Today’s episode “Be curious” is about the art of life long learning and the importance to be and stay curious on an ongoing basis. In this episode I ponder and elaborate on why I think studying is important and ought to be a big part of everyone’s schedule. In the article I dig a little deeper into the subject of curiosity, creativity and learning.
Be Curious: Why We Learn
Most people learn and study because they have to, meaning when you got to school your sole purpose of being there is to learn new things. This is, of course, a very strict and structured work of learning. Another reason why we learn is because we have to. This is our survival instinct. In order to stay alive and healthy as long and as optimal as possible you need to adapt. In order to adapt you need to understand your surroundings, procedures and mechanics. To state something basic: In the past, if you didn’t learn how to start a fire your chances of survival were much slimmer than those of your peers having this knowledge. The same stays true in today’s world. The more we learn, the more we know and can adapt to new situations and scenarios.
Those two starting points or reasons for learning are both important. In today’s world, I think even though learning by cultural norms (i.e. school, university) seems to be predominant way of learning, the more important reason is and ought to be learning out of curiosity.
Be Curious: Curiosity
Curiosity is an interesting concept. It is generally a quality that we refer to as an inquisitive way of thinking. This means we “dig deeper” by the means of observing ourselves (human beings) and our surroundings (animal, plants, nature and so on). We do these generally by means of exploration and investigation. This process of gaining more knowledge is a process of learning that is driven by desire.
To increase your skills by this process will have a big impact on your development throughout life. For one thing you will reduce your level of uncertainty. By reducing “uncertainty” you will reduce the bad feelings coming with this emotion. Your reward system will honor this and you’ll going to feel better. This positively re-enforces your desire to stay curious and learn more.
Not only will you become happier, but you will be a higher valued member of your “tribe”. Tribe can be your family, friends, team. You become much harder to replace, thus more important.
Besides that you might end up becoming a great coach. Once you realize that each interaction is a chance to learn something new, you will also realize that the best way to fully understand an idea, a topic or concept is by teaching it. Integrating all of the become can therefore make you a great coach. This is what I strive to achieve. Learning a lot and sharing it with other people by the means of teaching and coaching. This podcast is one step forward to this goal of becoming a great teacher and coach. It’s a long path but small steps are better than no steps.
Be Curious: Knowledge Leads To Creativity
The fact that you gained a lot of knowledge alone doesn’t mean much and certainly has only limited use. The moment you combine knowledge with experience you can start connecting the dots. Let’s say you know how to make fire but you don’t know that fire burns you, you will quickly learn it the moment you touch a flame. This is experience and connecting the dots between two facts.
This is a straightforward concept. If you stay open-minded and use knowledge of potentially unrelated subjects something new might be created. This is a process of creativity. The more you know and learn, the easier it will be to have a creative mind. You just learned how to make fire and that you can burn yourself with it. If you are open-minded you might ask yourself if you can burn other things too. This can lead to fire becoming a weapon (burning other tribes down) or a tool (heating system or a cooking utensil).
That’s why I always try to have a like to step outside my comfort zone on a regular basis. It forces me to get into new and unfamiliar topics and ideas. It keeps your mind working and you constantly increase your capability of being a creative person.
In 1996 while being interviewed by Wired Steve Jobs said the following about the ability to be curious, creative, connect dots and the importance of experience:
“Creativity is just connecting things. When you ask creative people how they did something, they feel a little guilty because they didn’t really do it, they just saw something. It seemed obvious to them after a while. That’s because they were able to connect experiences they’ve had and synthesize new things. And the reason they were able to do that was that they’ve had more experiences or they have thought more about their experiences than other people. Unfortunately, that’s too rare a commodity. A lot of people in our industry haven’t had very diverse experiences. So they don’t have enough dots to connect, and they end up with very linear solutions without a broad perspective on the problem. The broader one’s understanding of the human experience, the better design we will have.” Wired, February, 1996
Be Curious: Personal Growth
The quest of curiosity and the reason why I tell people to be curious is a story of personal growth. The fact that constant change is a real thing and never before has been more information been created and available to us can be challenging. Yet, I over and over again make sure to highlight the importance of personal growth as stated above.
Also, life long learning isn’t only a valuable trait for yourself as a person, but also for your brain as a muscle. Using it on a consistent basis keeps it active, healthy and sharp.
Be Curious: A Matter Of Mindset
I want to finish this article with a short discussion on mindsets. Mindset is part of the science of decision and general systems theory. This sounds very academic but in the end I like to think of a mindset as a set of assumptions, concepts or methods that you or a group of people have established over time. It has an inherent and strong incentive of adopting and keeping it within groups and people joining this group.
Within this theory you have a more specific distinction between a
- fixed mindset and a
- growth mindset.
This is a concept Carol Dweck established in 2006 in “Mindset: The New Psychology of Success“. To keep defining those two sets short and simple I hand over to Carol:
“In a fixed mindset students believe their basic abilities, their intelligence, their talents, are just fixed traits. They have a certain amount and that’s that, and then their goal becomes to look smart all the time and never look dumb. In a growth mindset students understand that their talents and abilities can be developed through effort, good teaching and persistence. They don’t necessarily think everyone’s the same or anyone can be Einstein, but they believe everyone can get smarter if they work at it.”
I encourage you to think about which mindset you are currently living in. In case you’re a fixed mindset person, know that you can change your believes and your given mindset. It’s work, but it’s worth it.
That’s it for this week. Please share this if the content was of any sort of value for you or you know people who this episode can be of value. In case you haven’t yet, sign up for my newsletter or subscribe to my podcast on iTunes or stitcher.