How To Get More Curiosity

I am working on a talk entitled "How to Learn" to be given at ConnectJS this year, where I will promote life-long learning, the growth mindset, and approaching learning to code - and life - with a healthy curiosity. It struck me that some people in my audience might make the objection that this works great for anybody with a natural tendency to be curious, but not for them. So, I googled "cultivating curiosity" and got some great advice on how to cultivate your curiosity from 4 different articles. I would summarize the advice as follows:

Find interesting things within the familiar

Make a little bit of effort to find the things that are interesting, different, or out of place in otherwise boring things. In an NPR story [1], a potato chip factory worker found joy in his work by always being on the look out for odd looking potato chips and collecting them. He ended up with a collection potato chips that look like movie star sihouettes. As a runner, I pay close attention to the way in which the bottom of my feet hit the ground - I use it as an indication of how well balanced my body is at the point of impact. I also take care to notice how my knee joint feels at that point of impact as well as the rhythm of my breathing.

Be Playful

Be on the watch out for silly things you can do or games you can play while learning. For some ideas, have a watch of Alex Sexton's Uselessware :: a Brief History.

Ask Tons of Questions; Get Them Answered

This advice comes from Psych Central, but I totally already had it in my notes too, I swear!

Step 1: Keep a running log of questions. You should record a question whenever a questions pops into your head, no exceptions.

Step 2: Take the time to answer each and every one of those questions, by asking people, doing research, planning out and performing experiments on your own, or all of the above.

Obsess About Things, A Lot

Todd Kashdan calls this explore your passions, I call it obsess about things. Everyone obsesses about something, explore that even more. When you are obsessed, you are much less like to be derailed by setbacks - it's like getting a blinking star in Super Mario Brothers. You can make progress much faster when you are obsessed than in your normal state. The next time you obsess about something, open up an investigation, start a new project, write a paper.

Take In Information

Make a habit of learning new things, because the more knowledge you have, the more knowledge you have to draw on. Be inspired by consuming a steady diet of books, lectures, podcasts, etc.

Get Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

Some of the greatest moments of your life are when you've triumphed under uncomfortable and uncertain situations. You would not have even had those opportunities had you not placed yourself in those circumstances. In order to grow, you need to stretch yourself in slightly awkward positions, and overcome them. The more you do this, the faster you will grow.

One of Tim Ferriss' productivity hacks puts this concept in to practice:

Write down the 3-5 things — and no more — that are making you most anxious or uncomfortable. They’re often things that have been punted from one day’s to-do list to the next, to the next, to the next, and so on. For each item, ask yourself: * “If this were the only thing I accomplished today, would I be satisfied with my day?” * “Will moving this forward make all the other to-do’s unimportant or easier to knock off later?”


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