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Be curious

Good to see your curiosity is alive.

We are all born with a thriving curiosity; but, it gets killed off as we grow up. Perhaps this is because adults get annoyed by all the questions kids ask that they can't answer, so they eventually tell the kids to shut up, stop asking so many questions, stop being so curious, so that the adults don't feel so stupid. When the child grows up and receives a question that he doesn't know the answer to, then he does what the adults have taught him to do: tune out the question, or silence it in some way. Pretty soon, curiosity is unwelcome. This is absurd, because curiosity is the first step to discovery.

Has this happened to you? Have you succumbed to adulthood's anti-curiosity pressures and forgotten how much FUN it is to be curious? Perhaps you are worried about appearing childlike, or about what you'd discover with unabashed investigation. So what if you miss a day of email because you stayed in the bathtub too long playing with ants out of curiosity for how they find food (see Feynman note below). More likely, you may be afraid that your asking questions might reveal that you don't know something, something you think you should know. "I can't ask about that because I should know about that and if I ask then people will think I am stupid."

When I slip into this hole, one of the things I like to remember is:

What do you care what other people think?

This is what Richard Feymnan's wise wife said to him, I think one day when he was worried about how he appeared to everyone who drove by while he grilled some steaks alongside the freeway (or something like that...)

I highly recommend Feynman's books, especially the one "What do you care what other people think?" Here's a guy who was brilliant and fun, who when he was curious about something he didn't know would spend days playing with the questions, just trying to see what he could learn, even if it meant spending a few days in a tub.

Worrying what other people think is a huge waste of time. What's keeping you from learning and trying something new? It's so easy to type something on the web and begin a search of the literature. Or admit you don't know something somebody said, and ask them how to learn more about it. Scared of looking foolish? I'd rather look foolish and get to learn, than waste the moment looking like I know something instead of learning it. Usually it's a simple fear that's keeping you from a lot of fun and discovery. Scared of heights? Try skydiving! Turn your fears into fun. Go for it.

A favorite quote for those who let fear get in the way -- from the days when our nation's greatest leaders wrote their own speeches:

It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions, and spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumphs of high achievement; and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither defeat nor victory. - Theodore Roosevelt