In order to win a bet that he could write a book using fewer words than the 236 of The Cat in the Hat, Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) wrote Green Eggs and Ham, using just 50 words! Sometimes less is more.
In a similar vein, I wrote a piece of music this week to focus on a particular group of notes. And in the process limited myself to just the notes in question. It struck me that the limiting process heightened my creativity instead of squashing it. I took on the challenge of the task with more focus because I wanted to still come up with something good despite the limitation. I was pleased with the outcome, probably better than if I had no limitations on how to go about the task.
So it got me thinking about how we work with limitations.
Sometimes the limitations are not self-imposed, but rather such things as physical handicaps or other hardships that life may bring. Some people rise above these, people such as Stevie Wonder, who can’t physically see, or Ludwig van Beethoven, who went deaf early in life. Both denied their limits to become master musicians, exceeding the expectations of what some might have thought possible with such limitations.
I think there are times we can get bogged down with the struggle of feeling limited and make it an excuse. Maybe we need to think about what doesn’t limit us and work with that to be the very best we can be.
The successful among those who have what others might see as a limitation actually work so much harder to make up for it – perhaps more so than those who on the surface have all the opportunity in the world. Paralympians do so – people like our NZ swimming star Sophie Pascoe with nine Paralympic gold medals – who face their limitations and work hard to excel in their sports.
Another thing I’ve observed: In the process of the struggle, people who know their limitations are likely to become better in character too. They are more likely to develop humility and a gracious spirit. We all long to be people like that, don’t we? We just don’t like the pain of the character building it takes to get there!
Do you see limits in your own life, or that of your child? If so, can I encourage you, (as I think about this myself) to not focus on the limitation, but limit your focus to work with it to do the things you can do well.
If you are struggling with your music learning in some way, or you think your child is not making progress fast enough, limit your focus to being pleased about what is going well now and work with that, not with the big picture of how much you wanted achieved by yesterday. The other stuff will get sorted along the way.
You may be pleasantly surprised, like I was with my musical creation that turned out better than expected, despite its particularly limited selection of notes.
4 thoughts on “Working with Limitations”
John McNeil says:
Great thought, Delwyn. But you’ve really piqued my interest in hearing the composition. Can you post it somehow for us to listen? Incidentally, in similar vein, Irving Berlin wrote the song “Blue Skies” with a limited range of notes because the singer it was intended for had a limited register. It became a smash hit.
Delwyn McKenzie says:
Thanks John, I actually wondered if someone might ask me that. It was a little piece for a new course I’m writing on helping parents (and grandparents) learn how best to teach their children piano. I imagine it will be able to parallel Headstart Piano course which I wrote for my own pupils. I’m hoping both of these will be on line courses but the process is taking longer than expected. I’ll send you a copy of the piece. Thanks for your interest. Also interesting comments about “Blue Skies” too – thanks for sharing that.
Trish Walker says:
I Like it, Delwyn, very encouraging. Thank you.
Delwyn McKenzie says:
Thanks for letting me know Trish, it’s exactly what I hope for 🙂