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

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.

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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.

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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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Constraints For Creativity
Constraints For Creativity

Limitations, constraints and deadlines, paradoxically help us unlock our latent creativity. They help us try the untested, take the risk and explore stuff we normally would not.

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Freedom From Paralysis

While too many constraints and rules are counterproductive, a balanced level of constraints helps creativity. Clearly stated constraints help us plan our scope of work and the amount of effort that has to be put.

Example: A pre-existing constraint with an employer of providing a two-page CV along with the cover letter help us draft the same with the limitations in mind.

Marissa Mayer
Marissa Mayer

“Creativity is often misunderstood. People often think of it in terms of artistic work — unbridled, unguided effort that leads to beautiful effect. If you look deeper, however, you’ll find that some of the most inspiring art forms — haikus, sonatas, religious paintings — are fraught with constraints.”

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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.