A friend once said to me,
“You are the most interested person I know.”
Yeah, he said interested. And I thought it was the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me.
We spend our lives trying really hard to be interesting, but how much effort do we put into being interested? We work so hard to come up with creative, genius ideas that stun the world, but how much time do we spend asking questions?
They say curiosity killed the cat, and I think they were right. Curiosity is murder. It will kill creative block, it will take you deeper to the heart of things, at times it will irritate you and the people around you. However, if we want to develop, grow and expand, curiosity has to remain a constant in our lives.
How to be more curious.
1. Be naive
Assuming that you know how it is, is the quickest way to stifle new ideas and ways of thinking. Being naive means you have something to learn. It means you have hope in better ways of doing things. Experience and disappointment cause so many of us to be callous and closed. You know the kind. The ones who always say, “I’ve tried that before.” “I’ve heard that before.” “We’ve done this a million times.” “That won’t work.” “There’s no point.” “I can’t do this any more.” Oops, wait did these words come out of your mouth and mine this week or about five minutes ago? No offense.
No wait, yes offense! We should be offended because we have offended a precious thing called hope. We stomped on it with our know-it-all, been-there-done-that, oh-so-knowledgeable big mouth. Luckily for us, hope is enduring and responsive to genuine humility, and big mouths are occasionally responsive to closing them.
2. Be humble
Humility is powerful. It puts you in a position to receive. It opens something inside of us. Humility is not thinking you are the scum of the earth, or rejecting compliments, or avoiding the attention of others. It’s just not thinking about yourself that much and thinking about others more. For example, when you meet someone for the first time do you think about all things that they NEED to know about you, or do you have questions about all the things that you’d like to know about them? Being humble is actually being so confident in yourself that you don’t need to flaunt all your achievements to others.
There’s no manual to “how to be humble”, but I think focussing on others, admitting to mistakes, being transparent and learning to listen more are good places to start.
3. Ask more questions
I have a three friends who ask the best questions, Simon in San Fransico, Kristy in Sydney and Michael in Geneva. They ask a question, listen to the answer and then follow up with even more questions. They remember details you’ve told them before and ask about these things when they next speak to you. I often leave conversations with them realising I’ve been talking about myself (and loving it) for a solid hour or so. Needless to say, everybody loves talking to these wonderful people. And I think that they love it too, because they genuinely want to know more about what makes other people and the world around them tick. They ask questions for the love of asking questions. I remember once hanging out with a small group of friends and when there was a comfortable lull in conversation, Simon (looking into the distance) piped up and asked: “Why do chillies burn?” It was so odd that we all laughed at him and then put up with learning about capsaicin for a few minutes as he investigated.
All three of these friends are incredibly intelligent and know a lot stuff, yet (or maybe as a result) they constantly ask questions. Rather than feeling the pressure to come up with answers or fully formed opinions about things in conversation, ask more questions. A conversation doesn’t have to be about giving a convincing argument for the way you see things. “I don’t know” is a legitimate response. It is a noble one even – never be ashamed of it. What do you think? Is a beautiful question. So is Why? Seek to understand before you try to be understood.
4. Delete Candy Crush…
or whatever it is you’re doing on your phone or tablet right now. If you’re wondering if you have an addiction do the following test: 1. Do you mentally organise real life things around into rows. 2. Have you spent any money on the game. 3. Have you had a minor or major level-related meltdown? 4. Do you enjoy a dopamine hit when you see the word: “SWEET”?
Look, I don’t hate the player, I hate the game. You might just be killing some time, but you are are also KILLING time! And you are rotting your brain and you’re paying $850,000 per day for the privilege.
This is the first post of a new Creative Habits: series, in which I explore simple, quirky and tried & tested creative habits. I’ll also review some books on the subject and I’ll give you loads of links to interesting articles . In the meantime, why not tell me what your favourite or most quirky creative habit is?