He tells the story of how the famous rock band, REM, first made it big with their breakthrough album, (their seventh), “Out Of Time.” Not relishing making the same album again, they decided to mix it up by playing unfamiliar instruments e.g. their guitarist, Peter Buck, played a mandolin instead, an instrument he wasn’t familiar with.
Seth tells us with this story that artists love, love, LOVE, the phrase, “If Only.”
If only I had perfect conditions, I’d make great art. If only I didn’t have a day job, I’d be making proper podcasts and my genius would be recognized. If only I was around in the 1950s, I, too, could splatter paint willy-nilly over a blank canvas like Jackson Pollock and be famous.
The trouble with “if only,” is that a) those perfect conditions don’t really exist anyway, so waiting around for them is pointless, and b) they make us lazy.
This is equally true for running a business. Your product will never be perfect, nor will your staff, nor will your customers, nor the budget, nor will the market conditions. So again, waiting around for perfection to arrive before making a move is business suicide.
All this begs the question, why do constraints seem so necessary for creativity (and therefore innovation) in general?
The answer to us is simple. Constraints are necessary for creativity because contrary to what a lot of artists will tell you, the latter is not some kind of magical, mystical phenomenon, but a mental tool evolved over countless millennia for solving actual problems. In other words, without an actual problem to solve, our creative switch is simply not activated.
That makes it okay to “paint outside the lines,” so long as we remember why the lines were put there in the first place.
PS: All this reminded us of the words attributed to Lord Leverhulme: “We have no money, we will have to think.”