Loving Limitations!



Key Point: I’ve always asked people who worked for me to do more than the resources available seem to support. Why? I believe constraints are helpful because they allow us to prioritize, make choices, and be resourceful. Limitations can inspire creativity and build enormous character. You discover that some people focus on the limitations and spend their time explaining why they “can’t.” Others, (those whom I’m most attracted to, frankly), LEARN to think “yes” first and just “find a way.” This is abundant thinking and behavior.

A Beautiful Constraint,” the thought provoking book by Adam Morgan and Mark Barden, uses research and social science to discuss the approach to constraints. They talk about how the relationship between ambition and constraints is clear. The conclusion: Those who refused to scale back ambition in the face of constraint were more likely to find the constraint “beautiful,” (and vice versa). I find, perhaps counterintuitively, that it is very liberating to realistically understand limitations AND inspirational to declare great ambition in spite of them.

Perhaps rather than labeling people relative to their ability to navigate constraints, it would be more helpful to consider ALL of us traveling through three stages. If we recognize constraint management as a process, we can move more effectively through each stage. If we are in the VICTIM stage, we may feel stuck and choose to lower ambition. If we can get to the NEUTRAL stage, we will choose to embrace the constraints and refuse to lower our sights. However, if we can evolve to the TRANSFORMER stage, the mind focuses on finding a way to make constraints an opportunity and even raise ambition.

The little bank I work for has all the constraints to feel like we should sit in the victim stage. The multi-national banks are much bigger, with way more scale and resources. We are chartered to work in one small province in western Canada. Fintechs are faster. It is hard to compete for digital talent, etc. Perhaps, what I love most working for CEO Dave Mowat and my leadership colleagues, is the belief that all of these constraints are truly beautiful paths to reinventing banking; to do it better than ANY financial institution in the world. And this is exactly the path we are on. We have exploded out our ambition. The belief and culture in this stage is so friggin’ exhilarating!

Personal Leadership Moves:

1. Believe transformers are made NOT born and know you are one!
2. Embrace constraints, be realistic and then engage everyone in asking, “how might we?” Think BIG. Increase ambitions by harnessing and riding those constraints to the highest peaks.
3. Be an abundant thinker and doer. Act as an abundance generator. Expand everywhere and give more to all stakeholders. It is the “little engine that could” that becomes a “rocket ship that will.”

Loving limitations in Personal Leadership,


One Millennial View: Facing constraints and puzzle-solving your way through and above them, arguably leads to some of the most satisfying results life can give us. Let’s look at a hypothetical New Years Eve as an example. Many Millennials dread NYE because it’s stressful, expensive, and takes more effort than usual. So, let’s pretend pricey NYE event tickets are out of question: A victim might say, “I’m just going to sit home and watch TV because NYE sucks and everything is too much of a hassle.” The Transformer may say, “I too am staying home, but I’m going to take the time to organize a modest dinner party with good friends, create an itinerary, plan food and beverages, and we’ll make the most out of it.” Come midnight, the same countdown will be airing on both the victim and transformer’s TVs. Which NYE would you choose to partake in?

– Garrett

Edited and published by Garrett Rubis

Also: If readers have any Personal Leadership questions for Lorne Rubis that they would like to be answered via text on an upcoming blog, and/or addressed on a future episode of the Culture Cast podcast, please email them to the CultureCastPodcast@gmail.com. Or DM them to @CultureCastPod1 on Twitter.