Monday, October 10, 2011

Curiosity: The Ultimate Attribute

image from

Recently someone I know asked me to pick one and only attribute I would make absolutely sure to try to impart to my children to increase their chances of success in life.

I could pick only one.

My initial, confident response was independence. Surely someone who feels their success is dependent on something or someone else would lead a lifetime of disappointment and underachievement. It is the independent mind that creates something from nothing. It is that mind that doesn't assume because you went to a certain school, grew up in a certain neighborhood or with a certain set of parents or have a certain amount of money you have a guarantee of success.

It is also an independent mind that is least likely to get taken advantage of.

After answering the question accordingly and justifying my response (which was well received by the way) my mind for some reason kept thinking about that question and I became unsure.

A place I try to guide all my mentees towards is that of always being CURIOUS. Curiosity is an attribute that keeps a mind open. It is a skill that keeps many a conversation from becoming unnecessarily confrontational because you approach the conversation with questions. You approach with an open mind as opposed to a closed position. Always being curious is both an attribute and an attitude that keeps joy and wonder in one's life because of all the "newness" that one encounters in that mindset (see my dopamine posting).

"I have no special gift. I am only passionately curious" - Albert Einstein

Many older, happy people credit "staying young at heart" as a secret to old age. In my opinion staying young means staying curious. My great grandmother who lived well into her nineties would always say "each and every day I learn something new."

A curious nature will also not take things at face value and so would presumably have the benefit of not getting taken easily advantage of.

Heck, even NASA named its new Mars rover Curiosity!

The good news is that curiosity is something that can be practiced. How? Here is the secret:

When you find yourself about to make a statement either out loud or in your mind turn it into a question. For example, before stating "This laptop is really good" instead say (or ask yourself) "What makes this laptop really good?". Then listen for answers or look for answers yourself. You'll start to notice things you never did before. Do that with all you encounter. It's as simple as that.

I guess my answer to that one success attribute question is now going to be: "stay curious - be successful!"

What attributes do you think are key to success? I'd love to hear your thoughts! (Email me or leave a comment below.)

"The greatest virtue of man is perhaps curiosity."