McKella Kinch
November 27, 2023

Defy Limitations with Open Jar Thinking

Defy Limitations with Open Jar Thinking

“We have to give ourselves the power to push beyond our limitations.” - Jeff Whiting

Did you know that fleas are amazing jumpers? 

Grossness aside, this phenomenon led to a very interesting study that turned out to be the perfect metaphor for human potential and possibility.

In this study, some scientists stuck a bunch of fleas in a jar and put the lid on. The fleas immediately started jumping and hitting the lid of the jar. After a week, they adjusted and started jumping just under the height of the jar. After one more week, the scientists removed the lid, but the fleas kept jumping only to the level of where the lid used to be, even though they could have jumped to freedom.

In his Ted Talk “Open Jar Thinking,” Jeff Whiting, a Broadway director and choreographer, explains this study and what it can teach us about defying limitations, whether real or self-imposed.

Watch the talk here! 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Many of our perceived limitations don’t actually exist.
  • In order to overcome real limitations, we have to jump high, every time.
  • Going for what we want doesn’t mean we’ll get it…but NOT going for it means we definitely WON’T. 
  • Those who succeed believe they can, even if it takes a long time.

Open Jar Thinking, in a nutshell, means that you go for it. It means you jump high, despite real or perceived limitations.

On the surface, this can seem like your garden-variety, goal-oriented, “don’t stop until you get what you want” rah-rah speech. But it’s not about rushing, pushing, hustling. It’s about imagining possibilities, looking for win-wins, noticing opportunities, and preparing so that when those opportunities come, you’re ready. 

How to Adopt Open Jar Thinking

“ matter what you want in life, no matter what it is you're after, you jump with all of your might...And one day that lid might just be open. You might be auditioning for the role of your lifetime, or you might be interviewing for the job of your life. But if you're not putting 100% in it, you're definitely not gonna get it.” - Jeff Whiting

Give 100%, every time

Open Jar thinking means jumping high, every time. It’s giving 100% to what’s right in front of you.

Even if you don’t feel qualified, give 100%. 

If you don’t like where you are, still give 100%. 

Even if it’s not “your job,” give 100%. 

If you aren’t in the role you want to be in at work, don’t phone it in. Do your very best where you are while you explore other areas. Instead of focusing on how little you can get away with, do your best. Focus on being helpful in any way you can. 

If you don’t feel qualified to do something that you want to do, learn. Try. Be helpful in any way you can. Don’t prove yourself, improve yourself.

Doors open up for you when you make a contribution. You attract opportunities when you give it your all, no matter what “it” is. And being helpful can make things more fun and fulfilling in the meantime. (This is part of one of our Redmond values, Passion for Contribution.)

Be, as Dewitt Jones says, “Not the best in the world, but the best for the world.”

Important Note: Some personalities will take the “give 100%” advice and beat themselves up when they think they’re not doing enough, so here’s a reminder: Giving 100% doesn’t mean running yourself into the ground or burning out. It doesn’t mean perfection. It means effort. It’s doing your best with situations as they come, and that’s going to look different from day to day, moment to moment. It’s okay if your 100% today doesn’t look like your 100% tomorrow. 

Patience, young Padawan

Open Jar Thinking isn’t a one-time thing. Sure, jumping high can help in the moment, but it’s often cumulative. It can take a long time for things to start moving or feel like they’re going anywhere, but once you build some momentum, that’s when you really start to see your efforts pay off.

Jeff Whiting definitely didn’t get a job every time he went to an audition. Even when he did his very best, when he jumped as high as he could, he often didn’t get the job. Even when he stood in front of the stage door to the theater where he wanted to work so badly, and he knew he’d do whatever it took to work there…that dream didn’t actually come true until 5 years later after a lot of consistent Open Jar thinking. 

You have to jump, and keep jumping. And one day that lid just might be open. 

How Open Jar Thinking Looks at Redmond

We don’t think Open Jar Thinking is necessarily about hustle or pushing or forcing, but we’re big fans of jumping high and possibility.

How do we “do” Open Jar Thinking at Redmond?

We’re all on our Three Circles Journey

At Redmond, we all pursue our Three Circles, which helps us create our own definition of success. We seek real fulfillment, not corporate ladders or keeping up with the Joneses.

This means we start by being helpful wherever we can. As we’re doing that, we’ll find out what we’re good at. (We also find this out by talking to other people because we can’t always see what we’re wired for!) We’ll also discover what fills our cup. 

These are our Three Circles, and when these three things intersect, we find that sweet spot where we can jump the highest. It takes some Open Jar Thinking to pursue this journey! 

This is where we get the most return on our efforts, where we can make our highest contribution and find the most fulfillment, not just accolades or a fat paycheck. 

A culture of collaboration

So often, we’re limited by what we can do alone. When we work with others, our impact is multiplied. We jump higher together

That’s why at Redmond, we’ve specifically cultivated a culture where we explore possibilities together. We form teams made up of different personalities, strengths, and work styles so that we can really shine in our strengths and through collaboration, make our weaknesses irrelevant. We can make a bigger contribution this way because it’s amplified by other people. This is how we jump high!

We always seek the win-win

So often we’re limited by false dichotomies. At Redmond, we’ve made it our practice to replace these with win-win solutions that actually work. 

Instead of choosing and compromising, we look for those third alternatives where EVERYONE can win.

We want to make a difference in the world AND grow our profits.  

We work hard AND love what we do.

We care about people AND numbers.

Are you stuck in any false dichotomies or limiting beliefs, in your work or personal life? Reflect with others who might be involved to find other solutions you might not have thought of before.

We explore the possibilities

You can’t jump for the possibilities if you don’t imagine the possibilities. 

At Redmond, we take time to explore together, to ask what could be, even if it doesn’t make sense or appear doable right now. 


“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous?' Actually, who are you not to be? …Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine…” 
Marianne Williamson

Sometimes, you’re presented with an opportunity. Sometimes you know what you want. But fear might hold you back. You might worry you aren’t qualified. Maybe, you just don’t want to be disappointed. 

Jump anyway

Jumping is valuable in itself because Open Jar thinking leads to growth. It doesn’t mean you’ll always get what you want, but you’ll get somewhere. You’ll get valuable experience that might lead to other opportunities. You might learn something important. 

So go for it anyway. Apply for that job. Speak up about what you’re seeing. Make that project the best you possibly can.

Put yourself in the path of inspiration, and you’ll find those opportunities! 

Open Jar thinking doesn’t just mean going for your goals. Sure, it can mean that, but it’s so much more than that. 

It’s imagining the possibilities. It’s getting to know yourself better so you can be helpful and a better team player. It’s finding real fulfillment instead of “hustling” for hustle’s sake.

Where are you jumping below the level of your limitations? Where can you jump higher?