I like to read autobiographies and biographies.
Some of the most interesting are about musicians.
I read Waylon Jennings’ autobiography some time ago. And in the early 1980s he got into an interesting period in his career.
The ’70s had been incredible for him. He had some success in the ’60s, but kind of got burned out by the whole thing. In that period, country music was very controlled. The record label and producers had tight control over every aspect. The singers were pretty much expected to shut up and sing their parts in the studio.
Waylon became one of the first artists in a long time to gain complete creative control.
This was a great thing and incredible success followed, but eventually it got him into trouble.
Paralysis By Abundance
Eventually, Waylon got to the point where he had so much control over his music that he really struggled in the studio.
He had access to any technology that he wanted. Any musician. Any songwriter. Anything.
But with all that abundance he almost became paralyzed.
I think it’s a little bit of human nature. We like rules. We like order. We like barriers.
Not too many rules, but enough to give us some framework.
If someone would given Waylon a guitar and told him to write every song with only that guitar for his next record it would have limited him. It would have provided a framework. No choices. Just limitations.
Limitations In Business
Twitter just made headlines with their announcement that they would be testing allowing users 280 characters in tweets instead of 140.
Twitter users flipped. And this was only an announced test.
I think the 140 character thing was kind of an afterthought with Twitter, but it became a big thing.
People like limitations.
Limitations force you to focus. It gets you started in a direction and from there your talent, smarts and creativity can take over.
Think of all the access we have today. All the technology. All the social media. All the information. All the connection.
It’s amazing, but it’s also a bit paralyzing. Where do we start?
Getting a new customer.
Hiring a new employee.
Even growing a company.
We can do just about anything to accomplish those things, but without limitations it’s easy to just freeze and kind of stagnate.
How can you limit yourself to find more success?
Here are some quick tips.
1. Cut One Thing
Let’s say you’re struggling to find an employee.
Cut one avenue for finding the employee.
There are so many ways to find employees today. So many sites. So many services.
Start by cutting one of those avenues at a time.
Or let’s say your team is really getting into social media marketing.
But things are getting spread too thin. The engagement is just okay on all the channels.
Cut the one that’s performing the least.
This could be an ongoing thing in all areas of your business.
The bottom one every quarter or every year is cut. No questions asked.
It’ll force the team to have a little more focus.
2. Cut All But One Thing
Now you could take things to the other extreme and cut all but one thing.
Now you’re limiting yourself to one avenue to hire someone. Or one social network. Or one sales channel for growth this year.
This could be my favorite.
Instead of spreading the focus across many things you’re putting the entire focus into one thing.
3. Limit Growth Opportunities
One of my favorite business stories is the story of Southwest Airlines.
Today, things are pretty flashy and headline-focused in the business world. We like seeing the Groupons of the world and how fast they grow.
Inc. 500 and all that business.
But Southwest did something pretty contrarian. They limited their growth opportunities at various points in their history.
I think it one of the Good To Great books the story was that Southwest had opportunities for tens or maybe even growth into hundreds of airports one year.
They chose four.
How many people would have that discipline and restraint?
But what did this limitation do?
It forced the team to choose the best four airports. The ones that would return the absolute best situation. And Southwest did this year after year going only to the best of the best opportunities.
And in the late ’90s and into the turbulent 2000s they’ve been incredibly successful in the airline industry.
You’ll definitely get some pushback on this.
Can you imagine if someone told Waylon Jennings that he could only create an acoustic record? Just him and his guitar?
I’m sure during his peak he would have freaked out. But it may have forced him to really get creative and it might have resulted in some really great music.
Analysis by abundance is a real thing. Think about the last time you went to grocery store and couldn’t decide on what cereal to get. Way too many options.
Options are good, but not for the long-term.
People like rules and restrictions. Not too many, but enough to help us hone in our focus.
The next time your business gets stuck or even if you get stuck in your job look at what you can take away to make things more limited. It could be the thing that hones in your focus and gets you back on track.