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Kid brains: unlocking genius and profits

When we were kids, we had no limits. We knew we could be anything we wanted in life. I assumed I’d be able to choose between being a football player, astronaut, railroad tycoon, or professional Nintendo player. It felt good to live in that world. I built a fort out of an extra pallet of bricks behind our house that faced an empty field. I single-handedly fended off battalions of invading soldiers, victorious every day, despite my many bullet hole wounds that only hurt when I pretended they did. I drew (impossible) inventions in a notebook, excited for the day I could materialize them. One day, I spent at least three uninterrupted hours riding my big wheel in a circle on my driveway because I had found a stick-on mustache, and that day I won more race titles than have ever actually existed.

For this short article, I’m going to encapsulate that whole idea/feeling into a single phrase: “Kid Pride” (borrowing from the 90’s Weezer song lyric).

Some kid qualities are valuable to business

Why am I talking about kid pride in a business column? Kids have the ability to dream, invent, project, visualize, and feel (untethered) joy more effectively than adults. Fast forward to the point: It’s a skill that can make or break a business and, if harnessed correctly, can be worth the kind of money only kids dare to imagine.

Recognizing the deficiency

Where does kid pride go? When does it leave us? Sadly, our societal systems (school) drain it from us little by little. My 10-year-old boys recently told me that they are bored in school. I told them when they get bored, to take out a piece of paper and draw something crazy! “But that’s against the rules, dad; we’ll get in trouble.” Their only option was to sit quietly and wait for the rest of the class. We’ve all experienced a version of this. These scenarios slowly turn us into adults on autopilot if we’re not careful.

Adults who are void of kid pride value rules without analyzing the validity of the rule. These adults are blinded by strict thought patterns, scared of deviation, and anxious about not fitting in. Their businesses look like all the other ones down the street. They put limiting beliefs in the driver’s seat without even thinking to question them.

Limiting beliefs bind us

An embarrassing personal example: When I was young, I overheard my dad talking to my mom about an employee in the shop. He mentioned that the guy “couldn’t even push a broom” (meaning that he couldn’t even sweep the floor, he was useless). I heard that and wondered what this worker did instead of pushing the broom. He must be pulling instead of pushing it? I asked, “What’s wrong with that? Does he pull it instead?”. My dad, busy with something else, gave me a distracted short dad answer, “uh huh.” At that moment, my kid brain formed a useless rule. It was incorrect to pull a broom towards you, and don’t let dad catch you doing it, or your work ethic will be called into question! For several years this inconvenient limiting belief stuck with me. If I ever needed to pull a broom towards me, I would look around to see if my dad was watching before I used that “bad technique,” then I’d feel guilty and wonder why it was so wrong to pull the broom. But many times, I would figure out how to push instead. My sawdust-cleaning skills were compromised! It took years for me to work it out!

This example is light-hearted, but it proves an important point. While I believed what I did, I never considered I could be wrong. My information was from a trusted source. My source didn’t even know my error. And so, I let a limiting belief dictate my work, my output, as I stuck to the rules of adults. Had I not challenged it every time I felt shame pulling the broom, It could have plagued me longer. We all have these misconceptions, often without even being aware of them. What limiting beliefs are you clinging to that are holding your business back? While it may not be as ridiculous as mine was, they’re in there.

The economy of kid pride

At the most basic level, a successful business converts solved problems into money. The way we solve those problems usually originates from the way someone more creative (a person in kid pride mode) once thought to solve it. It caught on, and now everyone does it. How would a sawmill operator in 1890 react when you described the newest self-adjusting 5-head moulder with quick change insert diamond tooling? He’d probably laugh you out of the mill and think you were acting like a… kid, in fairy tales. But between then and now, people allowed themselves to dream innovations, one at a time, and now that moulder is a reality.

Rather than waiting for those rare thinkers to inspire us, we have the opportunity to do it ourselves, and benefit now. We can use kid pride to put our minds in a state of curiosity where limiting beliefs can be identified and eliminated. Allowing yourself to dream about solving problems in new ways paves the path from mediocrity to competitive advantage.

The hard part

If kid pride is so valuable, why doesn’t everyone employ it? Because, it’s hard to vocalize “bad ideas.” It’s hard to allow your peers to watch you struggle through iterations of ideas that don’t work. Our biology discourages failure in exchange for comfort and safety. It’s risky to be wrong. But, as Thomas Edison famously said, “I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work.” It’s this type of uncomfortable thinking that separates mediocrity from greatness. This factor is why some businesses survive and others inspire. Thomas Edison wasn’t afraid to admit he was wrong 10,000 times, and it paid off. The “Edison bulbs” are giving off a warm glow in my office as I write, generating value for me, and still generating wealth for Edison’s family 142 years later.

The challenge

So you, in this woodworking industry, what kinds of limitless thoughts will you allow yourself to explore? Which part of your business can you re-evaluate wearing kid-glasses? Who will you brainstorm with? I challenge you to open up, be playful with ideas, and make this world (and industry) a better place.

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