Archive | Curiosity

Sound Mass


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Hey!

Hello!

There’s been a lot going on around here lately, which is why this blog has been quiet for a few weeks. That’s no excuse for being out of communication, though. I’m embarrassed to admit it took a friend leaving me a voicemail asking if I was OK and noting that it had been a LONG TIME since she’d gotten a blog post from me to remind me how long it has been!

When I was in college, hanging out with the Music majors (they were way more fun than my fellow Psych majors), I learned about the concept of a “sound mass.” But while Wikipedia quotes Edwards’ comment that sound-mass “obscures the boundary between sound and noise,” there hasn’t been much noise around here lately. Instead, there has been so much going on that it’s like a giant chord with so many notes that it is like a wall of sound with a few themes that have managed to rise to the top like cream. (I know, that’s a mixed metaphor. But I like it.)

So here’s my attempt to share the sound mass with you in a completely different medium, with some of the recurring themes that are weaving themselves together. Lately I’ve been…

  • Working on a big project for a client, requiring a lot of concentrated effort, learning the dialect of that business. I am very grateful for the steady work and an income stream that will help fund the next couple of months.
  • “Vendorized” to work with clients of the state Department of Rehabilitation, coaching them through successfully settling into new jobs and working with my first such client.
  • Talking to an increasing number of people who are comfortable… but uncomfortable. Itchy. They’re thinking, “There must be More… but how do I find it?” There is lots of forming new habits, exploring, guiding, questioning. I am grateful and humble to be a part of their journey.
  • Consulting with several small businesses, providing coaching and consulting. It is awesome fun as they have breakthroughs and golden “Aha!” moments and lots of incremental progress. We’re working on a variety of initiatives, ranging from building new habits to delegating to attracting new customers to articulating core values for guiding the business to building a new framework for employee reviews. Good stuff, and again I am grateful and humble to be a part of their journey.
  • Helping two different friends with big garage/moving sales, paying attention to the dynamics of Letting Go of Things, enjoying the interactions and circus atmosphere of the sales, and enjoying the little community that springs up around a sale and falling in love with people and their stories and blessing them and the money they exchanged for new treasures, feeling gratitude for the friends, the wealth, the fun, the exhausted sense of accomplishment.
  • Wrapping up my tenure as the US Country Facilitator for Sedaa’s Global Brain Trust, a wonderful online community for Organization Development (OD) professionals. I have loved the time I have spent working with the founders and the Global Operations team, and it is time to bring in fresh energies while I focus on building my own practice.
  • Participating in kindred spirit Andrea Lewicki’s launch of her new website, where she explores thoughts about curiosity and its applications. Andrea, like me, believes curiosity can change the world! The Grand Opening was a two day event, with interviews with some of Andrea’s favorite curious people – including me! You can view the recordings for a while longer at Andrea’s site.
  • Launching a Facebook page for Susan T. Blake Consulting, which I’ve put off doing until just recently. But now I have a place I can post short things that don’t quite fit here, and have conversations with people. Come on by and check it out!
  • Working with my friend and mentor, Michael F. Broom, and a small team of cohorts, to create, launch and promote a new series of webinars on managing team conflict. We are looking for someone to take over promoting Michael’s Center for Human Systems via social media on a volunteer or internship basis, so if you know anyone…
  • Noticing recurring themes of balancing friendship and business. Accepting help as well as giving it. Noticing my relationship with money. Noticing what I procrastinate about.
  • Wishing for more time to work on projects I procrastinated on before and have less time for now, chuckling over “Be careful what you ask for.” Wondering, is my procrastination because my priorities aren’t my priorities after all, or am I letting fear get in the way? Fear of what?

And lately I’ve been wondering a lot about abundance, about gratitude, about creating the kind of life I want to live. As I work to grow my practice, trying to make a living and support my clients and the small businesses around me, I count my blessings during these times and abundance is more and more on my mind.

You can see the threads of it throughout my life over the last few years. I talk about the importance being grateful in “Remember to Look Up;” I have been practicing Amy Oscar’s “More of This, Please” for a number of months; I have been reminding myself and others that Everything Is Going to Be All Right. (That’s another story, which I haven’t written yet – stay tuned.) And I have been thinking a lot about the work I really want to do as a consultant and coach, and what I am willing to do to make this little business fly. Thinking about what I really want. How many people really know what they want?

So when Birdy and Mike Diamond invited me to contribute to a program they wanted to develop about living abundantly, because of the synergy between my focus on curiosity and one of the steps in their program (Hint: It’s all about asking the right question), I of course said Yes. And for the last couple of months I have been pondering and practicing and exploring and noticing and writing. We are practicing and exploring not only our material but the practical aspects of teamwork, collaboration, and distribution of duties. Noticing coincidences and synchronicities and being open. Practicing gratitude. Pondering how to invite abundance into my life, developing material with Birdy and Mike and our partner, Nathara, and writing about it over at the Awesome Audacious Abundance website.

