Wikipedia: After Nazi Germany’s attack on the Soviet Union he was imprisoned in a German work camp in Ternopol, from which he made several attempts to escape. He received a death sentence for his second attempt to escape, but managed to escape again after killing his guard with a shovel when taken to dig his own grave. This became the subject of his most famous poem. After that he participated in partisan warfare within the communist formations of the Gwardia Ludowa and the Armia Ludowa, and eventually served in regular units of Polish army until the end of the war, which he finished in the rank of major and was awarded the order of “Polonia Restituta”.
According to Clifton Fadiman‘s introduction to Lec’s book Unkempt Thoughts (Myśli nieuczesane):
Lec has led the strange (to us), hunted, haunted life of thousands of Central European intellectuals, their experience inexorably shaped by war and revolution. At the outbreak of the war he was imprisoned in a German concentration camp. There he stayed until July 1943 when the camp was liquidated by mass executions. Escaping in a German uniform, he succeeded in reaching Warsaw where he joined the underground fighters. After the war he continued his writing, varying his career by brief service as cultural attache of the Polish Embassy in Vienna. He has also spent two years in Israel.
- Beyond each corner new directions lie in wait.
- The exit is usually where the entrance was.
- He who limps is still walking.
- In a war of ideas it is people who get killed.
- The mob shouts with one big mouth and eats with a thousand little ones.
- Even a glass eye can see its blindness.
- To whom should we marry Freedom, to make it multiply?
- I am against using death as a punishment. I am also against using it as a reward.
- You can close your eyes to reality but not to memories.
- Optimists and pessimists differ only on the date of the end of the world.
- Is it a progress if a cannibal is using knife and fork?
- If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he lucky?
- No snowflake in an avalanche ever feels responsible.
- All is in the hands of man. Therefore wash them often.
- Do not ask God the way to heaven; he will show you the hardest one.
- If you are not a psychiatrist, stay away from idiots. They are too stupid to pay a layman for his company.
- Thoughts, like fleas, jump from man to man, but they don’t bite everybody.
- The first condition of immortality is death.
- Suppose you succeed in breaking the wall with your head. And what, then, will you do in the next cell?
- When smashing monuments, save the pedestals—they always come in handy.
“Why is it that in a society with a Puritan heritage we have such completely ambivalent feelings about Work? We feel guilty, do we not, if not busy? But we feel somewhat soiled, on the other hand, if we sweat overmuch?
I can only suggest that we often indulge in made work, in false business, to keep from being bored. Or worse still we conceive the idea of working for money. The money becomes the object, the target, the end-all and be-all. Thus work, being important only as a means to that end, degenerates into boredom. Can we wonder then that we hate it so? Nothing could be further from true creativity.”
“If you go back back a few hundred years, what we take for granted today would seem like magic – being able to talk to people over long distances, to transmit images, flying, accessing vast amounts of data like an oracle. These are all things that would have been considered magic a few hundred years ago.” – Elon Musk
I learned an important lesson a few years ago from a designer working at Apple. He said the more constraints you have, the more magical your designs tend to become. This post is intended to take you through what I’ve learned thus far as a result of that encounter and hopefully allow you to see life’s limitations as a springboard of possibilities.
Growing up I loved the concept of magic and owned a few magic kits. I never really got to put my magic to work in front of a large audience until a traveling magic show came to perform at our elementary school. Each teacher was asked to pick a student from their class to be in the show. I was picked by the teacher and I have to admit I was a little apprehensive tending to be on the shy side. I did however love the idea of being able to practice a newly learned trick and finally having an audience, even if it was the entire school.
That morning I met with the magic company so they could teach me and the others chosen how to perform all of the tricks for the show later that afternoon. I was paired up with another boy to do an escape from a magical trunk. The trick was they would put the other boy in the trunk, lock it, and I would stand on top of the trunk to “ensure he couldn’t escape even if he managed to somehow get past the lock.” The magician would pull a hula hoop attached to a curtain up and around us so the audience couldn’t see us for a few moments and “magically” the boy in the trunk would appear on top of the trunk and I would disappear. Once the magician opened the trunk I would appear and the audience would be even more amazed. What the audience didn’t know was the trunk did lock as a volunteer from the audience proved, but on the inside was a small lever that allowed the person inside to unlock it. Luckily the trick went off without a hitch and my friends were amazed, or at least entertained.
