Curiosity is my Superpower

Find the wonder in everyday life.

My superpower is curiosity. Ok, maybe that is not quite as cool as Wonder Woman’s ability to repel bullets and levitate. But it is still pretty awesome, and I revel in it every day.

Everyone has a superpower — something they do that is unique and special and can help them achieve their goals and get things done. When I work with leaders to develop their skills, one question I often ask is about what they bring to the table that goes beyond basic skills and knowledge — in other words, what is their superpower?

Recently I considered this question for myself, And I determined that my superpower is curiousity. I love to learn new things, and I can take those ideas and flip them and combine them and synthesize them into something new and awesome. This came to me recently when I caught myself repeating one of my most common phrases — “I’ll figure it out” when face with another problem at work. I don’t mind admitting that I don’t know something, because I have great confidence in my ability to find a solution or answer.

Curiousity is partially inborn. My mind is naturally inclined to deep thinking and introversion. My interests are wide ranging — I have a PhD in psychology, earned a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, taught myself stock market and real estate investing through research, and I am learning to paint. But I think some of it is behavior that can be learned. The world is a fascinating place with a myriad of opportunities and challenges. It’s easy to cultivate your curiousity if you so desire. Here are some suggestions if you want to join me on Team Curiosity.

Make mental space

Our world is one of constant stimulation from phones to television to social media which leads to constant consuming of external information. Curiousity requires space and silence and sometimes even boredom to flourish. You need space to combine all of the external noise into new thoughts and connections and ideas. Turn off the noise and turn on your curiousity and creativity. Stop being a mindless consumer of information from Facebook and Twitter and television. Find interests that don’t require electronics. Think about what you loved to do as a kid and re-ignite that passion or interest. Making space is really important when talking with other people. Try to be fully present when you have conversations — at work or your personal life. One mantra for this is “Be Here Now” — meaning that you should focus on one thing at a time — especially when another person is involved. Don’t be distracted by your phone or your Apple Watch while you are face-to-face with another person.

Expand your bubble

As you are listening and watching, you should expand your range of attention. If everyone you talk to and everything you read and every podcast you listen to say the same thing, you will not get exposed to new ideas or break the frame for your thinking and curiousity. Recently, the NPR podcast Invisibilia (in episodes — Reality Part 1 and Part 2), covered the topic of how we all live in “bubbles” and should reach outside of them. They interviewed a man who created a Facebook app that sends him to randomly chosen posted events — so he ends up meeting all kinds of people and even attending private family events. You need to branch out — amazing connections can come from anywhere. For example, I subscribe to several dozen podcasts on a wide variety of topics. I do not listen to every episode of every podcast, but I get to pick and choose from a delightfully eclectic group of episodes. And the connections come in fascinating ways. Recently I was listening to a podcast that interviews entrepreneurs (EO Fire by John Lee Dumas). I love the energy of his show and even within his show the guests are wide ranging and fascinating. In a recent episode (#1695), he interviewed a entrepreneur who has a company focused on leadership development for women leaders and on defeating unconscious bias in the workplace. We are working on those areas in my company. I reached out to her directly after the podcast and we were connected and talking within 24 hours. Curiousity led to connections.

Ask lots of questions

I’m not afraid to ask questions — in meetings or in training or in one-on-one conversations. It often requires several specific questions to get to the heart of a matter. Without questions, discussions often stay surface-level and miss key components. One great technique for asking questions is “The 5 Whys”. It is a problem solving approach that simply requires you to ask “why” five times during a discussion to keep drilling down to the root cause of an issue. The intent is not to pummel someone with a constant barrage of questions. You should be asking the questions from a place of genuine curiousity, listening to the responses and crafting the next “why” question to solicit more information. If you can’t ask in the moment (or your questions might disrupt a meeting) you can always turn to Google and Wikipedia to get information. Just remember that information on the Internet is not always accurate. If you Google something, read multiple sites and apply some critical thinking to make sure you are getting the right answer. You Tube is another great resources — especially if you learn by watching or listening. Last week, I learned how to fix a website error using You Tube. It was fun and satisfying to search for an answer and fix a problem.

Courtesy of Unsplash

Approach other people with curiosity

Everyone has their own story. In our interactions, we usually see only one side of a person. For example, Jill might be the woman at work who handles payroll and always smiles when she sees you in the hallway. But maybe she is also a spelunker or rides a motorcycle or runs a real estate business on the side. Maybe the grumpy clerk at the post office is caring for his mother who is in hospice or just received another rejection from a publisher for his novel. Those people become more interesting and more understandable if you get to know them. In some cases, like Jill, you can build that relationship over time. With others, like the post office clerk, you might need to speculate on what is causing the bad mood and give him the benefit of the doubt. I try to approach the people in my life with curiosity. Who are they? What do they love to do? What is their family situation like? What events have shaped their lives? What have been their biggest challenges? What are their dreams for the future? What unique talents do they have?

If you want to become more curious at work or in life, give some of these suggestions a try. Or, if these don’t appeal to you, try Googling a different approach!