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Image: David Zinn sitting on his front porch steps with his little creations gathered around him

Obstacles Can Be Inspiration—Just Look at This Chalk Artist! 

You may not have ever thought of limitations as a good thing, but if used correctly, they can inspire genius! Whether you’re facing your next big step in life, a brand new responsibility, or looking to explore your creative side, we’ve got just the motivation for you.

You don’t want to miss out on the inspiration in today’s video, featuring the artist David Zinn—it’s a blueprint to endless creativity! Particularly, with these fun friends as our guides:

Image: David Zinn sitting on his front porch steps with his little creations gathered around him
Courtesy of Jonnie Lewis

The upside of limitations!

Most of us probably don’t hear “limitations” and relate them to something entirely good. And yet, they seem to be one of life’s renewable resources. They’re always present! So what if we stopped looking at them as hurdles in the way of our progress, and instead saw them as a tool? One that we can always tap into for motivation and inspiration, particularly when we find ourselves stuck and unsure of how to move forward.

When street artist David Zinn first went out onto the sidewalk with a box of chalk, suddenly, he knew what to do. A flood of ideas came to him, for he wasn’t facing a smooth, blank page where anything could happen. Instead, this surface had constraints: lumps, bumps, cracks, holes, random pieces of grass—a far different terrain than the perfect page he was having trouble navigating in his sketchbook.

Working in nature, these obstacles forced him to find workarounds. And these sparks of inspiration—of possibilities considered and solutions found—fueled by those limitations unlocked exactly what he was going to do next.

Filmmaker Jonnie Lewis created this brilliant short, 3-minute film about our friend David Zinn, called “Around the Block.” (Get it? Creative block?) Here’s the fun inspiration you need to take that next big step!

Via: Jonnie Lewis 1

Looking for more of David Zinn’s brilliant little creatures? Check out his website, or the book “Underfoot Menagerie” with over 100 of his drawings! It’ll keep them around forever, even after they’re washed away with the rain. Or give him a follow on Instagram or Facebook to have his work pop up in your social feed.

And check out more fantastic work from the filmmaker who brought us this beautiful video, Jonnie Lewis, over on his Vimeo page or website. Give him a follow on Instagram, too!

The secret to success!

It’s a really, really, top secret bit of information, are you ready? You sure? Ok—do it. That’s it! Do something, anything at all. Use what you have and go for it. In place of upsetting Nike by saying their trademarked slogan, I’ll repeat what David said:

“So, you could sit there and sweat and strain. ‘Oh, maybe I should wait for the best idea.’ But out on the sidewalk in the middle of the day, you don’t have time to wait for the best idea because if you wait it will get dark, or it will start to rain, and you’ll go home having created nothing. If you’re going to draw anything today, you better start. Because it’ll be dark eventually and it’ll be too late.”

David Zinn

Life’s fresh starts can put us under a lot of pressure. You may be heading into a new adventure with a million possibilities swimming through your head and no idea where to begin. Or, the opposite might be true: you could be at the beginning of something new without a clue what to do next.

Use the limitations that you find in your life to your own benefit; use them to inspire you. It doesn’t matter if the ideas are actually any good, as long as you’re doing something. Even just going for a walk and enjoying the randomness of the world, you’re laying down the tracks for more ideas to flow in.

For a great look at how to get going and actually begin, you’ve got to check out the work of Street Wisdom. With just a walk they will have you seeing the world with more creative and open eyes!

Turn off Autopilot: See the World with Fresh Eyes Using Street Wisdom

How often are we on autopilot when we are on our routine commutes? When was the last time you really noticed your surroundings as you walked through downtown? Did you really notice the sounds of the birds when you walked into your backyard to tend the garden? We spend so much time getting from one place to another to “do things” that we hardly ever look at the spaces between those tasks and see their richness. Here’s how we can change that with Street Wisdom.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast

And remember: none of these ideas that you pursue need to be permanent. David’s chalk creatures are the perfect example: they exist for a moment, and then go away with the next rain. You don’t need to totally commit yourself. No one needs to see what you create or do besides you! Try it out and move on whenever you feel like it, to whatever the next idea is that has now come unblocked.

“The Obstacle Is the Way”

If you’d like to dive deeper into the idea of using the obstacles in your life to your benefit, I highly suggest getting yourself the book “The Obstacle Is the Way” by Ryan Holiday. He beautifully leads us through the ways to find a path forward when we’re feeling super stuck and frustrated. It’s one of those books whose wisdom will always come back to you—I can’t recommend it enough!

And for another great story on using one’s limitations to bring forth ideas that no one had ever considered before, you need to hear Daniel Kish’s story. After losing his eyes as a young child, Daniel learned how to see with the click of his tongue. That’s right, Daniel learned how to echolocate—you know, like bats and dolphins do—and has been teaching others who have lost their sight how to do it, too!

Navigating the World Without Sight: You Don’t Have to See the Road to Determine Your Path with Daniel Kish (Episode #153)

Daniel Kish has a natural ability that has amazed over 2 billion people on this planet. He is often referred to as “The REAL Batman” because he has no eyes and yet he “sees” the world with sound, much like bats and dolphins do. He has traveled the globe unaccompanied for 25 years teaching tens of thousands to live independent lives with this remarkable adaptation. In this rousing conversation, Daniel shows how this works – and asks us all to let go of our fear of the unknown.

Read Article Watch Video Listen to Podcast

As always, my friend, stay open to new possibilities. The limitations put into your life may actually be your superpower!

  • Sam

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  1. Lewis, Jonnie. “Around the Block.” Vimeo, 9 Feb. 2021, vimeo.com/497319882. Accessed 9 Feb. 2021.
Image: Samantha Burns

Sam Burns

Former Editor-In-Chief

Sam wrote and edited hundreds of articles during her time on the Goodness Exchange team from 2016-2021. She wrote about topics from the wonders of nature to the organizations changing the world and the simple joys in life! Outside of the Goodness Exchange, she’s a part-time printmaker, collector of knick-knacks, and procurer of cheeses.

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