132: Don’t be afraid to grow up

132: Don’t be afraid to grow up

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“What do you want to be when you grow up?”

It’s a fun question for a five year old. The question is phrased differently to a 17 year old, and can be more stressful to answer. But it’s a question we ask kids and then stop asking adults. Because once you’re an adult, you’ve got it figured out, right? You’re a grown up. You know what you want, this is what it is, this is life. Right?

Well. Not really.

You expect a kid will go through phases. And when they are in that phase, they’re all in. It’s all about dinosaurs. They know all the names and the differences between them and what they all look like and they will correct you if mix up a Stegosaurus and a Brontosaurus.

And then one day, they discover something else. They move on to matchbox cars or model airplanes or owls. And then it’s Pokemon. And as they continue to grow up, it’s heavy metal or basketball or making jewelry. And then it’s oil painting. And then it’s motorcycles….

We expect that of a kid as they grow.

Why does that change when we are adults?

Why does that “all in” on something you want to explore go away?

Because I have responsibilities, Amy. Because I grew up, Amy. Because I’m grown up now.

I understand what you’re saying. I get it. But hear me out.

If you listen/read/watch any content creators in the homesteading or liberty or lifestyle design niche, you will often hear them say, “what do you want to do with your life?” or, “what do you want your life to look like?”

Which, if you haven’t realized, is the grown up version of, “what do you want to be when you grow up?”

And what I’ve noticed of some people when they are asked that question is that a) a lot of adults don’t know what they want to be when they grow up, or b) they do know and they’re too scared to do it. And the people that are scared to do it are usually scared for one of two reasons: failure, or people’s opinions.

Fear of Failure

You want to try something new, but you’re afraid it won’t work out.

Oftentimes the fear of failure is tied into a fear of what people will think, but sometimes we can be just as hard on ourselves as we imagine other people would be. We don’t want to try something new because what if it fails? What if I try it and I don’t like it? What if I try it and it doesn’t work out? What if I try it and it’s just a waste of time?

It’s a cliché comparison to say that a kid learns to walk by falling down a gazillion times, and if they let the fall stop them, they’d never learn to walk. So you understand that one, even if it’s good to be reminded.

But what if we take the comparison further? What if that kid learned to walk and stopped at that? I’m walking, mom! I’m good. This is good enough for me.

What if that kid never learns to run? Or skip? Or jump? Or swim? Or ride a bike? What if for them, walking was the end game? They never went any further because I know how to walk and I can get where I need to and I’m pretty sure if I try to go faster, I’m gonna fall and I already did that enough. I can do this walking thing, so let’s just stick with that.

Sounds absurd, right? So why do we do this as adults? Why do we stay where we are comfortable-ish when there is something else we think we might want to try? And I understand that learning to walk may seem like a completely different ball game than saying “hey, I think I want to start a business”… but is it really? They’re both risks. Walking seems like a daunting task to a kid who can’t do it. The risk is relative to the life experience of the person taking the risk.

Fear of people’s opinions

You want to try something new, but you’re afraid of what people will think. They’re going to think I’m an idiot. I’m going to look stupid if I fail. I already tried to step on another path and it didn’t work out so people will probably think I’m dumb for trying again.

Back to that kid who is learning to walk. That kid learning to walk is loud and proud about trying to do the thing. In fact they’re so unfazed by falling that it’s almost like they think falling down while learning to walk is part of the whole game.

Have you ever been around a kid who is learning to walk and they fall down and people make happy, encouraging noises… and the kid smiles and gets back up and keeps on walking to whoever had their arms out?

Maybe we need to go back to when someone tries something and fails we make happy encouraging noises instead of pointing and whispering behind their backs and telling them what they should have done or calling them out for taking a risk. Maybe we should help pick them up, brush them off, and support them as they try again.

Adults don’t do that though. And in my experience, it’s generally because they’re jealous that you actually got off your butt and did something. Babies aren’t jealous of each other learning to walk. Adults aren’t jealous of a kid learning to walk, like they’re somehow encroaching on the parent’s own ability to walk.

I’ve tried a lot of things in my life. I go gung ho on things I want to start. Sometimes they work out. Sometimes they’re an utter failure. Sometimes I don’t know if those things are going to work out until I try them and go, “ope, nope. That’s not gonna work out for me.”

But a while back I was told something that goes through my mind now when I’m dealing with someone’s opinion on what I’m doing or not doing or rockin’ or totally failing:

“Many people will have an opinion on what you’re doing. But if that person isn’t feeding you, funding you, or enjoying time in the bedroom with you, don’t be concerned with what they think.”

We’re always growing up

You know how you know you’re fully grown?

You die.

The honest truth is that you continue to grow until you die. You’re not grown up because you turned 18 or 35 or 47 or 62. You’re fully grown up when you take you last breath. And you don’t get to know when that’s going to happen.

Your life is a gift. Don’t resign yourself to not doing something you’d like to try because you’re 46 and you’re already grown or some belief you should already have things figured out or that stepping off a path you thought you wanted to be on is somehow irresponsible.

So learn that skill. Start that side hustle. Look for more opportunities. Go all in, figure out what you like, change your path when necessary. Be like that kid learning to walk. And surround yourself with people that will make happy encouraging noises when you fall down.

Because you will fall down. It’s part of the game. And it’s okay. Get back up. Try again.

Don’t be afraid to grow up.

— Amy Dingmann 4-9-21

Resources

My new book! Make Friends with a Dog: 18 Tips to Live a Good Life

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