Children fascinate me.
The coolest thing about kids, I think, is this: They come into this world as a bundle of wonder and curiosity.
BEGINNER MIND POWER
Kids know they don’t know, they’re hard-wired to find out, and they are absolutely single-minded in their efforts. They are the epitome of relentless, the very best role models for persistence.
Every one of them is working on mastery. They all want to know how to do it all well.
It doesn’t stop: walking, talking, tying shoelaces, making friends, riding a bike, playing games, finding out how something works and why you do this and not that. On and on and on.
They notice everything (especially the stuff the adults would rather they didn’t) and they are interested in every single little thing they encounter.
Their major mistakes are usually the result of ignorance. They just don’t know enough yet and a lot of their plans fall apart because of that. (That tends to give the people who care about them the heebie-jeebies, but so what?)
When they’re starting out, kids are determined to catch on and catch up.
They want to do it themselves. They want to get good and they want to show they know what they know.
SMALL IS COOL
Kids start small. After all, they are little and they are weak and have to depend on the Bigs around them just for survival. (But, THAT is gonna change! Uh-huh.)
Every time they make a misstep, it’s usually just a small hiccup in their forward progress.
The little guys haven’t gotten to the big stuff yet and if they’ve got Bigs who help to keep them mostly safe from the ordinary life-threatening stuff, kids can pick themselves up and try again…and again and again…until they get to where they want to go.
If the circumstances in their lives are harder, more unfortunate, or even downright dangerous, then the ones who survive learn more and they learn faster and often they get even better at not giving up.
Every little win is its own reward. (One more down, what’s next?)
TIME IS ON THEIR SIDE
Kids know time is on their side.
They’re going to get bigger. They’re going to get those flabby muscles built up and that tongue moving right.
They already know how to act cute, and they are going to learn how to make friends and influence all those Bigs too. They’re going to keep on going until they get there.
Kids only absolutely know they have Now, and Now is when they want to do something, so they work with whatever they’ve got going and they do what they can with it. They’re going to find out everything they need to know about everything they want to know…just, EVERYTHING.
PLAY AS SERIOUS WORK
Kids also know that play is really serious work. It’s how you learn what you need to know.
When they get the chance to play, they will go for it. Why not? Maybe they will learn something.
You can just see the wheels turning as they play. You can just imagine them thinking, “You watch: I’m going to get out there and I’m going to rock the world! Yes, I am!”
GETTING BACK TO THE MOJO
Sounds familiar, right?
We all started out like that. Some of us manage to hang onto the wonder and use it to leverage ourselves up and on to doing more and more amazing things. The rest of us wonder how come we don’t.
There are a lot of lessons you can learn about mastery by watching kids. Here are some examples:
- IT ALL STARTS WITH WONDER AND INTEREST. Even as adults, we know this. If you are not interested in something, you just don’t pay attention to it and you don’t notice the lessons that are right there in front of you.
- SMALL WORKS. We’re all little compared to the Universe. We all have limitations. We get to where we want to go by doing what we can with what we’ve got.
- NOW IS WHEN YOU DO SOMETHING. It’s the only time when you can. You can’t change the past. The future is out of reach. There really is no other when to do something.
- PERSISTENCE AND WILL RULES. If you haven’t gotten to where you want to go yet, then that’s a sign that you’re not done yet.
- MIS-STEPS AND MISTAKES THAT DON’T KILL YOU DON’T MATTER. So you fell down. Ouch! Now try to get back up. Not happening? Well, hell…you can crawl, right?
- KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. Whatever you know is what you know. What you know can be used to get to where you want to go. What else do you want or need to know? Go get it.
- PLAY IS HOW YOU LEARN.
Isn’t it funny that these lessons are the same ones that we hear from all the wise guys and life counselors and self-help books?
My theory is that somehow, on our way to learning how to be adults, we got distracted by the details and have forgotten the power with which we were born.
I get the feeling that power’s still there, waiting for you to notice, and if you’ve forgotten what it looks like, then the Universe has lots and lots of little guys who can help you remember.
My own feeling is, if you’re stuck in the suck of trying to be a cog in some wheel not of your own making, the best thing you can do is watch kids…your own kids, kids belonging to your friends and family, stranger kids doing their thing, whatever.
Watch what they do. See what works. Do that.
This YouTube video is a compilation of jaw-dropping performances by some amazing kids. It was put together by People Are Awesome in 2017.
Here’s a poem:
The world is a bigger cup
Than your small hands can manage.
It is heavy and close to overflowing.
The hot liquid heart-blood it holds
Burns your fingers
As you concentrate on not-dropping,
As you try yet again to
Navigate over another
Wide, slick, sparkly-clean floor.
Your wrists ache
And you grit your teeth.
You try, try, try,
Harder and harder,
To hold onto that cup
That seems to get heavier
As you walk along.
There it goes…
The cup’s lying there, emptied,
And all the stuff’s spread out
In one grand sploosh spattered all over
That proud new pair of shoes
As old issues come bubbling up to blindside you,
As the shouting starts you notice that
The issues are not even yours.
Toddler lessons revisited:
My small, but not my bad.
It helps to remember that
The world is heavy
And it’s way, way big for small people…
It helps to remember that
We are all small.
Maybe we just need smaller cups.
by Netta Kanoho
Header photo credit: “Power” by BadWolfBobbi via Flickr [CC BY 2.0]
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