#2 Working With Restrictions

Before we start, this post is the first post in my personal challenge to write 365 days this year. (I just now realized that coming up with 365 titles for posts is going to be the most difficult part of 365 days of writing.) I realized that I didn’t setup any rules/restrictions for myself (typical me trying to skate by), so let’s set some ground rules:

Posts can’t be pre-written with the exception of writing them from the hours of 11pm -1am. That said, it’s ok to sketch out ideas ahead of time.

Posts must be at least 500 words or more.

Posts can be about anything and everything.

Stream of consciousness is ok, but the submissions should at least be coherent for a reader to follow along without taking any performance enhancing substances.

Pictures are permitted but do not contribute to the word count, despite the popular idiom of it equaling 1,000 words.

Now this begs the question of whether or not writing about the above rules counts towards the word count. I’ll be good, so no I won’t count it. Ok, now onto the meat of the writing:

TL;DR Thinking in terms of limitations helps us solve tangible problems.

I meet a lot of people that tell me “I’d do what you’re doing or I’d do a different job IF ***.” There’s always an excuse for why they haven’t done something. Usually that excuse has to do with some limitation that they perceive and they are waiting for ideal conditions. I hate to break this to you, there are no ideal conditions that will get you there. Also, limitations is what drives creativity and innovation.

“But Tony, how does that make any sense? Isn’t the act of innovation unchaining yourself from the current status quo and working to solve the limitation?”

Yes and no. You’re almost there with “working to solve the limitation” but there will always be limitations. Think about artwork you’ve seen where an artist restricts himself to only using dots or charcoal to achieve a certain artistic result? We can and should apply those concepts to how we operate in our day to day lives. Life is full of restrictions so we need to embrace them, not use them as excuses. Sometimes people are the restriction. Case in point, I write software that’s useful for people in their day to day lives and some choose not to use it. That’s ok, that’s their choice, but the restriction there is the free will of individuals.

Just to be clear, I am also guilty of the “If only” mentality. Especially when I was younger, I always thought “If only I had a faster computer” or “If only I had enough money to buy.” I see that trait in my siblings and I complain about it all the time.

Here’s a funny example. I’m well known in the places that I’ve worked for having way too many monitors. It looked like what you see a hacker / programmer had in a movie or TV show. People made fun of me and would always comment on it. I didn’t really care because I made enough money where I was in the situation that I could test whether certain limitations actually affected my productivity. What did I learn? It all depends on the situation, but having a bunch of monitors doesn’t actually contribute to my productivity because that’s just more mental and physical space to have to manage. That said, when I’m doing something that requires a design perspective, documentation, and coding, having 3 or more monitors certain helps. Most of the time, however, I find that I’m most effective and productive on my macbook because (1) I can’t play any games; and (2) I’m looking and focused on only one thing at a time. The one screen one focus restriction actually helps me get things done better and faster. Interesting isn’t it?

Still don’t believe me? Ok, how about another example. 3d printing has taught me a lot around product design because you’re limited in what you can design and build. What you learn quickly is that simple objects are, well, simple to print. As you increase the complexity of the shape you want to print, the design and support becomes exponentially more difficult. You have to then start thinking about orientation of the print in order to make the printing work.

(for the uninitiated, think of 3d printing supports as scaffolding on a building to help the workers build the structure)

The same concepts are applied to the way that I practiced law. I became a lawyer to learn about the limitations provided by the law. I then took that understanding to help clients get to their end goals within those legal limitations. Ok, that’s enough of that. Long story short, don’t think about “if only” and start thinking “ok, those are the limits, so how do I get where I want to with them in place?”




CEO / Chief Engineer of HyperDraft, Inc.

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Tony Thai

Tony Thai

CEO / Chief Engineer of HyperDraft, Inc.

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