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How to Be Curious

This post builds on yesterday’s post on the Curious Blogger.

Is curiosity a personality trait or can it be learned?

I suspect that personality type does come into being curious. Some people seem to be naturally wired in a way where they’re doing the above things – however I also think that it is something that can be learned to some extent. Here are 12 starting points for becoming ‘more curious’:

1. Don’t accept Spin

Keep an eye on the ‘official word’ and press releases that you see – but don’t accept that they are the final word. Get in the habit of asking ‘what isn’t being said?’ Allow yourself to be a little critical – (but balance it with optimism).

2. Ask Questions

Curious people are always asking questions of others around them (and themselves). Be careful that you don’t do this to the point where you become known as a gossip or in a way that people feel ‘used’ – but get in the habit of asking the questions that might normally go unasked. It’s amazing what people will tell you when you do ask the question.

3. Ask ‘What if…’

One of the key questions you should get in the habit of asking is ‘what if’? Curious people don’t just ask but they come up with solutions – they dream up ways of solving problems. Many of the solutions will end up being thrown away but if you ask ‘what if’ enough times you’re bound to make progress eventually.

4. ‘Turn Questions into Quests’

An old teacher once used this phrase with me and it’s stuck in my mind ever since.asking ‘what if…’ (and other questions) is not enough. Keep a record of the questions that you ask yourself (and that your readers ask you) and revisit them from time to time to attempt to find a solution to the problems behind the questions. Taking your questions to the next level like this may not always be fruitful but at times it’ll lead you on journeys of discovery to unexpected places.

5. Dig deeper than the RSS feed

Keep in mind that you’ll not be the only person in your niche using the tools mentioned above. As a result if all you ever do is regurgitate what you find in them the result will be a blog that is very similar to what others are writing in your niche. Develop a network of contacts, make your own news, dig around other information sources and at times you’ll get lucky and find news that is unique.

6. Use available Tools

Familiarize yourself with tools that will help you gather and filter information. Tools like Technorati, news aggregators, blog pulse, Topix, Google News etc are all tools that help you keep your finger on the pulse of your niche.

7. Put disconnected ideas together

Edward De Bono has a lot of different exercises that help people develop lateral thinking skills. I’ve read a number of his books that give suggestions on putting random ideas together to find new solutions and find that using them is great and will help you come up with ideas that you’d never dreamt of previously.

8. Play

Perhaps the most curious of ‘creatures’ are children who do a lot of what we’re writing about here (especially asking questions). Another thing that children do is ‘play’. With no other agenda than having fun and seeing what happens next children will play with the things around them, experiment and push the boundaries of their environment. In doing so they learn about life, themselves and their world. I find that it’s often when I take this ‘playful’ approach to life that I’m at my most creative and make all kinds of discoveries.

9. Get Proactive

One of the main things that I notice about curious people are that they rarely sit still and are always pushing forward and taking initiative. They don’t expect stories or ideas to just come to them (although they do at times) but actively search for ideas to write about and people to connect with. They have a mindset where it almost becomes natural to ask, seek and find the things that the rest of us hope that will one day fall in our laps.

10. Network

A lot of what I covered in my last post on the characteristics of curious bloggers related to their ability to connect with others. Reach out to other bloggers in your niche (email them, comment on their blogs, help them improve their blogs etc) but also your readers (as you’ll find all kinds of interesting contacts among them).

11. Find a ‘Curiosity Buddy’

As you network – keep your eyes open for other curious people to spend time with. I have a number of other curious and creative bloggers who I naturally am drawn to that from time to time I spend a little time with to do some blue sky thinking with. I find that the ideas often flow through such collaboration.

12. Slow Down

Blogging is an immediate and at times fast paced medium. It’s easy to be overwhelmed by the possibilities and feel under pressure to have to produce high quantities of content day in day out – however if you don’t stop occasionally to reflect upon and make space for the above things you’ll be unlike to actually benefit from them.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Dave Starr says:

    Great advice here, Darren. One of the things I notice (and get bored with) are the number of people whom I _know_ to be intelligent who will just succumb to the ‘me too’ syndrome in their niche. If Matt Cutts blogs something then 27 people blog with essentially the same message … “today Matt said black was really white, wow I didn’t know that, black must really be white”. If Darren puts a chicken on his main page then putting a chicken on my site will make me a fortune too *smile*.

    The value of the blogosphere (in my view) is the diversity and the broad range of intelligence of the bloggers … but no one is equally smart at everything. Challenging other’s thoughts and “conventional wisdom” leads to many new ideas and helps everyone learn.

  2. Mike says:

    > Is curiosity a personality trait or can it be learned?

    I think it is something we forget as we go from all-questioning-kids to know-it-all adults.

  3. Darren, #1 on your list is, in my opinion, by far the most important factor when it comes to being curious, inquisitive, expirimental, etc., etc. Indeed, the other points on the list are also major.

    Today I’m focusing on “using available tools”, being that I just recently started my blog. Yesterday I had great success with Feedburner and will dig into adding additional useful features this evening.

