bolivia, mountains, bay

STRETCH – Chapter 3 Review

by Scott Sonenshein


Chapter 3 – All Things Rich and Beautiful

OK, readers, this is where we get into the good stuff!

On page 46 Sonenshein lays out the perfect definition of stretching:

“…the foundation of stretching is to focus on what we already have. A stretching mind-set releases us from the anxiety of never having enough and teaches us that we can make more than enough with what’s right here.”

Don’t you love that?

I am tempted to make the leap and state that I’ve adopted the stretching mind-set, but that’s not quite the truth. Like it or not, there’s still a part of me that is chasing. However, I’m comfortable with the chasing aspect, because it’s only a small part of my existence. It’s the part of me that is striving for self-improvement, the thirst for learning and knowledge, the hunger for spiritual and emotional abundance. Yep, there’s still desire for material abundance, but to a far lesser degree than in my younger years.

I appreciate the four concepts that the author introduces in this chapter, and I want to comment briefly on each.

The first concept is psychological ownership, or the idea that if we are emotionally invested in a specific venture we become more dedicated to its success. As a business owner for 18+ years, I’ve employed a few helpers, and I’ve almost always found success when I offer some basic guidelines for a project but then turn over the reins. One helper in particular developed greater efficiency than the process I had envisioned, and even opened new lines of service with the client that I hadn’t identified. When allowed to run with her ideas, she created a model that met a variety of needs and was very profitable all around. She embraced ownership of her project and created much more success than I could have done alone.

Embracing constraints is the second concept. I’m particularly fond of Sonenshein’s description of “little c” creativity (page 53) which doesn’t focus on producing creative works, but instead on solving practical problems by discovering new uses and applications of existing resources. Most of my adult working life has been spent with small companies where survival meant wearing a lot of hats and utilizing out of the box thinking to accomplish tasks. One particular instance that comes to mind was entertaining potential Japanese investors. This was a sticky problem, because we had to meet the needs of multiple generations from a different culture. Without a lot of monetary resources, I researched the traditional tea ceremony (God bless you, emerging Internet!) and was able to demonstrate the proper respect for the elder generation. The younger generation was interested in HOLLYWOOD, so I grabbed a map, outlined a route, and hit a number of landmarks one afternoon, plus a taping of The Price Is Right. I can’t claim that my ingenuity was the sole reason for landing these investors, but the deal was inked before they left town, and I like to think that getting creative gave the campaign a big boost.

For me, the least favorite of the four concepts is frugality. I am somewhat frugal by nature, but the example of Bob Kierlin and his company Fastenal felt really extreme. He doesn’t pay a per diem for food for traveling employees because they have to eat anyway? I don’t know – that’s just wrong. I understand his vision of emphasizing long-term objectives over short-term gratification, and I appreciate that frugal people are probably the originators of the “reduce, reuse, recycle” movement. They avoid stressing out over what they don’t have in favor of utilizing what they have on hand, and they use what they have in unconventional ways. I’ve been doing that for a long time, but mostly because I enjoy the challenge (and because my redecorating budget hovers just above zero!)

This leads us directly to the fourth concept, structuration theory, or turning trash into treasure. It’s not about the innate value of an object, but what can be done with it that matters. Resources are not things that come from outside us, but rather things that we create and shape. One afternoon of watching DIY Network demonstrates that there’s a huge movement in this direction. “Repurposing” is a watchword these days. Who hasn’t wanted to create something amazing with a bunch of old rulers and Mason jars and a string of Edison bulbs? (OK, maybe that’s just me – but you get the idea.) To find the value in a resource requires action.

As the author states, it’s a matter of recognizing the untapped value in our existing resources, and putting our energy and creativity to work to develop it. We need to free ourselves of simply accepting things at face value, and figure out new ways of utilizing what we have. By unlocking our self-imposed limitations, we can see all kinds of new possibilities. And it’s only when we make this shift in mind-set that we are ready to embrace the skills of stretching. I don’t know about you, but I’m in!!