What if Peter Pan Waw Right?
What if growing up is part of our problem in not rising to our full potential?
(Also available as a Podcast on SPOTIFY)
What do you think when you hear the name Peter Pan?
Neverland? Captain Hook? Tinkerbell? Pixie Dust? The Lost Boys? Wendy? The Clock Eating Crocidile? Tiger Lilly? Chief Big Little Panther? Mermaid’s Lagoon? Marooner’s Rock? Nana the beloved Dog Nanny?
Perhaps it was Aquata, Andrina, Arista, Atina, Allana, and Adella – the Mermaids? Hangman’s Tree - Peter Pan’s hideout? The Neverland Jungle? Mr. Smee – Captain Hook’s first mate? Captain Hook’s Hook? The second star to the right and straight on til morning?
Or was it something else?
J.M. Barrie’s classic tale of the “boy who never grew up” remains a beloved tale that has enthralled children (and some adults). The whimsical tales of Peter’s adventures in Neverland take us on a journey back to our childhood, a time of imagination, freedom, and entertainment.
I grew up watching the Disney adaptation of Peter Pan, as well as the 1960 live-action movie featuring Mary Martin as Peter Pan. In those moments, I could imagine Tinkerbell (often played by my sister) sprinkling me with pixie dust so, like Peter, I could fly.
Now, Mom wasn’t too happy with my sister, Tonya, and I jumping off the couch and she often directed us to take our boundless energy outside, which we were happy to do. We jumped over planters and shrubs, off of porches, climbed into a makeshift hideout in a tree to escape Captain Hook and his henchmen, and flew over our backyard version of Neverland to visit the Mermaids and Indian Village.
Childhood can be a magical time in our lives.
And then, we grow up.
We stop using our creativity and imagination. Instead, we rely on our past experience and fall into a routine of doing the same things the same way. Life, in turn, becomes boring, a drudgery of existence we mindlessly slog through. The world becomes black and white, or at best shades of grey, losing its vivid color as we settle into a lackluster, mediocre existence.
Nowhere better to see this meaningless shell of a life played out than to return to the story of Peter Pan, but this time all grown up. In the movie, Hook, Robin Williams plays an adult version of Peter who gave up eternal childhood in Neverland to marry Wendy’s granddaughter, Moira, the girl of his dreams.
Now, he’s Peter Banning, a workaholic mergers and acquisition lawyer who has no time for his wife and family because he’s so wrapped up in his work. His marriage is falling apart, and his children despise him because he’s completely disengaged from their lives.
That is, until Captain Hook returns, kidnaps his children, and plots his revenge against his one-time child nemesis.
Peter has to return to Neverland, unlearn and relearn, to rediscover who he truly is on the inside.
There’s a leadership lesson here.
As children, we view the world with an open mind unclouded by the opinions of others. Each day is a day of exploration, discovery, experimentation, and revelation as we venture into this BIG world around us with fascination and wonder. There is something new to learn every day of the week, and most days several new things to learn.
We’re engaged in personal growth and development, as this is how we are hard-wired to learn, grow, improve, and expand.
And then, we start our formal education and everything changes.
Rather than being taught and encouraged HOW to think, to continue to explore and study the vastness of the world before us, we are taught WHAT to think. We’re told what to read, study, and learn. Our minds are filled with facts and figures. Creativity and imagination give way to book learning.
We study assigned material, take an exam, and are told we’ve learned that subject and it’s time to move on. Formal education is about conformity, teaching the same content to everyone without regard to the individuality of each student. Success principles aren’t taught. Personal growth and development are ignored. Let’s just get everyone through the system so they can go and contribute to society.
Add to that the opinion of others, the pressure to be part of the collective, to engage in groupthink, and to fit in with your peers. Now you’re getting the opinions of others who often don’t have the wisdom, knowledge, or experience to give you guidance and advice, but they give it anyway.
The pressure to conform, to fit inside the box, to mold yourself to become just like everyone else around you is great. How you dress, what you watch and listen to, who you admire, what you should think and say, becomes important or you could be ostracized by the group or worse, canceled.
Forget being unique, one of a kind. Society today is about cultural conformity. Don’t think for yourself. We’ll do all the thinking for you.
Is it any wonder that slowly, ever so slowly, we lose our curious nature?
The flame of creativity and imagination is slowly extinguished in our lives.
