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Curiosity kills the cat?! Maybe not!

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.”

-Albert Einstein-


What makes you want to learn? Is it the hunger to know more? Or is it the plain curiosity about the unknown?

Just last year, i picked up this book titled Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, by Ian Leslie. It was a pretty good read, interesting and easily digestible. It got me thinking about why the innate skill of asking questions and the hunger to explore, tend to drop off as we move through school and into careers?

Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Future Depends on It, by Ian Leslie

Subsequently this year, during a SEAkers Connect! webinar with Ho Renyung, Vice President of Brand HQ of Banyan Tree Hotel and Resorts, I was reminded about the importance of curiosity again. As part of the audience Q & A session, she shared that one of the two things she hopes to inculcate in her son is curiosity and everyone, especially youths, should maintain a sense of curiosity even after they aged.

Why? Because curiosity expands your horizons! It suggests that you are thinking, exploring and experiencing the world much more than a uncurious person. Furthermore, this hunger for new experiences has been proven to enable a positive attitude and happiness. As a 25 year-old youth starting my own career, I begin to look a bit more deeply about curiosity and how to spark it.

We are all born curious.

Looking back at my childhood, I’ve been a very curious kid, so much that I was a pain-in-the-ass for my parents. I was a demolisher of all the the barbies I had because I was curious how their joints work. Not to mention that I tore a book up just because I wanted to know what kept the pages together or the fact that I cut up a beanbag at home to see what’s the magic inside. Annoying isn’t it?

I was fascinated about the twistable head and arms of Barbie when i was a kid, only to realise years later that they were made possible because of its engineer founder, Jack Ryan.

Back then, curiosity comes naturally. We demanded answers to our never-ending loop of questions. We were receptive and looked to learn new things through experience and experiment. Sadly, as time past, all the “why” gradually turn to “what”. Seeing the world through new experiences becomes more inward-looking – we decipher the world with what we already know. With the world changing faster than ever before, some even give up to stay current and stick with what’s familiar and avoid new experiences.

When I am writing this, I started to wonder if that may be the deciding factor of “being old”. It might not be a number thing after all.

But what can you do when curiosity seems stagnant? Can curiosity even be strengthened?

Reigniting and Reconnecting with Curiosity

As it turns out, the answer is yes but it sure takes some time and effort. I am a Co-Founder of a non-profit organisation which focus on creating a network of ASEAN-China savvy youth leaders for the ASEAN region through a calendar of holistic programmes and events. This means that daily interactions with young undergraduates from all ASEAN countries are part and parcel of my life. It is through these conversations with younger youths from different cultures that my innate curiosity is invigorated.

The Young SEAkers' Indonesia-themed SEAkers Meal & Mingle session with the Co-Founder of Papa Ayam as one of our sharing guest. (Yes, she is a amazing young Indonesian who chose to start her business in Singapore!)

The more I engaged in conversations with them, the more I want to know and learn. Questions just pops and the hunger for an explanation grows. Talking to them is like exploring a magnificent library, filled with fantastic stories and useful information (for work, of course). Each of them has a different way of thinking and experiencing the world. Without the conversations, I wouldn’t know that in one Indonesia's city, you can actually pay for your public bus ride with used plastic bottles. Without conversations, I wouldn’t have thought to ask “what idea do you have as a solution for now”.

In one of our programmes called SEAkers Meal & Mingle, where we bring together ASEAN youths and working professionals from all walks of life for a meaningful conversation, I learnt how different foreigners viewed Singapore and its citizens. I gained understanding on their concerns about the getting jobs in today’s circumstances. I realised how universities have changed since my times. This is when I realised, I am staying up to date with what's going on around.

Curiosity is more than just building knowledge.

Ian Leslie, author of Curious, argues that the novelty of knowing something is killed by internet because people with a smartphone can Google it any time they want to.

Well, you may argue that the miracles of modern technology have make “learning” so simple that one can simply read an article or two to know more about a certain topic. But curiosity goes beyond typing some keywords on Google. It is about the active state of mind when you participate and take in various information, be it through listening or observing. What is his tone when he is sharing about his home country? What is her expression when talking about her journey as a young foreign entrepreneur?

Don't be surprised that, sometimes, one can observe and understand the most extraordinary things out of the most ordinary. Don’t let these moments be smothered by adults’ realities and routines. Be an explorer curious about the unknown and uncertain. Be an active participant, not passive online reader.

Curiosity don't kill the cats! Being uncurious does! So let’s get out there, share experiences, listen actively and ask questions!


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