It’s perfect, really. Curiosity is fundamental to abundance. There is always more to learn, always more to do. And in our experience, living an abundant life is an interactive, participatory thing as well as a positive mindset. And Curiosity IS an abundant mindset.

So I invite you to pop over to http://www.a2abundance.com/ and peruse the blog posts we’ve been contributing about everything from Time to Money to Courage to Perfection to Magic Carpets and more. If you like what you see, sign up in the right sidebar to receive new posts (or arrange an RSS feed if you prefer). We are in the process of developing a variety of offerings to help people live more abundantly, and you can learn more about those offerings by signing up for the Explorer’s Club at the bottom of any blog post. At the same time, I laugh and am reminded of the proverb, “We teach what we most need to learn.” Come learn with us!

Meanwhile, I’m back at work in the world of Curiosity, and happy to be here! I am looking for more contributors to the next round of Captains Curious posts, so if you are interested please drop me a line at susan @ susantblake . com.

What’s happening in your life? Do any of these themes resonate for you? Please leave me a note below!

Image: digitalart / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Caregiving, Rhetorical Questions, Compassion, and… Curiosity


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In which the Universe says, “Oh, you’re ready to start talking about Caregiving? Great, here’s another chance…”

My last blog post was about Caregiving, and soon after I published it I found myself plunged into another Caregiving situation.

For one of my cats.

And I was amazed – appalled, actually – at the impact it had on me.

I made decisions, I gave her medicine and did all the things the vet told me to do, and I did the other things that needed doing. And yet…

I was a wreck. I was on the verge of tears much of the time. I had trouble concentrating. I worried – What if I had to put her to sleep? How much was this going to cost? Should I postpone my trip to Seattle? Was I giving her good enough care? Was I neglecting my other cat?

And I wondered…

How did I ever manage to be caregiver to my late husband and work full-time and maintain some semblance of composure and concentration, and professionalism at work?

Maybe, I thought, my composure and concentration at the time weren’t as good as I thought. I remember sobbing in the shower before going to work. I remember praying for help, for strength, for patience, for guidance. I remember feeling like I could never do enough, never do it well enough.

I talked to a friend

I talked to a friend of mine about this, a friend who happens to be a licensed therapist and a coach. She also, it turns out, has done Bereavement Counseling. She asked if she could tell me what she thought.

I said yes. (And I appreciated that she asked.)

She said that when I was caring for Bruce, I was probably in Emergency Mode. I did what had to be done. With Abby, the stakes are different. (I also had time to prepare, in Bruce’s case, like the metaphor about the frog in hot water.)

She also said that there may be an element of Post Traumatic Stress, and that this situation is triggering reactions from when Bruce was sick, reactions I often didn’t let myself feel at the time.

Pretty smart, isn’t she?

I lightened up on myself

So I lightened up on myself. It didn’t change the emotions I was feeling, or the trouble I was having concentrating, but I started allowing myself to feel it without judging myself for it. Not beating myself up for not being perfectly composed and competent.

I remembered something I already knew

And in thinking about the questions I’ve been asking myself and the universe, I realized something. Or remembered something I already knew, but now understand in a different way:

There are productive questions and unproductive questions.

Rhetorical questions like “Why can’t you…” and “How could you…” are whips.

Asking rhetorical questions is not practicing Curiosity, it is whipping.

Asking why something is happening is curiosity if I am really looking for the answer and not beating myself (or someone else) up with a belief.

Rhetorical questions are not born of curiosity.

Rhetorical questions are not really questions at all, as they are not looking for an answer, they provide an excuse to state an answer that is usually a belief – and is frequently a negative one.

Sometimes the wording is important, but more often the intent and the emphasis are key.

For example…

Rhetorical Question: How did I EVER manage to be a competent caregiver to my husband when I am such a wreck about a cat?

Answer: Ha, you only thought you were competent caregiver. You really suck at caregiving – for people and cats.

Curious Question: How DID I ever manage to be a competent caregiver to my husband when I am such a wreck about a cat?

Answer: That’s a good question. You rose to the occasion, and even though you cried and you prayed and you felt like you floundered through uncharted territory, you did what needed to be done. Maybe not perfectly, but well. Well enough. Maybe it only feels worse because it also brings up memories from before.

Hmmm. Curiosity not only honestly seeks an answer, but it holds hands with compassion.

I thought I knew that, but I guess I forgot.

