A Wise Kid Once Said: What the Youngest Members of Our Society Can Teach Us About Learning and Living

June 6, 2018
Ben LeePower Skills

Our fellow, Ben, shares three things you can learn from the youngest members of our society.

Courage and Self-Advocacy

“Mummy, I don’t know why, but all the other kids jumped over the large drain except me. It’s so funny.”

That was something I said to my mother when I was 5 years old. It’s part of a story which is often retold whenever we feel like reminiscing about the good old days. Most of the time we just laugh at how dumb I was as a child, running around the village thinking I could be just as awesome as my frog-catching, drain-jumping, tree-climbing, speed-biking cousins. That overestimation of my own ability led to the hilarious experience of me falling into a monsoon drain, only to be trapped with cuts on my limbs before being found almost an hour later.

It wasn’t until a week ago when I actually reflected on this experience that I realised how bonkers I must have been. These days, I get terrified by the slightest uncertainties in life. When I received a notice that my internship announcement date was postponed, I freaked out so much that I started envisioning possible worst-case-scenarios, believing that the delay was due to my future employers being unsure of whether I would be a good fit. And when I did get the notice that I was accepted, I started thinking whether I was once again overestimating my ability to have even applied for the internship. The circle of constant anxiety never seems to cease.

In contrast, back when I was a kid, all I had to do was believe anything was possible, and that helped me jumped with all my might.

There was a simpler time when I did what I believed in, even if that meant facing possible failures and rejections. Some might say that it is in a child’s nature to be carefree, not concerning themselves with consequences. However, I believe that just because we have learnt how to be forward-looking and to anticipate consequences, it does not mean we should let that affect our capacity for courage. The ability to stand up for ourselves should never be compromised by our fear of disappointments.

We often hear about parents sharing the beautiful lessons they have learnt from their own children, lessons such as to have more fun or to dare to dream. Even if we do not aspire to be parents, we can still learn through diligent observations and critical reflections of our own behaviours vis-à-vis those of children’s.

Below are two examples of insightful statements made by children that reflect the wisdom we can carry with us into our “adult” lives.

A Wise Kid Once Said – Year On – Courage

Mindfulness

“Papa, it’s so nice today!”,

- said the little girl skipping down Potters Fields Park in London while holding his father’s hands. Dare I say the weather was not particularly lovely that day, with a usual gloomy overcast shrouding London in a dreary mood (pictured above). So, when I overheard this young girl expressing her appreciation, I was clearly shocked! As a photographer, I often appreciate the landscapes around me, but it took me months of experimenting with photography to have internalised the wisdom in her words – an intelligence which we as adults often overlook and do not treasure enough: the beauty of just appreciating life as it is.

For most of us “grown-ups”, we have clearly defined notions of what should be appreciated and what is worth complaining about. Children however, do not learn to make such comparisons naturally. A gloomier day to them is just a new day with a different look to it. Sure, we adults have plans and responsibilities which an unpleasant day may pose as a problem to, but our preconceived idea of what is beautiful has sadly hindered our ability for appreciation. Admittedly, I was fortunate to have had the opportunity to pursue photography as a hobby, which has helped me experience the world around me very differently. As we grow, we seem to have lost touch with the fulfilling sense of just being, of just living. Nonetheless, if we are to pursue an education which can drive us firmly through life, then being able to reflect and to enjoy what we experience every day is crucial. After all, there is no better teacher than life itself. So, if we learn to be like children – constantly awed by life’s intriguing ways – then we shall reap the knowledge presented to us every day.

The trick about learning through experiences is thus our ability to approach all problems and successes with appreciation for what they are, regardless of how they make us feel. In short, this is a lesson on the skill of mindfulness – to be aware of how and why we should be appreciative of our lives, and to practise mindful reflections. And if you feel stuck doing this step, then perhaps it is time to start hanging out with kids once again.

A Wise Kid Once Said – Year On – Mindfulness

Emotional Fitness

“Can you tell me a story, and I’ll tell you many stories?”

Jesse Driftwood  is a photographer. His adorable daughter, Dorothy muttered the phrase above to her mother in one of his famous, widely loved Instagram Stories.

Asking for companionship is easy for kids, but adults seem to have a harder time with it. Why? In my opinion, there is a lack of promotion for interdependence in our education. Growing up, we are taught to be more self-reliant in all aspects of our lives. We often miss out on the chance to learn how to connect with others through emotional resonance – to be more adept in sharing our and receiving others’ feelings. As such, we are often left with inadequate experience in peeking into the inner worlds of those around us.

I took a gap year between school and throughout my experience, networking has been the most difficult, yet most crucial, goal to achieve and to be taken seriously. As professional as we may view networking to be, it’s essentially a formal request for companionship or guidance. There is a human factor which cannot be left out of our conversations regarding the pursuit of success in life. If we are to strip away all the fancy tricks or clever skills of networking, it basically becomes nothing more than humans socializing with an irremovable part of us being involved in the “transaction” as well – our emotions.

For any Europhiles and/or Eurovision fans out there, you might be familiar with the winner of ESC 2017 – Portugal’s Salvador Sobral with his touching ballad “Amar Pelos Dois”. It is very uncommon for a slow song to receive such wide support and admiration from the voters such that the represented country actually comes up top. Thus, when it occurred last year, many were in fact very surprised but nevertheless very pleased with the result. The main reason Portugal managed to snatch the title was of course the ability to create an emotional resonance with everyone who was watching. With minimal staging for a song written in Portuguese, the calm, swaying ballad ultimately connected voters through the emotions conveyed.

The same lesson should be learnt by all of us – that emotions are crucial to all forms of connections, which includes professional networking as well. Dr. Emily Anhalt, a psychologist promotes the importance of emotional fitness at workplaces and the need for all of us to begin assessing our inner worlds, which sometimes mean through the words of others as well. Ultimately, such an ideal rests on the belief that interdependence is vital to our growth as an individual. And to achieve interdependence, the role emotions play is absolutely vital. Besides, being a kid sometimes with your emotions does not necessarily mean being immature, but rather an emotionally fitter person. Often, we forget how human we all are, so we dive straight into business formalities and serious talks without first addressing the emotions present in the room. Should more of us learn how to be more open towards our and others emotional needs, then our increased social capital is already a success in life. Emotions are connections; remember that.

A Wise Kid Once Said – Year On – Learning

Personally, I find children to be more capable in a lot of the things we struggle with in our grown-up years. They also possess a comforting humility which stems from not knowing how precious and amazing their wisdom is. But it does not mean that most of us have lost or forgotten our ways as kids – we just need to start talking to that little bonkers goofball we all have inside of us. And if that is too difficult, we can always just hang out with kids more often and be prepared to be inspired.

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Ben Lee

Contributing Writer & Cohort 12 Fellow

Ben Lee is an aspiring storyteller with a passion for writing and photography. He is a fervent traveler with an appreciation for the beauty in cultures, human behaviors, and his roots in Eastern philosophies. As a former ASEAN scholar who has since been on his gap year, he understands the challenges of pursuing an education as well as the joy that comes with it.

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