How to Develop Curiosity

One of the things that people often ask is whether I have a trick for writing daily. I have three tricks, and today I'll share all of them with you. Two of them will take no time at all. But the third will take some time, because it's about developing curiosity.

What must you do to write daily?

  1. Step one: Don't go to bed until you write something.
  2. Step two: Make time to write something daily.

I told you the first two were pretty easy and would take no time.

If there's something you want to do, then you do it. Right? You make time for it and you commit to it. I've heard athletes do the same thing. 🙂

Runners don't run when they feel like running.

The other day I realized that I had written more than 130k words this year. How did I do it? By writing every day. I made time for it. And I didn't end my day until it was done.

But those two steps aren't the tough ones. I think what most people mean, when they ask the “trick” question is, “How do you come up with topics daily?” My answer to that is that you have to learn how to develop curiosity.

How to develop curiosity

I've told you this story before.

My kindergarten teacher was actually a fourth grade teacher who was helping out a friend by moving to a different grade (something must have happened to the old kindergarten teacher).

So my teacher taught me to read. Early. And even sent me home that summer with a stack of books. I not only read them all but for the next 6 years I won every summer competition at the library for the most books read.

Make time to regularly read

It opens up a world of new experiences. It challenges everything you think you know. It suggests new ways to think. And it even trains you to think in new ways.

You might bemoan the suggestion to read, because – and I feel this too – most books these days could be turned into 3 page PDFs. They rarely have enough insights for their 150 pages.

So skim. Or give yourself the permission to put a book down. But developing the habit of reading will open you up to the next tip when it comes to developing curiousity.

Learn to talk to strangers and ask lots of questions

I talk a lot.

Sometimes it's helpful – like telling a story with a point, answering a question, or giving advice when someone asks for it. Other times it gets in the way of hearing someone else. It's a constant struggle.

But one skill I've spent the last ten years working on is preparing myself to talk to strangers (which I don't mind if it's not small talk – I hate chit chat) and asking them tons of questions.

The more questions you ask, the more inquisitive you become, the more you're learn about the things you don't know and the more energy you'll give to your curiosity.

So if you're sitting with an options trader, you might ask, “when do you take a bathroom break?” And for the next twenty minutes you'll learn more about their world than you ever knew. It's incredible.

Or imagine you find yourself in front of a former bouncer at a dance club. Ask them what's the worst fight they ever had to break up, and you might be shocked to hear how it all went down. You'll also be introduced to new ways people are crazy.

At a dinner once we asked a friend what a “day in the life” was like for her. She works for NASA and explained what it was like to negotiate with Russia while dealing with supplies for the international space station. You can imagine that none of us wanted to answer the follow-up, “what's your day like?”

Here's the trick though – never feel bad asking a stupid question.

And lean into whatever you can learn from any answer you get. It will drive you to ask more questions!

Developing curiosity requires embracing an opposable mind

I've told you before that one of my favorite books is The Opposable Mind by Roger L. Martin. It's a book I recommend to everyone. I mean it. Everyone.

Now, before you go buy it, let me explain why I love it. It's not a guide book. Roger doesn't give you the ten things you need to do to be able to master this skill. But he makes a compelling case for the need for this skill.

The skill?

To hold two conflicting ideas in your head at the same time. To live in that tension. And embrace it. That's what he calls the opposable mind.

We need to accelerate time to market. We also need to lower costs.

Right? You've heard stuff like that. And you think – you can't have both.

Until you live with that dynamic in your head long enough that you start contemplating different ways to live in both realities. It forces you to ask tons of questions and develops your curiosity.

Writing daily doesn't require a trick

In the end, the reality is that writing daily doesn't require a trick. It simply requires writing and clicking on “publish.”

But coming up with topics does take a bit of work – most of which is solved if you learn how to develop your own curiosity.

Read a lot. Ask a lot of questions. And learn to live in the tension of seemingly opposite ideas. It will help you develop your own curiosity and that, in turn, will give you tons of things to write about.

Oh, and never forget – always be helpful.