We all face different challenges throughout our lifetime. Among many, these challenges vary from misfortunes, disability, competition and hostility. There are battles where we 'seem' to have the upper hand and times, while simultaneously 'seem' to be at a disadvantage with all odds stacked against us.
I write 'seem' because it's similar to the story of David & Goliath where it 'seemed' the giant Goliath had a clear advantage over David, the scrawny shepherd. Read the first few pages of Malcom Gladwel's latest book David & Goliath or take 15 minutes to watch his TED talk below: the unheard story of David & Goliath and you will realize how the strong are often surprisingly weak, that's if you look behind the obvious as David did.
Some of us have built bad habits of avoiding challenges & restrictions that might put us in a disadvantage. What if we went out of our way to set self imposed limitations and restrictions to gain an edge?
For example, below, you'll find a few examples of the power of limitations. Each one has succeeded, in part, by embracing their limitation and challenging themselves to unlock enormous advantages.
- Phil Hansen vs physical disability - As an art student, Phil Hansen’s intense style of pointillism led to a tremor in his hand and a diagnosis of nerve damage. Devastated, he dropped out and lost his way ... until a neurologist suggested he “embrace the shake.” That piece of advice tweaked Hansen’s point of view and sent him on a quest to invent different approaches to making art by embracing personal and universal limitations.
Highly recommend his inspiring TED Talk, Embrace the Shake.
- The 25 Mile Restaurant vs established restaurants - What if a restaurant only sourced the best local ingredients within a 25 mile radius for all their dishes? That's exactly what this restaurant from Cardigan did. They created their own limitation to gain an advantage. Though there will always be some exceptions to the rule like coffee, rice, etc., they've set a limit to source the freshest products from local producers and at the same time support their local economy.
The result, a new restaurant with a clear purpose & a great story that gets remarked over and over.
- Monocle Magazine vs Digital Magazines - every print media company scrambled to jump from print to digital media in a way to remain relevant to consumers needs. Opposing common belief, Monocle decided to hold back and focus on creating the best print magazine experience possible.
- Hiut Denim jeans vs Established Jean Brands - one of my favourite examples of self imposed limitations. Hiut Denim make jeans. That's it. Nothing else to distract or steal their focus. This way, they can continue to improve on what they do best every day - make the best pair of jeans, iterate and repeat.
I'm not advocating that all limitations and disadvantages are good, but rather when we're faced with an outsized challenge, we may learn something throughout our struggle that proves to be an enormous advantage.