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Captains Curious: Curiosity, Mischief and Sending Jesus to a Different Party


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. This week we have an encore performance from Captains Curious member Colin Beveridge! To learn about the other Captains Curious, please click here.

Who would you invite?

There’s a common ‘define yourself’ exercise that asks you to list the historical figures you’d invite to a dinner party. Almost everyone picks John Lennon and Jesus, perhaps so they can settle the debate once and for all, but also possibly to sort out the entertainment and the catering.

I recently rearranged the guest list for mine, unceremoniously revoking Jesus’ invitation so I could give it to Benjamin Franklin. I listened to a lecture series on his life recently and goggled at the range and depth of what he did. Plus, he seems like good company, and I imagine Jesus has other parties to go to.

Why?

I realised, though, that there’s a thread running through my long list of guests. Several threads, in fact, but the one that jumps out at me is insufferable curiosity.

Not just curiosity – they don’t let you into the world of science unless you’re curious – but there’s a difference between (say) Feynman and Einstein, or between Galileo and Leonardo, or even between John Lennon and Paul McCartney: A sense of mischief.

It’s the willingness to ask, “Why have we always done things that way?” and follow up with “That’s not a very good reason, is it?” and probably “Why don’t we do it _this_ way?”

This is a series of questions that has led to a lot of burnt-down laboratories, some pretty ludicrous trials, and the White Album, but it’s also responsible for pretty much every advance ever made in the fields of science, music, technology, literature, society, and everything other part of life.

I ask those questions about exams. Franklin asked them about lightning and political structures and education. Lennon asked them about the three-chord pop song and war.

Why have we always done things that way?

How good a reason is that?

Why don’t we do it _this_ way?

From same-old-same-old to revolution

It’s a series of questions that can take you from same-old-same-old to revolutionising your world, and you can apply it to almost anythingWhy do you charge people by the hour? Why do you eat your starter before your dessert? Why do you walk that way around the park?

Sometimes you come up with a good reason. Sometimes your alternative sucks. And sometimes you come up with something so crazy that it might just work.

What areas of your life and work can you ask about?

How can you apply your mischievous curiosity and change the world?

Leave a comment below!

Image: Sura Nualpradid / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Colin Beveridge (@icecolbeveridge, http://www.flyingcoloursmaths.co.uk) is a math confidence coach and author of the UK version of Basic Maths For Dummies. He helps children and adults overcome their fear of math and start to discover its beauty. He lives in Poole, England with an espresso pot and a guitar and nothing to prove.

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Would you like to submit a guest post on the subject of Curiosity? Send an email to susan {at} susanTblake {dot} com with the subject line: Captains Curious.

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4 Responses to Captains Curious: Curiosity, Mischief and Sending Jesus to a Different Party

  1. LaVonne Ellis June 30, 2011 at 11:16 am #

    Fabulous post, Colin. I started asking those questions about everything in my life – why do I load the dishwasher exactly the same way every time? Why do I put my pants on before my shirt? Why do I tell what day it is by what’s on TV?

    The interesting thing is that I wound up going back to my regular way of doing things (except for the TV thing) because I found out why: I enjoyed loading the dishwasher a certain way, and I preferred putting my pants on first. And that’s as good a reason as any.

    The big discovery was my realization that TV was interfering with my happiness. So I stopped watching it as a remedy for boredom and now only turn it on when I want to see a specific show. The end result? With all that extra time, I started a business. 🙂

  2. Colin Beveridge June 30, 2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Thanks, Lavonne! I get very disoriented if I get dressed in the wrong order 🙂 And yay for reclaiming time for starting a business!

  3. Colin Beveridge June 30, 2011 at 3:59 pm #

    Eep! Missed your capital V! Sorry, LaVonne! 🙁

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  1. Roving Robin – Second Week in July - July 17, 2011

    […] Colin Beveridge revises his CaptainsCurious gig with a mischievous post entitled: “Captains Curious: Curiosity, Mischief and Sending Jesus to a Different Party” […]

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