Curiosity Won't Kill This Cat

Bored a few Sundays ago, a group of my friends and I decided to pretend we were on vacation in our own city. We set out to get lost, visit places tourists frequent, have our picture taken in front of landmarks, and generally just try to see our city through naive eyes. Our one rule was that as we navigated the day, we could not draw on knowledge only a local would possess.

The end result? In addition to five hours of uninterrupted laughter and frivolity we experienced some very meaningful learning moments. Lessons still lingering in my mind include the following:

We learned people love to speak with pride about their hometown. Strangers finished off giving us directions with statements about why they love Indianapolis or a recommendation of what else we should do. (Action item: ask others about themselves more so they have an opportunity to tell their story).

We found that when you pretend you’re just a visitor you feel free to act a little silly, ask “dumber” questions, and take other small risks that our daily conditioning would normally censor. (Action item: stop censoring myself so often when in group situations).

The lesson that most impressed me is how even the simplest places or activities become interesting if you have conditioned yourself to act with curiosity.

We underestimate the incredible value curiosity holds for remaining fresh in our professional efforts and personal relationships. I remember dating someone once who said early on in our relationship that “he just couldn’t figure me out.” When I asked him why this troubled him he replied that once he had me figured out he would always have shorthand for understanding me.

I guess such a shorthand could be valuable. But the downside of thinking you’ve figure someone out though is that you stop being curious, stop looking at things with a fresh lens, and even worse, stop paying attention.

The same can be true about our almost maniacal quest to “find the quick fix” for problems at work or when in conversation with colleagues at a seminar. If we think we’ve truly found “the” answer, our curiosity stops, the search ends, and we no longer continue exploring for other (possible better) answers.

About to speak with someone you think you have figured out? Or getting ready to solve a problem so familiar you could take care of it in your sleep? Do yourself a favor. Pretend you’re on vacation and see what new insights or energy emerges.