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It was a perfectly regular day at the beach, until I found a pair of lungs near the high tide line. “What’s that?” I asked my husband, as I made a beeline for the big pink thing being pecked at by seagulls. “This’ll be a good find,” I thought to myself.
What’s the definition of a “good find” for stuff on the beach? When I was a kid it was sea glass on the shores of Lake Ontario. A few years ago I scored a pair of sunglasses on a nudist beach; there was no one else was around!
But body parts? Those were lungs weren’t they?
I looked up and down the beach. At least a hundred people were enjoying the bright summer’s day. Kids played in the sand, while couples were walking hand in hand by the water’s edge. Everyone seemed oblivious.
Was I really the first person curious enough to discover this?
Puzzled and uncertain what to do, we walked on. Within 50 metres I spotted another large pink thing being pecked at by seagulls. This was getting weird.
Curiosity leads to ‘A Curious Mind’
I’ve never thought I was any more curious than the next person. After all, Google is a verb with 3.5 billion searches being completed each day, not to mention that all of human progress is the result of our collective curiosity.
But according to movie producer Brian Grazer, curiosity is an underused and underrated virtue. In “A Curious Mind: The secret to a bigger life” co-authored with Charles Fishman, Grazer contends that curiosity is an essential ingredient to a great life.
Grazer believes so strongly in the value curiosity has brought to his life, he was puzzled as to why others weren’t discussing it, using it or encouraging it nearly as much as they should.
In “A Curious Mind” he teases apart the different kinds of curiosity and deliberates on how the power of inquisitiveness can deepen and improve us. Curiosity is valuable:
- as tool for discovery;
- a secret weapon to understand what other people don’t;
- as a spark for creativity and inspiration;
- to motivate yourself
- as a tool for independence and self-confidence;
- as a key to storytelling;
- as a form of courage;
- In facilitating human connection.
That’s how Grazer sees it at least. Typically curiosity isn’t framed as much of a virtue. Ever heard the one about curiosity killing the cat? From Adam and Eve’s time, curiosity has been framed in a negative way because it is seen as a challenge to the status quo.
It’s for this very reason that it can offer freedom to those who ask good questions.
What does the science say about curiosity?
Science, thanks to the power of curiosity, says that Grazer might be onto something.
Studies have shown that curiosity was found to account for roughly 10% improvement in academic outcomes.
- Our Health, as curious people are more likely to live longer.
- Adding meaning and purpose to our lives. Curious people are more likely to develop interests, hobbies, and passions, which generally increase feelings of purpose.
- Enhanced social relationships that are more satisfying. Curious people are also more likely to develop new relationships with strangers.
- Increase Happiness and well-being. A lack of curiosity has even been associated with negative emotions, like depression.
But can it make you wealthy? I mean interesting beach detritus and gold coins on the footpath notwithstanding.
Grazer believes that it can. His entry into show business happened because of a conversation he overhead on the street. He believes in the power of curiosity and shows his readers how it can help them.
Curiosity is also a good business and career tool. Asking good questions lays the foundations for more opportunities and enhanced decision making. As Ramit Sethi says time and time again, for a successful business you need to get inside your customer’s head.
Practising curiosity shows a willingness to deepen our skills, areas of competence and even work on our incompetence’s! That’s more valuable than a high IQ.
The Cabot Wealth Network says curiosity is essential in investing, because it’s important to always keep an open mind. They go on to say,
“While conviction is a wonderful attribute, particularly if it’s achieved via comprehensive research and it goes against the spirit of the crowd, it should never be so firm that it is blind to new information.”
My own curiosity drove my family to save almost $200,000 on interest repayments.
And what if went so far as to replace jealousy with curiosity? Wealthy people don’t attribute their success to luck, yet the rest of us tend to. We think the wealthy must be lucky and that makes us jealous. But instead, we should be more curious. Instead of envying them, let’s start asking our wealthy friends about how they achieved their success. Let’s start embracing the why.
Curiosity isn’t childish
Hang around a toddler and you will be interrogated about everything. Forget 20 questions, in the space of 12 or so hours you will hear ‘why?’ (More like whyyyyyy?) or some variation of it almost 300 times.
That’s a question every 2 minutes and 36 seconds, unless you were in the company of a four year old girl and then it’s a question every 1 minute and 56 seconds.
Just imagine the stats if toddlers could Google it!
