ChangeReflectionSeptember 17, 20132You Had It Right When You Were Two Years Old…

Re-discovering something we may have lost along the way.

My daugh­ter just put some­thing won­der­ful on face­book the oth­er day.  It’s about 7 min­utes long, but I strong­ly encour­age you to watch at least the first 5 min­utes. Then we’ll talk about it…

I love this so much. I had no idea such a thing exist­ed, and I’m tru­ly fond of find­ing out new stuff.

I have an almost child­like joy, a sense of excite­ment and won­der, at dis­cov­er­ing new things. I feel very for­tu­nate to have retained this qual­i­ty as an adult; I believe we are all born with it (watch any two-year-old explor­ing a new object), but too many of us have it thor­ough­ly social­ized out of us ear­ly on. We’re told that our enthu­si­asm is child­ish; we’re made fun of for not know­ing things; we watch oth­ers (par­ents and teach­ers espe­cial­ly) act as though grown-ups are sup­posed to know everything…and our open­ness to and enjoy­ment of new learn­ing gets squashed.

I used to work with some­one who sim­ply refused to acknowl­edge when she was hear­ing new infor­ma­tion.  When­ev­er I would tell her some­thing that I was near­ly pos­i­tive she didn’t know, based either on things she had said or ways I’d observed her behav­ing, she had one of two respons­es.  The first was, “Yes, that’s just like this oth­er thing (that I’m very famil­iar with)” – even if it wasn’t at all like that oth­er thing.  I believe her deep aver­sion to admit­ting that she didn’t know some­thing caused her to uncon­scious­ly shoe­horn new infor­ma­tion into old frame­works, just so she could claim pri­or knowl­edge.  Her oth­er response was sim­ple rejec­tion; she just wouldn’t accept the new idea or infor­ma­tion.  Some­times she would voice her dis­agree­ment, but more often she would sim­ply purse her lips and look dis­ap­prov­ing.  Over the years, I came to under­stand it as her “this is a crock and I’m not buy­ing it for a minute” look.

Both of those respons­es kept her effec­tive­ly blocked from learn­ing.  Over the many years we worked togeth­er, I saw how painful­ly slow and dif­fi­cult it was for her to open up to new col­leagues, acquire new skills, change her mind, see another’s per­spec­tive, acknowl­edge changes in oth­er peo­ple or the busi­ness.  In fact, she final­ly left the orga­ni­za­tion because she was unwill­ing or unable to make a major change that was being asked of her.

Are you in touch with your own won­der?  Here’s a way to find out. Reflect on how you felt as you were watch­ing the video above, and then answer these four questions:

•    On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “What­ev­er, dude,” and 10 being “Holy crap!”  how impressed were you by what you saw?

•    On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “I pret­ty much knew that,” and 10 being “I had no frig­ging idea,” what were you think­ing as you watched this? (Recuse your­self from this ques­tion if you’re a) a physi­cist, b) a glass­blow­er, or c) the mak­er of the video.)

•    On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being “Huh,” and 10 being “I can’t wait to show this to some­body,” how excit­ed were you about shar­ing your learning?

•    On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being not at all, and 10 being a lot, how happy/excited were you to find out there was such a thing as a Prince Rupert’s Drop?

Because, in my mind, these are the key ele­ments of child­like won­der: being impressed and charmed by new learn­ing; being will­ing to admit that it’s new to you; and want­i­ng to pass it on.

But why does this mat­ter?  I think it’s key to suc­cess in the world today. If won­der is your pri­ma­ry reac­tion to new skills, new knowl­edge, and new pos­si­bil­i­ties, you’ll be much more like­ly to thrive in this time of ours where mas­sive, dis­rup­tive change is a con­stant, and where rough­ly 95% of all human knowl­edge has been dis­cov­ered since World War II.

So: re-engage your inner two-year-old, and have at it. 


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