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Summary: Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined by Scott Sonenshein

  • The book explains the difference between chasing and stretching resources, and why the latter is more effective and satisfying.
  • The book provides a framework of resourcefulness that consists of four elements: divergent thinking, improvisation, expectations, and combinations.
  • The book offers practical exercises and tips to help us develop our stretch muscles and avoid stretch injuries.

Research shows that everyone, from executives to entrepreneurs, performs better when they’re forced to work within limits. In this summary of Stretch – Unlock the Power of Less and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined, Scott Sonenshein shows you how to use the skill of resourcefulness to encourage innovation and produce more creative results. It’s not worth it to exhaust yourself in the pursuit of more. Instead, use this powerful framework to reach your personal and professional goals with the resources you already have.

Get the most out of your time, assets, and relationships with the science of resourcefulness.


  • Want to learn how to be truly satisfied with what you have
  • Are curious about how to use your existing resources to achieve your goals
  • Want to identify sources of innovation and growth that you already possess

Book Summary: Stretch - Unlock the Power of Less and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined


Do you ever feel like you’ve gotten caught up in chasing after the next big thing? Maybe you’re dreaming of a bigger house, a nicer car, or a more prestigious job. It’s healthy to want more and to be ambitious, but what if it were possible to have a more rewarding career and a more fulfilling life right now, with what you already have?

It’s easy to imagine that you’ll be happier once you’ve gotten a promotion, made a big purchase, or splurged on a fancy vacation, but too often this puts us in a position of living beyond our means. Chasing money and status can result in a temporary sense of exhilaration, but it often ends in debt and despair. Even companies and organizations can experience this, getting caught up in the thrill of chasing success, spending investor money extravagantly, and eventually crashing into bankruptcy. You might think you need more to do more, but Scott Sonenshein is here to prove that’s not the case. In Stretch, you’ll learn how to live a life of abundance instead of excess by practicing resourcefulness.

The skill of resourcefulness allows you to think imaginatively about what you already have and find ways to use what’s already in front of you to its fullest potential. You’ll learn how to think of new uses for anything and you’ll become adept at spotting solutions to problems without having to spend a lot. This mindset will help you tap into resources you might not have known you had and teach you new ways to find value in those resources.

Work with What You’ve Got

A few decades ago, two men were fourth-generation brewery owners. One of them, Peter Stroh, came from a family of brewery owners worth $9 billion. Dick Yuengling’s family had managed to hold on to its brewery since the 1890s, but their profits and market share were much smaller. Stroh believed that his company’s massive budget and his family’s deep pockets could be used to help the business expand rapidly, so he set about acquiring smaller breweries and facilities at a rapid pace, all while borrowing hundreds of millions of dollars. Yuengling, on the other hand, renovated an existing brewery and slowly updated equipment without expanding at all. In time, Stroh’s facilities were underused, drowning in debt, and losing market share, while Yuengling’s brewery was thriving. Stroh eventually went under, while Yuengling continues to be enjoyed today.

This true tale of two beers illustrates the potential outcomes of two very different mindsets. While Peter Stroh believed you must “grow or go,” Dick Yuengling exemplified “working with what you’ve got.” Even today, Yuengling makes sure the lights are turned off at work, wears a T-shirt and jeans, and drives a sensible car — even though he’s reportedly worth $2 billion. His ability to live comfortably but economically is a classic example of living within your means.

It’s a myth that having more resources gets you better results. You might believe it will make growth more comfortable, minimize strain, require less effort, and accelerate the speed of acquisition. People tend to think that if your product is declining, you should spend more on advertising and that if your company is struggling, a bigger operating budget will help. But these solutions are actually just quick fixes that are in fact harmful. Why? Because they undermine your ability to take a good look at what you already have around you. And if you can’t see the value of the resources you have, you’re probably not going to do much better with extra resources. While the “get more” approach may seem natural, it fails to produce the best outcomes — and rapid expansion can soon turn into rapid losses.

The lesson here is that it can be easy to put too much emphasis on acquiring new things. Instead, make more out of what you already have and work creatively within your constraints to yield greater, more fulfilling results. There’s no satisfaction like knowing you have worked a little harder to come up with a solution that perfectly fits your needs and costs less than acquiring new debts.

