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⚡️Letter 115: Cultivating Curiosity

6 min

techniques to become curious, Penn State interview, Covid hysteria, prancing polo, getting tipsy

If you are new here or missed last week's edition, you can catch up on the past letters here. If you are reading this for the first time, I’d love you to sign up below to join the other learn-it-alls:

Aloha fellow learn-it-all 👋

Greetings from Diamond Head, O'ahu, Hawai'i 🌺

As I was writing this yesterday, I was doped up on some Benadryl, slugging down OJ, and attempting to “chill” despite the surge of stress upon me. I allowed Covid to get to my head. I thought I had it.  I was meditating at the Zen Center as I do on Wednesday nights and couldn't breathe well. I dipped out an hour early to take off my mask. Sure it was annoying me, but even after I took it off, my breaths weren’t effortless. I thought it was heartburn that I sometimes get, but the Tums made me more agitated.

I now feel silly after testing negative. How could I blow this out of the water like that? For Pete’s sake, my mom shipped me a care package for way too much money to the island.  I don’t know what this experience was apart from recognizing how much I need to calm my breathing more rather than stress to enter my whole body.

The point of this all is how easily our mental health affects our physical health. A covid scare or any scare for that matter, while not feeling healthy, is so scary. It’s letting go of control.

Anyways, to turn that frown upside down, I was living my best life steering in 25 knots of breeze last weekend.

I have an abstract imaginary fucket list of wishes and experiences that sound cool before I die. As of the moment captured in this photo above, where the smile couldn’t get smacked off my face, I added owning a sailboat to that list.

Now, let’s dive into letter 115 from a learn-it-all. Enjoy!

More recently (in the least pompous way possible), several peers have commented on how curious I am.

Similar to being born with a high IQ, many folks believe curiosity is an innate fixed trait – you’re either curious or you’re not. Perhaps if someone is more open to uncertainty and surprise, they are more likely to introspect. However, consider another possibility.

Curiosity is a strength of mine because I’ve learned to cultivate it as a superpower. This can be adopted by everyone. We all can become more curious, and as learn-it-alls, we can inspire others to develop their own curiosity. This leads me to the question this week…

❓ Question to think about

How do you cultivate curiosity?

🖊 Writing

We are born to be curious. Humans trial and error everything in their life through experimentation. We are all scientists. This trait comes across most as children when we know nothing. We reach extensive measures to tap into this curiosity like the African monkey star Curious George, who wouldn’t limit himself with unknown rules.

Six suggestions I have to cultivate your curiosity are to:

  1. Ask more questions. Ego gets in the way of this from fearing embarrassment of not fully understanding a concept. Avoid the know-it-all syndrome and choose to be a learn-it-all instead.
  2. Have conversations. Become a better listener. Seek out mentorship knowing that the relationship can be just as rewarding for the mentor as it is for you.
  3. Read the unfamiliar book that is outside the realm of what you usually read. Test the boundaries of what you typically prefer. If you like non-fiction, give fiction a shot.
  4. Spend time with a child. They have so much wonder about life that sparks crreativity. Dr. George Land conducted research with a study of 1,600 children. They took a creativity assessment at ages 5, 10, and 15. It showed how curiosity leads to creativity.
  5. Drive self-development.  Learn more about yourself because the only constant variable in life is changing so become a student of your habits and behaviors.
  6. Start writing. By externalizing your ideas onto a page it reveals what you know and what else you want to still uncover. This is what I have done with this piece on uncovering the different dimensions of curiosity.

To read the full article: Cultivating Curiosity

🖊 Writing

I also wrote an abbreviated summary of the above article as a short-form Ship It post.

To read the Ship It: Curiosity > Knowledge

These are both oldies from the archives, but goodies.

🎬 Watching

Jenna Spinelle is a journalism instructor at Penn State University. She teaches a course on independent content creators.

Last summer she direct messaged asking whether I'd be interested in being a guest speak for her class to share my experiences. I was over-enthusiastic about this opportunity!

Here's the 25 minute recording:

It was rewarding to watch this a year later and see what I’ve shifted my mind on. I still stand by my advice to creators starting on their journey:

Create what you care about.

🔎 Word to define

Curiosity: Disposition to inquire, investigate, or seek after knowledge

A desire to gratify the mind with new information or objects of interest; exciting attention; awakening surprise;  inviting and rewarding inquisitiveness.

That which is curious, or fitted to excite or reward attention. Careful or anxious to learn; eager for knowledge; given to research or inquiry; habitually inquisitive; prying; not simple or plain; strange; rare.

⏪ Etymology

In late 14c., curiosity meant "careful attention to detail". It is a sense now obsolete). It  also has meant "skilled workmanship" and "desire to know or learn, inquisitiveness". In Middle English usually in bad senses: "prying; idle or vain interest in worldly affairs; sophistry; fastidiousness".

From Old French curiosete meant "curiosity, avidity, choosiness" (in Modern French curiosité). From Latin curiositatem "desire of knowledge, inquisitiveness," from curiosus "careful, diligent; inquiring eagerly, meddlesome," akin to cura "care".

Neutral meaning from early 17c. as "desire to see or learn what is strange or unknown”. From the 1640s, it meant "an object of interest, something rare or strange".

🌟 Quotes to inspire

“What you do about what you don’t know is, in the final analysis, what determines what you will know.” -Eleanor Duckworth

Source: The Having of Wonderful Ideas, 1987

  1. “Curiosity is really the superpower for the second half of our lives because it keeps us learning, it keeps us asking questions, and it increases our self-awareness.” -Brené Brown
    Source: The Tim Ferriss Show
  2. "The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity." -Dorothy Parker

📷 Photo of the Week

Floppy hats are fun.

I spectated a Polo Match on the north shore with some friends I met playing beach volleyball and surfing.

I honestly was lost most of the match, but I’ve certainly never seen horses run so fiercely. It’s an interesting sport to be so reliant on an animal to be good at it. It makes it like a double-team sport. There’s each horse on a team with its rider and then five riders on each of those teams.

While watching, I drank more than 1 drink for the first time this year. I know, call me crazy.

After a couple of hard selters and some mango margarita, the world started getting swirly, and I was tipsy. I figured six months of sobriety could be tested. The experience felt goofy, like I was simultaneously less and more of myself. I gave less damns about what others thought… but also forgot what I even gave a damn about. Regardless, it was nice to let loose and take my braids out.

I get caught up thinking I am older than I actually am. I’ve been taking myself too seriously. I tend to have an old soul, but I refuse to risk losing my youth at the cost of being wiser.  I don’t want inebriation to be the only way to induce this though.

After the match, I frolicked in the ocean playing catch with Polo balls and throwing a frisbee around. Alwhile back at the parked cars, my friends and I found our bananas and chips eaten by some pregnant goats. I couldn’t stop laughing. It was a hoot!

🙏 Shoutouts

I appreciate you reading this!

If ideas resonated, I’d love you to leave a comment, reply to this email, or send me a message on Twitter @JenVermet. If you forgot who I am, I welcome you to my online home.

Never stop learning 😁

Mahalo 🌺


PS - if you missed last week’s letter, I wrote about finding friends.

If you’re reading this because someone shared this newsletter with you, welcome! I’d love it if you subscribed:

👣 Footnotes

On listening to your energy:

On why the tortoise is better than the hare:

On a recent book launch from the Tiago Forte who got me obsessed with knowledge management back in 2019:

On my love for the water and sparking new ideas to reflect on:


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