Childlike Work

Oct 11, 2019


As children, we were virtually incapable of being bored. We took limitless risks, had an insatiable curiosity, and considered infinite possibilities.

I have a photo of myself taken at a park, in 1976. I know it was taken on a Sunday because I was wearing a dress and thick white tights under my royal blue coat. I was missing three of my front teeth and sporting my favorite Buster Brown shoes. I am grinning from ear to ear while perched on the monkey bars, hanging by a shoulder and a knee. My hair, a bit unkempt from the effort on display, blew in the cool breeze. The little girl in the photo had no idea what would unfold over the next decades. …And by her apparent happiness and confidence, she was not a bit concerned.

One of my favorite childhood pastimes, in addition to showing off at the park, was playing Store. Someone ran the cash register, managing a till of no more than $1.78. When necessary, we wrote checks on colored paper (and it was OK to spell forty with a “u”). Fine goods were marketed and sold. Hello Kitty stickers and a deck of cards featuring the Rocky Mountain National Park were top sellers. Receipts were generated and shelves restocked. And the game started all over again!

What made playing Store so much fun? It seems childlike work is characterized by:

  • Limitless Risk-Taking: What risk? As children, we heard elders warn of consequences and impending doom. It all sounded a bit alarmist and caution was quickly dismissed. We also learned to ask, “What’s the worst that could happen?” A bit of a threat for someone with a vast imagination, but really, as kids, we never spent much time awfulizing.
  • Insatiable Curiosity: Why? Why? Why? Remember asking, “Why?” until Mom decided to refocus your attention on setting the table or feeding the dog? As children, we are indeed lifelong learners. Just imagine what can be created with a combination of childlike curiosity, years of formal training, and real-life experience. As kids, we never spent much time being bored.
  • Infinite Possibilities: To a child, the possibilities are endless. I remember hearing a child tell his mother that banana split toppings pop out of bananas when they are sliced lengthwise! I want that kid working on my team. Innovation and “unstuck” happens when we allow ourselves to dream again. As kids, we never spent much time being hopeless.

Of course, being a kid can lead to a few injuries. Who hasn’t fallen from the monkey bars or crashed a bike? We know that skinned knees develop scars and broken bones heal stronger. Having a childlike perspective is refreshing; it’s about happiness and confidence. It reminds us that we are capable of ignoring worst-case, boredom, and hopelessness. All it takes is a bit of youthful courage, curiosity, and imagination! What would make your job more fun? Any advice from your younger self?

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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