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Think Young


Is there something you loved to do when you were younger but that you stopped doing? Did you stop doing it because you truly outgrew it... or because you got older? If you want to keep your brain sharp and--just as importantly--get to know your next generation of users, you might want to dust off the legos and slot cars, buy a PSP, get out your skateboard, wear something from Urban Outfitters, and start going to live shows by bands you've never heard of.

Granted, half of you reading this are young enough to still be doing these things, and most geeks tend to play more than non-geeks (the average cubicle of the typical geek looks like a Toys 'R' Us kiosk), so some of you will have to work a little harder to come up with things you did when you were younger but don't do now. Or even better, things you did not do when you were younger, but always wanted to. (Data point: The fastest-growing group of first-time horse owners today are 40-year old women.)

The Death by Dignity topic brought up some great comments about this including:

Michael Turyn: "Narrow-minded and humorless" is often mistaken for "mature"....

Tom Biggs referenced the Oscar Wilde quote: "Life is too important to take seriously."

But this post on college admissions from Julie Leung prompted my post here, especially with her last line:

"As our kids play Kick the Can, can we play with them? Even if that means kicking away our expectations?"


I've talked about the importance of knowing your users' brains, and staying on top of your next generation of users before in:
If you're over 35, do you have a clue? and when I realized that pissed a bunch of people off, I followed it with this one. But this is as much about keeping your own brain in tune as it is about keeping in touch with your users' brains. Doing things not typically done by people "your age" (whatever age that is... 25-year olds aren't doing the same things they did at 17) is a variation on blow your own mind.

Here are a few more tips:

1) Shuffle your music
Ryan Rawson, who was in my session at the Amazon conference, said that putting his iPod Shuffle in shuffle mode has completely changed the way he listened to music, and sort of "forced" him to stop listening to the same things over and over. Think about that--how many of you load your MP3 player with 5,000 songs, but still end up playing the same five playlists?

2) Have kids
If you don't have kids, rent some. Virtually any of your friends with children will be ecstatic to lend you theirs. I'm deathly afraid that once Skyler has completely moved out of the house, my appreciation for indie music will plummet, and I'll revert back to the 80's. (And not the good, interesting, fashionably retro 80's.)

3) Go to a toy store
Bring your credit card.

4) Make something
In atoms, not just bits.

5) Go to a live show
Yes, the parking is a pain, the second-hand smoke will kill you, and your high-frequency hearing is already shot from the concerts you went to in high school. Those were my reasons when I went for about five years without attending a real concert (the symphony doesn't count).

6) Attend a high-school talent show
Phone the local high schools and find out when their next talent show is. I guarantee it'll be entertaining. In a cringing sort of way.


7) Have--and play with--at least one remote control thing
Slot cars, RC hang gliders, boats, whatever.

8) Do a cartwheel at least once a month
My friend Solveig swears this is the secret to staying young. I hadn't done one for a decade when she forced me--under the influence of some microbrew--to do one in the middle of a San Francisco street after a JavaOne party. It nearly killed me, but now I make a practice of it.

9) Try to play that instrument you haven't touched for years
Guitar. Piano. Trombone?

10) Run
Virtually everyone runs when they're younger. Put an animal in a cage all day, and the first thing they want to do when you let them out is run, run, run. We should learn from that.

11) Watch movies for which you are not the target audience

12) Visit stores for which you are not the target audience. Buy something. Wear it.

13) Be in a parade... or something just as ridiculous that you would never have considered before
It's something I did a few times as a kid, and did it for the first time as an adult a few weeks' ago. The stable where I board my horse is about 75% kids, and the stable owner decided to take 20 of them to be in the parade. My horse trainer said, "you're going to come to. It'll be good for you and your horse." After I stopped laughing, I realized he was serious. I thought that was the lamest thing I could imagine -- me with the 20 kids. And to make it worse, the theme of the parade was "the beach", so we all had to wear hawaiian shirts or bathing suits with leis and beach towels. One girl even had her horse in dreadlocks. But, I did it.

