The remarkable comes from the bud of curiosity.
As children, we are taught to obey the rules, walk the line and do what we are told. There are protocols and lesson plans and schedules so exact, they are timed out by the half-minute. We are taught that we should go to college to be successful, and to get there, we have to adhere to a certain set of rules. So we study what we are given, take tests and compare ourselves to our peers based on their scores and other established guidelines to measure success.
When I was in first grade, my friend Keri and I got in trouble for talking at lunch during a “silent” period. Our punishment was to sit on stage at the front of the cafeteria for lunch the next day, opposite one another. The next day, Keri did not come to school. I sat on stage, agonizingly alone. It was the longest 20 minutes of my 7 years of life.
I suppose Keri thought that by missing school on the day of punishment she’d avoid it altogether. But the next day, as we filed in to the cafeteria in our single line with our index fingers over our mouths for silence, Keri was pulled aside and scooted on stage. I knew the mortification I had felt the day before, sitting on stage alone. I made a quick decision and went to the opposite side of the stage from Keri and sat down to share in the embarrassing silence.
Keri’s mom called after school that day to express what a remarkable girl I was to my mom. I heard the phone click and knew I was in trouble before my mom even got to my room. She had started teaching at my school that year and “following the rules” was important. By sitting on that stage again, I was calling myself out as a trouble maker, someone who could not follow instructions and someone who did not think about the long-term consequences.
What I did that day is something I wish to do every day of my life; I acted with passion and didn’t fear the consequences just because it wasn’t part of the rules. I realize now, 30 years later, that Keri left me high and dry the day before and I didn’t owe her anything. But I’m so glad I didn’t realize that then. It’s a lesson that my kid self has reminded my adult self over and over…after years of being shown how to conform, it is easy, as an adult to worry about what is considered the norm or what others will think and to miss the point of the act itself. Challenge your inner kid and you’ll find curiosity, creativity and the disregard for the fear of failure…all things that lead to the remarkable.