Curiosity killed the cat. At least, that’s what we’ve been told. That’s the story we’ve been raised to accept. We’ve been collectively trained to remain within the confines of our comfort zones and avoid the dangers of the unknown.
We need a new paradigm.
To create a world in which innovation and cooperation are possible, we need to have the courage to dig deeper; we need to be willing to ask the tough questions; we need to embrace a posture of curiosity.
Welcome to the curious life…
The Curiosity Manifesto: A Call to Live the Curious Life is a book about learning new things and keeping an open mind.
I use a combination of academic research, historical narrative, and personal anecdotes to provoke readers to become more curious about their world.
You can download the manifesto for free by following this link.
If you want a physical copy of the manifesto, you can buy it for ~$10 on Amazon.com.
I also made an audio recording of the book: you can download the audiobook here.
Below is a list of the references I use in the book, along with hyper links to where you can access more content about them.
- Kaplan, A. (1964). The Conduct of Inquiry: Methodology for Behavioral Science. I don’t know the actual origin of the “missing keys” story; I first heard it in a freshman philosophy class. Doing some research, I discovered this early citation in which philosopher Abraham Kaplan tells the story to illustrate a point about failed methodology in the social sciences and labels it “the drunkard’s search.” Kaplan does, however, indicate that the story is not of his own creation but was at the time a well-known folk tale from an unknown source.
- Haran, H., Ritov, I., & Mellers, B.A. (2013, May). The role of actively open-minded thinking in information acquisition, accuracy, and calibration. Judgment and Decision Making, 8 (3), 188-201. Actively Open-minded Thinking, abbreviated AOT in the psychological literature, is defined by the authors of this study as “the tendency to weigh new evidence against a favored belief, to spend sufficient time on a problem before giving up, and to consider carefully the opinions of others in forming one’s own.” In the actual article, three studies are conducted. The one I do not mention in my narrative serves primarily to replicate the results of the first one I mention in my narrative, so I don’t discuss it. AOT was originally developed in a 1993 essay by Jonathan Baron–the 7-point list I use as the characteristics of people who demonstrate AOT was taken more or less directly from a test he devises in this essay. If you’re interested in the academic manifestation of what I call the “curious life,” AOT is it. I highly recommend you research it further. (Follow Jonathan Baron on Twitter @jonbaron1944).
- Kashdan, T. (2009). Curious?: Discover the Missing Ingredient to a Fulfilling Life. Obviously, I could have used much more from this book. As far as I know, it is the most extensive work on curiosity. Kashdan is a clinical psychiatrist as well as a research psychologist. He uses countless examples from the academic research, his professional experience, and popular culture that highlight the importance of curiosity. I definitely recommend reading the book. (Watch Todd Kashdan’s 2013 TED talk, and follow him on Twitter @toddkashdan).
- Bay, M. (Director). (2005). The Island [Motion Picture]. Great movie. It’s fast-paced with lots of explosions and witty dialogue, so it’s entertaining. But there’s also a brilliant undercurrent of insight into the concepts of freedom and human nature. More to the point, the film emphasizes the power of human curiosity to overcome even the most dire of circumstances. That, of course, is something I can get behind.
- Waldschmidt, D. (2014). Edgy Conversations: How Ordinary People Can Achieve Outrageous Success. I started reading Dan’s inspirational business blog almost four years ago and, when he finally released his book, I was not disappointed. The book uses countless examples from five years of research on how people achieve success. One such variable, not surprisingly, is “an extreme dedication to learning.” When Dan wrote that section, he must have been reading my mind. (Watch Dan Waldschmidt give a keynote about giving, follow him on Twitter @danwaldo).
- Gaustad, E.S. (1966). The Religious History of America. Although I only allude to this book in a story I’m telling to make an unrelated point, I think some comments are in order. The book contains a highly detailed narrative of how religion shaped culture in America. Naturally, there is much conflict in the story–with the assimilation of Native Americans into the Christian faith, the disagreements between various Christian denominations, and the involvement of religion in politics and public education. Read this book, and then think about what I discuss in Part 3 in light of what you find.
- Rand, A. (1938). Anthem. This allegory is a blatant criticism of socialism and elevation of capitalism. If you can look past the political implications, though, you’ll see an amazing story about discovery. The protagonist’s society is all about suppressing exploration and curiosity. When he breaks away from it, he dives headfirst into the curious life. If you want to know what I’m arguing against in this manifesto, it’s a society very much like that of Equality 7-2521.
