by Achim Nowak

The Case for Curiosity

August 15, 2022

I had a birthday last Friday. We celebrated over a meal at Pinch Kitchen, an eclectic and award-wining eatery in Miami’s Upper East Side neighborhood.

I could go on and on about the joys of Pinch Kitchen. I won’t. Here, however, is what I want to share with you: I love Pinch’s publicly stated ethos – a pinch of this, a pinch of that. It’s an ethos of experimentation and exploration. An ethos of innovation. Curiosity.

My birthday dinner at Pinch got me thinking about all of this and more. A younger version of me arrived in South Florida 18 years. At Pinch, munching on olives and warm octopus salad, I found myself remembering the brilliant Miami episode of Anthony Bourdain’s series, “Parts Unknown.”

In the final minutes of that episode, Iggy Pop, scraggly-faced musician, former front-man for The Stooges, the grandfather of punk (and these days a Miamian), and Bourdain stand in the sand on Miami Beach, looking at the sky. Two aging men who, by most people’s standards, have been there, done that, seen it all, muse on what’s left.

Iggy: I’m still curious. You seem like a curious person.

Anthony: It’s my only virtue. (Said with a chuckle.)

Iggy: There you go. All right. Curious is a good thing to be. You know it seems to pay some unexpected dividends.

Final words of the Miami episode as birds soar in the sky and Pop’s song “The Passenger” pipes in. Quintessential Florida.

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Albert Einstein

In the end, back to curiosity.

You and I know that when work starts to feel stale, curiosity can be hard to come by.

Before I opened my first firm I spent 5 years on the road, delivering training programs for an international training company. Within a year the programs I facilitated had become entirely routine for me.

It forced me to think. In the face of routine, what am I still curious about? There were endless nuances to program content, but I knew these nuances would reveal themselves on their own. My curiosity needed to transcend the task I was performing.

My choice: Be curious about the variables, not the routine. Every person who showed up at one of my seminars was the variable. Every latest trend in the training industry was the variable. Every new city I trained in was the variable.

Be curious about everything. That’s the grand thought.

Easy when we stand on the beach with Iggy Pop and Bourdain and contemplate the meaning of life.

At work, however, focus your curiosity. If you’re not the one who makes presentations to your firm’s Board of Directors, perhaps let someone else be curious about that. Fire the curiosity that will drive your commitment to the things YOU do every day.

Be curious about the variables in your sphere of influence.

  • Would it serve you to be more curious about the folks in your sphere?
  • More curious about what brilliant competitors do?
  • Curious about solving a recurring problem? Curious about the interplay of what you and other business units do? 
  • Curious about what “simpler” might look like? 
  • Curious about all you that you do not yet know about what you do?

You decide. But be curious, please.

Here’s a conversation I have had with more than one person I have coached.

Coachee: I dread all these endless business dinners I have to attend.

Part of me empathizes and understands. And yet, here’s where I draw the line

Achim: Not attending is not an option. What would it take to attend with curiosity?

Dale is a fellow who shows up every day at the breakfast joint where I like to grab my morning bagel. When I ask Dale how he’s doing, his answer is always the same:

Same old, same old.

Curiosity extinguished. Same old, same old is simply not an option.

The unexpected curiosity dividends?

Curiosity is a choice. It requires vigilance. It is available to us every moment of every single day. It keeps our inner spark alive. It adds a deeper purpose to every task you and I perform and every conversation we engage in. It connects us to a larger world of wisdom and possibility.

Bourdain took his life. That is a choice, as well. I have a brother who made the same choice. I am curious about the why. We will never truly know.

But Iggy Pop, unlikely punk survivor, got this one right. 

Curious is a good thing to be.

Routine has the potential to unleash a rich deep curiosity. Be vigilant. Be curious about the variables, not the routine. Be specific. But please, be curious.

And collect your dividends.

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