Or maybe some lessons in this (hopefully upward) spiral of life are learned over and over.

And so I offer you this: When the voices in your head are asking you questions, hit the Pause button and ask yourself whether they think they already know the answer, or are they honestly looking for an answer? Are they open to a different answer?

And if you find yourself asking questions of other people, hit the pause button. Do you really want to find an answer? Or are you just trying to make a point?

Applying curiosity to the issue, and to our behavior, can change everything.

Note: Abby is recovering and I am regaining (?) my sanity. She is scheduled to have her stitches removed tomorrow, and hopefully life will return to some semblance of normalcy.


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Curiosity and CareGiving?


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The Backstory

A friend of mine has recently found herself being thrust into the role of Caregiver and, as we have chatted about it, I have been able to share some of what I learned from my own experiences as caregiver to my late husband.

At the end of one of our chats, she suggested I write a blog post about Curiosity and Caregiving.

I didn’t see the connection

Curiosity and Caregiving?

Quite honestly, I didn’t see it at first.

But the more I thought about my experiences, and about what we had been discussing, the more I saw a connection. I had simply been too close to it to notice it before.


She got me curious about the connection between curiosity and caregiving!

A different type of curiosity

Was curiosity involved when I was a Caregiver? Not the lighthearted, childlike quality we usually associate with curiosity. But I certainly did a lot of questioning and wondering, and these are definitely central to curiosity.

Not the railing-at-the-universe kind of questioning (Why me? Why Bruce?); that’s just not part of my vocabulary.

Searching for tools

But as his health began to deteriorate, I began searching for information. Thank Heaven for the internet, which made it possible for me to research Bruce’s condition and possible treatments, and to look for resources for myself. They say “knowledge is power,” and my need for information, my curiosity, drove me to search for knowledge that helped me to not feel powerless in the situation.

Is being desperate for answers curiosity? Yes, I suppose so. One type, anyway.

Searching for causes

As his health began to deteriorate, it also began to affect his personality. And I certainly had lots of questions about that. Why was he becoming so short-tempered (which was totally unlike him)? Was it me? Did he not love me anymore? I didn’t really believe that was the case. But I wondered, I questioned, and I came to several theories.

One theory was that his normally high pain tolerance wasn’t high enough anymore, and his pain level was exceeding his ability to cope with it. And the methods he had learned for coping with chronic pain were no longer working. For example, he told me long ago that he had learned to focus his attention on something exterior to him and send the pain to that; I suspected that melting doorknobs wasn’t working any longer.

Second, I began to suspect that, in addition to the physical pain he was in, part of what I was seeing was possibly related to some form of dementia. The research I had been doing kept turning up articles on coping with angry outbursts in people with dementia, and they described what I had been observing. This helped me to not be surprised when Bruce told me he was concerned about early-onset Alzheimer’s. I was almost relieved when he shared his concerns with me and told me about an episode that had particularly frightened him.

What did surprise me was when he told me he was afraid I would leave him now that I knew. And I realized that this fear was part of what was driving the behaviors that were part of a Bruce I didn’t recognize.

So when my friend came to me in great pain and frustration with the rude behavior of a friend for whom she has become a caregiver, I was able to help her wonder whether fear might be at the base of that behavior – fear of abandonment, fear about her deteriorating condition, fear of, well, everything.

Don’t get me wrong; this doesn’t make bad behavior acceptable. But it does make it easier to understand, and this can make it easier to deal with.

Searching for new approaches

This is another area where curiosity is important in caregiving: Wondering what is happening with the other person, rather than judging them (“Oh, they’re just ______”) or taking it personally. Being willing to walk in their shoes for a moment.

And this is where curiosity and compassion go hand in hand. Curiosity must be non-judgmental and compassionate so that, as a caregiver, I can wonder, “Is s/he afraid? I probably would be. Maybe it would help set him/her at ease if I tried this.” And sometimes the this is just asking rather than assuming.

Curiosity, Tools and Compassion

Being a caregiver for my husband was both wonderful and horrible. And, in retrospect, curiosity did help me through it. By utilizing my curiosity to find information and resources, I was able to do (at least some of the time) what they tell in you in the airline safety talks: Put on your own oxygen mask before attempting to help the person next to you.

It also gave me tools to give good care and be a better advocate with the medical professionals we encountered.

Perhaps most importantly, curiosity, coupled with compassion, also helped me to walk in Bruce’s shoes at times and to adjust my words and actions and pay attention to whether that helped or not. It also helped me to be compassionate with myself when I was tired or frustrated or scared or felt unappreciated or didn’t live up to my own expectations.


Funny, but until my friend asked me about it, I had not drawn a connection between curiosity and caregiving. It sheds some new light on my experience, and if you are in a caregiving situation, I hope it sheds some light on yours as well.

