What we can learn from a 4 year old

by jon on February 10, 2013

I was pretty blown away by this stat in a book I am reading called Presence.  The research was from Howard Gardner’s Project Zero at Harvard that compared intelligence tests for babies and older people.

“The researchers found that up to age four, almost all the children were at the genius level, in terms of the multiple frames of intelligence that Gardner talks about – spatial, kinesthetic, musical, interpersonal, mathematical, interpersonal, and linguistic. But by age twenty, the percentage children at genius level was down to 10 percent, and over twenty, the genius level sank to 2 percent.”

So what happens over those 16 yrs and beyond that creates this dramatic drop? The author references a Stanford Business School professor named Michael Ray who talks about how as we get older we encounter the “fear, judgment and chattering of the mind” called the “Voice of Judgment.” And this Voice of Judgment slowly pulls us away from our best or “genius” self. It limits our creativity and ultimately our happiness. And then we forget we even had this genius.

We were completely wide open when we were 4 yrs old. We didn’t have these deeply held beliefs about how the world is that limit us or make us feel that we “have to do” certain things. We didn’t have that little voice inside our head that says “that’s a stupid idea” or “you have to do it this way” or “you can’t do that.” We had the power of choices. And we just ripped it up and lived in the moment.

Steve Job’s certainly figured this out in one my favorite quotes… “Life can be much broader once you discover one simple fact, and that is – everything around that you call life, was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.”

Like Steve and other innovative minds, we had this simple genius when we were 4 yrs old. We still have this genius, it is just covered up by years of listening to the Voice of Judgment. So I invite you to drown out that old voice and reconnect with your 4 yr old self. You may just find yourself back in a world of endless possibility.

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