Endless possibilities are endless. Technology lifts limits, but provides no direction. The land of opportunity is all potential.
The result: dissipated energy.
“A large part of the beauty of a picture arises from the struggle which an artist wages with his limited medium.” -Henri Matisse
Maybe limitations aren’t something to be removed, but something to be embraced. Perhaps, the more external barriers are removed from around us, the more we should be establishing internal barriers to reinforce us. When’s the last time you made a list of the things you won’t budge on? You know, those things from life experience, that you’ve come to realize are really important to you, or that you don’t want to let happen. Maybe stop and do that now. Or start thinking about them, and make a list later today or this week. See them in black and white. Test them over a couple weeks, and find out how strongly you really feel about them. And then after you’re fairly comfortable with them, make a note of them somewhere you’ll remember.
Those things you listed are your frame – they form the boundaries of your life. This is where the fun part begins: it’s time to take out your pencil, and to metaphorically start sketching. What does life look like within that frame? What are the different compositional elements? Their relative sizes, and orientation to each other? Color intensity and texture choice? What doesn’t fit in the frame? Those things that didn’t meet the criteria you established? They may be good in their own right, but if they don’t fit within the picture, they just don’t fit within the picture.
Now it’s time to lay out a development path. In what order should you do things? Should your first step be to remove something currently in the picture that you now recognize doesn’t fit? Or should it be to start developing something new that’s currently missing from the picture? The farther you look down that path, the more hazy things get. That’s okay. There’s no need to be as specific for those things, nor to lay out everything. Just look a little further ahead for those things which are the clearest to you, and do them, one at a time. Take the step you can see. You’ll be able to see the next one from there.
Then keep going.
Like the painter mentioned above, computer programmers also instinctively understand the importance of constraints. Any good programmer will get these out in the open at the beginning of the project: what are the constraints we have to work within? One such programmer entrepreneur is David Morin. He started at Apple, then went to Facebook, and is now developing Path, a new approach to the social graph. He was recently interviewed on a videocast about tech startups called Foundation, and had a lot of fascinating things to share. While I recommend you watch the whole 51 minute video, one of the comments I’d like to point out takes place at time marker 49:52:
“I don’t think it’s necessarily our goal to be a billion user company…for us it’s about growing along that curve that’s authentic to our values. It’s about design, it’s about quality, it’s about people being themselves, it’s about maintaining trust, it’s about doing all those things and staying focused on humans. How do we have an honest relationship with you? So I guess that’s what success maybe looks like for us.”
The point is not the growth, the point is the restraints. Our restraints define us, our boundaries provide our outline. Recognize and embrace your constraints, because as one of my favorite posters says, “You’ll never know how far you can go, until you spread your wings, and walk.” ;)
Adrian G. Simmons is a CPA innovating ways to put money in its place. After working as an auditor out of college for KPMG, he joined his father in public practice in 2002, and now acts as the Chief Creative Designer there. With the team, he looks for ways to help their customers become financially strong, so that they can focus on what truly matters in life. Adrian likes tech, uses a fountain pen, successfully attempted a half-marathon (and may try another) , and prefers dark over milk chocolate.