14) Do something with art -- paint, sculpt, whatever it is you used to do as a kid that you haven't done in a long time

15) Play games. Monopoly. Simpson's clue. Werewolf.

16) Read a mystery/thriller. Or whatever genre you used to read but don't any longer.

Your turn. What did you really LIKE doing when you were younger, but haven't done in quite a while? This doesn't mean that you're going to get back into it... but what can you at least try?

Posted by Kathy on September 29, 2005 | Permalink


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Though I often enjoy your posts, I'll have to disagree on this one. No one enjoys a good joke more than I do...except perhaps my wife...and some of her friends...I digress. Maturity doesn't equal "boring". It equals patience, kindness, self-control, loving your neighbor, etc. Immaturity equals selfishness and arrogance. Of the people I see most often, the ones I enjoy being with are the ones that aren't self-absorbed. They are "mature".

I know this isn't exactly what you're saying, but we ought to be careful about eschewing maturity, when if the world had no mature people in it, it would be a much more awful place to be.

Posted by: Mark Priestap | Sep 29, 2005 2:24:30 PM

I have another suggestion - volunteer ... charities and NGO's (with a youth focus) survive through the goodwill and time put in by volunteers. Not only will you be doing a great civic service but more importantly you will be working/interacting/engaging with young people of whom you (or your brand/company) focuses on.

I ticked 7 of the above suggestions - just off outside to do that cartwheel...

Posted by: DK | Sep 29, 2005 2:25:14 PM

I love

o Hot Wheels(http://www.hotwheels.com/showcase/promotion.aspx?type=topSellers) : Love them, me and my 4 yr old son (Nick) go like mad when we're in Bart Smit (http://www.bartsmit.com/winkel/main.phtml?tabbladid=0). They are nice!

o I have my eyes on PSP but I'm still rather contended with my PS2.

o It worked wonders for ME when I posted my pic's from my time in Japan (on my blog). I was pumping iron then. Now I'm back to my good old track. Great (and funny thing is) 3 colleagues of mine were so motivated as well, that they enrolled in the Gym class. Here's the link if you're interested (and I'm just posting it to get more folks motivated, no particular reason to draw anyone to my blog or show off ;))http://tarrysingh.blogspot.com/2005/09/some-memories-from-japan.html

We all just need to change. Be able to play all roles and sometimes do lot's of things simultaneously and other times just chill. There is no point to live in some sort of pre-planned predictable way, because you know something, NOTHING IS PREDICTIBLE! So my advice not only think young, BE young!

Posted by: Tarry Singh | Sep 29, 2005 2:35:01 PM

Go build a tree house. Hell just hang out in a tree for a while...

Posted by: Jared | Sep 29, 2005 2:50:19 PM

You're my new hero. :)

Posted by: olivier blanchard | Sep 29, 2005 2:57:14 PM

Not to throw us off course, but there's a typo in the post:

My horse trainer said, "you're going to come to. It'll be good for you and your horse."

I certainly hope you've come to. Being awake is indeed good for horse and rider.

Posted by: EAW | Sep 29, 2005 3:50:37 PM

Rather than revisiting old things I recommend learning something entirely new every few years. Don't drop the old stuff of course but it's the new stuff that keeps your brain active.

Posted by: lindsay | Sep 29, 2005 4:48:26 PM

Have you checked out http://www.changethis.com/16.escapeadulthood. It's a manifestor about curing 'Adultitis'. The book is fantastic too. The author suggests that as people grow up they think they have to become all stuffy etc, and that there is no room for childlike behaviour.

Why should growing up mean we can't have fun anymore?

Posted by: Ian Tyrrell | Sep 29, 2005 9:05:24 PM

when I say 'manifestor', I really mean 'manifesto'. But maybe Manifestor is a superhero who goes around writing manifestos....