- Huxley, A. (1932). Brave New World. In this story, people are genetically engineered into certain classes. Each class (Alphas, Bettas, Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons) is also biologically programmed to be happy in their respective classes. Epsilons, the lowest class, don’t envy Alphas, the highest classes. And Alphas don’t pity Epsilons. Alphas love being Alphas. Epsilons love being Epsilons. Each person is content to remain within the confines of their own social classes.
- DuPrau, J. (2003). The City of Ember. In this story, human beings are living in an underground city built centuries ago as a bunker for the survivors of a cataclysmic war. When children reach a certain age, they are arbitrarily assigned jobs to keep the city running. (Walden Media also made the book into a movie).
- Lowry, L. (1993). The Giver. In this story, children are assigned the jobs they will hold for the rest of their lives when they turn twelve years old. Their roles contribute to the stability of a community that rewards conformity and punishes any manner of dissension by death (or, as Lowry calls it, “release”).
- Godin, S. (2012). Stop Stealing Dreams: What is School For? Seth’s manifesto on education is full of profound insights, and I highly recommend reading it–as human curiosity is often made or broken within the public education system. I will say that Godin is not against public education. His manifesto merely calls attention to some systemic problems that need to be addressed. Namely, he calls for a greater emphasis on creativity and a lesser emphasize on standardized testing. I tend to agree with him. (Seth Godin writes a popular daily blog. His manifesto is also available in his massive collection of aphorisms and essays, Whatcha Gonna Do with That Duck?, and he delivered a TED talk on the subject as well).
- Rosenthal, R. & Jacobson, L. (1968). Pygmalion in the Classroom. Many people have used this study to show the power of expectations, and it certainly does do that. However, that’s not always a good thing. Students, the “intelligent” ones AND the “unintelligent” ones, often see themselves through the eyes of their teachers. To me, this study and others like it are cautionary tales for educators. There is no greater way to stifle a child’s curiosity than to treat that child as if he or she is incapable of learning.
- Dweck, C. (2006). Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In this amazing work of research, Dweck shows how, across a variety of contexts (sports, business, romance, education, etc.), there are two approaches people take in life. First, there’s the “fixed mindset,” in which people assume they cannot change. They can’t become more talented; they can’t get smarter; they can’t really improve. Either they’ve got it or they don’t. Then, there’s the opposite: the “growth mindset.” People with this mindset assume they can change. They believe they can become smarter and more talented, so they are willing to take the necessary actions to get there. People with the “growth mindset” are living the curious life. If you want a better idea of what I mean by “the curious life,” read Dweck’s book.
- Chabris, C. & Simons, D. (2010). The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us. There is perhaps no book to this date that more effectively demonstrates the fallibility of human perceptions than this one. The “invisible gorilla” study is just the tip of the iceberg. Chabris and Simons provide powerful evidence for illusions of memory, confidence, and causality. To many people, the fact that we’re so bad at accurately interpreting reality would be a depressing prospect. On the other hand, this realization invites us to be more humble, tolerant, and open to learning. It invites us into the curious life.(Follow Chris on Twitter @cfchabris and Dan @profsimons. Also, check out the original video along with several others. They’ll blow your mind).
- Samuelson, W., & Zeckhauser, R. (1988). Status quo bias in decision making. Journal of Risk and Uncertainty, 1, 7-59. The purpose of this article is to show that, contrary to classical economic theory, people do not always make the choice that is in their best interest. Instead, they demonstrate a bias toward doing nothing, even if they would be better off making a change. Economists have since attributed such behavior to what they call “switching costs.” Nevertheless, it provides interesting insight into our reluctance to change. In addition to the hypothetical experiment mentioned in my narrative, the authors conduct several other studies. For example, they collect a large amount of real world data and analyze it to show a bias toward existing health care coverage even when better plans are clearly available.
- Johnson, S. (1998). Who Moved My Cheese? Great little parable and the importance of being adaptable. I highly recommend it.
- Linkon, S.L., & Russo, J. (2002). Steeltown U.S.A.: Work & Memory in Youngstown. This work is an intriguing account of cultural history. It vividly captures the historical roots of Youngstown and hints at the resilience of its inhabitants. This book made me fall in love with a city most people probably haven’t even heard of.
- Matson, M. (2012). Mainstreet Money: How to Outwit, Outsmart, & Out Invest the Wall Street Bullies. One source with which I am familiar that argues for diversification in investing. (Follow Mark on Twitter @markmatson).
- Schultz, H., & Yang, D.J. (1997). Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time. Throughout the book, Schultz faces many decisions on which he must juggle the choice of keeping Starbucks “pure” and allowing it to evolve. Therefore, not only is this memoir a testament to the creative power of curiosity, but it is also a case study in the battle between conviction and curiosity. (Watch Howard Schultz’s interview with 60 Minutes, Oprah, and then Mckinsey on the inspiration behind his second book, Onward. Also, follow Starbucks on Twitter @Starbucks).
