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A new baby is on the way, any day now. I can’t wait to meet him or her.
I say meet very intentionally. The desire to know who they are and what they are like is a feeling I didn’t expect with our first child.
I expected the feeling of love: the love you have for a child, the love you have for someone who is totally dependent on you and completely trusts you. That came right away.
But friendship? I didn’t expect that.
I not only love our daughter, but she is a friend. Like any best friend, she makes me a better person, and we become better friends every day. It is a privilege to know her. I want to be around her to hear her thoughts, views on the world and learn from her bravery.
The courage of children is a challenge to us all. Children have no fear of pain, no concern with looking stupid and no awareness of limitations. We can learn from their bravery.
Watching my daughter learn to speak is a lesson in exponents. It seems that every day, literally every hour, her vocabulary, pronunciation and even grammar is improving exponentially. She is now a parrot that hears a word or phrase and repeats it days or weeks later.
She is a mirror that reflects back the intonation, words and volume that we use in our own speech. In a powerful way, she is mindful of all the nuances that we normally ignore in our busy lives.
She learns at a breakneck speed because she is unafraid.
How quickly could we learn a foreign language if we used it all day, every day, without fear of mistakes and without work or other tasks distracting us from practicing? How quickly could we master anything we wanted to if we combined fearlessness and focus?
My daughter doesn’t care if she mixes up tenses, pronouns or calls a banana a bána. In fact, she is so confident, many of her mistakes end up as actual words my wife and I use. Now I am shocked as she matches singulars and plurals better than many of my second language English-speaking friends.
Walking is a skill we have all mastered, and we all did it the same way: by falling down.
My daughter is like all children: she doesn’t know the limits of her own body. She runs until her head gets in front of her legs and finally falls down. Occasionally she cries, but most of the time she gets back up and is able to do the same thing a few seconds longer.
Her newest trick is learning how to climb. I’m showing her how to put her feet on the climbing wall rocks and use her arms to pull herself up. I know I may regret this when I see her on top of the fridge, but hey, friends help one another learn.
Too often, we are limited by what we are told is possible (or what we tell ourselves is possible). As long distance runners will share, during a run there are moments when it doesn’t seem possible to finish, but the mind and body enter the zone, or flow. Everything just works and suddenly the race is over.
We are capable of more than what we give ourselves credit for. Why? We are afraid of getting hurt physically, or more often, socially. We don’t like to look stupid.
My daughter is my friend, but she has no fear of looking stupid. Crashing while pushing around a baby stroller or jumping uncontrollably and falling off the couch are her fortés. That feels like true friendship, someone willing to show what is possible. How far the limits can be pushed.
The best part of pushing the limits and dreaming big is that you stand out. So few of us are willing to learn by falling down that those who do are hailed as heroes.
A great example is Breifne Earley, a jolly Irishman I met at Misfit Conference. He is biking around the world to raise awareness about the risk of suicide. That’s 18,000 miles in 490 days in 27 countries around 1 planet! He just finished last week.
Talking about his adventure, I realized how an audacious goal inspires awe and joy in others. He talked about his struggle with weight and suicidal thoughts, and how he couldn’t find happiness in his job or purpose in his life. He took on this trip to truly live a life he, at one time, almost lost.
Along the way, people asked him to stop and work for them or come back and live with them. It seemed the best way to find a job was simply to stop looking and do something amazing.
Throughout his entire adventure, he said he only thought about quitting twice, both times at the bottom of massive hills on incredibly wet and hot days. Both times someone was there to stop and help.
I’m there to help my daughter when she falls down. There are people who will be there for us when we fall down. Unfortunately, we rarely allow ourselves to learn by falling down. We forget what is possible and the support that surrounds us.
Have you ever tucked a polar bear in bed? My daughter has. Ever used pizza menus for sun visors? Check.
Just as children are unafraid of falling down, they know no limits of what can and cannot be done. This fresh mindset means bold ideas (and fascinating questions) that help me see the world in a new light.
Bringing a new vision to a challenge is the best way to create a solution. In fact, there is even a term for it: Skunk Works.
As told in Bold, “Lockheed Skunkworks” was originally an alias for the “Advanced Development Programs” at Lockheed Martin. This business unit was created during World War II to work outside the box on big problems. Free of red tape and on a deadline to stay ahead of the German Air Force, the group was able to create the United States’ first jet fighter in 143 days.
The separate unit went on to develop some of the most innovative aircraft in history, including stealth fighters and U-2 reconnaissance aircraft. They were separated from the rest of the military because they did not want to be told no. They needed the freedom of a child to imagine new possibilities and solutions. They needed to encourage creative destruction and avoid the Kronos Effect.
This model proved so successful that other companies now do the same. From GoogleX to Amazon, the ability to remove preconceived ideas and dream with a blank canvas leads to breakthroughs.
Every child is their own Skunk Works unit.
Children have no limits. We can, and should, be bold, just like them.
My Best Teacher
I have always been excited to teach my children about the world. I didn’t plan on learning so much about the world from them.
Soon, I will have a new friend, a reminder on how courageous I can truly be. I’m impatiently waiting for this new friendship to start.
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