Recently, I took a long flight home from the east coast to the west coast. There are two things I don’t like about flying—standing in lines (security and boarding) and sitting in a seat that would only be comfortable for a stick figure. It always makes me wonder why anyone would be rushing to board a plane early.
This is why I always try to be the last person to board the plane. Flying is sometimes a necessary evil for me, and thankfully it’s somewhat less unpleasant these days because there are TVs in the back of each seat. Without a TV or mobile device, flying used to be excruciating. Or so I thought until this last flight. You may be wondering what changed my mind.
The curiosity of an eight-year-old boy. Here’s the lesson. Pay attention.
His name was Sam. He wasted no time in telling me this as soon as he and his father had reseated themselves after getting up to let me get to my window seat.
He blurted out that our flight was to be his inaugural journey to the friendly skies. I must confess to being somewhat envious of his abundant wonder in processing every detail of the adventure.
He wanted to know if it was my first trip too and I told him it wasn’t which seemed to amaze him even further. He asked me how many times I’d flown, and I told him about a couple of dozen times. He looked back at his dad, and his eyes were like saucers which made me smile.
He then peppered me with questions. It was at this point that I noticed his father as he smiled down at his son’s sense of wonder with love and admiration. That’s when a realization hit me like a ton of bricks.
His father wasn’t stopping him from “bothering the nice man.”
Let me explain. I have a photographic memory. The oddity of having a memory like that is that sometimes when you see something unusual your memory will flip through every other similar time right in front of you. It’s just like a deck of cards was being flashed in front of your face in rapid-fire one after another by a magician.
When I saw this father letting his kid find out all he could from me, my memory spit out the hundreds of times I’d heard a mother or father say to their curious child, “[Insert child’s name here], quit bothering the nice man and leave him alone.”
And it hit me—we have found the enemy and he is us.
You have a road that diverges in the wood, and there are two ways to go. Only one way leads to being a genius. I’m here to tell you that the road that leads to your child being a genius isn’t the road where you stop them from using their own genius trait of curiosity or any of the other 23.
We all begin this life as a genius. We are whiteboards. On us are written the 24 genius characteristics. But unfortunately, those 24 characteristics aren’t recorded with a permanent marking pen. They are inscribed using a dry-erase marker. They can be erased.
What erases them? Criticism. Urges to stop. Go ask your father. Go ask your mother. Stop bothering me. Shut up. You can’t do that. Why can’t you be more like your brother or sister?
As I said, we have found the enemy and he is us. How many kids have been discouraged from traveling down the road less traveled by?
Kids are easily influenced. Let’s encourage their genius traits from the get-go and change the culture we live in. Of course, you have to protect them from serious dangers but short of that what harm can come from “bothering the nice man.”
Many people have proclaimed the obvious truth that our children are our future. Well, if that is so, then let’s encourage rather than discourage and make this a genius planet. It takes less effort to encourage someone and it is infinitely more fruitful.
So, on my most recent flight, I turned off the TV and opened up my window shade to the big wide world and told the boy, “We’re at thirty thousand feet.” And I shared in the curiosity of an eight-year-old boy.
Be curious. Be a genius.