We lose our curiosity by age 12. I read that in another Medium article by Danny Forest. It’s a fantastic article about reinvention, and you should definitely read it. But it sparked in me a visceral reaction. “I still ask a million questions about everything.”
I’m not certain that I’m the outlier, but I do know there are people who absolutely lose their curiosity by age 12. And that scares the shit out of me.
That means that there are high school students who are done challenging themselves. That’s not to say that they won’t learn anything new. But it does mean that they are done challenging what is being presented as true.
As Danny Forest explains further, school does a great job of giving every type of student the exact same information. That’s how we end up with good students and “bad” students. It’s reminiscent of the Albert Einstein adage about how we judge people’s abilities.
“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”
I could go down a rabbit hole about how broken the United States educational system is, but I’ll save that for another time. But the adage highlights how we must not only adjust how we teach other people but also how we learn from others.
So how do we become eternal students if it doesn’t come naturally to us? These are the things that I notice when my curiosity strikes and I believe can help unlock your student mind.
This one is arguably the most important thing. It’s easy to learn without asking questions. It’s more beneficial to learn by asking questions. Even as a kid, I questioned everything. And I don’t just mean a simple “Why?”
I always hated math class (ironic because I now love working with numbers). But I used to wonder how much of algebra, calculus and the like that I would actually use in my everyday life once I got older (spoiler: none of it).
The same is true of my life now. Any time I’m presented with new information, I want to know more. I love playing devil’s advocate to see the other side of a situation and attacking every angle.
It slows my decision-making process sometimes, but I always feel like I’ve made the right decision when I do.
Pay attention to what the people who tell you “no” are saying
I was recently listening to a podcast that highlighted this skill perfectly. On Rich Roll’s podcast episode with Alex Banayan last June, Alex told the story about his pursuit of Bill Gates for an interview. It’s a long, winding road and I highly recommend the podcast.
The part that stuck out with me was when Bill Gates’ Chief of Staff told him no. Alex was attempting to write what eventually became his book, The Third Door, and was trying to interview Gates for the book.
When Gates’ Chief of Staff told him no, he also said that if Alex could get a book deal and some momentum, he’d reconsider it. So while Alex got a no, he also was told exactly what he needed to do to get a yes.
Very rarely will anyone tell you no without an explanation as to why. The why is exactly what you’re looking for in this situation. The why is what you need to gain in order to get the yes.
Google is your best friend. We can find any information that we want if we search for it. I have a rule: if I have a thought and want more information about something, even something “meaningless”, I Google it.
I’ve always wanted to write. When I was a teenager, it was poetry. Through my early to mid 20’s, it was blogging and shorter pieces. And for the last year or two, my focus has been on novels and longer form pieces. And to be honest, there was a bit of imposter syndrome with those ventures. I’d start them, but I’d struggle with my own self-doubt and they fizzled.
Again, I knew I wanted to write, but these more straightforward methods weren’t clicking. So, I googled. I searched for ways to express myself that weren’t those traditional paths. And I stumbled upon screenwriting.
I love well-done movies and television, and I love the marriage of writing combined with the visual representation of those words. It’s something that I dove headfirst into and I don’t have the imposter syndrome feeling. It feels like home.
Always verify your sources when using Google. There are a lot of pages of information, but only some of them are accurate and factual. Do. Your. Research.
Operate from what you DO know
Begin from a place of what you know for sure, and work out from there. I knew FOR SURE that I wanted to write. The problem wasn’t the writing, it was the outlet. Having an awareness of what you DO know allows you to only pursue what you don’t.
If you are about to start a business and you know a lot about the day to day operations but a lot less about marketing, which are you going to study? It does you no good to ignore the marketing aspect because you’re going to need both.
There’s nothing wrong with trying to get better at something you are good at, but there is sometimes more to be gained by taking something that is a zero and making it of value.
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Being an eternal student isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. What is easy is existing in what is known, never trying to grow beyond that safe space.