As children, we are taught to put things in order. Some of us were taught to neatly organize our things. Things like … put your toys in a toy box. Our father’s tools belong in a toolbox. When you’re playing in the sand outdoors the sand goes in a sandbox. But the need for humans to put things neatly can sometimes be a hindrance. We like to make categorical inferences like all black people like watermelon, or all Asians know how to clean laundry. These types of boxes are discriminatory and racist. I’m not really a fan of thinking outside the box. I’d like you to think as if there really was no box.
I remember a story about a young mother who spent her last dollar on her child’s toy, she brought her daughter this toy and came home with the toddler, then about 2 and ½ years old and the groceries, intent on simply cooking dinner while the child played with her new toy. Unbeknownst to the mother, the toy intrigued the little girl. The toy was cute to the mom, but what the mother didn’t realize was that she hadn’t bought a toy that most mothers buy for young daughters, like a doll. The mother didn’t realize what was about to happen, she just thought the toy was cute.
So, the young mother sat her little daughter in the middle of the kitchen floor with this new toy. It was a stuffed animal riding a bike while it clanged on symbols. Shortly after the young mother got her cooking underway, she realized the child had quietly wandered into another room. How many know when a toddler is quiet and, in another room, you need to go check. The mother hurried to see what the child was up to and to her surprise and dismay, the toddler had totally obliterated and dismantled this toy. Pieces laid everywhere in front of the child. With tears in her eyes, realizing her last dollar was spent and now in many pieces, she thought let me gather myself first and go back and gather up this child. It seemed like only a few minutes by the time the mother headed back to the other room to see what her child was doing. However, before she got there, she heard something unsettling. She heard a noise coming from the next room that sounded like clanging symbols. She rushed into the next room, and to her overwhelming surprise, the toddler had put every single piece of the toy back together. The stuffed animal was in its original condition, riding the bike, and clanging the symbols.
The young mother didn’t know at the time but by not confining her daughter to typical doll toys most other little girls were used to playing with she was teaching her child there really was no box.
Many years later, the child grew up, having never liked dolls, and not only did she think outside the box and become an information technology engineer. She still acts and thinks like there is no box, and while navigating through an enjoyable career in a predominantly male industry, she managed to have a lucrative career in Technology. Ask me how I did it? It wasn’t easy, but I cut my teeth on what wasn’t easy. If you’re an executive, leader, manager, or coach struggling to get to the next level, it may be you are not working in your genius. Let’s have a conversation, I’d love to help. Are you an aspiring speaker and desire coaching to “level up” your skills? I’d also love to chat with you. Click here and let’s talk.
“Don’t think outside the box. Think like there is no box.” Ziad K. Abdelnour