The paralyzing fear of having nothing to lean against

Fletcher was the most highly regarded and prolific graphic designer of his generation. 

In his bestselling book on visual intelligence, he famously wrote that the first move in any creative process was to introduce constraints. 

And most artists would agree. A little structure won’t kill your free spirit. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Without some kind of constraint, there’s nothing to lean against. No boundaries against which to bounce your brilliant ideas. 

Besides, facing a blank canvas is hard enough already. Imagine one that didn’t have borders. Yikes. 

What’s interesting is, this same principle applies to non artistic pursuits as well. It’s the universal human anxiety of having too much freedom. The paralyzing fear of having no constraints. 

I’m reminded the heartbreaking story about the developer of the most popular video game of all time. Microsoft bought out his company for two and half billion dollars. Shortly thereafter, he relocated to a twenty thousand square feet, seventy million dollar mansion. 

And yet, he still wasn’t happy. In fact, he was profoundly depressed. What happened? 

According to a public statement from developer himself, the problem with getting everything you ever wanted is, you run out of reasons to keep trying. Human interaction becomes impossible due to imbalance. And you just sit around, waiting for your friends with jobs and families to have time for you, watching your reflection in the monitor. 

That’s the curse of having no constraints. The danger of having too much freedom. You wind up avoiding all human contact and natural sunlight in favor of disappearing down the rabbit hole of your own bullshit. 

It’s insidious. Nobody warns you about it. 

And so, if you’ve been feeling an overwhelming sense of emptiness, disconnection and imbalance, find a way to introduce constraints into your life. Create borders and structures and routines and schedules. Make a special effort to deepen your direct participation with the world. And keep building your relationship network that provides a sense of identity and esteem and allows you to give and receive support. 

Otherwise it will become too easy to hide. 

Prince, rest in peace, said it best. Too much freedom can lead to the soul’s decay. 


How are you battling your antisocial tendencies and creating a more direct relationship with the world? 


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Scott Ginsberg

That Guy with the Nametag

Author. Speaker. Strategist. Inventor. Filmmaker. Publisher. Songwriter.

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