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Journey of Curiosity: Unveiling Insights from 'Curious' by Ian Leslie

Updated: Nov 10, 2023

Curiosity can be seen as a Curse or a Gift...

From a young age, I've been captivated by profound questions and an insatiable curiosity has remained my constant companion throughout life. The joy of unraveling new knowledge and weaving connections has always fueled my intellectual journey. Recently, I revisited the insightful book "Curious" by Ian Leslie, which eloquently emphasizes the innate curiosity that defines human nature. Drawing upon a multitude of psychological studies, Leslie illustrates the fascinating notion that, at times, constraints can be the catalyst for the most ingenious solutions. Today, my intention isn't to provide a comprehensive book review but rather to share my cherished standalone quotes and the content that deeply resonated with me. As I delved into the pages of this book, I couldn't help but feel that certain passages were addressing questions that had recently stirred within me; it was almost as if the book and its author had embarked on a personal conversation with my thoughts. (Perhaps there's a term for this phenomenon?)

The opening quote left such a profound impact on me that I swiftly reached for a 3x5 index card and, using a bold Sharpie, transcribed it onto the card. I then affixed it to my wall with a strip of painter's tape, ensuring that it would remain in my line of sight as a daily source of inspiration. This small yet meaningful quote was also welcomed into my ever-growing collection of cherished sayings and reflections.

"I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious."
— Albert Einstein

Einstein's words embody a deep humility that resonates with me, reinforcing the profound concept of the lifelong journey that thinkers, artists, and musicians undertake. The most remarkable individuals in their fields are characterized by their unwavering dedication and a refusal to yield in the face of challenges. This brings to mind a question I've often pondered: Are musicians endowed with extraordinary talent from birth, or can anyone, through relentless hours of practice, eventually master their instrument?

Einstein's quote extends beyond mere humility and speaks to the concept of "passionate curiosity." This resonates with me profoundly, as I find that my mind is in a constant state of inquiry, ceaselessly posing questions, exploring the unknown, and deep in contemplation. It's a relentless, burning curiosity that keeps the creative fires within me perpetually stoked.

"Fear kills curiosity." —Ian Leslie, "Curious" (pg. 40)

Upon reading this quote, I couldn't help but draw a parallel to a memorable line from the novel "Dune": "Put your hand in the box; What's inside the box? PAIN... and Fear is the mind killer." The author of "Dune," Frank Herbert, beautifully encapsulates how fear can be paralyzing, even to the extent of extinguishing curiosity. In this classic novel, fear is portrayed as the ultimate impediment to a person's potential and mental freedom.

The connection between fear and curiosity is as profound as it is simple. These two emotions stand on opposite ends of the creative spectrum. Fear often immobilizes, while curiosity propels us forward. This notion may seem elementary, but it's a fundamental truth that profoundly resonated with me, prompting me to share it here. The next quote I encountered further reinforces the profound impact of fear on our creative impulses.

"Facts Kill Creativity." —Ian Leslie, "Curious" (pg. 114)

This succinct statement captures a fundamental concept: the role of the unknown and mystery in inspiring our creative endeavors. It underscores that, at times, the pursuit of answers and the relentless quest for factual information can inadvertently stifle our imaginative and inventive impulses. It encourages us to embrace ambiguity and open-ended questions, as these can be powerful motivators for the curious mind.

The author thoughtfully follows up this statement with a pair of related observations, delving deeper into the intricate relationship between curiosity, creativity, and the willingness to embrace the enigmatic. These insights offer valuable reflections on the intricate dance between the pursuit of facts and the preservation of creative thought.

"Success isn't good for curiosity." —Ian Leslie, "Curious" (pg. 112)

The truth embedded in this statement is a powerful reminder of the intricate relationship between curiosity and success. While success often brings recognition and accolades, it can inadvertently put a damper on the flames of curiosity. The quest for novelty can wane when we become comfortable with our achievements, potentially limiting our willingness to explore the unknown.

"Stay Hungry, Stay Foolish."
—Stewart Brand

These simple yet profound words by Stewart Brand serve as a beacon for anyone on a creative journey. They highlight the importance of retaining a sense of hunger for knowledge and experience and the willingness to embrace the audacity of "foolishness."

In the realm of creativity, these words underscore the significance of experimentation and the acceptance of failure as a profound teacher. It's a striking paradox—while most individuals instinctively shy away from failure and take measures to conceal it, it is often through these very failures that we attain our most valuable lessons.

