building intellectual curiosity

One of the personal sayings or axioms I aim to live by: Always be learning.

I left therapy a few weeks ago mentioning that I’ve set up a few coffee dates and calls with folks working in corporate innovation and futures simply because I want to learn about how they approach their careers and how they define impact.

Just because you aren’t in school does not mean that you should challenge yourself to continuously grow and approve. One of the things I missed in working for myself was more space and permission for sponge time like this to learn from people at leisure without the need to be in a space of always having to execute.

So here are a few ways that I am always learning in case it feels like there aren’t enough hours in the day or MB in your brain to take on more information.

  1. Listen to podcasts on planes. I’ve discovered through trial and error that I’m not the best auditory learner. My brain wants to move quickly, the information doesn’t really have an opportunity to stick and encode and make connections. What’s specific about planes? Well I’m trapped in a flying canned air tin can for starters so my mind doesn’t wander as much. I also take notes of takeaways and interesting quotes that I write down in Notion, an app I affectionately call my digital brain. I periodically look at these notes while I’m flying too. The reflection helps me apply lessons to current problems or questions that I have.

  2. Try explaining something to someone with no background in the subject. We walk around all the time not realizing how much our industry or hobby has a language incomprehensible to outsiders. So I like to test myself in conceptual understanding by talking about value-based care with a Lyft driver or attempting to explain an API to my mother. This will force you to distill both necessary and unnecessary complexity. Sometimes, this process also helps me see solutions where none existed before because the act of metaphor sparks creative problem solving.

  3. Ask why more often. Maybe because I was that annoying kid who forced my parents to constantly explain everything, asking why comes naturally. If it doesn’t for you, the good news is that you can learn to do this. There are countless low-stakes situations to experiment without fear of rejection. The next time you order coffee or tea, ask why the origin of the beans or leaves matters.

  4. Replace screen time with books. I mentioned this in my year in review lookback; thanks to a longer commute and a morning and evening routine that finally works for me, I spend much less time on my phone and more time reading. One unexpected benefit of reading real books: I remember and apply much more of what I’m learning.