Carl Mays: Become as little children

Dec. 08, 2012 @ 12:37 AM

When speaking to a football team that had been presented copies of my Winning Thoughts book, I asked the players which of the thoughts meant the most to them. A very large lineman raised his hand, stood and replied, “Recapture the little child in you; the one that was there before you learned what you couldn’t do.”

As we are fully engaged in the month of December, still in the midst of political, economic and social unrest while advancing toward Christmas and the entire holiday season, it may very well benefit all of us to consider the player’s selection. It is the concept advanced by Jesus of Nazareth over 2,000 years ago when He simply said, “Become as little children.”

If, as adults, we do “become as little children,” what are some of the characteristics we would possess or that would be enhanced in our lives?

Faith would certainly be one of them. As we grow older, we may become jaundiced and cynical. Maybe people have disappointed us or we have disappointed ourselves. Maybe we feel our religion has “let us down.” Unlike little children, we may be afraid to jump into the waiting arms of someone who has promised to catch us. We may be hesitant in giving ourselves to an idea, a cause or a purpose. Maybe we have been burned too many times previously. It might be wise to revisit a statement made by German writer August Wilhelm von Schlegel, “Every great enterprise begins with and takes its first forward step in faith.”

Trust would be another child-like characteristic. Trust is a companion of faith. The Oxford Dictionary defines “faith” as “complete trust or confidence.” It defines “trust” as “a firm belief in the reliability or truth or strength of a person or a thing.” In the Winning Thoughts book, I ask the vital questions that need to be asked within a team, business, marriage or any organization: “Do I trust you? Do you trust me? Mutual trust leads to victory!” As we consider happenings on the local, national and international levels, it is evident that people have said and done things to destroy trust in one another. Yet, according to English philosopher Robert South, “The soul and the spirit that animates and keeps up society is mutual trust.”

Curiosity certainly characterizes children. It has been said that adults step on ants; children study them. Adults often take things for granted; children ask, “Why?” Have you torn apart anything lately to see what makes it tick? Have you torn apart an excuse or alibi? Have you torn apart an idea, a process or method? Or, do you just keep on doing it the way you’ve been doing it because you’ve always done it that way? Curiosity leads to creativity. And to be creative you can’t always play it safe. Scott Adams, creator of the “Dilbert” comic strip, said, “Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.”

Excitement is a characteristic that is almost second nature to a child. Some adults haven’t been excited about anything worthwhile in years. Some haven’t participated in anything personally exciting in so long that they continue to live in memories of yesterday even though they are relatively still young. And when it comes to a job or career, for many it simply means, “Another day, another dollar.” I heard an employer say about a former employee, “I had to fire him from his work because he wouldn’t get fired up about his work.” American advertising executive Bruce Barton said, “If you can give your son or daughter only one gift, let it be enthusiasm.”

“Become as little children” is a simple statement with a powerful, appropriate message in December 2012. And, as adults having more experience and knowledge to help differentiate between right and wrong, truth and lies, ants and spiders, magic thinking and reality, we can utilize our child-like attributes to better ourselves and others during challenging times that continue to hold promise.

© 2012 by Carl Mays, National Speakers Association Hall of Fame member and author, whose mentoring site is based on his "A Strategy For Winning” book and program. Contact or view