Growing Up to Talk Like a Kid

When you’re a kid, you believe you can grow up to be anything. I ran through the usual top 10…lawyer, doctor, astronaut, etc. (Writer didn’t make the first cut.) At about 10, I settled on becoming an architect.

Every piece of paper I could find was soon covered with house sketches. The houses didn’t vary much in design, but that didn’t matter. I was only practicing for when I’d do the real thing. Sad fact, I never went beyond high school drafting classes, even though I still love designing homes.

I’m not sure what age it happens, but somewhere between childhood, adolescence, and the teenage years, we stop talking like kids. Even more depressing we stop thinking like kids. We start putting limits on what we can and can’t do. We start talking like adults. There’s a reason why a show existed called “Kids Say the Darndest Things” instead of “Adults Say the Darndest Things.”

As we get older, we lose some of the inherent honesty we show about ourselves and others. Some might call it gaining tact. Others might call it conforming. As adults, it’s easier to give up on our bold ideas. We’ve become pragmatic. We need to pay the bills. We need to act like adults.

Kids aren’t afraid to share their ideas because they haven’t yet learned to question the possibility of their ideas. (Jerry Seinfeld has a funny line in one of his routines that references being a superhero as a real career option for children. If you like Seinfeld, you definitely need this recording.)

Some of the most successful people in the world take a kid-like approach to their work. For example, while Google is rapidly climbing many people’s list of “Company’s We Love to Attack,” I believe their corporate philosophy sounds more like a kid than an adult.

Google engineers spend a very un-adult amount of time (20%) working on personal projects unrelated to their primary objectives. The adult approach frowns on personal initiatives at work. Google seems to think great things can happen during “play time.” Google’s approach to business has clearly made an impression. According to a recruiter I met at SXSW, applicants are on a 90-day cycle from submission of a resume to reception of a job offer due to application volume.

Back to why I didn’t become an architect…I got into college and found out that physics and calculus failed to excite me. And while I loved designing homes, spending time designing regular buildings didn’t interest me. I probably gave up too easily on my childhood dream, but I don’t think I killed it because I still doodle designs (more variety now) on scraps of paper. It usually helps break my writer’s block.

Yes, you’re adult nature will probably fight you every time you try to talk like a kid. So remember how free it felt to not know there were limits. Remember that you used to believe anything was possible. It will make your ideas seem more doable. Especially when you compare them to your dream of becoming a superhero.



2 Responses to “Growing Up to Talk Like a Kid”

  1. April 27, 2007 at 4:46 am

    Google engineers spend a very un-adult amount of time (20%) working on personal projects unrelated to their primary objectives. The adult approach frowns on personal initiatives at work.

    Well, I wouldn’t exactly say that the “free day” is completely unrelated to the primary objective. Coming up with innovative new services (to possible stick ads onto later) is one of Google’s primary objectives! Note that due to all the synergy effects, the ideas will quickly be steered in a direction that they can either be integrated with existing Google services or at least complement them.

    Additionally, this approach makes it less likely that one of the clever minds at Google leaves to pursue their own thing, possibly as a start-up. The people working at Google are exactly the type of people that could create great things all by themselves, too, so this might have been a real danger to Google.

    I’m not bashing Google here, I’m just saying that calling the 20% rule an altruistic whim is probably a bit of an over-glorification (and glorifying Google is just as inappropriate as bashing them).

  2. 2 Britt
    April 27, 2007 at 8:07 am

    I don’t believe Google’s approach is altruistic either. However, what I do find interesting is that Google does it at all. I suspect Google would still be able to secure talented people even without the 20% rule. To your point, I agree that they might not stay, and eventually become Google competitors.
    The point I was attempting to make with Google is that by implementing the 20% rule, they are thinking like kids. As a kid you don’t want to spend 100% of your time doing outright work. It always helped when parents turned some of the chores into a game. That’s where I think the 20% rule fits.

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