All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure. –Mark Twain
What’s more inspiring than the kid genius? It can help to get you extra motivated on a flat day sometimes hearing about how Elon Musk was designing computer programs at the age of 12, while Michio Kaku hilariously built a particle accelerator in his own garage while still at high school. I guess sometimes they might also make you feel guilty for wasting your time playing Pokemon Go, but for the most part I find these to be thoroughly inspiring stories. Often, I wonder how these people were able to accomplish so much from such a young age.
When I myself was younger I’d spend my days in the forest playing with my cousins. We would decide we’re going to build a fort out of logs, and then we would do it. Or another day we would hike to the dam on a whim and not tell our parents. One time we thought it would be clever to race our boogie boards down a hill, unwisely forgetting the danger posed at the bottom by the massive bull-ants nest. We would simply come up with ideas and pursue them without hesitation or consideration, sheltered by our childhood naivety.
As we get older, we become more aware of obstacles in our path. Perhaps building a fort isn’t such a good idea because of the risk posed by snakes as we collect logs and branches. Hiking all the way to the dam without telling anyone seems rather risky, what if we get lost? And that bull-ants nest – I wish we’d remembered it was there. However, if these things had all crossed our minds at the time then I wouldn’t have all these great memories today.
Growing up makes us more aware of the risks around us, and we can sometimes fixate on those risks more than on what we hope to achieve. This can dissuade us, instill fear, and result in the aspiration being abandoned. Compared to childhood, hardly anything seems possible sometimes. Much like Plato’s allegory of the cave, the more we explore and experience the world the more we become aware of our environment, thereby gaining an awareness of its risks and losing our naivety.
When designing a logo for Foodmovers as a part of my leadership quest, I suddenly became starkly aware of my own lack of artistic ability whilst I comparing my designs with those of major corporations. This knowledge discouraged me from trying, and resulted in the quest stalling.
However, I soon learnt to live with this revelation and adapt to the reality of the problem. Elon Musk and Michio Kaku were able to succeed because they were blissfully unaware of many of the problems in their way. Much like my cousins and I, they would plunge heedlessly into a task and take its challenges in their stride and the lack of prior consideration would prove to be an asset in the long run. So maybe next time you’re considering doing something, prioritise the reward over the risks and just do it.