How to be a Pillar of Curiosity

Curiosity might have killed the cat – but it also made me a lot of money.

Show me a person who isn’t curious, and I’ll show you a fundamentalist, mindless, lifeless human being whose brain, heart and soul never expand.

HERE’S THE REALITY: History proves time and time again that the most successful, most celebrated and most influential people on the planet were the ones who asked dangerous questions despite overwhelming efforts to silence their enthusiasm and deflect their curiosity.

You need to be one of those people.

Here’s a list of sixteen daily practices for becoming a pillar of curiosity:

1. Start by (actually) caring. The word “curious” comes from the Latin cura, which means, “to care.” That means your mission is simple: Practice caring what things are, why things are and how things are. Even if you’re not all that interested.

Curiosity doesn’t discriminate. That’s why it’s called curiosity: It’s an equal opportunity explorer, treating all experiences with deep democracy. Start there and you’ll be ahead of 50% of the uncurious world. Simple but not easy. Do you have the courage to care?

2. Embrace the muscle of huh. Two ways: First, the Scooby Doo approach. That’s when you tilt your head at a curious experience, think, “Huh?” with the utmost surprise.

Second, the Edward Debono approach. That’s when you squint your eyes ever so slightly and mutter, “Huh…” as if your mind was just sent off to the creative races. Both are necessary fibers of the same muscle. Are you flexing them?

3. Scanning.Learn to find interest in anything. See yourself in everything. Study ordinary things intently and unfold and reveal the things most people wouldn’t think to capture. Plug whatever you perceive into the equations of your theory of the universe.

Ask yourself how it relates to you, why it’s interesting, how it’s an example or symbol of something that’s important to you. What mundane things do you find fascinating?

4. Refuse to discard hunches. Cherish all moments of brow furrowing. That means you’re seeing something. I urge you to (always) trust that peripheral perception. To remain awake to (and respect the integrity of) the words and ideas and experiences that seize you and refuse to let you go until you’ve given them careful consideration.

Remember: The most important three words of curiosity: “Now that’s interesting…” Are you stalking your hunches to the point of restraining orders?

5. Become a questionnaire. He who asks the most questions, wins. If someone stops you mid-sentence and says, “You sure ask a lot of questions!” congratulations, Curious George.

On the other hand, if that never happens to you, consider the following exercise: Stop making to-do lists and start making to-ask lists. It’s a paradigm shift. It’s hard to do. But it’s worth it. Are you a human question mark?

6. Dare to be dumb. Sherlock Holmes once said, “There’s nothing more elusive than an obvious fact.” I say, “There’s nothing less attractive than a person suffering from terminal certainty.” Either way, it pays to ask the questions most people would avoid for fear of looking stupid.

It’s like Shawn Mullins sings in Shimmer, “I’d drink a whole bottle of my pride and toast to change.” Are you willing to forego having all the answers?

7. Explore, then consider. Believe what you believe because you investigated the truth and decided (by yourself) to believe – not because someone told you to believe and you mindlessly followed. It’s like Seth Godin once said during a speech, “The opposite of fundamentalism is curiosity.”

Your challenge is to resist rule captivity. To ask the world if this is really a rule, or some mindlessly accepted pseudo-truism used by dangerous people who want to control you. Remember: If there’s no sign, it’s not a rule. Are you a fundamentalist or a curiosityist?

8. Speak in curiosity-based prefixes. For example: “I wonder what would happen…?” “What if…?” “Wouldn’t it be fun/cool/crazy to…?” “Have you ever thought about…?”

These phrases marshal curious forces, turn questions into quests and reinforce the right mindset needed to become a pillar of curiosity. Practice them daily and soon they’ll become second nature. Are you using curious language?

9. Keep a running list of questions. I’ve been adding new questions to my list daily for the past eight years. I’m up to about seven thousand. More importantly, I’ve created a classification system for my questions. This enables me to search and find (within about ten seconds) the exact question I need for the myriad situations I experience, write, consult, coach or speak about.

It’s truly one of the most valuable intellectual assets I possess. That’s why I rarely show it to anybody, keep it password protected and back it up monthly. How many questions are on your list?

10. Run sentence completion Google searches. I do this every day. It’s a fantastic research tool that’s easy, quick and fun to do. For example, let’s say you were writing an article on safe driving. Google the phrases “Safe drivers always” and “Safe drivers never.”

The answers that populate will stimulate your brain, answer your questions and propel your creativity. Are you googling strategically?

11. Stop making an ass out of you and me. Three truths: (a) Curiosity is the foundation of creativity, (b) creativity is nothing but active listening, and (b) active listening is blocked by assumptions. Therefore: Assumptions murder curiosity. If you want to stop them dead in their tracks, consider running regular assumption audits for yourself or your organization.

