At 5, you told people you were 5 and a quarter. You couldn’t wait to be 6. At 9, you couldn’t wait to get into double figures.
As a boy, you couldn’t wait to start wearing long pants to school. You started shaving the day the first bit of fluff appeared on your lip.
As a girl, you insisted your mum buy you a bra, even if your breasts were still imaginary.
You mimicked the things the cool kids did – and the cool kids did the things that adults did.
You couldn’t wait to be old enough to drive. And to drink. Legally.
You couldn’t grow up fast enough, but one day there you were, an adult. And that’s where you’ve stayed. You do all the things that adults do. You accept all the responsibilities of adulthood – the job, the mortgage, the breeding, the raising.
But something doesn’t feel right. The adulthood you were promised isn’t the one you got.
You want to warn your kids not to rush through their childhood. You buy a t-shirt on eBay. It reads.
Your kids don’t believe you. They grow up even faster than you did.
You try to keep them in childhood. You buy the toys you think they’ll love. (In truth you bought them for yourself.) Of course, you wouldn’t be caught dead playing with them outside of home. You’re an adult, a respected accountant or lawyer. You’re a pillar of the community, a captain of industry. You don’t play games. You don’t do childish stuff.
And that is exactly what’s killing you – and killing your creativity, your enjoyment, your happiness, and your fulfilment.
You had things as a kid that the adult you has lost.
You had a sense of wonder. Every experience was new.
You were naïve. You weren’t afraid to ask awkward questions. You had no filter.
You had imagination. A cardboard carton could be a car, a house or a cave.
You believed in yourself. You believed you could sing or draw or dance.
You were self-sufficient. You could spend hours entertaining yourself.
Very few adults recapture the wonder, naivety, imagination, belief and self-sufficiency of childhood.
One day Pablo Picasso was looking at a chronological exhibition of his paintings in a gallery in France. A woman commented that Picasso’s earlier paintings were organised and careful and perfect, but the later paintings were careless and wild as though they were the more childish ones. Picasso said to her, “Madam, you don’t understand. It takes a long time to become young.”
Creativity means unlearning the behaviours that make you an adult.
As an adult, Richard Branson has accumulated vast business acumen. That has netted him a vast fortune.
And yet, as photo after photo proves, he’s always up for a bit of fun. He makes room for playtime.
He’s been able to become young. He asks the questions children ask: Why? How? Why not?
From those questions come ideas. Those ideas become innovations.
Back in school, at about 14 or 15 years of age, a teacher turned to one of my classmates. “For god’s sake, Drevikovsky, act your age.” Martin’s response was priceless: “Why, sir?”
For your happiness, for the joy of innovating, for your sense of self-worth, for the pleasure of discovery, learn how to become young.
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Photo by Dan Carlson via Unsplash