I am years removed from having children. I want kids when I have the time and patience to pay attention to their personalities so that I can parent them accordingly. Because of that, I tend to think about what kind of personalities I hope my children have. There are the basic hopes everyone has — that they will be kind, smart, compassionate, confident, etc. Of course I hope for all of those traditionally positive traits, but there’s something I hope my children have that people don’t usually hope for — a sense of mischief.
Now, no one wants their kid to have behavior problems, myself included. To be completely transparent, I haven’t fully thought out how I will keep mischievousness in check for practical purposes like school. Mischievous people aren’t just trouble makers, though. Mischievous people usually have a restlessness that causes them to seek answers to questions using the means they have, appropriate or not.
Recently I was at a dinner party, and the conversation moved to what defines success, and what it takes to get it. We came to the conclusion that most people who appear competent will succeed in the traditional sense of the word. They will likely get a salary, benefits, a home, a dog, etc. They will have the respect, maybe even the admiration, of their peers. Success!
Successful people are not always innovators, though. In fact, many innovators have been traditionally unsuccessful. Innovation is not just a buzz word used in Silicon Valley to discuss the next new wave in computer design. Innovation, in a human experience sense, enables us to do things humans before us could never have imagined.
Because of the Wright brothers humans can travel thousands of miles in hours, when it used to take months or even years. Flight on a massive scale, who would have thought it would become one of the most dominant industries in the world? It certainly wasn’t someone who was comfortable towing a line solely in the name of success. It was someone who had vision greater than their current limitations, and that involves a certain level of mischief.
I’m not saying my kids will change the world, but I will most certainly encourage them to try. I’ve grown up in a system that praises merit, degrees, and falling in line, and I’ve seen our society lose its luster, creativity, and innovation in the process. It feels like my generation and the one after us will have a lot of work to do. We will have to answer the questions of dwindling oil reserves, rising oceans, failing cities, and failing systems of government. Yes, humans have always had to confront complex issues, and they’ve also had to innovate to move forward.
It seems to me that one of the ways I can help humankind is to have children who might at least consider changing the world for the better. Part of that has to do with how I parent them, and a lot will have to do with who they are naturally. That is why I hope they are born with a sense of mischief — to propel them to get their hands dirty and to question everything. The one thing I can guarantee is that I will teach them that success looks like many things, so that they might not be paralyzed by the constraints of industrialized success.