Ask questions like: What assumptions are operating here? What is the history behind our assumptions? What are we assuming that may be hurting us? What are we assuming that might be stopping us? What are we assuming that is preventing us from thinking well? Are we assuming that could be limiting our ideas here?

When you dismantle old assumptions, you rebuild new profits. Are you open to examining the assumptions behind your reasoning?

12. Dwell in situation novelty. Learn to freeze the fodder that surrounds you. Here’s how: When you see something, take a Mental Polaroid of it. Then clothespin it onto your psyche for further evaluation. Slowly, as it freezes, view it from all angles.

Walk 360 degrees around it. With a Davinci-like thumb on your chin, investigate it. Ask it questions. Poke it a little. Tease it apart and gently untangle its essence. Rip its clothes off, strip it of every outer layer until its naked truth plops down on that imaginary interrogation chair, staring at you. Sharon Stone style. Are you freezing your observations?

13. Commence an unrelenting quest for continuous learning. This is known as curiosita, according to Michael Gelb’s book, How to Think Like Leonardo Davinci. That’s what Davinci practiced, and he created the Renaissance. Not bad.

I wonder what would happen if you gave yourself permission to be curious in every domain of your life. Who knows? You could create the next cultural movement. Worst-case scenario: Your creativity triples. Sounds like a win/win to me. What’s your personal philosophy about curiosity?

14. Remain aggressively skeptical. Grow in your willingness to keep looking, even when you think there’s nothing left. When you leave your brow never (fully) unfurrowed; and when you expect to find more – you will. Curiosity is always rewarded. Always.

Just ask those pesky kids from Scooby Doo. Remember: There’s a fine line between aggressive skepticism and annoying cynicism. Which side of that line do other people believe you’re on?

15. Engage multiple senses. Ace Ventura comes to mind. As a pet detective, he practiced vigorous curiosity by touching, smelling, even tasting all the relevant evidence in his cases.

Sure, it appeared disgusting, peculiar and unprofessional to the pet’s owners. But Ace always got his man. Or in this case, man’s best friend. Are you tapping your sensory powers to heighten curiosity?

16. Follow your curiosity. Curiosity alone fails. It must be augmented with exploration, reflection and documentation. Otherwise you’re just a really tall five year-old. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Hell, we could learn volumes from those little rug rats.

But five year olds don’t have mortgages. You do. And because curiosity drives profitability, make sure you’re not just asking a bunch of clever questions and then calling it a day. Explore. Reflect. Document. Repeat. Every day. Is your curiosity more than just a mental one trick pony?

REMEMBER: Curious people count.

Be one of those people, and you can buy all the cats you want.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What did you explore yesterday?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “49 Ways to become an Idea Powerhouse,” send an email to me, and you win the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

How to be an Artist

Artists are athletes.

But unlike runners, swimmers, basketball stars or cricket players, artists are hard pressed to find specific instructions on exactly HOW to be an artist.

Seth tackled this idea beautifully in his latest best-seller, Linchpin.

And since his work has always inspired mine, I’ve decided to write my own version of the same idea.

If you’re an artist, want to become an artist, or know someone in the same situation, consider these twelve ideas:

1. Appreciate creativity wherever you find it. Even if it’s a clever sign made by a homeless guy. Creativity is what you do, and you owe it to the world (and to yourself!) to recognize, applaud and embrace all forms of it.

In the same way that the Dalai Lama encourages us to “honor any expression of faith,” gaining an appreciation for any and all things creative is your responsibility as an artist. Just another way of saying namaste to your crafty colleagues. Where are you afraid to see creativity?

2. Be completely selfish. Gandhi says we must become the change we want to see in the world. Ginsberg says we must create the art we want to see in the world. Therefore:

Write the book you would want to read on the toilet.

Post the blog you would want to read while waiting in line at the airport.

Release the record you would want to listen to driving down the highway.

Paint the picture you would want to look at as you sit down to dinner every night.

You’ll thank yourself. Who are you (really) creating art for?

3. Be prepared to give yourself away. Real writers don’t care about selling books – they care about being read. The same goes for musicians, painters and performers: An audience is what makes the artist. Doesn’t matter who, where, or how big.

You’ve got to get out there and share your work with the world. You can’t stay in the basement your whole life. Otherwise you’re just winking in the dark. As George Carlin wrote in Last Words, “You’ve got to get up in front of people every day of your life or you’ll never learn who you are.” Who have you given yourself (or your art) away to this week?

4. Be unhesitating. Do you have something risky, dangerous and provocative to say? Go for it. Take a little artist liberty and slice into people’s hearts. That’s the best kind of art anyway: Bloody. Honest. Raw. True. Anything that disturbs people. After all, “Art is infection,” as Tolstoy reminds us.