The Basics and Benefits of a Stretching Mindset

With a chasing mindset, you seek to acquire as many resources as you can, but with a stretching mindset, you evaluate and consider what you already have. There are four essential parts of a stretching mindset:

  1. Psychological ownership. When you believe that you’re in control of your resources, you are invested in knowing exactly what you have and you challenge yourself to work with those resources to come up with innovative solutions.
  2. The art of constraints. Recognize that your limitations can activate your creativity. The mind was made for imagining diverse possibilities and inventing new uses for objects. Scarcity causes people to think about resources in less conventional ways. Constraints can be a powerful way to spark valuable new ideas.
  3. The fortunes of frugality. Prioritize long-term goals over short-term pleasures and reuse what you have instead of buying something new. Frugal people avoid wasteful, showy, status-promoting spending and are very comfortable with what they have.
  4. From trash to treasure. When you practice the habit of stretching, you see potential in things that other people discard. Then you’re able to find ways to put them to good use.

When you move to a stretching mindset, you’re able to see possibilities where other people see nothing. If you direct your energy to developing the value of what’s right under your nose, you’ll reap the rewards.

The stretching mindset involves being comfortable with being unconventional, and that includes cultivating a bit of an outsider perspective. When you see yourself not as an expert but instead as an outsider open to learning and trying new things, you’re free to explore different knowledge sets, experiences, and resources. An outsider can draw on different places for information than an expert can and can often provide a more innovative perspective.

We Are What We Expect

Another characteristic of the stretching mindset is spontaneity. The ability to think on your feet is a vital skill that can go a long way toward helping you make do with what you already have. Actually, it can help you more than just make do — it can help you succeed.

Consider the story of director Robert Rodriguez. As a young filmmaker, he wanted to make a movie but had no budget. Upon learning that a local hospital was offering $3,000 to people who signed up for a drug study, Rodriguez went through the screening process and got himself accepted for a monthlong hospital stay. While there, he worked on his script and strategized how to shoot the film. During the study, he even met the man who would play one of the movie’s principal characters. Throughout the shoot, Rodriguez had to make spur-of-the-moment alterations and adjustments to stay within his tight budget — even using a wheelchair from the hospital to get moving footage — but he was still able to keep his artistic vision intact. The film, El Mariachi, became a classic and launched his very successful Hollywood career.

Your expectations about your resources can also influence whether your plans turn out better than you hoped for or worse than you imagined. When you stretch your expectations about what is possible within the constraints of your resources, you set higher standards for yourself and others that can enhance overall performance. This effect can be seen in children. If you tell them you believe they can do something, they’ll do everything they can to prove you right. When someone detects that you’ve set your expectations of them high, they’ll instinctively work to exceed those expectations. When you change your mindset to a stretching mindset, you believe that your current resources are all you need. Then you get to work making your project happen.

Another essential trait of the stretching mindset is viewing resources as flexible and abundant instead of scarce and endangered. While the chase culture wants you to believe that you have to get ahold of everything you can before your competition does, stretchers know that there’s always the potential to find more or create alternatives. One of the best ways to do this is to consider how your resources can interact with one another to create more usable options. Maybe you have oil and water, which don’t mix, but you discover that adding an emulsifier bonds them into a permanent mixture. There are so many ways for resources to overlap and enhance one another — and these unlikely combinations can bring amazing possibilities to the table.

Your Stretch

When implementing the strategies of the stretching mindset, use careful judgment and don’t overdo it. There are five signs of overstretching:

  1. Turning into a cheapskate. Cheapskates focus on amassing wealth instead of using wealth wisely to do good. Frugal people enjoy saving money, but cheapskates feel pain if they have to spend.
  2. Wandering on the road to nowhere. Be careful about how much you diversify your experiences, because if you’re constantly picking up and starting over, it can be detrimental. Look for novel experiences while maintaining constancy in your life.
  3. Leaping without learning. Before jumping into a new endeavor or project, make sure you already have an established area of focus to guide what you will learn. Acting too quickly without enough information can lead to failure.
  4. Being cursed by high expectations. Resist internalizing other people’s high expectations of you and keep doing the hard, steady work every day. Try to minimize the effects of performance pressure.
  5. Making toxic mixtures. Successful combinations require novelty and usefulness, so when you’re trying to make the most of your resources, make sure your experiments produce something that’s useful instead of toxic.

As you move forward, trying to avoid these pitfalls, you can further strengthen your stretching mindset with a few other techniques, such as keeping a notebook of ideas about how to use your resources. This can also be a space in which to break your resources down into their essential building blocks, so that you can imagine many new uses for them. Another helpful practice: Make midyear New Year’s resolutions to take stock of how you’ve been doing and then set additional goals. Whatever you decide to do, remember that your way of inhabiting the stretching mindset is up to you, and it should be customized to help you gain the most benefit.


