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In the Absence of Interest, Choose to Be Curious

Consider the following exchange. I found it as I flipped through a back issue of Vanity Fair. A recorded chat between the great film director Mike Nichols and the actress Julia Roberts.

They are speaking with Vanity Fair about, among other things, curiosity. In this snippet Nichols and Roberts refer to their respective spouses, the television journalist Diane Sawyer and Danny Moder.

JR: Diane and Danny both have that art of true interest in other people, other situations, other ideas. I’ve learned about that artfulness from both of them.

MN: One of the things that fascinates me about Diane, who goes all over the world all the time – she’s in Afghanistan, she’s in Iraq, she’s everywhere and then back in a day and a half – is that no one ever asks her about what she saw.

(V F, April 2012)

I am disturbed to hear that Diane Sawyer habitually walks into a curiosity void. Delighted by Julia Roberts’ gracious way with words.

The art of true interest.

Yes. A fervent desire to know. An impassioned curiosity. Faisal Hoque, the prolific author and Personal Excellence columnist, coins that delicious phrase in his engrossing book Everything Connects:

As Einstein famously said that he had no special talent beyond being passionately curious, we can say that there is no other avenue to cultivating creative work aside from impassioned curiosity.

The tragic part? The longer we perform the same work, the longer we hang with the same set of colleagues , the more likely it is that impassioned curiosity dies a slow death. The price of familiarity.

Related: 5 Ways of Directing Your Impatience Well

Curiosity need not die.

The second I choose to be curious about something, anything, I energize myself. I also energize the recipient of my curiosity. In a meeting. In an email. In a phone chat. In a hallway encounter.

A curiosity question energizes. It sparks a response. It inspires my partner , my colleague, my friend to reveal. To surprise me. To surprise herself. And it is always a choice.

So get into the habit. In the absence of curiosity, choose to be curious . Slow death or energy shift? It truly just takes one curiosity question.

And if the question is an impassioned one, better yet. The unleashed energy of the moment takes care of the rest. That’s the power of curiosity.

I can’t think of a single reason not to be curious.