Knowing When to Maximize

Are you a maximizer? Maximizers exhaustively seek the best, compare decisions with others, expend more time and energy. Also, according to this study, maximizers are unhappier with the outcomes.

The problem with maximizing as a mindset is that you end up spending a lot of time and energy on many decisions that just don’t matter as much.

Jason Fried, co-founder of 37signals, recently wrote about this:

Am I interested in increasing profits? Yes. Revenues? Yes? Being more productive? Yes. Making our products easier, faster, and more useful? Yes. Making our customers and employees happier? Yes, absolutely. Do I love iterating and improving? Yes sir.

Do I want to make things better? All the time. But do I want to maximize “betterness”? No thanks.


Having fun, exploring ideas, creating, solving, building great things for you and your customers, being proud of your work, challenging yourself, learning, growing, building a self-sustaining company on your own schedule, adding something useful to the world, and working with great people—that’s what this is all about. Not maximization of a metric.

When considering habits, Aristotle puts virtue in a middle between deficit and excess. For example, a deficit in Courage leads to cowardice, while excess leads to rashness. The real wisdom is knowing what is worth maximizing—very few things—and accept good enough for the rest, don’t obsess over other options, and move on after deciding.

maximizers satisfiers optimization

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