Lessons From a Vexillonaire: Creativity, Simplicity, and the Carefully Constrained Life, by James Clear
How to Design a Beautiful Flag:
“A 3×5 foot flag on a pole 100 feet away looks about the same size as a 1×1.5 inch rectangle seen about 15 inches from your eye. Try drawing your flag on a rectangle that is 1×1.5 inches. You’ll be surprised at how compelling and simple the design can be when you hold yourself to that limitation.”-Ted Kaye, vexillonaire
He uses the Chicago flag to illustrate.
The power of well-chosen limitations extends far beyond flag design. Imposing simple constraints in our own lives can lead to well-designed and more effective lives as well.
Here are a few examples from my own experience:
As an entrepreneur, I saved up $10,000 before I started my first business. This money was my constraint. I had to learn how to create products, market my business, and live off of that money until I became profitable. This constraint forced me to start an online business, reduce overhead, and—after a few years of other projects—build this website.
As a traveler, I pack ultralight and often travel for 2 weeks with just a 19-liter backpack. This tiny bag is my constraint. It still amazes me how little I actually need when I’m on the road. Furthermore, my small backpack required me to find the most useful and effective items for my needs. It didn’t just make my travel lighter, it made my travel better. (Related: If you’re interested, let me know and I’ll publish my ultralight packing list.)
As a writer, I set a publishing schedule of every Monday and Thursday. This bi-weekly deadline is my constraint. Has it always gone smoothly? No way. Sometimes I don’t feel like showing up, but I still do. And because I have religiously kept this publishing schedule, I have some very popular articles to show for it. Genius only reveals itself when you show up enough times to get the average ideas out of the way.
We usually assume that constraints are the things that hold us back from what we want, but well-placed limitations can make us better, not worse.