Whether you are the caregiver for an aging parent, a spouse, a sibling, child, or friend, be gentle with yourself as well as with them. Look at the situation through the lens of curiosity; it can help you find resources, and it may help you to shift the dynamics of a difficult situation. Looking back on it now, I can say that it did for me.

=>Here is a link to a resource I found tremendously helpful when I was in need of resources: http://www.caregiver.com

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net


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Eagles and Turkeys and Music in the Air


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Sunday Morning

Sunday morning I got up and, rather than sipping a leisurely cup of coffee, I got dressed, grabbed my camera and went for a walk on my favorite nature trail.

One of the things I love about my little town is that it is laced with walking and biking trails. My favorite is about a mile from my home and is only open to foot and bicycle traffic. It winds through meadows and along a greenbelt next to a small river, and is either home or a stopping place for a variety of wildlife. I have encountered deer, fox, feral cats, turtle, ground squirrels, red squirrels, snowy egrets, great blue herons, Canada geese, mallard ducks, turkey vultures, red tailed hawks, red shouldered hawks, lizards, and tree frogs. Not to mention a host of small birds, including goldfinches, house finches, bushtits, red-winged blackbirds, scrub jays, mourning doves, band-tailed pigeons, cliff swallows, black phoebes, acorn woodpeckers, Anna’s hummingbirds, and plenty I haven’t identified yet.

So on Sunday morning I set out at the crack of dawn, wondering what I would see and who I would meet.

My first encounters…

I started with my regular encounters with the finches and flycatchers, common on nearly all of my walks. I stopped to take pictures of a snowy egret where the creek and the path pass under the freeway, and he obliged me by posing and being quite patient with me.

Up above my head…

I walked on, and at a point where oak trees on either side of the trail form an arch overhead, I paused. I heard a sound… it wasn’t a cluck, and it wasn’t a squawk. It was more like a … mrrrrp. I heard it again. From overhead. Then I heard it from tree on the other side of the trail. Mrrrp.

I stood quite still, slowly looking up into the branches above my head. Mrrrp. Finally my eyes focused on a large brown bird amongst the leaves. Mrrrp. It was a turkey!

I heard the mrrrp from several places in the trees above me, and realized there was a family of turkeys roosting in the trees, checking in with each other. I counted five young turkeys and the mother, happily perched in the canopy of leaves.

Now, I have seen turkeys on the ground on numerous occasions; in fact, wild turkeys are quite common around here. It is not at all unusual in July and August to see families of turkeys with their chicks parading around.

But in trees? That’s a new one on me. In retrospect, I remember a friend telling me that the turkeys on her property roost in the trees, but I had never seen it myself.

As I stood there, trying to get some clear pictures, a group of walkers came by.

“There are turkeys up in the trees!” I told them. They stopped, and looked, and marveled.

“This may be a dumb question,” one of them said, “but do turkeys fly?”

“Apparently,” I answered.

I wondered, how old do the young turkeys have to be before their mother can get them to fly up into a tree, away from possible predators like foxes or raccoons? How does she protect them until then? They were clearly unconcerned about me (although they were apparently talking about me) being on the ground below them, but couldn’t a hawk swoop in from above and grab one for breakfast?

That’s nice, but…

You may be wondering, “What does this have to do with business, or consulting, or coaching?”

Well, everything.

The day before, I had been talking with a successful professional who has been struggling with standing up for what is important to her in her home life, and it struck me that you can’t be partially true to yourself. Once we put a stake in the ground or take a stand about something, it becomes more and more difficult not to do that in other areas of our lives.

The same thing is true about curiosity. Once we begin noticing what is going on around us and we being exercising our curiosity about what we notice, that spreads into all areas of our lives.

Curiosity, like enthusiasm, is contagious

If I hadn’t noticed that “mrrrp” in the trees above me, and if I hadn’t been curious about what it was, I never would have seen turkeys roosting up above my head.

If I don’t notice what’s going on with my thoughts and reactions, I can’t wonder why I haven’t been successful with something, or why I have been successful with something, or why I am uncomfortable around someone.

If I don’t notice what’s happening with a group I’m working with, or a process I’m part of, I can’t wonder why things are happening the way they are, or why we can’t seem to improve something, or what needs to be done differently.

If I don’t notice they way things are, I can’t appreciate what and who is in my life, and I can’t wonder what I need to do to make things even better.

Noticing and being curious apply to everything, beginning with our inner worlds and extending to everything around us.

And when I share what I notice with others, they often get curious too.

Soaring with the eagles

You know that old adage, “It’s hard to soar with the eagles when you’re surrounded by turkeys”? Well, in this case, being surrounded by turkeys is a very good thing. If you notice them.