Posted by: Ian Tyrrell | Sep 29, 2005 9:06:37 PM


like this one. Changes gears with your brain, and don't fall into ruts. Don't do all of your suggestions but the photo of the Dead (Weir and Garcia) reminded me that I'd stopped listening to them for a long time, and got back into them again, and it helped shake up things a bit. I also took up biking again after an accident that broke my elbow, and now while the daily commute is ok, I also find that I've just got to do a longer bike run now and then just to get free and think, feel the wind in my face, whatever.

Posted by: Bruce | Sep 29, 2005 10:57:54 PM

Maybe I'm geekier than I thought...
Still reading comics (although the type of comics starts to change), still listening to rock music, still watching SF shows, still reading SF&F.

But there's something I did last weekend that I don't do nearly enough: I went to disco/dance hall/whatever-you-call-it, stayed unti 3.30 in the morning and danced the night away. After getting into the moves again, I simply let go of "Oh, how am I gonna look" and let the music and mood take over and improvised and rocked as best as I could - and let quite a lot of younger people there look old :-)
Great way to switch off the daily routine and relax.

Posted by: Jens | Sep 29, 2005 11:18:49 PM

And a list of suggestions:

Go to an impro theatre shows.

Go to movie sneak previews.

Teach (especially to people not of your age, profession or normal peer group. Something you're passionate about and that will help them in some way to develop. Music, arts, theatre, sports.
I very much enjoy my voluntary theatre/acting teaching gigs.

When buying from Amazon, follow those suggestions and read the lists of other buyers.

Posted by: Jens | Sep 29, 2005 11:23:53 PM

Wear your world view, philosophy and fandom in plain view, create your own T-shirts. I recently started this (1x Serenity/Firefly, 1x Discworld) and it sure feels good.
Consider texts for T-Shits like:
'I think, therefore I am... dangerous' Descartes+
The Wilde quote from above.
'Live fast, die only if strictly necessary.'
'What are you passionate about?'
'The eleventh commandment: Thou shall not bore God."

Posted by: Jens | Sep 29, 2005 11:45:46 PM

Heh - our riding school decided that we needed to have an "adult" pony club for Christmas. I was very very dubious about it, but it was a LOT of fun.

There is a lot of information in the local (Melbourne) news at the moment about how people who keep their brains active throughout life are less likely to get Alzheimer's disease. I wonder if a brain that is always exploring new avenues (something you have touched on before) might be even beter off.

Regards, Andrew

Posted by: Andrew Monkhouse | Sep 30, 2005 6:12:51 AM

Bernie DeKoven's Funlog http://www.deepfun.com/weblog/index.html seems an appropriate companion to this post and in fact, after I read this blog in my aggregator I came across yesterday's Funlog post: Why Should I Play with My Kids? http://www.deepfun.com/weblog/2005/09/why-should-i-play-with-my-kids.html

Thanks Kathy for inspiring me. Will have to start practicing those cartwheels! :-)

Posted by: Julie | Sep 30, 2005 7:29:41 AM

This post is great. You have reinforced a lot of what I am already doing.

I am a 30 year old, tie wearing, home owning, married, software professional. When I get home, I am not much different than I was at 12. I skateboard around the block all the time. I have some kid groupies that follow me around asking, "How'd you do that?". I go for bike rides, to nowhere. I play with my RC truck on the jump course I created for it.

Hmmm, what else could I do to keep my brain young? I know, I think I'll build a fort this weekend!

Posted by: Rich | Sep 30, 2005 7:31:28 AM

Hmm, I still do a lot of the stuff I did when I was a teenager -- computer games, etc. -- even though, like the poster above me, I'm now a tie-wearing married-with-kid "professional". And to one of the first posters, you're right, being mature *doesn't* (or at least *shouldn't*) have anything to do with acting young, particularly in the way we treat other people. Perspective comes with maturity but stuffiness shouldn't.

But the thing that I'm not doing today is suggesting that we try cool stuff with my meatspace friends. Maybe I fear that they'll be stuffy or not share the same interests, but maybe I just am projecting. Sure, I suggest things on my blog and I hang out in various RP forums, but those things still aren't as much fun as spending a Saturday in a buddy's garage with some dice and a couple of GURPS books.

