Marketing | Environment | Culture

Celebrating Constraint: “Creative within Our Fences”

“I always say we’re incredibly creative within our fences, because I don’t feel like we’re pushing boundaries. We’re very creative within our fences, and because we have the fences, they make for very creative moments.

“We come up with some stuff that I don’t think any of us would’ve come up with had we not had the fences. There’s a lot of other things that I wouldn’t have done visually had we not had the fences and I think they’re better sometimes.”

Shonda Rhimes, creator of Gray’s Anatomy and Scandal and executive producer of How To Get Away with Murder (together, the 3 shows are ABC’s Thursday prime time lineup), shared these words on Fresh Air with Terri Gross on NPR. Hear the interview here.

Asked about working on network television rather than on cable, which is far less restricted in content and language, Rhimes sees FCC broadcast rules as her “fences.” Through these words, constraint is not only embraced, it’s credited with forcing creative solutions.


Hearing this interview inspired me finally to sit down and organize my thoughts around this long felt and frequently experienced dynamic.

Twitter‘s 140 character limit. Instagram‘s square images. Ignite‘s 5 minutes, 20 slides, and 15 seconds.

Boundaries, rules, constraints. Operating with lines and limits seems like something many of us view with disdain. We want to be free!


But Rhimes’ fences change our approach. They change the puzzle. We approach, decide, edit, and solve differently.

Finding success in spite of limits has been fundamental to scientific, engineering, medical, and other breakthroughs that improve our quality of life and redefine what’s possible.

Now, a short celebration and warm embrace of creativity from constraint.

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Content Marketing Example: The Patagonia Catalog

“We have three general guidelines for all promotional efforts by Patagonia, both within and beyond the pages of the catalog:

  1. Our charter is to inspire and educate rather than promote.
  2. We would rather earn credibility than buy it. The best resources for us are the word-of-mouth recommendation from a friend or favorable comments in the press.
  3. We advertise only as a last resort.”

Written by Patagonia’s founder Yvon Chouinard and quoted from page 155 of Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant Businessman, these words set up a strong content marketing approach.

Part book review and part illustration of content marketing, this post breaks down the why and what of a beautiful, 68-page print catalog recently delivered to our home by the United States Postal Service.
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Nature Dependent: Primary Goods and The Primary Economy

The founder and former CEO of Vanguard and creator of the first index fund, John C. Bogle opened Chapter 1 of “Enough” with this “wonderful old epigram from 19th-century Great Britain.”

“Some men wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called work.

“Some men wrest a living from those who wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called trade.

“Some men wrest a living from those who wrest a living from nature and with their hands; this is called finance.”

Reading Bogle reminded me a bit of reading John Wooden – straightforward, practical, diligent, down to earth. That he opened a book about true measures of success with this old saying is inspiring – and it immediately conjured other recent reads.

Reading this epigram reminded me very much of reading John Michael Greer’s The Wealth of Nature and E.F. Schumacher’s classic Small is Beautiful.

Here’s how – and what it means for humans, nature, and economics.

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GoalZero Recycling: Social Enterprise Inside a Nonprofit

At the confluence of mission, competencies, and culture, Goal Zero recycling advances the sustainability efforts of Care and Share Food Bank for Southern Colorado.

Just getting started, Goal Zero is extremely clever in its origin at this confluence. And the alignment is clear.

Social Enterprise Inside a Nonprofit

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1-3-9-12: My Authority Rainmaker Conference Review

Bastardizing Dan Pink’s elegant 1-3-5 opening keynote structure at Authority Rainmaker 2015 … my 1-3-9-12 review of the online marketing conference.

Pink: 1 insight, 3 principles, 5 takeaways

Me: 1 recommendation, 3 reasons, 9 themes, 12 quotes
(yes, I’m willing to break the triad)


Subtitled “Integrated Content, Search, and Social Media Marketing (Plus Invaluable Networking),” Authority Rainmaker is Copyblogger‘s (now annual!?) online marketing conference.

I enjoyed the privilege of attending thanks to BombBomb | Relationships Through Video.

To organize my own thoughts (initially captured in 20+ pages of handwritten notes) and to provide a necessarily pale representation of a truly wonderful event (like trying to capture a spectacular sunrise on a spectacular landscape with a photo), my 1-3-9-12 review …

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Artfully Articulated: The Imbalance between People and Nature

One of my biggest wishes is that we could figure out a way to live with the natural world instead of on top of it.”
– Songwriter Isaac Brock in the audio commentary on the Modest Mouse song Coyotes from their album Strangers to Ourselves.

I share his wish to realign people and nature.

Here: a personal go at his artful articulation of the issue.

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What I Learned Making & Delivering an Ignite Talk

An Ignite talk … 1 topic in 20 slides in just 5 minutes. Every slide automatically advances every 15 seconds.

Unique format. Smart challenge. Great night!

I had the privilege of making and delivering an Ignite talk at UCCS with the El Pomar Institute for Innovation and Commercialization.

Fresh off the process and the night, I wanted to share a few things I learned along the way …

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Sustainability: 10 Great Books on People, Nature, & Business

“What does it mean that the earth is so beautiful? And what shall I do about it? What is the gift that I should bring to the world? What is the life that I should live?”

This line from poet Mary Oliver‘s Long Life was read by Krista Tippet on a recent episode of On Being.

I’ve not yet enjoyed a truly epiphanal moment with regard to beauty, gift, or purpose, but I’ve seen varied and fleeting glimpses in sustainability. At that intersection of people, nature, and business.

Ray Anderson, on the other hand, has.
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Craft Beer vs Macro Beer: On Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad

“Proudly a macro beer.” Who would say such a thing? Why? And how?

For the answers, here’s a quick look at the 2015 Budweiser Super Bowl commercial.

Budweiser’s Super Bowl Ad

Here’s the entire message:
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3 Memorable Moments in Zillow Talk from Spencer Rascoff & Stan Humphries

Last week, I enjoyed the privilege of seeing Tom Ferry interview Spencer Rascoff on several topics, including Zillow Talk, a just-released book he co-wrote with Stan Humphries.

Ferry’s a foremost educator and coach serving the real estate industry. Rascoff is founder & CEO of Zillow, where Humphries serves as Chief Economist. Rascoff and Humphries connected while they were with Hotwire and Expedia, respectively, at the time the travel companies merged.

Zillow, Zillow Talk, Spencer Rascoff, Tom Ferry, interview

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