason helps you find the courage you need. "Brave" people? They aren't fearless -- they just found something that matters more to them than fear.
And they've decided that lasting regret won't come from trying and failing... but from never having tried at all.
Especially where their gifts are concerned.
Choosing Your Life Story
According to HubSpot co-founder Dharmesh Shah, people often confuse skill and talent.
- Skill is something that is learnable, while
- Talent is the rate at which you can acquire a particular skill
For example, if you have a talent for music, that just means you acquire musical skill faster than someone who doesn't.
And here's the thing: Most achievements are based on skill, not talent.
Take starting a business. Ultimately, startups require a certain set of skills. Based on your individual talents – based on your individual gifts – you can acquire some of those skills more easily than others. Some will come fairly quickly; others, as Shah says, will mean "grinding it out."
But they can all be learned. As Bezos says:
We all get to choose our life stories, and it's our choices that define us. Not our gifts.
You can only be proud of your choices, because those are the things you are acting on.
Be grateful for your gifts – and then choose to work hard to improve and leverage them.
But also be grateful for what you haven't been given, because working to acquire those skills will help you develop the determination, perseverance, and growth mindset you'll need to turn your dreams into a reality.
And will help ensure that someday, when you look back, you won't experience what research shows is the most common regret: not becoming the person you feel you could have become, if only you had tried.
Before it was too late.