Freeing your Inner Child to Unleash More Joy, Happiness and Creativity


What is it about “adults” that some of them (notice I didn’t say “us”) get so tied up in being “grown up”?

Each year I co-host an Impact trip to Haiti with Maverick member, Doug Doebler and one of my mentors, mega real estate entrepreneur and philanthropist, Frank McKinney.

We take a group of Mavericks, entrepreneurs, leaders and other extraordinary individuals who each donate the cost of a house to be built. We immerse ourselves in the culture and work going on to help transform the country including working with some of the local micro-entrepreneurs in the region. (For more about Caring House Project’s work, please visit the site.)

So this year before I left, my wife Missy asks, “Are you excited about the Haiti trip?”

Hmm… it’s hard to say you’re excited going to the world’s poorest country but I was certainly looking forward to it. Every time it’s a bit different and this was my third time there. Each year I walk away with new insights. Whether it’s from the Haitian people I meet, off-hand conversations or a totally unique and meaningful experience.

Keeping Your Inner Child Alive

Last year one of my favorite parts of our Maverick Impact trip was seeing Frank climb to the top of our bus and start tossing a basketball 20+ ft in the air to a horde of children trying to catch it. There were a few who got bonked on the head but it was all part of the fun.

I’m always pretty playful by nature but this gave me “permission” to really step up.

So this year I knew just what to do…

Our first stop on this trip was a new orphanage run by Hope to Haiti and our guide, Scott Bonnell. This year we had an expanded amount of time to spend with the kids. After a bit of a welcome and engagement, we got into action.

I climbed up on the top of our bus with fellow Maverick, Ben Roy, and we started throwing out all sorts of footballs, bouncy balls, etc from the toys we brought.

The kids went crazy!

We played with the kids at the orphanage for hours. Soccer, Frisbee, whatever.  It was great to lose ourselves in that play – it’s an example of the universality of kids everywhere. They simply want to play, laugh, have fun and get some of your attention. Our guide, Scott Bonnell, said many of the visitors are older so they don’t play with the kids.

“Yukking” it up with a new friend

“Yukking” it up with a new friend

The kids just being kids playing football

The kids just being kids playing football.

Frank and I had a conversation about that while heading back to the bus and it was one of the topics in our evening reflection.

On our walk back to the vans from the orphanage he said, “You can really tell if someone has let their inner child die or go dormant. You can just look into their eyes and know if that little boy or little girl is not there anymore. And it’s a shame…”

I couldn’t agree more.

It’s certainly easy to lose that inner child, but once it goes dormant or dies, you also lose that creativity and spark for life. Frank believes he can look into the eyes of an audience or a person and see if that little boy or girl isn’t in there anymore. I think “adults” get so tied up in being grown ups – it’s easy to lose the playful, fun side. That’s definitely part of the entire ethos of Maverick:  to keep that inner child going strong!

Being present

Even though I went full-out in playing with the kids, I realized I wasn’t stretching that much of my comfort zone. Playing for me is pretty easy. That’s my nature and I love it, but I wanted to experience something even deeper if possible. The first night at our reflection, one of the attendees mentioned how he cried when an orphan put his head on his shoulder. I do my fair share of high-fiving and things of that nature, but never have a really deep and meaningful one-on-one.

The next morning I was mindful and attentive of what I wanted to be open to.

We trekked out to the opening of a new village that Caring House and Mavericks had contributed to. The villagers welcomed us with big hugs and warm greetings. There were 50 concrete houses built and a community center. Everybody dispersed and did their own thing for awhile.

There was music playing and that was my opening…

There was a grandmother dancing by herself in complete joy and just enjoying the moment. I’m not normally a dancer but I realized the less I care about how I look, the better I dance (or I keep telling myself that anyway). I grabbed her hand and looked into her eyes and started dancing. We did a few twirls and then I simply watched to follow some of her steps. At this point I’d usually be looking around to see if anybody was watching and I might do something a little bit goofy or silly. But this was just for her and I.  I didn’t care who watched or what else was going on. It was really a sublime moment and I loved it!

I don’t even think there is a picture of it (I wish there was), but I didn’t do it for the photo opp. I did it to authentically connect in a different way than I might normally do things.

Later one of our translators told us that the grandmother was doing the wedding dance with me – so she was having some fun with me!

That was a breakthrough for me because one of the important things I’ve been working on this year is being present in the moment. Too much of any strength can actually turn into a weakness (i.e. flipside of the coin). I have a strong “identity” tied up and attached to being fun. At the worst, this can turn you into a character playing a role.

There’s a personality profiling system called the Enneagram.  I’m a type 7, known as “The Enthusiast” profile.

The healthiest part of that personality type is being joyfully content and grateful for the abundance of things experienced. We’re bold, vivacious, spontaneous and pursue life’s adventure.  In the unhealthier version of this personality – we are always scattered and leaving unfinished projects and ideas in our wake.

Now part of that personality type is “stirring the pot” and getting the energy going. I’ve always said that I like to instigate the instigators. But I’ve noticed when I do it for myself, there’s a great sense of joy versus looking for a reaction from anyone else.  There is fun there too, but not if it’s done just for others.

Cold and Crazy

A few months ago in Sweden (the same Maverick trip where we had the mission conversation I wrote about in the last post) all of this really came forward for me.

The Ice Hotel has been on my Ultimate Life List ever since I heard about the remarkable “hotel” where you get to sleep in a balmy -5° and everything is built from snow and ice each year.

Nearly all the Mavericks that came enjoyed sleeping in an ornate and totally unique art suite created by artists from all over the world. Each suite has an entirely different design and look with amazing sculptures and other cool features. My art suite was called “Cold and Crazy” which was pretty perfect for me at the moment.

