Stay Curious My Friends

Everyone knows the above ad campaign – and it ends with the famous, “stay thirsty, my friend.”

However, there is a much simpler way to become the most interesting man (or woman) on the planet, without having to destroy your liver (although if you really  want to become the most interesting man, you will probably have to sample many fine scotch’s, thus destroying your liver).

Here it is: stay curious. Curiosity must be one of the most valuable skills, yet it is something we have weeded out of our psyche from a young age. Children are taught not to question – and are sometimes scolded for asking too many questions. During your entire school career you were reward for taking the teachers opinion, and putting your own aside. In some jobs, you will similarly be rewarded for taking your boss’s opinion.

This leads to a negative feedback loop – the less you question, the more you are rewarded (on average). A similar loop occurs in asking questions – children who ask too many questions are scolded. Employees who ask too many questions are silenced.

Now, don’t get me wrong – I believe that you need to learn all the rules before you can know which ones to break. Asking questions for the sake of asking questions is not ideal – you should be asking enlightened questions. General questions slow down the process – enlightened questions direct the process. During my short career, I have noticed that people who can ask the right questions are some of the most valuable members to have on any team, project or business group.

In my opinion, curiosity is the beginning of enlightenment. If you don’t realize there is a problem (through questioning) how will you ever develop a solution? If you actually stop and think about it, there are so many things that you (we) have simply begun to take as given. Once you step back and look at everything through a questioning lens, it becomes apparent how little we actually know.

Become Curious About Your Business

While generally good for your intellectual development, curiosity is also pays vast dividends when applied towards your professional life. So many students graduate school, start a job, and get ‘trained’. They stop asking why they are doing something, and simply execute the assigned task. One of your biggest selling points of being a young employee (to those who are) is that you still have a large degree of naiveté and curiosity – so use it to your advantage. While you don’t want to be a thorn in someone’s side, never stop asking yourself why you are doing something. Why is it done that way? Why does it use those tools? Why is it done at that time?

Curiosity Will Open New Doors

Above your purely professional life, curiosity will open new doors. It will make you think about options you hadn’t thought of before, it will put problems in a new perspective, and it will allow you to create new solutions.

Start Today

So, what questions will you ask starting today? How will you spark the flame of curiosity in your own mind? As an exercise, ten times tonight ask, ‘why?’ Why are stove elements circular? Why are granite counter tops popular? Why should cars have four wheels? It might seem belittling (perhaps you think those questions are below your intellect) but the very exercise of asking questions will start to open your mind, and an exercise will turn into a habit, which will turn into a skill. Then, with a bit of luck, you too will become the most interesting man.

Blair Livingston

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