As I’m writing this, there is a pot of red beans simmering in a slow cooker the kitchen. I personally think they’re better if you give them a full day to cook so they’ve been in there since yesterday. Low and slow. That extra time allows the beans to soften more and blend with the flavors of the spices, onion and andouille sausage that’s also in there. Just smelling it now makes me hungry. Later, I’ll cook up a pot of rice and for lunch I’ll sit down to a bowl of red beans and rice. It takes a while to make, but the wait will be worth it.

A couple of weeks ago I cooked up some fried potatoes in a cast iron Dutch oven. Fried potatoes are a southern staple. I start by frying up a bunch of bacon that’ve I’ve chopped up. Once that gets cooking and the fat rendering, I throw in a chopped-up onion and some sliced red potatoes. Lately, I’ve also been experimenting with adding other stuff to the mix so I also tossed in some sliced portabella mushrooms and smoked sausage. Add copious amounts of Tony Chachere’s and black pepper, stir it all up so the bacon grease gives everything a good coating and then stick the lid of the Dutch oven on it and let it fry. Stir the mix occasionally until it starts getting crispy. I like mine extra crispy so I’ll eventually pull the lid off and let the water steam off and cook it a little longer. Normally, I’d serve it as is with some pork chops, venison tender loin or fried chicken, however I had an idea that since I added the mushrooms, then maybe a can of cream of mushroom soup would also be a nice addition. And then I realized I was onto something new so after the can of soup I added a few cups of water to the pot. I turned down the heat, stirred it all up and let it simmer.

And just like that, fried potato soup. After I couldn’t take it any longer, I filled up a bowl and put some shredded cheese on it.

Lord have mercy, it was good enough to curl your toes.

There is a reason we make soup in a pot. It seems ridiculous to make that statement, but it is the perfect example of form following function. Its form establishes boundaries for that which is fluid. Its form allows it to hold what we place within and not spill all over the stove and not make a mess of things. Those boundaries give us the ability to play with flavors and create new things. We can find out what works and what doesn’t. But only in so much as we stay within those boundaries. It’ll only hold so much. Go outside of that and you just have a chaotic mess.

A bit like ideas and belief systems.

In creative work one of the first things people realize is that constraints are actually very helpful. When Twitter first emerged people were aghast at the 140 character limit. However, they also soon discovered that the restriction forced them to learn how to choose their words carefully and write concisely. Constraints allow us to focus. In creative work ideas are often very fluid in the beginning and if you’ve ever been in a meeting with other creatives then you know that ideas and “what ifs” can run all over the place to the point that nothing is useful. Often those meetings require someone to establish constraints and bring people back when they start spilling over.

Organizationally, we’ve seen what happens when companies try to be everything. They stop being good at anything.

Personally, people tend to be disasters when they can’t hold things together. Unregulated emotions, unregulated behaviors or buying into the next latest thing that they think will magically solve their issues.

Constraints allow us to establish order when things are fluid and that order makes them useful.

For Roosevelt, he developed a code for the strenuous life. His demons were in constant pursuit of him throughout his entire life. Both internal and external. Staying focused and doing hard things not only allowed the sickly young boy turn into a man who was an unstoppable force of nature, but also allowed a heartbroken young man find inner strength in a world that kept throwing storms at him.

“Get action. Do things; be sane; don’t fritter away your time; create, act, take a place wherever you are and be somebody; get action.”

But it wasn’t a pot of soup he was creating. It was a better boat.

What he found as a child was that the vessel that was his body wasn’t strong enough to survive the storms that life on the outside. What he found as a young man was that the vessel that was his mind wasn’t strong enough to survive the storms within. When everything was fluid. When everything was chaos, he needed a vessel that he could depend on to get him through.

He needed a boat strong enough to survive the storms on the outside and the storms within.

Don’t we all?