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The Weird Strategy Dr. Seuss Used to Create His Greatest Work (And Why You Should Use It Too)

The challenge

The challenge

In 1960, Theo Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, was challenged to write an entertaining children's book using only 50 different words. The result was the best-selling book, Green Eggs and Ham. It sold over 200 million copies.

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The Weird Strategy Dr. Seuss Used to Create His Greatest Work (And Why You Should Use It Too)

The Weird Strategy Dr. Seuss Used to Create His Greatest Work (And Why You Should Use It Too)

https://jamesclear.com/dr-seuss

jamesclear.com

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Key Ideas

The challenge

In 1960, Theo Geisel, known as Dr. Seuss, was challenged to write an entertaining children's book using only 50 different words. The result was the best-selling book, Green Eggs and Ham. It sold over 200 million copies.

The Power of Constraints

Dr. Seuss discovered while writing his book "Green Eggs and Ham" the power of setting constraints.

Setting limits for yourself (time, money, words, etc.) often leads to better results than if you keep your options open.

Constraints have benefits

  1. Limitations inspire you to find creative solutions. If you have a one-year-old child that requires all your time, you have to find creative ways to get some exercise.
  2. Constraints force you to get something done. Without constraints, we would postpone our tasks, sometimes indefinitely.

That is why professionals set a schedule for their production while amateurs wait for the perfect moment.

Constraints are Not the Enemy

We often complain about our limitations. "I don't have enough time." or "I don't have enough money." Every artist has a limited set of tools to create with. Every entrepreneur has limited resources to work with.

Constraints don't hamper you. Once you know your constraints, you can find out how to work with them.

Your limitations

  • You only have half an hour to exercise? That is your limitation. Put those 30 minutes to proper use.
  • Can you only spare 15 minutes each day to write? That is the size of your constraint. Your job is to make it a work of art.
  • You only have $100 to start your business? Great! Make each sales call work for you.

We can complain about our limits or use them. How you use that constraint is up to you.

SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Past Deciding The Future

We let our knowledge and experiences of the past project into our future, by making concrete predictions that this or that cannot happen due to what happened in the past.

But life is constant...

Learned Helplessness

This is a mental state where, as a result of a certain bad experience, we believe that we can’t do anything about a certain problem.

Negative Motivation

We can start to feel helpless when we see people fail in a certain plan, and this could start acting as a negative motivation in our minds.

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Limitations of Language

The rich and diverse aspects of human experience cannot be captured by the language of philosophy, no matter how rich it becomes.

Great poets see life around them as we do, but they skillful...

The Canvas

Literal language is functional, and is a utility, serving the purpose of communication, while poetry captures the beauty, the essence of an object, doing away with the descriptions and linear definitions.

The creative nature of consciousness can be described by the analogy of a canvas. Our consciousness is a blank canvas initially and as we gain education, experiences and perform actions, we paint this canvas, slowly adding details, and the final work of art is the story of our lives.


Our expression of creativity is born out of the interactions and experiences we keep having. The canvas that we paint can be cohesive and whole or can be broken and messy.

The Truth Shines

There are some creative and artistic people who are genuinely authentic in anything they do. They are having a secret inside them, a fragrance that comes with completeness and realism. These people have, through hardships, suffering, and reconciliation, have discovered a core inside them, a certain light that is brightly shining.

This quality shines through in the writings and works of genuine artists. Maybe their poetry, which is seemingly so profound, isn’t poetry at all, but pure truths that they have simply expressed honestly.

Elements of well-being
Elements of well-being

Well-being can be broken into five elements:

  • Positive emotion
  • Engagement
  • Relationships
  • Meaning
  • Accomplishment

If you improve ...

Wired for pessimism

Pessimism comes naturally to people because thinking about the bad stuff that could happen helps us to prepare for survival.

The problem is that pessimists think bad events are permanent and unchangeable. "I think my interview is going to be a disaster." We need to learn to recognize what we're saying to ourselves and then argue against it. "I've done many interviews in my life, and they generally turn out well."

The need for hope

Meditation - mindfulness, focusing on the moment - is an excellent anti-anxiety, anti-anger tool..But accepting suffering and finding contentment in that means you can't move into doing something good in the future.

One important idea is hope. Positive human future doesn't come about by accident - it needs hopeful people who plan for it and make it happen.

Constraints vs Obstacles

Constraints are viewed as obstacles. The common wisdom regarding obstacles suggests that we have to remove all constraints.

We tend to believe that by getting rid of all rules and regulations...

Embracing Constraints

New research suggests that managers can innovate better by embracing and working with constraints, instead of viewing them as a hindrance to innovation.

The Mind Needs A Challenge

When there are no challenges in the creative process, complacency comes in, and people tend to go for the most intuitive and easy ideas rather than investing in the development of better but difficult to implement ideas.