The secret is to ask the following question as you create and, more importantly, before you share your art with the world: “What do I risk is presenting this material?” If the answer is “not much” or “nothing,” you haven’t cut deep enough. Go back and draw some blood. Get to the point where hesitation is possible. Then let her rip. What truth are you still waiting to express?

5. Develop a unanimous voice. As an artist, that’s all you’ve got: Your thing. Your sound. Your domain. Your territory. Your signature. Your unique delivery of creative material. Your voice. And if you don’t have consistent voice, you wind up creating work that’s unmemorable, unmarketable and unsustainable.

The key to developing and maintaining that voice is threefold: (a) use it every day, (b) improve it every day and (3) take time off to recharge it. Remember: Voice determines success. Is yours unanimous?

6. Stop copying the masters. That’s doesn’t make you an artist – it makes you a parakeet. Sure, you can expose yourself to (and draw inspiration from) other artists. But don’t be an echo. Don’t be a copy of a copy. Have faith in your creative originality.

And don’t feed me that “there’s nothing new under the sun” excuse. Screw the sun. When you dip your pen in your own blood, it’s always new. Are you the origin or the echo?

7. Draw people to the truth. Isn’t that the whole point of being an artist? Picasso certainly thought so. His theory was, “Art is a lie that leads to the truth.” Your mission is to take people there. Even if you have to fudge a little bit on the way. When you give a voice to your true nature, people will listen.

But if you’re not being yourself while you create, nothing you make will belong to you. That’s why you got into art in the first place, right? To express your truth? Draw people to it. Where are you drawing people with your art?

8. Employ only the approval of your heart. Create out of pleasure, not under constraint. Otherwise your art suffers the consequences of external expectation.

Screw your parents. Screw your husband. Screw your annoying art school friends. And screw those wannabe, jealous hacks that only come into your gallery on open house night to eat free cheese.

These people only wish they had some art to show for, but they’re too busy talking their ideas into the ground and listening to people who don’t matter. No wonder their collective creative output is a joke. Not you baby, not you. Whose approval are you still seeking?

9. Make your art incidental, not intentional. Art is the residue of a life fully lived. Forget about being a great artist – concentrate on being a great human. The art will come naturally and you’ll save a lot of money on supplies. After all, art is subordinate to life, not the other way around.

And as an artist, your first responsibility is to engage with life fully and creatively. Documentation comes in at a close second. Ayn Rand was right: “Plant the roots of your art firmly in the reality of your own life.” Are you first and foremost an artist with your life?

10. Remove the word “for” from your vocabulary. You don’t need a reason to create something. There is no “for.” Not for the money. Not for the girls. Not for the blog traffic. Not for anything.

You make art because you want to make art. Period. Anything else is heartless and should be burned at the stake. Give yourself permission to (not) need a reason. What’s your true artist motivation?

11. Seek out stretch assignments. Did you know Bob Dylan was a painter? When I first learned that, it helped me realize the following: It’s OK to try a new medium. Or express yourself in a completely new way. Or tackle a new topic you never thought you’d address. Anything to push your limits.

That’s the cool part about creativity – once you’ve expanded your artistic muscles, they never return back to their original shape. No stretching ever goes unrewarded.

The challenge is giving yourself permission. But the good news is that it always pays off. As long as you remember that if you’re comfortable, you’re not doing it right. Are you actively seeking out ways to be creatively stretched?

12. Never ship what you’re not proud of. I (just) learned that powerful lesson from the aforementioned Linchpin, the best book on being an artist I’ve ever read. Thanks to Seth, I now realize that something isn’t always better than nothing. When you sacrifice speed for quality, you lose. And so does your audience.

Sadly, way too many artists do this. And the final product winds up being an embarrassment to their true skill. My suggestion: Don’t fall into this trap. It’ll seduce you like a big-breasted redhead with full lips and ten-speed ass.

Practice a little patience. Exert a little self-control. Only ship (publish, release, etc.) when you’re willing to stand by your art firm and proud. What quality control questions do you need to ask yourself before shipping your art into the world?

REMEMBER: You are an artist. An athlete of the soul.

I hope these ideas help improve your game.

LET ME ASK YA THIS…
What art did you create yesterday?

LET ME SUGGEST THIS…
For the list called, “10 Best Books on Creativity You’ve Never Heard of,” send an email to me, and I’ll send you the list for free!

* * * *
Scott Ginsberg
That Guy with the Nametag
Author, Speaker, Entrepreneur, Mentor
scott@hellomynameisscott.com

The world’s FIRST two-in-one, flip-flop book!

Buy Scott’s comprehensive marketing guidebook on Amazon.com and learn how to GET noticed, GET remembered and GET business!

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