I believe that the key to a happier life is obsessive curiosity.
I am part of what I call the Curious Cult. I’m so obsessed with the concept of curiosity that I’m writing my next book about The Curious Company.
Curiosity might seem simple but this basic concept is wrapped in deep complexities that you can’t imagine until you start to become curious.
My curiosity started at a very young age.
When I was seven or eight years old my parents took me to church one Sunday morning. I was born into a Greek family and at that time my parents were “practicing” Greek Orthodox followers. I vividly remember watching people walk into the church entrance hall and kiss a painting of Mary on the left side of the hall and then walk over and kiss a painting of Jesus on the right.
My mother ushered me towards the painting of Mary and lifted me so that my lips could kiss Mary’s. I point blank refused. She insisted. I refused more aggressively. She whispered aggressively that I was embarrassing her and to just do it. I continued to refuse (see point 2).
She put me down back on god’s Earth and I was then ushered towards the painting of Jesus where I watched a very old Greek woman slop her smooches all over Jesus. Again, my mother picked me up and insisted I kiss Jesus. You can guess what happened next. I refused.
I won but only because the line of Greeks behind us had backed up and the church ceremony was about to be delayed because of my rebellion.
I don’t remember being intentionally rebellious. I wasn’t trying to irritate anyone or offend the believers. I was looking for answers (see point 1). I was curious about why I was being forced to kiss some painting that resembled a person who lived 2000 years ago. Being in the middle of church and pissing off my parents wasn’t the ideal time or place to have my curiosity satisfied but that was the day I remember first noticing that I lived by a slightly different set of rules than the people around me. From as young as I can remember I have questioned absolutely everything. “Why” is probably the most used word in the history of my vocabulary.
Curiosity is my default method of existence. I always ask “why” before I do anything else. I have always been hungry to learn more, dive into the things that interest me and dig as deep as I can go to acquire knowledge.
When I was 9 I started to write prose and jot down my emotions. Looking back, I was trying to understand my emotions by writing about them. I was curious about why I felt the way I felt and if anyone else felt that same way. When I was 10 I started to code because there was a computer in our house with an Internet connection and I wanted to know how it worked. I found other people like me online in chatrooms around the world and spent hours talking to them about coding (see point 7). When I was 13 I started to play the guitar because I wanted to learn how to express myself through music. I made model cars and airplanes so that I could figure out how to stick things together and then pull them apart. I wasn’t precious about things and was always happy to break things open and inspect them.
I couldn’t stop myself from discovering things. I listened intently to adult conversations so I could soak up as much information as possible and tried to pick up tips, tricks, information, and knowledge wherever I could from anyone who would talk to me.
Curiosity is a way of life and this article lays out a few things you can start with to become more curious in your own life.
1. Ask more questions
Every single day we make choices that we are not aware of making. We choose which street to walk down, which lane to drive in, which route to take to work, which partner to stay with (see point’s 2, 6, 7), which colleague to hate or love and everything in between.
Unfortunately, we make most of these choices without thinking about them or questioning them. The simplest way to start living a more curious life is to genuinely question your decisions. You can start with the small ones and deal with the answers that you can cope with but I promise that very quickly things will escalate and you will be asking a lot of questions almost constantly.
Here’s an example of how one simple question can lead you down a fantastic path:
- Why do you wake up at the time you wake up every day?
- What would happen if you woke up two hours earlier?
- What would you do if you had two more hours in your day?
- Would you write a book or learn to play an instrument?
- Would you work on your side hustle and try to grow it into a fulltime business?
- Why would you want to do that if you are happy at your job?
- Are you happy with your job?
And within a very short time, we’ve gone from waking up to questioning your career.
2. Question everything
There are absolutely no sacred cows in my life.
When you start to ask more questions about the simple things in your life, you’ll feel the need to question everything.
Your instincts will tell you to stop and not poke the bear.
Your instincts are wrong. You will need to fight them to continue living the Curious Cult lifestyle.
You must take a good look at your reasons for the big things. It’s the big things that we fight for and the big things that we use to define ourselves.
A few things you should be asking questions about:
- Your relationships
Question everything. Leave nothing untouched. Once you understand the reasons behind your most tightly held beliefs you will start to become a happier person.
If you are scared to question the big things, maybe start by asking yourself why you are scared to question these things.
3. Strong opinions loosely held
I am a passionate person and I do a lot of research on topics that I am passionate about.
I like facts. The world lives and dies on cold, hard, scientific facts. But if the facts change, I believe that it’s OK to change your opinion too.
The world was once flat. And then the facts changed. Sadly there are still people on our round planet who hold strong opinions tightly, even when Pythagoras and Aristotle proved that the Earth is, in fact, round. Duh.
It’s OK to change your opinion of things if the facts have changed. It’s a sign of strength to be able to admit you have learned something new.
4. Read more
Reading is great.
Reading a single source forever and exclusively is problematic.
