Image Courtesy of Jesse! S? https://flic.kr/p/b7AD94
I have a Toddler.
For those of you who have had this experience, thank you for your condolences. The picture above probably gives away the punchline.
I now have three boys, the youngest being just over 2. The phrase “terrible twos” doesn’t begin to do it justice. I believe one person went as far as saying small children like this are sociopaths. I don’t know about exact definitions, but it seems apt.
Before anyone has a hissy fit, I love my son. Not in a “you are a parent, so you are supposed to” sort of way either. I have learned a lot about him and how he experiences the world, and am truly grateful for having him in my life. I am posting this because of these lessons.
Sure I have read a lot of books and blogs from experts, but my “Little Big Man” has taught me more about how to live a full and rich life.
Enter my two dogs, Bonnie and Clyde. Har har, right? Anyway, Bonnie is a pure-bred Rat Terrier and Clyde is a designer dog (aka “Mutt” for the heathens). Believe me when I say Cesar Milan would not approve (of my dog rearing skills).
My son imitates us big people sometimes, and this time he thought it was a good idea to give out Milk Bones to our dogs (which he did. Plenty). He also felt like if they got a “cracker” he should too.
From the Milk Bone website:
Comes in a variety of bacon, beef, chicken, sausage, and turkey flavors that
(toddlers) dogs love (edit mine)
12 Vitamins and Minerals
Fortified to help keep your dog at his best
Cleans Teeth and Freshens Breath
Crunchy texture helps remove plaque and tartar buildup
I don’t know what flavor he had, but he seemed to enjoy it. Oh, and he could use the vitamins, and the teeth brushing (a habit we struggle with). So all is good.
Life Lesson Learned
No, I’m not about to try them also. I did learn something though, which is food for thought. He simply does “whatever.” That’s how toddlers learn.
He engages with the world fully, without bias, without fear, and using all his senses. When he sees an ant, he is fully engulfed in wonder. Its new, its interesting. He has no past bias to filter his learning. Its just a new experience.
The opposite is true of me relating to ants. They are a bane that must be poisoned and destroyed! Ok, sorry for going overboard (j/k).
I think we all could learn from toddlers.
Children start having a sharp drop-off in questioning around the ages 3-4. As reading and learning increase, curiosity decreases.
I’m not an expert in this field, but I do know how conditioning impacts our thinking. When it does, our actions change as well as our potential results. We learn from what we are taught formally, informally and by our upbringing.
As we get older, our natural curiosity decreases. Our creativity decreases. This is a shame, because life is full of wonders to be explored and experienced if we can engage in that fashion. Our businesses need our creativity. To be an entrepreneur, you have to ask questions.
Approaching life like a child is good for business!
So how do we do this?
Keep an open mind.
Letting our internal bias and conditioning filter our experiences will reduce our capacity to learn. Its probably impossible to not pre-judge our experience, because we already have a lifetime of knowledge that is being applied at any given time. However, be aware of your thoughts, feelings and interpretations. Allow yourself to experience the (ahem) experience.
Be cognizant of your senses. Take a deep breath. What do you smell? Notice texture, colors and shapes? What do you hear?
The above may sound strange, but I still can recall going on vacation as a child, listening to Kansas’ Dust in the Wind in the backseat. I still see what the weather was like, the sun and temperature, the smells. All of that data imprints the experience on our memories.
I’m sure you can relate to hearing a song and feeling briefly what you felt when you heard it originally. Was it at a party? Were you with a special person?
Don’t be afraid to try new things.
Be willing to try new things. Step out of your comfort zone.
I tend to do pretty much the same things everyday, from my morning routine, getting Little Big Man off to daycare, working, chores, bedtime routine etc.
Try something different. Take a different way to work. Wear something you normally wouldn’t. Sit at the front of the class. Test drive a Mazeratti.
Whatever is your comfort zone, try to engage in something outside of it. How about karaoke?
This is much like trying new things. Ask a lot of questions. Question everything. Children do this, often to overkill. But this is how they learn.
When we think we know everything, we stop asking questions. To learn and grow, try to ask “Why, What-If, How? etc.,” more often.
Why is the sky blue? How many people really could answer that question? What is asphalt? What would happen if I asked for 10% off at Starbucks (thanks to Noah Kagan).
I’m a big believer in travel. I still remember visiting Israel as a child in junior high, and seeing how other children lived. It was a big eye opener, and I think your worldview is expanded when you expose yourself to other cultures. It puts your life in perspective.
We are told “don’t be childish” as if its a bad thing. Sure, we do need some limits (to avoid being arrested?). We enter life so curious, so fascinated by the world around us and its not uncommon to become jaded and cynical. I’ve gone through that.
Having a toddler is a joy. I love going to play areas with him and watching him play. Children aren’t always polite, or they hog the slide, or they run into each other, but mostly they don’t care. They work it out, they find ways to get along, learn to explore and experience together.
I remember not ever having tried sushi and thought the concept was gross. Then I tried it, and you know what? It was great! Now I love sushi and that’s a problem. Sushi is expensive!
If a dog biscuit is going too far, try oysters! I love them too. They may look a little gnarly, be a little slippery, but they are delicious.
The universe is an enormous, crazy, exciting place. Life can be as well, if we learn to be more like children, curious, bold and open.