The Weird Strategy Dr. Seuss Used to Create His Greatest Work
The year was 1960 when two men decided to make a bet.
It wasn’t a large bet. In fact, it was only $50, but the end result impacted millions of people.
The first man, Bennett Cerf, was the founder of the publishing firm Random House. The second man was named Theo Geisel, but you probably know him as Dr. Seuss.
Cerf proposed the bet. He challenged that Dr. Seuss would never be able to write an entertaining children’s book using only 50 different words.
Dr. Seuss took the bet and the rest is history. The little book he wrote was called Green Eggs and Ham. Since the time Green Eggs and Ham was published, it has sold more than 200 million copies, making it the most popular of Dr. Seuss’ books and one of the best-selling children’s books in history.
You might think that Dr. Seuss just got lucky. He plays a fun game with 50 words and ends up producing a hit. But there’s much more to his story, and the lessons in it can really help us become more creative and to develop better habits to grow our Avon businesses.
This story has some amazing lessons…
The Power of Constraints
When you set limits for yourself – whether those limits include the limited time you have available to work out, the amount of money you have to get started in a business, or the number of words you have limited yourself to in writing a book – often delivers better results than “seeing where you end up.”
As a result of that little bet, Dr. Seuss found that setting limits to his work worked so well that he decided to employ the idea for other books as well. For example, The Cat in the Hat was written using only a first-grade vocabulary.
Setting constraints can work in other areas as well. It can provide benefits in health, business, and even just life in general.
There are two reasons why this is so:
1. Constraints inspire your creativity.
If your dream is to play basketball, but you’re only five foot five inches tall, you have to figure out a more creative way to score than the guy who is six foot tall.
If you are a stay at home mom and your one-year-old takes up almost every minute of your day, you figure out creative ways to get some exercise, or to get the things done that need to be completed that day.
If you’re a photographer and you arrive at a job with only one lens, then you figure out more creative ways to capture the beauty of your subject then you would have if you’d had your complete set of tools with you.
Limitations will inspire your creativity because they drive you to find different solutions.
2. Constraints force you to get something done.
When I am limited by time, most times it forces me to do my best work. For example, when I went on the last Avon provided cruise to Bermuda, I knew I needed to get my work done ahead of time so that I wouldn’t have to work much on the ship. I am committed to publishing a blog post six days a week, and so I had to find a way to get them written ahead of time before we left.
This constraint helped me to get two weeks’ worth of blog post writing done in the time it typically takes me to write one weeks’ worth. Sometimes I was writing at times of day that I typically don’t work. And I knew I needed to come up with more ideas for blog posts.
Without the constraint I had placed upon myself, I might have pushed off those blog posts to a different day, or never got around to them at all.
Constraints force you to get something done and don’t allow you to procrastinate. You are focused and “in the zone.”
There’s a saying that, “Professionals set a schedule for their production while amateurs wait until they feel motivated.” This is so true. And it’s why those who use a calendar and plan their work are so much more successful!
Now I’m not saying that there aren’t times when you might lift those constraints. Sometimes you might have to make a decision to let the deadline go so that you can complete something else. But that is your choice, and should be done with thoughtful consideration as to the benefits and rewards attached to that decision.
What constraints are you setting for yourself? What type of schedule do you have to make sure you reach your goals?
Constraints are Not the Enemy
So many times, we spend time complaining about the things that are withheld from us.
- “I don’t have enough time to work out.”
- “I don’t have enough money to start a business.”
- “I don’t have a computer.”
- “My customers won’t go online.”
- “This is the way we’ve always done it.”
But constraints are not the enemy. We all have a limited set of tools to work with. Every athlete has a limited set of skills to train with. Every Avon Representative (or any other type of business, for that matter) has a limited amount of resources to build with.
Once you know your constraints, or limitations, you can start figuring out how to work with them to accomplish what it is you want to make happen.
The Size of Your Canvas
When Dr. Seuss took on that challenge, he was only allowed to use 50 words. That was the size of his canvas. His job was to see what kind of picture he could paint with those words.
You and I have similar constraints in our lives:
You only have 90 minutes to fit your Avon business into your day? So be it. That’s the size of your canvas. Your job is to find ways to make those 90 minutes a work of art. Make the most of those minutes by focusing on income-producing activities that will grow your business and earn you money.
You only have $50 to invest into your Avon business? Great! That’s the size of your canvas. Your job is to make each sales call or each social media post a work of art. As a result, you’ll want to work to find more and more creative ways to promote your business without spending more money.
You can only spare 15 minutes each day to exercise? That’s the size of your canvas. Your job is to find ways to make the most out of those 15 minutes.
You don’t have a computer? That’s the size of your canvas. Your job is to find ways to find a computer, such as at the library, or to learn to build your business on your phone. Lots of very successful Avon Representatives build strong businesses even under this constraint.
We all have constraints in our lives. The limitations just determine the size of the canvas that we have to work with.
Knowing what these constraints are is half the battle. Once you know exactly what it is you have to work with, now you can get busy finding creative ways to make a beautiful painting within the limitations you’re dealing with.
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By Lynn Huber
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