Tag Archives | Ideas

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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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.

Captains Curious: Conquering the Curse of Curiosity


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

Try Not To Have Ideas

Here’s a guaranteed way to come up with half a dozen ideas: Sit down in a quiet room with no distractions and try to clear your mind of all thoughts. Give it, say, half an hour. At the end of your time, write down all the ideas that popped into your head while you were trying not to have them.

The Curse: Suddenly You’re In a Bind

This is The Curse of Curiosity. Every time you get started on something, your brain starts asking curious questions: “Ooh! How about this? Or that?” And suddenly you’re in a bind: Do you keep slogging away at the boring old idea that has just been completely eclipsed by your exciting new revelation and risk forgetting it, or do you drop everything and set out on the new adventure?

It’s a difficult balance to find. If you always slog on, you risk your brain getting the message that its brilliant ideas are worthless, which makes it that much harder to generate good ideas when you need them. If you always switch to the new idea, you never finish anything (and my hard drive full of incomplete stories, websites and other assorted pieces of work is testament to that).

My Solution: A Middle Way

My favorite solution to The Curse is a middle way: Write the idea down, no matter how crazy, then finish what I’m doing.

The ideas I’ve written down then go in a safe place – I keep them in a marmalade jar, but you might prefer a file on your computer or a notebook – to be dipped into when I’m feeling uninspired (or have some rare free time). Charlie Gilkey came up with a brilliant metaphor, calling this safe place your ‘idea garden’ – somewhere you put your ideas to grow, although you have to look after it carefully to get the best results.

Having Ideas Is Easy. The Hard Part Is…

Having ideas is easy. Picking which ones to act on now is the hard part.

There are worse curses to be under, though: Imagine never having ideas. Now, that would be a real curse.

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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 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.

Creativity, Problem Solving and Apple Pie with Cheddar Cheese


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I don’t like salads with apples in them.

I just don’t. It’s a quirk, I admit it. I love apples, though, and the handy-dandy apple slicer that you place over your apple and push down to core and slice your apple in one easy motion changed my eating habits forever. (That and my salad spinner.)

So why would I even think about, much less LOVE, a grilled steak and cheese sandwich with sliced apples in it?

Well, I was making lunch the other day and looking for inspiration in the refrigerator. I found the remains of a piece of steak, some cheddar cheese, and some good bread. Sounded like a good sandwich to me. I wanted to put something green in it to give it a little zip, though, and I didn’t have any greens. (OK, I did, but they weren’t green any more and they were in the garbage.) But I did have some apples (Granny Smiths, to be exact).

What made me think about slicing an apple ever so thinly and putting some slices in my sandwich? I don’t know, aside from the fact that I hadn’t eaten an apple in a while and I didn’t want to have a plain bread-and-meat-and-cheese sandwich. I wanted something just a little healthier. I thought about the apples in the fridge, and at first I thought, “Eeeew.” But then I thought about apple pie with cheddar cheese on it, and I thought about a nice grilled sandwich, and I decided to give it a try.

That was a darn good sandwich! Everything was nicely warmed through and the cheese was nice and gooey and the apples weren’t hard and cold and edgy; they were warm but still crisp and apple-y. In fact, it was so good that I made it again the next day and it was good the second time, too.

It’s not about my food habits and quirky tastes. It’s about creativity.

You might be wondering why I’m telling you this. It’s not about my food habits and quirky tastes. It’s about creativity. And about being willing to try something new.

I learned something important about creativity and problem solving from this: Although sometimes the best solution is something completely new and disruptive, sometimes the best solution is something that works in another context but hasn’t yet been tried in this context.

When was the last time you were stuck for ideas, and the only idea you had was so far-fetched that you didn’t think anyone would try it? Or it was so far-fetched that you wouldn’t even try it?

The next time you – or your client – is stuck between a rock and a hard place, think up a crazy idea and ask yourself, “Is there a connection to something else here that makes this reasonable?” (Like apple pie with cheddar cheese.) Or, ask yourself, “What can I do to the old solution to change it just a couple of notches so that it works here?”

I’d love to hear from you about a time you came up with a solution to a problem by thinking of a connection that made sense in another context.

