Constrain Yourself!

Lance Discipline, Simplicity Leave a Comment

So you’ve got this aspiration — to create/build/fix/write/paint/draft/deliver that THING that will solve the problem, generate the opportunity, earn the promotion, win the account. But you haven’t done it yet, and the reasons why all point in the same general direction. If only you had more

  • time
  • money
  • resources
  • staff
  • freedom
  • inspiration
  • support
  • tools

But if creating something of value — something truly unique, innovative, and worthwhile — is what you are aiming for, chasing the Mirage of More will not only postpone your work from getting done, but it will doom you to mediocrity should you actually get ahold of it. This is because creativity flourishes within constraints. It is Necessity, and not Abundance, that is the mother of Invention. If it is creativity, innovation, and inspiration you are after, which is the better model? — a bomb-diffusing robot, or Angus MacGyver?

Great art and great ideas are not the product of boundless horizons and limitless freedom of resources. It is the rigorous discipline of working within defined constraints that forms the crucible in which great ideas are forged. For Shakespeare, it was the boundaries of the sonnet; for Harry Houdini, the restraint of the straight jacket and handcuffs; for Erik Wahl, it is the constraints of time. By artificially limiting himself to the 3 minutes it takes for a song to play, Erik forces himself to exchange Perfection for Creativity. The results are something else to see:


For me, the constraints of this effort are built into identity of this blog itself. This isn’t an open platform for me to say whatever I have to say about whatever crosses my mind. This isn’t the place you will find my thoughts on current events, news, sports, or matters of faith. Items from each of those aspects of my life may show up here, but only if they are part of advancing the defined purpose of this blog: the task of Leadership, the ideas that support it, and what I believe are five essentials to effective leadership. If you want to know what I think about the general state of affairs, go find me on Twitter (hint: Western Civ – we had a good run).

Quit trying to get more to do something. Find a way to give yourself less to work with. Write that mission statement in 140 characters or less. (That’s right: 140 characters, not words!) Aim for Excellence with what you’ve got.


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