Great things happen when you follow your curiosity. In fact, curiosity is the most consistent source of great art, innovation, and worldly contributions. That is to say, greatness starts with curiosity.
If you want to make or do something truly great then it must be new in some way. It can be a novel idea, a different way of putting things together, or just a unique perspective. But in all cases, new.
New things are hard to come up with because the only tangible references you can draw from are, by definition, old. Thus, to do something new (and great) you'll have to find a way to explore untouched areas, without any reference for how to do so. That's where curiosity works best. It's the most natural and intuitive way of doing unrestricted exploration.
Take the famous artist, architect, and renaissance man, Leonardo da Vinci. In his original notebooks, we see his mind dancing across all kinds of subjects and random ideas in an almost playful, childlike way. He draws people, animals, nature, and complex structures; sometimes artistically, other times quite randomly. He writes notes and makes calculations whenever and wherever he feels like it. He lets his mind wander, curiously, to whatever topic interests him at that moment in time. He asks himself questions such as:
- Why is the sky blue?
- What does the tongue of a woodpecker look like?
- Do a bird's wings move faster when flapping up or down?
- How is the pattern of swirling water similar to that of curling hair?
- Is the muscle of the bottom lip connected to that of the top lip?
Observed in isolation, these questions may seem silly; but they are an exercise of curiosity. That openness, that freedom of thought is what leads to grand and creative ideas. It led to Leonardo painting the Mona Lisa, designing model flying machines, and making major contributions to various fields of engineering. Freedom of thought and action, in other words, curiosity, allows you to explore the areas that you're most passionate about. That's where you'll be able to easily invest the most energy and focus, leading to excellence.
Albert Einstein was similar to Leonardo in following his curiosity. His famous Theory of Relativity started off as a side project outside of his day job at the patent office. He was curious as to why two people who were in different states of motion would perceive time differently, even though time should intuitively be the same for all. For most other people their conclusion was "who cares, a clock is a clock." But for Einstein, this curiosity had to be explored. His curiosity quickly turned into a passion, which turned into his Theory of Relativity.
"I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious."
– Albert Einstein
In our modern-day, it's all too common for people to stick to the same profession for life: "I'm a programmer," "I do sales," "I work in finance." But that's no way to stay curious or to learn new things or do great things. It's too restricting to support any kind of exploration, which means innovation and excellence are unlikely to happen. The highest contributors to the world have always explored their curiosity in many different fields.
- Leonardo da Vinci played at the intersection of art, biology, geography, architecture, engineering, physics, and chemistry. Why? Because he felt like it
- Albert Einstein played the violin, particularly Mozart when he felt like a break from exploring his curiosity in science. He used to say that music helped connect him with the harmony of the spheres
- Benjamin Franklin studied anatomy and botany, music and art, weaponry and military strategy, water engineering, and electricity. This led to contributions like charting out the Gulf Stream, inventing the lightning rod, and drafting the Declaration of Independence
- Steve Jobs studied calligraphy which made him have a passion for beauty and design. In his presentations for new products such as the iPod and iPhone, he showed street signs of the intersection of Liberal Arts Street and Technology Street in San Francisco
"It's in Apple's DNA that technology is not enough. We believe that it's technology married with the humanities that yield us the result that makes our heart sing"
– Steve Jobs
People who love and explore all fields of knowledge gain a particularly valuable skill: they are able to spot the patterns that exist across nature. There are relationships between people, art, music, writing, literature, math, chemistry, physics, and engineering that can only be seen and understood through a breadth of exploration. Thus, only the most curious have the privilege of experiencing them.
The greatest of innovations are made through a never-ending curiosity. Curiosity drives exploration in new areas, experiments that have never been tried before, and novel connections across domains.
The world belongs to the curious because curiosity is what connects us most closely to the world. It is the true way of life to explore one's intuitions and passions without reservation. To walk, read, think, and experiment however one likes. Curiosity brings out greatness because it allows human nature to do what it was meant to do.
The world belongs to the curious.