How Curiosity Kills Fear, Increases Innovation, and Improves Relationships

One of my goals for this year is to introduce a guest blog series. This month I am sharing my first guest blog from Dave Bindewald, Founder and Director of the Center for Play and Exploration. Dave shares the role of curiosity in helping us to unlock potential. In improv, asking ourselves the question “if this is true, what else can be true?” helps to unlock scenes to delight our audience. In life, curiosity helps us to find solutions to problems and unleash our potential. Without further ado, here’s Dave….

There is so much I don’t know.  All I know is NOT all there is.  Not even close.  Seeing it written down like that makes it seem so obvious.  Of course, I don’t know everything there is to know!

And at the same time, I feel significant pressure to be an expert.  I often feel stuck between the expectation that educated professional adults should know everything about their area of expertise on the one hand, and the reality that it is simply impossible to know everything about anything on the other.

Comparison and self-flagellation dog every step of the expert.  Couple that with what we now know to be the devastating and destructive effects of anxiety and stress on creativity, and we become desperate for good news.  And I have some.

The world does not need you to know everything.  Your clients do not need you to know it all–even if they say they do.  Your family, friends, and lovers do not need you to be an expert.

They need you to be curious.

When a relationship of any kind–financial, environmental, romantic, friend, or familial–is stuck, it is precisely the unknown that is most helpful and liberating.  Whether it’s a corporation desiring a better way to meet customer needs or a strained marriage of 50 years, it is exactly all that is known that is no longer helpful.  What is known is tired.  The enticing possibility of change and newness lie in the mysterious unknown.

For the business, corporation, non-profit, church, and school what has been done before is known and basically understood.  For the weathered relationship, the script is rehearsed and familiar.  It can be endearing when old couples finish each other’s sentences, but it can also be terrifying to realize you can never say, do, or be anything other than what you always have been.

“You always say that.”

“That’s just what you’d say.”

“If I had a dime for every time you…”

“We’ve tried all that before.”

“I’ve been in a hundred meetings like this.”

“That’s not how we do it.”

Granted, there are foundational truths and wisdom as old as the hills that continue to provide comfort and guidance in every age and in every context.  Even though we know these things, we cannot be reminded of them enough because, of course, it is possible to forget something we know.

Treat others as you would like to be treated.

You are loved for who you are, not what you do.

The sun will come up tomorrow…etc.

However, those don’t really help balance your Q1 budget, develop a malleable steel for prosthetic limbs, hire and retain better people, double your profits, raise more money for your mission, reconcile with your dad, or drink less.

In order to do those things–or to try to do those things–you are going to have to get very close to things you don’t know.  You are going to have to recognize and openly admit that you do not know what to do or how to do it.  You are going to have to say, “I don’t know.”  And then go find out.

If you begin to celebrate your ignorance and grow more curious about the things you don’t know, I guarantee at least two things will happen.  One, you will begin to be less afraid.  Two, you will become better at your job and relationships.

Your fears will begin to shrink by starvation because fear lives on the unknown.  If curiosity is the practice of discovering things previously unknown, then fear MUST starve as curiosity reveals more and more of its secrets.  Curiosity eats fear’s lunch.  Your personal and professional life will become healthier as your fears starve and your curiosity feeds. What started as ignorance and frustration will morph into creativity and innovation.  I promise.

Expertise and knowledge will make you better at what you’ve always done before.  Curiosity and exploration will reveal the better thing that has been missing.

There is more potential out there than you will ever fully realize.  There are more resources than you will ever use. There is more goodness hidden in every corner of the world than you will ever know. 

What will you find if you start looking and what will have to change as a result?

I don’t know.

Let’s find out.

Dave Bindewald directs the Center for Play & Exploration where he teaches curiosity, divergent thinking and a freedom to fail. He thought he knew, but he had no idea, just how much good was hidden out there. Connect with Dave at dave@playandexploration.com

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