The beauty in constraint, and why it matters
A few years ago, the Internet meme “Do Your Best Jagger” sprung from the game of the same name. The rules were not complicated: players could challenge each other, at any time, in any place, in any medium they liked, to do an impression of Mick Jagger of the Rolling Stones performing on stage.
As soon as you received the challenge, you were obliged to do your impression. There was no waiting until you were somewhere a bit more private, or until you had taken your coat off, or finished your falafel. You had to channel your inner Mick there and then, in front of whatever audience you found yourself—and in the consequent video lay the success of the meme.
The interesting question is not so much why one would ever start on this kind of madness, but why the game worked so well. How was it that, even when imitated poorly by a reluctant amateur at the counter in Subway, the audience understood that Sir Michael Philip Jagger was briefly in their midst? How did the veteran rocker come to create an onstage routine recognizable to anyone with even the briefest acquaintance with a Rolling Stones concert?
The answer lies in the beneficial effect of a constraint.
In Keith Richards’ autobiography, Life, Jagger's fellow Stone explains how this distinctively flamboyant style came about. When the Stones started, he says, they played very, very small venues, and by the time the equipment was set up and the audience in place the singer often ...