Embracing the idea of "staying foolish" grants artists permission to be unabashedly themselves, to express their unique voices without being held captive by collective pressures or the fear of judgment. It encourages authenticity and fosters an environment where creativity can thrive. These sentiments align with the idea that the most vibrant artistic expressions are often born when we step out of our comfort zones and dare to be unapologetically imaginative, even in the face of failure.
Sketch Practice by Me

One of my personal favorites among these quotes profoundly illustrates how the accumulation of knowledge, wisdom, and the relentless pursuit of curiosity can lead to a heightened state of being. It's a journey that may take a considerable amount of time, and it extends beyond the mere acquisition of factual information.

"Highly curious people, who have carefully cultivated their long-term memories, live in a kind of augmented reality." —Ian Leslie, "Curious" (pg. 145)

This thought-provoking statement by Ian Leslie encapsulates the transformative power of knowledge and the augmentation of one's perception that comes with it. It conveys the idea that those who possess insatiable curiosity and have meticulously nurtured their long-term memories live in a world that transcends the ordinary.

It's a realm where experiences are enriched, where connections are made between seemingly unrelated pieces of information, and where wisdom intermingles with facts. This augmented reality is not confined to the digital realm but resides within the minds of those who have chosen to embrace the profound journey of learning and exploration. It's a journey that leads not only to knowledge but to a state of being enriched by the wisdom that arises from it, transforming ordinary existence into something extraordinary.

What is "The Flow State?

To me, the flow state is akin to a dynamic blend of unwavering mental focus and a deep sense of presence. It's akin to the heart-pounding intensity of "Eye of the Tiger," the feeling that enables me to momentarily escape the collective din and the ceaseless chatter of my thoughts and worries. It's a kind of meditation, an ethereal experience that flirts with the spiritual, akin to an altered state of consciousness. In the hierarchy of needs conceived by Abraham Maslow, it could easily be positioned as a "peak experience," a pinnacle of human fulfillment.

In this state, time plays its own peculiar game. It both stands still, as if caught in an eternal moment, and yet flies by in the blink of an eye. When I'm in the flow state, I can unwittingly skip lunch, lose all track of time, and become entirely absorbed in the creative act. Achieving this state of pure focus is a feat that can take hours, if not days, of concentrated effort. However, its fragility is astounding; a single interruption, as innocuous as a tap on the shoulder or a ringing phone, can shatter the delicate equilibrium.

This brings to mind the world of athletes and peak performance. The question that arises is why only a select few can consistently summon their "A game" when they compete, regardless of how much they practice. It becomes evident that outside factors and elements must align, and there is something distinct about those athletes and artists who maintain unwavering motivation and an unrelenting hunger.

"...the research of Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the psychologist who coined the term, 'flow' to describe the happiness that comes from being completely and unreflectively immersed in an activity..." —Ian Leslie, "Curious" (pg. 177)

This quote offers insight into the concept of "flow" as coined by the psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi. It characterizes the happiness and fulfillment that stem from wholeheartedly immersing oneself in an activity without conscious reflection—a state that resonates deeply with the notion of the flow state. It is within this state that creativity unfurls its wings and propels us into an almost transcendent realm of existence, where everything but the act of creation falls away.


In closing, I'd like to leave you with one final quote from the book, which may sound remarkably ambitious, but it resonates deeply with me. While I can readily admit to moments of frustration and irritation, one thing I've never grappled with is boredom.

"And if we make the choice to learn, and to be curious about the things around us, then we are essentially making the choice never to be bored again." —Ian Leslie, "Curious" (pg. 179-180)

These words by Ian Leslie underscore the immense power of choice when it comes to embracing curiosity and learning. It's a choice that opens the door to an existence where boredom ceases to exist, where every moment presents an opportunity for exploration and discovery.

In conclusion, I'm delighted that I chose to revisit this book for a second reading. While there were sections I skimmed over, my intention was to focus on the content that particularly resonated with me in the present. I possess the paperback version of this book, and I've found that I need a physical copy to underline and jot down notes. Although I understand that I could achieve similar results with a Kindle or other digital platforms, I believe that my preference for physical books is rooted in my upbringing in the analog era, before the digital revolution.

The journey through these pages has provided me with a wealth of knowledge and a surge of inspiration, reminding me of the profound importance of staying curious and embracing the infinite possibilities that the world has to offer.


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