How Handcuffs Saved My Business (And My Art!)

Alexis Fedor

Street art

Have you ever laid out a plan for your business with your art, in detail, knowing you had all the pieces you needed in place to ensure it would yield the most probable results possible, put the action steps you want to take into your calendar so you didn’t have to think about them but just actually do them, and then wake up the next morning and feel completely overwhelmed with life to the point that you had no idea how you were going to complete any of the steps you had laid out? Or have you actually begun to complete them, but then run into a small problem that ended up taking what seemed like forever to sort out, setting you back several days in the process?

I’ve had this problem more often than I care to admit while building my business with my art. There was never a time I can remember that everything went as smoothly as I had planned, even to this day, and some of those times sent me into such a tailspin that it feels like a miracle I’ve been able to come as far as I have.

There was one saving grace that helped me curb this issue more so than anything else, and when I learned it for the first time I thought it sounded absolutely insane- completely crazy, in fact. But when I saw how powerful it really is, I have never stopped using it since. It is the practice of what I refer to as ‘Positive Constraints’.

When I first started my consulting business, I was mostly writing and editing content for clients who needed to create more visibility for their work online. One client who found me through a mutual friend was writing a book and was looking for an editor. She happened to be… wait for it… a dominatrix! When she first approached me she explained her goal was to help women find ways to get in touch with their sexuality so they could have a better relationship with themselves, whether they were in a relationship already or not. She wanted to do so by revealing some key secrets a dominatrix uses in her work. She and her colleagues were holding a series of workshops at the Museum of Sex in NYC for this exact purpose, so I told her I wanted to attend the next one they had.

Not only was the event fun and lighthearted but I realized it was also powerfully informative for anyone wanting to run a successful business. Most of the focus of what these women did for their clients was to enable them to hold back in areas where they were often forced to give too much of themselves, and this offered them an incredible release, a sense of freedom and clarity that they didn’t have before. I learned that most of their clients were businessmen with very high-stress jobs, others had varying degrees of stress in their lives, and others had just plain fetishes they wanted to explore. But all of them were looking for a way to omit the chaos from their lives by focusing on one area intently that gave them the release they needed.

I remembered in that moment every business mentor I had, and every successful artist I admired greatly, telling me that a good strategy had to be paired with a form of reticence, a word that did not sit well with me in any way. More than that, I didn’t understand why this was so important until this moment.

During the workshop we did a fun role-play scenario with other women, which had me in handcuffs before I knew it. (disclaimer: there was no inappropriate behavior involved in the workshop- it was done in a very cheeky light, and none of the women running the workshop ever had sex with any of their clients. They were extremely professional and forthcoming about exactly how they approached their work.) As I sat in a chair blindfolded, hands behind my back, cuffed and restrained, I realized how safe I felt (the workshop produced a very safe environment) that allowed me to relax and let go of my arms for the moment. I’m used to talking with my hands, and subsequently hold much tension in my arms as a result. As I let this tension go, I opened up in a new way and had a clearer mind than I had had in as long as I could remember.

As I left the workshop I realized that reticence actually translated to constraints for a business owner, enabling them to laser-focus on a task no matter what challenges occurred on a daily basis. This was the key to actually completing tasks in the midst of feeling overwhelmed and dealing with the inevitable circumstances life brings forth.

I went home and figured out exactly what I needed to complete in that moment for my business, gave it my full attention and got it done. I then called upon the help I needed to get the rest taken care of in sequence, and made sure they were taken care of as well. When all was said and done I saw so clearly that being able to laser-focus was a by-product of my working to improve my performance in my business, and in doing so holding back as much as necessary to get to the heart of the matter and strip it down to the minimum requirements. This not only improved the quality of my results for my clients but also improved my ability to perform better the next time around.

I also saw how this could help my writing, as I was working on my web series at that time, ironically about a woman with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder who struggled with her own set of extreme constraints. I began to write her in a more compassionate light, knowing she could find resolution within the extremes she was dealing with. It changed my whole approach to her character, which was very well received in the second season of the show. As an artist, this was a huge breakthrough for my work on many different levels.

In short, when you run into a problem with a task you need to get completed for your business- whether it is lack of time, a technical issue, a problem you don’t have a solution for- practice taking a moment to allow your hands to feel tied behind your back, and surrender to the moment of feeling constrained to see what solution you are able to come up with. When we don’t resist the constraints that life puts on us but rather expect them and commit to learning to working within them, we begin to function at a higher level than we initially thought possible- this is where miracles begin to happen in terms of your business growth. The practice of Positive Constraints can have an incredible effect on your life and your profits with your art once you turn your perspective this direction.

I believe artists are hardwired to run the best businesses in the world. Help me prove my belief by taking action and sharing a theme that is integral to your art in the comments below or share a visual on Instagram using #artistsinbusiness and tag me: @alexisfedorpics!