Throughout the holidays, a lot of emphasis falls on children. Why? Because children bring such a marvelous perspective to events that many of us take for granted.
Kids get excited about life in general. They see everything with fresh eyes, knowing they will find something new and different every time they look. Adults, on the other hand, look for things they know and expect. Imagine what we grown-ups are missing.
My friend, the late Jim Rohn, was a master speaker and motivator. He encouraged folks to "practice being like a child." This time of year, when the wonderment of the holidays shines through, reminds me of his fine advice. Jim said there are four ways to be more like a child, no matter how old you are.
First, he suggests that we become curious. "Learn to be curious like a child … Kids can ask a million questions. You think they're through. They've got another million … Kids use their curiosity to learn," he said. "Have you ever noticed that while adults are stepping on ants, children are studying them? A child's curiosity is what helps them to reach, learn and grow."
Truer words were never spoken. Have you ever heard a little kid look at a challenge and say, "But we've always done it this way"? Of course not. They let their imaginations run wild and aren't afraid to try unconventional ideas. Children don't have to be taught to "think outside the box." Most kids I know hate being confined. They are experts at pushing the envelope.
Jim next recommended that we "learn to get excited like a child … so excited you hate to go to bed at night. Can't wait to get up in the morning. So excited that you're about to explode." Then he takes it a step further: "If you're too old to get excited, you're too old."
That reminds me of a story about a friend's mother, a sweet Irish grandmother who loved the holidays because she looked forward to shopping for toys. She would get so excited playing with the grandkids and their new toys that even she didn't like to stop long enough for the holiday dinners. "Put me at the kids' table," she would say, so that she could eat fast and get back to the fun and games. "Kids are so much more interesting than adults," she would say.
Faith is Jim's third childlike quality. Faith is childish, he said. "Adults too often have a tendency to be overly skeptical. Some adults even have a tendency to be cynical." He said that adults need proof that something is good before they will believe it. Kids aren't that way, according to Jim. "Kids think you can get anything. They are really funny. You notice the difference?"
I'm afraid I fall into the adult category all too often. Sure, I take plenty of risks, generally guided by past experience and gut instincts. I'm sort of a "show-me" guy.
Finally, Jim cited trust as a childish virtue that many adults have forgotten. "Have you heard the term 'sleep like a baby'? That's it. Childish trust. After you have gotten an A-plus for the day, leave it in somebody else's hands," he said.
Trust is in short supply in the business world. Can you trust that your customers will pay for their orders? Can you trust your vendors to come through on time? Can you trust your employees to show up ready to work every day? Those are big questions that any responsible manager must be able to answer, yet we know deep down that most people want to do what's right. They will do what they have to do in order to stay in business.
I'm not suggesting for a moment that we all become gullible and naive. But I am encouraging adults to take a closer look at their world and take in the details that they have been missing.
How does this relate to business? Every successful operation can find ways to be better. Want to take a big risk? Ask your staff to join you for a brainstorming session, but only if they agree to embrace their inner child. Escape from the familiar, and see what else is out there.
"Curiosity, excitement, faith and trust," Jim Rohn said. "What a powerful combination to bring back into our lives."
Mackay's Moral: Grow up and think like a kid again.
Harvey Mackay is president of Mackay Envelope Corp. and a nationally syndicated columnist.