How I was able to turn wonder into work
My urge to explore stories through play was how I spent my childhood. Me and my three pig-tail-laden sisters weren’t allowed much TV and we certainly weren’t allowed to roam the mean streets of Cricket Drive like most of the neighborhood (and much cooler) kids. So, we were left with each other and our imaginations to pass long summer days. My older sister quickly traded in our games for books finding reading far more stimulating than our crazy ideas on how to transform the playroom into a restaurant donning full color meals drawn on pieces of paper. So my younger Irish twin of a sister bore the brunt of my imagination, for better or worse.
I owe my imagination, in part, to Little House on the Prairie
One day it was a restaurant, the next a library. House was always a big one … Little House to be exact. Business, travel agent, school, newspaper office. Anything we saw on TV or read about in a book (where I would get maybe one chapter in before wanting to “play out” the story and create my own ending).
“Suffice it to say, I was a serial player.”
Suffice it to say, I was a serial player. Even the smallest idea could become a week’s worth of time passing play.
Sometimes we had props, sometimes costumes, sometimes we made our baby sister the “baby” if the story called for the role. I refused to succumb to boredom and genuinely enjoyed every second of playing. I wouldn’t trade my childhood imagination in for anything. In hindsight, I am super grateful it set me on this path where I’ve found a way to turn wonder into work.
How I brought the idea of play, into work
Fast forward to present day and I am sitting in a room with my business partner and friend along with a talented group of consultants discussing our company’s rebrand. For any of you out there that have ever worked on or been through a rebrand, it’s a fascinating process (at least for me). When it’s something precious or personal (like your small business) it can be emotional, exciting, uncomfortable, uplifting, revealing and reassuring. Choosing the right words to represent all your hopes and dreams for a place you have invested all your time, money and passion into can be daunting. It definitely is daunting. But for us, and for myself especially, the cornerstone of our mission came back to the one thing that has always made me happy and fulfilled; Play.
“Choosing the right words to represent all your hopes and dreams for a place you have invested all your time, money and passion into can be daunting.”
And that spirit is really what’s at the heart of our mantra, “Creating the best work. Having the best time.” Creating things for a living is what we wanted to do for our life. Not as a job … FOR OUR LIFE. And when we’re unleashed on the creative process, we have a good time. Some would say, we’re having the best time ; )
What the science of play says about creativity, childlike wonder, and problem solving
We have all been told in a brainstorm to let go and “think like a kid.” That a child-like imagination keeps us fresh and our minds open to possibility. And this makes sense as kids spend a majority of their time in non-reality. They are entrenched in imaginative play. Even the great Albert Einstein knows what I’m saying:
“To stimulate creativity, one must develop the childlike inclination for play.”Albert Einstein
Yet once we’re adults it’s totally natural for it to be assumed that most of us aren’t capable of the same creative thoughts 5 year olds just naturally possess. But why?
I recently read this article that quoted a Dr. Stephanie Carlson who studied pre-school aged children to see if their immersion in non-reality was getting in the way of developing self-control. “Dr. Carlson’s conclusion is that practice in pretending helps you come up with alternative ways of being – and of seeing an issue – and results in more creativity and better problem-solving.” The bottom line being that pretending helps you come up with more creative and better ways of problem-solving. But as we age, we think more and play less. If thinking in a non-real realm is so valuable, why do we let this skill wane over time?
“Pretending helps you come up with more creative and better ways of problem-solving.”
Dr Carlson again provides a few possible reasons, the first being simple lack of practice. She explains that as we mature and force our attention to logic, reason and facts we spend more of our brain power in reality over imagination. The second reason being our fear of being judged. Children aren’t as preoccupied with worrying whether they are wrong (boy, do I know it). But as we mature, we quickly learn that being wrong has negative consequences. And leaning on facts and research grounded in reality help us mitigate the risks of being wrong.
We take less chances.
We stifle our wonder and curiosity and trade it in for safety and acceptance. But if you embrace curiosity, if you accept that failure is an essential part of the learning process- you may flourish. You may reconnect with your childlike wonder at the world and grow until your last breath. When you are curious, you open your mind and embrace the unknown. You can willingly explore. And you will think in an entirely new way free of judgement.
Now where did I put that bonnet?