The Curious Brain (Why Curiosity is as Important as Intelligence)

Photo by Karl Magnuson on Unsplash

“The real enemy is the man who tries to mold the human spirit so that it will not dare to spread its wings.”

Abraham Flexner said that. It’s profound, insightful and thought provoking.

Curiosity fuels imagination, creative work and innovation.

A study published by the journal Neuron shows that curiosity also improves learning and memory.

The study found that curiosity releases dopamine, a chemical associated with motivation that is more powerful than any A+ could be at the end of the day.

Your instinct to explore should grow into an instinct for inquiry.

Curiosity helps you discover amazing things about your life and what you can do now and in the future.

Ian Leslie writes in Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends On It, “A society that values order above all else will seek to suppress curiosity. But a society that believes in progress, innovation and creativity will cultivate it, recognising that the enquiring minds of its people constitute its most valuable asset.”

Curiosity motivated some of history’s most landmark discoveries.

A classic example is Steve Jobs’ curiosity for typefaces which led him to attend a seemingly useless class on typography and to develop his design sensibility.

Later, this sensibility became an essential part of Apple computers and Apple’s core differentiator in the marketplace.

Many great inventions were made through inquisitiveness, curiosity and the urge to know more about things in the world around us.

Lack of curiosity means acceptance of the status quo, which is not only self defeating, but also dangerous since it breeds complacency and resistance to change, new invention, transformation and creativity.

Alan Sentman, Ph.D. Senior Scientist, says “Science as a field is entirely based on curiosity. Science at its basic core is a framework of processes to observe ‘everything’ with a goal of understanding how it works.”

Newton needed an answer to why the apple fell on the ground rather than going upwards.

The discovery of penicillin in 1928 by Alexander Fleming was caused by his burning desire and curiosity to get a better germs killer.

Alexander Graham Bell was curious about signals, and the telephone protype was born in 1876.

The printing press helped democratize knowledge and made it easier to spread information and communicate.

Although many aspects of our lives have adapted to the digital age, our culture’s love for books, to advertisements, to billboards and even your favorite blog wouldn’t exist as they do today without Johannes Gutenberg’s revolutionary invention of the printing press.

It’s no secret that people would be lost without online connectivity.

Thanks to the questions these people asked and the projects they pursued, our homes, work environments, and transportation methods are more efficient.

Choose to be curious

When you are obsessed with practicality, and efficiency, you leave little room for abstract knowledge.

This concern, is hardly new.

In The Usefulness of Useless Knowledge, Abraham Flexner explores this dangerous tendency to forgo pure curiosity in favor of pragmatism. He writes:

Curiosity, which may or may not eventuate in something useful, is probably the outstanding characteristic of modern thinking. It is not new. It goes back to Galileo, Bacon, and to Sir Isaac Newton, and it must be absolutely unhampered.

Flexner goes on to defends the idea of curiosity as a guiding principle in science and innovation.

The discoveries of insulin by Banting for use in diabetes and of liver extract by Minot and Whipple for use in pernicious anemia belong in the same category: both were made by thoroughly scientific men, who realized that much ‘useless’ knowledge had been piled up by men unconcerned with its practical bearings, but that the time was now ripe to raise practical questions in a scientific manner.

Many things on earth (with a few natural exceptions) have been inspired by the curiosity of humankind.

The problem for millions of people is that they stop being curious about new experiences as they assume responsiblities and build routines.

Their sense of wonder starts to escape them. But you can change that, especially if you are still looking for find and pursue your life’s work.

Follow your curiosity

Your curiosity can take you where you need to go. Where you have to be to express yourself without fear.

To share yourself with the rest of the world even when you are not ready.

Curiosity feeds passion. My curiosity helps me discover new information that informs what I write. It helps me explore topics I love without struggle.

My curiosity has me constantly on the lookout for new and different ways I can show up and share my work with my audience.

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious,” says Albert Einstein.

Nurturing and developing your curiosity will help you discover and ultimately your most amazing work.

Passion may not be accessible all the time. But your curiosity can be accesed at any day. And you can build on wat you already know.

Don’t worry about finding your passion..for now. Just look around and ask yourself if there’s absolutely anything you can find in the world that you feel even 1% curious about and then follow it.

You will be amazed at where that leads you.

Don’t think about why you question, simply don’t stop questioning.

Curiosity is its own reason.

“Judge a man by his questions rather than by his answers.”- Voltaire

Brilliant ideas can come out of a more better question.

In one of his well quoted and popular quotes, Einstein reckoned that if he had an hour to solve a problem, he would spend the first fifty-five minutes making sure he was answering the right question.

Start asking better questions to find the right answers.

Warren Berger, writes in A More Beautiful Question: The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas, “The main premise of appreciative inquiry is that positive questions, focusing on strengths and assets, tend to yield more effective results than negative questions focusing on problems or deficits.”

If you want a better approach to gathering the right information about your life’s work and what you want to spend the rest of your life doing without stress, you should be focusing on getting to the path of inquiry.

Questioning is like breathing — it’s something that seems so basic, so instinctive, that we take it for granted. But there’s a lot we can all learn about how to question, and really do it well to get the answers we seek.

All my life I’ve been harassed by questions: Why is something this way and not another? How do you account for that? This rage to understand, to fill in the blanks, only makes life more banal. If we could only find the courage to leave our destiny to chance, to accept the fundamental mystery of our lives, then we might be closer to the sort of happiness that comes with innocence. — Luis Buñuel

A curious mind can relate and connect ideas better.

Maintain an open mind and be willing to learn, unlearn and relearn to find get the answers you seek. Your curiosity will develop into an amazing discovery. Something you will easily identify with and can pursue further.

Dig deeper

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