Posted by: Kyle | Sep 30, 2005 8:07:19 AM

Having young kids is great for we "old" folks. They really give us an excuse to act like kids yourself (dance down supermarket aisles, have stuffed animal wars, build the tallest, thinnest lego tower you can make stand, etc.).

Man, I used to ride my 21-speed everywhere! I'd love to have another one of those...


Posted by: David | Sep 30, 2005 9:05:15 AM

I think that you are confusing creativity with childishness. There is nothing more depressing than seeing a grown man, with children of his own, behaving like a teenager. It is about as appropriate as teenagers going out trick or treating.

It's entirely possible to be inventive and continually learning without resorting to playing with toys. Instead of trying to do the same things you did as a child, learn something new. If you think growning old means being stuffy and rigid, you might try spending a bit of time with old people, instead of children. You'd actually learn more about the things you can do to become an interesting old person, instead of someone who appears to be afraid to grow up.

Posted by: Teri Pittman | Sep 30, 2005 10:48:49 AM

I totally agree with the point you're making, but why did you have to say "the symphony doesn't count"? Do you really have to perpetuate the stereotype that classical music is for old people? I've been passionate about classical music since I was a kid! What's more exciting than hearing a live performance of Shostakovich, Prokofiev, or Stravinsky, for example?

Posted by: Jennifer Grucza | Sep 30, 2005 11:16:21 AM

There is nothing more depressing than seeing a grown man, with children of his own, behaving like a teenager.

Wow, that statement right there is pretty darn depressing if you ask me. Presumably, there's an implication here that "acting like a teenager" is a BAD thing (otherwise, why would it be 'the most depressing thing a person could see'). I happen to believe "acting like a teenager" could include lots of perfectly reasonable things (playing sports, forming a rock band that sucks, going dancing, acting in a play, singing in a choir, etc.). Why would seeing a "dad" do these things be so depressing?

I'm quite certain that Kathy is not "confusing creativity with childishness." In fact, I don't think she's saying a whole lot about creativity (in this post) at all! I believe she's talking about HAVING FUN and NOT TAKING YOURSELF TOO SERIOUSLY and "SUCKING THE MARROW OUT OF LIFE."

I'm sure it IS "entirely possible to be inventive and continually learning without resorting to playing with toys." It's also entirely *possible* to spend your whole life working at a single job that you've never really liked, but telling yourself it's OK because at least you're a mature, creative person. In other words, "possible" <> "right".

And one last comment: being "afraid to grow up" and "choosing not to grow up" are very, VERY different things.

Posted by: Dave Wood | Sep 30, 2005 11:16:59 AM

Two suggestions along the lines of working in atoms.

1. Read the book Junkbots, Bugbots, and Bots on Wheels. At least the first five chapters. Too scary looking? Try Make magazine from O' Reilly.

2. Build your own treehouse. I did it myself using the book Treehouses You Can Actually Build. Was it hard? Yes. Did I bruise my fingers? Yes. Was it fun to build and see completed?? YES! Do the kids use it as much as I'd like? No, but when they do, it's a LOT of fun. Check out some early construction pictures at http://www.bernardfarrell.com/thpics1.htm.

Posted by: Bernard Farrell | Sep 30, 2005 11:45:09 AM

Kathy, my god womman! Are you trying to get us all killed!!! Haven't you gotten the memo...


See here: http://customerevangelists.typepad.com/blog/2005/09/you_say_lego_we.html

Oh, BTW, thanks for the nice mention. Seth's talk was great, of course, but I didn't get the change to talk with him.


Posted by: Matt Galloway | Sep 30, 2005 12:30:43 PM


Oh, this is actually funny! I am turning 40 this December - although, truth be told, I don't feel that old - if it is fact old.

For years where we used to live, I would be the Dad taking all the kids hiking, to the beach, to the mountains, etc (still am). Once, a mom of one of the kids said to me, "It is so nice that you give so much of your time to the kids."

