With Constraint Find Freedom

"Yeah, Well, You Know, That's Just, Like, Your Opinion, Man." - The Dude, Big Lebowski

With Constraint Find Freedom
"Yeah, Well, You Know, That's Just, Like, Your Opinion, Man." - The Dude, Big Lebowski

Earlier in the year, I was musing about artificial constraints and applying them to situations to force a different thinking style.

Whether it's how a team is building new cloud technology, finding time during the week to write this newsletter, or daily calendar blocks, over and over, I have experienced real examples with constraint comes freedom.

Funny enough, this past week, I stumbled across the site "Six Word Stories," which 'asked readers to write the story of their own lives in a single sentence' and resulted in the book "Not Quite What I Was Planning". The idea originated from Hemingway (asked to describe his life in six words), who wrote: "for sale: baby shoes, never worn."

It's pretty simple, yet brilliant.

when there are no constraints on the creative process, complacency sets in, and people follow what psychologists call the path of least resistance – they go for the most intuitive idea that comes to mind rather than investing in developing better ideas.

Bringing it back to my adventures with technology over the years - I clearly remember when I started to dive deep into the emerging world of pocket computers. You may remember them from a world long before the iPhone: the Apple Newton, Windows CE, Pocket PC, etc.. (and yes, I still have my Newton MessagePad 100).

One of the best revelations I had is that I literally had to throw away things I knew about writing code. I was constrained by the form factor: 2MB of RAM, 2MB of storage. I had to focus on new ways of doing memory-efficient operations; how could you perform high-speed sorting of large arrays with no hard drive to swap to? I accidentally tripped into a mindset in which I had to stop taking for granted what I knew, but instead needed to go back to basics and dig into algorithms I hadn't used since school. Dig deeper to understand memory architecture.

It was a superpower. :)

Colleagues would ask me how I wrote code that so was efficient - it's because I had to toss all that stuff that made life easier out the window. I had to find ways to make it work with what I was given.

Constraint = Freedom.

Fast forward to today, you can see simlarities of these same issues with the advent of cloud computing. Most (incorrectly) view clouds as magical data centers with unlimited capacity. Lift and shift the software there! Things just work better!

Nope. Before you know it - you have the over-bloated infrastructure, security problems, huge bills, and unmanageable footprints doing who knows what.

I guess what I'm getting to - if you want to see teams make impactful change, just apply some constraints. Heck, I've told teams since 2017 that "containers are dead" (truth!). Try it out - see how creative they can get when you only give them a few tools.

You'll be surprised at what they come up with. It's freedom.

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Forward Thinking

I don't have a lot of commentary on this thread, but it had me thinking a lot this week.

Kairos refers to the way in which certain moments are more important or influential than others. A clock can't measure that, but it's undeniable that some times are much more significant than others.

In general, it feels like we as humans need to spend more time around Kairos moments.

Thought of the week

Latest obsession

I haven't tried this yet, but I thought the concept was interesting. Give James Hoffman a watch on what may very well be one of the most interesting coffee ice-creams I've seen.

Here are a few of the articles and videos that resonated with me over the last week:

  • For a long time, I've talked about calendars are currency, and "How Leaders Are Battling Meeting Overload" goes head first into meeting doomsday and calendar bankruptcy. I'd highly urge anyone experiencing this fatigue to do a calendar audit and nuke the unnecessary - More
  • I was recently introduced to the concept of The Kaizen Way by a co-worker, so I was interested to read "Get 1% Better Every Day: The Kaizen Way to Self-Improvement". While it feels a lot of the same that is rooted in the fantastic book Atomic Habits, there's something too small, rooted actions that help us get better over time - More
  • Not shocking, but "Apple Watch ECG sensor could be used to detect symptoms of a heart attack." I'll say this: my Apple Watch warned me of something off two weeks before my first heart attack, so I'm not surprised here at all - More
  • Total hackery, but if you've ever wanted a small Apple Touch ID button, here's a project for you in "My Touch ID button is fully deconstructed" - More
  • "This weekend, I watched a hacker jailbreak a John Deere tractor live on stage" was one of the more shocking ones on the cybersecurity front this week - More
  • Along the same lines of declaring meeting bankruptcy, "You're Never Going to Be Caught Up at Work. Stop Feeling Guilty About It." - More
  • I'm still fascinated about the whole future of work debate. In "Work From Office," Scott Galloway once again puts together a thoughtful piece that dives into the pros and cons from both perspectives - More
  • This is fun: "Rituals for Engineering Teams." I've been a big believer of the 'who broke the build rubber chicken' - and the author agrees that these rituals create a sense of belonging - More
  • File under 'oopsie,' but "Blockbuster CEO 'struggled not to laugh' at chance to buy Netflix, new books says." Lesson learned, I'd say - More
  • I loved the quote analysis of "' The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.'" from Socrates; and how the simple act of 'dwelling on something that happened yesterday, that you can no longer change is only tearing down what you're supposed to be building up' - More


I missed Lightyear in theaters (on purpose - I don't like going to them anymore), but I did enjoy his origin story. Recently, I ran across this scene, cut from the final picture, which explains the origin of his classic "To Infinity and Beyond!" catchphrase.

Be well. ✌🏻