Next week is the beginning of a new month. Know what that means?
It’s time to announce a new book!
I’ll tell you more about that in a second, but first I share a story that’s guaranteed to make you more creative today. Yup, it’s pretty sappy and involves a baby elephant.
Have you ever seen a circus elephant before they perform? If you have, you might have noticed that the elephant had a small metal collar around its leg, which is attached to a small chain. And the chain is attached to a wooden peg driven into the ground.
Pretty lousy protection, if you ask me. That 12,000-pound elephant could very easily pick up its foot and with one swoop yank the peg out of the ground. So why doesn’t it? I’ll explain.
When that elephant was still a baby, that same collar and chain and peg were used to hold the elephant in place. The restraint was sufficient to hold the baby elephant in place even if it wanted to break away. And break away is indeed what the elephant tried to do.
So every day while the baby was chained up, it would pull at the chain and pull until finally a cut appeared on its leg. Eventually, it hurt to much to pull like that and soon the baby elephant, realizing the effort was both futile and painful, stopped trying to escape.
Elephants never forget
As the baby elephant grew older, it never forgot that bad experience with the chain and the peg. And so whenever it was anchored down in a spot, it would think, “Hey, it’s impossible to break away and besides, it hurts.”
The elephant had what I call an assumed constraint. All of us have the same problem to one degree or another. We all have the power to be great at something and creative, but at one point in our lives, we may have done something and failed. Or tried something outlandish and were embarrassed. And after a few years, BOOM, we put assumed constraints on ourselves.
Real life constraints
I found this story in the book “A Copywriter’s Handbook” (a must read). After reading it, I got interested in stories of people who broke through assumed constraints.
I want to share my favorites with you because they got my creative juices a-flowing:
“There is no reason anyone would want a computer in their home.”
– Ken Olsen, president and founder of Digital Equipment Corp in 1977
“The concept is interesting and well-informed, but in order to earn better than a ‘C,’ the idea must be feasible.”
“Drill for oil? You mean drill into the ground to try to find oil? You’re crazy.”
– This was said by drillers whom wildcatter Edwin L. Drake tried to enlist in his project to drill for oil in 1859
“A cookie store is a bad idea. Besides, the market research reports say America likes crispy cookies, not soft and chewy cookies like you make.”
– This was a response in the mid 1970s to Debbi Fields idea of starting Mrs. Fields cookies
“Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value”
“Stocks have reached what looks like permanently high plateau.”
“I think there is a world market for maybe five computers”
“So we went to Atari and said ‘Hey we’ve got this amazing thing, even built with some of your parts, and what do you think about funding us? Or we’ll give it to you. We just want to do it. Pay our salary, we’ll come work for you.’ And they said, ‘No.’ So then we went to Hewlett-Packard, and they said ‘Hey we don’t need you. You haven’t got through college yet.’
This month’s book is…