Where did we lose it and how do we get it back?

School will be out soon and many of us we be seeing a lot more of our children. Hopefully, we will take this opportunity to notice how they have grown in magical ways.

I wrote this article many years ago. My son Laurence, was a year old at the time.

About a year ago my wife and I had a healthy baby boy and I have been observing him with fascination ever since. This first year, he matured from a completely dependent infant into a walking and babbling Destructo machine.

It is not just the speed of his learning that thrills me, but his dedication and excitement. There is nothing we have to do to get him to learn. We did not have to bribe him with cookies, say “good boy” or “bad boy,” or promise him the latest toy advertised on Cable TV. He learned to hold his own bottle, crawl, and eventually walk, just because he wanted to.

Sometimes when I see Laurence practicing something he could not do before, he breaks into the biggest smile a father would ever wish to see.

Where Did We Lose this Excitement for Learning?

We probably lost it somewhere between the:

  • Race for grades
  • Seeming lack of relevance of most of our education
  • Fear and punishment associated with making a mistake
  • Lack of opportunity to practice and fine-tune our skills at our own time and on our own terms

How Do We Get It Back?

We can help preserve and enhance the sense of wonder and excitement that we all once had toward learning new things by:

  • Fostering a fear free learning environment — a place where the only dumb questions are the ones you did not ask and where everyone is regarded as equal, regardless of their corporate rank, subject-matter knowledge, or intellectual agility.
  • Making sure that the behaviors taught and the examples used are relevant to the participants. It is also important to continually tie in this relevance by highlighting how they will use what they are learning back on the job. And, of course, why that will make things better.
  • Creating nonthreatening individual or group competition, where the winners earn no more respect than the losers.
  • Providing participants with many opportunities to practice without fear of making a mistake or being wrong. It is okay to make a mistake. We learn from our mistakes. Sometimes doing it right is just the product of doing it wrong enough times and receiving good feedback.

I have found that these strategies work well with most people.

I hope that Laurence never loses this magical sense of wonder, called learning.


Laurence is currently a freshman in college. His love of learning has been tarnished, but not destroyed.