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It was a beautifully whimsical expression of the fun and joy associated with snow and ice. Here’s the official photo from the Ice Hotel’s website:


snowman-miniI had multiple snowmen in my room with different designs.  My favorite was one I could pop behind and stick my head into so it looked like I was a snowman.

As a kid I always loved the snow but then as an adult, sometimes you no longer have that same sense of awe and wonderfulness that comes with snow days. As an adult, it’s making sure the driveway gets shoveled and the kids are dressed warm and dealing with boots, snow clothes, etc. etc.

Even I need that reminder sometimes…so I got the message when I saw Mavericks, Mykola and Tatiana Latansky pushing each other into snowdrifts while walking home from the restaurant.

That sense of fun and goofiness is something at the center of my being and this experience was a perfect way to re-connect to part of my core essence. That’s why I loved the name of the room “Cold and Crazy” – I couldn’t have picked a better room for myself. It almost doesn’t matter what your surroundings are. If you are stuck in your head thinking about something else – you are not enjoying that moment and not experiencing the joy you’re meant to have here.

Now you might wonder about what it was like to sleep there. Basically you are sleeping on a big block of ice with a mattress and a reindeer pelt on top. You crawl up into a sub-zero sleeping bag – everything really isn’t so bad except for any part not covered. My nose was freezing and the tip stayed red for a few days so I was slightly worried, but all was good. I woke up at 4am and had to pee. Then it was decision time. It’s pretty hard to continue sleeping when you really need to go, but then again, it was so damn cold! I got my boots on and stomped over to the warm section of the hotel to go to the bathroom. Once I got back to my room, I couldn’t sleep again so I simply hung out in my room, journaled and appreciated the intricate work these artists did in my suite.

Here’s a quick video I filmed of my room:

My “wake up” call came at 7am and she told me I was the only person who she has ever walked in on that was wide awake for the hot lingonberry cocktail. (Side note: lingonberries definitely seem to be placed in just about everything over there!)

I think you can discover your own sense of fun (done for you) but that also spreads to others – that’s when it’s infectious and wonderful! If you’ve attended the Underground® seminar, you know we add a few surprises and sometimes silly components. (Note: next year is the 10th anniversary of Underground and a big celebration year so it’s worth registering early!)

This past year we used the Inspector Gadget theme and had the stage created so that there was a chair that mechanically turned around and the evil Dr. Claw and his cat would tell the speakers to do something. It would give them silly instructions to find a hidden window behind the set. We had different things lined up like notes to read to the audience, random objects and even silly string. We also had a bunch of steam and smoke we could blow up on stage to screw with some of our ADHD speakers.

We also created a ‘flash mob’ of sorts for one of the Maverick’s speaking, Joey Coleman. I had all these over-sized ‘Joey’ head cutouts created. Here’s Zoe modeling one:


A few moments into Joey’s presentation, all of the lights went out so he thought there was something wrong. Then the song Cotton Eyed Joe(y) started playing and fellow Mavericks rushed the stage. Here’s the pic I snapped of the chaos:


Funny enough, in the comments and surveys we did after the event, we had one person complain there was too much silliness and pranks pulled on the speakers. Oh well, can’t please everyone.

Keep alert for ‘Adult-ness’ creeping in

I love upping the fun quotient for just about anything I do. Here’s a post I wrote several years ago about adding tweaks of more fun to your life if you feel like you’re being too “adult.”

Stay vigilant and see if you’re growing up!

In Charleston for our Family Freedom event over July 4th – I regrettably acted a little too grown up by refusing to go jump into the public fountains with my kids. I didn’t have a towel and didn’t want to get wet. Blah.

Do whatever it takes to keep that inner child alive and well cared for. It’ll repay you back multiple times over.


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  1. Great stuff Yanik. I like what you said about being in the moment. I have so many friends who have become stuck in their complacent mediocre life. By being in the moment it helps keep your passion alive. Love what you and Frank did with the kids. Looking to be at the next underground

  2. Well done Yanik, thank you for sharing your inner heart song…and acknowledging the power of being present and mindful as we breath…keep shining

  3. Love this post…. very important for me to hear, and very important for many others to hear. That inner-child is inside each of us, but our learned behaviors as adults precludes it from coming out. How much more could be accomplished in the world if we’d all open our minds to the kid inside us!

  4. Welcome to the world of blogging, my friend! Good to see you sharing some of your thoughts here, and rightfully finding time to enjoy living the non-adult life … I’ve been trying to do the same ever since quitting my day job!

  5. Wow! I’ve never heard of the Ice Hotel. What an amazing opportunity! I love what you said about it melting every year to start anew. Here in the Midwest, I feel like every Spring is a new beginning… a chance for rebirth!

  6. Nice! Sometimes silliness is more than just silliness. In business. sometimes getting silly brings people together and empowers them to connect in ways they normally wouldn’t.

    We organized a flash mob, choreographed to ‘I Got a Feeling’ for our annual company meeting two years ago. To his surprise, it kicked off in the middle of our CEO’s speech. He joined in and the whole room was just energized.

    This past year he surprised us all by inserting videos of himself dancing ‘Gangham Style’ on people’s desks, in the office and on the manufacturing floor during that same annual speech. Instantly the room was drawn together because he connected with us in a way that made us feel like he wanted to connect with us as people.

  7. This is a great post! I have been struggling with this acting too much like a grown up thing and I am glad to know that my inner child is allowed to stay around more often. That ice room is amazing! Since “growing up” I don’t enjoy winter time at all anymore like I did when I was a kid. I think that would be something very cool to do! I have been practicing a lot lately to live in the current moment and to not think too much about the past and future. It can be tough to do sometimes but I think I am getting better at it.

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