Stay Curious, My Friend

In Bob Dylan's classic song "Forever Young," the aging artist instructs us to stay young - young at heart, young at thought and young at action. It occurred to me that this concept of youthfulness is a great concept to achieve success and significance in your business today. 

What is a characteristic of young at heart?  Curiosity. The truth that really penetrated my thoughts was the concept of staying curious as we age. Why do we tend to lose that sense? What causes us to think we know enough?

Curiosity is defined as: "an eager desire to know; inquisitiveness." Like a child, always ask why. Always be interested.  Continuously seek understanding. This trait will keep you young, but also open new ways of thinking, producing, selling, serving and living.

What occurred that refreshed my view of curiosity and staying young? While dragging the entire family out for a little frolicking family fun, it hit me. We traversed down to the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago from the suburbs. Since the ticket line was long, I moved us up to the annual membership line and proceeded to purchase the family package annual membership. I rationalized that with just one more visit this year, this membership would pay for itself. Furthermore, we were doing a good thing to support the animals. Finally, I admitted to my son, the line is a lot shorter and I didn't want to waste time! 

As new members, we were all handed our entrance bracelets for the day and tickets to a 12:30 pm show. Honestly, I didn't really listen to the membership lady when she explained what the show was.

When it was about five minutes before the show was to start, I said to my family, let's go to this show. My three teenagers groaned and complained without knowing what the show was. I confess my wife and I looked at each other as to say, "We don't want to sit and listen to some guy talk about fish." 

It was my 9-year-old daughter who finally said, "Let's go! Why wouldn't we go? What is the show about, anyway?"

We went in, albeit a few minutes late, dragging the teenagers behind the 9-year-old. To our surprise, we were all amazed! I'm not sure the last time you've been to a dolphin show, but this show was like no dolphin show I had ever seen as a kid.

This was a modernized musical dolphin extravaganza! It included a three story high multi-media screen, "floating" on top of the water. It included video shots of the dolphins and beluga whales in action, movie scenes of them in the wild and multi-level screen shots of almost anything else that could create an emotional response as your eyes flipped from the screen to the real mammals doing amazing things in the water.  The men and women in, on and above the water were directing these creatures with amazing precision and grace - like acrobats in a circus. An acoustic guitar and singing trio that entertained throughout accompanied it. This was not the dolphin show of my youth. It captured every sense and emotion possible.

What lesson did I learn? Lesson one was because the tickets were given to us for "free," we placed no value on them. We were wrong. More importantly, lesson two was because of the curiosity of my daughter, we all enjoyed the show that moments earlier we had written off as an inconvenience at best.

What does this mean to you? Stay curious! Ask why questions. Curiosity will lead you to more success and significant relationships. Genuine curiosity will lead you to modernizing your own sales approach, creating an innovative solution, understanding your clients' needs and wants better, and enjoying relationships more while learning even more about life and yourself. All of this because you stayed curious and were not afraid to ask the why questions. If you believe you've learned enough, you've stopped asking why.

What does this look like in a business setting?  The Cleveland Museum of Art has tapped into this curiosity response with Gallery One, a new interactive touchscreen experience that allows visitors to engage with artwork in new and surprising ways. Novel situations like this violate our expectations of how an environment should behave and, as a result, we engage with the environment in an attempt to understand it better.

Or consider how Leonardo da Vinci created.  “I roamed the countryside searching for answers to things I did not understand. Why shells existed on the tops of mountains along with the imprints of coral and plants and seaweed usually found in the sea. Why the thunder lasts a longer time than that which causes it, and why immediately on its creation the lightning becomes visible to the eye while thunder requires time to travel. How the various circles of water form around the spot, which has been struck by a stone, and why a bird sustains itself in the air. These questions and other strange phenomena engage my thought throughout my life,” da Vinci wrote. [1]

So what can childlike curiosity do for you?

  • Modernize your approach or your technique
  • Open your mind to new ideas
  • Help you learn and change
  • Enjoy people more
  • Keep you optimistic
  • Love living life, most of the time
  • Be grateful
  • Explore and take risks

Those are the results that matter! Those are attributes that will change lives. Those features arrive because we stay curious and ask "why" and “what if” more often. 

Let me close with some youthful words from Mr. Dylan's benediction as you attempt to "Stay Forever Young."

May your heart always be joyful

And may your song always be sung

May you stay forever young

Forever young, forever young

May you stay forever young.

(Lyrics by Bob Dylan, 1974)