The most interesting people I know all have one thing in common — they’re all still kids at heart. When you’re feeling down, they make you feel alive. When you’re upset, they don’t tell you to feel better. They help you have fun.
These people don’t take themselves too seriously. They find joy in the mundane. And when you spend time with them, you’re never tempted to look at your phone.
We all had these traits at one point. We all started out as that carefree kid who knew that a few scars and some poison oak were a worthy price for adventure.
Yet at some point, we stopped. Life got in the way. We had bills to pay and mouths to feed. Grown-up things that require grown-up behavior.
It’s amazing to think about all of those obsessions of our youth and realize how long it’s been since they were a part of our lives. Sports that we loved to play, instruments that we obsessively practiced, and collections that we prized all gave way to schedules, budgets, and a life in the “real world.”
Life does get busy. We have more responsibilities. But that doesn’t mean we need to lose that sense of excitement.
Professional conversations and Sam Harris podcasts are fine. But we still need some irresponsible craziness to keep life fun and interesting.
Author and civil rights champion Ben Hecht once described people who’d lost the “soul of their childhood” as those who’d “borrowed identity from the world and not out of their own souls.” Upon interviewing this group, he found that despite signs of outward success, they lacked individuality. In Hecht’s well-put words,
“They were armed with certitudes and as alike mentally as the teeth of a comb. They were the mindless, moodless hunters of success.”
I think most of us would agree that success at the expense of our individuality would be a hollow victory. So while the world may push us away from childish behavior, it doesn’t mean that we need to comply.
We all had these habits at one point. The more that you can rediscover them, the better off we’ll all be.
Imagine a child fully engrossed in a state of flow as she converts the living room into a kingdom of cardboard boxes and old blankets. Or remember when it was so easy to lose a day playing outside, not realizing the time until your mother’s shouting through the neighborhood that it’s dinner time. Whatever the form, it’s often in these moments of play that we feel most alive.
Play opens us up to new experiences. It helps inspire new ideas and see old ideas in new ways. It makes us more invested, more fun, and more engaged with the world.
What did you love to play as a child? What activities brought you into that flow state? How can you create that same excitement today? As Roald Dahl said,
“A little nonsense now and then, is cherished by the wisest men.”
Interesting people have interesting experiences. No one wants to hear a story about how you watched reruns of Glee for three hours last night. Trust me on this one.
The key to an interesting life is often the choices that we make. Every day, we’re confronted with these options — the new or the familiar. When we default into the standard path, we reduce our risk. But we lose our chance for new experiences. We lose our chance to explore.
Children have a natural curiosity. They’re happy to wander off the beaten trail in search of a new adventure. They don’t hesitate to try something new, unless it involves vegetables.
Take the new path every now and then. Challenge yourself. Explore. In the words of Ansel Adams,
“In wisdom gathered over time I have found that every experience is a form of exploration.”
3. Be Yourself.
A survey of CEOs found that their biggest fears were that someone would think they’re incompetent. Despite climbing to the top of their companies, they struggled with the same impostor syndrome that plagues many of us.
Most people associate success with fitting in. They hesitate to show people their real selves for fear that it’ll jeopardize their standing with the group. But in most cases, the opposite is true. People don’t look down on you for showing your true self. They appreciate the authenticity. They respect the courage to risk standing out.
Kids are weird. They’re different. They’ll say what’s on their mind and do what makes sense to them at that moment. Whether this complies with the group’s behavior rarely is part of the decision.
It’s liberating to stop worrying about being different. And recognize that it’s those differences that we end up treasuring.
It’s said that kids laugh 300–400 times a day while adults only laugh 17.5. Which, if true, would mean that for each 14-hour day that they’re awake, kids would be laughing every 2–3 minutes. So while the accuracy of these statistics is in question, it’s not hard to believe that kids laugh more often than adults do.
