Matt McLeod | The Importance of Staying Light & Acting Child-Like
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The Importance of Staying Light & Acting Child-Like

It’s 12:24 pm, the Saturday before Easter.

The sun’s shining bright through the adjacent window and I’m sitting at the dining room of my parents’ house, re-reading one of my favorite books, Keep Going, by Austin Kleon. I can’t recommend the book enough, but I had an epiphany moment during the third chapter, which he titled: “YOUR REAL WORK IS PLAY.”

The author’s a father, so he mentions how much he enjoys watching his kids play. Kleon writes, “To them, play is work — they scrunch their noses with deep concentration trying to make something, in their own little world with laser focus on the task at hand.”

He follows up by saying that what surprised him the most was how his kids approached their best play; it had a sense of lightness and detachment from the results.

They couldn’t care less what the final product looked like, they wanted to “do the verb, not have the noun.” Kids don’t care about how many likes or shares their drawings or photos get, they just want to create them. They lay in the grass outside because they get joy from doing so, not because the lighting hits just right.

And that’s why I felt compelled to write this article.

I haven’t posted any new posts in a bit because I’m always quick to blame my other projects that are “higher priority” than doing something I love: writing.

Another roadblock is that dreaded word where creativity goes to die ⏤ “optimization.” I don’t need to optimize this article for SEO, include all the appropriate keywords, or overanalyze how this fits my “client avatar.” In fact, when I get too heavy thinking about how something will perform, my work sucks. Or maybe the work is okay, but I’m not satisfied because it didn’t get the response I expected.

And, for what? Money? Clicks? Validation?

Why can’t we do things because… we enjoy it?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not against compensation for putting out great work that helps people, but I think that should be the by-product of making something we’re proud of. And when we stay light, we’ll probably put out better work anyway.

To relate this to my field, the same thing happens for my online fitness clients when they’re battling a weight loss plateau. They’re gritting their teeth, dieting stricter, and stressing themselves to the max because the scale just. Won’t. Budge. They want the result so bad they’re willing to do anything to get it.

Then, some life event happens that forces them to relax ⏤ a weekend with friends, mini-vacation, etc. They take their focus away from this goal they’ve been doing everything to achieve, only to reach it once they pointed their attention elsewhere. Physiologically, their body released the water they were holding onto from being in a constant state of stress.

But in laymen’s terms, they cared too much. They were hyper-focused on weight loss instead of nourishing their body. Result-oriented instead of process-oriented.

This may seem like a stretch, but in my opinion, they lost their inner child. They didn’t stay light.

Remaining child-like—not childish—about life is something we all need to be reminded of. 

The writer Kurt Vonnegut wrote a letter to a group of high school students and assigned them this homework: Write a poem and don’t show it to anybody. Tear it up into little pieces and throw them into the trash can. “You will find that you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.” That, said Vonnegut, was the whole purpose of making art: “Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake.”

And, well, I don’t think I have much more to add to that. It’s now 1:49 pm and I feel… refreshed. I’m glad I decided to write this, and I hope it helped you some.

This⏤whatever this is that you’re doing⏤doesn’t have to be so serious. Stay light. Play!


  • Harris Benjamin
    Posted at 14:30h, 11 April Reply

    Great read. Has me thinking of how I need to be more relaxed and create what I enjoy, because I enjoy it – without expecting so much every damn time.

    Thanks Matt

    • Matt McLeod
      Posted at 22:34h, 16 April Reply

      Don’t we all, bro 🙂 thanks for reading!

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