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  • Writer's pictureJohn Selzer

Just Exist

Checking out is not only for the grocery store.

When was the last time you took a break?

And I mean a real break, not a short stroll to the coffee machine or a few minutes thumbing through Twitter in the bathroom. The kind where your phone is out of reach, your colleagues have been notified you are off the grid and you allow yourself simply unwind.

To recharge. To just exist for a little while.

It is easy to get caught up in the grind. Of work, family drama, life in general or whatever it is that is punching your buttons. You try to be a good soldier and just push on through. But it never seems to end, does it? And after a while, you find that with each plodding step forward, that next one just keeps getting harder and harder.

Time to hit pause.

I was reminded of this recently on a family vacation to the beach. I am not one to sit still; I need to be doing something. But when that something was sitting in a beach chair and baking in the sun, I must admit I felt a little uneasy at first. See, I hadn’t allowed myself to fully pull the plug out of the socket.

We all need to hit the mental reset button every once a while. We simply cannot keep pace with our best self if we do not properly maintain our engine, so to speak. Cars have service intervals for a reason.

In the field of economics, there is a concept called the law of diminishing returns. (Not to worry; I will keep this light and airy. I even made you a handy little graph to illustrate.)

Basically, it states that with each additional unit of input, output will change and fall into three distinct phases. The crux of those categories is utility – a fancy economic term that refers to satisfaction, productivity or usefulness.

Utility good. Dis-utility bad. Pretty basic stuff.

In college, my economics professor laid out this theory in the most relatable way for his audience: the diminishing marginal utility of beer.

It goes something like this: come Saturday night, beers one and two are pretty great. In fact, the second one went down more smoothly than the first. That would be increasing marginal utility. This is the best place to be.

By that third one, you’re still having a good time, but the relative enjoyment has begun to wane. You have arrived at the blue X and find yourself subtly shifting from full out “woo hoo!” to more like coasting along. This is the zone of decreasing marginal returns. All is still well and good; just not as great as when the first bottle was cracked open.

Work your way deeper into that six pack and you reach the red X. The dreaded inflection point. Pop the top on that next one and you cross over into dis-utility, where each additional drink has a negative return. Uh oh... Ladies and gentlemen, you have arrived at the ‘barf point’.

Party’s over. Turn off the music. Time for everyone to head home.

We all can get burned out, no matter how many Successories posters HR puts up on the walls or how much endless hustle you think you have. And that does not mean you are weak, uncompetitive, not ‘all-in’ or useless.

It makes you human.

So, ride that wave of increasing utility. Keep your slope bending up and to the right. But pay attention to the arc of your curve. If it feels like you are creeping up on that red X, tap out and take a break before things get, well… inflected.


Just Exist by Eliza & The Delusionals

Come on, folks; that band name is just awesome. I wish I had even an ounce of musical talent so I could pick up an instrument and lobby to become a Delusional. The capital “D” kind, that is. Not the state of mind.

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