“You’re a rich girl, and you’ve gone too far ‘cause you know it don’t matter anyway,” sang Daryl Hall from the 1977 No. 1 hit. It tells the story of a young woman relying upon the wealth and incumbent power of her father to protect her from the consequences of her own actions. If not held to account, what keeps us from going, as the song retells, “too far?” At the other end, in the same year an epic war film, “A Bridge Too Far,” directed by Richard Attenborough, recounts the story of a failed Allied operation during World War II. Scores of men lose their lives because of the overreach and hubris of central command.
We imagine much of what we do through the three-pronged lens of the fairy tale “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” One thing is too much, one is too little, and the final is “just right.” We push ourselves to ensure that we go far enough, but not too far, in all matters, personal and professional. Trainers and coaches lead us to fatigue but not injury. Our technologies now lure us to engage but also encourage us to seek rest. But for most of life, we are left on our own to decide if we’ve gone too far or not quite far enough.
Even for the “rich girl,” the risks are significant as there is a cost associated with both excess and deficiency. In interpersonal relationships, when do we pass the point of no return? If there is such a spot, what transgression, word or violation of trust cannot be recovered? And if we take no action, what will attract others to our side? Even if supported by “the old man’s money,” it is still on us to gauge our contributions in context to those around us?