Book Giveaway: A Beautiful Constraint by Adam Morgan & Mark Barden
I am a big believer in the idea that proper, pragmatic parameters, even limitations, make us more free.
Speeding down the highway on an open road is a romantic, quintessential American notion of personal freedom, but speed limits give us all the freedom to head out on the roads every morning with the expectation of some sanity and order, and of getting to our destinations safely.
When an unmarried friend asked me recently if I ever miss being single, I laughed. I hated being single. I never knew which way to turn. There are too many fish in the sea, and all of them are lovely. Picking one always seemed arbitrary, until it didn't. And dating is fraught with the nagging question of how excited, intimate, and vulnerable you should allow yourself to become—as David Crosby wrote, "Everybody's been burned before."
Committing to one person for the rest of your life may seem risky, but I feel as if it has freed me up to love more fully, to give myself over completely. The real risk would be to not do it, to end up alone (unless that's your preference), or in multiple relationships that all demand effort and attention—which sounds a lot like less freedom to me.
Both have business parallels: how fast to grow your business, who to partner with... So I was really excited when A Beautiful Constraint by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden came across my desk. It takes the idea of useful constraints that boring little me just loves and applies it to creativity and inventiveness in business. And I wasn't disappointed. It is a breath of fresh air, a breeze coming in from a different cardinal direction in business—and the book's design is fresh and interesting, as well, no doubt because they gave the designers certain set of beautiful styles—i.e. constraints—to work within.
The authors eschew "big sky," "out of the box," even the word "innovation," for practical creativity, inventiveness, tenacity, solutions, and progress. And it takes on the very definition of a constraint as a negative thing:
This book’s aim is to show how and why the opposite is true. How constraints can be fertile, enabling, desirable. Why they are catalytic forces that stimulate exciting new approaches and possibilities. How they can, in fact, make us more than we were, rather than less than we could be. Why we should see in them beauty, rather than the beast, and why that is more important now than ever.
The fact is, we don't really have a choice as to whether or not we work under constraints; we simply are. Whether it be in terms of time, budget, staff, or natural resources, we all seem to have fewer and fewer resources at our disposal. And, yet, the barriers to entry are lower than ever before, changes quicker to take effect, the world somehow more malleable.
We sit at a nexus between an abundance of possibilities on one hand, and the reality of scarcities on the other. ... So are things getting better, or are they getting worse? The answer, we have to believe, lies in our own hands. It hinges on how we choose to approach these new and emerging constraints, and whether we have the confidence to choose a path toward stimulating new possibilities. We are the stories we tell ourselves ... if we believe constraints only limit us, then they will.
But, if we believe that these parameters free us up to start a new conversation and get to work, then we can... and will. And we should. Putting parameters on the possibilities of something—whether in a poem, project, or personal ambition—ironically opens up more possibilities, perhaps even making them endless. It means you can go back to the well again and again, with a modicum of confidence and safety in a loud and messy world, and find fresh answers and approaches within those constraints. I think a good place to start is with A Beautiful Constraint.
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