We stop being Peter Pan and we start becoming Peter Banning or, even worse, we become Captain Hook.
Remember, as you think, you become.
Once you stop thinking, you stop becoming.
It’s our creative nature, our imagination, that allows us to see things with an open mind. To consider what might be possible, and to envision things no one else thought were possible.
When we lose that, we lose perspective.
As we age, our childlike wonder is replaced with past experience. Rather than wondering “what if”, we return to what worked in the past and we try it again. If it works, we try it again, and before we know it, we’ve settled for “good enough” rather than consider “what if.”
Childlike curiosity reveals to us what could be, and allows us to think outside the box, to look for yet another answer, to consider other possibilities. When we lose that, we settle for less.
When we lose our childlike curiosity, we stop really learning, growing, improving, and expanding.
We were hardwired from birth to do these things, yet less than 5% of people in the world are engaged in personal growth and development on a consistent, daily basis.
Ninety-five percent of our populace is content to live a mediocre, lackluster, average life, conforming to the mold society has made for them. Doing the same things the same way over and over again.
This is existing, it’s NOT really living.
It’s NOT what Black Belt Leaders do.
When you do the same things you’ve always done, you’ll get the same results you’ve always gotten.
When you do the same things other people are doing, you’ll get the same results other people get.
But when you do what no one else is doing, you’ll stand out, get noticed, and get ahead.
Remember, successful people do DAILY what unsuccessful people do sometimes, or not at all. Successful people return to that childlike state of curiosity every single day of their lives. They return to a state of wonderment, imagining what could be the result of learning something new, trying something new, or considering a different way of thinking or doing things.
Maybe Peter Pan was right.
Maybe we need to focus as much, or more, on our inner child than we focus on what society wants us to become. Rather than conforming to become yet another cog in the machine, we consider if there is something more waiting for us if we stay curious and maintain a sense of wonder.
My grandson, Daylen, is currently four years old. When he comes to visit, we often find ourselves in the backyard. After spending a few minutes playing with the dogs, Daylen will grab his dump truck and start hauling dirt, rocks, and sticks across the backyard to build whatever he envisions building. Sometimes, it’s a bridge over a hole the dogs have dug. Other times, it’s a house, or a skyscraper, or a firehouse.
Or, Daylen will jump on his bicycle and play a different game. Sometimes he is a police officer chasing my dogs down for running too fast in the backyard. I didn’t know you could write a dog a ticket for speeding, but Daylen’s done that more than once. Other times, he’s a motocross champion or a Door Dash Delivery Person taking Sonic or groceries to someone’s house.
His imaginative mind is always at work, seeing what could be, and envisioning himself right there in the middle of it. I’ve found Matchbox cars in some crazy places as he’s created a story that he’s living out that required that particular car to be in that particular cabinet, drawer, or hamper in that moment.
He’s envisioning what could be, and he’s living that out.
How many of us need to learn a lesson like that from the younger generation?
When we live our lives with a sense of curiosity and wonder, we imagine the impossible. More importantly, we start to see how the impossible CAN become reality.
Leonardo Di Vinci, Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, George Washington Carver, Albert Einstein, and Wolfgang Morzart are all remembered for their creative genius. They, and countless inventors like them, maintained a childlike state of wonder as they viewed the world around them.
They chose not to see the world as it is, and accept it as such. They saw the world as it could be, imagining something bigger, better, and new. Their imagination fueled their creativity even as their sense of curiosity and wonder opened their minds to see and seize the endless possibilities that are before us every day of our lives.
And the world is a better place because they did so.
Maybe Peter Pan was right.
Perhaps part of us should never grow up, to stay in that childlike state of wonder and curiosity. It’s in that state that WHAT COULD BE is revealed to us, and we discover that we were created to say, do, and become so much more.
Maybe we should sprinkle ourselves with pixie dust, return to Neverland, and allow our creative imagination to take us on a journey of discovery. To battle pirates, visit an Indian village, spend time with mermaids in the lagoon, and take our flight to the second star on the right and straight on til morning.
We were hard-wired for personal growth, but that only happens when we remain open, curious, and maintain a state of wonder.
As you think, you become.
Once you stop thinking, you stop becoming.
Perhaps it’s time to unlearn and relearn how to be Peter Pan once again.
To release our creativity, our curiosity, and a sense of wonder.
Pixie dust anyone?
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