It was an old school house party. Drinks in a massive cooler. People smoking joints out back. Music blasting from a computer in the living room. Tables pushed aside for a makeshift dance floor in the middle of the kitchen.
Since I showed up alone, I floated from one conversation to the next. I recognized one guy from my gym and we started chatting. He was really into a game called Liars Dice. I asked about the rules, and he explained the basic concept. I said, “Sounds cool. Can we play. I don’t have any dice.”
He says, “No worries. We’ll use imaginary dice. We can just make it up.”
I paused for a moment. When was the last time I heard someone say, “We can just make it up.”
Moreover, when was the last time someone said, “We can just make it up,” and you responded with, “That’s a great idea.”
Too often in our culture making something up is thought of as taboo. To “make something up” is to lie, to falsify accounts, to tell a narrative that is not true. This is perhaps one of our biggest cultural follies because not all acts of imagination necessarily beget falsehood.
By condemning our visionary powers, we lock ourselves into the status quo. We suppress the creative powers of humankind and tacitly accept everything just the way it is. Frankly this sucks and will ruin our imagination and our future.
I mentor a little brother and the last time we met he showed up a bit dejected. I asked him what was going on, and he said one of his school teachers shot down his idea for a game in class. I asked if he wanted to tell me more. He didn’t, but I pushed a bit. Eventually, he told me that when it was time to play a group game, the teacher asked for suggestions. My little bro suggested a game that he had made up that involves a soccer ball and two tennis balls. It’s sort of like Quidditch except using your feet. I thought it sounded pretty cool; however, his teacher said that they couldn’t play his game because it was made up. It wasn’t a real game.
To squash the creative genius of our youth is a crime. Unfortunately, we are taught from a young age to figure out what’s normal and do that. It’s sad to live in a world where we are told more about our limitations than our potential. We cannot let this trend prevail. Just because something is “made up” doesn’t mean that it lacks value. The truth is, everything in our built environment was made up by someone.
Even more so, as much as we like to hide it, we are all making it up as we go along. Every day, so called grownups masquerade around pretending to have their shit together and know what they’re doing, but really they’re just making it up. Some people have more finesse in the process. But the reality is that we all make it up as we go. It’s the only way.
Yet there is a dangerous idea that we must hide this side of life. We must be careful not to be caught in a state of making it up because people might question us, ostracize us, judge us.
The worst part is that when I was asked to play an imaginary game of Liars Dice, I was afraid. I was scared I wouldn’t have the creative capacity to play without real dice. I was scared I wouldn’t be good at it. How crazy is that–I was scared that I would fail in a game that I was making up.
Yet most of life is no different. We fear doing things even though we are the ones writing the rules and narrative as we go. We become trapped not only by our fears, but by lack of trust in our own creative process.
All of this got me thinking. If we lose our power to make things up, we lose our power to change our circumstances. We lose our power to create anything new. We resign ourselves to living in a world that was created by somebody else’s vision. Not that such a world is necessarily bad, but what is our purpose here on Earth if not to lend our unique perspective and gifts to this world. To make things up is to be wonderfully, resourcefully, creatively human.
So try making something up today. I’m not talking about lying or spreading rumors. I’m talking about playing and using your imagination. Don’t let practical, often-imagined constraints limit you. If you’re creative enough in your fresh perspective, you may just give birth to something really special. Lead with that and see if others respond to your vision. You might just create the impossible.