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Wisdom from Squidward

October 18, 2011

In my previous life, I taught high school economics and one of the concepts we talked about was the “law of diminishing marginal utility”.  In simple terms, this means too much of a good thing can lose its value.  As Squidward gobbles his 100th krabby patty in the video, there is not nearly as much enjoyment as he had with the first one or even the tenth or twentieth one.  Pretty simple concept, too much of a good thing is not good.  Right?

I think this may be a concept we have lost sight of in our hyper caffeinated, ultra competitive world.  The usual logic goes that if 5 of something is good, then 10 is better and 20 is awesome.  This could be piano lessons, travel ball games, vacations, video games or anything else we enjoy or value.  More is better is the American way.  Super size me.

Intuitively, we know that getting out of balance is probably unhealthy in most cases.  Motivation and enjoyment can drop as a once precious activity becomes routine.  So, why do we do it?  Specifically, why do we do it to our kids?  I think the answer is simple:  fear.  When I was coaching high school baseball years ago, I felt compelled to run a summer program and have a combined 70 games between the spring and summer.  Did the summer program help our competitiveness?  Absolutely.  Could we have sliced off about 20 games and probably achieved the same result?  Probably.  So, why didn’t I reduce the schedule?  Why did I risk serious harm to my family relationships and keep the larger schedule?  Simple, I was afraid that since everyone else was doing 70-80 games, I needed to do it too in order to stay competitive.  My fear led me to make an irrational decision.

As fathers, none of us wants to see our kids fall behind or become disadvantaged.  But, truly more is not always better.  From the boom of overuse injuries in athletics, to burnout in music and theater to drug use as a way to cope with academic stress, more is truly not always better. I am all for pursuing excellence, but our kids need boundaries and balance.  Dads, we need to check our own egos at the door and look out for the long term health of our children.  If we do not provide the boundaries for our children, who will?

As Ben Franklin said, “Do everything in moderation.”  Your kids will thank you.

Patrick Donohue is a Life Coach in Oak Park, IL.  Contact him at

One Comment leave one →
  1. October 18, 2011 10:57 pm

    I’m with you in spirit—and I’m with SpongeBob ( Namaste

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