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Intermittent fasting
Intermittent fasting
It's not a diet, it's a pattern of eating, a way of scheduling your meals so that you get the most out of them. It doesn’t change what you eat, it changes when you e...
Benefits of Intermittent Fasting
  • It makes your day simpler: fewer meals= less stressing about what you'll eat.
  • It helps you live longer: you get the benefits of a longer life without the hassle of starving.
  • Still up for debate, but intermittent fasting may reduce the risk of cancer.
  • It is much easier than dieting, once you get over the idea that you need to eat all the time.
Different Fasting Schedules
  • Daily Intermittent Fasting: 16–hour fast followed by an 8–hour eating period. 
  • Weekly Intermittent Fasting: One of the best ways to get started with it - do it once per week.
  • Alternate Day Intermittent Fasting: incorporates longer fasting periods on alternating days throughout the week.
Albert Einstein

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.”

Albert Einstein
The World Is Always In Motion

Human beings are always moving towards growth, either positive or negative (backward growth).

If we do not provide constant nourishment to our body and mind, we will become stagnant, stale and in danger of withering away.

Emotions and Transformative Experiences

Staying inside our comfort zones keeps us from having regular transformative experiences. More than logic or reason, emotions are what invokes transformation in humans.

Emotions are tied to memory, which is fluid and is affected by deep, intense emotions.

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Risk and preparation

Risk is more than something bad happening. How risky something is, depends on whether you're prepared for it. A small thing out of the blue can be deadly.

We should also remember this when t...

The biggest economic risk

The biggest economic risk is what no one’s talking about. If no one is talking about it, no one will be prepared, and the damage will be amplified when it arrives.

In recent years, people cited the trade wars and election as risks. It is the same risks, repeated over and over. People may be worried, but no one is surprised. A business may be concerned, but many have prepared. Compare that to what, in hindsight, have actually been the biggest risks.

When risks turn into disasters

What turn events into disasters is that few discussed them even moments before they occurred. They were surprises. People affected did not prepare, either mentally or with actions. They could only react, often surrounded by panic.

Two things happen with surprises:

  • You become vulnerable.
  • Surprises shake the beliefs that leave you paranoid and pessimistic.

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Individual Supplement Studies

Looking at individual studies won't determine if vitamin supplementation is good for you. They're scientifically dense and the conflicts of interest can be very hard to spot.

"Systematic revi...

Research Reviews’ Results
  • If you are healthy, and have a modern balanced diet, taking multi-vitamins and high-dose antioxidants may shorten your life.
  • There’s no evidence to support antioxidant supplements for primary or secondary prevention of diseases.
  • Beta-carotene and vitamin E seem to increase mortality, and so may higher doses of vitamin A.
  • Antioxidant supplements need to be considered as medicinal products and should undergo sufficient evaluation before marketing.
  • The functions of minerals and vitamins are understood largely by their deficiency diseases so there’s no certainty what they all do or how they interact.
  • Antioxidants soak up toxic, chemically-reactive by-products of metabolism called free radicals. These free radicals, left unchecked, can cause damage to DNA and may be linked to cancer.
  • Your body's immune system fights infections by using free radicals to kill bugs. Several of the minerals and vitamins in excess can cause damage.
Supplement Usage Recommendations
  • Folic acid for the women thinking of having a baby and pregnant women up to week 12 of the pregnancy.
  • Vitamin D for all pregnant and breastfeeding women, those aged six months to five years or over 65 and for people who are not exposed to much sun.
  • Vitamins A, C and D supplementation are recommended for all children aged six months to four years, especially those not eating a varied diet.
  • If they are prescribed to you for a medical condition.

one more idea

Bob Ross and the Joy of Painting
  • Bob Ross created and hosted Joy of Painting, an instructional television show that ran for years.
  • Even 25 years after his death, Bob Ross Inc. is still thriving. The official Bob Ross YouTube channel has over 4 million subscribers and more than 360 million total views. With the pandemic, millions of people have turned to Joy of Painting episodes.
  • Bob Ross had a level of positivity that was contagious. When someone can display that amount of peaceful happiness, it compels people to partake in the bliss.
  • Each episode feels complete. Before therapists knew to tell clients to be mindful and present, Ross told his viewers to appreciate every breath.
Bob Ross's magical draw

The show was as meditative as it was instructive. Ross put out pure positivity into the world.

In every episode, Bob Ross explained his art as a way of capturing the eternal beauty of the world. When he filled his canvas with color, he'd say things like, "This piece of canvas is your world, and on here you can do anything that your heart desires." When he painted a cloud, he might say, "A cloud is one of the freest things in nature."

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Opportunity Cost

It is the estimated value of the best alternative or the best option that one misses out as a consequence of picking one particular option.

Example: Spending a limited resource, lik...

Opportunity Cost in Non-financial Situations

Opportunity cost in non-financial situations is more difficult to quantify. The loss or gain with choosing an option while foregoing another can be subjective and not readily comparable.

Example: While deciding on which job offer to take, we may consider job satisfaction, brand name, commute time, long-term growth, and the salary offered. While finalizing, we have to forego the other best offer. While deciding on a career, we have to consider options like prestige, impact and the work sector.

Calculating Opportunity Cost

The way to calculate the opportunity cost is to subtract the value of the option from the value of the alternative that is foregone.

Opportunity Cost = Return on the best foregone alternative - Return on the chosen option.

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