All of this talk of turkeys mrrrping up above my head reminds me of a song… enjoy!



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Photos by Susan T. Blake

Captains Curious: Curiosity Is the Foundation for Creativity and Success


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest contributing member is Connie Harryman! To learn about the other Captains Curious, please click here.

Curiosity is the essence of creativity

“Curiosity killed the cat.”  I still laugh when I remember my Mom saying this to me.  For me, curiosity has led me on my grand journey of becoming an acknowledged expert in creativity.  For you see, curiosity is the essence of creativity.  Without curiosity creativity and success would not exist.

Examples

I will give you several examples.  When I was quite young, I lived in a tiny rural community in Texas.  I had no role models and no experience beyond what occurred within a few short miles.  However, my curiosity ate at me.  What else is out there in that other world?

I had no resources to explore that other world.  However, because of my curiosity I developed an insatiable lust for reading.  I especially loved historical novels set in far off exotic places.  I was not allowed to read because it signified laziness.   Due to my abiding curiosity I simply found hiding places where I could read.

It was this same drive of curiosity that led me to leave my community to go to college.   What do they teach in those colleges?  I had no idea but I knew they were filled with books and I knew books satisfied my curiosity.

After I graduated I was curious.  What is it like to work in a shiny multistory building with all the walls covered with windows?  My friends and even those who loved me told me that I was not meant for technology and I would not be any good at it so I should stay away from it.  However, I was curious.  Would I be any good at it?  I would not know unless I tried.  I spent the next several years working for the market leader in emerging technologies and I excelled.  My curiosity was satisfied.

It didn’t stop there

I became aware of the field of creative thinking quite by accident.  I was told, “You are the most creative person I know.”  What does this mean?  Surely this could not be true.  After all I cannot sing, dance, or even memorize poetry.  What is creativity?   My curiosity is rising again.  Where do you go to find out about creativity and what does creativity have to do with the practical things in life?

My curiosity is pulling at me.   It must be satisfied.   I decided to go to Austin to attend a conference sponsored by the American Creativity Association.   The next year I was on the organizing team for the Singapore conference.

Do you remember my curiosity led me to read about exotic far off places when I was young?  If you are curious about creativity in a far off place, then Singapore satisfied my curiosity completely.  I travelled there and met my future business partner, Lars Ringe, founder of RobotLab.  My curiosity led me to this creativity and innovation expert from Denmark.

Curiosity drives my passions

Let us now return to my passions.  These include creativity and technology.  I am curious.  How can I take advantage of the power of social networking and social media to share knowledge about creativity and innovation?  I am so curious I decided to take classes in social networking.  Six months later, I was invited to be a professional guest blogger for the Front End of Innovation Europe held in Amsterdam.  This is an event sponsored by the International Institute of Research.  My curiosity led to me a rather terrifying and daunting situation but again I succeeded.

My curiosity led me to join many social networking groups.  Many are focused on creativity and innovation but some are focused on science and technology or women in technology.   My curiosity compels me to connect with fascinating people on Twitter and LinkedIn.

I continue to satisfy my curiosity about how to build creative teams and how to increase their performance.  I wrote a white paper entitled Mastering Creative Problem Solving Within Teams and it was presented to the International Association of Science Parks by Lars Ringe, founder of RobotLab in Copenhagen, Denmark.  I was to be the presenter but, alas, I had to attend my daughter’s wedding in Dublin, Ireland.

Rejoice in your curiosity and fulfill your dreams!

My curiosity has been my major driver leading me to many adventures in the world of creativity and innovation.  For a joyful and passionate life, you must rejoice in your curiosity and satisfy it to find out what type of creative adventures you can embark upon to fulfill your dreams!

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Connie Harryman is CEO of Applied Concepts Creativity.  She refers to herself as a Creativity Developer.  She is also the President of the American Creativity Association – Austin Global.  Her blog is http://developyourcreativethinking.com/ You are invited to connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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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.

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Captains Curious: The Reactivation of My Imagination


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest contributing member is Ruth Kellogg! To learn about the other Captains Curious, please click here.

Imagination, Curiosity and Infinite Possibility

You and I both know that imagination all by itself has unlimited possibility. When was the last time you really used yours? Do you know that most people have about 90% of the same thoughts day after day?  Unless you are in the arts and creating on a regular basis, you probably fall into that category. Scary, huh?!

Think about your day, the routine of your day. Most of us have our lives down to a system of one sort or another. You know the drill… get up, shower, brush your teeth… in some order. Within that system, we typically have routines or jobs we love and those we dread. There are subsets within the system – you know, relationships, work, family. We may get imaginative if we are planning a vacation, or a party, or we may hire someone to do that for us because we are too busy doing what is required on the list every day.