I scratched my head and replied, "Their the only people that will play with me. Everyone my age is boring."

She laughed - thinking I was being funny.. I wasn't!

In 12th grade my English Lit. teacher, Mr. Daukus (awesome teacher) gave us 60 seconds to memorize a short poem. I was the only student who did and it has become a life mantra of sorts...

My Heart Leaps Up - Wordsworth
My heart leaps up
when I behold a rainbow in the sky
So was it when my life began
So is it now I am a man
So be it when I shall grow old, or let me die
And I wish all my days could be
Bound each to each in natural piety

The gist: If we can't enjoy some of those things we enjoyed as a child, what's the point of living!!!!

Here is a blog with some nostalgic musings and pictures of my daughter, her puppy, and my puppy.

Drink from the garden hose and become a better technologist


Thanks again Kathy for the good read and great topic.

Posted by: Matthew Moran | Sep 30, 2005 12:42:40 PM

When I was younger, I used to write poetry, really bad poetry. At college I even grew bad poetry clubs for fun...sure, we read good stuff too (Whitman was a favorite), but turning the mundane into a poem, especially one following some arbitrary constraint (think OULIPO http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oulipo), really got the head in gear. I wrote this yesterday in my journal, seems to fit (BTW, my 11th grade English teacher made us memorize poems too...Kubla Khan was my personal guiding light http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/stc/Coleridge/poems/Kubla_Khan.html):

I had a unique experience, one about attitude and play and how much more alert and effective the mind becomes with a little bit more play and a little bit less worry. Yesterday Cindy, a software rep, called me about some software her company sold and if I currently had a project and would I be interested in more information. Thinking back over the months I wondered how long it had been since I downloaded that best-practices framework white paper from their site, and why I was getting called. I had a number of half thought responses and seemed even to myself to not get the stones in my head clicking together to get something going. I was in one of those mental, peanut-butter fogs. Fortunately, I asked her to email me her contact information so I could get back to her if I had a project come up or heard from the "other groups" responsible for that part of the department. Today, she called back, obviously having been so lulled by my mental stupor that she forgot to record having called and emailing me. So she called me again...apparently still on her task list. Today, after a round of creativity brainstorming on Nacho Thursday (our weekly, communal nacho breakfast at work) and three really bad poems about chips and cheese, my mind not only caught the redundancy of the call, but I was able to interact with her in a lighthearted and more humane way. It felt like talking to a person rather than talking to something asking me stupid questions on the phone. THAT'S ATTITUDE my friend! Now, I need to see how to can this attitude and sell it, or better yet apply it like a salve when working on my dissertation. Cheesy notes and such below:

"The more constraints one imposes, the more one frees oneself of the chains that shackle the spirit... the arbitrariness of the constraint only serves to obtain precision of execution." Igor Stravinsky

"angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night" Ginsberg


Time grows late so you
Tortilla y queso eat--
Leaves crisp and golden.

*English sonnet

This is Nacho Life, chips and cheese for you
Reclining at the office working hard
A surreptitious blog post will me hew
From tasks to Ponch and Jon flying cars charred.
Yet these are crisp--my mind still sways to soft
Swaying trees, palms, not cell tower faux--
Mister Roarke and Tattoo--chip caught; I coughed;
Need cheese like Corinthian leather show.
Waiting for the moment to grab the bowl;
Shake loose the television reverie;
Button up time and gird the mind and soul
For my daydreaming at work is tawdry,
But oh those television CHiPs and cheese
'Tis nacho time my hunger to appease.

*Free verse

table of crock-pots filled to the brim with
hot nacho cheese sauce fresh from the can
and crinkly bags filled with crispity chips
laying in state below a jalapeño salute
add chili con carne, no beans, no tomato paste
use a fork on the last bit, nothing left to
throw away paper plates and give thanks

Posted by: Roland Jones | Sep 30, 2005 1:13:02 PM

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