The secret to great work is great play
Making presentations that stick

You can learn a lot from a child (redux)

Violin A few years ago I wrote this post called You can learn a lot from a child which features a video of a presentation by Severn Cullis-Suzuki. I was reminded of this because of recent events: over the weekend our daughter was born here in Japan. This is my first child, and I think already she is teaching me lessons. This has me thinking a lot more about new beginnings and the beginner's mind and the incredible potential that is within any child. Of course, all parents hope their children will grow up to be creative and original, and they want to teach their children well. But I wonder if creativity and originality are not taught as much as they are inspired. That is, we can not so much really teach one to be creative but we can inspire them and create the stimulating environment for them to let their own natural talents come out. So what then is the role of teachers? I am not certain, but the best ones -- the ones we remember, the ones who really impacted our lives -- are the ones who inspired us to explore and inquire and discover on our own long after we left formal schooling. I am not suggesting that inspiration is a panacea, but we do not give it the respect it is due. We do not give inspiring teachers the credit they deserve. Children remind us that inspiration matters. It matters as much for scientists and engineers as it does for artists. And children remind us that we are all artists.

What adults can learn from kids
This short TED talk by "child prodigy" Adora Svitak is getting a lot of buzz this week. What Adora says is not really anything we do not already know, but perhaps we need constant reminding. I guess children are good at reminding us about what's important.

Adora makes several good points and spends several moments talking about "the beginners mind" though that is not what she calls it. It's a good talk. It's not the best presentation ever or even the best presentation given by a child, but I think it's well worth watching; it's at the very least provocative and may get you thinking. (Adora does not use many visuals, but she uses Prezi for the few that she does show. More and more you are seeing digital natives use presentation apps other than PowerPoint or Keynote. Using apps other than PowerPoint comes very natural to younger people, perhaps because they are not bound to the slide deck culture.)

Beginner's Mind
Here are two different treatments of a quote on the beginner's mind (source).

Beginner1  Beginner2
(click for 800x600 size)

Kindergarten Is the Model for Lifelong Learning



Congratulations! You can look forward to many more amazing lessons from your child.


Congratulations, there are many opportunities to learn from children and hopefully keep in touch with the child within each of us!


Congratulations! I think the most valuable thing I've learned from my five and three year old girls is that the most important thing in the world is what you are doing right now (or more precisely, what they are doing right now).

Wishing you many days of happiness, and many nights of sleep.


Hearty CONGRATULATIONS! My daughter was born nearly two years ago and the experience and life lessons have been wonderful!


What marvelous news. All the best to you, your wife, and you darling daughter. May the three of you live a life of wonder and exploration.

Satinder S Juneja

Garr , as a reader of your book , blog and great fan of your approach I think I know you (vice-versa may not be true ) . Please accept my CONGRATULATIONS to you and your wife for the wonderful next chapter in your lives , you three are going to love. All the best and Happy Nappy days ahead ....cheers

An Idle Dad

Ha! Congratulations. Lesson one: How little sleep can you actually get by on...


Congratulations to you two!
Erm... three I mean.

Travel Purses

Congratulations! I agree that there are a lot of things to learn from a child. Good luck on your new chapter of your life. Just enjoy parenthood.


An new life for the three of you has started... Congratulations to all ! (et toutes mes félicitations en français ;) )

Emily Asselin

I could not agree more with you on this topic. I have a niece who is about to turn 7 and she is one of the most innovative people that I have ever met. To look inside her mind with be like walking though a wonderland filled with limitless creativity and inspiration.
I am currently enrolled in an Advanced Communications course for my MBA and if I have noticed anything it is that as we become older we loose all ability to imagine. Our presentations become so plain and professional that we forget that we actually want our audience to listen. We forget to captivate them and instead bore them with the same materials over and over again.
As strange as it seems, my course has acted like a child…forcing me to reach deep down and regain my creativity bone. Through presentations and lectures I have realized that if you don’t somewhat entertain your audience then your message will be lost. I have been challenged throughout this course and am now slowly starting to tap into my inner child and remember what it was like to believe I could do anything.

The comments to this entry are closed.