On “Becoming Curious”

2009 November 6
by Evan Lenz

Last time, I quoted from Seth Godin’s Tribes. Later in the book (p. 64), Godin tells the story of how an adult becomes curious:

It’s easy to underestimate how difficult it is for someone to become curious. For seven, ten, or even fifteen years of school, you are required to not be curious. Over and over and over again, the curious are punished.

I don’t think it’s a matter of saying a magic word; boom and then suddenly something happens and you’re curious. 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.

Ugh. Wouldn’t you rather skip that whole span of fearful timidity? If you believe Godin, before you can “become curious”, you must go for between 12 and 30 years of being a “fundamentalist” (someone who’s not curious)—the first half in school, thinking and doing as you’re told, and the second half out of school, recovering from all those years in school. I’d rather just avoid becoming un-curious in the first place. Skip traditional school and save yourself a whole lot of trouble.

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