You’ve probably experienced the chasing mindset at some point in your life, but hopefully this summary has shown you that it’s possible and worthwhile to start stretching instead. Chasing makes you miserable. It also hampers your ability to stretch by keeping you from seeing the resources you already have. People who choose to stretch don’t do it because it’s their only way to get by; they do it because it provides creative possibilities, better results, and more fulfillment. It’s OK to get comfortable living in an unconventional way and seeing things from an outsider’s perspective — you’re in good company.

How do you get started? Ask yourself what you can do to live a happier, more constructive life with what you already have. Think about what you really want to accomplish. Take stock of your resources in a notebook or journal so that your mind can play with what might be possible. The key hallmarks of the stretch mindset — improvisation, ingenuity, and adaptability — are essential in learning how to stop craving more resources and to achieve a sense of well-being using what you already have.

About the author

Scott Sonenshein is a professor of management at Rice University who has helped hundreds of executives, entrepreneurs, and professionals grow their organizations. He has written for The New York Times, Time magazine, and Harvard Business Review.


Business Development, Nonfiction, Self Help, Psychology, Leadership, Personal Development, Productivity, Management, Health, Anxiety, Stress, Trauma-Related Disorders, Business Life, Creativity, Success, Motivation, Self-Esteem, Psychological Disorders, Relationships, Personal Growth, Economics, Occupational and Organizational Popular Psychology, Popular Psychology Creativity and Genius, Environmental Economics

Table of Contents

Introduction: My Stretch ix
1 A Tale of Two Beers: Work with What You’ve Got 1
2 The Grass Is Always Greener: The Causes and Consequences of a Chasing Mind-Set 21
3 All Things Rich and Beautiful: The Basics and Benefits of a Stretching Mind-Set 45
4 Get Outside: The Value of Knowing a Little about a Lot 71
5 Time to Act: Why We Sometimes Perform Better without a Script (and All the Time and Money in the World) 97
6 We Are What We Expect: How Beliefs Make Us and the People We Care About Better (or Worse) 123
7 Mix It Up: The Power of Unlikely Combinations 147
8 Avoid Injuries: How to Get the Right Stretch 173
9 Workout: Exercises to Strengthen a Stretch 201
Conclusion: Your Stretch 225
Acknowledgments 229
Notes 233
Index 269


The book Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined by Scott Sonenshein is a guide to achieving more with less by using the power of resourcefulness. The author, a professor of management at Rice University, argues that there are two ways of approaching resources: chasing and stretching. Chasing is the pursuit of more resources, such as money, time, and possessions, in the belief that they will lead to success and happiness. Stretching is the embrace of the resources we already have, and finding creative and productive ways to use them to solve problems, innovate, and engage our work and lives more fully.

The author uses stories from various fields and domains, such as business, education, sports, medicine, and history, to illustrate the benefits of stretching and the pitfalls of chasing. He also provides a framework of resourcefulness that consists of four elements: divergent thinking, improvisation, expectations, and combinations. He shows how these elements can help us overcome constraints, perform better without a script, enhance our own and others’ abilities, and create value from unlikely sources. He also offers practical exercises and tips to strengthen our stretch muscles and avoid injuries.

I found the book Stretch: Unlock the Power of Less and Achieve More Than You Ever Imagined by Scott Sonenshein to be an insightful and inspiring read. The author makes a compelling case for why stretching is superior to chasing in terms of achieving more with less, and how it can improve our work and well-being. He also provides useful tools and strategies to help us become more resourceful and creative in our daily lives.

The book is well-written and engaging, with clear explanations and examples. The stories are relevant and interesting, ranging from how a beer company used rice instead of barley to create a popular brand, to how a doctor improvised a life-saving device from a pen, to how a musician composed a hit song from a random sample. The author also draws from his own personal and professional experiences to illustrate his points.

The book is not only informative, but also motivational. It challenges us to rethink our assumptions about resources and success, and encourages us to embrace our constraints as opportunities for growth and innovation. It also reminds us that we have more potential than we realize, and that we can achieve more than we ever imagined by stretching ourselves and our resources.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn how to be more resourceful and creative in their work and life. It is a valuable resource for anyone who wants to stretch their limits and achieve more with less.

Alex Lim is a certified book reviewer and editor with over 10 years of experience in the publishing industry. He has reviewed hundreds of books for reputable magazines and websites, such as The New York Times, The Guardian, and Goodreads. Alex has a master’s degree in comparative literature from Harvard University and a PhD in literary criticism from Oxford University. He is also the author of several acclaimed books on literary theory and analysis, such as The Art of Reading and How to Write a Book Review. Alex lives in London, England with his wife and two children. You can contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Website | Twitter | Facebook

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