Breakthroughs Come from Constraints: Turning Your Limitations into Advantages

Your special recipe, John Grisham’s ingredients, and how to avoid boredom.

Rise & Shine. This is Man Morning - the newsletter for the man who wants to wake up each morning with a greater sense of purpose and community.

In today’s issue:

  • 🍲 The recipe

  • 📚 John Grisham’s ingredients

  • 💬 Smart words


It’s easy to focus on what you don’t have.

You can say you don’t:

  • Have enough money in the bank

  • Know the right people

  • Live in the right city

  • Have the right software on your computer

The problem is that we spend so much time identifying what we don’t have we rarely ask:

“What do I have?”

Right now is a great opportunity to get curious and begin identifying the ingredients that you do have.

Here’s a great way to think about it:

Imagine a meal you’d like to make.

Let’s say the recipe requires 10 ingredients, but you only have 7 of them.

You can go to the grocery store and buy the remaining three ingredients. You could also throw in the towel and order takeout.

Or you can get creative and use the 7 ingredients that you do have to whip up a tasty meal.

In business and life, growth and innovation often come from constraints.

It’s not always the large organizations with huge budgets, loads of resources, and a big staff that win (remember Blockbuster, Kodak, and Blackberry).

Many times, it’s the small, nimble, resource-strapped start-up that shakes things up and disrupts an industry (enter Netflix).

This is because they see their circumstances (their lack of ingredients) as their advantage, as opposed to their weakness.

They focus on what they do have as opposed to what they don’t.

Having more isn’t always better.

Breakthroughs come from constraints.

Have some fun. See your constraints as an advantage.

Play the hell out of the cards currently in your hand.


John Grisham’s books have sold over 300 million copies worldwide. They have been translated into 40 languages.

But before Grisham became a household name, he used the ingredients he had at his fingertips.

The ingredients Grisham used were:

First-hand experience: Grisham was a small-town lawyer and member of the Mississippi state legislature. Inspired by the terrifying testimony of young girl in a local rape trial, and informed by his experience as lawyer, he started writing first novel, A Time to Kill.

Time: Grisham would wake up at 5:00 AM so he could get at least 3 hours of writing in before he had to be in court or meet with clients at 9 AM.

Persistence: It took Grisham three years to finish the A Time to Kill. It was initially rejected by dozens of publishing houses before finally being sold. Only 5,000 copies of the book were initially printed. Grisham purchased 1,000 of these books to take on a small book tour he scheduled himself.

Consistency: After A Time to Kill was finished, Grisham immediately began writing his next novel. It was called, The Firm. The novel was made into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Gene Hackman and made nearly $300 million worldwide.

300 million books sold later, Grishman still follows his early morning routine. Though these days without having to manage two jobs, he’s able to write until noon.


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Man Morning Team (MMT)

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