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Curiosity first.

The Mississippi River wants to change course again. It’s done so every few hundred years or so.

So, they fight it with locks and dams, floodgates, spillways, and levees. They don’t want it to change course. It would destroy New Orleans.

It takes a lot of extra work and money to fight against the forces of nature. One of those forces is curiosity. Work with it, not against it.

We all have things that we feel we should do. The same way the Mississippi serves New Orleans, these shoulds serve the structures already built in our lives. We have a job doing something we already know how to do. We need it to pay the rent in the apartment where we already live.

Sometimes, fighting these shoulds becomes more work than we can handle. We have to dig in and muster the discipline just to get out of bed in the morning. The walls of our levees are swelling from the pressure.

The pressure on those walls is curiosity—the things that we don’t feel we should do. The things that we want to do.

It’s too hard to fight nature. Nature is too powerful. This is why I live a life that’s curiosity first.

When you live curiosity first, you make the pursuit of curiosity your metric for success. You’re always asking yourself, “am I curious about this?”

My business is built around curiosity. I learn about things through reading books, and interviewing my heroes on my podcast. I write about those things in blog posts and books, and I teach others through online courses. Whatever I’m curious about, I can follow it, build it into my business, and make enough money to do it all again. It’s like my own personal PhD program.

When you live curiosity first, you read the books that you’re curious about, you learn on the job, and you quiet the nagging voice that fears that you’re wasting your time.

Curiosity first is powerful, because:

  1. You work harder if you’re curious: When was the last time you lost track of time simply fulfilling an obligation? Now, when was the last time you lost track of time following a curiosity? When you’re curious, you can spend more hours, and those hours are energizing, rather than draining.
  2. Curiosity takes you to new places: Most people are chasing other people. Someone gets successful, then they all rush to copy them. But they end up copying the surface characteristics. If they dig deeper into the stories of success, they’ll usually find curiosity. When you’re curious, like a river, you dig into the nooks and crannies. You follow the path of least resistance, and you carve new tributaries.
  3. Curiosity makes you untouchable: When you follow curiosity down a divergent path, it’s exciting. It’s also scary. You think you’ll lose your way. But then, with enough courage, eventually your curiosities converge. You find yourself somewhere nobody has been before. You’re untouchable. Why? Nobody has your same set of curiosities, and few are brave enough to follow them off the well-worn path.

The story of Steve Jobs is a story of curiosity. He dropped in on a calligraphy class that he says had not “even a hope of a practical application in [his] life.”

But, he was captivated about it. He fell in love with the mix of beauty and history in typography. He was curious.

Ten years later, he designed all of it into the Macintosh computer. It was the first computer that captured the subtleties of typography.

And what do you think was driving him when he started Next Computer, and when he took over Pixar, and when he reinvented the music industry?

You’re still thinking about the Mississippi River, aren’t you? If the Mississippi changes its course, it will cause a lot of destruction.

Yes, if you live curiosity first, it will cause destruction. That’s just in the short term. It may feel like you’re abandoning projects, throwing away results, or leaving money on the table. In the long term, though, you’ll do less fighting, and you’ll have more energy leftover for what really matters to you.

I harness my curiosity by sharing my book recommendations with you.



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David Kadavy

Author, ‘Mind Management, Not Time Management’ https://amzn.to/3p5xpcV Former design & productivity advisor to Timeful (Google acq’d).