Why we should all try to be like a stupid seven-year-old.
I had just turned seven.
And this weekend, I was at my dad’s (my parents were divorced, and even though they had joint custody, they smartly decided to never set a rigid schedule of visits – when I wanted to see my dad, I did, and my mother let me – and vice versa).
My father was a Doctor, so I got to play in his office. He had all sorts of cool things, from stethoscopes to blood pressure checkers. And he even had…a typewriter. Yep, a fancy Smith Corona! And when you made a mistake you could use the correct-o-ribbon. Or, maybe, that sweet smellin’ white out!
This one weekend I decided that I was going to saddle up to that Smith Corona and write a poem. I don’t know why I wanted to write a poem. Maybe I had just read one in school. Or maybe my father had just told me what they were (he taught me a lot). I just knew I wanted to write one. Or, actually…type one.
So I did.
It was called “Feelings,” and it went something like this:
When I’m mad, I want to shout.
When I’m happy, the sun is out.
And . . .
It went on for a few more lines I don’t quite remember the rest (I do have it somewhere). But looking back at it, it wasn’t so bad, right? Pretty good for a seven-year-old, if I do blog-so myself.
The funny thing is…back then, I didn’t know if it was good. I didn’t know if it was bad. Some might call that stupid. But I didn’t know anything except that I wanted to write/type a poem. So I did.
And what happened next was even more amazing.
For some reason, I got the idea to use my father’s Xerox machine to make copies of the poem. And then I traipsed all over town asking the local pizza shop, vacuum repair store, and the many “spas” in town (a “spa” in Massachusetts is the NY version of a deli), if they’d put it up.
And wouldn’t you know it, they did.
Just like that, I was a published author.
I’m sure you have a story like this somewhere in your kidhood. Maybe you performed magic for your homeroom, or sang for your grandparents in their living room, or staged a play for the whole neighborhood.
Whatever you did, you did solely because you wanted to do it…without any care or thought of, “Am I good at this?”
You just did it.
If only we could all channel our seven-year-old selves and not give a crap what people will say when they read our scripts, watch our shows, or see us act. But that’s hard. As we grow older, we lose that wonderful naiveté we had as seven-year-olds.
To achieve success, especially in the arts, it’s essential to get that attitude back.
Do to do, and forget about whether you’re any good. If you can get rid of the fear of being judged, you’ll not only create more interesting work, but you’ll create more work in general…which will help you achieve the level of mastery in your discipline that you’re afraid you don’t have in the first place.
I found a picture of myself at seven years of age recently. And I tacked it to my board by my computer where I can see it every day. I want to constantly be reminded to live my life like a seven-year-old…because that blissful ignorance had me doing things I never thought I could do.
And I want that same confidence now.
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