What does Imagination mean?

In fact, let’s look at the definition. Imagination is the act or power of forming a mental image of something not present to the senses or never before wholly perceived in reality. What would it be like if you could rekindle your imagination? Who has time for that? You may ask, ”Why would I want to? I am not a creative person! What is the point?”

I am glad that you are asking “Why?” because that means you are curious.

What does it mean to be Curious?

Let me give you Webster’s definition of curious; there are three. 1) Eager to learn; 2) Unduly inquisitive; prying; 3) Arousing interest because of novelty. Read this again! Does anyone want to appear unduly prying, or feel as though they are arousing interest because they are a novelty? I contend that even when we allow ourselves curiosity, we are restricted by the parameters of what it means to be a good person in polite society. Curiosity is pretty much bred out of us, except in structured or controlled environments – in which case it is no longer genuine but contrived.

We are told from the time we are little that too much curiosity can get us into trouble. So we learn to do what is in front of us, do what we are told and taught in good faith; doing this will get us the success we aspire to. We stop asking questions – at least questions that don’t allow for an answer we already think we know. I believe that when we go along with this guidance, which most children do, a piece of us dies; that innocent, childlike Essence within us is given no room to play beyond our early years – unless we carve it out for ourselves and make it happen.

The reactivation of my curious imagination

In my work as a psychotherapist and a healer of deeply hidden emotions, as well as in my personal life, the reactivation of my imagination has meant everything to me. I remember the first summer my son came home from college after my husband and I had separated. He was sullen, and did not speak to me much unless it came out angry.  He was also displaying typical teenage boy behavior of not picking up after himself and not actively looking for a summer job. If the family hadn’t been going through a major adjustment, I might have just harassed him.

Instead, I decided to allow my imagination to help me. I began to ask my inner wisdom, “What can I say to him that would create a doorway into his silence that wouldn’t offend him or make our relationship more tenuous?” By living in this question for a few days and not succumbing to my frustration, one morning upon waking a simple idea came to me.

I asked him if I could ask him a question, and when he said yes I asked, “Are you not talking to me because you are mad at me or because you are just mad?”  His response was, “I am just mad.” I sighed in relief and told him, I was happy it wasn’t me, and I was here for him. Within a few minutes he started to talk. His talking to me came from a place of trust with him, because I was simply curious without an agenda. This short conversation set the stage for a heartfelt summer versus one of adversity. It took a couple of days of asking myself the question, and searching for a new way of being with my young adult son, to come up with something that simple.  However, the time and result were well worth it.

Without our curiosity…

I contend that without our curiosity, our unabashed (without judgment or preconceived notions) ability to ask “what is this?” even when this is something we have seen a hundred time before and we think we know but we want to see with new eyes, we are very close to being automatons: Human machines that do pretty much the same thing everyday.

The alternative

When we are willing to ask, “What is this?” and we ask with genuine willingness to put aside whatever we think we know and allow our inner wisdom to form a mental image of something not present to our senses or current reality, we open a window to a new sense of aliveness. When I was willing to assume I didn’t know what was going on in my son and start from there, it opened a doorway into a summer of conversation instead of stress.

When we are willing to use curiosity coupled with imagination, we are activating our right brain, and bringing a new balance into our bodies. We activate an aliveness within ourselves that creates satisfaction and a sense of connection. Curiosity, combined with a willingness to be imaginative in ways we think or believe we have forgotten, opens doors of infinite possibilities in whatever areas of our lives are stale, or stifling and dreadful. Try it! See what your inner wisdom will bring alive in you.

A great resource for activating your right brain and imagination is “Breaking The Rules” by Kurt Wright.

Please leave a comment below!

Image: Salvatore Vuono / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Ruth Kellogg has extensive experience in both the worlds of psychotherapy and business. She has owned her own businesses for 30 years, and has been a licensed therapist since 1986. While she has not always been in the healing arts, the healing arts have always been her passion. Ruth is a gifted intuitive who uses her ability to uncover the emotional pain her clients carry in the invisible pockets of their unconscious emotional body, mind, and spirit continuum. She helps them to release the pain that silently runs their lives and anchors the beliefs that keep unwanted recurring patterns in place. Find her online at http://www.RuthKellogg.com and on Twitter @ruthkellogg.

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The Goldfinches’ Guide to Creativity


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A few years ago, my sister (Hi, Casey!) gave me a very cool birthday present: A bag of cotton wool in a cotton net bag, designed to hang next to the bird feeder. Why? So goldfinches (my favorite bird) could use the cotton wool in their nest building.

