There are 3 meanings in the dictionary, for the word ‘curious’.

1. eager to learn or know; inquisitive.
2. prying; meddlesome.
3. arousing or exciting speculation, interest, or attention through being inexplicable or highly unusual; odd; strange

It is the first one that this post is about.

Let me start with a few examples.

I emailed a friend after connecting on LinkedIn recently. We haven’t been in touch for an year or so. So, we connected on LinkedIn and I sent a message via LinkedIn. After all this – over 4-5 days – I am asked, ‘So, where are you now?’. And to think my profile on LinkedIn is mighty comprehensive and up-to-date!

I reviewed an album recently for my other blog. One of the songs was really, really fascinating. So much that I had actually stopped my car while on my office drive to soak into it fully. I heard it again fully and then continued to drive. I figured out its raaga (melodic mode) by associating its flow with a couple of other songs I have heard. I have zero training in music of any sort.

These are just random, recent examples. Let me come to the point.

I’d categorize ‘curiosity’ as the single most important trait for any human – personal opinion, of course. If you are not curious, you are meaningless. Lack of curiosity doesn’t take you forward; it may not take you backward either, but you will be behind – comparatively – with those who are curious.

And the most interesting thing is that you can satiate all your curiosity in the internet age, quite effortlessly.

It takes just a few extra minutes to dig deeper into something before asking others about it or drawing a complete blank.

See a tweet about something you do not know? Before asking what it is, do a Google. Try to get a gist of it and then ask, within context, if needed. Result: You may seem more aware to that person and others.

Read a blog post on something? Besides your own opinion on it, explore what others think, using a search. It takes just a few minutes – we all have that and only assume we don’t. Then, assimilate the thoughts to leave a knowledgeable comment.

Meeting someone for the first time? No, not for an interview – just a social visit. Do a mini homework on them – use Google, Facebook, LinkedIn etc. Know what you need to about them, so that, the conversation is more useful.

You could argue – this superficial knowledge gathering is not as good as knowing something in depth, gathered over a period of time.

For instance, when one makes a reference to a Lep Zepp song, do you wonder if he is a long time Led Zepp fan or if he just Googled the lyrics and put it in context?

This line of argument was valid when information availability was scarce – these days, when there’s instant availability of all kinds of information, it is pointless. If you’re gung-ho on exposing that person’s relative lack of awareness of Led Zepp’s history, you sure could, but that is beside the point. The point is the relevance in that context – not thorough knowledge of Led Zepp’s life history.

Actually, this is a unique journalistic trait – journalists are not masters of all topics. They research and write their material. In course of such research, they may gather knowledge of many things, but may still not know the nuances that a subject expert may know. Does it matter? Of course not – what matters is how good and appropriate the piece they wrote is.

The lack of curiosity completely appalls me, most of the times. Hopeful interns come with zero homework; people step into meetings with zilch background knowledge; the most common opinion on a subject/topic has not been researched; and…people ask way too many questions, the answers for which are out there, in plain sight, requiring only a minor search…that too, online – not in the physical world.

I won’t even call this lack of curiosity – it is plain laziness.

One of the best recent examples of this laziness making a definite impact is that New York Times story on an online seller harnessing negative reviews to be on top of search results. I have already written about it, but simply – why are you not curious enough to know something more about the seller, if you are going to spend money on him for the first time? Is reading a few opinions too much work – it’s not as if you need to step out of your house, into the big bad world to gather those opinions! If you are the first buyer of that idiot seller, I can understand, but if you have not read all those negative opinions, still bought from him and blame the seller – sorry! You should be blaming yourself.

So, to conclude this rant’ish post – please question everything. Not as a skeptic, but to enhance your knowledge. In other words, explore everything, a bit deeper. It has never been easier to gather knowledge – there is a LOT more to know now, but it is also a LOT easier to know things, one thing at a time, just a search away.

Photo from Wikipedia, from the phrase, ‘curiosity killed the cat‘. Obviously!