As adults our curiosity about the world tends to fade. We become satisfied with what we know and shy away from things we don’t understand. We fear appearing ignorant, so we stop asking questions.
We tend to only read and speak to those that share our own point of view.
When our personal views are challenged, instinctively we defend them even if they’re wrong.
Our natural curiosity can be repressed by a desire for stability.
“I have found there are two types of people in this world. Those that want their thinking re-affirmed and those that value having their thinking changed. The former never question, the latter always do.”
The good news is anyone can revive their curiosity. Essentially, it’s an attitude to living.
7 Tips to Re-Awaken Your Curiosity
My curiosity regarding beach detritus is pretty insatiable, but in relationships I make an ass of myself all the time through a tendency to assume things. Truth is, we all do it. We all make assumptions based on our own experience.
1. Practice Awareness
Firstly start practicing greater awareness. Realise you’re making assumptions. Catch the automatic thoughts that are going through your brain.
“Oh, lucky her, must be easy to live a great life with such a great paying job”
“He’s crazy, its way too risky to start a business. He’ll probably be back at his old job within 6 months”
“It’s probably just a bottle cap, not a two dollar coin”
2. Challenge your thinking
Challenge your automatic thoughts. Ask yourself why you are making these assumptions. Is it based on your experience, how you’re feeling or even something your parents once said? Think about another way of looking at the situation.
3. Ask, don’t state
If you have a statement to make, ask a question instead. You might be surprised what you find out. Since reading “A Curious Mind” my husband started practising this at work. Lo and behold, when he asked his colleague when we planned to finishing a project that had been was stuck for a month, it got done that very afternoon. In another instance his boss came back with a response to a major planning change within 12 hours when presented with a question, rather than a statement. Previously similar issues had taken 12 months to resolve since they seemed low priority.
I was able to help a friend with an issue she’s been having for months when I asked her how she hoped the situation would resolve itself instead of telling her what she needed to do.
4. Be a good listener
During a conversation, stop thinking about what you are going to say next and start to listen to what the other person is saying. Pick up on stuff that sparks your curiosity that you want to know more about and ask them! Don’t worry about being impolite, people love talking about themselves especially if you show genuine enthusiasm and curiosity.
5. Learn to ask better questions
In spite of the old saying, there are both bad questions and those that won’t help you satisfy your curiosity. Questions that put the other person on the defensive aren’t helpful. Similarly, questions with a predetermined answer won’t get you very far. Closed questions that can be answered simply with a ‘yes’, ‘no’ or ‘it’s 10 o’clock’ are a great way to stall a conversation.
The best type of questions are open ended. They create clarity, help build relationships, challenge assumptions and encourage people to think in a new ways. Good questions often begin with “Why” “How” or “What do you think about….” Asking good questions takes practise and I find being prepared with a set of questions before going into a situation helps immensely.
6. Talk to people
I got the stranger danger message. To this day I still find myself trying to end conversations with random strangers as quickly as possible, you know, just in case.
Now that I have a baby accompanying me everywhere I go, this is a challenge every time I leave the house. Strangers are constantly striking up a conversation. Instead of extricating myself as quickly as possible (oh dear you made baby cry, gotta go!) I view these conversations as an opportunity to talk to someone who I might not otherwise speak with. At worst it’s an opportunity to practise my social skills, at best you never know who you might meet.
Just this weekend, a random stranger read my daughters fortune from her birth date. She’s going to be brilliant! I already knew that 😉
7. Leave a comment, Send an email
Being online means you can contact virtually anyone. Don’t be afraid to ask for people’s advice. So ask that question; leave that comment or send an email. Maybe you’ll get no response, but generally people want to help others.
Go ahead, start embracing your inner child and unleash your curiosity.
So, were the lungs human?
We stopped in at the local pub to report our ‘find’. The look of disgust suggested this wasn’t a normal day at the beach. Before the local cop arrived, the news had spread like wildfire and become the next Agatha Christie novel – a Body on the Beach.
We led the officer to the lungs which were still being minded by the seagulls.
“Must be from a cow,” he said, “they’re too big to be human.”
Mentally I measured my rib cage, then glanced at him wondering how many human lungs sans owner he’d seen.
Somewhat relieved, we left him to call a vet. But with so many questions left unanswered, I made a mental note to Google it when we got home. Alas, even Google doesn’t have the answer to this mystery.
Got a question or a comment? Unleash your curiosity and ask, I want to help you.