I spent my childhood in Budapest, Hungary, which at the time was part of the Eastern bloc of communist countries. I grew up in the heart of the city. One time, in the early 1970s, when I was eight or nine years old, I was visiting my best friend at his family’s apartment. It was early winter, and we were both itching to do something new, fun and slightly mischievous. But how could we? We had nothing at our disposal except bland, everyday things and our imagination. So we improvised a pastime out of the ordinary things that surrounded us. Armed only with a few random household items—a matchbox, sugar cubes, some sticky tape and a bit of string—we invented a game in a matter of minutes.
It went like this: my friend’s family lived in an apartment above a popular home-furnishing store on a busy street. The apartment had a balcony perched over the prominent front store window where pedestrians would stop and eye the displays. So we took the empty matchbox, stuffed it with a few sugar cubes for added weight, and wrapped it in outward-facing sticky tape. We lowered the sticky contraption from the balcony using some string, carefully maneuvering it to land unnoticed on top of the winter hat of a window shopper below. Then came the pinnacle moment. We briskly yanked on the string, which caused the hat to momentarily lift off the person’s head. We did this urban catch-and-release routine over and over as new people shuffled by the store window, and we thought the startled reaction and colorful cursing of our victims was the funniest thing in the world. It was pure, untainted fun. At the time we knew that this game was completely our own. We invented it and perfected it. It was empowering and exhilarating. To this day, over three decades later, my friend and I still reminisce about it, etched in our memory as a highlight of our youth and a symbol of our former resourcefulness.
What does this story remind you of from your childhood? What game did you invent that brings back fond memories? All of us have stories like this that bubble to the surface when properly triggered. They may be deeply buried, but they are recoverable. And you should recover them, because they will help to make you a more successful and more balanced adult. Unfortunately, the tendency as we grow older is to put aside childish things, including our sense of continuous exploration and invention. Our imagination gives way to conformity, fun cedes to seriousness. So the first step in uncovering your buried slingshot—the symbol of your dormant childhood creativity—is to evoke a sufficient catalyst and framework.
You can learn about that framework here on my blog and in my book, Slingshot.