Born Curious

You know this is true. We are born curious. Three-year-olds, on average, ask their parents 100 questions a day. EVERY DAY! By the age of 10 or 12 they have basically stopped asking. Studies suggest that by the age of 25 only 2% of individuals can think outside the box. The sad truth is that curiosity seldom survives to adulthood.

Ironically, our career paths follow a similar trajectory. When we start a new job we move into our role as a learner. We want to learn as much as possible as quickly as possible. We want more than anything else to become competent. We ask questions. We apprentice those who are more experienced. Our knowledge increases exponentially every day. Then something happens. At some point, having the answers becomes more important than asking questions. Appearing competent becomes more important than growing in competence. We trade in our learning mindset for the level of knowledge we have already acquired…and… we coast.

The dictionary defines “coasting” as “moving forward using no power or very little power; progressing without special effort.” One of my favorite writers on leadership is Lee Thayer. In his book, The Good Leader, he writes: “Most people stop learning when they know enough to get by.” And we wonder why our jobs are boring and unfulfilling. It shocks us when our careers plateau and we slowly slide back down the hill. We wonder why our organizations are stagnant and no one seems to notice or care. Organizations are never more curious than their leaders. It is a problem when our curiosity doesn’t survive into adulthood.

I agree with Dorothy Parker: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”

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