Jeff Bezos’ Tip for Overcoming Decision Paralysis

Jeff Bezos’ Tip for Overcoming Decision Paralysis

From the moment you wake up, you’re bombarded with decisions to make. What should I eat for breakfast? Which pair of socks best matches my tie? Should I buy coffee or make it at the office? All of that and more before you even begin your workday.

As a business owner, you likely encounter even more important decisions daily — from who to hire to what the Q1 budget will be to how to select a new vendor.

The stress that results from this constant decision making can cause us to 1) avoid making any decision at all or 2) overthink our options so much that we fear making the “wrong” choice. Instead of looking at these decisions as right vs wrong, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos takes a different approach. 

According to him, decisions can be separated into one of two categories: almost impossible to reverse or easy to reverse. The almost impossible to reverse decisions are like one-way doors and require careful and thoughtful deliberation. “If you walk through and don’t like what you see on the other side, you can’t get back to where you were before,” he described in a letter to shareholders.

In Bezos case, consider his decision to quit his job and pursue his idea of an online bookstore versus increasing the Amazon Prime subscription fee.

Thankfully, most decisions are not like that. Although in the moment they might seem like it, it’s important to always distinguish the two. Mistaking an easily reversible decision for a nearly impossible to reverse one can lead to lack of innovation and unthoughtful risk aversion.

As Bezos stated, “To invent you have to experiment, and if you know in advance that it’s going to work, it’s not an experiment. Most large organizations embrace the idea of invention but are not willing to suffer the string of failed experiments necessary to get there.”

The success you’ve had in your business thus far likely came from many well thought out decisions and a number of failures. While failure in the moment is terrifying, failure in hindsight is the catalyst for growth.

So, next time you’re faced with a decision where the outcome can be easily reversed, go for it. It may be the biggest success you’ve ever had, or it may just lead you there.

The Bottom Line

Decision making can be daunting, but dividing them into “almost impossible to reverse versus easy to reverse” should help you move from decision paralysis to keeping the ball rolling in your business.