My friend and student Semion asked me about something called “the system of the golden question.” He told me that in 1994, Jeff Bezos, founder and executive chairman of Amazon, had decided to leave the hedge fund where he was vice president and start an online bookstore. His boss asked him to reconsider his resignation and gave him 48 hours to think it over, and that he would give him a raise if he chose to stay. During those 48 hours, Bezos did a lot of thinking. He imagined being 80 years old and regretting not going through with his decision. He also realized that if he did not succeed, he would not regret it. So he decided to go through with his resignation and establish the online bookstore that eventually became Amazon.
This series of questions, Semion said, is called “the system of the golden question.” Essentially, it incorporates five questions, which are actually one: How will I feel about my decision tomorrow, in a week, in a month, in five years, and in 20 years?
Questions are very important. When facing crossroads in life, it is important to ask the right question. In my opinion, at such moments, the question to ask is “With what outcome do I want at the end of my life?” or “What kind of conclusion do I want to come to in the end?”
This is not a simple situation. If you feel that you are going to miss out if you do not make a leap into the unknown now, then you should follow it because otherwise, you might spend the rest of your life regretting that you did not choose to go for it. On the other hand, if your leap does not succeed, what will be the price of failure?
Therefore, we must not take such decisions lightly and we cannot upend our lives every other day. However, once or twice in life, we need to make radical changes. If we avoid making any decisions and remain hesitant, we will achieve nothing and always regret it.
Like everyone else, I had my own critical moments in life, which required radical decisions. One such decision was to leave the Soviet Union and move to Israel. Another, even more radical decision, was to give away a business that was making millions for literally nothing, and stick to my teacher RABASH. I never regretted either decision, not even for a minute.
I had a goal in life, there was a real opportunity to achieve it, and I would give up anything for it. It paid off. I now have what I really wanted in life, and I do not need gold, money, cars, or anything else.
For me, the way to handle the turning points in life was not to look back, but to look ahead, at the last day of my life, and ask myself: What will be the conclusion of my life, the bottom line of it?
I had to know that whether or not I succeeded, and even if I made mistakes, I put in the effort. This is what counts—that I made the effort, that I tried my best to make it happen.
Life has a purpose; we need to be ready for it, and when the opportunity to realize it comes, we must be ready to leap into the unknown.
Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos talks with reporters at a press conference in New York where it was announced that an agreement was reached to re-launch Borders.com as a branded Web site powered by Amazon.com‘s e-commerce platform, April 11, 2001.