Taking creative leadership lessons from my baby girl

Part 1

“The secret of genius is to carry the spirit of the child into old age, which means never losing your enthusiasm,” noted the British novelist Aldous Huxley. Unfortunately, most of us have no recollections of our early childhood. Hence, we don’t have any remembrance of our own innate spirit of genius in us. According to Albert Einstein, “There is a genius in all of us,” and we showed it as a young child.

Infants and the very young children are still closest to their true selves. So, observe their behaviors to get a better grasp of the concept of genius. Becoming a Dad somewhat later in life, I have the privilege now to study the ingenious ways of a very young child: Zoë, our 16-month old baby girl. Admittedly, I do it with a hidden agenda: I am curious to find out to what extent Zoë’s ways overlap with the mindsets and routines of geniuses and top creative leaders. I’ve studied these mindsets for over a decade and modeled them in Genius Journey, Thinkergy’s creative leader development method. 

Today and in two weeks, I share what genius mindsets of Genius Journey I’ve also spotted in Zoë,  (I share my observations solely our baby girl. But I noticed that most other babies exhibit the same ways and behaviors. And I invite you to observe infants in your family or environment to form your own opinion on the ingenious ways of very young children). 

Lesson 1: Young children take action, and persist until they succeed

Zoë observes her parents and other grown-ups doing certain things. If it’s exciting, she desires to do this, too. Then, Zoë boldly takes massive action. She persists in the face of —at times painful— temporary failure until she succeeds.

Take the example of how infants learn to walk. Babies spend most of their early days laying flat on their back or being carried around. All the while, they see their parents and other humans walking on two legs. Babies seem to have an inherent belief that they too can master the art of walking. So, they take action one step at a time: First, they learn to sit. Then, crawl. Next, they pull themselves up. At some point, they stand. Finally, they begin to walk their first steps.

In the process, they fall many times. According to some books, babies fail a couple of thousand times while learning how to walk. Like Zoë, they persist until they succeed. Nowadays, Zoë confidently walks —and often runs— around her little world. Why? Because she’s a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer. Are you?

Very young children tend to exhibit the foundational success mindset of genius. Here’s what we teach at Destination Stop 1 of Genius Journey:

“Stop your doubts, worries, and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.”

“Stop your doubts, worries, and fears. Start to be a courageous, action-oriented and persistent believer.”

Lesson 2: Young children are simply themselves

Zoë naturally expresses her true self and her unique personality. She is original and insists upon herself. Unlike most adults, she has no desire to hide her true essence behind a mask. She has no intention to play a role that pleases the expectations of others. She confidently shows her talents, ideas, feelings, and true colors. She just is.

No doubt about it, Zoë and other young kids live in harmony with the tenet of Destination Stop 2 of Genius Journey:

“Stop your ego. Start being yourself.”

Lessons 3 and 4: Young children have a beginner’s mind

“Children are the most learning-hungry beings in the world,” said the American anthropologist Ashley Montagu. Why do babies and young children learn so much so fast? They have what Zen Buddhism calls a beginner’s mind. They are open, curious, and playful.

Zoë is no different. She embraces her world full of curiosity. She openly approaches a person, animal, plant or other new experience with a spirit of wonder and awe. She wants to play with all other young kids without judging them based on their color of skin, nationality or religious belief. She displays an open body language. Often, she is in a “hero’s pose” with widely opened arms and legs. And very soon, she is likely to bombard her parents with lots of questions about this wondrous world. 

“Play is the work of children“, noted the Swiss psychologist Jean Piaget. Like other young kids, Zoë uses every opportunity to play and often is absorbed by this. She plays with toys and stuffed plush animals, pans and pots, bottles and boxes, in short: everything she spots and deems worthy of playing. She loves to laugh and have fun with her parents, other caretakers, and other kids. She enjoys dancing and humming along with a song (in her baby language, as we expose her to English, German and Thai). She loves to run around and ride on every toy on wheels. In short, she’s immensely playful and radiates pure joy and positive energy.

How does this curious, playful behavior of Zoë contrast with the ways of many managers? They often critique and lecture others (instead of listening to ideas and asking questions). Many go through their days with closed minds and bodies. Their hands, arms, and legs are crossed when encountering people or a new situation.. After all, many consider life and work to be serious affairs, and tend to see the glass to be half empty. So it isn’t surprising that they often use the words “No”, “don’t and “but”.

By the way, Zoë only loses her positive mood when her Mom —and admittedly, at times her Dad, too— stop her from doing something by using the words “no”, “don’t” and “stop”.

All these observations connect to the creative mindsets at Destination Stops 3 and 4 of Genius Journey:

“Stop being judgmental and closed(-minded). Start being curious and open(-minded).”

“Stop being negative and serious. Start being positive and playful.”

Lesson 5: Young children are full of love and passion

“Passion is the genesis of genius,” noted the American life coach Tony Robbins. Like other very young children, Zoë approaches every new day full of passion, zest, and energy. On most days, she’s the first to wake up and jump out of bed. She immediately runs to her indoor playground, where she enthusiastically greets, kisses and hugs her teddy bear. She radiates joy and love from the word go. It’s part of her essential nature. So, it’s not surprising that she also seems to love everything that she’s doing. Zoë loves playing with her toys or with other kids. She enjoys messing up the room as much as tidying it up again. She takes pleasure in giving a hand to her parents or grandparents. In short, Zoë is passionate about what she does every moment. 

How does this contrast with how the average working adult approaches a new day? Many businesspeople drag themselves out of bed in the morning, especially on Mondays. It’s the day of the week that many adults say they dislike most because it’s the beginning of a full new week of work. These people hardly can wait for the weekend to begin. What does this tell us about their attitude towards their work? 

The genius mindset at Destination Stop 5 of the Genius Journey captures this notion:

“Stop being indifferent or working only for the money. Start being passionate and love what you do.” 

Like other young kids, Zoë lives by this motto. She’s full of love and loves what she’s doing. Are you?

Interim conclusion and outlook

Over the past months, I have observed the behaviors of Zoë, my 16-month-old baby girl.  I found that her natural ways go in line  with the foundational genius mindsets and routines of Genius Journey: 1) Be a courageous, action-oriented believer. 2) Be yourself. 3) Be open and curious. 4) Be positive and playful. 5) Love what you do. 

Come back in two weeks for the second part of this 2-article episode. Then, we continue taking lessons from the original minds and behaviors of our little ones.

Are you interested to develop into a creative leader? Then take the first step today. Contact us to learn more about our Genius Journey creative leader training programs. 

© Dr. Detlef Reis 2019.