Thinking Outside the Pinata

Thinking Outside the Pinata

Somewhere in my parents’ attic is a two-minute movie of my 9th birthday party, shot on 8mm film. Part of that movie was a snippet of the pinata game, where blindfolded kids would take turns swinging a stick to try and break the pinata, a papier mache hollow donkey which was filled with candy and suspended from a rope.

When the pinata broke and the candy fell to the ground below, all the children, as they are supposed to do, scrambled to grab as much of the fallen candy as their hands and arms and pockets could hold. If you’ve ever seen documentary footage of piranhas swarming over a wounded animal, it’s similar to that, except it’s a swarm of screaming kids.

Because I was the birthday boy, the camera followed me wherever I went. It followed me as I joined in and jumped into the pile of kids and candy. But soon after I jumped into the pile, something peculiar happened. The film shows me leaving the pile of kids, walking away and waving my arm in an “Ah, forget it!” attitude. Back then, when the grownups saw that movie, they asked me, “Why did you not get the candy like the other kids? Why did you give up?”

What the camera didn’t show was me, two hours before the party, sitting at the kitchen table and watching as my dad loaded the pinata with three bags of candy. What the camera didn’t show was me seeing that my dad had bought SIX bags of candy to fill the pinata, and because the pinata didn’t have any more room, my dad had left the other three unopened bags of candy on the kitchen table.

Back at the broken pinata and pile of kids, as I jumped into the fray, I was already thinking to myself, “Why am I scrounging for dirty candy when there are three bags of it sitting in the kitchen?”

As a twenty-one year old college intern, I worked on a project where my employer charged the client $100/hour. I did all the work, and I was making $9/hour. At that moment, I thought to myself, “Why am I making $9/hour if I can do the same work and charge $50/hour, and still charge only half what my employer was charging?”

As a twenty-five year old at a Dodger game, I was in the middle of a scramble for a foul ball. People were spilling $20 worth of hot dogs, nachos and beer, to get at a $7 baseball.

There are pinata opportunities, and then there are outside the pinata opportunities. Thinking outside the pinata usually requires a bit more thinking, a bit more patience, and a bit less impulsive action.

It also helps knowing that there are three bags of candy sitting on the kitchen table.