The liberal left believes that only reading liberal media is a balanced view of the world. It’s not. The conservative right believes the same. The “balanced” middle believes the same as the other two extremists.
The truth lies in diversity.
Reading different views and opinions will keep your own in check and help you see other sides with more clarity. Being blindly ignorant of other opinions will not make you happy. Understanding them will.
Read different things, read things you like and read things that piss you off. Read things you believe in and read things that try to knock down your beliefs. Read authors you love, read them a lot but remember to re-visit the authors you may have hated in the past.
As a good friend of mine, John Sanei once said to me:
If you change your input, you will change your output (see point 6 below).
5. Listen more
I used to believe that I was smart and had a lot to say about a lot of things. The more people I meet the more I realize that I know very little. This is known as the Dunning-Kruger effect.
To combat this ego-driven (see point 8) view of the world, stop talking. Most of the time what you have to say is going to be less interesting than what you have to hear.
It’s almost impossible to listen while you are talking. If you’re not listening then you are likely not learning anything from anyone.
Listening is not waiting to talk. Which is something I used to do a lot; prepare my answer while I was “listening” to the other person. This is not listening. This is waiting to talk. There is a big difference between the two.
In the next conversation you have after reading this I’d like you to actively listen to the other person. Don’t try to respond until they’ve finished talking. Don’t plan your next answer.
I believe that the key to a happier life is obsessive curiosity.
Learning about other people, what they know, and who they will make you more curious to learn from more people. This is also a great way to broaden your knowledge of the world very quickly. People (see point 7 below) are interested in different things and can help you find new things to be curious and obsessive about.
6. Change your input and you change your output
Doing the same thing every day can be satisfying. Routines are a great way to get through the day, week, month, year, decade, life. In a blink, a routine can move you through time without you noticing.
Routines can be good but they can also be very bad for your output.
If you consume the same things every day, talk to the same people every day, see the same paintings, listen to the same music, debate the same points and read the same book every day then you are going to eventually have the same answers to everything. You’re also going to have the same experiences in the world every day. That is mundane and mind-numbing.
Even if you’re a millionaire and think that living in the same penthouse with the same food, watching the same TV shows is going to make you happy forever, you’re wrong.
You need to change your input.
Change the media you consume and you’ll change your opinion ever so slightly. Change the food you eat and you’ll see something new and different happen if you’re paying attention. Why should you bother to change anything? See point 1.
If you can keep your input fresh and frequently switch up your routine within comfortable levels, you‘ll start to feel more curious about the world around you. You’ll start to understand other people just a little bit better. Hell, you may even find yourself becoming a little bit happier.
7. Meet different people
The older I get the more difficult I find meeting new and different people. This is frustrating because the most life-altering experiences of my life have always started with a person.
I don’t believe that keeping the same circle of friends forever is a smart way to be happy. Sure, you should have friends from your past if they make you a better person but you shouldn’t feel obligated to hang onto old friends because they’re old friends.
Meeting new people doesn’t only apply to your personal relationships. It applies across the board. In business, it can completely change your perspective to meet someone with different experiences to your own. You don’t have to see that person again or strike up a business friendship but you do need to make the effort to broaden your network.
New people bring with them new opinions, challenging world views, different experiences of the world, relationships, food and everything else. To extract all of this value you’ll need to dump your ego and listen (see point 5).
8. Dump your ego immediately
Every prolonged fight or argument I’ve ever been in could have been resolved with a simple apology.
We don’t apologize because our ego won’t let us.
One of the most powerful things I have learned to do is apologize and mean it. The power of a real apology is underrated. If you can master it you will gain much more than if you double down on your egotistical need to beat everyone all of the time.
There is a time and a place for victory and celebration, just as there is a time and place for an apology and a loss.
Losing (or being beaten) is a humbling experience and if you dump your ego, you can learn and be better off. Every lesson you can learn will help you grow as a person as much as any lesson learned with an egotistically driven victory.
9. Stop being embarrassed
Embarrassment is for your next go at life (btw — this is the only shot we get at it). While you’re still in this life, you must stop caring about what other people think or might say and just go for it.
You have to be brave before you can be great.
You have to take a fucking leap and hope the water below isn’t filled with sharks. And when you get down there and it is filled with sharks then you fight for your damn life, maybe lose a limb, write a book, sell the film rights and let Brad Pitt play you in the movie. What a story!
Embrace your hobbies and passions and don’t let anyone make you feel shit about them. If you’re interested in them and curious to know more then dive as deep as you can and become an expert. Find like-minded people and join their community (see point 7). In the age of the Internet, there is no excuse to be alone in your misery and passion.
Charles Darwin had an insatiable curiosity about the biology of living things. He did not set out obsessing because he wanted fame or fortune. He was simply curious about something and followed his curiosity wherever it would lead him. There are thousands of examples just like this. Follow your curiosity wherever it takes you.
Curiosity is the birthplace of innovation.
Curiosity is the start of your improved happiness.