It worked great, too! The goldfinches loved it, and I had a blast watching them pull out tufts nearly as large as themselves and fly away with it.

The following year I went to my neighborhood bird-feeding supply store, but I couldn’t find anything similar. Hmm. I went to the local Big Box pet supply store and trolled the Wild Bird Supplies aisle. Nothing.

“Hmm,” I thought, “now what do I do?” I picked up the cat food and cat litter that were also on the list (yes, they enjoy watching the birds, too), and on the way past the Domesticated Rodent aisle, I had an idea.

“What if I could re-purpose something made for different animals?”

I went to the Domesticated Rodent (hamsters, gerbils, guinea pigs, etc.) bedding section, and Aha! Tucked in between the bags of cedar shavings was… cotton wool! I picked up a bag of mixed cotton wool and grasses, feeling quite smug.

Until I realized it didn’t come with a mesh bag for hanging it next to the bird feeder, since it wasn’t intended for the birds. Hmm.

Suddenly my mind flashed on the suet feeder I had recently retired for the summer. It was made of coated wire mesh with openings the perfect size for little bird beaks. Aha! What if I re-purposed something that was intended for something else?

I went home and pulled out the suet feeder (which had been washed thoroughly before going into storage), filled it loosely with grass and cotton wool, and hung it next to the feeder. Success! The goldfinches loved it!

Well, they half-loved it. They used the cotton wool but not the grass. Oh well, that’s ok.

The following Spring, however, when I put out the grass/cotton mixture again, I had a pleasant surprise: The grasses were very popular with the titmice that came to the feeder, and a family of phoebes moved in and took advantage of it, too!

So my willingness to try something new, to re-purpose something, not only solved my problem for the goldfinches, it also solved another problem I didn’t even know I had: How to provide nesting materials for other birds as well.

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How often in business, and in life, are you faced with a challenge that requires some creative problem-solving? Pretty often, I’ll wager. But I’ll bet you don’t think of that as being creative.

It is.

If you are willing to apply your curiosity to something and ask a positive “What if…” the answer is probably going to be a creative solution.

Creativity isn’t necessarily about painting or composing music. And it certainly isn’t about coloring inside the lines.

Yes, you are creative, too. Or you can be. Ask, “What would happen if (fill in the blank)?” Try something new.

Sometimes “the right tool for the right job” isn’t available. But you can create new possibilities.

The goldfinches – and the titmice and the phoebes – are glad I did.

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Photo by: Qiang Wu, Dreamstime.com

Captains Curious: Curiosity, People-Watching and Business Reconnaissance


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest contributing member is Christie Halmick! To learn about the other Captains Curious, please click here.

An Introvert Uses Curiosity

As an introvert, curiosity is a quiet endeavor. I can sit happily at the back of a room full of people and observe.

In Person

People-watching is an Olympic sport for me. At every concert, party and business conference my way of working the room is to identify the mini soap operas in progress. Who is alone in the room and why? Why does that lady in the corner have on so much eye liner? Who will be sneaking out of the party later for a clandestine meeting?

Attend any networking event and instead of plunging right into swapping business cards, stand back a bit and see how fast you can identify the star of the show. She’ll be working the room, joking with her fellow cast members, accepting drinks bought just for her and later will confide to you that everyone in the room (except for you) owes her favors.

You won’t believe she has the audacity to tell you this. But opportunities to get a clear view of the business landscape in your industry come to the quietly curious. You just have to keep an eye on all the players and your mouth shut.

The same is true online.

I don’t even have to leave my house anymore to watch my small hometown business soap operas play out on Facebook. I can connect the dots “Kevin Bacon style” between groups of business and marketing people on LinkedIn.

I know who is friends with whom on the biggest blogs in my industry, just by keeping up with blog comments and product launches. I’ve overheard many titillating conversations, that I’d never be privy to in real life, play out on Twitter. For an introvert like me, this is people-watching at its finest.

So what makes this more than just a spectator sport?

If you need to do business research, want to know who the players are in your industry or are looking for a good partner for a joint venture, be curious. Even if you are normally an extrovert, try on an introvert’s Curiosity Hat for a while.

Watch what’s happening on the various social media channels, see what topics are popular, see who’s connected to whom, be curious about how people talk to (and about) each other and their businesses online. And instead of shouting all this info to the roof tops, store it away for later.

My curiosity has led me down a winding road of Twitter connections to great business coaches like Sarah Robinson (http://escaping-mediocrity.com) and to amazingly supportive groups like LaVonne Ellis’s Customer Love (http://makecustomersloveyou.com).

All these connections, which are helping me grow my business, wouldn’t have come about if I wasn’t curious about what other people are doing online and why.

