It’s often said that the role of learning is to grow – that by acquiring knowledge we somehow grow up, grow old or grow wise. But I actually don’t think this is true. When learning truly excites us, we might grow as a person, but actually we don’t grow up, old or wise. The more we learn, the more we become curious, childlike, and questing of mind, as we seek answers and begin to seek yet more questions.
But to be a Knowledge Ninja, curiosity is a wonderful thing. So here’s my invitation to you. At every stage of your learning and at every stage of your life, be curious. Be annoyingly curious. About everything. Because indeed every single thing that’s pushed the human race forward was born from curiosity. It was born not from a grown-up, sensible person who knew it all; it was born out of a childlike sense of wonder. In an age where the facts are at our fingertips (as soon as the exam is over!), the paradox of learning is this: only from working out what we don’t know do we learn new things.
Curiosity is an important trait of a genius. I don’t think you can find an intellectual giant who is not a curious person. Thomas Edison, Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Richard Feynman, they are all curious characters. Richard Feynman was especially known for his adventures which came from his curiosity.
In the future, businesses and societies will reward the innovators, the entrepreneurs, the creatives – the people who ask a lot of questions and seek answers and solutions. It is precisely for this reason that you owe it to yourself to be devilishly curious and childish. Here’s a few ways you can do this:
1. Be comfortable with messy. Reject the perfection brainwashing from school and don’t be afraid to do things differently. ‘Good enough’ beats ‘perfect’ every time.
2. Don’t be afraid to experiment. If you don’t know how to do something, mess about. Play with ideas, try new things. If something doesn’t work, you can always tear it up and start again. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.
3. Stand out, don’t blend in. Ignore your lizard brain. True, the old rules say creativity and difference are shame-inducing threats to the status quo. The new rules are that creativity and difference will become the status quo. The things that make you stand out are your gifts to the world and it’s your duty to share them.
4. Play. It’s one of the most childish things you can do, but some of the most sophisticated ideas in the world have come from playing freely – from beautiful designs to tech solutions to works of art. Muck around, play games, be weird, be silly.
5. Remember what it is you want to be when you grow up. This will remind you why you chose to learn – because it’s always a choice. Stay motivated by recalling what inspired you to start in the first place and the things you’re hoping for when you reach the finish line. But above all, enjoy the journey , and gaze out of the window often, because you never know what you might miss.
6. And finally, do one thing that we tend to not be so good at when we’re children: share. Share what you learn. Share what you do. Share what you love. Share your curiosities and your sense of wonder with the world. Who else is going to push the human race forward just that tiny bit more, if not you?