Your childhood holds huge clues. 

Your childhood holds huge clues. 

In Korean culture, a baby’s first “birthday” is celebrated when it is 100 days old. Back then, living 100 days was considered a huge boon, so the parents would throw a huge party for the neighborhood. The highlight of the entire occasion is the toljabee, which translates to “the big grab”.

The child is seated at a long table, and in addition to many tasty food items, the following objects would be placed in front of him/her, each symbolizing a virtue or fortune: 

  • a large spool of thread (long life)
  • a brush, a calligraphy set, a pencil, a book (scholarship, life of the mind)
  • rice, rice cakes, money (wealth
  • either a bow and arrow for boys, or a needle, ruler and pair of scissors for girls (dexterity

It’s a fun tradition, and admittedly, Koreans today regard the results of toljabee with less reverence and superstition. However, the room still washes over with hushed excitement, delight, and laughter once the baby chooses its “fate”. Why? Because we innately know that impulse and wonder are freely felt in childhood. Indeed, ages 2–6 are crucial years of play in early childhood development. As we age, social norms, familial pressure, and status anxiety get turned way up, often drowning out those pure, raw instincts.

Okay, you’re probably not Korean, but you had a “big grab” too: that thing you grabbed onto early on because it simultaneously focused you and made you curious. Actually, I would say these things grab us. If you’re feeling disengaged at work and your passion doesn’t seem to be presenting itself readily, do these things: 

  1. Call your mom. Ask her what you spent hours upon hours doing as a kid. She remembers because the struggle to get you to stop that thing to eat dinner, go to bed, etc. was real. Write them all down.
  2. Get to the core. Look at your list and figure out what is really at the core of each activity. Don’t dismiss anything, either. What was at work underneath? On the face of it, your teenage self talking on the phone for hours with friends hardly seems novel or creative. However, if you spent an ungodly amount of time doing this, take note. You probably excel at human connection, developed listening and social skills, and gained insight into one’s emotional landscape. If your current job has you at a computer, mostly in isolation, you can start to…
  3. Pinpoint the rub. What in your life is currently out of alignment with what you found? Why exactly are you listless and unengaged at work? Analyze your responsibilities at work. Are you spending most of it doing things that drain you, rather than exercising your strengths?

Play happens all throughout life, but during childhood, the activities you loved helped you gain skills and developed your mind in a manner unique to you. What did you do and love as a kid? What about it grabbed you and wouldn’t let go?