10 years old

There comes a moment when we realize the world is bigger. At that same time, our imagination gets smaller.

We start to notice all the clothes people wear, and the things cool people do. We watch people getting teased for looking different. We see the older kids and how cool it looks that they don’t care about anything.

Our eyes open up to a big world, then we start to get small.

We wear the clothes that help us fit in. We do the things cool people do. We talk behind the backs of those who are different. We act like we don’t care about school and work.

Those things slow us down. They make us quieter. Less creative. Unwilling to leap and try something new.

That shift usually happens around when we start middle school. Between the ages of 9 and 12 maybe. That’s what I saw growing up and that’s what I saw today after giving workshops to kids around this age.

I facilitated a session for 6th-8th graders and we were pulling teeth to get them to share new ideas. Other than a select few, most everyone stayed quiet and didn’t contribute their thoughts unless heavily prompted.

Then, I moved into the other room and gave a workshop for 3rd-5th graders. The energy was back in the room and ideas were thrown around like crazy. These kids had three times as many guesses as to what the word “entrepreneurship” meant compared to their older peers. Were they smarter? Probably not. They just weren’t as scared of being wrong.

Is this decline in creativity an inevitable byproduct of growing up? I don’t believe so. All that matters is that it’s real. We’re fighting against it and it’s an uphill battle to help every kid believe their ideas matter.

That’s what I’m here for and I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.