Great Minds Ask Great Questions

Tom Peters – Seth Godin – Leonardo da  Vinci: a unique trio?

All of us come into the world curious.

I saw it in the birth and development of each of my four children. In different but equally valid ways, I see it in my 5 1/2-year-old grandson, my 3-year-old granddaughter, my 1 year-old granddaughter, and my 5 month-old granddaughter.

We’ve all got it; the challenge is using and developing it for our own benefit. I think our curiosity is at its highest from birth through our first few years. A baby’s every sense is attuned to exploring and learning – everything is an experiment. They don’t know it yet; to them it’s just survival. Then in a few months, or years, their curiosity becomes vocal:

• Daddy, how do birds fly?

• Mommy, what does a worm eat?

• Why? How? When? What?

It’s easy to lose our curiosity as we grow into adulthood – after all, we think we know it all (or at least everything we need to know.)

Not really.

Great, growing, learning minds go on asking confounding questions with the same intensity as your curious three-year old. A childlike sense of wonder and insatiable curiosity will compel you to always be a learner.

From Seth Godin:

I’ve noticed that people who read a lot of blogs and a lot of books also tend to be intellectually curious, thirsty for knowledge, quicker to adopt new ideas and more likely to do important work. I wonder which comes first, the curiosity or the success?

From Tom Peters:

Swallow your pride, especially if you are a “top” boss. Ask until you understand. The “dumber” the question, the better! Ask! Ask! Ask! (Then ask again!). Above all, sweat the details – the weird, incomprehensible “little” thing that appears in Footnote #7 to Appendix C that doesn’t make sense to you. Probe until you find out what it means.

From Leonardo da Vinci:

Do you not see how many and varied are the actions which are performed by men alone? Do you not see how many different kinds of plants and animals there are? What variety of hilly and level places, and streams and rivers, exist? I roam the countryside searching for answers to things I do not understand. These questions engage my thought throughout my life.

A few questions for you:

• How curious are you?

• When was the last time you sought knowledge simply for the pursuit of truth?

• Do you know curious (really curious) people?

• Do you want to be a lifelong learner?

Without “why?” there can be no “here’s how to make it better.”


What I’m Re-Learning from a 9 Month Old…

I’ve made an astounding discovery: If you want a definition of curiosity and exploration, just watch a 9 month old discovering her surroundings.

A little backstory: while my son is going through basic training in the Air Force, our daughter-in-law and 9 month old granddaughter are living with my wife and me. It’s been a long time since we’ve had an infant in the house – over 18 years, in fact. Even with four children, I forgot how fascinating babies are – they are learning machines.

Babies are born with a deep desire to understand the world around them and an incessant curiosity that compels them to aggressively explore it. Even though she hasn’t yet begun to crawl more than a few feet at a time, my granddaughter is constantly in motion when she is on the floor – looking at objects, responding to sounds, grabbing things, and putting most of them in her mouth (GrandBob disclaimer: I only let her put Mom-approved objects in her mouth).

Babies younger than a year old will systematically analyze an object with every sensory weapon at their disposal. They will feel it, kick it (we have a budding soccer star on our hands), stick it in their mouth, stick it in their ear, and even give it to you to stick it in your mouth. I proved the last item at a cookout last night: after mauling my name tag, my granddaughter insisted that I put it in my mouth – which, of course, I promptly did.

Babies methodically do experiments on the objects in their universe to see what else they will do. We are natural explorers, and the tendency is so strong that it is capable of turning us into lifelong learners.

Music to my ears!

Our brains are not wired to outgrow the thirst for knowledge, but sadly, most of the time we are “educated” out of this natural curiosity. How sad.

As John Medina, author of the absolutely fantastic books “Brain Rules” and “Brain Rules for Baby” states:

The greatest Brain Rule of all is something I cannot prove or characterize, but I believe in with all my heart. As babies try to tell us and show us, it is the importance of curiosity.

What will you be curious about today?

For a few prior posts taking a look at specific topics from Medina’s book, click on these links:

Brain Power


Short-Term Memory



Also check out his books:

Brain Rules

Brain Rules for Baby