For most of us, just hearing this word evokes a negative response. Limitations. Restrictions. A cage that prevents us from spreading our wings.

However, if you’re familiar with the accelerants of disruption, you’ll know that Accelerant #3—Embrace Constraints—will be one of your finest friends if you are really serious about growth. To build momentum toward the life you dream of, you need resistance. You need structure. And constraints provide both.

Whether you are working at a startup, a Fortune 500 Company, or from a computer in your living room, embracing your constraints will be indispensable as you move up your learning curve. This episode will be divided into four parts, and I encourage you to listen to each section and really think about how it can apply to your situation.

Part One: Why you need constraints.

Part Two: How to turn constraints, or what appears to be stumbling blocks, into stepping stones.

Part Three: Tools for dealing with specific types of constraints.

Part Four: How use this information for maximum effect.

Along the way, I will share many stories of individuals and companies who embraced their constraints, and the lessons they learned from doing so. We’ll discuss constraints in time, rules, money, space, and knowledge. We’ll also discuss what happens most frequently to those who have no restraints, and I’ll give you a clue: it doesn’t involve rapid growth.

For disruptors, constraints are not a check on absolute freedom. They are a tool of creation.

Listen to the episode in the player above, or download and enjoy it on iTunes. If you’re so inclined, please leave us a review!

Takeaways from this episode:

  • Theodore Geissel published The Cat in the Hat in 1957, and entire book was a study in embracing constraints. Theodore’s friend asked him to write a 225-word book using “words every six-year-old knows.” It took a year and a half, but that book (and the books that followed) changed children’s literature forever.
  • Constraints provide parameters and signposts to show us where the gate to success may lie. It offers structure.
  • What is resistance for one person may be a trifle for another. Or, conversely, may be insanely and incomprehensibly difficult to someone else.
  • “Whom the Gods wish to destroy they give unlimited resources.” –Twyla Tharp, famed dancer/choreographer
  • Three ways constraints help you grow faster:
    • They provide feedback on what is working/what isn’t.
    • They force you to focus.
    • They reduce overwhelm, forcing you to isolate variables and solve problems one at a time.
  • “When you are willing to patiently isolate variables, you can more easily solve the equation of your personal disruption.”
  • Four-step process for turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones:
    • Move from victim to neutralizer to transformer.
    • Reframe to “I can, if…” instead of “No, but…”
    • Seek new sources of abundance.
    • Activate emotions.
  • The seven constraints: time, rules, money, space, expertise, buy-in, emotional (invisible constraints).
  • When I chose to focus on my blog in 2008-2009 I realized I needed to up my content publishing from twice a week to once a day. However, with a full-time job on the side this was not a feasible reality. Embracing this constraint, I began inviting guest bloggers to give me some breathing room. These bloggers provided stories that became integral to Dare, Dream, Do, my first book.
  • If there is something you are trying to get done and it continues to elude you, try this:
    • Ask yourself, what are you trying to accomplish?
    • What is a reasonable deadline? Is it tight enough to get my “creative juices” flowing?
    • Commit to others out loud. This increases your chances of following through.
    • Get curious. If you say you “don’t have time,” consider, is time really the issue? Or are you procrastinating because you’re scared? Question your initial reactions.
  • Remember to ask yourself questions. If you’re inside of a large organization, ask yourself, if this business unit had to be a profitable stand-alone entity, what would our business model be? If we had to assemble an A-Team with only 80% of our current budget, what would we do? How can we test our new idea for $1,000 or less? Or even $100?
  • To get buy-in, ask yourself, “If I had to persuade a 10-year-old that this is a good idea, how would I build my case?”
  • Constraints are most imposing when you start something new. Remember, you are at the low end of your S curve of learning.
  • Daniel Kahneman in his book Thinking Fast and Slow taught us tha the brain has two systems:
    • System 1 is influential, and “steers” System 2. It is emotional and prone to action. This is where we get out ideas.
    • System 2 is the controlled part of your brain that thinks slowly but can “overwrite” System 1. Study these concepts again and again to get them from System 1 to System 2 in your mind.

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