In every system, there’s a point where the system can not do more.

In a car, this limit is denoted by the gauge that measures the engine’s revolutions per minute (RPM).

When you step on the accelerator, the RPMs zoom up. However, you’ll notice the top end of the gauge is marked in red.

This is the red line.

If you push your engine past this line for too long, it will fail.

The thing is, every system has a red line.

In your body, when exhaustion is so high that caffeine no longer works to make you more alert, you’ve hit (and in all likelihood, surpassed) your limit.

Within a company, overexertion might be conveyed by the employee Net Promoter Score (NPS) – a popular way for businesses to measure customer or employee satisfaction with the company.

Within an academic environment, the pressure to succeed is too high when coping mechanisms like suicide and cheating are used or contemplated.

For highly successful people (and those who strive to be), the instinctive response tends to be: How do I move the red line even higher?

How do I push my body to go even longer without sleep?

How do I push my employees to produce even more before they break?

How do I do even better in school, regardless of the costs?

In all these scenarios and within virtually any system, there is another option.

Respect the red line.

If you’re exhausted, go to bed.

If your team can’t do more without consequences, drop or delay one of your priorities and redistribute staff on a more focused agenda.

If the best you can do academically without cheating or killing yourself is 88%, take the 88%.

The key factor that determines whether you can respect the red line is…


Not acceptance that you can’t push harder… because in the short run, you can.

Rather, it’s the notion that pushing beyond the red line has consequences and accepting that, at some point, the consequences aren’t worth it.

That is the hard part.

The only way to respect the red line is to give up any success that might seem just beyond the red line and be okay with it.


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