How Some of the Greatest Create Their Greatest
By Ed Delph
November 26, 2018
Constraints. Constraints. Constraints. Constraints turn into complaints. Then complaints turn into restraints. I’ve done it. You’ve done it. We all have done this. Some constraint we think or feel limits us and then that constraint makes us into its own image. Then we bow at its feet and complain. Hint: Idol worship like that is just idle worship. And your knees will start hurting after a few minutes too.
Do you recognize the following complaints and restraints about outward constraints? “I don’t have enough time to work out.” “I don’t have enough money to start a business.” “I can’t eat this food on my diet.”
Author James Clear has some great thoughts on constraints that can help us if we apply them. “So often we spend time complaining about the things that are withheld from us. But constraints are not the enemy. Every artist has a limited set of tools to work with. Every athlete has a limited set of skills to train with. Every entrepreneur has a limited amount of resources to build with. Once you know your constraints, you can start figuring out how to work with them.”
How do you work with constraints? In 1960, two men made a bet. There was only $50.00 on the line, but millions of people would feel the impact of this little wager. The first man, Bennett Cerf, was the founder of the publishing firm, Random House. The second man was named Theo Geisel, but you probably know him as Dr. Seuss. Cerf proposed the bet and challenged that Dr. Seuss would not be able to write an entertaining children’s book using only fifty different words.
Dr. Seuss took the bet and won. The result was a little book called Green Eggs and Ham. Since publication, Green Eggs and Ham has sold more than two hundred million copies, making it the most popular of Seuss’s works and one of the best-selling children’s books in history.
James Clear goes on to say in one of his articles: “At first glance, you might think this was a lucky fluke. A talented author plays a fun game with fifty words and ends up producing a hit.
What Dr. Seuss discovered through this little bet was the power of setting constraints. Setting limits for yourself — whether that involves the time you have to work out, the money you have to start a business, or the number of words you can use in a book — often delivers better results than “keeping your options open.” Dr. Seuss found that setting some limits to work within was so useful that he employed this strategy for other books as well. For example, The Cat in the Hat was written using only a first-grade vocabulary list.
I've noticed two reasons why this occurs. The first is constraints inspire your creativity. If you’re five-foot-five-inches tall and you’re playing basketball, you figure out more creative ways to score than the six-foot-five-inches guy. If you have a one-year-old child that takes up almost every minute of your day, you figure out more creative ways to get some exercise. If you're a photographer and you show up to a shoot with just one lens, then you figure out more creative ways to capture the beauty of your subject.
Secondly, constraints force us to get something done. This is why professionals set a schedule for their production while amateurs wait until they feel motivated. Sticking to your schedule doesn’t have to be grand or impressive. Just commit to a process you can sustain. If you have to, reduce the scope.”
Why not appropriate these enlightening ideas today? Appropriation is the act of taking something for your own use. Don’t allow the ‘woulda, shoulda, couldas’ of life stop you. If it applies to you, take it.
By the way, every one of these principles is Biblically correct and spiritually accurate. Jesus did this with some fish and loaves and twelve disciples who were the island of misfit toys. Jesus gave the power of constraints a black eye. Perhaps you can too!
Limitations just determine the size of the canvas you have to work with. What you paint on it is up to you.
Ed Delph is a leader in church-community connections.
Visit Ed Delph's website at www.nationstrategy.com