- The Holy Bible: King James Version. Exodus 3:1-4. I don’t want to take this too far out of context. Moments later, Moses does become decidedly less curious–offering up excuse after excuse as to why he can’t liberate his people, before finally consenting and following God’s command to become the Moses history remembers.
- King. R. (2003). Michelangelo and the Pope’s Ceiling. I learned everything I used in my example of Michelangelo from this book.
- Hoque, F. (2014, January 21). “How curiosity cultivates creativity.” Fast Company. Retrieved from http://www.fastcompany.com/3024779/dialed/how-curiosity-cultivates-creativity. I just happened to stumble across this article in my Twitter feed as I was finishing up the book. I sense the connection between curiosity and creativity runs much more deeply then I’ve described here. It’s definitely a topic for future research. (Follow Faisal on Twitter @faisal_hoque and check out his book, Everything Connects).
- Gladwell, M. (2008). Outliers: The Story of Success. Although the “10,000 hour principle” is probably the most cited idea from this book, I want to clarify that it’s only an illustration that serves Gladwell’s main thesis: that successful people are successful only because they are fortunate enough to be exposed to environments and opportunities that foster success. (Watch Malcolm Gladwell’s TED talk on his earlier book, The Tipping Point).
- Darley, J.M., & Latane, B. (1968). Bystander intervention in emergencies: diffusion of responsibility. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 8 (4), 377-383. This study was inspired by an incident that was later determined to be greatly exaggerated. Kitty Genovese was allegedly murdered in her apartment with 38 people witnessing the crime but none of them interfering. Although the number of actual witnesses turned out to be far fewer, the bystander effect had come to be accepted as a real phenomenon in many different contexts. The authors of this study attribute it to what they call the “diffusion of responsibility.” People fail to intervene because they assume it is someone else’s responsibility to do so.
- Ishiguro K. (1989). The Remains of the Day. A great, albeit subtle, story about the perils of being detached from and uninvolved with the ideas, people, and events in your life. (This book was also made into an award-winning film).
- Paine, T. (1776). The American Crisis. This quote begins the first issue of a series of pamphlets published between 1776 and 1783.
- Stone, O. (Director). (1999). Any Given Sunday [Motion Picture]. I actually played peewee football for a couple of years and I remember the half-time pep talks being very similar to this one–you know, minus the “F” bombs. (Follow Oliver Stone on Twitter @theoliverstone).
- Foley, J. (Director). (1992). Glengarry Glen Ross [Motion Picture]. I worked in sales for a few years, and I was exposed to this segment constantly. The “A.B.C.: Always Be Closing” mantra, although sometimes passive-aggressively tongue-in-cheek, was a favorite among my sales managers.
- Wilson, T.D., Lisle, D.J., Schooler, J.W., Hodges, S.D., Klaaren, K.J., & LaFleur, S.J. (1993, June). Introspecting about reasons can reduce post-choice satisfaction. Social Psychology Bulletin, 19 (3), 331-339. I did not actually discuss this study, because I couldn’t quite figure out how to incorporate it into my narrative. However, it does provide exemplary evidence on how people tend to make up reasons in order to justify their choices and value judgments. So, I’ve listed it here just in case you would like to further research it.
- Cohen, L.H. (2013). I Don’t Know: In Praise of Admitting Ignorance (Except When You Shouldn’t). A great little book providing countless examples of how we’re all a little too afraid of admitting it when we don’t know.
- Bush, G.W. (2010). Decision Points. Although I use this particular quote to illustrate a point, I want to be clear that most of Bush’s narrative paints him as a level-headed leader, ready and willing to entertain a diverse range of opinions and listen to the counsel of others.
- The Holy Bible: King James Version. Jude 3. In many places, like the passage mentioned here, the New Testament encourages Christians to confront error and steer clear of heretical doctrines. While I certainly understand this sentiment, I also think it’s good for Christians–and all other religious groups–to expose themselves to conflicting ideas. If, as I discuss in my narrative, their beliefs are found to be true when put to the test, I think that it will only serve to make them stronger. (For example of how being open-minded benefits Christianity, read about the Bereans in Acts 17).
- Dawkins, R. (2006). The God Delusion. My criticism of Dawkins in this passage is not meant to be personal. I believe he is a brilliant biologist, philosopher, and orator. My intention is to show that it’s not just religious people who are prone to human biases. Anyone can be, including–for example–an eminent scientist like Richard Dawkins. We’re all capable of losing sight of truth in order to grind an axe. (See Dawkins’s TED Talk on Militant Atheism, and follow him on Twitter @richarddawkins).
