The other day I was hanging out with my grandchildren when Zachy, who’s not yet 4, decided to turn his younger brother’s cradle into a helicopter. He tipped it on end and struggled to cover it with blankets.
The contraption was wonky and kept slipping across the wooden floor. Zachy was undeterred.
I suggested he abandon the project, but he kept at it. “I’m making an awesome helicopter,” he explained.
I’ve known Zachy long enough to know that determination is one of his trademarks. Once he has a vision, he follows through. He is unimpressed by adult wisdom and advice. It’s obvious that he would rather struggle than settle.
Zachy reminded me that innovation can be messy and uncomfortable, but when we’re curious that doesn’t matter much.
I also realize that without curiosity it’s hard to make things happen or to make much of a difference.
Seth Godin’s book Tribes has much to say about the importance of recovering our curiosity. “I don’t think it’s a matter of saying a magic word; boom and then suddenly something happens and you’re curious,” he writes.
“It’s more about a five- or ten- or fifteen-year process where you start finding your voice, and finally you begin to realize that the safest thing you can do feels risky and the riskiest thing you can do is play it safe.
“Once recognized, the quiet yet persistent voice of curiosity doesn’t go away. Ever. And perhaps it’s such curiosity that will lead us to distinguish our own greatness from the mediocrity that stares us in the face.”
This weekend I’m headed to Denver to teach at Colorado Free University, one of the longest-running curiosity incubators in the country. I’ve been wondering if the people area realize how fortunate they are to have such a treasure in their midst.
While I’m looking forward to meeting the people who are curious about how to establish themselves as an expert or make a living without a job, I’m especially excited to see who shows up in my new program, Become a Great Idea Detective.
I could have called it, I’m Curious. Now What? because it’s loaded with tools for exploring and expanding ideas. Besides that, hanging out with curious people is at the top of my list of favorite activities.
“It’s taken me three decades to unlearn the impulse to be practical,” confessed writer Sarah Ban Breathnach. “Just imagine what you might have accomplished if only you’d been encouraged to honor your creative reveries as spiritual gifts.”
Happily, it’s never too late. If you’re curious.