The joy of learning, curiosity and discovery

posted by Jeff | Tuesday, June 9, 2020, 11:10 PM | comments: 0

I'm very fortunate that my team has gained an intern for a couple of months. I can't even imagine having the opportunity when I was in college to work at a growing tech company, the kind that didn't exist when I was in school, and seeing for the first time how the sausage gets made. (Sidebar: That's such a gross expression, probably because I don't like sausage.)

I believe that the excitement of this would be the same for virtually any profession that you're interested in, or at least for professions that make stuff. I've only spent an hour and change with our summer teammate so far, but her enthusiasm, desire to learn and curiosity is kind of infectious. It's a lot of responsibility to give someone a good look into the work, because you have to realize that your actions will shape a lot of their perceptions about an entire industry. No pressure!

It's also one of those situations where you find yourself learning even when you're supposed to be the teacher. This was a consistent theme for me in my coaching days, that as much as it was my job to teach kids how to play volleyball, much of the time they showed me what it meant to be excellent people. They remind me of qualities I have to remind myself to embrace.

First there's the sheer joy of learning. In the ongoing debate about the role of college, I think that refining and developing the skills for life long learning is the most important thing. It's a mindset that's hard to maintain, especially with age. It requires that we retain humility about all of the things we don't know. That seems rare now, with the arrogance and narcissism that comes with the idea that you're an expert about something because you can Google it. For things simple and complex, there has to be joy in eventually gaining mastery of knowledge.

Then there's the curiosity of youth. Simon says, "I'm just curious," several times a day. It might just be an expression that he's latched on to, but curiosity is something that kids demonstrably use all of the time. It feels really good to indulge in curiosity. A few weeks ago, I tore apart our stand mixer to repair the leaking gasket and repack the grease in the gear box so it wasn't so noisy. Sure, it was mostly to make Dolewhip, but the curiosity to see what was inside there was irresistible.

The discovery that comes from learning and curiosity, that's the best part. At some point, you know a new thing. Lubricating a stand mixer with food-safe grease is not likely a high point, but learning and curiosity also lead to important outcomes in any number of pursuits. For me in the last year, these outcomes include better understanding of myself, far more history than I ever learned in school, new technology tools learned, and although it doesn't feel like it some days, better parenting tools.

I can't imagine life without these joys. Sometimes we need to be intentional about pursuing them.


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