- Roberts, R., & Yong, Ed. (2012, June 4). “Yong on science, replication, and journalism.” Library of Economics and Liberty. Retrieved from http://www.econtalk.org/archives/2012/06/yong_on_science.html. I’ve been listening to Econtalk since 2007, and have learned so much about the world and human behavior from the discussions. This conversation in particular was paradigm shifting for me. It made me realize that I can’t take any claim for granted. Do you think you can put your complete faith in scientific and academic research? Listen to this discussion; you may change your mind. (Read Russ’s economics blog, Cafe Hayek, and follow him on Twitter @econtalker. Read Ed’s science blog, Not Exactly Rocket Science, and follow him on Twitter @edyong209).
- Taleb, N. (2007). The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable. I embellished this story a bit. But that’s okay, because Taleb embellished it too. Originally, mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell had told the parable using a chicken. (Follow Taleb on Twitter @nntaleb. He shares a lot of interesting things on Facebook, so check him out there too).
- Loftus, E.F., & Pickrell, J.E. (1995). The formation of false memories. Psychiatric Annals, 25, 720-725. This research is groundbreaking. I encourage you to read the original study. It’s short, easily-digestible, and will change the way you think about memory.
- Kahan, D. (2013, July). Motivated numeracy and enlightened self-government. The Cultural Cognition Project. If you think that your ability to reason logically is not affected by your political beliefs, you should definitely read this study. The actual paper contains visuals that may help clarify what I’ve discussed in my narrative, so I’d definitely look into it.
- Lord, C.G., Ross, L., & Lepper, M.R. (1979). Biased assimilation and attitude polarization: the effects of prior theories on subsequently considered evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 37 (11), 2098-2109. This is one of the first formal psychological studies on confirmation bias. I highly recommend reading it.
- Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. This collection of research experiments provides the foundation for much of the work in human decision-making that followed–particularly in the field of consumer behavior.
- Mukherjee, S. (2010). The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. For a complete picture of Halstead‘s work and legacy, you’ve got to read the book. He plays a prominent role in various developments throughout this exhaustive history of cancer.
- Fainaru-Wada, M., & Fainaru, S. (2013). League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth. The account in this book of the NFL forming and touting its own research is one of the most poignant examples of confirmation bias I’ve ever seen. (Watch the PBS Frontline video report on the book. Follow Mark on Twitter @markfwespn and Steve @stevefainaru).
- Haidt, J. (2012). The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion. I recommend this book to everyone I know who has deeply-held political or ideological beliefs, particularly those who are hostile to people who believe differently. The book explains the roots of moral psychology and how they influence our values and social norms. I recommend reading it; I guarantee it will change the way you think about people different from you. (Watch Jonathan Haidt’s TED talk and follow him on Twitter @jonhaidt).
- Kleiman, T., & Hassin, R. (2013). When conflicts are good: nonconscious goal conflicts reduce confirmatory thinking. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 105 (3), 374-387. The authors of this study present a concept they call the “conflict mindset.” Essentially, this mindset involves having an internal debate between opposing goals before taking actions toward those goals. Through their experiments with priming, the authors argue that such a mindset reduces confirmation bias.
- Kahneman, D. (2011). Thinking, Fast and Slow. Kahneman is referenced in the above study, as the anchoring questions come from his 1995 article–and he is considered a pioneer in identifying the effect. I feel obliged to mention this book, though, as it contains the most exhaustive collection of research experiments on human behavior that I’ve ever seen. If you want to know how our minds play tricks on us, read Kahneman’s book. (Watch Daniel Kahneman’s TED talk on experience and memory).
- Stone, D., Patton, B., & Heen, S. (1999). Difficult Conversations: How to Discuss What Matters Most. The most insightful and practical book on human communication I’ve ever read. A large component of this work has to do with adopting a posture of curiosity in communicating with others. The “third story” concept is just one example of the many helpful tips these authors reveal that make tough conversations much easier to have.
- Iannarino, A. (2012, October 14). “How to avoid having your beliefs become dogma.” The Sales Blog. Retrieved from http://thesalesblog.com/blog/2012/10/14/how-to-avoid-having-your-beliefs-become-dogma. Much of what I’ve learned about personal development and growth comes from Anthony Iannarino’s blog. He is also an avid reader and proponent of self-education. This blog post is just one of many that contain provocative insights to challenge your thinking. Even if you aren’t into sales, you should definitely check it out. (Watch Anthony talk about the new art of sales, and follow him on Twitter @iannarino).
