“Our girls are all smiling,” I beamed as I turned to another chaperone last Friday evening well after 9:00pm. The girls were 2nd and 3rd graders who were taking part in a Girl Scouts‘ Overnight at the Museum of Science, Boston. My animated observation came during an interactive session at the Mathematica Exhibit; a project that involved blocks, a piece of paper and the challenge of making a bridge to support a large object. Really? Even late on a Friday evening after a week of school, countless after school activities, and hours-of-fun since our check-in for this incredible Overnight the girls had a curiosity and energy that I rarely witness…let alone live.
BTW, in the anals of time this one will be hard to beat. For this event each Troop was given a special area within the museum to sleep. We drew the dinosaur room. The girls toggled between excitement and sheer terror thanks to the museum’s multi-story dinosaur replica that peered at them through the dark all night long.
Why do I care about curiosity and its role in transition? My belief is that if we allow our curiosity to be reignited during transition it will lead to better outcomes. Curiosity is easy to squelch. It gets plowed over like a fallow field with the demands of parenting along with 50+hour work weeks, technology hyper-connectivity, community demands, your in-laws, etc. I get it…for the two hours per week at 11:00 pm on a Tuesday that you get to yourself…curiosity isn’t really the priority.
Earlier this week my techie husband was going on and on about an audio book he’d just finished entitled, “In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes our Lives,” by Steven Levy. Levy is a Newsweek journalist and long time tech writer. I’m only a third of the way through so I can’t honestly review it. What I can say is that it caught my attention for a quirky reason. The early audio disks introduce a Len Schlesinger-esque entrepreneurial approach: these guys didn’t start out designing a search engine. They were curious about how to index all of the Internet’s pages. They kept re-imagining how to do it and bringing on more and more curious minds to help them figure it out. Curious?
The author quotes Larry Paige as saying, “everyone should think big and then make big things happen. The only true failure is not attempting the audacious. Even if you fail at the ambitious thing, it is very hard to fail completely.” (In the Plex, Disk 1, track 6). For the record, I think it is irrelevant whether your curiosity leads you to big or small endeavors. What is important is that it’s meaningful to you…and that it leads you to action. Can you name the last time that you let curiosity lead you to action?
I feel like a broken record on this one…but Herminia Ibarra said, “The biggest mistake in thinking about career change is delaying the 1st step until one has “settled” on a destination.” Rather, she advises “crafting experiments.” (Working Identity, pg 91-96) Experiments from her perspective allow us to re-frame the questions guiding a career search. (Working Identity, pg 98)
This past Sunday’s New York Times Travel section featured a small blurb on Jim Haynes, an expatriate living in Paris. A former travel book writer Mr. Haynes started an experiment over thirty years ago. His test? He invited travelers to his home for dinner. Even today interested travelers call in advance to get a slot. Attendees pay roughly $60 to participate. Here’s the kicker. He estimates that he’s hosted more than 130,000 folks in his home since his experiment started. It’s led to all sorts of unexpected things for Mr. Haynes and his guests.
Last Friday night the girls were euphoric when they solved the ‘bridge’ mystery. Every few minutes a group would squeal with delight. Another one solved. Can you name something you are curious about? Any chance its outcome would be squeal-caliber? If these little ladies are any example there is an irreplaceable energy derived from the simple investigation of that which we are curious about. I hope you give it a try….even if it means more than 100,000 for dinner.
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