What We Can Learn From Our 5 Year Old Self

by | Aug 12, 2020

When I was 4, I got toted along to a dinner with my grandparents. It was with their fancy, high-brow group of friends.

Lots of social cred was at stake, so naturally, my grandparents brought their cute, curly-blond-haired grandson along to help them put some points on the board.

Dan TurtleneckI was generally more asset than liability in such situations as a child. Cute, fun, generally well-behaved (though with a rambunctious gene or two which would express on occasion)… and almost always wearing some kind of turtleneck.

But on this particular night, as the story goes, one of Grandma’s friends asked me, “Danny, what do you want to be when you grow up?”

After a brief contemplative moment spent peering through my looking glass, I was sure of what my future held.

“A butt surgeon…. Or maybe an axe murderer,” I replied, with the conviction of a self-assured politician on debate night.

My grandparents were mortified. Their country club cronies aghast. And I went back to proudly sipping my Shirley Temple, oblivious to how obscure and troubling my answer was.

I blame it on my older brothers. I’m sure that they somehow planted in my head that either would be a wise career choice.

Now, to clear up any concern you might have, I should probably take this opportunity to clarify: I did not turn out to be an axe murder —I learned at career day that it didn’t pay very well, and the benefits were second-rate. And my application to butt surgery school unfortunately got denied.

Fast forward a couple of years, and my thinking had evolved. I went through phases of wanting to be a puppeteer (with embarrassing homemade videos to prove it). A magician. A circus ringmaster. A roller coaster designer.

None of these ultimately became my chosen career path. But here’s the thing… as I look back and reflect on these aspirations, it strikes me that there is really interesting information in this, and some common threads.

Each of these is a highly creative pursuit.

Each involves serving others.

Each has an element of wonder and awe to it. Each is imaginative.

Still to this day, these are attributes of the types of roles and activities that most light me up.

You were young once. Rewind the clock to your own formative years, and ask younger you: What do you want to be when you grow up?

And what information does this hold about what —at your deepest core— brings you passion and delight?

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