Constraints: They Can Be Good For You

One of the things that humans inherently prize is optionality. Commitment is hard. But, the truth is if you have every option in the world it becomes difficult to make a decision. Inertness sets in. Procrastination happens.

Jim Brandenberg is a world famous photographer who lives in Grand Marais, MN where my family has had cabins for years and years. I bought his book, “Chased By The Light” when it was released. It has amazing photography in it.  This year my wife and I bought a very small cabin on a lake up there. Here is a view off the back.

New view from Anchor Rock Dock

A video posted by Jeff Carter (@pointsnfigures) on

Brandenberg had unlimited choice. He could photograph anything and do it anywhere-and with digital photography he could take as many photos as he wanted. But, he limited his choice to one photo per day. He also limited his choice to one small section of Minnesota.

Then, magic happened. Creativity ensued.

I really think that startups can learn a lot from Jim Brandenberg. By nature, they are always constrained. But, through that focus comes magic. My marketing professor Sanjay Dhar at Chicago Booth used to say, “You cannot be all things to all people. If you do that, you surely will fail.” This works for public policy and it works for big companies as well.

Here is a video telling the story of how he made the book. The scenery is beautiful. Brandenberg had a great canvas to work with.