What happened to curiosity?

Shaun Enders

I am at a social party, enjoying myself and moving in and out of conversations. I begin to notice a trend as I engage with other partygoers, our conversations begin to feel like interrogations. Am I playing verbal tennis with myself?

As a curious human, I am genuinely interested in knowing where you grew up, how you came about moving to San Diego, what is your current profession, etc. To me, these feel like normal questions but if you are unfamiliar with other people being interested in you, it can feel a bit like a shakedown.

To be clear, I first noticed this roughly 20 years ago at a party in my early twenties, and perhaps it’s true, nobody else my age cared about truly getting to know each other. But throughout the next 20 years, I have experienced the challenges of engaging in meaningful conversations that feel, well, um, progressive.

Over the years, of course, I have experienced some very rich and deep conversations with the select few I consider friends. But more times than not, I have felt like I am from another planet, wishing I didn’t care at all.

Recently, I had a very engaging conversation with a young gentleman, I believe he may have been in his mid-20’s. The conversation was initiated because I was interviewing him for a job at my firm. After 30 minutes, we discovered, the position wasn’t an exact match.

For the next 30 minutes, we discussed topics such as financial independence, technological advancements and job displacement, visionaries in engineering like Elon Musk and you guessed it, his annoyance with peers his age on their inability to engage in a meaningful conversation. He said to me quote, “I feel like I am interrogating people at gatherings when all I want to do is get to know them.”

A huge smile swept over my face. I knew others thirsted for the same connection. Perhaps it’s rare or perhaps others are dying to know how to engage, how to care, how to find meaning through a conversation without service to self.

I said to my wife over tea yesterday morning, show me someone of limited financial means but abundance in curiosity, and I will show you the roadmap to success.

Some of us may naturally possess the general skills or interest in curiosity but if you are truly interested in leveling up your life or creating more meaningful relationships, you should be curious too.

  1. When you are curious, your mind becomes open to new ideas. Without curiosity, ideas pass right in front of you and you will fail to recognize them.
  2. When you are curious, your mind becomes engaged instead of passive. Innovators and creators are consumed with engaged minds. Many of the most brilliant minds must work hard to quell their curious minds to recharge. It is proven that the mental exercise of curiosity makes your mind stronger.
  3. When you are curious, new worlds and possibilities present themselves.
  4. When you are curious about others, you not only get to know them, you also learn more about yourself.

So, what if you are curious but you don’t know where to start. Here are five simple ideas to get things jump-started.

  1. Allow your mind to wander. When we build our life with a constant barrage of to-do lists, chores, commuting, and in our spare time we fill it with Netflix and social media, we give ourselves little time to ponder. Permit yourself to daydream, to sit without agenda and I guarantee you will begin the path to curiosity.
  2. Talk to someone you don’t know. This is an intentional act that frees you from the outcome. You don’t have to be anything but interested. Your goal here is to not impress, your goal is to quickly get to know them. I have managed to have some great conversations while waiting in an airport and asking others, where they are from. Where are they traveling to and how did they enjoy the city they just visited.
  3. Explore the road less traveled. You would be amazed at how many times we take the known route around the town or city we live in. How about turning down a road you never turn down. Are you ok with getting lost for a moment without turning on your GPS? Often, we are in such a hurry from point A to B, we simply don’t allow ourselves the ability to expand our knowledge of the very place we call home.
  4. Reach out to someone you admire. Can you think of a single person you admire? Ask them out for coffee. Many times, we simply ask, how are things going? This is a vague and somewhat ambiguous question. How about, what have been some recent challenges you have been experiencing, either in your personal life or business? How do you overcome these challenges? Share with them, that you are growing in your personal life and you are starting to become more curious about others.
  5. Change it up and listen to some new music. I love many genres of music, including country music. It’s funny because often I will hear, I love all music, except country. I don’t want to hear about my truck broke down or my dog died. The truth is, there are stories in lyrics and when you shut yourself down because of a perceived stereotype, you miss out on expansion. Recently, I have been listening to music from the ’50s with my kids. It’s been wonderful to experience an era I didn’t personally experience.

You are now on the path to deepening your curiosity. It’s a beautiful journey when you recognize how vast the world truly is.

About the Author

Shaun Enders is a Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Transition Staffing Group located in San Diego. Shaun is extremely passionate about recruiting and developing others to bring out the best version of themselves.