Bobby Fischer Teaches Systems Thinking


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Yes, Systems Thinking. Disguised as chess.

One of the great challenges that faces small business people – and big business people – is tunnel vision. Ever wondered how it can be dangerous, and how you can overcome it? Consider the following…

I’m reading “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess.” No, I’m not a brainiac. I’m just a person who has taken up chess again after more than 30 years and I’m tired of getting my pants beaten off. So my chess partner recommended this book, and after a few more humiliating defeats I went out and bought it.

I go to bed with Bobby Fischer. I ride the train with Bobby Fischer. And I have to say, this is a great book. It’s very simple, consisting of picture after picture of scenarios where you’re asked to identify whether or how one side could either checkmate the other or escape checkmate. You’re given the answer on the next page.

Like I said, very simple. My six year old niece could probably absorb this very quickly and then she could beat my pants off, too.

Well, I’ve been reading the book, and one of the key lessons that are being pounded into my head is to remember to Watch The Entire Board. Brilliant strategies fail miserably when you overlook the one thing in that corner over there and a Bishop zooms in and takes your Queen. Ouch!

I was struck by another important lesson the other day. Bobby and I were taking the train into the city, and I was getting a lot of the answers right – more than half, anyway. There was one scenario where I was pretty sure the answer was, “No, White can not checkmate” Black in this scenario. I turned the page and…. Doh! Wrong again! What? Surely not! Oh. Again I was looking at the board with tunnel vision, thinking about the possibilities only in certain ways, and I completely forgot that a Queen can move diagonally as well as forward and backward. Doh! That’s pretty basic.

And so I would have missed an opportunity to solve a situation quickly because I forgot about the capabilities of one of my pieces.

Which made me think: How often do we in organizations fail to utilize all of the talents of the people on our teams because we overlook their ability to move diagonally as well as up and down? How often do we limit ourselves by forgetting our own capabilities? How often do we miss opportunities because we don’t even see the opening in that corner? Or we see it, but think, “Oh, I can’t do that” or “I don’t know anyone who can help.”

If you’re feeling stuck or at a loss for ideas, I highly recommend that you spend $7.99 on “Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess” – and that you read it. Not so you can obliterate your opponent, or even avoid getting shellacked by your opponent. But it may change the way you look at situations and people – including yourself.

And you’ll look like a brainiac on the train.

I’d Love to Start My Own Business, But…


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How many times have you said those words to yourself, or to someone else? If the answer is at least once, you’re not alone. But why do so few people take the plunge?

There are a lot of answers. One answer is security: Despite the common pitfalls of working for someone else, or for a big company, there is a great deal of appeal in knowing where your next paycheck comes from, in not having to go out and find your own health insurance, in not having to Sell (that’s a Four Letter Word). In not having to think much, really, about anything except the work itself. Is that a good enough reason to not take the plunge?

Don’t get me wrong, not everyone should go into business for themselves. For a lot of reasons. Only you can decide which are the right reasons to go into business or continue working for someone else.

But people do go into business for themselves all of the time. (And a lot of people are doing it right now.) Some are successful, some are not. Many are not successful the first time, but they keep trying. Others go back to The Corporate World.

If you are seriously thinking about launching your own business, there are a number of issues you will have to wrestle with, including being clear about why you want to do something this crazy, formulating your idea, coping with fear and uncertainty, dealing with isolation, accepting the fact that yes, you will have to Sell, balancing planning with action, and thinking about the type of business you want to run. (Hint: I don’t just mean your line of business or your niche. What kind of soul do you want your business to have?) Not to mention all of the traditional business issues like dealing with taxes, licenses, insurance, financial planning, and so on.

That list may be enough to make you thank your lucky stars for the boss you hate and the paycheck that’s too small and the benefits that are too expensive. Or make you call a recruiter instead of a CPA. But if you’ve thought that you might have a great idea for a business, or at least you’ve got a solid platform of experience that you could use in your own business, and you are willing to wrestle with this stuff, stay tuned. We’ll talk more in the coming days and weeks about these issues and about some of the other things to keep in mind as you consider taking the plunge, and I’ll share some of the things I’ve found helpful as I have gone down that path myself.

Stay tuned…

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