Why we all should learn like a little one.

I was at a Denny’s a week ago (what can I say, I’m a sucker for a Grand Slam) and as usual, my laptop was on my table with my Verizon JetPack Hotspot riding sidecar.  After my older waitress plopped down my All-American Slam, she looked at my JetPack/Laptop combo like it was a Leprechaun and said, “What’s that?”

I explained what it did, and she ooohed and ahhhed like I just told her where to find a pot of gold.

“I’ve never been good with any of that technology stuff, but my ten year old granddaughter?  Well, she might as well work for NASA!  I don’t know how she learned how to do all that texting and shopping-of-the-photos stuff.”

“I think you mean photo-shop.”

“I guess, but why do you have to shop for photos that you took yourself?  And are they expensive?”

Oh, grandma, I thought.

The truth is, I know exactly how her granddaughter learned all that stuff.

See, the cool thing about kids?  They’re not afraid to break things.  They don’t know how much things cost, of where they’re from, or if they are irreplaceable.  So when they are exposed to new things . . . like technology or a new language . . . or art . . . they’re not afraid to “break it,” . . . or to put it in other non-childlike words, they’re not afraid to $@%# it up.

And that’s how they learn so fast.  Because their ignorance makes them fearless.

As adults, we need to remember what it was like to learn as a little kid.  We put so much pressure on ourselves to make sure everything we do is perfect . . . because we’re afraid of failure or embarrassment or both.  I remember teaching my parents how to use a computer, and they were so afraid to hit a wrong key, that they didn’t want to press one.  I had to slap my hands on the keyboard like an angry gorilla to show them no matter what button they pushed, the computer was not going to explode.  There was nothing they could do to break it.

Now imagine if we produced like a kid, wrote like a kid, acted like a kid . . . we’d not only learn faster and more efficiently, but we’d take greater risks, and achieve a heck of a lot more.

Sure, we’d “break” things every once in awhile, but, frankly, that’s when the real fun begins.


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  • Tom Hartman says:

    Wish you’d written this column 20 years ago. My mother still refuses to spend more than $20 on a present for me (I know because she’s infamous for leaving price tags on gifts). “Well, Tom, I didn’t want to spend a lot of money because you’ll just take it apart and break it like you did that microscope we bought you in fifth grade.” Needless to say, endless Christmasses have come to a screeching halt when I get up and leave the room at “take it apart and” instead of waiting to hear “that microscope we bought you in fifth grade” and committting matricide.

  • Ken, this was one of the best pieces of advice I’ve gotten in long time! You know when you’re reading something and your heart is saying – ah, so true, so true! – it’s like you were speaking specifically to me. I will produce like a kid, and boy was I one creative kid!! I was crowned Diorama King at PS 251 the same year I one first place in a 5-borough wide art contest for 5th graders! Thanks for the advice gem! All the best!

  • Laurent says:

    ..and its that kind of “let it all hang out” attitude that allows for such success. Worrying about whether it will work or not/ be good enough or not, is often what holds people back. I was just reading an interview with James Monroe Iglehart who plays the genie in Aladdin on Broadway. He had this to say, “I just let my silliness come through. I’ve had all this stuff I’ve wanted to do on stage, and all this stuff I wanted to say in class that I couldn’t, or all this energy I always wanted to put when I walked through the mall with my wife that she won’t let me do. I’m able to do on stage, and that’s kind of where I took it.” This is at heart, what I’m hearing you say, Ken….Great stuff!

  • sirley says:

    very true

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