The Sweet Spot: The Goldilocks Principle

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
3 min read

Getting things just right

The Goldilocks principle is named after the fairy tale The Three Bears. In this tale our hero Goldilocks while in the forest comes upon the domicile of the bears and checks it out while they are away. There are three bowls of porridge: too hot, too cold and just right, and three beds: too big, too small, and just right.

Here is a post that explores the concept of fitting the person to one size bed.


Like Goldilocks it is a good idea to seek that golden path of moderation. Moderation coupled with consistency can be a powerful combination for self-development and achieving goals.


Aristotle proposed that all of us are looking for the means to become wholly realized beings. Eudemonia is what he called this fully realized existence. Eudemonia can be achieved though the principle of following the golden mean. This is the ideal of moderation in all things.

This is the path to happiness and well-being: a state of excellence characterized by flourishing across a lifetime.


Another way to think about The Goldilocks Principle is in hacking flow states. Flow states are where everything is going perfect. We have all had those experiences where everything just seems to flow and be effortless and executed with perfect timing. We experience it playing sports or music or speaking where the words just come and our ideas are concisely and elegantly expressed.

How can we get more of that? ! One strategy is to tailor our activities to be not to difficult and not to easy: just right. That space is called the flow channel and its worth considering before embarking on any activity. Just the right amount of stress focuses the mind and body.


Goldilocks planets are just the right distance from their suns to support atmosphere and life. The Goldilocks zone is the habitable orbit zone around a star. It is where Captain Kirk always lands.


A Goldilocks economy balances moderate economic growth while maintaining low inflation. This allows for a monetary policy that benefits capital markets. A Goldilocks market occurs when the price of commodities sits between a bear market and a bull market.

Goldilocks pricing is a marketing strategy that employs product differentiation by offering three versions of a product to capture different segments of the market: a premium version, a middle version and a discount version.

Team Size

The Optimal Number is 5.

Small is beautiful. A key to management and leadership is creating teams that are sized in the sweet spot. That number is five plus or minus two. That goes for boards, development teams, meetings, and decision making.

If you want to get shit done, keep the amount of people directly involved around five.

Steve Jobs was known to kick people out of meetings if the size got too big.

Obviously this is a rule of thumb and doesn’t apply in every situation. Allow self-organization to work its magic. Articles on the agile movement mention a preferred team size of 7 plus or minus 2 for software development Scrum teams.

But by keeping this optimal 5 in mind we have a benchmark to work off of and keep in mind as we witness teams flourish or flounder.


In Jewish tradition the sweet spot number is ten. This is called a Minyan and is considered the optimal size for prayer and scripture reading.

Too much is just enough

The golden mean of Goldilocks is a countervailing idea to sybaritic excess and Dionysian revelry. They have there place too; in moderation.

Jerry Garcia used to end Grateful Dead concerts with a quote from William Blake:

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.

And we all know the Facebook exhortation to : Go fast and break things.

If everything seems in control you are going to slow

- Mario Andretti

There is truth in these ideas also. All really big ideas are characterized by the fact that there opposite is also true. The big balance is between the Goldilocks Principle and the Blake quote.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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