Curiosity, in many ways, is what it means to be human. The definition of curiosity is the strong desire to know or learn something - curiosity has been driving humanity forward since humans first emerged on earth and are responsible for the exponential rate at which technology is improving and developing. We seek to understand, and as we understand, we naturally want to constantly improve, develop, and expand our understanding of the world. You'd probably be hard-pressed to find an entrepreneur that is not naturally curious.
Collectively, human curiosity has led to a staggering amount of innovation and countless improvements in how we live our day-to-day lives. But something I've been thinking about recently is the role that curiosity can play in an individual's life, as I've seen it do some pretty interesting things in my own life. While some of us are much more prone to curiosity than others, I view it as something that can be cultivated and practiced. I view it as the base from which creativity can emerge and opportunities can present themselves.
Although I'm still young and have a lot more life to live, it's easy for me to look back and see the paths that curiosity started me on that led me to where I am now. From there, I enjoy extrapolating out 5 to 10 years and manifesting where my curiosity could take me. It gets me excited for the future and allows me to stay consistent and inspired by what goes on around me.
So, take this as advice, take it as a glimpse into how I view the world, or hopefully, let it spark your curiosity in your own way.
When I was a kid, I had an insatiable curiosity for the world. I climbed trees, explored creeks, and did my own "science experiments". I had great parents and friends that encouraged that curiosity and because of that, I began to view my curiosity as one of my favorite traits about myself; it became an integral part of my personality. My curiosity lead to (mostly good) risk taking and naturally finding myself outside of my comfort zone. When you combine curiosity with an action bias and affinity for risk-taking, it becomes a compounding effect that can take you to some cool places.
If I were to give advice on using curiosity as a force for good in your own life, I would tell you to try and form what I'm going to call "The Curiosity Opportunity Cycle". Become really in tune with what piques your interest and inspires you to learn on your own, outside of the classroom. Once you have some glimpse of something that you think is interesting, dive in headfirst. Immerse yourself in the community through books, podcasts, tweets, blogs - set up systems that allow you to learn frictionlessly (curate your social media, subscribe to newsletters, make friends that are interested in the same things). The reason I say dive in after just a glimpse is because once you set down a path of learning about anything, you will have so many opportunities to branch off to different tangents to follow your curiosity. You just have to get your mind in motion, you can't sit around waiting for some incredible idea to grip you because you'll be waiting too long. From there, you have to choose action over inaction. Say "Yes" to as much as you possibly can while you're young and energetic (but be conscious of balance). As you say yes more, watch out for new opportunities and connections to appear. Use this to fuel your curiosity and continued learning. This is when the cycle really kicks off. Here's a rough diagram of what the cycle looks like:
Once you really find that thing that lights your fire, the bottom part of the cycle should be what you focus on the most. If you're still trying to find your passion, stay on the outer perimeter of the cycle and continue learning until you really identify what your thing is. Even after you think you've found it, don't be a stranger to the outer cycle. It's what keeps life interesting and inspires innovation.
What I've found after operating in this cycle for the past 5+ years is that all the things you learn and all the experiences you accumulate are connected and compounding. Think of it like a spiderweb - the experience you gain and the people you meet can all draw lines to each other and form a sort of web that allows you to naturally collect new opportunities in your web as they pass. Here's a simplified version of what my web would look like:
I just listed a few of the primary opportunities I said yes to and a couple of the primary people that I got connected to as a result, but you get the idea. Everything is connected, everything is positive-sum in the process of forming the future you. The denser you can get your web, the more opportunities you can catch as they drift by.
Now, I also mentioned that I like to extrapolate this process out another 5 to 10 years and let that keep me inspired and excited for the future. For me, this has allowed me to begin the process of honing in on what I actually want to be pursuing for the rest of my life as I try to see where all this could lead me, like a ship orienting to a distant lighthouse. What's the big picture, my end goal, my pot of gold at the end of the rainbow? You don't have to have a perfect answer to that, but thinking in a future-oriented way allows you to at least point yourself in the right direction. Think of it like a flashlight narrowing its wide beam into a narrow, concentrated beam. Find a general direction you like and then narrow that beam of curiosity as you go.
I know that I'm approaching this from the perspective of entrepreneurship and business, but to leave it there would be grossly understating the role that curiosity should play in people's lives. Curiosity is a key ingredient in creativity. It's the fuel that we put in our engines as we pursue a better future, whatever that looks like to you. However, to stick with the car analogy, you need an action-bias gas pedal, the balance mindful break, and a steering wheel to navigate you from opportunity to opportunity - or else you'll sit still.
As I mentioned above, I really do believe curiosity is something that can be practiced. I believe it starts by just allowing yourself to be amazed at the world going on all around us - everything is so infinitely complex, yet it all works together in harmony to produce the reality you're experiencing right now. You can find inspiration for curiosity just about everywhere you look if you can reframe your view of the world.
So - if you haven't given it much attention before now, take this as an invitation to get in touch with your curiosity.