An inescapable reality of life is that it is limited. We are all limited, in different ways to differing degrees. We are limited in the amount of time we have left, limited in the time we have now, we are limited in our knowledge, we are limited in our talents, we all have physical limitations. Accepting those limitations, working with them and within them can be the difference between achievement or failure, contentment or despair.
Contrary to the cod insights of shonky motivational speakers who encourage us to believe there are no limits, this simply is not the case. No matter how inspiring an “against the odds” story may be, there is a large difference between unearthing hidden talents and the idea that because I underestimated my capacity in one realm, my potential in all areas is infinite. That is simply not true.
If there are no limits, how come even drug-assisted athletes and bookmaker-assisted batsmen cannot run the 100 metres in 5 seconds, or average more than 99.94 over a 20-year test career? There is nothing wrong, and indeed, everything right in trying to encourage others to fulfil their potential. However, while we all have potential, our talents are not evenly scattered across all human endeavours. My office is within multi-instrumentalist James Morrison’s studio. I can’t get beyond about six wooden-fingered chords of Song for Guy, and boy, have I tried. When it comes to music, James is the silk purse, Jim is the sow’s ear!
However, one of James’ greatest strengths, his ability to improvise and make a well-worn tune take flight, is a demonstration of how to make limitation a creative asset. As Morrison says in his song Freedom in the Groove, “jazz musicians can’t do anything they want, you have to play within certain parameters, you play in a certain key, you play at a certain tempo, you follow a certain chord progression”. In other words, improvisation works when there are limits within which to play. Read more here