How To Be Curious + Why It's Worth Cultivating


“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.” 
― Albert Einstein


I spent some time listening to Tim Ferriss' podcast episode with Walter Isaacson and the main takeaway was: Be more curious. Isaacson has spent a good amount of time studying Leonardo da Vinci, Ben Franklin, Steve Jobs + more and it became clear to me that the capacity of the human mind is absolutely extraordinary. Leonardo Da Vinci's to do list puts mine to shame. Most of us want to finish the laundry, meal prep, finish that work project, pick up the kids. Welp -- THIS is Leonardo' list:

  • [Calculate] the measurement of Milan and Suburbs
  • [Find] a book that treats of Milan and its churches, which is to be had at the stationer’s on the way to Cordusio
  • [Discover] the measurement of Corte Vecchio (the courtyard in the duke’s palace).
  • [Discover] the measurement of the castello (the duke’s palace itself)
  • Get the master of arithmetic to show you how to square a triangle.
  • Get Messer Fazio (a professor of medicine and law in Pavia) to show you about proportion.
  • Get the Brera Friar (at the Benedictine Monastery to Milan) to show you De Ponderibus (a medieval text on mechanics)
  • [Talk to] Giannino, the Bombardier, re. the means by which the tower of Ferrara is walled without loopholes (no one really knows what Da Vinci meant by this)
  • Ask Benedetto Potinari (A Florentine Merchant) by what means they go on ice in Flanders
  • Draw Milan
  • Ask Maestro Antonio how mortars are positioned on bastions by day or night.
  • [Examine] the Crossbow of Mastro Giannetto
  • Find a master of hydraulics and get him to tell you how to repair a lock, canal and mill in the Lombard manner
  • [Ask about] the measurement of the sun promised me by Maestro Giovanni Francese
  • Try to get Vitolone (the medieval author of a text on optics), which is in the Library at Pavia, which deals with the mathematic.

WHAT?!?!? What a cool dude. I mean, come on. Puts my to do list to shame and quite honestly this list sort of convicts me of my own mental and intellectual laziness. 

Why wouldn't we choose to live a life of passion, love of ideas and learning, of curiosity? I love thinking about cultivating curiosity as another method of meditation. Most people think meditation is sitting in silence and breathing. But I challenge you to break the rules a bit -- find meditation in your morning run, in creating a list of curiosities, in daily observation through all the senses. I'm going to try this for a while and will report back. In the meantime:

Benefits of Becoming Curious

  • Increases focus and observation skills

  • You become more present

  • Life becomes more beautiful, more passionate, more exciting

  • It's good for your memory, as well as cognitive function

  • You can be as cool as Leo, up here.

Ways to Cultivate Curiosity

  • Each day, make a list of things you want to learn about. Pick one and do the research.
  • Meditation: I say this a lot, but awareness is such an important part of having a healthy mind. Essentially, practice the art of presence puts your mind in active mode, rather than passive mode.
  • When you become curious about something, allow your mind to wander and to go down the rabbit hole of that idea. Have a little fun!
  • Take time out of your day to simple notice and observe. What do you see all around you? What smells are present? How does it feel? Can you taste anything? What about sounds?

What do you think? Are you a curious person? Have you shut the part of your brain down, even a little? I know I have. Would love to hear what you think!