Why Limitations Are Not Your Enemy

December 6, 2012 — 6 Comments

For the last few days I’ve been listening to a new album by Pianist Nils Frahm. It might be the most calming, tranquil, and beautiful recordings I’ve heard in some time. I’ve found myself working, writing, and praying with the accompaniment of this soundtrack.

What intrigued me the most about this record, is the back story. Some time before this recording, Frahm fell off of his bunk bed which is right above his studio. This accident resulted in a broken thumb which is incredibly horrifying news for any professional pianist. After he had a cast put on, the doctor instructed him not to play piano for a while. But Frahm couldn’t resist the separation from what he considers one if his greatest joys.

Nils Frahm

With his cast on, he began composing with just 9 fingers. Every night he recorded a new song before he went to bed. The result is a 9 song e.p. called “Screws” named after the 4 screws placed in his broken thumb. You can hear his soulish vulnerability push through his music.

“They have helped me feel less annoyed about my accident and reminded me that any good is something I can only achieve, when I am making the most out of what I’ve got.”

After hearing this story, I was reminded of a photographer friend who recently gave away a camera, and a week later dropped and broke his next “go to” camera in the middle of a photo shoot. This left him at the shoot with the capacity to take only 30 more photos – all Polaroid. Fortunately, the photos came out amazing and left the client more than satisfied.

It’s funny how much of the best art and best lives are created in the face of limitation. When we are limited, we are forced to be creative.

Ironically, we spend most days thinking about all that is needed to get to the next step. The thinking goes, “If I just had [________], I would be able to [________].”

The writer just needs the readers.
The musician / producer just needs a new piece of gear.
The business owner just needs a better location.
We all just need a little more cash.
Just a little more time.
Just a little more vacation.
Just a better office space.
Just a few more fans.

Don’t be deceived. Limitation is not the enemy of creativity. In fact, it is creativity’s dear friend. You and I have everything we need to make our next move.

One way to look at this is through a simple formula…

Creativity = Passion + Limitation

If I told you to go out and make a million dollars, in the next month it would be a tough sell. The limitation is obvious, but there’s no motivation or real ambition.

However, if you found out that your child’s life depended on a surgery that was going to cost a million dollars, you would figure out every way possible to score a million dollars in one month. You would HAVE to get creative (ie. Kickstarters, lemonade stands, phone calls to obscure relatives).

If you possess passion, then don’t be afraid of limited resources. You’ll quickly begin to see what you DO have and have the advantage of viewing life from a new perspective. The human heart was designed with an unparalleled drive to get what it wants and accomplish amazing feats – especially in the face of limitation.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” – James 1:2-4 (NIV)

Can you think of a time that limitation helped you rather than hindered you?

UPDATE: Check out my follow up post – “The World Sends Us Garbage. We Send Back Music.”

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  • reno

    dude. so much gold here.

  • Thanks man. Came out of our conversation the other night! Good stuff.

  • Luke, I love reading your blog. I get excited when the email arrives in my inbox! Your wisdom of God is amazing, but you posses the ability to break it down. You put it into context for everyday life. Thank you, Luke! :)

  • Thanks Rebekah! That means a lot. Glad I could encourage you. Sounds like things are awesome in Boise!

  • Samantha

    I cannot express how incredibly timely this is. As a young woman dealing with severe acne i often feel that if only it would go away I could really start living. Although I know this isn’t true, your words spoke to my hurting heart. Thank you for being the mouth piece of God:)

  • Thanks for sharing Samatha. So stoked that you are pushing through your fears. Can’t wait to hear what’s ahead for you!