Here are some true stories that you’ve heard a hundred times.
The guitar player that loses his arms, but overcomes his disability and becomes an incredible musician.
The basketball team from the tiny town in the middle of nowhere, rises above their shortcomings (see what I did there?) to become state champions.
The promising young artist who develops hand tremors but in spite of his muscle’s rebellion becomes a world renown artist.
We love the story of the underdog who overcomes their limits to achieve incredible things.
But what if that wasn’t really the story?
What if none of these incredible things happened in spite of their limitations but because of them?
Phil Hansen, the artist with the hand tremors, says:
“Embracing the limitation can actually drive creativity. We need to first be limited in order to become limitless. If you treat the problems as possibilities, life will start to dance with you in the most amazing ways.”
So here we go. First, I’m going to tell you why you should love your limits. Then I’m going to tell you how.
Why You Should Love Limits
Sometimes it’s a budget, sometimes it's staff, sometimes it’s people, sometimes it’s a zip code, no matter what it is, there are usually limits. This first big shift is the most profound. Look at those limits as opportunities, not problems to overcome and watch your creativity go through the roof. Here’s why:
1. Limits give you more time
Just like an artist, your limits are like a canvas. They define your area. If you really had a limitless budget, how would you choose what to do? Who to hire? What to buy? What piece of equipment to upgrade? Limits save us time. When we embrace them, we get better results in a shorter amount of time. Limits can be a good thing!
2. Limits give you freedom
The lack of any sort of limit is truly paralyzing. We find freedom in the limits. They define our work area and our outcomes. There’s freedom in knowing exactly how far we can go and where to look for answers. When we embrace our limits, we are free to think truly limitlessly inside these limits.
3. Limits power creativity.
I spent quite a few years as a Creative Director trying to make really incredible experiences on a budget that would only allow me to buy a new light fixture about once every 3 years. You look at places like Willow Creek, North Point, and (insert mega church here) and begin to think your limits of resources are prohibiting your creativity. However, inside of that context, we created art far beyond what money could simply buy. We had to think more creatively about how to tell a compelling story because we couldn’t just make a moment amazing buy buying 10 great light fixtures. We had to use materials and light differently.
The best kind of experiences gives themselves limits to force something truly great to come. Restrictions take away some of our choice focusing our efforts.
How to Love Your Limits
You might be thinking: You don’t have MY limits!
Let me push back. No matter your limits, they can propel you to do something incredible. God is waiting for you to stop fighting your limits and start embracing them to do what HE has uniquely called you to do!
Here’s how to love your limits, no matter what they are:
1. Be Honest
Too many years have I wasted wishing away a present opportunity for a future dream. Anybody else? That future time where there will be money, staff, resources, etc. etc. etc. It’s a tragic waste of the present to always be waiting for some unknown day in the future. God has something for you right now. You have to be honest with your present realities so you can start to embrace your limits.
Name your limits. Set that budget. Come to terms with your current staff. Now…embrace them as a canvas, not something that cripples you!
2. Be Open
Creativity is about making connections. You have to embrace your limits so you can be open enough to see the connections. You have to stop fighting. When you do, you’ll relax enough to see what’s right in front of you. If you’re always wishing for LED bars to hang on the stage, you might just be overlooking a guy at your church that could build something that would work just as well for 1/10th of the cost! (true story). If you’re staying focused on the addition of hiring that new staff member you might be overlooking a retired school teacher who would come run a children’s ministry room for free! (another true story)
You have to be open to seeing the connections that could unlock the future.
3. Be Intentional
Loving your limits is going to be hard, but with habits, you can make it easier. According to a study published in the European Journal of Social Psychology, it actually takes more than 2 months for something to become a habit – 66 days on average. This just isn’t going to happen overnight, but it’s possible.
Here are a few habits that will help you be intentional with loving your limits:
- Before every project or situation, stop and proactively define the limits. Don’t wait till a limit hits you. Control it and define them.
- Have a list of stuff you watch or read in your area. Stuff that inspires you and make it habit to watch or read daily or weekly. Calendar it.
- Block out time to create in your schedule, then make yourself do it every day or week.
- Before every meeting, define the limits. Send an agenda & timeframe and stick to it! That habit will reinforce the power of limits… you’ll get more done in less time!
I’m going to brag on the team at Oakbrook a little bit. I like to think the creative staff are the loving your limits kind of people. Here’s a picture from this year’s Christmas service at Oakbrook:
What you see here are 35 moving fixtures, 20 LED’s, 6 HD cameras and a bunch of traditional lighting fixtures. Here’s the backstory: 6 years ago there was nothing. Just traditional lights and colored gels and no budget to buy anything new.
Slowly but surely, the team embraced their limits, but didn’t change the picture of what it could look like. They started having conversations, calling other churches and pretty soon stuff started to shake loose. 6 used lights from a church that was replacing them. Another year, they purchased 4 more from a used lighting site. Another year and another hook up from a church on a few more. Next there was a trade with a church, some stuff they weren’t using, and a little cash for a new lighting console. A camera was donated by one of the guys on the camera team. Another year, traditional lighting fixtures sold on eBay to purchase a few more moving lights and LED’s. We stopped renting anything at Christmas or Easter and started using that budget money to purchase things we needed for the future.
That picture above isn’t just a picture of a nicely produced Christmas service, it’s a picture of getting somewhere because of a crazy amount of intentionality. It’s a literal picture of loving your limits and what God can do when we embrace them and get creative.
So What's Next?
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