On Being a Dad and a Creative: 5 Things I (re)Learned From My Kids

The Spark

There is a spark in us all that makes us unique. A creative force that needs to be realized and released. A view of the world that is beautiful and completely original to us. We can either withhold this gift, retract from letting the world see it, and smother the spark. Or we can care for it, place it on kindling, and share the brilliance of it with all.

I have 4 beautiful children (Emmy, Cole, Brittain, and Savannah) with my (smoking hot) wife Alicia. I have watched this spark grow since birth in all my children. The unique little details that make them all different. It's beautiful and through them, I have learned so much about life, love, and creativity.

The Wonder

As you grow up, you slowly lose the wonder that twinkled in your eyes as a child. The world isn't the kindest place to dreamers. You're forced to grow up. To start comparing yourself to others. You lose your spark to fit in. Looking back, it was an iterative process. It goes something like this;

  • Elementary School - You realize that there's a structure to life and a proper way to do things, and the world gets a little smaller.
  • Middle School - You learn that it's not cool to ask why anymore and to do what you are told. It starts to matter how you dress, look, and talk. The world get's a little smaller.
  • High School - You go through your awkward stage, figure out that you're almost an adult. You find that you need money, and everyone wants you to figure out what you want to do for the rest of your life. The world continues to shrink. 
  • College - You feel a little trapped. Almost like you're locking yourself into a path that you will follow till you retire based on everyones expectations of you, and the world loses the last little bit of wonder...

This evolution is not all bad. It is necessary in some ways. You have to grow up. You have to know responsibility, that bills don't pay themselves, and food doesn't make itself. It all takes effort, time, and money.

What I Have Learned from My Kids

Looking at my children is like looking into the my past. I remember being their age. I remember the floor being lava. The blanket forts that kept the monsters out. The doodles, paintings, and sketches that had no filter for what was real. The pieces of wonder that I lost along the way in these gradual steps to adulthood. We can learn so much from children about what we need to do reclaim our spark.

Here's a few things I have learned: 

  1. Stop being so literal. Don't overthink. Create. 
    When kids create, they don't have a filter of what something should look like. They make and are inspired by what they see, how they see it. No right or wrong. We lose that when we create as adults. We've built filters that stop us from truly making art that is unique to us. We tell ourselves, "A tree shouldn't look like that. What will people say when I share this with the world?". 

    How do we fix it? Remove the filter. Don't Censor yourself when you create. Make it as you see it. Make it believing that it will never see the light of day. That no-one will ever know you have created it. Finally, when you sit back to view what you have made, smile knowing that this is you. That you have captured your essence and made something that wouldn't have existed without you. Then share it.
  2. When you're stuck, go back to the basics.
    Pick up a box of crayons, a lump of clay, a paintbrush, legos, blocks, or a pile of blankets to make a fort. Learn to play again. There's something healing about simplicity and unfiltered flow of playing. Make and build with no aim. No target or guardrails. Scribbles. Lines. Towers. Shapes. You'd be surprised at how the solution appears to the problem you've been wrestling with when you play.  

  3. Always be learning. Ask questions. Share.
    We understand the world by asking questions. We learn new ways to process things through the experiences of others. As adults, we think we have to have the answers to our problems. We've built up this thinking that if we ask questions it's a sign of weakness. That we're not self reliant. That we're not smart enough or good enough. 

    How do we fix it? Open yourself to asking. My kids ask me everything. They don't process the questions as politically correct, stupid, or nonsense. They just ask. Sometimes they don't even know the right words to form the question, but they start to ask, and I help them figure out the right terminology. Ask, and then listen. Next time you have a problem, instead of googling it, make a phone call. Make a connection. Find an expert and ask. 
     
  4. Learn to laugh at yourself. 
    My children laugh at themselves when they trip over the stairs, when they mix up their words, and when they forget the neighbor's name for the 20th time this week. As kids grow up they begin to laugh at themselves a lot less. The pressure to perform and compare to others causes everyone to go into a shell. We become so self conscious that we lose our sense of humor. 

    How do we fix it? Start loving yourself and stop taking everything so seriously. Learn to relax and be kind to yourself. When we are kind to ourselves we create an environment to play, laugh, and love those around us. As Brené Brown says, "You can't give people what we don't have". You need to love yourself, so you can love others. 

    Listen to Brené Brown here: http://howshereallydoesit.com/podcast/2015/08/brene-brown-letting-go-of-perfection-and-loving-yourself/
     
  5. Cherish every moment. 
    Being here, right now, is hard. We are depressed about the past and we have anxiety about the future. We're not HERE a lot of the time. This hurts us in the long run.

    My kids do a great job of alerting me to when I'm not there with them. I may be in the same room, but my face is buried in my phone looking for new businesses to approach, re-reading that email that I shouldn't have sent, staring at my profile pic wishing I was 20 lbs. lighter. I get a, "DAD. PUT IT DOWN AND COME PLAY WITH ME!". It's the shake up I need to realize that I'm not present in the moment and I'm missing an opportunity I'll never get back again. 

    How do we fix it? Meditate. 10 minutes every day. I recommend downloading Headspace (https://www.headspace.com). It will help you slowly but surely reel it back in. Ultimately, don't fixate on your failures and don't focus on your wins (definitely celebrate, but then move on). Stay in the middle. Here. It's a process, but you'll be better for it. Your family will be better for it. Your friends will be better for it. 

Still Feel Stuck?

I can help. I work with small business owners to find that spark, nurture it back to health, and share it with the world. 

Ryan Magada