Curiosity Saved the Cat & Created an Expert

Updated: August 13, 2012

Christopher Hutton

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This essay is by Chris Hutton.

Curiosity is central to all that we do to educate ourselves.  It is what drives our desires, our need to learn, and much more.   In fact, as I’ve grown throughout my life, I found that curiosity began to appear more and more for me, as opposed to the myth I was taught; that as we grow older, we grow bored with life.

Of course, what men did this?  We hear of men like Einstein and Benjamin Franklin, brilliant men who dabbled in all forms of arts, searched for answers, and created ideas to inform themselves on.  These men were considered the “Renaissance Men” of their day, driven by a sheer desire to know and understand the world around them.

Unfocused or Unhindered?

But if these men were so unfocused, how on earth could they have been the experts in their respective fields?  Developing expertise requires one to have a specialized focus for years, allowing no distractions or disruptions to affect them, correct?

It appears so, but that isn’t natural for most.  There are quite a few individuals who have passions and interests invested in many fields.  They are what Emilie Wapnick of calls a “Multi-Potentialite”.  These people are driven from the heart, and want to do and cause big things, but cannot choose one topic.  These individuals are often quite comprehensive in their knowledge and experience.

For most of these experts, it was never a necessity to learn.  It was the opportunity to learn itself that fueled.

Curiosity is what drives people to become experts.

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The 2 Forms of Curiosity

But there are two practical forms of curiosity: primary curiosity and secondary curiosity.

Primary curiosity is the form of curiosity based in one’s desire for mastery of the topic as the end goal.  For example, I’m curious about how gaming psychology affects our work and play because it sounds interesting. This curiosity is one that one naturally develops in connection to a hobby or a pastime.  It’s a natural interest.

Secondary curiosity is a form of curiosity that exists for people who desire to know something in order to get a result.  For example, I’m curious about learning how to drive a car with a manual transmission in order to impress my parents as well as just being able to know that.  This kind of curiosity is most likely for us, for we are purpose-driven beings, who desire to know things in order to complete a certain goal.  

Curiosity Driven Experts

Both of these forms of curiosity are essential to who we are as human beings.  We need to know things in order to fulfill our daily and life-long duties.

But too few of us see value in the issue of learning for learning’s sake.  We just go along in life, mastering topics as need declares it to be.  But which of these learning styles develop true experts?  One can become an expert on a topic by having a reason to become so.

The problem with this approach is that once one has fulfilled their duties, there is no reason to continue learning.  They can just stop.

The curious-driven expertise is more thorough.  Instead of learning just what is necessary, these seekers are able to learn that which is accessible, which can be anything and everything pertaining to the topic.  In doing this, it makes education and analysis that much easier.

In knowing more, one can be more.  And in being more, one can be the more/most reliable one of the topic.

How to Encourage Curiosity Driven Experts

1. Determine your reasons:  When one wants to learn for curiosity’s sake, the learning must come effectively and joyfully.  Hence, it’s worth encouraging this mindset of seeking to learn topics that naturally bring us joy and fulfillment.

2. Give yourself a kick-start: Most of us are born with natural curiosity, but we don’t practice it.  So, it’s worth starting with small topics that fascinate us (like local history, skateboarding tactics, and underwater basket weaving) before mastering complex topics (like psychology, philosophy and the intricate method of cooking a quiche).

But no matter where you are, or where you’re working from, you can spark your interest and fuel your road to becoming expertise by way of the natural tool of curiosity.

What is one topic that naturally piques your curiosity?

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