  4. jhay says:

    Curiousity has always led to new things. So it pays to be curious and be a blogger at the same time. The challenge is, how to develop and not to loose one’s child-like curiousity.

  5. Agreed, Jhay. I personally do a variety of activities to keep my mind limber and be exposed to new, interesting things that stimulate my mind. Everything from developing my blog, to playing a game of checkers can help to keep one’s curiousity healthy.

  6. Chase says:

    I am going to go “play” now. Thinking about useing a spoon and a Bible. Maybe I will discoving some great way of doing things. And if I sound sarcastic I am, but in a way that is honestly thinking, “what would that do?”

    Great ideas, not sure if you anwsered “Can people become creative” bit, but still good stuff to try and use.

  7. This was an excellent post. Thanks! I’m looking for ways to improve the value of and traffic to my blog, so this was a good read. Ever since attending the Anthony Robbins seminars, I have been fascinated by the power of questions. I have found this most useful in striking up conversations with strangers. It has helped me get through some boring evenings in a room full of people I didn’t know. I’m going to work on how I can integrate questions into my blog more often. Thanks again.

  8. Coopz says:

    If it wasn’t for curiosity the world would not be where it is with it’s discoveries etc. If people hadn’t wondered or dreamed of what was on the other side of the world then there would be no America or Australia ;)

    “Dreams are necessary to life.” Anais Nin

  9. Great advice. This applicable to how you should live life, not just writing your blogs.

  10. Enhance Life says:

    Thank you for your valuable advice. I recently started a blog of my own.Most of the ground work I learnt from you blog.

  11. _leech_ says:

    Very good writeup, especially #5. I find that too many blogs (including some of the past incarnations of mine) tend to just regurgitate news without offering anything unique to their readers. Still, it’s hard getting an audience.

  12. Kloudiia says:

    Rather than saying “Curiousity kills the cat” I’d much believe in “Curiousity builds the brain”.

    Yes, I can’t agree more with your list Darren. The part on interaction with blogger, sharing ideas with each other is a real gem.

    Something I always do when I read other blogs is besides learning the knowledge that’s being presented, I will do this internal thinking and see how I can link it to love, relationship and marriage, and see how does that fit into my blog. This has worked very well for me I find, as I usually can get new ideas or insights.

  13. excellent your post!!

  14. Ray Dotson says:

    Good points and I believe the idea of curiosity is definitely more widely applicable to other areas of life, too. I wrote a post on my blog in response to this that discusses how being curious is an important part of the character of every person who is successful. Curiosity tends to be mixed in with motivation and desire and this combination produces success.

  15. I agree totally that curiosity can be learned, or more specifically, re-learned. All kids are naturally curious, but we sort of get rusty at it when we get older. I think a lot has to do with being afraid to look stupid by asking questions, or by admitting that we don’t have all the answers. Also, it’s easy to get into a rut, whereby we forget to ask “why?” and “why not?” altogether. It reminds me of the classic response to the question, “Why do we do things this way?” which is, “Because we’ve always done them this way!” Throughout history, the great ones find a way to stay curious.

  16. I really appreciated #11. Having a curiosity buddy is critical. Curiosity can be re-learned. I think everyone should get started by asking one interesting question a day. Think about it–when was the last time you asked a really interesting question–because you were curious? Or, when was the last time you were asked a really interesting question that actually left you curious…?

  17. fith says:

    you see,Albert Einstein admits that he is not a genious,he said he’s just curious about things :)

  18. Andi says:

    I like all of your suggestions for elevating curiosity. I also would add that choosing to be interested is another vehicle for creating curiosity. We all have a choice when we engage with people or situations, we can practice curiosity by choosing to be interested in one or more elements that appear before us.

    I also would add that actively using “beginners mind” helps. This is what children have that we sometimes lose as adults because we want to “knowing” in order to look good, feel credible or appear knowledgeable. This is human, but blocks curiosity.

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  1. Springtime says:

    Passion and Money: The Pro-Blogging Dilemma…

    About four years ago, Darren Rowse of ProBlogger.net started his first blog and was hooked. Since then he’s started at least 16 more blogs on various topics that can all be monetized, and he’s now one of the most famous “professional bloggers” in t…

  2. [...] What do you call those things that you write on your website or blog? Do you call them posts or articles? How about entries? Different people call them different things, but sometimes the same person will call them different things at different times. Follow that? [...]

  3. [...] Darren follows up his initial post with a discussion of How To Be Curious. Can curiosity be learned? I think we can agree that as children we are all naturally curious, but that this trait is often suppressed as we grow older in order to focus on the priorities placed in front of us by society and our environment. I would prefer to ask how we can rekindle this spark of curiosity. At any rate, it’s an interesting article and as far as blogging goes, also touches on some of the things I talked about in How To Participate in the Blogging Community. It’s worth a read. Share this post:These icons link to social bookmarking sites where readers can share and discover new web pages. [...]

  4. [...] written previously on the topic of curiosity because I’m convinced that it is an essential skill to build as a blogger. Learning to ask [...]