#045 On Constraint
**Sorry for the duplicate email. Substack sent out an earlier draft without syncing any of the final edits. I normally write in Notion but for some reason wrote directly to the Substack server this week. 🤬
Thank God Alice had a draft open in another tab. 😇
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Mexico City was special. The perfect merger of nature and urban sprawl filled with roaming dogs, sidewalk cafes, and intentional artistry. Thanks for all your emails and recommendations from last week, we ended up at many of the places you found to be memorable and we found them to be delightful as well. Here’s a Google Maps link that shows all the places we really loved or will be going to on the next visit.
Perhaps the highest recommended experience when you visit the city is a dinner at Pujol, currently ranked the 9th best restaurant in the world according to The World’s 50 Best, with good reason. The restaurant is commonly reserved 2-3 months ahead so unless you’re a super planner, there’s a good chance that you might be out of luck by the time you think about making the reservation.
Of course, I’m speaking from experience. 3 weeks from the date of our trip we attempted to secure our spot and they were packed to the brim until April. We realized shortly after that Enrique Olvera, chef of Pujol, has a relationship with Rose Delights and has developed several of the company’s recipes. Rose Delights also happens to be a partner that we’ve teamed up with this year at MW.S.
You probably know what I’m getting at. After a couple exchanged emails we were confirmed for a 9:30p tasting menu reservation. I’m always blown away at how connected we are in the world. You’re only ever 1 or 2 people away from anyone, somehow.
Prior to our dinner we watched the Chef’s Table episode on Pujol. Something interesting stood out to me when Enrique was explaining his use of obscure ingredients like Chichitana Ants. He uses crushed spicy ants as a flavoring technique in a particular dish and explains that this was discovered many years ago in deeper and poorer regions of Oaxaca, Guerrero, and Chiapas. He mentioned that often times limited resources promotes creativity. Breakthrough happens when you experiment with things that haven’t been tried before. It’s this idea of using what you have and making the most of it. While this experience was a pretty clear example of creativity in the midst of constraint, I found this to be a common through-line in most of our experiences in the city.
When you have it all, you welcome comfortability. When you have a couple sticks and the temperature is dropping, you’re going to rub them together until you’ve made a fire.
I used to think that a bigger budget or more resources would be the key to allowing us to do everything we wanted creatively. But even after 2-3 years and building a company that is quickly growing, we’ve found that some of our earliest projects with limited resources are still some of the ones we’re most proud of. They’re still the ones where we took bigger risks and felt the least amount of pressure to live up to a predetermined expectation. They’re also ones that were so limited in resources that it was near impossible to make anything of it.
The balance of resources to keep your head above water, alongside some level of creative constraint, is the space where the best things happen
Ideas from me
While the driver’s main objective is to cross the finish line before everyone else, the answer would be too easy if it were to push the pedal to the floor the entire time. The best drivers find a way to move with pace. And while minimizing error, they use strategies to bypass obstacles (other drivers) and deliver a variety of speeds on straightaways versus turns.
A race can only be won by slowing down.
II. GOOD MORNING
Encourage yourself to tackle deeply creative and difficult work first thing in the morning.
We often approach the easy tasks first because checking boxes feels more immediately rewarding than searching for solutions to deep problems. For example, responding to emails is easier to accomplish but quickly drains your capacity to focus later in the day.
Delayed gratification is almost always worth it. Choose discipline over distraction.
Several times week I’d responded with “Si” to questions I didn’t understand because I was too embarrassed to ask my waiter to re-explain what they had said 2 or 3 times already in Spanish.
We ended up with a lot of surprises, and definitely ended up with food we weren’t expecting.
Assuming you know what is asked of you means you play the lottery. Slowing down to make sure you understand the question, even if it’s a struggle to get there, guarantees you walk away with money in your pocket.
A quote from somebody else
People write things in letters they would never say in person. They permit themselves to write down feelings and observations using emotional syntax far more intimate and powerful than speech will allow.
— Alice Steinbach
Links worth sharing
🎺 The Year of Duke Ellington, Black Music and Black Muses
🧩 Polycam App allows you to make a 3D scan of anything, using your iPhone. Here’s an example. My friend Sean does it all the time. Very cool.
🟢 Green River Project design studio
🥲 Tiger Dingsun on how poetry and graphic design produces inarticulable feelings, It’s Nice That
Thanks for another week!
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