How Does Curiosity Make Us Smarter?
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reasons for existing.”
– Albert Einstein
Active Learners are rapidly taking charge of the workplace. In fact, the more savvy employers will only hire individuals who take pleasure in learning, who look at the world with curiosity and correlate personal growth with knowledge. Active learners also contribute more to their employers and they are far less apt to be laid off.
As we go through the biggest restructuring of work since the printing revolution, we need an even bigger restructuring in our mindsets about work and learning. As task work falls away, we are being given the freedom to do the work that we love. In fact, doing anything less than the work we love will not cut it for long. Why? The emerging world of work requires that we change more quickly than ever before. For many of us, even small amounts of change can generate great discomfort. When we love what we do for a living we become far more willing to change, to learn new skills, to let go of old ideas, and to become motivated to ask the right people for help.
Since 1990, my company has assisted over 45,000 professionals in making vast and positive changes within their lives. I live in something of a wind-tunnel of feedback as people let go of the rote and meaningless and replace it with definition, clarity, passion, and results. Many have asked me to clarify what they ought to learn. Well, either learn something new because you have no recourse or select topics that tie into the work that you love.
For far too many of us, learning was a chore. We had fun in the summer. At one point in August, we felt climate change. The fun was about to end. It was time to get ready to go back to school. We studied hard and some of us went on to college and graduate school. The majority of us didn’t engage in learning for the love of learning. We did it to get credentialed. Now, we live in a world that is changing so rapidly, the average college graduate will change careers, not jobs, 4-6 times. Now, instead of getting credentialed, we learn how to learn. Even that pursuit will feel like a chore if we don’t develop curiosity, a characteristic that is in short supply if we view information as cheap. Curiosity makes us smarter because we love the learning process itself. We learn more because we want the reward of growth.
Instead of overselling the notion, let’s close with an example.
Let’s close with one example. There are two versions of this story. The first is without curiosity. It is used by someone who knows how to ace tests but hasn’t allowed the richness of curiosity to fill in the blanks. The second demonstrates what curiosity adds to our lives as well as the richness of our stories.
What is Milan?
Milan is a city in Northern Italy.
You are correct. The inquiry is over.
What is Milan, with curiosity?
Milan because it is the world capital of high fashion, a magnet for creative talent and some of the earth’s most beautiful people. The city boasts La Scala, the most legendary opera house in the world where Maria Callas, a girl from Queens, became the high priestess of mezzo-sopranos and where she returned to die after being cast aside by Aristotle Onassis for Jackie Kennedy. The city has the largest Gothic Cathedral in Europe, filled with catacombs of the dead that walked through the same hurried streets in search of a good weaver.
It is the entry point for the Lake District with its three bodies of water that are perhaps the single best blending of civility, glamour, and nature in all of Europe. It has become home to many of the world’s most elite leaders who come and simply never leave. It is Lake Como with Europe’s most glamorous hotel in the world, the Villa D’Este, and the world’s most exclusive car show. Once a year, over a billion dollars of the rarest collectibles are shown to fans that book entry years in advance. Como, where Mussolini fled when the Axis fell, only to be strung up in a small village with his mistress, payment for his taking their beloved country into its darkest point in history.
Curiosity gives us the power to become artists in our own lives.
More than ever, curiosity is the key to our future. Find a way to love your work. Find a way to love what you learn. They are closer than you might realize.
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