But here’s where people-watching from the sidelines officially ends and curiosity has to go public:

If I want to play my part now, I have to step out of my comfort zone and use all the information I’ve gathered in my people-watching phase to strike up a conversation. No one’s going to notice me (or you) sitting silently in the back of the room, but they will notice and be curious about someone who has taken the time to notice them.

Please leave a comment below!

Image: FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Christie Halmick copy writes and designs brilliant websites and ebooks for entrepreneurial women. You can find her at: http://jewelsbranch.com and on Twitter: @jewelsbranch


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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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Captains Curious: Why Are Some People More Curious Than Others?


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Welcome to Captains Curious, a weekly series of guest posts on the subject of Curiosity. The newest member of Captains Curious is Karim Benyagoub! To learn about the series and the other Captains Curious, please click here.

I’ve always been curious

I’ve always been curious about many things:

  • How were spaghettis living in the deep sea manufactured? (Being a kid I didn’t know they were marine creatures!)
  • Why did the horizon on the Mediterranean Sea, from my balcony, form a 3° inclination with my mason’s level?
  • Why is it that when you were younger, time seemed to go a lot slower? And the more you age, the faster time goes by?
  • Why do we live moments we feel we already lived in the past? (Ok, I’m sure you asked yourself that one many times too.)

Those are just few of my past curiosities, but what intrigued me for good is the effect that graphic and musical arts have on my aesthetic senses. When in front of beauty, I always ask my self: “How is it made? Why is it so beautiful? How can I produce the same effect?” And that’s how I learned to draw by myself, and play music with imaginary instruments, then digital ones.

How curiosity makes me discover hidden secrets

In my school days, and life in general, curiosity always helped me to focus on important questions dismissed by the vast majority. Many times it made me pierce the “truth.”

But what I observed is that people around me never seem to notice irregular phenomena – like the 3° inclination of our sea’s horizon – or try to understand what caused some observable facts like when I told one of my dreams to someone and saw the events come true.

If people didn’t understand what happened, they just denied it, or said something was wrong with the measuring tools or their own sight, or that it was coincidence! I can’t tell enough how frustrating it was to endure people’s absence of curiosity or, even worse, total denial.

Today, even though I still feel a little like an extraterrestrial, I’m very glad I can have that kind of curiosity because it lets me learn new amazing things.

The Curiosity who killed the cat

I had this “curiosity that killed the cat” in my adolescence, like many I’m sure, but no longer now; too-personal details about people is not what I am curious about.

When we want to know someone we like, there’s nothing more natural than our need to discover some aspects of his/her life. True. But I wouldn’t want to learn any too intimate details about anyone, unless it happens within a private discussion with that particular person.

On the other hand, I ask myself: Why are some people that curious about other people’s lives, but never do anything positive with their findings? They just talk about it with their curious mates, with no clear objective. Why, exactly? I wonder.

My musical curiosity; back to the source

I like to be curious about what makes music so hooky or groovy. For example, I choose a musical hit and reverse engineer it to its source(s) of inspiration that the artist used in the first place: It’s amazing how people in general don’t recognize some obviously famous music compositions from the past, which are adapted by some trendy artists today.

Isn’t it funny when someone listens to an original composition and says “Oh, they plagiarized my favourite singer!” But they don’t realize they just listened to the original music piece! When you tell them the truth about all their latest favourite music hits, people fall into total denial and distrust once again. I’m used to those reactions now.

Here’s how I listen to music I like: The first thing I’m curious about is, what was the artist’s inspiration? What were their influences? It’s fine to appreciate today’s art productions, but if we don’t study their sources and influences, then how could we fully appreciate their new contribution?

I almost succeeded to make them curious

I often share my curious questions with family and friends, but one simple curiosity I have is: Why aren’t they curious? Why do they settle with what they know and never seem to want to learn something new? Or think about possible answers to unanswered questions? How would it be possible to open their appetite for curiosity, or for learning new things?

When I thought I was about to succeed in making someone permanently curious about a subject, they suddenly found an excuse to escape from any further thinking; it looked as if someone slapped them to wake them up. That’s really funny to see.

What’s happened then? Is it a lack of patience? Short focus span? Fear to discover the truth? I really wonder. Maybe you know that secret answer.

Now It’s Your Turn!

What are you curious about? Please share your curious thoughts, experiences or questions in the comments below, or just type whatever crosses your mind right now, we’re curious to know!

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Karim Benyagoub is a graphic designer and digital music artist in Algeria; you can follow him on Twitter at @KarimBenyagoub. http://twitter.com/KarimBenyagoub



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Sea Anemone image by OpenCage.info under Creative Commons’s Attribution-ShareAlike 2.5 license



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