Why you should act like an eight-year-old

May 31, 2012


I had the great joy this week of watching my eight-year-old niece play the guitar and sing. I was in awe of her confidence and lack of self-consciousness. There are lessons to be learned from her.

She doesn’t know she can’t do it. What I mean by that is: She knows she can. Us old, downtrodden folks with heaps of bad life experiences tend to start from “I can’t because…” She assumes she can.

She doesn’t think about the possibility that what she’s trying to do is hard. That it’s a long road. That you can’t make any money at it. That it’s a waste of time. That people will think she’s silly. Or no good.

She puts one foot (or finger) in front of the other and takes the next step.

The song is difficult and she pauses at certain chord changes, but she doesn’t care. She’s right where she should be. She knows she’ll get better. She knows she’ll get there.

And she’s not intimidated by someone who is much better and much more experienced. She seeks the opportunity to learn from them. She’s inspired by them without a trace of envy or jealously or self-doubt. In them, she sees her future, not a reason to give up.

She hasn’t had years and years of people telling her she can’t. Of peers projecting their own self-doubts and jealousies onto her. Of teachers and bosses trying to keep her following the rules and just doing what’s “normal.”

I struggled to keep my composure during her performance for many reasons. But maybe the biggest one was that I want to be more like her. She’s just doing her thing. It is a sort of self-involvement – but in a good way! Forget about everyone else. Do it for yourself. Do it because you want to and you think you can.

What I saw in her, as she belted out Taylor Swift’s words with fervor even though she can’t completely comprehend them, was a sweet naivete and self-centeredness that we all need to retrieve from our childhood. Forget everyone else and just go for it.

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