‘We Are Our Choices’

I asked: “Why did you quit your hedge fund job, pack up everything you had and move to a new city to start a risky company?”

He replied: “I wanted to minimize life’s regrets. You regret acts of omission, not acts of commission. You regret what you didn’t do rather than what you did do.”

I was early in my hunt for a dream job. I turned down a promotion at Bain & Co. and decided to come clean and quit. I wanted to be a free agent and interview freely.

As I wrote before (here), I found myself being recruited for a job at Amazon.com, reporting to founder and CEO Jeff Bezos. As we got to know each other, he asked my why I was giving up a sure thing to pursue something risky. That all led to the dialogue up top.

And, I got to ask Jeff about his radical choice to leave everything behind and start anew. He mentioned that he had read a study that asked nursing home residents about their biggest accomplishments and regrets. The biggest regret? People felt that they too often picked the safe path. They wished they took more risk.

And, Jeff didn’t want to be like that.

I’m reliving all this because a friend just commented about my recent post on how we can change our Life Story, and, thereby, change the arc of our lives.

In the comment, there is a three-minute video excerpt from a speech Bezos gave at a Princeton graduation. It’s up top, or click here. I love it.

Here is the transcript:

How will you use your gifts? What choices will you make?

Will inertia be your guide, or will you follow your passions?

Will you follow dogma, or will you be original?

Will you choose a life of ease, or a life of service and adventure?

Will you wilt under criticism, or will you follow your convictions?

Will you bluff it out when you’re wrong, or will you apologize?

Will you guard your heart against rejection, or will you act when you fall in love?

Will you play it safe, or will you be a little bit swashbuckling?

When it’s tough, will you give up, or will you be relentless?

Will you be a cynic, or will you be a builder?

Will you be clever at the expense of others, or will you be kind?

I will hazard a prediction. When you are 80 years-old, and in a quiet moment of reflection narrating for only yourself the most personal version of your life story, the telling that will be most compact and meaningful will be the series of choices you have made.

In the end, we are our choices.

So, my dear friends, what will you choose today? Please encourage me to:

  • Choose “the road less traveled”
  • Care freely for others
  • Be authentic always and everywhere

If I have done that, then I will have lived a good life.


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