In 1960 there was a bet between two people for US $50/. His friend challenged Dr Seuss that he will give him fifty dollars if Seuss wrote a book using only 50 different words, an entertaining book for children. Dr Seuss took the bet and won. The result was the book called “Green Eggs and White Ham!” Since publication, the book has sold more than 200 million copies, one of the best-selling books ever. I read the book yesterday!
We can think that it was a one-time fluke, but if we look at what Dr Seuss has done, we will understand the meaning of “The Size of Canvas”! Dr Seuss had a restriction that he could use only 50 different words. There is no question that Seuss was talented. He took up the challenge and was at his creative best. The constraint brought the best out of him. Many a time it so happens that too much of everything does not work, it becomes a hindrance to achieving what you want to do.
Many times, constraints bring out the best out of humans. Constraints put the limitations on resources available; they put limits on time possible, they may set restrictions on your network available.
How to use your constraints to your advantage?
The classic case of constraints bringing out the best in people is that of the nation of Israel. We all know that it is a tiny country, surrounded by enemies. Two things could have happened. They would have been crushed and overrun by the enemy. The second thing is they could have become a belligerent state fighting all the time. They chose the third path. They somehow managed to survive, thanks to the USA. But at the same time within their limited resources, they developed skill sets which are on par or better than many nations. Their skills in developing radars, AWACS and rockets and many such things are unbelievable. They have done fantastic developments in agriculture to convert their arid deserts into a highly productive zones. They have a smallish population of 8.9 million people as per records in 2018. By making it compulsory for all to join military for at least two years, they have a large pool of highly trained people. They had no choice, and they had no option, they had so many constraints but they overcame the issues. But they managed to convert these constraints to their advantage and made Israel a developed nation within a matter of a couple of generations.
I must give an example from cricket, my favourite sport. The great Sachin Tendulkar was going through some issues in his batting in 2004. India was in Australia. He was getting out hitting a cut or a cover drive on the off side. Sachin practised and practised! Someone suggested to he needs one big score to get his game back. In the Sydney test match, he decided not to play a single shot on the off side. Once Australians understood his strategy, they packed the fielding on the leg side and bowling on the off side. Sachin had created a constraint for himself of not hitting anything on the off side. His great talent helped him achieve this. He scored 241 runs under this constraint. It is one of best test match innings he has played.
For the cricket enthusiasts here is the link for the inning.
All of us have options to live life the way we want to live. Sometimes we are forced to work under constraints, but I feel that it is a good idea to work under some constraints. Here is why and how of constraints.
Constraints inspire creativity
You may be a basketball player of average height. You will find different methods of scoring in spite of having all your opponents who are much taller than you. Barak Obama became the first black president of United States; he is a live example for a book similar to one by Dale Carnegie “Win friends, Influence people”!
Oscar Pistorius’s had both his legs amputated when he was a baby. He became a para champion in running and won a medal in standard running races too, with artificial limbs. He won them instead of these constraints or was it because of the constraints? Limitations drive you to figure out solutions. Your constraints inspire your creativity.
Constraints force you to get something done
I have been blogging for a few years, but since last year, I have become a serious blogger. I have forced myself that I will produce a certain number of blogs every month. It takes 3 to 4 hours of writing and research, an hour of fine-tuning before my blog is published. I have written a blog on flights while travelling from the US back to India. I have written blogs when I was on holiday in Manali. I could have easily skipped the writing during these times, but my constraints have forced me to remain productive. There is no compulsion, but it has become a passion.
Then there is a passion for maintaining certain quality standards I have forced on myself. Without my schedule (the constraint), I would have pushed those blogs to a different day. Or I would never got around to them at all. Constraints force you to get something done and don’t allow you to procrastinate. I believe that professionals set a schedule for their creation while amateurs wait until they feel motivated.
Remember that constraints are not your enemies.
But constraints are not the enemy. Every artist has a limited set of tools to work. Every athlete has a limited set of skills to train. Every entrepreneur has a limited amount of resources to build. Once you know your constraints, you can start figuring out how to work with them.
Here again, I will share the story of Manasi Sagar, a young painter from Nashik. She had decided that she wanted to become a painter and that too an artist painting nude portraits. A middle-class girl from an average family like you and me finally put a constraint that she wants to become an artist of nude portraits. It’s tough, very tough. She has no contacts in the elite art world and is struggling. She has decided not to marry so that she can live the life that she wants.
Read my blog about her journey.
I am a trained engineer with ages of experience but now want to become a serious blogger. I don’t know at what stage I am, but I have put myself the constraint of remaining prolific round the year. I have also decided to try and maintain quality come what may. I don’t know if I am on the right path. But let me assure you constraints do help in a big way. Given below are the statistics from WordPress of what I have done in last year. It positively encourages me to work harder and better.
What constraints are you setting for yourself? What type of schedule do you have for your goals?
I have decided the size of my canvas!