I’m in my mid thirties now so it has been quite a few years since that show but even in my professional years I’m still quite intrigued by the concept of magic. Creative companies, and most companies who offer their customers an experience have used the word magic in their products. Disney is one of the most famous companies that likes to make its customers forget their problems and bring visitors back to their childhood as soon as they enter the gates. Disneyland has even branded itself “The Magic Kingdom” and it is hard to walk away from your experience at one of their parks or media properties without feeling the magic. Where things get interesting in the professional world is when you limit yourself because time and time again I’ve found those constraints to be what drives some of the most creative things I’ve done.
Magical Web Design
When you give a web designer 1280+ pixels to design a website they won’t hesitate to fill the page with features and content because they have the space. If you give that same designer 640px (iPhone resolution etc) they tend to stop and reconsider every pixel because they are now space constrained. The less space you have to work with, the more difficult it is to meet the original requirement. Those consuming your design will expect magical things to happen with each interaction because interacting with smaller device, say a phone, is often times more difficult for them. In the web space it is interesting because if I was to ask you to think of the last website you went to that you would describe as “magical” you might have a tough time, right? However if I was to ask you to tell me about a time when you interacted with your smart phone and it did something “magical” you would have no problem thinking of an entire list of examples.
The best example of this principle is when I first used Shazam on my smart phone. Being able to hold up my phone within the proximity of a song playing and have it tell me the artist and song title was magical. Another great example was I tried Uber for the first time a few weeks ago and I have to say that experience was also magical. If you are not familiar with Uber it allows you to get transportation, often within a few minutes, right from the tap of a button on your smart phone. Upon leaving the car you are automatically billed the agreed upon amount via PayPal or a Google Wallet account you setup beforehand. Whether you call them magical moments, or wow moments, I am really passionate these days about designing magical moments.
I’ve always been someone who loves to create, but often find myself jumping from idea to idea rarely finishing most projects. I have found the projects with a deadline, or often, a sudden deadline are those I tend to finish. The reasons why projects with deadlines likely get finished as compared with the others is you will be held accountable for meeting that deadline, or in other words you now have a constraint. When writing try and give yourself a deadline to finish it, or give yourself rules like not being able to use the backspace key to free write.
Magical Video Moments
In the past when I’ve had to create videos it is usually designed to educate and entertain the audience. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve created something I thought was fantastic only to be told to “cut the length in half.” I’ve heard things like “people these days don’t have time to watch a two minute video” to “it has to be a minute or less.” What is interesting is although I initially liked the initial video, time after time the final video tends to be better because of the constraints I was given.
“We need to first be limited in order to become limitless.” – Phil Hansen
One of my favorite examples of someone who has been able to leverage a constraint in life to make something magical is Phil Hansen who “developed an unruly tremor in his hand that kept him from creating the pointillist drawings he loved. Hansen was devastated, floating without a sense of purpose. Until a neurologist made a simple suggestion: embrace this limitation … and transcend it.”
Your Magical Findings
Have you found life’s limitations have helped you create magical moments? Tell me about your experience.
From James Altucher on Quora:
Joseph Heller wrote the massive bestseller, Catch-22 about World War II. I recommend anyone read the book but that’s not what this answer is about.
Later in his life Heller went to a party in the Hamptons. Mostly young hedge fund guys at the party.
While he was at the party, someone came up to him and pointed out some 25 year old guy. “You see that guy over there?” the someone said. “That guy made more money last year than all of your books will make in your entire lifetime, times ten.”
Joseph Heller looked at the 25 year old guy then said. “But I have one thing that that man will never have.”
His friend gave a sort of scoff and said, “What could that possibly be?”
And Joseph Heller said, “Enough.”