Hello Curiosity, Great to Meet You (Again)!

An Open Letter to MIT’s Bill Aulet & Elaine Chen

By Sally Coldrick and Rachel Hentsch

Curiosity is the starting point for growth, discovery and creation. We are born curious, when did we stop questioning everything that intrigued us?

Consider how young children behave, untainted by prejudice and negative experience. They naturally have the skills of an entrepreneur. They build with rocks and blocks, are spontaneously productive in arts and crafts, and create wonderful stories using their imagination. Being curious makes you more open to change and makes you more nimble. Entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs, really anyone in business needs to be curious and to keep asking the right questions in order to stay ahead of the pack.

Every individual who wishes to be ‘entrepreneurial’ deserves a better chance than just taking a blind shot at it. Creating a global product or service at the speed with which you can nowadays would have been inconceivable 20, even just 10 years ago. The possibility of doing this today crosses the mind of almost every curious entrepreneur.

Taking time to invest in yourself, to rediscover curiosity, will give yourself something that will bring you great joy for a lifetime.

“The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.” Dorothy Parker

Entrepreneurship is NOT easy. You need to want to do it and commit to it. Building an innovative company requires courage, passion and perseverance. Failure will happen. Leaning into failure, exploring and talking about it does not mean you can avoid it: you will face failure at some point or other of your entrepreneurial journey so be realistic — the lustre of success stories can fool one into thinking it is easy. The best things in life never are. You need to push through the rough patches. Growing comfortable with ‘putting yourself out there’ is an essential part of the entrepreneurial growing process. Read Is Hustle The New Dirty Word? if you need some encouragement to do this. Myths and false beliefs can easily put you off — but you must challenge them! Learn to start asking the right questions and don’t stop!

Curiosity is a critical ingredient in Entrepreneurship.

We recently paused to think back, to identify the ‘trigger moment’ that caused our curiosity to explode (again!) This made us reflect on what entrepreneurship and the ensuing life-changing impact really meant to us — on our personal and professional trajectories. It didn’t take us long to pinpoint the two thought-shapers to whom we owe much of this mind-revolution. So, here is our Open Letter of Thanks to them:

Open letter to Bill Aulet & Elaine Chen

Dear Bill (Aulet) & Elaine (Chen),

It is difficult to put into words the magnitude of what your teachings have brought into our lives — and we wholeheartedly believe the same sentiment exists for every single student that has had the privilege of being taught by you both.

We were literally whisked us away from opposite corners of the globe, to Seoul and to Boston, not once, but twice — to drink from your unfathomable knowledge and were gifted with deep and authentic human connections. How can we describe the little things that make you each, in your own way, so kind-hearted and approachable, and completely ego-free?

Bill Aulet, Managing Director of the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship at MIT and Senior Lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management

Perhaps it is the way your eyes light up, Bill, when you recount how happy and connected you feel when you are on the basketball court; or the genuine smile of delight when a student shares a folkloristic artefact from their faraway homeland; or the solemnity and humility with which you publicly acknowledge the obstacles many people have overcome to attend your class.

Elaine Chen, Senior Lecturer at the Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship and the MIT Sloan School of Management

Elaine, perhaps it’s the throat lozenges you ran out to get when one of us lost our voice; or the cots and blankets you personally carried over to Bootcamp to help the exhausted student “troops” survive extreme sleep deprivation; or that willingness to sit down and hear someone out, that manner of always so gracefully creating the time for those who wish to speak to you.

So this is a homage to you, Elaine and Bill, for inspiring all your students not just academically, but far beyond and outwards: starting from the tiny details. We are encouraged and empowered by you to burst out of the classroom walls and into the deep wide world, full throttle. Our curiosity has been ignited, and no firehose will ever quench our thirst for learning, growing, sharing, and contributing to the collective legacy of entrepreneurship education. There is room for everyone because, as you say Bill, “the world needs more Entrepreneurs.

We dedicate our first online course, The Curious Entrepreneur to you both.”

The seeds of InfinityFoundry were sown during a conversation with Bill in a small room at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, last August. Now, our vision is to inspire those who are curious about entrepreneurship: to guide them in the way we were guided; to push them to identify and ignite their unique entrepreneurial strengths and traits and to re-tap into the power source that being curious provides. There are many moving parts to the rollercoaster that is entrepreneurship. Like with the articles we share, our goal is to encourage others to examine the interests that simmer below the surface.

We publicly thank Bill and Elaine, and the team of people who work with them, for helping us get to where we are today: it has been, and is, an exciting and joyful experience — fraught with sacrifice and fatigue, but worth every single moment of toil and struggle.

Dear Bill & Elaine — video homage

In an effort to inspire more people to rediscover their curiosity, we have created The Curiosity Challenge. It is a powerful first step towards becoming empowered to become more open-minded, bring ideas to life, create jobs, and make an impact on the global economy.

We spent a lot of time thinking about what we wished we had had when we started our entrepreneurial journey, and asked the same question to many others. MIT’s courses on edX such as the Entrepreneurship 10X series are fantastic as standalone courses, but they don’t teach you about the different skills you needed to tap into, to find the stamina to succeed. The Bootcamp experience revealed the intense nature of entrepreneurship and unpacked ‘coping skills’ critical to success, but the vigorous 6-day program could only touch upon other very important considerations that give you the stamina to keep riding the entrepreneurial rollercoaster.

Vulnerability, resilience, passion and perseverance, plus having a goal to work towards relentlessly — there are so many ingredients that combine to help give you the gumption to pick yourself up when you fall. The more we dug, the more people we spoke to, the more we realised that these were the areas that people felt apprehensive or uncertain about.

We looked at what was involved if a student, corporate or parent returning to work wanted to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. What would they need to prepare themselves for? What entrepreneurial strengths could they play to?

This drove us to become MIT Certified Entrepreneurship Educators so we could blend the MIT Entrepreneurship framework with the other aspects that are critical to long-term entrepreneurial success.

The Curious Entrepreneur online course takes a holistic approach to marrying all of this together — it helps individuals from all backgrounds and locations around the world understand what drives them; what their goals are; the importance of diversity within teams; coupled with the powerful MIT ‘New Ventures Leadership’ Entrepreneurship framework.

Where will your curiosity take you?

Ready to cultivate YOUR curiosity and practice ‘putting yourself out there’? Take the opportunity to rediscover how curious you were as a child and gain new tools that will last you a lifetime. Hop over to www.infinityfoundry.thinkific.com

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” Socrates.