The Law of Diminishing Returns IRL.

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all, in which case you have failed by default.”

J. K. Rowling



Self-Reflection is Important

Over the past few years, I’ve started to realize more and more how important self-reflection can be. Work, love, decisions about the future – I often find myself analyzing and reevaluating things I’ve done over time. I don’t find myself doing this because I regret the decisions I’ve made or wish things didn’t shake out the way they did. I do this because I’m understanding more and more how important it is to learn from them.

Everyone who has experienced success generally loves to go back in time and think about/celebrate how great it was. I’m no different than most folks in that regard. However, I’m also starting to focus more on the less than favorable things I’ve experienced in hopes that I can better understand how I can avoid or fix things that I do which I consider to be a trend. The more I understand and can pick up on what’s happening earlier, the quicker I can pivot away and avoid wasting the time/effort/emotion that goes into fully realizing that this “thing” went completely left for me and now it’s time to move on.


Understanding Yourself and Your Tendencies/Trends

One of the biggest things that I have come to understand about myself when we’re talking about trends is something I started to realize over the past few months at work. The gist is that I started to look back at the things in my life – especially at work and at home – and noticed that I have an overwhelming tendency to just not accept that it would be in my best interest to move away.

If you’re a fancy econ major/lover, I’m consistently finding myself in the “negative returns space” in the Law of Diminishing Returns repeatedly. I put a ton of effort and time into the situation but the actual value – financial, self – just continues to drop. My biggest question that I ask myself in all of this is…if I get so invested in the things I work on or am a part of – how do I understand when I’m transitioning from productivity into diminishing returns and, most importantly, when to pivot away?

Take a look at this chart – I’m essentially finding myself on the slippery slope down into the abyss on the far right:

Law of Diminishing Returns

Diminishing Returns In Real Life

I found an interesting article that has an interesting approach to discussing every day life with the concept of diminishing returns.

The writer hits on some super relevant ideas – especially in the section where they address the examples of diminishing returns in action when it comes to our everyday lives. Here’s an excerpt:


  • Are the additional hours you are spending at work justified by the extra work you complete?
  • Are the additional hours you’re spending on a task justified by its quality improvement in output?
  • Have you reached diminishing returns in what you can gain in your current job? Is it time to request for an advancement, or if not, to explore other career options?


  • Are you trying to keep up with so many friends, contacts that you’ve compromised on your life?
  • Are you spending so much time with a person (a best friend; your partner) that it’s leading to diminishing gains for both of you? (For example, neglected life priorities? neglecting other relationships?)

Daily life:

  • Are you sleeping more than necessary to become well-rested?
  • Are you engaging in recreation, watching TV, or playing games past the point of adequate enjoyment?
  • Are you spending more time on Facebook/social media than necessary?


Right Your Ship

At this point, I’ve discussed my belief in the importance of self-reflection and understanding the concept of diminishing returns as it applies to your life. I also mentioned how, at times, I have a tendency to fall into the deep dark abyss of negative returns (weeeeee!). So how the heck do I stop repeating my past and right the ship?

Understand the opportunity cost

It’s a great idea to fully understand the opportunity in front of you and the explicit value it offers. If you understand what it takes in order to continue to benefit from a situation, it will better help you understand when the tables turn and the value you are getting from this situation is outweighed by the time/cost invested.

Stop being a perfectionist

It’s okay to be okay with failure. If you’ve read any business books or listened to anyone successful speak they’ll often hammer home this idea. Being a perfectionist in every aspect directly conflicts with your willingness to be okay with failure. I’ve had so many situations where I told myself – the biggest critic – that if I just keep pumping time and effort into things they’ll get better and I won’t fail. If I just landed the perfect idea or sent the perfect e-mail things could take a swing for the best. But…I still failed (and of course I didn’t take it easily). I need to bring the attention to detail and effort to each situation I’m involved with while learning to accept that if things start to take a turn for the worse a little “perfectionism” won’t always equal a silver bullet/instant win. If there’s a slim to none chance it’s going to deliver favorable results, it’s time to learn how to move on.

To quote the great Queen Elsa of Arendelle – “Let it go! Let it go!!!”

Every situation is different and I don’t believe there’s an easy calculation applicable to each where, upon hitting it, you’ll see that it’s time to just move on. However, if you better understand your opportunity and learn to get away from feeling like you’re spending a ton of effort making things perfect while getting diminishing returns then you’re going to best in the best position to understand when it’s time to move on.



Regardless if your situation is a failing project at work, a relationship that never seems to improve, or anything between – if this thing that was important to you is no longer making your days better and improving your life it’s time to just let it go. Remind yourself that getting out before the bottom falls out will be beneficial for everyone involved in the long run – most importantly it will be beneficial for you no matter how hard it might be.

Ultimately, you need to understand that the issues you’ve experienced in the past no matter if they led to a win or loss are going to help you in the future.  As much as it might pain you (physically, emotionally), you need to pick yourself up by the bootstraps, dust yourself off, and do whatever it takes to jump right into the next adventure.

Please follow and like us:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *