“Don’t seize the day, Seize your limitations”
In his early career, Artist and Keynote Speaker Phil Hansen was a pointillist, making images out of thousands of small and distinct dots. Years of that work took a toll on his body and he ultimately developed a shake in his hand. As a result, he’d hold the pen even tighter which made for an even worse shake, not to mention pain and joint issues. He went to a neurologist who told him he had permanent nerve damage – basically a death sentence for his kind of art, but that same doctor ended the visit with these words: “why don’t you just embrace the shake?”
Thus far, over 2 Million people have viewed his TED talk titled “Embrace The Shake”- a talk about making the most of your limitations in an attempt to find new ways to problem solve and create.
Phil discovered that he was still able to take the basics of pointillism – seeing these little tiny dots come together to make a unified image – only now he would do it in a way that fit his own physical limitations. In fact, when Phil describes the various ways he tried to accomplish his art in new and creative ways (dipping his feet in paint and walking on a canvas – instead of painting on a canvas, painting on his chest – instead of painting with a brush, painting with karate chops or the one that really resonated with him… deciding that instead of making art to display, he would destroy it right after creating it). This destruction idea ultimately became a year-long project called ‘goodbye art’. That year he created 23 pieces of goodbye art, with nothing to physically show for it. However, what he thought would be the ultimate in limitation, surprisingly became the ultimate in liberation.
The goodbye art project was an amazing teacher for Phil Hansen He learned to let go of outcomes, let go of failures and let go of imperfections. And, through this letting go, he found a process unencumbered by results and one that drove continual innovation and creativity. Suddenly, he discovered himself in a constant state of creation, focusing on what’s next and coming up with more ideas that ever.
As he continued to learn, Phil discovered that by embracing his limitations, he could actually enhance his creativity. He tried making art with only one dollar’s worth of supplies. He asked the barista at Starbucks for 50 cups and they handed them over (they give out an extra cup for free, he figured, why not ask for 50). The art he made from those cups (for 80 cents) is simply amazing and it was then that he realized ‘we need to first be limited, in order to become limitless’.
For Phil Hansen ‘embracing the shake’ completely changed his life and he realized that he learned more than art skills, he learned life skills and important lessons about how to foster creativity and innovative thinking. Phil’s work took him ‘inside the box with limited resources’ as a way of accentuating his skill set. As he would say, “Learning to be creative within the confines of our limitations is the best hope we have to transform ourselves and collectively transform our world.”
In his awe-inspiring keynote, Phil Hansen reminds us that looking at limitations as a source of creativity changed the course of his life. Limitations may be an unlikely place to discover creativity, but it also may be one of the best ways to get out of ruts and challenge accepted norms. As he would say, ‘instead of telling each other to seize the day, we should remind ourselves to seize the limitation.”