At a professional training workshop yesterday, the speakers had tons of good advice for being a good leader, but one item in particular hit me where I live: The suggestion that we act more like kids.
Being a kid meant reveling in my mood swings, breaking windows in the big unfinished condominium building behind my house, getting trashed in my basement and hiding behind boxes in my father’s warehouse chain smoking cigarettes. Being an adult meant pleasing the bosses at all costs, wherever I worked, spending 80 hours a week on the job. It meant having no patience for the mess my kids made around the house. It meant not taking chances.
In recovery, things have come into better focus.
I’m learning that being a better man means learning to be a kid again.
Not a kid in the sense that you’re being a spoiled, whiney brat. Not a kid in the sense that you’re obsessed with toys and cartoons. I’m talking about rediscovering the curiosity we had as children, and having the open mind children tend to have because they haven’t yet been tarnished by the big bad outside world.
I learn from my kids all the time. Both are intensely creative and have a beautifully simple way of putting things, while grownups go into a frenzy trying to put their challenges into the proper words.
Lately, my 2-year-old niece, Madison, has been reminding me a lot about the importance of curiosity.
Her favorite question is “why?” She asks it repeatedly with a twinkle in her beautiful eyes. She notices everything in a room and asks about it.
That’s exactly how a journalist is supposed to behave. But for a time I lost my curiosity. I was too locked inside my own head and scared blind about venturing too far out into the world.
In recovery, I’ve gotten those things back, though I’m still learning how to channel it properly.
In yesterday’s training session, one of the speakers brought me a few steps closer to channeling the power of the inner child again. One of her slides included this quote from Dr. Seuss: “I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells.”
Since I’ve destroyed a lot of brain cells in my day, I need all the nonsense I can get. Not the nonsense of misbehaving, selfish adults, but that of a child and the things that come out of a child’s mouth.
The same speaker gave us some fascinating statistics about learning. One is that kids under 5 learn about 700 new items per day. The number steadily shrinks as we get older and set in out ways.
So the goal is to adopt a “beginner’s mind” no matter how much we think we know it all.
There are a lot of times where I think I’m too far advanced in life to learn anything new. Roughly translated, I suffer episodes of thinking I’m better than everyone else.
That’s bullshit, of course. But it’s really how I would think in my sicker moments, even the moments where I was busy hating myself.
I’m a lucky guy. My bosses sent me to a training session about professionalism and leadership, and I’ve learned a lot so far. But some of what I’ve learned will carry me far beyond the confines of my work space.