The axiom that laughter is the best medicine isn’t just a catchy tagline. It promotes relaxation, boosts your immune system, and reduces your overall stress level. Laughing at your own mistakes also makes you more willing to objectively look at your behavior and make improvements.
Don’t take yourself so seriously. Push yourself into more situations that’ll make you laugh. And texting lol only counts if you’re actually laughing out loud.
“Creativity is not a talent. It is a way of operating,” said John Cleese in a 1991 lecture on the topic. And he’s right. Except many people tend to lose this skill as they grow up.
It’s somewhat ridiculous that we spend so much time trying to ignore our imagination as we grow up, only to curse our lack of creativity shortly afterwards. Imagination is at the heart of every creative act, every innovation. It’s our ability to break the bounds of today’s reality and envision a better future that keeps us moving forward.
Kids specialize in imagination. They’re able to create completely new worlds while we struggle to picture how a room would look with a different paint color.
But like any skill, we can improve our imagination with practice. Read. Write. Expose yourself to new things. Get rid of your preconceived notions. And above all, give yourself the time to think. As Einstein once commented on the importance of his thought experiments, a prime example of imagination at work,
“When I examine myself and my methods of thought, I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than my talent for absorbing positive knowledge.”
Kids can fight with someone one day and be best friends with them the next. They don’t hold grudges. And they don’t hesitate to offer second chances.
Some might call this naive. But how much time do we waste on anger? How many relationships do we sacrifice because we can’t get past some outdated event?
I’d rather be that naive kid that gives people a second chance than the adult who closes himself off to the world. In the wise words of Nelson Mandela,
“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
7. Take Risks.
Our elementary school had a virtual talent show a few months ago. There were so many signups that it took two nights to go through them all. Kids of all ages sang, played instruments, performed gymnastics, told jokes, danced, juggled, recited poetry, displayed soccer moves, and performed magic tricks. It was awesome.
The best part was the complete lack of fear. All sorts of kids struggled, fell short, or forgot the punch line to their jokes halfway through. Yet they all smiled proudly and pushed forward without restraint.
There was no fear of judgment. There was no hesitation to stand up in front of their friends and an audience of strangers to take a shot at something new.
That fear that holds us back from trying new things or putting ourselves out there isn’t real. The vast majority of people will wish you well and want to see you succeed. And if you stumble, they’re happy to applaud the effort and help you back up.
Stop unnecessarily limiting yourself. There’s no reason to fear judgment. Because for anyone that takes pleasure in your struggles, you don’t need to care about their opinion anyway.
8. Ask Questions.
If kids don’t know something, they ask. They’re not embarrassed to wonder why they can’t stay up all night, where they came from, or what “we can’t afford it” really means.
They’re still learning about the world. And they know the best way to get answers is by asking questions.
But they’re not the only ones still learning. We all are. Yet at some point, we stopped asking our own questions. We started to think that we should know all the answers.
There’s no bigger impediment to growth than being unwilling to ask questions. Without questions, we don’t look to understand. We don’t acknowledge the gap in our knowledge and take the steps necessary to close it.
Sharing is caring. There are few lessons we learn as early as that one.
Most people tend to think of sharing as a service that they do for others. Whether it’s their time, attention, money, abilities, or compassion, they share to help other people.
There are few better investments in life than giving a piece of yourself to help someone else.
Rediscover Your Own Childhood Excitements
Life will always conspire to get in the way. You have more than your share of responsibilities. And the idea of spending your time playing, laughing, and exploring may seem unnecessary — childish even.
But reconnecting with those old passions isn’t a waste of time. It’s a way to bring more energy into your life.
Take a moment and think about those childhood excitements that used to be such a large part of your days. How can you bring that same passion back into your life today?
Peoples’ biggest regret is often that they didn’t live boldly, that they didn’t invest enough heart into their lives, that they didn’t use their one chance to truly live. There’s no reason that you should count yourself a member of this group.
Do what excites you. Play. Explore. Be Yourself. Laugh. Imagine. Forgive. Take Risks. Ask Questions. Share.