- Hirt, E., & Markman, K. (1995). Multiple explanation: a consider-an-alternative strategy for debiasing judgments. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 69 (6), 1069-1086. This is a fascinating paper that shows how we can diminish our own biases by considering a variety of explanations. In addition to the study I mention, the authors perform two additional studies: one about high school football and another about Major League Baseball.
- Ariely, D. (2008). Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions. Ariely offers several examples of the phenomenon I briefly describe. There’s a study, for example, in which subjects judge people as more attractive when they are first shown pictures of unattractive people than they do when they are not shown those pictures. Ariely’s books are full of quirks about human behavior. I recommend checking them out. (Watch Ariely’s TED talk on decision-making, and follow him on Twitter @danariely).
- Heath, C., & Heath, D. (2013). Decisive: How to Make Better Decisions in Life and Work. Most of the psychology books I read are about how decisions are made. This one is about how to make decisions. In other words, it’s a practical guide to decision-making, rather than merely a study of it. If you’re in a position where you’ve got to make a lot of tough decisions (and who isn’t?), I highly recommend reading it.
- Cohen, D.H. (2013, February). “Daniel H. Cohen: for argument’s sake.” TED: Ideas Worth Spreading. Retrieved from http://www.ted.com/talks/daniel_h_cohen_for_argument_s_sake.html. TED (Technology, Education, and Design) talks are speeches about a variety of issues in a variety of disciplines. This talk is actually a TEDx talk–an independently licensed event in which speeches are made following the TED format. I encourage you to watch this speech and many others on TED’s website. I guarantee you’ll get hooked.
- Li, C., & Bernoff, J. (2008). Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies. I love studying how the proliferation of social media has impacted business, because it is a striking example of the tug-of-war between living the curious life and clinging to the status quo. Many PR and marketing folks still like to act like they have complete control over the message. This book and a whole genre of others have provided countless case studies that demonstrate otherwise. In the age of the social web, businesses face a choice: ignore the reality that customers have more power than ever or embrace the change, listen, and learn. In a lot of ways, that’s the very same choice I’ve discussed in this book. (Follow Charlene on Twitter @charleneli and Josh @jbernoff).
- Bazelon, E. (2013). Sticks and Stones: Defeating the Culture of Bullying and Rediscovering the Power of Character and Empathy. A very well-researched book on a pressing contemporary issue, this work also shows how the media can take an idea, twist it, and blow it way out of proportion. (Read Emily’s blog and follow her on Twitter @emilybazelon).
- Plato. (380 BCE). The Republic. The story Socrates tells about the people in the cave is an amazing allegory about truth and discovery. But I encourage you to read the entirety of The Republic. There is perhaps no greater manifestation of a conversation filled with curiosity than the Socratic dialogues.
- Bright, M. (Executive Producer). (2006, December 10). “Living Together.” Planet Earth [Television Series]. If you want to see an interesting conversation about the conflict between people trying to make a life for themselves and conservationists trying to protect the natural world, watch this final episode of Planet Earth.
- Obama, B. (2006). The Audacity of Hope: Thoughts on Reclaiming the American Dream. I read this book before Obama became President for the first time, and I recently revisited it. Regardless of where you fall on the political spectrum, Obama makes some interesting points about the increasingly polarized American people. (Follow Barack Obama on Twitter @barackobama).
- Aesop. (620-554 BCE). “The Fox and the Grapes.” Aesop’s Fables. I love this story. It’s a lot like the missing keys story with which I open the book. We tend to be more drawn to comfort and convenience than we are to truth and knowledge. Living the curious life, I believe, can change that.
- Turteltaub, J. (Director). (2005). National Treasure [Motion Picture]. This is a great film about continuing the search, even when everyone around you thinks you’re crazy.
- Draper, R. (2013, November). “The Last Chase.” National Geographic, 28-63. This feature story is both a heart wrenching and inspiring tale of a man pursuing his life’s work to the death. I just love the emphasis he places on getting the data, and I can’t help but see it as a metaphor for living the curious life. (Follow Robert on Twitter @draperrobert).
- Arkes, H., & Blumer, C. (1985). The psychology of sunk cost. Organization Behavior and Human Decision Processes, 35, 124-140. The sunk cost effect is fascinating. I believe that, of all the psychological deficiencies I’ve mentioned, this is perhaps the worst. It certainly is the most deceptive.
- Godin, S. (2011). Poke the Box. This little book has perhaps inspired me more in my life and work than any other I’ve ever read. It’s essentially a manifesto about having the courage to take chances and start things. What Godin advocates is the natural outflow of the curious life; it’s the creative life. Consider my book a prequel; now, go read his.